"She only got in because she's an athlete."
"He only got in because he's black. I had a much higher SAT score, and I didn't get in."
"Of course she got in! She's Mexican, gay, and disabled. A triple-threat minority!"
"Yeah, but he's a legacy student."
Jealousy is ugly... and if you're someone who's been admitted to a prestigious prep school or university, chances are you've heard someone say something ugly about why you got in.
They might be right. They might be wrong. They might just be spiteful. Regardless, who cares? You got in, and they didn't.
Now make the most of it.
Like, do you honestly think you didn't DESERVE to get in?
Do you think that everyone who got in deserved to get in EXCEPT for you?
You may not have had the highest GPA or SAT score of all the applicants from your school... but so what?
Good test-takers are so boring.
Like, let's pretend we're in a freshman seminar, sitting around a table with a renowned professor who wants to lead an amazing discussion. Who is going to be the most interesting to have in this class? Who is going to be able to say something I don't already know?
Twelve people who got a perfect SAT score?
Or the person who's represented their state and country in international squash competitions? Who has friends all over the world and has personally experienced cultural differences?
Or someone who's had to manage all their homework on top of missing school to take care of younger siblings when they got sick and their single parent couldn't get the day off of work?
Or someone whose disability has made them invisible when they wanted to be seen, and screamingly different when they just wanted to blend in?
Would you rather sit across the table from someone who did everything they thought they "should" do, like take a gazillion AP classes they weren't even interested in, or someone who explored electives and independent studies they were sincerely passionate about?
Rejection hurts. It's normal for people who didn't get in to want to lash out. So what? Words only hurt if you let them.
And the fact remains:
You got in and they didn't.
Maybe being an athlete/POC/legacy/disabled/whatever student did push your application over the edge.
But I can guarantee that this was not the only consideration. Top schools have countless athlete/POC/legacy/disabled/whatever students to choose from... and they chose you.
Do you have any idea how many more legacy students get rejected from Stanford than accepted? If you're a legacy student and you got accepted to a top school, you may have had an edge, but you're still in a minority.
Do you think being a world-class swing dancer, bassoonist, or chess master is somehow more "legit" than being a world-class pitcher or diver? Sure, chess requires strategy... but do you think field hockey doesn't?! That. Is. Adorable.
Moreover, innovation doesn't happen just because someone studied computer science or physics. It happens because someone used classroom knowledge to solve a real-world problem that hasn't been solved yet. I know a Stanford swimmer who's solving a problem that very few people even knew existed regarding precision timing in underwater environments. I know a Stanford basketball player who is making a huge difference helping students across the country manage the stress of elite competition. And if you don't think Richard Sherman is going to change the world way beyond the scope of the football field, you haven't been paying attention.
And! Did you realize that 70% of applicants with perfect SAT scores still don't get in? Stanford and other competitive universities cares much more about what you do in four years of high school than how you performed on a four-hour test.
If you got in and they didn't, even though they had a better GPA or ACT score... maybe they should have developed a passion or talent or interest and become world-class at it.
Maybe they should have demonstrated more tenacity and resourcefulness than you. Maybe they should have shown such strong character and persistence that their letters of recommendation were impossible to ignore. (Fun fact: those letters matter just as much, if not more than, your essays.)
And if you and they literally had all the the same qualifications, and you got in and they didn't, because you were a legacy student and they weren't...
Can you propose a better tie-breaker? Keeping in mind, of course, that every school has its own institutional priorities, and an important one is alumni relations -- that network is one of the school's selling points, because those alumni help students find internships and jobs (in addition to, you know, donating buildings and stuff).
College admissions is tricky -- with all those thousands of qualified applicants, how do you pick the students who are the brightest, hungriest, and most passionate? How do you ensure the fairest possible admissions standards? How do you balance institutional needs and priorities with calls for social justice?
If it were an easy problem, someone would have solved it by now.
For now, admission teams are constantly evaluating their practices, and trying to refine their approach. That's why so many schools are going test-blind and test-optional. That's probably why the UCs recently doubled the number of essays they require.
At the end of the day, you really don't know why you were admitted. But even if the haters are right... so what? In a few years, no one is going to know or care why you got in. They're only going to care what you've done with the opportunity. So create something. Ask something no one's asked before. Break records. Make a difference.
Remember: going to Stanford doesn't mean you'll get a Stanford education... and going to your safety school doesn't mean you won't.
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