Peter Costa: High school seniors soon to receive college admission or rejection
This is the time of year when high school seniors either hate or love their mailboxes. Appropriately, on April Fool’s Day, colleges mail either offers of admission or rejection.
When I was applying to college –– so long ago that Plato had just taken the SAT and was wondering whether he should major in philosophy or go for the big bucks and be an alchemist –– the mantra on notification day was “thick is better.”
Thin rejection envelopes contained just a single page that said the competition was fiercer than it has ever been and the rejected applicant had been a strong candidate. For those turned down by the Ivy League, the rejection message was more akin to telling a young Galileo, “Yes, you made a fine telescope, but you haven’t seen any angels with it yet.”
But the thick letters pulsated with congratulations and giddy notifications of Pharaonic amounts of financial aid, health services and condo rights. It was as if they were saying, “You’re in. Relax and have a great life.”
Now, many older people who are college graduates will tell you that it doesn’t matter where you go to college as long as you study hard, do your best and become a good citizen. These are the same people who say, “It doesn’t matter how much you earn, follow your bliss.”
Well, for some folks, following their bliss usually leads to a financial cliff. I think in most cases, college is a Chevy vs. Ford argument. They are both good cars; some favor one, some the other. Or, with private-college expenses averaging about $50,000 a year, the argument is more like the perceived differences between a Saab and an Audi.
You can learn a lot in college: how things move in the universe, what constitutes an ethical life, what beauty is and how to share a room with a perfect stranger. All of these skills –– especially the latter –– will help you navigate through the shoals of shared apartments in the big city after graduation.
Are there differences in colleges? Of course. Will these differences mean much at your 40th reunion? Probably not. But now, your entire world seems to revolve around one piece of mail. I wish you a thick and happy day.
Peter Costa is a senior editor with GateHouse Media New England in Massachusetts and is the author of two books of humor. His latest, “Outrageous CostaLiving: Still Laughing Through Life,” is available at amazon.com.