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Pessimism Is the New Optimism

Hello fellow parents, and welcome!

First, a moment of gratitude. As much as we missed hugging our loved ones on Thanksgiving, we were spared the dreaded “Where are you applying to college?” Thanksgiving dinner table interrogation this year. Now onward to a useful form of pessimism, as promised. If you’re the parent of a freshman, sophomore, or junior, keep the letter below on deck for your child’s turn (that always comes sooner than you’d think).

For parents of seniors waiting for Early Decision notifications, ‘tis the season for just a tad of pessimism as your child’s (and your) best defense against panic, overwhelm, and despair at this stressful moment in the college admissions process. The letter below is for your kid. If things go south on notification day, you can still contact me for an Application Review to illuminate how your child can make their college application more sparkly when they apply for Regular Decision around January 1.

Dear Senior Who Just Submitted an Early Decision Application to Your Tippy Top Choice College,

I hope your senior year is going great! Congratulations for getting that application submitted! Fingers crossed that you’ll get in; you have a great shot. 

However, the best thing to do psychologically right now is to assume you will be deferred or denied admission and prepare a little bit for that possibility. Here’s why: the majority of students who apply Early Decision, no matter how qualified, are not admitted. (Please don’t hate on the messenger; I am your ally!) If that deferral or denial happens to you, you will not be in a great frame of mind to creatively and quickly generate ideas for supplemental essays, but you’ll only have a couple of weeks to write them. 

My advice: copy all of the supplemental essay prompts (including instructions and maximum word count) for the other colleges on your list onto one document to save time gathering them later. When you see the prompts together, you’ll notice overlap among them, and that alone can provide relief. You don’t need to worry about writing all the essays now, but it won’t take you very long to brainstorm ideas and jot down notes for responses. That way, you won’t need to begin from scratch trying to conceive ideas while disappointed, under extreme time pressure, studying for exams, and celebrating the holidays.

This is not to say that I don’t think you’re going to get in. I figure a little preparation just in case is similar to the superstition that if you carry around an umbrella, it won’t rain. Pessimism now leads to a quicker shift to optimism later if it does rain on your notification day. You’ll wake up the next morning and the sun will still be shining upon your bright future with its infinite possibilities. You’ll already have a head start on crushing those supplements for other amazing colleges. And you can get excited to think that one of them will become your college!



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