Between essays, online application forms, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and so on, keeping track of all the moving parts of the college admissions process can be overwhelming. Sometimes, the best advice—and encouragement—comes from how other students succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. Jamie S. from Rutland, Vt., asks:
Q: In all of your years working with students, what were some of the most unexpected successes you witnessed? I could use a little pick-me-up!
A: Success comes in many forms.
Don Fraser Jr., director of education and training, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
Every year, I would be pleasantly surprised when a particular student of mine was accepted to a school that seemed like a real stretch. There is justice for deserving students in this crazy world of competitive college admissions! The ultimate success, however, was a bright student of mine who failed his junior year across the board and had no real reason other than slacking off. After a reality check, he decided to repeat his junior year. He got his act together, did well in rigorous courses, and kept it up in his senior year. He was accepted to Case Western Reserve University. Amazing!
A: This is a human process, and that's a good thing!
Ralph Figueroa, director of college guidance, Albuquerque Academy
Eventually, you just need to relax and let the admission process happen. I have seen students work hard to get to a certain college only to find themselves miserable. But the opposite happens, too: Students who go to a college with reservations can and do have a wonderful experience and get a great education. Every college has great things to offer; you need to seek them out and take control of your college experience. Maybe take a year off before going to college. That is also a path that works for many students. It is all in the attitude you bring.
A: Rejected. Rejected. Swirl. Admitted. Admitted.
Rebecca Joseph, executive director and founder, Get Me To College
In his senior year, Bryan got rejected from both USC and UCLA because his test scores were so low they couldn't make up for great grades and extraordinary activities. After one successful, active year at a private, East Coast college, he still wanted to attend UCLA or USC. He became a "swirl" [a term that refers to someone who attends different schools in the path to a degree]. He returned to Los Angeles, attended a community college where he joined the Scholars Program, completed all of his transfer requirements, aced his classes, and got a job. Now with no testing requirements, he prepared great new applications and got admitted to both USC and UCLA. College dreams can come true—just at different times.
A: This is why we do what we do.
Roby Blust, dean of admissions and enrollment planning, Marquette University
I was heading out of my office a couple of years ago in May and I was approached by a young man. He looked familiar, but I wasn't quite sure. He came right up to me and extended his hand. He said, "Dean Blust, you might not remember me, but three years ago you took a chance on me coming from a community college to Marquette. Next week I will graduate from MU, and you changed my life, and I just wanted to say thanks." We shook hands, and I try to recall that story whenever I question why I do this work.