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During the College Admissions Process, Remember Childhood Lessons

During the College Admissions Process, Remember Childhood Lessons
Alayne Birnhak

When entering my office for the first time, some students are surprised to see children’s books displayed on a shelf.  They look at me incredulously, as if to say, “W+Hers are an ambitious bunch, but you realize that the College Counseling team is assigned only to the Upper School, right?!”

Yes, I realize that.  

I display these books because I hope that 11th and 12th-graders will pour through them, just as they would the latest edition of Edward Fiske’s Fiske Guide to Colleges or Steven R. Antonoff, Ph.D.’s The College Finder.  Children’s literature can convey important life lessons to high schoolers… or people of any age, for that matter.

One children’s book that catches my students’ attention is What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada.  It centers on a youngster who eventually recognizes the importance of courageously embracing chances.  Chances, he concludes, frequently prove terrific opportunities to grow and lead to even more terrific opportunities. 

This is exactly the message that Ms. Honan, Mrs. Brown, and I impart to W+H seniors.  Every acceptance, regardless of whether it is from one of your top-pick schools, symbolizes a chance.  It is a chance to build upon what you have learned at home, at W+H, and in the larger community.  Use that knowledge for good in the upcoming chapter of your story, which will be filled with adventures that allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the most important subject of all:  Yourself.  You will meet individuals who will enrich your days.  Certain settings will bring you joy, both in the moment and when you recall them, as hopefully is – and will remain – the case with W+H.  Challenges inevitably will arise that will strengthen you, help you to reach your potential, and prepare you to have a greater positive impact.  Be grateful for chances so you will get the most out of them and inspire others to do the same.

As the character in Yamada’s book acknowledges, it is possible to be both scared and excited when faced with chances, but focusing on the excitement will make taking them easier.  Bravely being open to new experiences often results in wonderful outcomes.  You won’t discover the remarkable things that await, however, until you take the first step by choosing to embrace chances.

This advice applies to juniors as well.  As Spring Break approaches, resolve to use the change from the usual routine wisely.  Rejuvenate, but also be productive on the college front.  Explore school suggestions that Ms. Honan and I have shared because, in our estimation, they offer many characteristics you have indicated that you need or want in an institution of higher education. Thoroughly research other colleges and universities that seem appealing, too.  Visit, so you can immerse yourself in campus culture and determine whether a good fit exists.  Ask yourself, “Could I be happy?” and “Could I be successful in all respects?”  In other words, take a chance.  You just might find the next place where you will leave your mark!

And to all the underclassmen out there, get comfortable with taking chances.  Push yourself within reason academically.  Branch out in terms of co-curricular and extracurricular activities.  Devote summers to further scholastic, social, and personal development while also treasuring well-deserved relaxation and fun.  Before long, YOU will be the ones glancing over at the children’s books when you arrive for an initial one-on-one college counseling session.  You will smile knowingly, though, since you will appreciate why they are there.