For those of us old enough to remember the movie, Bang The Drum Slowly
, or, for that matter, the crafty card games of The Sting
is a familiar, if but somewhat unsettling, word.
Yes, TEGWAR -- The Exciting Game Without Any Rules
-- where a good old game of Poker turns into a time-honored way of separating suckers from their money.
enough (and quite the perfect segue, really), that brings us to college
admissions. A process where suckers, if not (yet) to be separated from
their money, are surely separated from their sanity.
Talk about a
game without any rules -- or at least rules that are neither
discernible (at least by students and their parents) nor disclosed.
the case of two seniors from the same high school. The first is number 3
in the class, with stellar grades and scores. The second is number 18,
with significantly lower academics. Both have a vast array of
significant extracurriculars, and each completes and submits timely
applications to, say, the College of Hard Knocks.
Lo and behold, number 18 gets an acceptance to Hard Knocks, while number 3 is denied admission.
Exception? Aberration? Something we're missing absent knowledge as to the secret formula? Perhaps.
18's essays blew the admissions officer away. Perhaps there was a
legacy, thrice removed, in the mix. Could be they needed a second
Bassoonist in the marching band. Who knows?
Or maybe, at least to
some degree (they don't call it a BS for nothing :-), college
admissions is merely the spin of the wheel, a matter of luck, a season
without rhyme or reason.
With so many factors to consider, well
beyond grades and scores, any one could be the ticket in or the tipping
point out. To be sure, there are factors beyond the control of the
applicant. Factors, such as race, ethnicity and demographics, which,
dependent upon perspective, are either embraced or cursed.
Then, too, there is the sheer mystery of the admissions process. Not unlike the Great and Powerful Oz
admissions officers and admissions committees [so no one individual
ever has to take responsibility for the ultimate decision ("Oh, so you're
the one who welcomed John Wilkes Booth to the Class of 1865, eh?")],
there is a shroud that envelops those involved in making the critical,
if not life-altering, decisions, and no one among us mere mortals ever
really knows what goes on behind the curtain. Heck. Sometimes even those
behind the curtain have no clue!
After all, there are few hard
and fast guidelines -- or at least rules that cannot be bent if not
broken -- in the admissions game. Who's to know? "We don't have to tell
And let's face it, college admissions is not a science
-- it's not even a liberal art -- though many, particularly those who
supposedly make the rules and decide the fate of the masses, would argue
So, what to do? Are students simply to
roll the dice, cross their fingers and hope that the other fella doesn't
have an Ace up his sleeve? To some extent, absolutely. That the other
guy, with a less than shining academic record, who never helped raise a
roof for Habitat for Humanity or build the next i-something for the
Robotics Club, got in, but you didn't, is, all too often, a matter of
chance. Providence was on his side -- this time.
Of course, while
there are never any guarantees in college admissions (and this applies,
as well, to financial aid awards), you can -- and should -- do
everything within your ability to attempt to stack the deck in your
Work those grades and scores. They are the best hand to
have at the TEGWAR table. Engage in meaningful extracurricular
activities in school and community service after, keeping in mind that
it is always quality and consistency over quantity and passivity. Be
certain that your essays, personal statements and even those silly short
answers, put you far above and way beyond the madding crowd. Check and
recheck those applications -- for both admissions and aid -- with a
fine-toothed comb, because completeness and accuracy count. Get those
applications in on time -- or better still, early. Be courageous. Be
bold. Be persistent. Be a fly on the wall in the high school guidance
office. Above all, be prepared, be undaunted and be not afraid (that
Poker face comes in very handy in the world of college admissions). You
will not fail and you will get in -- to the very best college for you!
18 may well end up at different colleges on different tracks. No, it is
definitely NOT the end of the world. [The greats don't all graduate
from the Ivies!] That's TEGWAR. Both, however, are very likely to not
only secure a top notch education at a great institution of higher
learning (as well as to have a fantabulous four years), but, when all is
said, if still far from done, will have risen above that
most exhausting and mind-numbing game without any rules we call college
admissions, to prevail in that bigger and much more important game we
Plan. Prepare. Prevail!
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer
Who knows what peril lurks in the college application and admissions process? The College Whisperer
™ knows. . .
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