My guest is Jerome A. Lucido, vice provost for enrollment policy and management at the University of Southern California.. He is also executive director of USC's Center for Enrollment Reserach, Policy and Practice.
By Jerome A. Lucido
March Madness is more than a basketball tournament. It also represents life in the admission office as final decisions about the incoming class are made, and it equally applies to life at home for applicants and their families as they eagerly and anxiously await the decisions.
By April 1, applicants across the nation will know the news. With acceptance rates at selective schools, by definition, at 50 % or less, 25% at my own University of Southern California, and with a rare few hovering near 10%, it's small wonder why students tremble with fear and parents hold candlelight vigils while they await the admission decision.
Step into my office for a brief counseling session on dealing with college rejection. Frankly, it's like the tried and true break-up line: "It's not you; it's me." Only this time, the line is true. The truth is that there is always a reason that colleges accept a student, but very often there is not a reason that they don't. It's truly nothing you did--or even didn't do.
The hard fact is also the most helpful fact. There are many more applicants than spaces in the class at selective universities, and we cannot take all the students that we would love to have on our campuses. None of us enjoys turning away a student and the best of us hurt right along with you as we picture you on another campus.
The reasons we admit have to do with the best possible match that we can make between the programs on our campuses and the talents and proclivities of the students in our pool. Additionally, schools, just like students, have goals; some of these goals have to do with the direction the school is heading and others have to do with serving societal obligations.
As a result, we select students within the context of their accomplishments, within the context of the applicant pool, and within the context of our programs and obligations.
And this is where the jilted lover metaphor applies and also where it breaks down.
It applies because, as this essay began, it is not so much about you. It is about us: Where we're going and how we choose to get there. The metaphor breaks down because there is not one true and perfect college "love" for you. There are many. And that is the best news of all.
If your dream school turns you down, dream new dreams. We are blessed with hundreds of amazing college choices in the United States, each of which will leave its own indelible and wonderful mark on your life.
Your job now, quite frankly, is the same as it would be even if your dream school picked you. It is to choose the best match for YOU. See, that's the beauty of the college admission process that gets overshadowed by all the worry about being accepted to one place or another. In the end, it is you who gets to choose where you will go to school.
So take your acceptance letters as affirmation that those schools that invited you to join them believe that you are a great match for what they offer and where they are going. And choose the one that works best for you.Then go out and buy that T-shirt and wear it everywhere. You will look amazing in it.
Oh, and if it motivates you, keep a letter of denial and let it drive you to new levels of excellence. Better yet, toss any such letter from your desk and from your mind knowing that you were not really ‘rejected′ and that you just made a better match. Romance is still in the air.
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