It is well-known that on this day in 1776, Paul Revere rode through Massachusetts yelling, “Decisions are coming! Decisions are coming!”
Okay, that’s a lie.
But the point remains: decisions are coming, and you need to prepare yourself. Whether you applied Early Action or Early Decision and are about to find out where you’ll be attending (or not attending) college for the next four years (!!!), or if you still have months to go before you can be at peace, you’ll be hearing a lot of admissions news over the next few days. And while most people can handle their own decisions with a happy dance or six pints of ice cream, few people are instructed in the art of not being, frankly, awful about their classmates’ admissions decisions, however dire the need for this instruction may be.
Luckily, we here at TP have heard it all. If you’re getting admissions decisions soon, or your friends are, read on and learn how NOT to react:
1. “DIDJA GET IN DIDJA GET IN DIDJA DIDJA?”
Don’t pressure people into telling you their admissions decisions. Unless you’re close friends, you probably shouldn’t even ask.
They’ll tell you if they want you to know, or they’ll post it on Facebook. Otherwise, it’s none of your business. Yes, they could just “It’s none of your business” their way out of it, but it’s hard to do that without implying rejection or, at least, coming across as kind of cold. By asking, you put them in a weird position, so it’s best to avoid it until they’re ready to bring it up, if they ever want to bring it up.
If you really can’t avoid it, try saying, “No pressure, but did you hear your admission decision from X? You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.” It isn’t great, but it takes some of the pressure off, and you can at least pretend to be a supportive friend.
But don’t assume the worst (“the worst” meaning “rejection,” though this isn’t always the case) if they don’t want to tell you. They might just be avoiding the following reactions:
2. “Did you hear that she got into…?”
If someone trusts you with a decision, don’t talk about it with other people. I know, it’s hard. Admissions decisions are the most exciting part of high school. What else are we supposed to talk about?
Indonesia is on fire–try that. If you want something lighter, try TV.
Bottom line: There is no reason to divulge people’s college admissions to unknowing parties. Bottom-most bottom line: Even if the person in question has told a ton of people, including the person you’re talking to, it’s still generally a good rule of thumb to avoid talking about other people when they aren’t there. (Listen to my BFF Eleanor.)
If you really can’t avoid it, go ahead and tell people, but make sure to follow it up with buckets of positivity: “Did you hear that X got into Y University? I’m so proud of him/her…” or “Did you hear that X didn’t get into Y University? It’s okay, he/she will still get into somewhere great.”
But if you can avoid it, do–because even if you’re coming at this from a positive angle, your confidante might not, and then we hear that ugly word that plagues admissions seasons…
If you use the word “deserves” when talking about your classmates’ admissions decisions, please re-evaluate.
I’m talking about, “X got into Super Astounding University, but we all know she didn’t deserve it,” “Y didn’t get into Super Great University, but that’s not surprising because they didn’t deserve to,” and even, “Z didn’t get into Reputationally Trash University, but he totally deserved to.” (There is a positive “W got into That University and definitely deserves it!”, which is always acceptable.)
Why are these not ideal?
Didn’t deserve to be accepted
This is common when students with higher test scores/more extracurriculars/some other quantitative advantage over an accepted student gets rejected, waitlisted, or deferred. “They got in because of Affirmative Action.” “They got in because they’re a legacy.” “They got in because their parents made a giant donation.” Stop guessing, because at the end of it all, they got in.
Didn’t deserve to be rejected
A quantitatively excellent student is rejected from a school whose average students’ statistics fall below those of this student. Although this may sound supportive, it depends on the context. Some students like to say “Well, they reject higher-quality applicants to increase their yield.” (Tufts Syndrome, which you can read about here.) This could imply that students that are accepted to this school are inferior to the student who was rejected, which is just as bad as the above. Don’t throw people under the bus to make anyone else feel better.
Deserved to be rejected
This speaks for itself: a student with a quantitative disadvantage is rejected…and you’re not surprised. Sure, you’re not battling with admissions about the “proper” decision, but this is still equally toxic. If your friend or your classmate got rejected from a “reach” school, don’t say, “Well, you/he didn’t have a chance anyway.”
The problem with “deserves” in general is that you don’t get to decide who deserves what, and, more importantly, it isn’t your business.
The Golden Rule: It’s None Of Your Business
The reason for avoiding these behaviors goes back to a simple principle: It’s none of your business. It doesn’t matter where a person got in, or whether you think they “deserve” it. It doesn’t change anything. It’s none of your business.
So what is? Your business–as a human being going through the exact same struggles–is to support your classmates, be positive, grieve with them, feel for them, and stop judging, because colleges will judge you enough.