How Did They Get In?!

How Did They Get In?!

We’ve all heard about it. A well-qualified student gets rejected from a college and the slacker kid who didn’t do anything with their time but play video games all day and got terrible grades is accepted.

And now it’s happening to you.

Here are some things to remember to cope with that “how did they get in?!” moment.

It’s a crapshoot

You’ll hear this over and over and I’ll tell you again: college admissions are a crapshoot. You might be the best-qualified student of all time, but there are still going to be colleges you won’t get into. Whether it’s because of Tufts Syndrome or simply because there were way too many students who were good enough and were a good fit, it doesn’t reflect badly on your abilities that you weren’t admitted — it’s just a reflection of how many applicants the college could admit.

Fit, fit, fit

College admissions officers know better than you do whether you’ll be a good fit for their institution. Even if you thought all of the factors for that college matched up perfectly to your needs, there might be an aspect of the college’s life that you might not have thought of that isn’t so compatible with your personal or academic needs. And that other kid who did get in? Maybe their grades weren’t so hot, but they might be a bassoon virtuoso who would be the perfect addition to the college orchestra. You never know!

That said…

While it may be tempting to assume that someone you thought was badly qualified was accepted to a college because they’re a person of color, of a lower socioeconomic status, or a first-generation college student, keep in mind that while affirmative action does aim to benefit students these groups, that doesn’t mean unqualified students get admitted. Remember that any discrepancies in standardized test scores or grades can be explained by the fact that these students are typically disadvantaged and need the boost that affirmative action gives them in order to be on a level playing field with white and middle-class applicants. These students may also be qualified in ways that go beyond just grades and standardized test scores. They might have other strengths and talents that you don’t know about. Perhaps they’ve written some unbelievable poetry that you’ve never read. You just don’t know.


As long as you applied to a good range of colleges and universities that you feel are a good match for you, you’re going to get in somewhere. Smile, congratulate the person who was admitted, and try not to think too hard about your impending decisions. It’ll all be okay.