An Open Letter To High School Students Applying To College
By: Frederick Daso, Originally published March 15 2019 on LinkedIn
There's been a lack of focus on one particular group of students in the recent college admissions scandal that has swept the nation.
That group would be the high school seniors currently waiting to hear back from their top choice colleges this month, and juniors who will be undergoing the admissions gauntlet come next fall. I know how nerve-wracking it is to wait for the final verdict on your application to a selective school. To do so under these circumstances must be even arduous, especially if you're from an underrepresented background.
If I can offer only one piece of advice, it would be the following: run your race. Those three words that my track & field coaches in high school reminded me of before every 400m race I ran, and have stuck with me throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies. You can't focus on the other runners to the left or right of you. You can't second-guess yourself on whether you're ready to compete, or try and guess how prepared others are relative to yourself.
The only thing that matters is that you remember your training and your plan to win the race by the time you get into the starting position. Focus on what you can control, which is yourself.
The same goes for college admissions - you can't be certain what goes on behind the scenes (even with the scandal that's currently making the rounds in the press) or why admissions committees make particular decisions. You can't be certain of how you stack up relative to other applicants. Most of all, you can't be certain of your chances of getting admitted or not (looking at you, CollegeConfidential).
The only thing you can be certain of is that you gave 100% effort your applications to your dream colleges and universities. The only thing you can be certain of is that when you press submit, you've thrown your hat into the ring with the tens of thousands of other students applying as well. The only thing you can be certain of is that you recognize your potential in referring to these selective schools and you're daring to realize it.
That in itself is commendable and worthy of praise.
Regardless of the college you attend, or whether you even go to college, you, and you alone, are responsible for realizing your aspirations. I hope it dawns on you that through this application process, you've had the rare opportunity to profoundly reflect on the choices you've made in your life. Could you imagine how much you have accomplished in such a short period of life? Could you imagine how much of an impact you've had on your peers, your teachers, your school, and your local community? Could you imagine how much wisdom and maturity you've acquired by this point in time?
It may be hard to imagine now in the face of so much controversy and doubt in our social media age, but this is an undeniable reality: you are capable of so much more than you realize.
An admission or rejection to a particular institution of learning won't ever be sufficient in assessing your capability.
That's only up to you to determine.
In the coming days and weeks, colleges will announce their admissions decisions. In the coming months and years, the political, legal, and social questions of those who are involved in said scandal will resolve themselves. For seniors who are going to be finding out their admissions fate soon, regardless of the result, finish out your secondary school years strong as you approach the finish line. For juniors, start preparing for the last 100m of your race in applying to college right now, because if you think the seniors have it hard now, your turn in the college admissions cycle will even be more competitive.
Regardless of the outcome, be proud of the race you ran.