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College prep: All I want for Christmas is acceptance

Brian Underwood
For the Nevada Appeal

It ranks right up there with world peace for most people. But for the college applicant, this request has a much more literal application, specifically, the desire to be accepted to the schools of his or her choice.

The month of December represents a time period in the college planning calendar when many schools release decision letters for early applicants. And with this process comes a natural amount of anxiety for young people across the country who wait with bated breath at the mailbox – both electronic and traditional – for “the news.”

As with many things in life, however, this news is not always rosy, and the disappointment of not being admitted to the school(s) of one’s dreams can be profound.

A great deal of planning and effort goes into the college planning and application process, so it stands to reason that a rebuffed applicant would have feelings of sadness and disillusionment.

Consider, however, some global facts about college admissions. According to the College Board, http://www.collegeboard.com, there are more than 3,800 colleges and universities, and the majority of them accept more than 50 percent of those who apply.

So, depending on how accurately an applicant sizes him or herself up against the admission standards of the schools he or she is applying to, there is, ostensibly, a better than 50 percent chance for admission.

The key, here, is not only realistically evaluating one’s academic resume before applying to particular schools, but it is also critical for an applicant to research and understand the volume of applications being received by those institutions each year.

According to New York Times staff reporter Jaques Steinberg in his book “The Gatekeepers: Inside the College Admissions Process,” “about 50 American colleges reject more students than they accept…”

The problem, according to Steinberg, is that “American teenagers flood those brand-name institutions with a disproportionate number of applications.”

Ben Martin, of Carson City, understands the numbers “game” that college admissions can be. Martin reflected on not “making the team” at the University of Texas, which last year was ranked No. 45 by US News & World Report and only accepted 8 percent of the students who applied from out of state (Fall 2011).

“That was my number one choice,” said Martin, who is a freshman Kinesiology major at Sacramento State University. “It’s a great school and a great opportunity, so I was kind of bummed.”

But Martin has no regrets.

“Ultimately, there was a different plan in my life, and I trust God,” Martin continued. “I don’t look back with disappointment anymore. Now that I look at it, it’s all working out. I love where I am. I wouldn’t change anything.”

F. Diane Barth, a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City who writes for Psychology Today, corroborated Martin’s outlook when reflecting on her own brush with college rejection at the hands of the University of North Carolina.

In her February, 2010 article “College Rejection Letters Are Coming – How to Cope When They Arrive,” Barth writes, “… had I been accepted by Carolina all those years ago, I might have found my way to a similar end point, just as I might if I had gotten into one of the graduate programs that rejected me. But I believe that these failures were crucial to my development…” Barth goes on to encourage those who experience rejection to, first, “…accept those feelings and understand that they are reasonable, even if they are not accurate.”

She also shares the importance of finding meaning, “While a particular school may seem to hold the key to a golden future, there is never a single path to the person any child is going to become.”

Lastly, Barth encourages those feeling the lingering effects of a rejection letter to change direction by “asking yourself, ‘what next?’ Make a plan. And then take action.”

Levi Grabow, a sophomore pre-secondary education major at the University of Nevada, Reno, strategically tailored his college search to two schools (UNR and the University of the Pacific) and was accepted to both. However, through his first two years of school, and through the experience of a friend, Grabow offers sound, practical advice for the jilted.

“One of my good friends applied to a bunch of different schools,” Grabow explained. “He eventually ended up at UCF, and he loves it.”

“They (college applicants) will definitely find that a lot of schools are really good for them. College is really what you make of it and the friends you associate with.”

• Brian Underwood is the executive director of Sierra Lutheran High School, he can be reached at underwood@slhs.com.