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Did I ruin my college chances?

I did something bad at school — will it stop me getting into a good college?

I can’t say for sure, says our elder. But we all make mistakes.

Dear EWC

I live in the UK. I recently got something bad on my school record (bad behaviour with craft knives). I am scared as I am a good student but I just went out of character. I did not think of what I was doing. I am highly scared. I am planning to go to one of two top colleges in my city and I hope that these records do not affect my college entry. Do colleges look at school records?

PJH replies

I understand your sense of panic over a mistake that might be costly. I understand because there are some I made I remember decades later (like showing up for a university admissions interview a day after it was scheduled!). So let’s set a baseline here: Everybody stumbles along the way. It’s a function of always trying to be our best whenever we’re being judged. So, when you claim that you “went out of character” I think that means you forgot you’re supposed to be “in character” when you’re in school.
But lest you think that’s an insult let me add we’re all of us playing characters all the time. It’s a function of being social beings.

That noted, I very much doubt your slip will impact your college admission. I don’t know what goes into the package that makes up an admissions application at the colleges you’re hoping to attend, but there’s little chance a single blunder that’s short of arrest and conviction would weigh heavily the decisions. I just checked the websites for the colleges you mention and think that other aims will weigh most heavily in their decisions. But I’m not advising you. I don’t know nearly enough to do that, so my words should carry no more weight than my knowledge justifies.
I’ll close with another perspective that age provides us: Our passage into adulthood takes many unpredictable turns, and while together they put us on a unique path forward, only in retrospect will we know which of our errors along the way proved to be handicaps and which were lessons we gained from. So reserve judgment on yourself for a decade or so before you reach a conclusion. Meanwhile, here’s wishing you good fortune in 2020.

Letter #: 452310
Category: School

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