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College Admissions Decisions: The Troll Underneath the Bridge or The Gateway to Oz

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As college admissions decisions are delivered to email and postal mail boxes all over the world, the decisions can seem to either validate or condemn a lifetime’s efforts.

However, just as in Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do, where Harvard Professor Michael Sandel hypothesizes a straightforward college acceptance letter, the truth can be more layered:

In the arms race of college admissions, many applicants vie for the “most” prestigious college acceptance, seeking the ultimate in bragging rights and personal validation.  The complexities inherent in the college admissions process, which includes ever-increasing applicant pools of 4.0+ GPA applicants, where not every “deserving” applicant conceivably can be accepted, demonstrates that an admissions decision is not inherently based on merit.

Professor Sandel also imagines a frank denial letter.  His fictitious letter is possibly more reflective of the actual admissions decision making process than what’s generally assumed by those on the supposed “losing” end of an admissions decision.

A college acceptance is neither a reward nor a denial an allegation of unworthiness.  The merging of self-worth with a college acceptance is common, yet misguided and shortsighted.    Instead, imagining a college education as a means to fulfilling one’s life’s purpose puts students in charge of their college choice, not at the mercy of college admissions officers to choose them.  Assuming the perspective that college applicants are in charge, can eventually relieve the disappointment of a denial and temper the potential ego boost of an acceptance.