While watching the Academy Awards, trying to second-guess who would win the Oscar and who would get snubbed, slighted, or sacked, it dawned on me -- the awarding of the Oscars is very much like college admissions: Arbitrary, capricious, and pretty much anybody’s guess, educated or otherwise.

Was Birdman really more worthy than The Budapest Hotel? Eddie Redmayne truly a better actor than, say, Benedict Cumberbatch? Why was Feast the “best” animated short film, and not The Bigger Picture? And tell me, why was Joan Rivers omitted from the In Memoriam (not to mention, Jon Lovitz)?

The criteria for awarding the Oscars is, of course, subjective, to a great extent. Subject to the whim and fancy of those who make such decisions. What is “best,” really? And for whom? And after all, they could choose but 1 out of 4, 5, or 8, right?

This is true, relatively speaking, when it comes to college admissions. Who gets in? Who is rejected? Who will be one of the 3000 accepted out of more than 30,000 otherwise worthy applicants?

Sure, there are the factors we all assume colleges take into consideration, give weight to, and utilize, in their theory of everything (or nothing at all), to determine admission-worthiness. Test scores. GPA. Extracurricular activities and community service. That killer essay. And let's not leave out some other variables that often go into the mix -- like ethnicity (checking the Mexican Director’s Green Card, are we?), demographics (better shot from Sheboygan, WI than from Syosset, NY), legacy, or that check your uncle wrote to have the new library wing named after him.

And then there’s that hidden (though just barely, beneath that cloak of college admissions underwear) factor that lurks just below the surface, and right above every school’s bottom line -- enrollment.

Method to the college admissions madness? Something beyond sheer randomness? A more compelling, if not more palatable reason why your son or daughter didn’t get that acceptance letter, while the kid with the lower GPA and mediocre SAT score did? Perhaps...

Who gets the edge when it comes to college admissions may actually come down to which students in the application pool are most likely to enroll. If you think colleges are not concerned about who is actually coming in the fall, think again. Enrollment management is the new college admissions, and optimization in the age of declining enrollments has become the front line in protecting the bottom line.

The colleges know who is applying where? Ha. Despite the denials, in this electronic age of Common App and College Board, colleges know more about you than Edward Snowden knows about national security (or about film documentaries). Do you really believe that colleges don’t look to see where you’ve applied? That they don’t care? Why, some even come right out and ask you on the application!

Is the college application process, or, for that matter, the process of choosing Oscar nominees and recipients, devious, insidious, and at least somewhat disingenuous? Of course it is. Inherently unfair, unjust, and inequitable? You bet.

So what? Is anything in life any different? Who gets the job? Not always the most qualified candidate. Who makes the most money? Not always the sharpest tool in the toolbox. Who has the happiest marriage? Why, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, of course!

Fact is, in college admissions, in the Academy Awards, and in life, there is always the random, the subjective, the inequities, and the uncertainties. And let’s not forget perhaps the single most important factor of all -- sheer luck!

Of course, for those who select colleges to which to apply, and, ultimately, attend, that are the right fit for them, and not necessarily the “best” for U.S. News & World ReportForbes, or Princeton Review (or the most popular among their peers), any one of which, whether “reach,” “target,” or “safety” (as if there were such categories), would be, by any reasonable measure, a first choice.

Does it still make sense, then, to strive for top grades, higher scores, noble activities, and an essay that wows the admissions committee (in the 3 minutes they may take to read it)? Absolutely! Like that actor, director, screenwriter, or cinematographer, go out there and give the performance of your life. Give yourself every possible advantage. Will it earn you an Oscar or a college acceptance letter? Maybe. Maybe not. The important thing is to have given it your personal best, to have reached beyond your own expectations, and to know, in your heart of hearts, that, in the great Academy Awards of college admissions -- where, the envelope having been pryed open by those most anxious hands, you will be accepted to (and attend) a fantastic school that is truly best for you -- you are a winner!

Call us at COLLEGE CONNECTION at 516-345-8766 with your questions or concerns about the college application and admissions process, financial aid, or anything college. We’ve got your back. And your best moves forward!

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