This year, without a doubt, has been a year filled with disappointment and challenges. I honestly learned to hate the word “unprecedented” and “pivot” this past year. I believe we all experienced a level of loss in some ways, and for our seniors, that sense of loss can become much more acute when receiving a rejection letter from a college or university that you applied for.
According to the Los Angeles Times, there was a sharp jump in the number of applications this year. For example, UCLA had 28% more applicants, and all nine campuses combined saw 16.1% more applicants this year. Forbes also reported that Common App had an 11% increase in their applications, which translated to having over 602,000 more applications compared to the year before. It is more than likely that a senior might receive a rejection letter from a college or two this year than any other year, which can truly be devastating to the whole family.
Having raised two boys who ended up attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, you might think that my family did not have that experience. But we did. For example, my oldest did not receive the Principle Nomination from the Congressman at first. Seeing him so distraught was one of the toughest experiences that I have ever had. It did not help that he also was rejected from Cal Poly SLO and USC during the same week that he received that devastating news. Since the news came at the start of the winter break, our family spent the whole break in the darkness. But two weeks later, he received a phone call from the Congressmen, offering him a spot at West Point. He was accepted to Duke University during the same week. He also received an ROTC Scholarship to attend UCLA. When our second son was applying to West Point and received the Congressional Nomination, we were ecstatic, only to find out that his honest disclosure that he had an allergic reaction to peanuts when he was four-years-old put a medical hold on his admission. Once again, our family spent the whole winter break worrying about our younger son’s future, especially because he only applied to a couple of UC schools that he was not sure he was going to be accepted. We had to spend several weeks putting together documents so that he could get medically cleared.
When I was a classroom teacher, I also worked with many students who were devastated by not getting into their dream schools. One particular young lady sobbed in my classroom for nearly an hour when she found out that she was waitlisted for UCSD, her dream school. She was sure that her future was doomed. Two weeks later, she got an acceptance letter from Pepperdine University, which she did not think was a good option. However, she learned that she qualified for a much better financial aid package at Pepperdine, a private school. Unlike a UC school, which calculates student aid based on her parents’ previous year’s tax return, Pepperdine factored in the income loss of her parents when both of them lost their jobs unexpectedly. I helped her to write a petition to plead her case, which led to her receiving a scholarship. Eventually, she became one of the officers for their student government and successfully managed a $175,000 budget for the university for several years, which helped her land an excellent job after graduation. She also met her future husband at Pepperdine.
I share these stories with you, seniors, so that you are able to see what is tough to see now when you are in the thick of disappointment and heartache for not getting into your “dream school.” I promise you that your future will not be determined by that single factor because schools are what you make of them. I cannot stress enough that the learning that you get from a school, that is always so much more important. The world is filled with examples of people who never attended their dream schools yet are making the biggest and the most amazing differences. I bet you can think of a couple of them right now as you read this.
Royals, I assure you that your future is as bright as you make of it, and the only person who can stop that from happening is you. Please know that your perspective matters, and the pandemic has sure shown us what is the most important to all of us: life, health, and love. If you have them, you can get through anything. Royals, I hope that you continue to persevere through the rest of the school year as you have done all year. I am confident that your future will be bright regardless of what you choose to do after graduation. Thank you for being you!