In this article, CollegeAdvisor.com Head of Advising Lauren Lynch discusses Ivy Day. For more guidance on the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.
Ivy Day is a day surrounded by much anticipation, excitement, and anxiety. For some, logging in brings great joy - a culmination of years, seemingly an entire lifetime of effort and hard work. For others, most of whom have worked equally hard and have achieved just as much, it’s a day of heartbreak and loss. And for those who may not have applied to Ivies at all, but are dealing with denials (or have been waitlisted) from a range of different schools, the sadness is just as hard to bear.
There are no words that will take away the pain these denials bring, and no one should try to minimize how much it hurts to read the words “unfortunately, we are not able to…” or similar when you have been hoping for the exact opposite. This year, especially, the admissions world was skewed by the effects of COVID in ways that many people couldn’t quite anticipate - some colleges saw surges in applications that were historic in numbers, made even more complicated by the large number of students who deferred last year and now intend to matriculate, making admission decisions even more fraught.
In fact, this recent article in The Washington Post highlights just how much more competitive admissions were this year, and might help you get a better sense of context as you look at your results.
The first few hours, days, even weeks, maybe, after receiving bad news from colleges, it’s hard to know the next steps, and how - or if - you will be able to make peace with your disappointment and the choices you do have.
For what it’s worth, here are 20 plus years of perspective I would like to share with you:
The colleges you are admitted to do not determine your worth, or your potential.
This seems obvious, yet far too often I have students lamenting what they did “wrong” or why they weren’t “good enough” to merit acceptance.
It is more than likely that you were admissible to the schools you applied to: you are certainly smart enough, work hard enough, and have accomplished enough in your life to thrive at any college worthy of your presence. Just because you didn’t get admitted doesn’t mean you didn’t deserve to get admitted, and it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with your ability to excel in your future.
With so many amazingly (overly) qualified candidates, Admission Officers have painful and often unfair decisions to make every moment of every admissions cycle, and you may well be suffering the consequences of those decisions that are, in fact, out of your control.
You can - and will - thrive where you land.
This, ultimately, is up to you. I have never had a student say to me, mere weeks, months, or even years after getting denials, that their lives have been ruined by this outcome. It’s quite the opposite, in fact.
Ask any college admissions expert, and they will have endless stories to share about how, in hindsight, students are relieved, happy, and satisfied with where they land, despite the initial sting and sadness of those initial denials.
One of the strongest indicators of future success is not the name of the college you have attended. Rather, it is your ability to thrive at the school, taking advantage of the academics, activities, community, and alumni network your college provides. You have a choice to make; either focus your positive energies on the choices you do have and commit yourself to optimism or let your self-worth be determined by something that is not an accurate reflection of your potential and your worth.
You are not alone.
It may seem like you’ve been singled out, that the spotlight of “rejection” shines solely on you, but students all over the world are grappling with similarly tough outcomes, and, like you, are trying to see the best in what lies ahead. Embrace that community, because it will help you understand, again, that a denial or a waitlist is not a commentary on your worth or your ability.
Sometimes it’s also helpful to gain some perspective - while you might be devastated by a denial from this or that college, other students may have been denied from the colleges you, in fact, were admitted to. Everyone has their own story, and you are not alone.
Look at the colleges you received offers from with fresh eyes and an open heart. If colleges are open to visitors, try to get to the physical campuses to get a sense of whether the school resonates with you. If you can’t get to campus, do a virtual visit.
Attend admitted student events and allow yourself to get excited. While a certain school might, at one point, have felt like a good back up option, it could in fact be the perfect school for you - one that will support and challenge your intellectual development and your curiosity, will allow you to meet interesting people from all over the world, and will help shape you into a person you are excited to become.
If you were waitlisted at certain colleges, write your letter of continued interest (we can help with that!), or do whatever that particular college requires for you to be actively considered from the waitlist. The more actively engaged you are with the choices you do have, the more likely it is that you will find a happy home at a college you have been admitted to.
While this may sound silly, and hard to come by given your sadness about college rejections, gratitude is one of the most basic ways in which we can transform our thinking. Focus on the positive aspects of your circumstances, and let some of that excitement build.
It’s important to feel the loss of the dream or the pain of the denial, but it’s equally important to experience those feelings in the context of reflection and gratitude. College admissions can often feel like a race, one with a world-class group of competitors, and one that highlights the stark difference between “winners” and “losers.”
College admissions, however, is a journey, an adventure, and every single person has their own path, one filled with amazing opportunities and experiences. Your story, your journey, is just beginning. Make it your own. Allow yourself to be guided by hope, pride, and excitement, and have confidence in your ability to thrive. Pack what you need - intellectual curiosity, an open mind, enthusiasm, generosity, and excitement - and walk out the door.
This article was written by Lauren Lynch, Head of Advising at CollegeAdvisor.com. If you want to get help with your college applications or other CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts, register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.