Similar to those magnificent horses who ran this past weekend’s Kentucky Derby, all of you college-bound high school seniors have made the Clubhouse Turn in your studies and are headed for the finish line, thanks to a team of people who have made that happen. It’s been a real endurance event for you and now you have (or at least should have) an exciting college enrollment in hand that will take you to a new world this fall when you move onto campus. What more could you possibly need?
Here’s the answer to that question: You need to recall those people who helped you along the way during your college quest, and you need to thank them. I’m sorry to say that I’ve seen the expression of thanks and appreciation take a nosedive in recent years, especially among younger generations. And no, these are not the protestations of some old guy who keeps finding fault with young whippersnappers. I’m merely commenting on the fact that am seeing (and have seen) a paucity of common courtesy these days.
Is Appreciation Falling to the Wayside?
I was talking to a friend the other day and we were discussing our children’s generation ("Generation X"). We talked about how some younger people today may have skipped a few classes in their “Appreciation” curriculum.
My friend cited a story about the daughter-in-law of a friend of his. My friend’s friend would dutifully send his daughter-in-law a Christmas card every year and enclose a check for several hundred dollars as a gift. According to my buddy, his friend’s Christmas gift tradition for his daughter-in-law has ended as of last Christmas.
Why? The daughter-in-law never once acknowledged any of the gifts her father-in-law sent. No phone calls, no cards or short notes, not even a text or email of thanks, which in my view places her on the lowest and laziest rung of the manners ladder.
I was shocked to hear about this, since both my friend and I, and our wives, have taken great care while raising our children to educate them about the role of showing appreciation and saying thanks for gifts, help and other acts of kindness. Thus, I come to the subject of my post today, aimed at all of you college-bound high school seniors: Showing your thanks to those who helped you accomplish your college admissions success.
Here's Who to Thank
Showing thanks takes only moments, but the impression you leave can last a lifetime. Who, then, might those be who helped you during your college admissions process?
Parents are so close to us as we grow up that they sometimes become part of the landscape. It’s kind of a “can’t see the forest because of the trees” effect. We can overlook their many contributions and sacrifices because they’re just “Mom and Dad.”
Their contributions might include transporting you to any number of extracurricular activities during your high school years. Those activities may have formed an impressive part of your college applications, which, hopefully, have paid off with much good news. Also, let’s not forget those college visits, where they made long drives in the car with you and burned their their vacation days as you shopped for a good college match.
Perhaps the most important contribution parents can make for their budding collegians is finances. Although you may never know all the details about how your parents are able to manage the money demands of your college education, some day you may become extremely aware, as you enter the sobering world of college costs for your own children. That’s where “sacrifice” comes in. Along with sacrifice comes debt, in the form of loans, both for you and your parents, who may have co-signed your student loans.
The list of parental help can go on, but the types I just mentioned are the most frequently-provided. However, you may come from a situation where either one or both of your parents’ help has been lacking. In cases like this, you may have had a mentor.
Mentors can be amazing in their generosity and knowledge. They usually appear when they see someone who is struggling to get something done. In the case of college admissions, a mentor might be someone you met who graduated from your goal school and answered your questions about the college.
Mentors can also work in cooperation with parents, but in many of the cases I’ve seen, mentors usually become the primary source of advice and wisdom about the college process. In one case I know, a local doctor who graduated from a prominent Northeastern liberal arts college took two high school seniors on a multi-day visit of several highly-selective Northeastern colleges. If he hadn't done that, those students would not have been able to make the campus visits. Their parents could not afford the trips.
School counselors can be a big plus in your college quest. Has yours been exceptional in some regard? I can cite my own experience regarding our son’s high school counselor, who made a special trip to our son’s first-choice college, where he applied Early Action. This gentleman met with the regional admissions representative and gave our son a wonderful personal recommendation, which I’m sure added some luster to the application process. Our son was accepted EA in December and ultimately enrolled there.
Teachers are an important part of the admissions cycle, too, since they provide important input to the admissions committee through their recommendations. Although students rarely see the actual recommendations themselves, the recs can bring out crucial insights about the applicant that even parents may not sense about their children, since they do not see them in the day-to-day academic setting that teachers do.
The thing to remember about teacher recommendations is that they take a long time to create and some teachers spend long hours at home on their computers creating unique, insightful and memorable narratives in support of their students’ application ventures. They do this out of kindness, not for pay.
Friends, your high school buddies, can also give you a boost at application time. Some colleges allow for an optional “peer” recommendation. That’s where you can ask a good friend to write in support of your application. While these recs may not carry the same weight as those from a counselor or teacher, they can augment the evaluation process by revealing subtle aspects about the applicant. Friendship is different than a family relationship and eclipses student-teacher and counselor-advisee relationships. So, don’t forget to thank your friend, if he or she has said a good word on your behalf.
Say Thanks However You'd Like, As Long As You Say It
These are the primary sources of support for college applicants, but they’re certainly not all of them. Others might include a pastor, a supervisor from a summer (or current) job, a sports coach, a politician for whom you campaigned or anyone else who contributed in any way to your application outcomes.
You get my point by now, I’m sure. So take a moment to think back over all those who helped you along the way. What should you do?
Showing your appreciation in some way is an excellent, and in my view, required gesture. Send a thank-you note to those teachers and your counselor. As for your parents, maybe you could take them out for lunch or wash the family car. Maybe even clean up your room! The important thing is to make sure that these folks know that you appreciate what they’ve done.
Saying thanks for a job well done is something you’ll never regret, and a token your supporters will likely always remember.