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GUEST STUDENT OF THE WEEK: ski_racer, a high-achiever in high school, was rejected by some of the elite schools she applied to. This rejection was the best thing that happened to her as she got to choose her own path. Learn how she fell in love with her safety school, ASK HER ANYTHING!
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My lesson learned

antoniorayantonioray User Awaiting Email Confirmation 741 replies108 threads Member
A friend of mine and I recently pondered about his rejection from Yale.

"I mean, I had a 97. a 22XX and 790/800 on my subject tests. I'm about to graduate with the 2nd most AP classes anyone from my school has ever taken, and I've gotten a 5 on all except one. I was on the math team. And most of all, my Yale interviewer told me that I fit into the 'Yale mold.'"

"The Yale mold?"

"Like she said that I was exactly like a Yale student going in."


"Great grades, great test scores, challenging classes."

So my friend fit into the mold and still got rejected. Notice how he was unable to define the mold; just that his interviewer told him that he fit into it. For what it's worth, I could've told him the same thing.

As far as academics go, a 97/22 w/e and a host of 5's are nothing to scoff at. But what else did he have going for him? The Math team? To his credit, he was sick during soccer tryouts during sophomore year and was cut. He lives in a relatively small city in the south, where there may not be as many opportunities as there are in sprawling metropolises.

With what he has given me, does he fit into the Yale mold? I wouldn't know; I didn't know one existed. I don't think molds are there for people to fit into snugly; rather, they are meant to be broken. A mold simply implies that one is as good as the others who are also part of the mold. Therefore, a Yale mold is very, very good.

But not nearly good enough. If you're only as good as the other applicants, you wouldn't be giving admissions any impetus to choose you over the others. Why should they? Well how can one be better than a 97 and w/e w/e? It doesn't get much higher than that, does it?

It does. And it's not academics. When admissions tell you that most of their applicants have academic records eerily similar to the one belonging to my friend, they're not lying. Good grades and great test scores won't singularize you. Good isn't good enough; you have to be better.

After returning to school from spring break, I walked into a class of mine to see my friend who's usually as sanguine as can be crestfallen. I didn't know why, but I knew why. It could've been anything from the death of a grandparent to the, to the... To the college rejections he may have recieved during vacation. As HS seniors who had nothing better to talk about, the person sitting next to him asked him where he's headed. He said Macaulay. He could've ended the sentence there, but he didn't. He continued with "all that hard work for nothing. I got rejected from all the top 20 schools I had applied to. Columbia, Hopkins, everywhere." He is indeed one of the hardest working individuals I've ever came across.

If one applies to the very best colleges, rejections are inevitable. Had you devoted your 4 years of high school to gaining acceptances, rejections will hit you a lot harder. You may get some acceptances too, and sure, they're nice. But if I asked you "how has your life become better since you entered high school" and the only answers you come up with are bromides like "I have become more mature," or "I have more friends," or worse yet, "I've had great grades, and most of all, I have this Yale acceptance letter to show for it!" then the next 4 years will be a repeat of the last 4 years of your life. Sure, the location will then be New Haven. But what else has changed/will have changed?

You can't commit your life to good academia, which isn't really saying that good academia is not important. Feel free to disagree, but I believe that it will give you a chance, but that's it. A chance. I know you CCer's are well aware of the chances of getting into schools like Yale, Stanford, Harvard, etc.

Maintaining good grades should be a sidequest. Your main goal should be to live. You have to dedicate your life to something. That something, in its most general sense, is to be the best. Whatever you're the best in doesn't matter. It could be anything from "the best, period" to "the best painter I'll ever meet," which, though it partly suggests that you'll never meet another painter as good as you, really means that you hold yourself in the highest esteem possible. Understandably, it might be hard for a painter to not be star-struck if he or she were to come face to face with the Picasso of the 21st century (I don't know that is; pardon my ignorance). But the important part is believing it. If you do that, then you'll believe in yourself. That makes all the difference in the world.

Few teenagers know exactly what their fortes are. Nevertheless, you have to try. You have to have some idea. You don't necessarily have to stick with it throughout the rest of your life, I mean, how many NBA players are there anyway? 400 in a country that has a total population of 300 something million? But there should be one or two definitive characteristics of your adolescence beyond "it was when I first started taking interest in the opposite sex."

Just today, I read a passage about 2 kids who both loved baseball: the author and his older brother who died at age 17. The older brother was a natural on the track field, but he dropped it because he loved playing baseball even though he was probably the worst player on the team due to his poor hand-eye coordination. Life and its many joys do not follow a mantra of "the absolute best or bust."

Colleges are not so different.
edited October 2010
12 replies
Post edited by antonioray on
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Replies to: My lesson learned

  • rainbowroserainbowrose 1705 replies99 threads Senior Member
    Maintaining good grades should be a sidequest. Your main goal should be to live. You have to dedicate your life to something. That something, in its most general sense, is to be the best.
    I partially agree, but rather than a "sidequest" I think the the two should coexist equally, maybe academics with a BIT more weight but not too much of either thing. One without the other isn't good enough. As all info-sessions say, academics are THE most important. Once you have them, however, you need something MORE to get into the top schools.
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  • antoniorayantonioray User Awaiting Email Confirmation 741 replies108 threads Member
    maybe academics with a BIT more weight

    Which of the two is harder in your opinion?

    I personally believe that if you can excel in whatever this other passionate field of yours might be, then academics should be a breeze.

    Obtaining and maintaining good grades takes a lot of effort. There's no way around that. But how many people have actually had trouble? I mean real trouble, not like "oooo that physics problem is too hard."
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  • ChemELoverChemELover 55 replies9 threads Junior Member
    Your friend was lacking extracurriculars; these would demonstrate what his interests were. His focus on academia may have caused him to fall short. I'm assuming Yale looks for the entire package?
    I didn't know why, but I knew why.

    Your friend who's heading to Macaulay...if he got rejected from 20 colleges, that is a strong indicator that he was lacking in substance, in soul. He acts as if all the learning he did was "hard work for nothing." It may have been hard work, and probably was, but think about the invaluable knowledge he gained for the years to come.

    You study for yourself, and if he was only slaving away at school to gain acceptances to top notch colleges, the college admissions officers probably all saw that, especially if all those colleges rejected him.

    I agree that "your main goal should be to live," but you don't have to dedicate your life to anything. Dedication or specialization narrows the scope of your life, when there's just too much about you and so much one can do.

    With that said, great post.
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  • MonochromeAddictMonochromeAddict 848 replies12 threads Member
    Yep. Don't focus your entire life at good grades. Strive for the best, yet enjoy your life.
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  • Jersey13Jersey13 4589 replies33 threads Senior Member
    Maintaining good grades should be a sidequest. Your main goal should be to live.

    Exceptional students can excel in academics and "live".

    Not to be cynical, but a 22XX and a 97 isn't exactly a shoo-in at Yale. Perhaps if your friend was better informed of how incredibly talented the applicant pool is, he would be less disappointed. Just take a look at the Yale RD decisions thread, many CCers with far higher objective academic stats were declined admission.
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  • antoniorayantonioray User Awaiting Email Confirmation 741 replies108 threads Member
    Exceptional students can excel in academics and "live".

    Yea that was my point. Do both but focus on the latter. Too many kids have one but not the other, and although I'm no authority on the matter, I'd be willing to guess that a combination of academics-but no passion is more common, and not in the "haha you have no life" vernacular either.

    One without the other is like living 2 years when the calendar clearly says 4 years have passed.

    Though they are equally important (I never said one was more important than the other), I think that your passions should be your focus because, as I've said before, academics will be relatively easy if you can get that down.

    And I agree with the Yale applicant pool comment. Yale has no shoo-ins, which is why there's a thread brewing about "4.0's 2400s and getting rejected." 97 2280 is very hard to obtain; make no mistake about it. The number of kids that have that combination or higher is very small relative to the number of total HS students. However, it is still less than the size of a given Yale entrance class.

    This only goes to show that one must be better than good, and given that a combination of 97+2280+6 billion 5's on AP's is already really good, improvement must come in other areas.

    Being great in those other areas is even harder than maintaining a 97 and obtaining great test scores.
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  • Collegestress16Collegestress16 1118 replies44 threads Senior Member
    That something, in its most general sense, is to be the best. Whatever you're the best in doesn't matter.

    I agree with the rest of your post, but I don't think people should focus on being the best as much as being their best. Sometimes people focus too much on being the best, naturally fall short and can't pick themselves up from realizing the competitive world out there. Everyone should try their best and do things with the greatest of their capabilities and a lot of hard work.
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  • fledglingfledgling - 4180 replies76 threads Senior Member
    I don't think people should focus on being the best as much as being their best.

    I wholeheartedly agree.
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  • antoniorayantonioray User Awaiting Email Confirmation 741 replies108 threads Member
    I wholeheartedly agree.

    Your personal best is much harder to define. For example, if there are any basketball fans out there, a great majority would argue for Kobe as the best player in the contemporary NBA.

    He is neither the fastest nor does he jump the highest, and he never has been--even in his athletic prime.

    Tyreke Evans is the best rookie this year and will be a top 10 player for years to come. His vertical and quickness stats are actually subpar by NBA standards, and he's only 19 or 20 so it's not like his athleticism has already deterioated.

    The best basketball player I know personally is similar in that his athletic skills are just about average.

    There are talented people, sure. But talent makes up such a small percentage of success. The rest of the make-up is cultivation. If my friend had adopted fatalism and gave into the preconception that he cannot be the best because he does not have the best athletic talents, then he would not be as good as he is today.

    At every step of the way except the very last one, one does not know one's bounds. Some may argue that the ultimate step is never reached, so for every half of the distance we travel there is another half that awaits us.

    Profundities aside, strive to be the best. There's no reason to believe that it's not synonymous with your personal best--ever.
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  • tigertontigerton 316 replies72 threads Member
    I agree with this excellently written post. I guess the point is, the college you go to doesn't dictate your success.
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  • netthreatnetthreat 171 replies17 threads Junior Member
    The irony is that while many strive for great grades, but no one ever gets paid in life to get good grades. There are no tests with answers in the back of the book in life. It is disappointing when we don't make our intermediate (and immediate) goals. But NO ONE can shut us off from being a success in life if that is our desire.
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  • nil desperandumnil desperandum 1850 replies98 threads Senior Member
    I just re-read this and.... i love it.
    it's good writing.
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