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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

When the Trophy Generation Applies to College

I'm used to fielding calls about admission to UVA from friends, friends of friends, and complete strangers. At this time of year, most of the conversations are with parents and are about the waiting list, but one exchange rattled me a bit. The woman on the other end of the line told me she was having trouble eating and sleeping because of her son's admission results. At one point, the conversation went like this:

Me: What other options are on the table?
Her: No good ones. We've had no good news.
Me: None of the schools on his list admitted him?
Her: Well, no elite ones.

Thank goodness we were talking on the phone because I winced. I pointed out that the schools on her son's list were probably all places he imagined attending back when he was working on the applications. His personal ranking system for schools might make them elite in his mind (I tweeted about this a while ago).

By the time we were done with our conversation, I think she was feeling better.

Being a high school student right now must be so confusing. This is a generation of students who have gotten tremendous support from adults throughout their lives. This is a good thing. From getting participation trophies to seeing 112 people named valedictorian at their school, they've experienced a lot of validation. But when some of these students get to this point in their senior year, it seems like the script gets flipped on them and only certain options are valued. Why did the support evaporate? Why was that mom losing sleep and not eating despite her son having multiple offers of admission at schools he probably liked? We gave them trophies for a job well done before, but why not now?

As we approach May 1st, let's all try to congratulate students on their success and encourage them to attend the best school for them. That's the school where they are most likely to be happy and engaged both inside and outside of the classroom.

As always, if you have lingering questions about UVA, we are here to help. There's a dean on call during business hours and a team answering emails to our general email account. I'm also happy to answer questions in the comments below.

We're here to help, too!