The original “Average” Excellent student graduates today

Four years ago, I posted a thread to advise parents whose students planned to apply to top colleges. The thread recounted mistakes that we made in the process, along with some truths about how hard it can be to get into these schools.

My D was what I termed “average” excellent: good grades in challenging classes, high test scores, lots of APs, a smattering of clubs, played an instrument with proficiency, artistic, shy and quiet. She applied to 12 colleges and ultimately was accepted to 9. She deposited at a school, and, in the summer, got off the waitlist at another school.

She took that waitlist spot, and I am happy to report, she has milked it for all it was worth. Today, my D is graduating from college. The average excellent student has done many amazing things in her four years. Of course, I was proud of her then, but I could not foresee in April 2016 the young woman she is today.

D had a rough start at college. In the first few months, she was miserable. She felt she had made the wrong choice, but today she realizes she made the right one. D was on the Dean’s list six times, won a prestigious national scholarship (sadly cancelled due to Covid), won a fellowship to fund summer research at a university, was inducted by her professor into an honor society for her major, won a college award for highest grades in her subject, won a campus writing competition, designed artwork which has been permanently installed on campus, had numerous tutoring jobs, was a TA, and even co-designed a hat, on sale at the book store. She has great friends, fell in love, had a ton of fun, and loved her classes and professors.

D has a summer job doing meaningful work. In the Fall, she will start a good job with fantastic benefits that frankly, a Harvard grad would kill for (and in fact, her fellow new hires are from Harvard, amongst others.)

My point with all this is not to brag, though I’m beyond proud. I want to reassure the worried parents out there that their “average” excellent student will be fine. They will find their feet. They will become the people they are meant to be. And they will end up at the best school for them. Let your child aim high if your child WANTS that, but don’t fret if they don’t get in. Don’t encourage unrealistic goals. I am so glad now that she didn’t end up at the one Ivy League school she applied to, or the LAC with intense academics. Those places probably wouldn’t have been right for her.

If you’re worrying right now, “Is my child good enough to get into Stanford or Williams?”, know that your child will do what they need to do and what they WANT to do. They will do it, or not do it, regardless of your concerns. Who my daughter was in high school isn’t quite the same person she is now. 17-year-old her is still there, but 21-year-old her is a better version of herself. Your teenager has yet to become the adult version of themselves.

My shy, quiet girl who didn’t win a single award in high school will soon be leaving home for a grown up job. She’s achieved a truly great goal: graduating with a hard-earned degree. She is going to be fine, and my mission is accomplished.

P.S. For those interested, here is the link to the original post:


Congratulations! I have found both your original and this post full of wisdom.

Congrats! What a happy ending.

Love this! Congratulations to your daughter!

Big congrats!!! Thank you so much for sharing this!

Wow…I can’t believe it has been four years!

I wish your daughter all the best!!!

Congratulations to her and to you!
So glad she persevered through that first year, found her footing, and bloomed. And so happy to hear about such a happy ending and beginning in such tough circumstances.
Happy Graduation Day!

Very happy for you and your daughter, no doubt she is a very bright and driven person and Bates turned out to be a very good fit for her.

A couple of questions related to this thread:

If she had been accepted to Brown, don’t you think she would have also thrived there?

Looking at your old original thread, you said this:

“I asked her 100 times to apply ED to Bates. I am certain she would have been accepted. She wanted options though. I will strongly encourage my son to use the ED card.“

Do you still agree with this advice?

Thanks, and good questions, @socaldad2002 . If she had gone to Brown, would she have thrived in the same way? I’m not so sure. I think Bates allowed her to be a bit of a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

And, yes, I still think ED is a good thing, but only if the student has a clear #1 top choice. My son, in the end, didn’t apply ED anywhere.

Congratulations on your daughter’s graduation and many other successes. The parents of average excellent students everywhere have benefitted from your wise words.

Wow, great post and congrats! And BTW…Bates is a great school. Wish more people understood how awesome these high quality, non HYP schools are. No knock on HYP, they speak for themselves, but these other tier 2 (I hate that term as it implies less than and as you’ve seen up close, nothing less than about your D’s experience) schools are fantastic and offer ample opportunities.

Like any school, it takes student initiative and engagement but the resources are clearly there.

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I think at the end of the day your D’s college story illustrates the importance of “fit” and she nailed it.

It also demonstrates that top LACs can do an excellent job of bringing out the best qualities of their student body. Qualities that will stay with them for the rest of their career and lives.

Wonderful post! And a big congratulations to your daughter!!

I wonder: Do you think if she picked a “lower ranked” school for merit aid she would have had just as good results? Bates is, at least in my view, still a top institution.

I’m so happy for your daughter, @Lindagaf. Cool that your daughter and mine are graduating at the same time and thriving! I agree about being a bigger fish in a small pond. D got a LOT of attention from professors who recognized her intelligence and inquisitiveness. She had excellent professors who were trained at top-rate schools. One of them has made it clear she will continue to be D’s mentor, helping her publish her senior capstone paper in a publication and also apply to grad schools. We couldn’t be more pleased.

Congrats @Lindagaf
All the best to your special D!

@Lindagaf I wish there was a “love” button I could push. Your daughter’s wild admissions ride and trajectory through college has been truly inspirational for me and has shaped how I viewed the process for my average excellent kids. My eldest found her fit and thrived, the youngest is just beginning the admissions process. Great lessons to be learned from your daughter’s example!

@havenoidea good question. Maybe? I definitely think choosing an LAC is what made it a good experience for her.

May she continue to thrive on her new adventure as a working adult! Congratulations to her on her graduation!

May I hit like 25 times?

Congratulations to your daughter and family!

My husband and I believe so strongly in the value of a small LAC education and wanted one for our daughter. I am so happy that your daughter has excelled and thrived in such an environment.

Wishing your daughter continued success!

Thanks so much for all the kind replies. I’ve shared them with my daughter.

A shout out to @MaineLonghorn , @wisteria100 , @gardenstategal , @porcupine98
Congratulations to your kids too!