Nearly three weeks have passed since “Operation Varsity Blues.” Getting into college is now associated with undercover operations and the FBI.

I am appalled and furious at the self-absorbed people involved in this betrayal. As a college admission counselor and former guidance counselor, I want to share what an honest college search and application process offers young adults.

An authentic college search is a journey of self-discovery. I ask students what they are looking for in their college experiences, what passions drive them, what kind of environment will help them thrive? Some students answer tentatively, some have no idea. Some students answer with confidence and then completely change their mind over the next six months. But pushed to research and visit colleges and analyze what they’ve learn – students come to their own answers. And it’s always a revelation.

Students who work to get into the colleges they’ve chosen develop grit and determination that comes from challenging themselves. The students I work with set their own (reasonable) goals for their SAT and ACT tests, study over a prolonged period of time and take the test multiple times. They challenge themselves with rigorous coursework in subjects they are interested in. Not because it looks good on their application, but because it will prepare them for the more rigorous expectations of college. This is the same grit and determination that gets these students through college.

Students who deal with a college rejection develop resiliency and perspective. They also experience the self-advocacy that is inherent in choosing which of their multiple college acceptances they will accept. Many of my students go to multiple Accepted Students Days before weighing their offers and choosing their best fit. This is an invaluable life lesson that will serve these students well throughout adulthood.

Finally, the greatest gift from this process is the student’s sense of agency. Their greatest reward is knowing that they own that acceptance, they belong on that campus and they executed every step to make it happen (with an appropriate amount of help from adults). Every student deserves the opportunity to have that feeling.

Andrea L. Torello, M.Ed.

South Burlington

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