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An Open Letter to Every High School Senior Waiting to Hear Back From College Admissions

On getting, and not getting, what you want

Photo: JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

There’s a story about a farmer that’s been circulating for thousands of years. It’s worth considering as you react to whatever news you get this week or next year.

So there’s a farmer, let’s call him Joe. Joe had a horse, let’s call the horse Big Red. One morning, Big Red ran away. Word spread and all his neighbors said something like, “OMG that sux!” to which Joe said, “We’ll see,” and went back to tending his crops, best he could.

The next day, who turns up in the farmer’s field but Big Red, and he’s brought with him with two more horses. All his neighbors said, “Dude you’re so lucky!” And Joe said, “We’ll see,” and went back to tending his crops, best he could.

The next day, Joe’s son, Joey, tried to ride one of the new horses and was thrown. He broke his leg and the neighbors said, “Totally brutal, so sorry!” And Joe said, “We’ll see,” and went back to tending his crops, best he could.

The next day, the army came through village, drafting young men for war. Joey was disqualified from serving — thanks to that brutal broken leg — and all the neighbors said, “That’s amazing!” And Farmer Joe said, “We’ll see,” and went back to tending his crops, best he could.

The point is, it is impossible to predict whether getting exactly what we want at any given moment will end up being a good thing, a bad thing or a sometimes good/sometimes bad thing — and the single biggest determinant is you.

Personally, I got 1090 on my SATs and was accepted to one college. I cried for days after I was shot down by my first choice. I let it change the way I thought of myself. I acted like the guy who signed the rejection letter knew me, like the whole grim process had spit out a fair judgment of me and my value and it wasn’t pretty.

Many months later, I settled in at the only school that would take me, jumped into every club, project, and class, and became more me than I had ever been. In other words, what began as “brutal” became “amazing.”

There are so many kids I love in the class of 2019, my oldest daughter chief among them. I have been rooting for you all for so long.

What I’m rooting for is your daily well being, grounded in a sense of your always-growing capacity that is impervious to both recognition or rejection.

So whatever happens, remember this: You are your own good news. You can create a future for yourself, full of connection and purpose. Beneath the fear of inadequacy and the self-consciousness that suffuses public evaluation, you’re in there. You have gifts and power and will develop more of both. Tend your crops, best you can, and that will be enough. I promise.

We love you, Kelly


Kelly Corrigan is the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me More.

thoughts from the neighborhood project

Written by

essays by Kelly Corrigan, editor-at-large of the neighborhood project and bestselling author of The Middle Place, Glitter and Glue and Tell Me More.

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