THE BLOG
12/21/2011 08:29 am ET Updated Feb 20, 2012

It's Not Just The Holidays For High School Seniors

As a high school senior in the midst of applying to college, the two words that have been on my mind are "accepted" and "rejected." Although those who experienced this process before us knew there was a third word, we just learned it: deferred. When you are accepted you're elated, rejected depressed, and deferred, well, downright confused. For some reason, the deferred status for early decision and early action applicants seem to be very popular this year. So, let's get down to what every student wants to know: what makes a student deemed to be the perfect candidate, by the secretive admissions committee, accepted into a given school? Is it really about who we are, the special qualities that differentiate us from everyone else and the perception of how we appear on paper, or is it simply about the numbers: GPA (weighted or un-weighted depending on your school), SAT or ACT scores, how many advanced placement courses you took, or just the percentage of those who applied versus the number that can be accepted.

It all starts with the classes you take and the grades you receive during your three years of high school (and of course not slacking off during senior year for the schools requesting first semester grades). Or, as the magazine articles say, it may have started with where your parents sent you to preschool. Kidding aside, we are expected to get the best grades possible while taking the most challenging courses, such as AP Bio and AP Calculus mixed with fluency in Mandarin. But what if your school doesn't offer these courses? Or maybe your school has class size limits? It then comes down to being an active member of your school community: class president, editor of your yearbook, and so on. However, how many people can be in these leadership positions?

Let's not forget about the summer. Those priming for the top schools are building toilets in Fiji, taking survivor-like hiking and camping trips in harsh conditions to show they can rough it and aren't really privileged, going on exotic trips to far-off lands learning unusual dialects, and maybe even having an internship, though through a family friend at a top investment firm; whatever it takes to show ambition, experience, and guts.

As if this isn't enough already, what do the colleges really want? The athlete to bring their teams to a win, the next President of the United States, or a Pulitzer Prize-winning author? Maybe all three in one!

When is enough really enough? Even those who are legacies, having parents or grandparents who attended the school they want to go to, or have families with the means to donate six figures aren't a guarantee of a coveted spot in the upcoming freshman class. We must face the reality of the possibility of rejection. Many, on December 15, had this life-altering experience.

Most believe this is akin to major failure, yet it is just a right of passage into adulthood. It seems as though students want to get into a particular college just to say they got in, not because they have any plans of attending. The counselors call them "likely schools," no longer safeties of our parent's day, though most of us would prefer a gap year than to attend one of them. They appear to be below our capabilities, at least in our eyes and possibly our family and friends.

What is it with these kids and rejection? This is just the first round -- just wait until the results of regular decision in the spring. There will only be more tears and more depressing days, but why? I believe it's because few at this age have been rejected before (with the exception of the hot guy or girl you're interested in, but we get over it when the next one comes along). The reality is that rejection is a large part of life. It's about fighting and working hard for what you want, not for it all to come easily or to be given to you. There will always be obstacles, but it is those who find a way around them who are most successful.

I can't help but wonder: are we afraid of rejection, or are we just embarrassed, particularly when the Facebook newsfeed is the first place a teen publicizes their acceptance to the "world." Of course we don't post a rejection or deferral, so maybe the real reason is that we are simply unaccustomed to being rejected?