*This was initially posted under the Harvard forum, but I was asked to re-post it here, as well. All of this applies to you potential Tigers, as well, so take heart--and good luck today!*
Dear Class of 2015,
Congratulations--you made it. No, you didn't necessarily make it into Harvard. You did, however, survive to see the dawn of March 30th, 2011--a feat in-and-of-itself. This post is to serve as a valuable reminder that life sometimes requires perspective, and that oftentimes, the best things fall into your lap in the most unexpected way.
Here's a little bit about how your day will go today. If you've already been accepted EA somewhere else, congratulations--please feel lucky. Please, also, feel sensitive, as many of your peers did not necessarily get good news in December, which makes this last day of March a much more heavy thing for them to endure. Your fate does not rest upon any emails you may receive later on this afternoon, whether the news they bring is happy or disappointing. You, my friend, have a school, and chances are, it's a darn good one. Revel in your accomplishments and embrace the tide of decisions with a happy attitude.
To those who feel as though the entire weight of the world--the course of your future, the happiness of your family, and that of your future children, and your children's children and so on--is crushing you with a stifling pressure. To those of you who have spent the last nine months snatching up pennies and blowing eyelashes and squeezing your eyes tight shut when the clock strikes 11:11 and using every chance at a wish to pray that you get into Harvard--that you please, please get into Harvard--listen up. This is for you.
I am a Harvard Freshman and I can tell you with absolute certainty that life will--no matter what happens--go on. It is so important that you internalize this message and take it to heart. A year ago today, I never would have imagined that I would end up here--and it's not necessarily because I had utterly convinced myself that I wouldn't get in. It was because every school to which I applied, I applied deliberately and thoughtfully, and with a completely open mind. There is a reason why this is not the only school on your list, and likely not the only school you'll be hearing back from today. This reason is because there are many, many Harvards. I say this with genuine earnestness. Higher education in the United States is an incredible, beautiful thing, in that the sheer number of high-quality institutions allows most every graduating senior a true chance at a fantastic education in an institution that will no doubt be home to the very best four years of your life. No matter where you get in, and no matter where you find yourself next year, I guarantee to the best of my ability that by your freshman spring, you'll never have a thought about looking back. Your school will be the best school, and it won't have a damn thing to do with U.S. News and World Report rankings or Hollywood stereotypes or familial expectation or self-inflicted pressure.
You are a rockstar, and whether or not you think that this is evident by the results of today's decisions, you darn well better come to believe that it's true. Because it is.
The most wonderful an yet deeply disturbing part about college admissions is that it is so wildly unpredictable. Getting into Harvard is much like standing on the head of a pin; there is so much potential to teeter precariously off of any side, that those who manage it are forced to chalk it up to sheer luck. I cannot tell you the capacity for humility that this school has--I am quite convinced that if I stopped any classmate in the Yard and asked them if they thought that they belonged here, most of the answers I'd get would have something to do with "I was the mistake!" or "No way! I got so lucky!". The prevailing attitude here is that it is a privilege and an honor to have been sent a red folder, and also that it was very much happenstance. Please take this all in stride, and know that not even among Harvard students can there be identified any reason why we may have been accepted, beyond the fact that the fates must have been smiling on us one year ago today.
The lesson, then, is not to be tunnel-visioned. You cannot cling to something that never was. Open your email today with the attitude that what happens, happens, and do it with the knowledge that happiness will find you, wherever you may go. You are your own future. Never, ever forget that, and don't let tomorrow squash that feeling from your heart.
Given all of this, if you do get in, please know that if you are still undecided, April may be the wildest and most exciting month of your life. (A note: The enthusiasm for Harvard that I am about to display does not represent any feelings hypocritical to what was said above--I love it because it is my school, and not necessarily because it is Harvard, if this makes sense. Besides, I have a moral obligation to get the Class of 2015 PUMPED about coming here!)
Here is some advice you should take to heart in the days to come. Do not accept your offer of admission right away, if you think there may be any question in your mind that this is not the right/best school for you. I clicked that button on the very last day possible last year, and I was glad I did, because it took me all of April to search the very corners of my soul to determine that I would, indeed, be happy here.
"Happy," by the way, is not necessarily the default mental state at Harvard College. Contrary to popular belief, as at any school, we do not eat rainbows for breakfast, nor do songbirds alight on our shoulders as we waltz happily along the paths of the Yard on our way to class every afternoon. I do not say this with any notion of poor intent--rather, I'm grinning pretty cheekily right now. (But really--it's true.) Harvard is a lot of work, as is any competitive school with similar academic qualities. It is true that most of the people I know would describe themselves as happy, but this brand of happiness is unique and comes from three four-hour nights of sleep in a row working on problem sets in the library cafe with your friends (but instead talking about the misogynistic qualities of Charlie Sheen or how ridiculous the track team looked at that one costume party last weekend or the Noam Chomsky lecture on Friday), or the fact that the fourth-most-famous astrophysicist in the world asked you how your sister was doing this morning, or the fact that after you failed your last midterm your friend brought you a cupcake and told you that the world would still turn, or that your favorite improv comedy troupe is playing this weekend and oh--by the way--they're performing with Wayne Brady. It's a discombobulated, delicate, crimson-tinted happiness, and it's sustained marvelously by this crazy College and your incredible peers and the glut of opportunities presented to you here.
And, my friend, the good news is that this brand of happiness can be found at ANY school. Replace the word "Harvard" and perhaps a couple of the school-specific details, and you have yourself a wonderfully versatile recipe for a fantastic undergraduate education at the school at which you will end up next year.
So, embrace this day. Love yourself for every last tiny grammar mistake in your Common App essays that you have fretted over for the last how-many months. Know that no admissions committee has the intelligence, the clout, the right, or--most importantly--the power, to force you to feel any particular way about yourself. And forget the details, if possible; it matter not in what order you open your decisions. Do it on your own terms, alone, if possible, with the right attitude set in both your heart and your mind. Blast "Firework" by Katy Perry, if need be, or do jumping jacks to diffuse the tension in those split seconds before the clock strikes the hour.
Own this day.
And if you are admitted, know that there are plenty, like me, who have abandoned their economics homework or a writing assignment or an important email to await your questions, concerns, and enthusiasm with bated breath. We love you already, prefrosh, and we can't WAIT to see you at Visitas. They started tilling the soil in Harvard Yard this morning. It's spring, and we're getting ready.