“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
– Mike Tyson
So, it didn’t work out the way that you wanted. You applied ED or EA and the University of your Dreams made the egregious error of not admitting you. What happens next? I love this season because for many of my students this is the first time in their lives that it didn’t “work out” and character is revealed in what happens next. Of course I love the celebrations as well, but I rarely have doubts that one of my little cherubs, my unique snowflakes will find a home. I just think that there is so much opportunity in the conversations that can happen when the decision is “not now”. I don’t mean any of this to sound callous. I obviously want the best for all of my students, but I tend to think that many of my students are already in a good position before this process even begins. I say this because they have people in their lives who are invested in them and that, to me, sums up the need for counselors. Every student deserves to be known, advocated for and invested in. The student who has those investors or stake holders is much more likely to be successful.
What happens when the disappointed student sits in your office and begins to question everything? Now, not to pick on my students, but for many of them this is the first time that they really wanted something and it didn’t work out. It’s almost like finding out about Santa. You just really want something to be true and so you decide that it is. Age old existential dilemma. I still have painful memories of my college professor Dr. Gibson introducing me to that little scamp, Søren Kierkegaard, and I realized things weren’t always true just because I decided that they were. In many ways these decisions blow apart their worldviews and cause them to question the very essence of the space time continuum. I hear questions like, “So, why have I been working so hard?” and, “Why did I spend so much time volunteering?” This blown worldview allows the opportunity for an all new, much healthier world view that just might lay the groundwork for a better tomorrow.
Overstating? Maybe, but these conversations are that important. They ask these questions because they are viewing their education as a product and not a process. Call me Pollyanna, but I believe that education is not a thing to be possessed, but a path to travel. You volunteered because you wanted to invest in the lives of others. You challenged yourself because you are curious, motivated and intellectual. Those reasons shouldn’t change because you got an impersonal email or envelope with a negative decision. The choices on how you spend your time have to do with character, and character has everything to do with destination. I encourage you to use this season to celebrate the victories, mourn the losses and never miss an opportunity for a conversation that could shift and expand a point of view. I’m looking in the mirror on this one, because my colleagues will tell you that I rarely long for the times when a bawling high school student plops down in my office. And when you have those conversations, allow yourself to feel what they are feeling. Take a minute. Be mad. Be sad. Agree that they should have been admitted. And then turn the page and shift the paradigm. Remind that they will do well in college, not because of the name on the sweatshirt, but because of the soul inside that sweatshirt. Don’t allow them to be victims. Empower them with all of the other choices that they will have, rather than dwelling on the one choice that they don’t. And if you don’t agree with me, change your mind.
By Jeff Morrow