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January 27, 2015

GUEST BLOG: Focus On The Opportunities That Lie Ahead

MIKE Blog PicCollege admission has now been my career for nearly eight years, but prior to jumping onto this side of the desk, I spent two years as a high school counselor in my home state of Louisiana. I was never formally the school’s “college counselor,” so I was spared from having to write hundreds upon hundreds of letters of recommendation. But during those two years, due to my role as moderator of the Student Council, I was able to get to know a number of seniors who were going through the admission process. As we prepare to mail out decisions regarding our scholarship decisions, which I am sure will leave a great number of students dissatisfied, confused, and questioning our judgment, a particular meeting with one of my favorite Student Council members is fresh on my mind.

For the sake of this story, let’s call him Scott. Scott was the superstar of our school. He was Class President each year during high school, he was the pep rally emcee, and if I were to continue listing all his accomplishments, I would go well over the word limit that this blog allows. To top it off, he was just an incredibly likeable kid. I got to know Scott real well since I relied on him for so much of what our Student Council was asked to do. Scott had the final period of our school day off, so as my day was winding down, he would often come by my office to hang out.

One day, with a couple of months left in his senior year, Scott came by looking as bummed out as I had ever seen him. He shared with me that he had been denied admission to his top choice college. To make matters worse, one of his best friends, whom he had planned to room with on campus, had been admitted. I didn’t really know what to say to Scott to help him out. In “counseling school,” we learned that sometimes, the best approach to giving advice to someone who is depressed is to not say anything at all, so that’s what I did.

As I was driving home, it dawned on me that this rejection was probably the first time in nearly four years that Scott had been denied something. He was selected for each leadership position, each club, and each team that he sought out during high school. And now, he was told “No” by a college. Any of us in Scott’s shoes would react the same way if after years of success we were suddenly faced with what seemed like a failure.

After pouring through hundreds upon hundreds of applications during our scholarship review process, and having to deny so many terrific students the opportunity to receive a scholarship, I would bet that many of our applicants feel like Scott did on that day some seven years ago. My amazement at how much our applicants accomplish during their high school careers is matched by my disappointment that we can’t make it work for all of them. It’s the ugly truth of our process, and of any competitive admission process, for that matter.

But let’s go back to Scott for a moment. Three years ago, he was visiting Los Angeles, so he and I got together for dinner. He had just graduated from college, where, to no surprise, he had once again become a leader on the campus community, albeit at a campus that wasn’t his first choice school when he was a high school senior. And I’ll never forget what he said when he told me that he hadn’t gotten into the graduate program he was hoping for: “I’m not worried. I’ll eventually figure it out.” What I learned in that moment is that of all the great things Scott learned since he left high school, the greatest of all was the ability to deal with rejection. He didn’t become an epic failure like he might have felt when he was denied from his dream school, and he had grown up so much in just a few short years.

So at this time when our scholarship decisions have left many of you feeling a little glum, I hope Scott’s story provides some comfort. Rather than harping on the loss of a scholarship, try and focus on the opportunities that still lie ahead. You may not realize it now, but there are more out there than you can possibly imagine.

By: Michael Gulotta

Associate Director of Admission

3 Comments

  1. Victoria Spann-Burton says:

    Thank you for this blog post! I recently had one of my first experiences of rejection from receiving a scholarship and this story is very reassuring. I’m going to remain optimistic throughout this college process and hopefully I’ll be receiving some great news from USC soon! 🙂
    Fight On!

    • Victoria Spann-Burton says:

      *rejection from a scholarship program

      After publishing that first comment, I realized how weird that phrase sounded haha

  2. Karen says:

    My son’s college counselor gave such great advice in advising that the student not “rank” the schools when they are applying. Of course sometimes there is a favorite for the student, but by not verbalizing or writing a “ranking list”, it doesn’t end up being such a heartbreak during this time of high anxiety. Better to apply to a list of schools where the student will do well and would be happy to attend. Additionally, here is my addendum, you can always apply to transfer to USC later!

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