The Old College Try (and the All-American Rejects)
It's college acceptance letter time. Back when I was in high school -- some time around the Civil War -- students who hoped to go to college applied to two or three schools. At least, those in my crowd did. I applied to three (Maryland, Carnegie-Mellon and Yale), got into two (Maryland and Carnegie-Mellon) and could only afford to go to one (Maryland).
These days, you're not considered fully human if you apply to fewer than six colleges. Ten or 12 is not uncommon. I guess that increases your odds of being accepted somewhere, but, man, what a pain. Even with this thing called "the common app" (for "application"), that's still a lot of filling out of forms and sending off of application fees.
Another difference between now and 30 years ago: You can immortalize the exact moment of your acceptance and post it somewhere where everyone can see it. Here's a girl who had her sister tape her opening her letter from Wheaton College:
Here's a girl who found out she's going to Texas A&M:
I think most of that video is in Vietnamese, but the glee doesn't need translation.
For a lot of high school seniors around here -- in Montgomery and Fairfax counties, for example -- it isn't a question of whether you're going to college, but where exactly your parents are going to be sending that $40,000 check every year. I'm know there's still plenty of tension and angst over these last few days as letters (and e-mails) arrive, but I think there's something really moving when the stakes are a little higher than whether it's Oberlin or Wesleyan.
Here's a girl accepted into something called the Disney College Program:
I don't even know what the Disney College Program is, but she is so genuinely excited about it that I can't help but be happy for her.
There are a few rejection videos on YouTube, too. They're a little more staged. They typically don't capture the actual moment of rejection. Perhaps it's just too personal. One video I saw is a kid bitterly burning his rejection letters from Stanford, Tufts, Duke and the other universities that had carefully reviewed his application materials but regretted that they were unable to offer him a place in their freshman class. One rejection video is titled simply "Eat It Fordham."
I remember being disappointed that I didn't get into Yale but not really that surprised. I like my life now, a life that's largely built upon what I experienced at the University of Maryland. And mainly what I experienced there was a dark-haired, loud-mouthed theater major. I'd never have met her if I hadn't received a thin envelope from New Haven and a thick envelope from College Park.
If you're a senior who got into the college of your choice, congratulations. If you didn't, your life's not over. In fact, it's just beginning.
And please share in the Comments below what was going through your head as you tremblingly opened that letter, whether it was last week or 30 years ago.
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