My College:
High School

Dear High School Senior

Marlene Kern Fischer

Dear High School Senior,

Even though I realize how much you love getting unsolicited advice, I feel compelled to offer some anyway because there are a few things I think you should know. Since I’m not your mom, I figure I have a better shot at being heard. And for my own child, please pretend someone else wrote this.

Colleges will release their early decisions soon (some of you may have heard already from schools with rolling or early admission programs). For those of you who get into your first-choice college, congratulations! I’m genuinely happy for you.

Unfortunately, many more of you will not receive a favorable response from what you believe is your dream school — the school that, from the first moment you stepped on campus, you just knew you were destined to attend.

I won’t sugarcoat this: rejection hurts.

Like really hurts, down to your core. You may even feel that this is a disappointment you won’t get over. The first day or two will be especially difficult.

However, I guarantee that in the not-too-distant future, perhaps when you’re hanging out with new friends at your second or third choice school, you will barely remember that other place you thought was the only place you could be happy. I know this because I am the parent of a student who got dinged by his early decision college and, after choosing a school that he applied to as an afterthought, is living happily-ever-after. He learned, as you will, that what you do in college — the academic and social experiences you make for yourself there — matters much more than which school you attend.

It's important to understand that the decision process is a capricious one and not personal. Despite the care you put into your application, the admissions staff cannot possibly know how terrific you are. After they accept legacies, athletes, the bassoon player for their band and whomever else they need to round out their student body, it’s not surprising they didn’t have room for you and many other well-qualified applicants. It’s their loss. The school you end up attending will be truly lucky to have you.

In the meantime, congratulate your friends who were admitted, commiserate with those who are in the same boat as you, and know that there will be better news for you down the road. (And get working on the rest of your applications if they are not done!)

I guarantee that in the not-too-distant future, perhaps when you’re hanging out with new friends at your second or third choice school, you will barely remember that other place you thought was the only place you could be happy.

Here’s the second piece of advice I hope you will heed.

After you get in to college, don’t stop doing your schoolwork. You really do need to graduate from high school, and your chosen college really will look at that final transcript. In addition, it’s smart to keep your study habits honed so you’re not rusty when freshman year begins. Give your teachers a break by being attentive and taking pride in your work. Finish strong. You will thank me later.

As for the home front…

I understand that you're beginning the separation process from your family and imagining what it will be like to be on your own. My oldest son imagined it so well, I started a countdown calendar over a year before he left because he was basically impossible to deal with.

Don’t be that kid. You want your family to miss you, right? The phrase “I can’t wait to get out of here” may pop into your mind but, if at all possible, exercise restraint and don’t say the words out loud.

You are teetering on the brink of adulthood and this is difficult for all parties concerned.

When your mom or dad looks at you, they see a teenager — but they also see a newborn swaddled in a pastel striped blanket at the hospital, a toddler taking your first steps, a scared kindergartener looking back at them for reassurance as you boarded the school bus, a nervous middle schooler who didn’t look back (but still needed reassurance). They love you more than you can possibly imagine, so please be kind whenever possible. Try and control the urge to roll your eyes when they speak, be respectful of house rules and, every once in a while, text them just to let them know you’re thinking about them. A little consideration will go a long way.

Finally, enjoy the rest of your senior year and all that it brings.

It’s your last chance to spend significant time with friends you’ve known as far back as elementary school. Although it will be hard to say goodbye next August, rest assured you will stay in touch with the people who are most important to you, even as you make wonderful new friends.

I actually have tons more advice but I think you’ve heard enough for now so I will leave you with this:

As you near the end of this chapter of your life, know that you have lots of people who are rooting for you and can’t wait to see what your future holds. I wish you the best of luck!


Follow Marlene on Facebook, and read more of her wonderful stories on her CollegiateParent author page and her blog, "Thoughts from Aisle Four."


Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother, food shopper extraordinaire, author and college essay editor. She has published two books: Trapped in My Sports Bra and Other Harrowing Tales and Gained a Daughter but Nearly Lost My Mind: How I Planned a Backyard Wedding During a Pandemic. Find her on Facebook at Thoughts From Aisle 4.
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