Denver college counseling, Denver college consulting, Denver college counselor, Denver college consultantFor the last several years, around mid-April, I’ve seen headlines that say something along the lines of, “College acceptance rates hit record low.”  Frank Bruni, who for many years wrote a New York Times column about college and college admissions, published a column on March 30 in which he stated that Stanford’s acceptance rate, which reached a historic low last year of 5%, this year dropped to 0%.  The article was a joke, of course, but it illustrates just how competitive and ridiculous the college admissions process has become.

As acceptance rates continue to decline, the inevitable result is that more and more students are denied admission from the nation’s selective and highly selective colleges.  Many students, who strove to do “all the right things” in high school in order to get into the college of their dreams, end up feeling like failures because they got shut out of an increasingly competitive admissions process.  In an NPR interview last spring, Lisa Micele, Director of College Counseling at the University of Illinois Laboratory High School, put it this way: “Often times, if 

[students] don’t get into where they really wanted to go, they just feel kind of destroyed.”

I’ve certainly seen my share of students who’ve had that type of reaction to a denial from a college.  I try my hardest to convince these students, as Micele says she does with her students, that this result is not a reflection of who they are, what they’ve accomplished, or what they have to offer.  It’s simply an indication of the fact that, at many colleges, there are far more qualified applicants than there are spots in the freshman class.

In the NPR interview, after Micele acknowledges the inherent unfairness of the admissions process, she stresses how important it is that students get excited about the college where they’ve decided to enroll, rather than focusing on what might have been.  She talks about “growing where you’re planted” and making the most of the opportunities available at the college you’re attending instead of wondering what you’d be doing if you were at a school that denied you.

Micele talks about how important it is to remind students that “their future is not defined by one college.”  I couldn’t agree more.  There is a great deal of evidence that what you achieve in life is not determined so much by which college you attend, but rather by what you do while you’re there.  This is the premise of Where You Go Is Not Who’ll You’ll Be, a book by Frank Bruni (the same columnist who wrote the aforementioned article about Stanford).  In the book, which was published in 2015, Bruni uses both data and personal stories to make a very strong case for the idea that college and the rest of your life are what you make of them, rather than being based on a name or a reputation.

As seniors prepare to graduate from high school and spend the summer getting ready to start college, I recommend that they follow Micele’s advice by focusing on the college they will be attending.  Even if you have decided to remain on another college’s wait list, it’s important that you turn your attention to the school in which you have enrolled.  You can listen to Micele’s interview here; the relevant part starts around 5:55.  In keeping with her growth metaphor, now is the time to plant the seeds for a successful and fun freshman year.