Adela Penagos, PhD, President
Yesterday, I sat in a presentation about student resilience at one of the highly selective universities in the Boston area. As I listened to the skilled presenter, I pondered a situation that a friend of mine faced in the month of March. One of her friends did not get into a graduate program he applied for and because of the outcome of his application he severed all communication with a person who had stood there by his side over a year and a half. Why are people so crushed when the answer is not what they hoped? How can we foster resilience in those applying to college so they can succeed in college and beyond?
1. Be open to feedback.
When applying to any program be open to incorporating experts’ feedback into your essays or any other aspect of your application. Take advantage of this opportunity as a way to improve your writing, get to know yourself better, and understand how you can present yourself to those reading your application. Remember, your essays are not self-reflection or research papers, they are the windows to your soul and the only way an admissions committee will get to know you better. They are meant to be personal. Furthermore, the more willing you are to incorporate feedback while applying to college, the greater your chances of thriving when receiving feedback on low-stake assignments while in college, the better you will do in your courses, and the more you will learn.
2. Risk-taking is a virtue.
Anytime we apply to a college, graduate program, or a job, we have a 50/50 chance of getting in or being selected for a given position. It is important to always apply and see what the outcome will be as opposed to rejecting ourselves. Every experience we endure, positive or negative, is a growing opportunity. Granted, the experience might not always be pleasant. Nonetheless, if we do not experience adversity and failure at a younger age, we may get to be 50 and destroy relationships because we do not know how to cope with not getting our way.
3. Every experience is rewarding.
I have received many blessings in my life. However, I also have had tremendous setbacks. One of the most difficult experiences I faced was losing my sister unexpectedly to medical malpractice. While I do not wish this experience upon anyone, I have learned not to take life for granted and try to enjoy my time with my family and friends each day. Similarly, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities that everyday presents to you. If you have the ability to go on college visits, enjoy them --do not think that you should avoid touring a college just because you don't think you would get in. If the program of your choice puts out a blog explaining what to do to be a stronger candidate, follow the advice set forth, do not be a rebel and follow your own path (ignoring the college's advice may significantly reduce your chances of admission). If you can express your interest to those colleges that track student interest, please do so. Remember: no pain no gain.
Do anything you can to enjoy the process of searching for the perfect place for you. It is likely that you will not get in every college or every program you apply to and you will not get every job you apply for in life. However, giving your best shot will allow you to never wonder "what if," and you will become more resilient because of the experience. Being resilient will be an asset regardless of where life takes you.