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An Open Letter to High Schoolers Awaiting College Decisions

Dear high schooler,

With college decision season right around the corner, this time of year is probably both exciting and terrifying for you. During the few months between the start of January, when I submitted my final application, and the end of April, when I submitted my enrollment deposit to Rochester, I remember constantly running through the “what ifs” about college.

If you have a similar mindset as I did, here are a few other things you may have been guilty of recently:

  • Watching a substantial number of college-themed YouTube videos
  • Wistfully perusing any of your potential schools’ websites
  • Rereading your essays/writing supplements even though you’ve already submitted them
  • And—a habit that I strongly urge you not to develop—scrolling through online threads where applicants share their (possibly fabricated) stats and inevitably comparing yourself to them

But regardless of what your thought process has been lately, I want to share with you a few things that I think you’ll find helpful to hear.

First, if you found the items that I listed above relatable, please calm down immediately; you are going to be okay! Speaking from personal experience, you won’t gain anything out of incessantly worrying about something beyond your control. If you’ve already turned in your applications, you won’t be able to make any modifications now, so try to stay positive about everything you submitted and avoid having second thoughts about things you can’t change.

In that vein, avoid getting in your head about other things you wish you did differently along the way. Maybe you’ve started questioning how you allocated your time in previous years of high school—I used to feel like I should’ve been busier or figured out my plans sooner—but concentrate on moving forward. You’ll have the rest of your life available to better yourself, and that’s a lot more valuable to focus on than regrets you may have about the past.

Along with that idea, look forward to the future, but take time to appreciate where you’re at right now, too. Your final months in high school will go by in the blink of an eye, so try to enjoy them while they last. Spend more time with your loved ones, take more photos, visit the places you won’t be able to see as often once college starts… Essentially, find ways to close the chapter on your high school experience however feels the most “you” before entering a new phase in your life.

And, to touch on college decisions specifically, don’t allow whatever decisions you receive to shake your confidence. The college admissions process is extremely competitive, and it’s uncommon to be accepted at every school you apply to. And although it’s completely valid to feel disappointed by a rejection, don’t interpret it as anyone saying you aren’t good enough. Admissions officers are searching for candidates that will be the best fit for their school in particular, and they may just think you’ll be more at home elsewhere right now.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, remember to be proud of yourself. College is an incredible gift, and while I’m sure you’ve probably felt a lot of gratitude about the opportunity, I’m also sure that you must’ve put in a lot of hard work to make it a possibility. And given all of the effort you’ve put in, I hope you feel excited about your college aspirations and optimistic about whatever comes next. I bet you have great things ahead!

Best regards,

Carolyn Richter

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