Yesterday I was struggling to prepare for the Application Nation - Class of 2023 Zoom call, scheduled for 8:00 pm ET that night. The title of the call was something I came up with a year prior: "Last Minute Surprises." Now facing the reality of the topic and delicate nature of the college admissions landscape, I started to worry.
I had a few ideas to discuss, like the very elusive "mid-year report," colleges following up or asking students for verification, or last-minute interview requests. But I was feeling the weight of the world going into that call.
Many students are second-guessing everything they have done up until this point and their parents can't sleep because they are worried about their kids' upcoming admissions decisions. I was concerned that anything I brought up would cause even more stress.
As the minutes and hours ticked away before the start of the Zoom call, I remembered something I say this time of year to nervous students: "There is often a nice surprise waiting for you in Regular Decision."
I had an idea!
I frantically posted a message on the Application Nation Alumni board asking for help. Our AN Alumni include families who went through the Application Nation program already and have kids who are in college (or have already graduated). I asked them if they would be willing to share if their child received a "nice surprise" in Regular Decision. I didn't think anyone would respond.
In a matter of minutes, I was flooded with stories. Parents shared endlessly how their children experienced my "surprise theory" firsthand. Many of the stories shared brought me to tears. I was reliving these inspirational stories once again. There were countless examples of students being denied, deferred, and disappointed by so many colleges, until a wonderful surprise changed their lives.
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A full-ride merit scholarship. A "likely letter" and ultimate acceptance from an Ivy League school. Being admitted to a dream school after a disastrous alumni interview. Submitting research on a whim, and winning a $60,000 scholarship. Discovering an acceptance in the admissions portal after being deferred from a college that warns students very few get admitted after being deferred. Finding out that the essay that took three major rewrites was the reason for getting a full-ride scholarship. Getting a personal phone call from the Dean of Admission who admitted the student off the waitlist. The list of surprises was overwhelming. It gave me the strength for last night's call.
After discussing all the last-minute surprises that make this process even more stressful, I got to end last night's Zoom call by sharing a few of the "nice surprises" that our AN Alumni families shared. There was not enough time to share them all, though. As of this morning, there were 178 comments from my post yesterday in AN Alumni, and the list is still growing.
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My "surprise theory" gives me hope. It should give every student and parent hope too. If a student gave each application their all and applied to a well-balanced college list, there will be a nice surprise waiting for them in no time.