With the holiday season upon us, it is a time of seeing family and friends. A common discussion point is the college admission and application process. This conversation could be a touchy subject for those families in or about to enter the college admission game. Some students received great news with their acceptance into their college of choice via early decision or rolling admissions. The majority are still waiting, and some have received an admission denial letter, which is not a great feeling at this time of year.
I wanted to explain that it may not be your fault. The admission process is simplified and presented as a welcoming experience. It is a very complex system that needs to be explained to the students and parents and is often not done.
Why You Were Denied
The college admission process is based on the theory of large numbers. The colleges promote their education opportunity so students will apply, and they can have a larger pool of students to select from, which minimizes the college’s risk. The formal process is called enrollment management, and the college admission counselors never discuss it.
This past week, Jon Boeckenstedt, a college enrollment management executive at the University of Oregon, wrote a great article on the denial process. It is titled Why You Were Denied. Everyone applying to college should read.
Jon explains some of the subjective items that happen within the admission process. In addition to the personal items, there are a series of other things like the major you are pursuing, a family’s ability to pay, sex, first-generation students, the state you live in, and other items too long to list. This complexity is never explained to families who need to understand it as part of the process. With this knowledge, parents and students can better manage their admission expectations.
Tom Brady Example
In many cases, students who get denied could have been successful at that college if admitted. You were not what they were looking for in a specific area. I have used the Tom Brady example for years since most people know who he is. It is an excellent example of a person who focused on the outcome rather than rejection at that moment.
In Tom Brady’s case, he was selected as the 199th player in his NFL draft class. He was the seventh quarterback chosen in that draft. That means seven different players at his position were picked before him. In his case, hundreds of intelligent people from 32 professional organizations overlooked and underestimated his ability at that time.
He has gone on to be the best quarterback to play that position and one of the best players ever to play the game. In his story, his focus was not on what had occurred but on what opportunities were available to him in the future. Students need to change their perspectives. The focus needs to be a college education and career outcome, not an admission result.
Jon states in his article, “The lesson here is that you will probably never know why you were not admitted; it’s almost never one single factor. And you won’t know if you missed it by a hair or a country mile. It is perhaps a cruel but poignant lesson that will be repeated many times in your life.”
Managing College Admission Summary
The emotional stress of the admission process is difficult for both students and parents. We need to change our perspective from a sprint to a marathon. For some, the college decision will come as a denial, and in other cases, it may come with admission but not receiving the financial aid needed to make it affordable. Either way, it will generally work out if you are determined to reach your goals.
If we focus only on admission importance, why is the national 4-year college graduation rate approximately 45%? It is less than that, but recent studies do not include the COVID impact. I hope this helps reduce the admission stress. The goal should be to find an affordable college that will help you get a degree in the career you want to pursue so that the student can become a productive and happy adult.