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  • Writer's pictureBridget Williams Golden

College Admissions Decisions: Separating feedback from noise

Feedback can be helpful, except when it's just mean.
Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

Feedback comes in many forms and can be welcomed, hurtful, helpful, or unintended. Our body language and facial expressions even provide feedback - I am not the best at hiding my reactions and our son James has (almost) perfected his version of the “Mom glare.” Dr. Thom often talks about feedback as an Oreo - good stuff in the middle but sandwiched between ways to improve. College admissions decisions are no different.

The college admissions process is full of opportunities for feedback - both positive and negative. Reaching out to a favorite teacher or coach for a letter of recommendation usually comes with some encouragement. Meeting with Dr. Thom, Chris, Jill, Jen, Rosie, or even me usually comes with some (hopefully) helpful suggestions and advice. We love being a part of your team and cheering section. Putting together a common app and sharing your goals, aspirations, and personal story can feel like “sending it into the abyss” - as our high school senior Andrew says. And then there is the waiting - oh the waiting - for a response and answer.

How do you handle feedback? What feedback do you accept and listen to?

We all need feedback - to know if we’re on the right track, to feel good about ourselves and our work, and also to know how to improve and grow.

But what about feedback that isn’t helpful? How do you distinguish that? How do you protect yourself? What feedback can you push aside as negative and unnecessary noise?

The daughter of one of my dearest friends is a nationally recognized and ranked athlete who recently competed in an international competition. She and her team did well, but lost in a semi-final match. My friend made the mistake of looking at comments on social media and texted me that she was upset. Social media can shine the brightest light on kindness and humor; it can also show the decline of humanity.

Remember the adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Some people need that reminder.

Cruelty isn’t helpful and it really isn’t even feedback. Feedback has to be received – no one needs to receive meanness. It isn’t helpful or constructive; it shouldn’t matter. But, it can still hurt.

Just keep scrolling. I tell myself that frequently when looking at social media. I want to see kiddos in cute Halloween costumes and families having fun. I’m not a cat person, but I’ll still smile at your cat in a costume. Be careful of those college parent facebook groups too – they can be great for restaurant recommendations during Parents Weekend; they can also be the place where Amy’s mom complains about Amy’s roommate being a slob and provides photo evidence.

Just keep scrolling.

One of my favorite writers, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Connie Schultz, recently responded to a question, “Did the haters bother” her? Her answer, “Yes…I just don’t let them stop me.”

An admissions decision - even if it’s not what you were hoping - is not from a hater. It’s from a college that carefully considered your application - your essay, your grades, activities, and high school courses. It’s not a good fit. Remember what we say - love the colleges that love you back. You’re too awesome to not be loved, valued, and celebrated by the college YOU choose. We’re cheering for you! Just keep (scrolling and) going.

Not working with us yet? Feeling stressed by the college search process? Let's chat.

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