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For Seniors: A Candid Message

Updated: Apr 8, 2022

(Quick note from Leigh: I hope everyone out there is well! I’m busy working on some pretty great family-friendly data tools which will be released in early 2022. In the meantime, I’m reprinting a message I sent out to seniors last year. A number of people thanked me for writing it, and I hope it is meaningful to you or your applicant.)

(Originally printed December 2020)

by Leigh Moore

Tens of thousands of early round application decisions have already begun to appear on student portals, but many more of you still wait. December 15 usually marks the crescendo of December results. Students, are you ready?

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m typically a touchy-feely encourager type, sometimes told I “care too much.” I am sorry if this message seems harsh in contrast; I write it only because I fear no one else will.

My advice can be boiled down to a couple of lines I heard recently and wish I could claim as my own.

#1 Everything that happens to you may not be meant for your benefit alone.

Translation: It’s not all about you.

In the midst of an already stressful and confusing season in your life, I need to lay a little more pressure on you: you are now, as a senior, a role model. Your reactions to your decisions will shape the way the junior class approaches, executes, and responds during their own journeys next year.

If you receive bad news and react with a dramatic outpouring of lament and sorrow, you teach juniors that it is time for them to start freaking out. On the other hand, if you are denied from your dream school but exercise a little self-control, you can inspire courage and build perspective. Cry in private for sure; control the message you send to the masses, though.

If you receive an acceptance, wonderful! Be happy; be grateful; be sensitive–and be patient about sharing the news. A lot of people who did not get the same result may benefit from the kindness of silence for a bit.

Also, remember this: the world does not, by default, deserve to know your college outcomes. Most of you will choose to share them online at some point, a practice which I still don’t understand but have learned to accept. Whatever the case, I suggest that you learn your decisions by yourself first, share them with your parents and/or any mentors who have supported you next, and then let your friends know. None of that has to happen on social media. If you do broadcast your outcomes on the internet, please do it later.

#2 How you do anything is how you do everything

Translation: Your response to your college results may say more about you than the results themselves. Perspective and gratitude demonstrate the kind of character people appreciate and remember.

Remember when the college admissions scandal broke? This is as good a time as any to apologize for the general outcry in its wake. During the first week or so, when the details about the perpetrators were released, I kept thinking, “Oh my gosh—we (those of us born between 1960 and 1980) really are the worst generation.”

As time passed, my feelings about the lawbreakers were eclipsed by my exasperation with the rest of us. It is my strong opinion that the scandal lay not in the misdeeds of Operation Varsity Blues but in the cultural response to it. Our shared outrage and indignation sent signals to all of you, at the worst possible time during your high school careers, that the stakes have gotten very high when it comes to admissions results. The fact is—for better or worse—the decision you receive simply cannot hurt you unless you allow it to. Do a better job than we did of contextualizing whatever outcomes await. You are smart enough to know that the drama at hand shall pass, and that the future is yours to claim.

Whatever happens, determine to demonstrate strength of character. No matter what result you receive from your dream school, your life is just beginning. Wonderful surprises are just around the corner, as are heartbreaks and opportunities and reversals of fortune. Because it’s life. December brings with it golden opportunities to act like the person you want to become.

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