Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chicken Little Part 2

Earlier in the week I wrote a blog post on the inevitable Chicken Little moment.

Need a humorous refresher?

Not long ago I was visiting with a potential candidate for our Associate Director position.

This candidate asked me about how I deal with student and parent disappointment over not getting into a top choice school.

I explained to this person that when you put yourself in the shoes of the students and parents during this process, you begin to understand why some of them go Chicken Little.

Here is my working thesis.

The degree of our response to any goal is determined by the depth of our investment in the process.

Let me explain.

When we go see a Razzie nominated movie like The Last Song (that's code for very bad), we walk out and shrug our shoulders at how bad Miley Cyrus's performance is, but that is about as far as our response goes.

Oh well, we're out 2 hours and $10 bucks.

Who is up for Orange Leaf?

But take a different medium.

Like a novel.

Right now, for example, the juniors are reading Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

That sucker is 619 pages.

It's epic.

Now when our juniors finish that novel, are they simply going to shrug their shoulders.

Okay, some might.

But those are going to be the students who only read The Sparknotes version.

But for those who really read the novel,

there reaction will be much more visceral.

Some will absolutely love the last tableau that Steinbeck leaves us with.

Others will loathe it so much that they will start a Twitter thread with the hashtag #grapesofwrathbites.

Why is this?

Because these students read 619 pages!

They divested themselves of mental, emotional, and imaginative energies.

They coughed and spitted and crawled across Route 66 with the Joads.

They nurtured the dream of a cozy house with the white picket fence in the San Fernando Valley.

They came to care about the fates of Ma and Tom and RoseofSharon.

It's human nature, in other words, to react to the degree to which we have invested.

The same is true in so many other ways.

We study 3 hours for a Honors Chemistry exam, and we get an A - how do we feel?


We put in 10 minutes during A block before the vocabulary test, and bomb it - how do we feel?


I think back to moments where I've shown spontaneous bursts of emotion.

I think of the eurphoria of winning the state championship in basketball my junior year.

I cried tears of joy as I held the gold ball.

I think of the agony of losing the state championship my senior year.

I can still taste the salty tears I cried as the final buzzer sounded.

Why the tears?

Because distilled within those tears were my adolescent hopes, dreams, time investments, etc.

The same is true with college admissions results.

If we apply to a school that we have only investigated on Naviance,

or read about in Newsweek,

and then get denied - oh well, I am out a $60 dollar application fee ( my parent's are, not me) and a couple hours filling out the application.

But if I visit the school, and work my essays over ten times, and interview, and follow-up with email threads, and wear the college's sweatshirt to bed every night, and then get denied - it's a completely different reaction.

Therein lies the rub.

If we plunge our metabollic energies into the college research, selection, and admission process, we may discover in the end, that our efforts were seemingly in vain.

We took a great risk, and instead of a great reward, we suffered a great penalty.

On the flip side, we may experience the euphoria of gambling and hitting the jackpot.

But I guess that's just the deal.

In college admissions.

And in life,

Love anything with great intensity, and there is always the possibility of that love not being reciprocated.

Perhaps this is one of the taproot reasons why more students are looking for the easiest application, and the easiest route to a college destination, is because they fear the hard, the pressure, and the possibility of failure. They don't want to let their parents down. They don't want to see that illusion shatter into a thousand pieces.

So how do we avoid this?

It comes back, I believe to keeping first things first.

If we keep the student at the center of this process, then I submit that the fear will quickly give away to excitement.

Because when a student and family follows the "compass of right fit",

more times than not, the journey is a fulfilling one,

where initial anxiety is supplanted with sustained enthusiasm.

Therefore, it's important then to keep the end goal in mind.

We want our students to plunge themselves into the college process.

Because students who do this are always the most satisfied with the end results.

Where they will leave high school feeling validated for who they are,

and what they can bring to serve and enhance a college community.