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Olympic Gymnastics and College Admissions– NOT FAIR!!!

Olympic Gymnastics and College Admissions– NOT FAIR!!!

It’s Not Fair!!

I’ve been watching the Olympics a lot lately both at home and in the office (don’t worry tax payers, I’m only viewing at lunch, or when slowly meandering past the lobby TV, or perhaps occasionally on the split screen desktop– what can I say, I’m a multitasker).

The other night Gabby Douglas placed 3rd in the Women’s Gymnastics All-Around qualifying. Third out of 24 (Top 12%). But because she finished behind her two American teammates, she was not able to advance to defend her 2012 Gold medal. She smoked the rest of the field and certainly could have edged out either of her two teammates in the actual medal round, if given the chance– but no dice. She was out.gabby

This is a young woman who grew up blowing away the competition in her home gym and school. She was quickly the best in her state, region, and ultimately climbed to national prominence. But this year, based on the most slight movements and judgments in the Olympics, she would have to watch from the sideline. And that’s when my wife stormed out of the room railing about the crappy Olympic rules and reiterating things like, “it’s not fair” and “that sucks” as she went upstairs to bed.

I just kept sipping my drink. Because, you know what, it all seemed very familiar to me (cough… college admission). She’s right though. It’s not fair. It does suck. World-class athletes get edged out of their pursuit for an Olympic dream all along the way– in trials, in nationals, and yes even right at the very last moment by .04 by her own teammate.

Here’s the thing though– she signed up for it! Gabby knew how good the other Olympians would be. She’s trained with, supported and pushed Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, along with her other US teammates to improve over the last few years. Would she have lost a night’s sleep before competing at her state tournament? Absolutely not. She’d probably have stayed out late the night before eating Cheetos and playing Pokemon Go. Then she would have waltzed in, closed her eyes, and still sailed to first place. But on this stage- at this level- she knew that coming in 3rd and having to cheer on her teammates in the medal round was a possibility.

Admission Perspective

Only about 20 colleges in our nation have admit rates of 12% or less. If you are applying to one of these, and frankly, if you are applying to a school taking 33% or less, you need to understand that getting edged out is a distinct possibility.  Is that fair? Does that suck? If your answer to both is “Yes” right now, you have some work to do:

  1. Consider: You are signing up for that uncertainty and possible disappointment. You may be among the best in your high school, county, or even state, but that does not guarantee admittance when the field is this strong. You may have 18 relatives who have attended or been wearing that schools gear since you were in diapers, but in that year, for that college, and based on where you’re from or what you want to study, or what the school is emphasizing or de-emphasizing (Institutional Priorities)– and most importantly the rest of the competition, you may not get admitted. Can your ego handle that? Can your parents handle that? Gabby was absolutely frustrated, sad, and upset. But she gathered herself, cheered on her teammates and then pulled it together to win other medals in the Rio Games. That choice is on you, too.
  2. Back-up: Every year we read stories of students who “got in to every Ivy League school.” While many marvel and inevitably some TV station broadcasts this “success” in awe, my normal response is they wasted a lot of money, because those place are so different from each other that clearly the student did not do their homework on the college search. OR (and more likely) they or someone around them have an incredibly big ego, so thank goodness they did not apply to Tech. Following that I am thinking, “I know it worked out, but I sure hope they had at least one “foundation” or “in- profile school” on their list. No matter how high your GPA, number of APs, test scores or others opinions of you, you need at least one non-Olympic school on your list.

Georgia Tech Olympics

BRONZE: We often get calls from counselors or parents who says that Tech was the only school a student applied to. Will you re-consider your denial because now it’s late March and all other deadlines have expired? Sip. You signed up for that.

SILVER: We also get calls from parents or counselors or principals/headmasters about a brilliant student who applied only to (insert your five to seven crazy elite schools here) and was denied or waitlisted to all of them. It’s now early April and she’s scrambling for an admit. “This is a great kid. I know you would have taken her if she’d applied in Regular because she’s right in your profile.” Sip. At that point, we’ve already handed out our medals too. “Games” over, friends.6 year snap

GOLD: Take a look at this application and admit rate chart. Imagine two siblings are applying to Tech. One in 2012 and one in 2016. Same classes, same grades, same Model UN coach and same summer job. But in those four years the competition rose significantly and the class size stayed the same. The bar went up drastically based on the other applicants in the pool, or field, or whatever Olympic/Admission analogy you choose to use here.

Listen, I get the desire to compete at the highest level. I applaud that. I also see the attraction to applying to one of the small set of schools in our nation that take basically 1/10. Big reputation. Beautiful campuses. Successful alumni. Parents love the bumper sticker. Not hating on that aspiration, so don’t misunderstand me. I’m just saying you don’t always know what the judges may be looking for in that competition, and that there are a lot of Simones and Alys in those applicant pools. That’s all I have to say about not getting “Gabby Douglased” in the admission process.

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