Denials, Deferrals, And Waitlists: A Plan B For Success

When you play the high-stakes game of elite college admissions, sometimes you may lose. Rejection comes with the territory. It can hurt badly. The good news, though, is that things seem to tend toward working out for the best, most of the time.

Loud Angry Voice from Offstage: “There you go again. Man, is that easy for you to say. Have you ever put your heart and soul into an application only to have it blow up in your face? Well, have you?”

My experience has shown me one thing for sure: There are no sure things. Much of life is a series of carefully—and sometimes not so carefully—considered ventures. Quick-and-dirty folk wisdom tells us to “Do our best and good things will happen.” Sure, that’s neat. Many of us, though, suffer an excess of after-the-fact self-criticism. “If only I had done [this] or [that], things would have been different.” Those are words of torment. We can second-guess ourselves until the Mother Ship arrives, but it won’t change reality.

The great composer Beethoven, when faced with inevitable deafness and an onslaught of physical ills, clenched his fist and proclaimed, “I will seize Fate by the throat.” And he did. He went on to tremendous things. I know, I know, you’re not Beethoven. However, the message here for high schoolers considering the serious challenge of applying to super-selective colleges is that much of your likelihood for success lies not so much in winning a wrestling match with Fate as it does with creating a savvy plan.