College Applications: The Agony and the Ecstasy

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dear Miss Manners:

I am a senior in high school. The program I am in is very competitive and produces high-achieving students. Because of this, quite a few of the students apply to places such as Stanford, UC-Berkeley and the Ivy League.

I was lucky -- I was accepted into my first-choice school early in the year and my classmates, even the ones to whom I am not close, were (or at least pretended to be) happy for me, and I will be happy to do the same for them. What I'm wondering is how to properly expresses my regret to people who do not get accepted into their top schools. Also, what is the correct response to people who get deferred? And do the answers to these questions change depending on whether the student in question is a good friend or just a casual acquaintance?

Should I say anything at all if a third party told me about someone else's rejection/deferment? So far, I haven't, mostly because my friends tend to tell me about their rejections from universities (though some are tight-lipped about their acceptances).

You should do everything you can to stay out of any such conversations with anyone. If told directly about deferments or rejections, say something like "That's insane -- it's such a lottery" and then quickly change the subject: "Are you going to the game tomorrow?"

This is because there is nothing you can say that will not be interpreted as patronizing. "Forget them; you'll get into a good school" will bring on the thought of "easy for you to say," and even "I was just lucky" calls attention to the contrast between your situations.

Miss Manners understands how unfair this is. You only want to be kind and polite. You are not comparing yourself with them, so why should they?

They shouldn't, and perhaps they would not. But they were gracious about your triumph and you should spare them having to muster that much generosity again.

Dear Miss Manners:

I am a gay man planning to become engaged in the near future. While I'm looking forward to getting married, I am dreading the questions from friends and family about the legality of the wedding, such as "Are you going to go to Massachusetts?" or "Is that legal in Maryland yet?"

At best, the questions throw cold water on what should otherwise be a joyful and congratulatory moment.

At worst, it puts our attention on the rather painful subject of marriage inequality.

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