It feels like spring is always filled with so much of an emotional reset for people. From the darkness and short days of winter, the weather gets warmer, the days longer, baseball returns, and people start to get a little happier. Even in our field for those of us at high school sites where the end of year can be stressful, it still feels like optimism and hope springs more eternal than any other time of year. Of course, I live in the Northern Hemisphere and presume that most of the people reading this based on this half of the world as well. If any Southern Hemisphere eyes have made their way here, then sorry for your impending darkness I suppose?
Student emotions seem to follow a similar approach when it comes to college, albeit the happiness might come a tad later than the actual first day of spring in March. Some students have gotten into their first choice school or an ED school and have been happy and optimistic for the fall for quite some time, but many are just now hitting that point. And seeing the happiness that students have as they think about their future is one of my favorite things of the spring.
While no one likes to hear no and while it’s not always easy to comfort a student who didn’t get into their first choice school, I like when students work through initial disappointment and start to get happy about what the fall ultimately has in store for them. When students have made smart and informed decisions about which schools they want to add as their safety schools, along with the other schools on their list, then they will be happy wherever they ultimately wind up. We always tell students to make sure they can be happy seeing themselves on a campus if it’s on their list, and when they follow this advice, they will ultimately be happy and excited for wherever they eventually go.
Sure, it doesn’t happen overnight. The whole application process will have some students start with a lot of anxiety, and that was definitely magnified this year with so many unknowns in the process. And the initial disappointments were a bit higher in numbers this year with dropping acceptance rates. But we’ve hit the part of the spring where the corner turns. Students start getting excited for the campus they eventually do choose to attend. The shirts and other gear from that college start to get worn, daydreams looking ahead to arriving on campus begin, and students think about housing plans. It’s so nice to see it start to come into play. One of the greatest moments of joy I get is when I see a student commit to a school that was initially thought of as “just a safety,” they get off a waitlist to a school that was higher on their list, and they stay with the safety school because of genuine excitement and optimism that the student now has for the school they did commit to.
I especially love when I’m helping our community college bound students with their applications and going through the steps they’ll need to follow to eventually register. The part I love the most is when we start talking about transferring, how to set themselves up success in community college, and then the lightbulb goes off about all the opportunities that they really do have ahead of them with a community college route. Despite the fact that we give them this messaging all through high school, many don’t really think on it until they actually fill out the forms to get started, and they see that community college is not a set back but rather a launching off point to a great life ahead of them.
So for now, after a year like none other, one filled with many question marks and uncertainties, we can enjoy the normalcy that comes with this seasonal shift in moods. Anxieties of fall gave way to a winter chill with some disappointment, and now the happiness and optimism of spring has come forward to melt away the cold and bring about futures filled with hope. Time to enjoy the best that the season has to offer and let this recharge the batteries as we get ready to work with the next group of students and shuffle back to dealing with anxieties.