On March 10, students from Fenn and from all over the United States opened envelopes and emails from secondary schools and learned the outcome of their applications. The anxiety and anticipation had been building for the past few weeks and reached their apex for many students. The envelopes and emails revealed one of three outcomes: Admit, Wait List, or Deny. Gratification and relief arrived with an Admit; disappointment yet hope arrived with a Wait List; rejection and perhaps anger followed a Deny. The outcomes feel very personal. How can they not? Students have had their academic record reviewed, their potential projected, their character scrutinized, their athletic and artistic abilities evaluated, their SSAT scores analyzed, and their conversational abilities assessed in an interview. Yes, that's all very personal and a lot for teenagers to process.
Secondary schools do their best to build classes which reflect their mission, philosophy, and priorities. They also build classes with individuals who in their judgments will experience success and happiness. Their decisions are agonizing ones because often the talent of the applicant pool far outstrips the availability of openings, and they would be the first to admit they don't always get it right. In some ways, building classes is an artwork, a mosaic, not a science, with competing yet complementary elements.
David Nyhan, the longtime Boston Globe columnist, wrote an interesting piece in 1987 about the college placement process and in particular about rejection. The Globe reprints the piece most years during the height of the college placement season. Those who have read the piece feel it can also be applicable to the secondary school placement process and related emotions. Nyhan's thoughts are direct: Some get in, others do not. Maybe there is a good reason for that, maybe there isn't. If you get in, congratulations. If you do not, the rejection is tough to take but pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get on with life with a positive attitude. There are many outstanding schools out there and you can still make your life extraordinary.
By April 10, one month after the outcomes are learned and a week to ten days after the revisit opportunity is taken, students will make their choice about which school they will attend. I encourage Fenn boys and by extension all students to focus most intently on the concept of "fit" as they make their decision. Abstract as "fit" may seem, students and their parents know it when it's there. Academic program, overall reputation, strength of co-curricular programs, and the richness of school history all deeply matter but nothing should register more fully than "fit." One school more than another will feel right. Maybe it's the one closer to home, maybe it's the one with a particularly strong program in a certain area, maybe it's the one which wants you the most and impressed that upon you, or maybe it's the one which gives you the most confidence and comfort. Regardless of what it is, embrace the one which, above all, feels right and then make that school your school in the best sense of the words.
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