Preparing for Acceptance & Rejection Letters by Jane Foley Fried, Dean of Admission at Andover
Mrs. Fried shares her thoughts on how to handle acceptance and rejection letters (for high school, or any school, for that matter) in The Dean's Journal:
Applications to Andover have hit a record 3,126, and this year’s overall admit rate is 14%, tied for the lowest in Academy history. With about a week to go before our decision letters go in the mail, we realize that not all of the students who would like to come to Andover—and whom we would like to invite to join us—will receive a letter of admission...
If you are selected for admission to Andover or another school, take a moment to congratulate yourself for a job well done. Do not forget to write thank-you notes to those who have helped you along the way. No one is accepted by his or her effort alone...
Sharing the news with friends is a little more challenging... Be thoughtful about how, when, and where you share your news. It may be best to wait to be asked. Special care is necessary if other members of your school community have also applied. Jumping for joy and screaming with delight is best done at home.
We are sorry to mail disappointing news to so many wonderful young people. We realize that for some of you this may be the first disappointment of your young lives. We also know that you and your parents may not be fully prepared for less than positive news.
We live in a culture that does not readily present opportunities for disappointment. Failure is too often perceived to be an experience to be avoided at all costs. But is it better not to try than to be disappointed? And is one person’s success another’s failure? Is not being admitted to a secondary school a failure?
Each year my heart breaks when parents call the office to find out what their children did wrong in an unsuccessful attempt for admission. In the vast majority of cases, the child has not done anything wrong. The committee chose students who were perceived to be better matches for Andover’s program. The students who are not admitted will go on to be successful at secondary schools all over the world. Success does not begin at Andover, and it does not end with a waitlist or deny letter. My advice to parents and students is as follows:
It looks like Andover changed the link. Here's the rest of the article:
Parents can be good models of resilience and reason. Please give the advice that every person needs after receiving disappointing news. When one door closes, another opens. This may sound trite, but we all know it is true. If you or your child dwells on the closed door, your child will never walk through the open door. School matches are made by the admission staff and the family. Do not waste time thinking about what could have been. Get excited about what is.
Students: in addition to feeling disappointed for a certain period of time, consider this experience one that will prepare you for the future. It may be helpful to think about what you may have learned through the process. Has applying to Andover taught you something about yourself as a person? As a student? Will it help you in future application processes? Is this an opportunity to show that you can bounce back from disappointment, which is a key life skill? Were you admitted to another school? Is there a chance that the other school may be a better match for you?
Recognizing that this may be your first disappointment, I surveyed my admission colleagues. The following is some of their collective wisdom:
Bill Leahy, Director of Admission:
“Don’t let the decisions of others define you. Rather, be defined by your own decisions.”
Jim Ventre ’79, Director of Financial Aid and Admission Operations:
“In my own personal life, I have always used these moments of disappointment as a motivating force to pursue another direction.”
Vivien Valenzuela Mallick, Senior Associate Dean of Admission:
“I didn’t have the opportunity to attend a private high school or an Ivy League university, and I have no regrets about that. To me, the name of the institution isn’t what matters. It’s what you do when you’re there. I made the most of my four years in public high school and I absolutely loved my college experience. I really wouldn’t have it any other way. At the end of the day, I don’t dwell about life’s disappointments. I try to remember what’s good and what’s important about my life. I am a happy, confident, hard-working, and kind person, a good wife and mother, and a good friend.”
Lisa Joel, Associate Dean of Admission:
“When I coach the girls’ varsity soccer team, I am certain my team grows the most—as a group and as individuals—not from our wins but from our losses. A loss on the soccer field gives us an opportunity to look at what we could have done better, a reminder that in life things don’t always go your way, and a reality check that there are a lot of great players and teams, just like us, out there too. It can be the case that you can prepare very well, play your hardest (maybe even play your best), and still not win. We might ask, didn’t we deserve to win? We trained so hard….we were the better team…we did everything we could. And still we might have to deal with an outcome that disappoints. I tell my team that we learn the most about our character by how we respond in this moment. We can be angry or sad; we can point fingers and assign blame. Or we can boldly accept an outcome as part of the game, show up the next day to practice, put our best foot forward, look ahead and not back—ready for the next challenge and willing to go for it all over again.”
Jill Thompson, Associate Dean of Admission:
“If the outcome of your application to Andover is not as you would have liked it to be, think about how much more prepared you will be to apply for college now that you’ve gone through this exercise. Writing about yourself and your accomplishments does not usually come naturally to many students in today’s society, so having completed an application to Andover will serve you well down the road when you embark on the college search process. You’ll be that much more prepared to articulate what you want colleges to know about you having had practice as a high school student.”
José Powell ’91, Assistant Dean of Admission and Director of Student of Color Recruitment:
“I often say to parents that a negative decision is not an indictment on the child’s humanity, while an admission decision is not an anointing, nor is it a guarantee of perfection. Every year, the applicant pool is different. The needs and interests of the institution change from year to year. It is those needs that guide our decision making.”
Kevin Graber, Assistant Dean of Admission:
“The application process is a learning experience in and of itself. Even if you’re not offered admission, the process of putting your best foot forward academically and presenting yourself to an admission committee is valuable.”
Marisa Zepeda, Assistant Dean of Admission:
“Whenever I face disappointment, I think about how everything happens for a reason. When I look back at past rejection, I realize that I am a better person for having gone through it.”
Julie Wadland ’06, Assistant Dean of Admission:
“In the application process, what’s in your control is your effort and putting your best foot forward. As disappointing as it may be to receive a decision letter you aren’t hoping for, take comfort in the hard work and preparation you put into the application process. You did your job, and you did it well. The most important part of facing disappointment? Standing taller than you did before.”
Natalie Wombwell ’01, Assistant Dean of Admission:
“Throughout life there are two challenges you will repeatedly face: ‘What am I truly passionate about?’ and ‘What do I need to do to make those passions a reality?’ For most people those are not easy questions to answer as they require insight and strength. Everything we do in life is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, and you can only learn more if you try. For me the latter question is the harder to answer, and then act on; in deciding and completing your application to boarding school you have realized aspects of life that you are passionate about, and took the necessary steps to make those passions more of a reality. Be proud that you have completed this process, think about what you have learned about yourself along the way and no matter the outcome know that you have the strength to put yourself out there to make your dreams come true. Life is filled with challenges, disappointments and successes; we never know what will happen unless we try and we will always learn more along the way…”
Peter Dignard ’07, Admission Counselor:
“When one door closes another will always open. Instead of focusing on the door that has been closed, you must look for the opportunities that lie ahead.”
I hope this advice from Andover’s admission counselors is helpful to you as you look forward to next year.
Thank you for sharing your stories with us. We enjoyed getting to know you. If you receive an admit letter from Andover, we look forward to seeing you at the Spring Visit Program. If your path leads you to another school, we will delight in hearing about your successes from afar and will know that our loss is the gain of another school community.