The winter flurry of letters is landing in mail boxes around the globe this time of year. I just heard from three ecstatic students who learned last week they were accepted into their dream schools–one was Harvard, another Wellesley, and a third Middlebury. I felt excited and proud for them. But I will feel equally excited for my students who will soon learn they will be attending schools in our University of California system, whether it’s Berkeley, UCI or Santa Cruz, or other state universities such as UW, Boulder and U. of O, and especially those getting into the small liberal arts colleges no one has ever heard of, but are true gems.

And I also can’t help think about those who are getting those awful cryptic rejections in the mail at the same time. They can really sting.

But if you are still waiting to learn where you will be attending college (or are still working on your college application and essays), just know that you will land in the place that is right for you. It may not be that dream school, or the one you couldn’t wait to tell your friends about getting into. But chances are you will attend a school that you will end up absolutely loving. It’s all about finding the right match–kind of like shoes, if they don’t fit right, they will hurt your feet.

The point is when a student (or parent) pushes into a school for the wrong reasons, or lands in a school that’s not right for her for whatever reason, he or she often will be miserable, struggle and even have to return home–and start from scratch. One friend just told me her talented, brilliant daughter who started at UCLA this fall came home after 10 days. But I’m confident she, too, will get back on a track that is perfect for her.

Michael Szarek, a college counselor whose company is called College Counseling for the Rest of Us, recently shared a popular quote on LinkedIn:


“College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won.”


Amen to that! Another reason to not let rejections from prestige or reach schools ruin your day is that many of these schools would not have determined your future success anyway. Jay Matthew, author of one of my favorite college guides, Harvard Schmarvard, just wrote an article that supports the case that our top political and business leaders often came from schools that were considered sub-par by some. In fact, one Princeton research paper he quoted said that “except for low-income students, the selectivity of students’ colleges did not correlate with their success in life, as measured by incomeMore influential were what the researchers called “unobserved characteristics,” such as persistence, humor and warmth.

Matthews goes on to say–and pay attention everyone!–this is the best advice you will hear all year:

“It’s interesting that students usually develop these character traits long before they get to college. If you want to succeed, worry less about what college you get into and more about doing your homework, taking care of your chores and being nice to other people, as mothers have been saying for a long time. Whatever college accepts you, see it as a treasure trove of people and ideas that will lead you to a great life, maybe even a governorship, if that’s your dream. It is a very American story sometimes forgotten in our fashionable yearning for colleges that reject the most applicants.”

Of course, if you are on your way to Stanford, Yale or any of those elite institutions, way to go! But for everyone else, you are equally lucky and are about to have the time of your life! Just have faith in the path you are on and that it will lead you exactly where you need to go.



One side note: I’m holding a college application essay writing contest, and plan to include the top 50 submissions in my upcoming college of sample essays, called “Heavenly Essays.” If you are interested in submitting your essay(s), please read Essay Writing Contest for details. Thanks!