Since this is the Internet, and no one here can leave a good thing alone, let’s ROLL IT BACK. For anyone who’s been rejected by the college of his choice, and for anyone currently stuck in the purgatory that colleges call “The Waitlist,” this brief list of advice is for you. Read it now. Savor it. Don’t save for it later and, in the meantime, write a long, bitter, and poorly thought-out letter to the Wall Street Journal that the paper will selectively edit to ensure it goes viral and brings in beaucoup advertising money. DON’T DO IT.
Shit. Too late.
If you’re on the waitlist…
DO: Peep some stats.
One of the reasons why the wait list is so utterly unfair is that its definition varies drastically from school to school. If you’re on the waitlist for Penn State, you should be feeling pretty confident right now—the Nittany Lions accepted 80% of its waitlisted students last year. A few other state schools boast similar numbers. These schools are using the waitlist as, you know, its definition would seem to dictate it be used.
Then, you’ve got Duke. Duke treats its waitlisted kids as well as the Lucas Oil Stadium floor treated poor Kevin Ware. In 2010, Duke offered 3,382 spots on its waitlist, a record number for the school. 60 kids were ultimately accepted. It gets worse elsewhere. Like…. Middlebury College in 2012. 1,231 students waitlisted. 0 accepted.
Find out what the breakdown is for the school of your choice. (The info is normally very easily attainable on the admissions website or through the school paper.) If it’s looking like the admissions directors are shitheadingly abusing their waitlist powers, make plans to go elsewhere.
DON'T: Be an asshole.
This is a good rule of thumb for most things in life, but here, it makes a difference. If you’re a Type A personality, you might be tempted to pester the admissions officers with phone calls, or meet with them several times to really “make your case,” or start some sort of letter-writing campaign with your parents, parents’ friends, and local congressman. If you’re a more socially awkward go-getter, you might think this is a perfect chance to start a “creative postcard campaign,” in which you send the officers 100 personalized postcards. Maybe you’re thinking about including a different “life fact” on each card. Then, when you reach the century mark, the admissions director will truly know “the story of your life.”
Just, stop. Remember that your impersonal spot on the waitlist was put there by a person, and that person is overworked, constantly tired, and, most likely at this point, extraordinarily cynical. He’s been hit with every story in the book—every high school charity, every story of “personal courage.” Creating more mail for him to throw away will only hurt your chances. As one school employee says, “Constantly e-mailing admissions officers is ‘more likely to turn an admissions officer off.’”
DO: Respond quickly, and make your case in the response.
Apparently, some schools actually factor in response time when making the call to pluck kids out of waitlist purgatory. This is subjective beyond belief, but hey, social politeness was created to be abused. So respond fast.
And, while you’re at it, start crafting your case for being taken off the list with a reasoned one-page letter. Make it snappy to ensure they’ll read the whole thing. And be sure to update the admissions officers if any important qualifications come up while you're stuck in the purgatory (Cracking the top 1,000 on COD would, I think, apply here.)
If you’ve been rejected…
Look at your list and really go through the pros and cons of each college. Think about which ones will leave you with the least amount of debt, which ones will give you a chance to really thrive socially, and which ones are located in warm-weather climates. (This is 51% of a joke.)
Then, start to look on the bright side: If you've been rejected by a more “prestigious” school, you’re looking at four years spent at an undoubtedly much more fun school. And if you work hard there (while playing hard), you'll come out looking even better than the slacker at the better college.
DON’T: Sweat it.
Off the top of my head, I can think of three friends who publicly expressed doom and gloom after they missed out on the college of their choice. The reasons that particular college WAS their No. 1 choice were actually relatively similar: Their parents either went to the school or loved the school (meaning they grew up loving it), or it was the best academic school on their list.
After their rejections, all three ended up going to good schools, and all three absolutely killed it during their time there. They now have jobs they like, and they have their own teams to pull for during March Madness—meaning they've carved their own path, rather than just following their parents’ alma maters. You can argue that things worked out better for them because they got rejected.
I'll wrap things up by plagiarizing my first guide: “90 percent of all people who go to college fucking love it. Once you make the call, don't question it. Because you're a lucky bastard that you've got those four years in front of you.”
[High school graduation image via Shutterstock]