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College Admissions and Dating

I often compare the college admissions process to dating. The comparison usually gets a few laughs, but I hope it also helps students make sense of a process that sometimes seems senseless—now more than ever.


1. You don’t have to like them just because they like you.

This is particularly true when it comes to recruited student athletes. Colleges and universities are businesses with marketing teams, salespeople, and bottom lines.

2. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.

There is really no such thing as the one perfect school. There are about five thousand colleges and universities in the United States and there are multiple good fits, not one perfect fit.


3. Don’t lead them on if you really aren’t interested.

Let colleges know when you are no longer interested. That is expected and you aren’t hurting anyone’s feelings. At the same time, you are not taking the place of another student if it takes you some time to decide.


4. It’s not you, it’s them.

Not being admitted to a college has more to do with the college than it does with the student.


The college admissions process is the first time many students find themselves dealing with rejection. It is painful to see students struggle to understand what they did wrong or why they weren’t good enough. The most painful part of it all is that it is not true. They didn’t do anything wrong, and they were absolutely good enough.


The rejection rate (I’m no longer going to feed the beast by referring to the acceptance rate) has more to do with the fact that higher education is a business, colleges and universities are expert marketers, and exclusivity is mistakenly equated with quality. There are almost five thousand colleges and universities in the United States and the difficulty of gaining admission has nothing to do with the quality of education. And isn’t the education what this is supposed to be all about?


I will continue to help my students understand the college admissions process as a rite of passage and not a prize to be won. It hurts when someone tells us they don’t want us or see our value. (Colleges never say that, but that is how it feels to students!) When some institutions reject 97% of applicants, we must wonder if the problem is the system and not the students.

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