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April 23, 2021

So Your Kid Was Rejected By Her #1 College Pick? Have Her Read This

Today I'm happy to welcome Rob Gilbert, Ph.D., professor of sport psychology at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey, as a guest blogger. I love his perspective on college life, and I plan to save this post to share with my own son when he gets a bit closer to college age.

Dr. Gilbert is the author of How to Have Fun Without Failing Out: 430 Tips from a College Professor. And his blog offers great motivational tips for students. (Yes, he's a busy guy!) Thanks for joining us today, Dr. Gilbert!

REJECTED? I CAN HELP!

You got the dreaded thin letter and found that the college you desperately wanted doesn’t want you.

Of course, you’re devastated—look at all the time, effort, and money you and your parents put into the whole college application process with guidance counselors, private college consultants, tutors, test-prep courses, college visits, interviews, essays, SATs, etc.

It’s not true that all your hopes and dreams are now destroyed. Your future is not over. Once I saw a poster that read, “It’s not the end of the road; it’s just a bend in the road!”

I’m not going to give you some Pollyanna-type pep talk and tell you not to worry. What I’m going to tell you is that wallowing in your misery is not the answer. You must regroup and refocus — starting right now!

Maybe I can help. I speak from over 40 years of experience. I’ve been on a college campus since 1964 — first as a student, then as a staff member, and for the last 29 years as a professor at Montclair State University.

However there’s one big mystery about college I’ve never been able to solve.

Why are students putting so much time, effort, and energy into finding their so-called “right” college, and so little time, effort, and energy into figuring out what their personal passion is once they’re in college? I see students devoting more time to determining where they’re going to spend the next four or five years of their college lives rather than concentrating on how they’re going to spend the next 40 to 50 years of their professional lives — in their careers.

And here’s a warning if you did get into the college of your dreams: Be careful of the “Yale Syndrome.”  Donald Archer, an expert in higher education and the author of “Cool Colleges,” reports that some students are so obsessively focused on receiving the “fat envelope” that getting admitted becomes an end in itself. Remember: Gaining admissions is not the end of the adventure — it’s the beginning!

The late psychiatrist and radio talk-show host Dr. David Viscott once said, “The purpose of life is to discover your gifts. The meaning of life comes from giving your gifts away.”The purpose of college is to find your gifts, to find your passion, to find your life’s work.

Right now stop regretting why you didn’t get into that school that was “perfect” for you and start refocusing on the future. Whatever college or university you’ll be attending in September, you can have a spectacular, life-changing experience there. There’s mounting research that shows that your future success is not determined by the college you attend.

However, no professor, advisor, or classmate is going to show you how to follow the yellow brick road to your passion. Sure, you’ll receive a lot of help, but it’s primarily a do-it-yourself job.

Where you attend college is not nearly as important as what you’re going to do once you get there. Here’s some advice for when you arrive on campus in September that’ll help you find your passion:

#1. Find out who the most passionate professors on campus are and enroll in their courses —regardless of what they teach or when the classes meet. I joke with my students that most of them probably would not take Religion 101 if it met at 8:00 a.m. even if it were taught by Professor J. Christ!

#2. The noted mythologist Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” What are the subjects or activities that you find endlessly interesting? What are the things you like to do that energize you? Be a detective. Listen to your heart. Find what you love.

#3. Professor Joseph Renzuli from the University of Connecticut advises students to carefully examine what they loved to do as a child because this might give some insight into what they might really want to do for a career. Did you know that when they were kids, Sesame Street’s Jim Henson loved to play with puppets and Walt Disney loved to draw?

Of all the things you can discover in college, the most important is your passion.

Look at it this way: College is a fountain of knowledge. Some students come to drink. More come to sip. But most come just to gargle. Make sure you take a big gulp!

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