This time of year, I’m frequently asked where the students I worked with are going to college. I’m incredibly proud of each of my students, yet I’m hesitant to answer without context. Along with every college decision comes an unspoken judgment—about the kind of student someone is, their priorities, their political views, their tolerance of weather or white bread, collard greens or cowboy boots or whatever. But behind each college decision is a story, one unique to each student. Regardless of its reputation or ranking in US News and World Report, a college may represent a triumph for one student, a consolation prize of sorts for another. Ultimately, most students are happy where they land. When I read the list of colleges this year’s students have chosen, I feel a sense of optimism and shared relief. There were some disappointments, but it all turned out OK.
And what of their essays? Dozens of articles have credited an essay about Costco for a student’s admission to five Ivy League colleges and Stanford this year. I happen to like that essay, but really folks, that is not THE reason she got in. Admission to highly selective colleges is the result of a combination of good grades, solid test scores, meaningful activities and strong teacher recommendations, which collectively make a student a viable candidate. The essay can be a tie-breaker, tipping the decision in a student’s favor. On its own, the essay can’t get a C student into Harvard, but it can help a strong student distinguish him- or herself from the multitude of other well-qualified candidates.
So, about my students. I worked on some level with 25 amazing seniors this year, and I thoroughly enjoyed helping them tell their stories. I do believe that in some cases their essays played a role in their results. Several students, in particular, were over-the-moon happy with their outcomes. Those students had well-balanced college lists, open minds to realistic possibilities, and, to be honest, really good essays.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the colleges my 2016 students are attending:
American University in Paris
UC San Diego
UC Santa Barbara
University of Colorado Boulder
Colorado State University
University of Georgia
University of Michigan
University of Southern California (4, including 1 via London and 1 via Paris)
Texas Christian University
University of Washington
Other acceptances include: Emerson College, Lehigh University, Lewis and Clark College, Loyola Marymount University, Miami University of Ohio, Northeastern University, University of Oregon (including honors), Pitzer College, Providence College, Reed College, University of San Diego, Santa Clara University, Southern Methodist University, Trinity University, Villanova University, University of Wisconsin… and more. As you can see, my students applied to a broad range of colleges, large and small, more selective and less selective, nearby and far away. I wish them all the very best of luck!