Saying No

I mentioned last spring that I have feet in multiple admissions processes. I work in graduate school admissions, but I have two children who are preparing to move on to the next level of education.The easier case is my daughter, who will finish eighth grade in June and go to high school. We’re pretty much certain that she will go to our local public high school. It’s a big place, but the students are divided into different “houses” and she’s the kind of kid who will find her way. No applications required.

Much tougher is my son, who is applying to college. He’s working on his applications under the watchful eye (and persistent nagging) of his admissions officer mother. I feel fairly comfortable (and honest) saying that my contact with his essays has been appropriate (neither completely hands-off nor overly intrusive), and that the essays (for better and worse) sound like their writer and reflect who he is. On the other hand, I can’t deny passing on my view of the process. No essays or interviews are optional for him! I want him to have the best possible opportunity to introduce himself to the admissions committees of the schools to which he’s applying.

But then what? Of course, I know that though he is working hard, he won’t be admitted everywhere he applies. This makes me very sad! How could anyone not want to admit my charming and interesting son?!? And this, in turn, makes me very thoughtful as I read Early Notification applications to Fletcher. All of our applicants are someone’s son/daughter/husband/wife. What does it mean when we decline to offer them admission?

No one likes saying “no,” but we are always trying to make a strong match between Fletcher and its applicants. We’re not doing anyone (including the applicant) any favors if we admit someone who won’t succeed. And, from Fletcher’s perspective, we want students who will add to our community in diverse ways. For each applicant, though, it’s understandably hard to predict how the process will go.

Fortunately, during the Early Notification review, we only say yes or defer. But in the long run, after I read an application, I’ll need to say yes to some, and no to others, taking a step toward disappointing someone and his or her mother/father/wife/husband. And, at home, we’ll find out in the spring which colleges are interested in my sports fanatic son, and which will say no. We’ll be sad, but we’ll understand that it’s all part of the process.

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