Don’t despair if you didn’t get into an elite college, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni advises 12th-graders. It doesn’t mean you’re less capable or worthy.
It may mean only that you lacked the patronage that some of them had, or that you played the game less single-mindedly, taking fewer SAT courses and failing to massage your biography with the same zeal.
A friend of mine in Africa told me recently about a center for orphans there that a rich American couple financed in part to give their own teenage children an exotic charity to visit occasionally and mine for college-application essays: admissions bait. That’s the degree of cunning that comes into this frenzy.
Dumb luck plays an important role too. Top colleges get many, many applicants who are very well qualified. They could decide by dart board and get a great bunch of students.
I was rejected by Radcliffe (girls didn’t apply to Harvard then) and wait-listed by Yale. It was the first time I’d ever tried and failed. It hurt, even though I got into Stanford. Being rejected turned out to be great practice for job hunting and life.