Ten ways getting into college is like dating
I often tell groups of high school students and their parents that getting into college is a lot like dating. What I don’t tell them is that I have a lot more demonstrated historical expertise in college admissions than I do in romance. Still, I’ll forge ahead anyway here and share ten things to remember as you find your way to the right college.
1. Don’t fall for a college just because it’s popular. Popularity alone isn’t a reliable measure of the quality of a college or a person. And it’s a totally unreliable measure of whether or not the two of you would be great together.
2. There are plenty of potential matches out there. There are over 2,000 colleges; you’ll eventually find and get into one that’s right for you, no matter what your SAT scores are. (I’m trying hard to avoid the “plenty of fish in the sea” cliché.)
3. You should never fundamentally change who you are just to get someone to like you. It’s one thing to take math classes after school because you love math. It’s another thing entirely to do it because you’re hoping it will make Yale like you more.
4. Don’t fall in love too fast. It’s easy to get seduced and believe that your dream college is the only place where you could ever be happy. But trust me, it’s not. See #2.
5. It’s good to be confident, but it’s never good to be arrogant. Colleges and people will be more likely to appreciate you if you believe in yourself, but also acknowledge your weaknesses and how much you have left to learn.
6. Don’t try too hard to sound impressive. Would you ever say to someone on a first date, “I learned a multitude of valuable lessons about leadership and working well with others during my time as treasurer of the student body”? I hope not. So don’t do it in your college essays or interviews either. It’s fine to speak proudly about the things that make you proud. But nobody likes a stilted sales pitch where you’re trying too hard to impress.
7. The pain of a rejection will be temporary. Yes, a college rejection can be painful. But you should know that the initial sting never lasts. That’s why you’ll never meet a 40-year-old who’s still smarting from a college rejection or a high school breakup.
8. Speaking of rejection, if a college breaks your heart, it’s their loss. Dust yourself off, move on and find happiness someplace (or with someone) else. Lots of people don’t get into their dream colleges or marry their high school sweethearts. They recover and are usually thankful later on after they find even better matches. You will, too.
9. Remember that there is no such thing as the perfect college. A school might seem that way on the outside, but the flaws will reveal themselves once you spend some real time together. Expect it—it’s normal. You’ll just have to commit to doing your part to make the relationship work.
10. There is no magic forumla. There are no such formulas for college, romance, or life. If there were, someone would have found and profited from them already. All you can do is work hard, do things you enjoy, be a good person, and trust that things will be OK. They really will. I promise.