Students who applied to colleges will now confront the need to grieve and celebrate simultaneously, as they receive admissions decisions. Acceptances eliciting an elation will be diminished by denials, which sometimes arrive on the same day, as well as by reactions to the success and failures of their peers.
In their grief over a denied admissions, students can desperately seek an explanation. They compare the qualifications of themselves with the resumes of their friends who were admitted, trying to find the definitive missing link in their experience which turned an acceptance (seemingly within their grasp) into a denial.
Unwittingly, in their dismay, parents can transform into the academic version of a stage mother, sometimes minimizing their friends’ kids’ or their kid’s friends’ qualities and experiences whom were accepted, while seeking an explanation why their kid’s denied admissions is the output of a lifelong effort to be the ideal college admissions candidate.
For many parents and students, the struggle to reach the top of the modern academic meritocratic mountain, a climb that often begins in elementary school, with years spent playing sports or volunteering, as well as the tutoring, summer camping, activities masquerading as modern childhood— an epic quest to a hopeful celebration on the summit, an acceptance to the most elite admissions possible.
Thus, in grief, having failed to reach the summit, consciously or otherwise, students and parents are likely questioning every choice made for years. They’re wondering the value of their efforts. Some may examine their expectation, based on an ignorance that surviving the meritocracy means guaranteed outcome, basically admissions to the college of your dreams. All, though, is not lost.
Failure, though, is the foundation for success, requiring reflection, that although inconvenient in the intermediate term, is essential for achieving a more lasting prosperity. The college application process can be akin to a spiritual retreat, seeking to (re)discover an aptitude, a GPS for continuing the lifelong journey toward understanding, all the while grieving the loss of what can not be.
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