Monday, November 16, 2015

Decisions, Decisions...

This morning, a smiling face walked into my room before the bell rang.  "I feel so RELIEVED!" announced the voice behind the face.  Quite honestly, the announcement was unwarranted, as the entire face, demeanor, and body language was one of someone who had finally HIT SUBMIT on the application to the college of his dreams over the weekend.  The stress is gone -- and now he waits.

I have full confidence in this particular kid's abilities to go to the gorgeous school where he already imagines himself walking through the leaves in the fall of 2016, playing soccer on the quad, and forging his path in this world.  He already loves the school, and I am confident that the admissions panel will instantly love him as well, as they peruse his application, submitted for EARLY DECISION.  Yes, he's made the decision to commit to this relationship -- now he waits for the binding invitation from the college to join them for a four-year commitment.  He described his desire as one of a "pit bull on a treadmill with a steak tied to the handle."  He just can't wait to catch the juicy prize.

Decisions, Decisions.

For guidance counselors, college advisers, and teachers of the gifted, every fall seems like Ground Hog Day this time of year.  The best and the brightest scurry around, surveying, visiting colleges, comparing deals, filling out FAFSAs, and hoping for an invitation to the perfect school at the perfect price, for the following September. Pulling together transcripts, writing countless letters of recommendation, completing applications, with careful writing, proofreading, and rewriting of essays, and a bevy of ability checklists analyzing the strengths of our students. Yes, we're about 12 weeks into this school year, and we're already focused on the next.

Does Early Decision help?  I'd argue that the simple possibility of choosing a college and KNOWING which college is waiting, possibly as early as before the first snowfall, has real impact on stress levels of high school seniors.   Some colleges and universities accept a significant percentage of their incoming class during this early decision period -- topping the list is Cornell, with a whopping 41% of its newbies knowing by Christmas that they'll need UGGS and woolies on their lists for Santa, in anticipation of an Ithaca winter - or four - in their impending future.  In addition to the emotional aspects of Early Decision, is the indisputable statistical proof that "agreeing to agree" early has its advantages.  The college admissions site, "In Like Me," provides valuable data that favors the Early Decision applicant. 

For a Teacher of the Gifted, it's especially difficult to answer the questions on the Common Application.  Who the heck are the "Top Few I've Ever Encountered"?  Clearly a TOG's "Top Few" is truly the gold standard in the student realm, compared to teachers who might be answering the same question having interacted with fewer of the best and the brightest in the school.  This has bothered me for a number of years -- wondering whether those on the other side of the application see a rating and consider that I get to see the true cream of the crop, and that the TOP FEW I'VE EVER ENCOUNTERED is truly an accomplishment.  Especially when I've known some of these kids for more than ten years.  

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend of mine in higher education, who assured me that admissions panels DO look at the relationship and roles that recommendation-writers have with the students, and recognize that those of us who spend much of our day with AP, Honors, and Gifted students certainly hand out those "Top Few" ratings to mean exactly that, and honor that recommendation as intended.

So yes, my dear student, rest easy.  Turn off the treadmill, stop chasing that steak, and enjoy your senior year.  Life is about living, and you've done your best. 

Keep Calm.  You've Already Hit Submit.