How College Admissions is Like Dating
You know that old phrase, "It's not you, it's them?" You know you are a great catch - you have the brains, the athleticism, the artistic ability, the musical talents, the entrepreneurial mind, the generous spirit - whatever it is that is great about you - how can you not be an attractive match? Your profile indicated that you were interested in all the same things that they have to offer, right? They said they were looking for someone who has all of your strengths and characteristics. Where did you go wrong?
It isn't that you went wrong, it is that you can't really see what is really behind that online profile. The college admissions office can only be so transparent. They provide a general overview of what they are looking for, sure, but they have particular goals that they want to meet and, unfortunately, they are dating multiple prospects simultaneously. They aren't going to tell you that they didn't agree with your taste in music or clothes (back to the dating analogy, not admissions :) ) Admissions offices aren't going to tell you that they couldn't admit another student from your high school or that they needed an art history major, not a psychology one, or that they really already admitted too many tennis players.
As admissions decisions continue to be released and press releases are published highlighting the class profile of the incoming freshmen and bemoaning the difficulty of making decisions with such a competitive pool of applicants, you begin to realize that truly so much of this was out of your hands. I always tell students and families that they only have control over a small part of the process (maybe a half to two-thirds) when it comes to admissions outcomes. You can't control the color of your skin, your zip code, your socioeconomic status, whether your parents graduated from college, or whether you were born with that super athletic gene that is attractive to college sports recruiters.
What you can control is your attitude and the choices you make.
There is absolutely more than one right school for each student. It is so important when you are establishing a list of options that you have a variety of schools - some that may be a bit "out of your league" and some that "would be lucky to have you." As I continue to say, college is not about where you go, but what you do when you get there. If you get a "I am sorry we are not able to offer you a spot in our class" letter, mourn the loss for a moment and move on, confident that the school wasn't right for you anyways. You will find your match elsewhere because, truly, "there are other fish in the sea!"