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Stay in your lane to stave off stress

Yes, “stay in your lane” has become a mantra (and I don’t like clichés). But as this year’s admissions decisions began dribbling out last fall, many of my deferred/waitlisted students and families have experienced pain and frustration when they heard about peers who were admitted to the colleges which had put them on hold. How can they have been waitlisted with such stellar numbers?

College admissions has never been, and can never be, a true meritocracy. This issue is not specific to 2021. While logical explanations (like the empathy I’m asking you to have here) don’t prevent emotional pain, a big picture view might help:

Imagine the stress of admissions officers and financial enrollment managers (particularly newer ones--lots of turnover in 2021) charged with meeting institutional financial goals after the huge financial hit their schools took over the past year. There might be over 100% more applications to review and admission can only be offered to students who are very, very likely to enroll. While there are many students claiming that “______University is my top choice” in their deferral letters, the thousands of high-flyer applicants from all over the US and the world are the biggest gamble.

Those responsible for building the Class of 2025 can expect their stress to continue throughout the summer. But you can take control and manage your stress:

  • Review your options: really review them. Visit if you can, talk to current students, talk to me. I get information from and about many colleges regularly.

  • Decide to not pine for a call; consider waitlists as the longshots they are. (I have data on last year’s lists for many schools, but that might be a poor predictor.)

  • Take responsibility for the choices you made and go forward. Was your list properly balanced? Did you choose likely schools you would be happy to attend?

  • Stop comparing yourself to other students: it’s irrelevant. There’s little black and white, as in most parts of life.

  • Acknowledge, that as a high-achieving student, your unique set of powers will set you on track for great success (yes, there are bright, motivated students like you at every college--as I just said, stop comparing yourself to other students) wherever you go.

Resist the urge to get stuck, stay in your lane, take off, and don’t look back.


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