My most successful students all have two very important qualities in common: humility and an absolutely tireless work ethic. They reached their final destination after a long, exhausting journey of writing many essay drafts, toiling over their supplements, and putting just as much effort and care into the applications, interviews, college visits, and demonstrated interest for fall-back options as they did for their top choices. After dedicating oneself so thoroughly to the marathon college application process, the feeling of joy and reward when accepted to college is that much sweeter.
I particularly think of Lily Faucett, who approached her journey and researched her colleges more thoroughly than I had ever before seen. She pierced the external image of each college to plumb its depths by investigating each college’s academic programs, curriculum requirements, and structure. She reflected honestly on whether each program would suit her learning strengths, style, and preferences, and impressively she was not swayed by the deceiving veil of mere popularity. Lily is also one of the very few students I’ve known who was not swept off her feet by Brown’s alluring open curriculum. I remember her noting, “I actually prefer a college who has some structured distribution requirements so that I am required to learn a little about everything.” She approached her process like a scientist, analyzing the data and measuring it against her needs. Lily also very sensibly understood that she would indeed be very happy at all of the colleges on her list, and she challenged herself to envision her life at each one in order to write vibrant and convincing supplements. She reminded herself throughout the journey that she could and would be happy at any college on her list.
Lily threw herself into her writing, thinking carefully about different topic options and where to highlight different parts of her personality and achievements. She consulted only with a small group of trusted advisors: her parents, her school counselor, and me, while in the end making up her own mind quite independently about how to approach each piece of writing and each decision throughout the process. And, since we all could see how carefully, thoroughly, and maturely she approached her process, we trusted her and allowed her to make her final choices and decisions. She grew from a tentative teen into a confident young woman in a matter of months just by taking the reins of her college journey and showing the adults in her inner circle that she was not only capable but ready and eager to drive the process herself.
When Lily hit road bumps along the way – from senior course selection complications, to lobbying to take an honors history course (which she ROCKED), to tactfully addressing her tough 9th grade year – she adeptly maneuvered through each unforeseen problem and always maintained a level-headed determination to keep making progress. She did not expect to have a completely smooth and stress-free process, so she did not fall into a black pit of drama or despair or whiny victimization when the very complicated process inevitably threw a few curve balls her way.
In the end, all of Lily’s patience, endurance, organization, and emotional composure paid off; she was accepted to The College of William and Mary, her first choice, Early Decision. She reports that she is completely happy with her decision and is loving her life at William and Mary, even during this unusual year. She is already enjoying reading Latin love poetry, interning at the school newspaper, and making friends through the Classics club and her sorority. Lily trusted the inherent value of the process itself and never took anything for granted. I would definitely call Lily Faucett a McMillan Success Story!