All over the country, high school seniors who have applied to private colleges are waiting to hear what has been decided about the rest of their lives. At least it seems to feel that way to them. Four years feels like the rest of their lives at the age of 17 or 18. They did their part in researching, writing essays and submitting applications and now it feels as if their futures are in someone else’s hands. Looking at the college admission process somewhat objectively, there probably is some truth to their feeling. After speaking with an admissions staff person in one of the private colleges, it did sound as if there is a point at which the process becomes a bit random. For colleges with a less than 10% acceptance rate with applicants who are all outstanding, sometimes it comes down to the opening paragraph of an essay or something one of the references said or simply the need to balance the student body in a different way.
Most of us can relate to how it feels when you have done your part to make something happen and then have to wait for a “decision” that other people are making. As adults, most of us have experienced that in job searches. We prepare as well as we are able, we bring our best self to the interview, we communicate all we know and then we wait as the person or people decide which person to hire or call. It always seems as if there is a part of that process that is random. What if they didn’t like my voice? What if they were wanting someone older or younger? What if they are looking specifically for a man?
The only encouragement I have to offer any high school senior or anyone else who is waiting for someone else to decide their life’s path for the near future is that somehow the decision will be the one that will set them on the path for them. While that may sound trite or cheesy or naive, it comes from a place of depth and reflection. I am no stranger to disappointment and I can honestly say that some of the biggest disappointments in my life were what led me to get on a path I would not have taken otherwise and was indeed the necessary path. The problem is that until one can look back and see the truth in that reality, there is little comfort in hearing it. It’s one thing to tell a high school senior not to worry because if they are rejected by the colleges they would like to attend something better will happen in their lives and it’s another thing for them to believe it or feel comforted by it. When I was a senior I would not have found that comforting in any way. For now perhaps I won’t say it to any of the high school seniors I know and love. Perhaps it’s enough that I have known it to be true for me and know it to be true for them whether or not they are ready to hear it.
After all, the Good News I have spent a lifetime believing and sharing is that God enters even the most dismal and hopeless and tragic situations and can somehow bring something good from them despite the fact that God does not cause those same things. Redemption is a fancy word for how that transformation happens. Again, I do not say or believe that lightly. While I have not suffered from the death of a child or a violent crime, my life has not been a piece of cake by any stretch. Time after time I have experienced good coming from evil of all kinds. I only wish I could transmit my experience to those just beginning their adult lives like transferring a contact from cell phone to cell phone. If only we could stand next to each other and fill each other with those experiences of grace and love. In the absence of that ability, we still have our love and presence to share. Don’t worry, high school seniors. You are not alone by any stretch of the imagination. There is a cloud of people who love you surrounding you at this time.