so, what's the etiquette around college acceptances?
welcome to New Rules, a column by mixed feelings which highlights the strong opinions and social mores of New York denizens. It's modern etiquette, according to the most tapped-in among us. Have a question you want them to answer? Comment below or DM us.
It’s September, so the common app has once again reared its expensive little head. If you have decided to go to college, you may not be thinking about how you might share the news come spring. But every year, it’s undoubtedly a season of jealousy and strange social media habits. For this month’s New Rules, we asked three college freshmen their unfiltered opinions on the social “rules” — if any — around sharing college acceptances.
One day this past spring, my friends and I stayed after school to hang out in the Senior Atrium. It had just hit 4:00pm. NYU acceptances — and rejections — were out. As my group of friends sat eating Shake Shack, two other groups huddled in the Atrium and anxiously opened their emails. One of them had just been accepted. Her friends ran up and down the halls, congratulating her. The other group remained silent, presumably because one of them had the opposite outcome. That’s when I fully understood the cutthroat nature of college acceptance culture in my school.
I just graduated from the #1 high school in NYC, so I’m familiar with the sinking feeling of watching as your peers open congratulatory emails from Ivy League schools. During college application season, tensions ran high. The mix of genuine and backhanded congratulations were indistinguishable. Even worse were the Instagram Stories on “Ivy Day” — tapping past what felt like hundreds of Cornell, Harvard, and Princeton acceptances. It had to be done with both thumbs instead of just one.
What I’ve learned through my own experiences, as well as experiences with others, is that having humility is the best way to prevent hurting others’ feelings. I refrained from posting about my own acceptances or those of my friends, and chose to instead disclose individually when asked. I also think it’s important to deemphasize the seeming “prestige” of a school compared to how the student life and academics would nurture your growth as a student or person. I congratulate everyone equally on their college decision. After all, there are so many other factors that go into the final choice, such as financial aid and scholarships.
While it is hard to manage hurt amongst friends, it is really up to the individual to take time and accept the results. I’ve learned that timing is key: Let people accept the situation and fall in love with the school they are meant for before asking them to share their news. However, it’s worth noting that my personal etiquette is exactly that: personal. Others may disagree, but as a general rule of thumb, remembering that words have weight and that feelings can be fragile during this sensitive time in our lives is crucial. — Natalie Ma, 18 (she/her)
I initially didn’t want to share my college acceptance openly, only telling my parents, sister, my two closest friends, and the teachers who wrote my letters of recommendation. I wanted to give myself time to process all of the things that led to such an important milestone in my life. It’s customary for friends to make posts to celebrate their friends’ acceptances. After none of my friends made one for me, speculation and rumors naturally began to spread and I found it increasingly difficult to keep a lid on the news.
If you don’t post about your acceptance online, people start to think you just didn’t get in anywhere. By not putting my future college in my bio nor openly talking about it, people assumed things didn’t work out and I started getting standard messages of consolation. Those who openly expressed their acceptance online, though, were met with praise and words of “congratulations!” through every door they entered.
After nearly four years of constant academic grind, opening my acceptance letters felt like finally taking a ten-ton weight off of my shoulders. When I went on Instagram that day, I couldn’t help but feel the sudden rush of dopamine as countless story posts featured classmates and their friends congratulating them for finally reaching the end of their college admissions journey. I was proud of my friends at school, but after receiving so many standard consolation messages when I neglected to share my own acceptance online, I wondered how the classmates whose applications didn’t pan out the way they hoped felt.
All I can say is this: Be empathetic. Don’t regurgitate the same messages of condolences over and over again. Even better? Don’t assume. — Devin Wu, 18 (he/him)
My best friend, a girl who I can say is undeniably one of the most intelligent, insightful, creative, and deserving humans on the planet, got deferred from an Early Action school that was on her list as a safety. Simultaneously, I was accepted. We had been texting as the decisions were released, and she frustratedly informed me of her results and didn’t ask about mine. I knew she had likely forgotten that I had applied at all. Based on how those weeks had unfolded, I decided to keep that acceptance from her until she had received a few of her own. I knew she would eventually have a plethora of options. My judgment told me that if I gave it just a bit of time, she would receive my news in a better headspace.
For context: Despite having been accepted Early Decision to my school of choice, I didn't receive a cent of financial aid, which seriously jeopardized my hope of enrolling. I was forced to consider all of my options carefully, including this school we had both applied to. I ended up telling her about all of my other results, but omitted this one. I knew that the challenge of revealing that one acceptance wasn’t a question of whether she would be jealous or upset, but instead just a matter of potentially creating self-doubt after all the efforts she had made. I had to be delicate.
Months later, after all of the decisions were out, I slowly and anxiously mentioned that I was planning on visiting that school, hesitating and then saying “...because I got in”. She was surprised and laughed. As I explained the situation, she smiled and thanked me for the sensitivity, assuring me that she would never have felt anything but proud and excited for me, but also understood that she was able to receive it with a much happier mindset than she would have earlier in the process. The entire affair made me appreciate how thoughtful and supportive my friends are, but also taught me how important it is to be honest, caring, and most importantly, to have conversations in person instead of online for everyone to see. — Clementine Gotlib, 18 (she/her)