For those of us old enough to remember the movie, Bang The Drum Slowly, or, for that matter, the crafty card games of The Sting, TEGWAR is a familiar, if but somewhat unsettling, word.

Yes, TEGWAR -- The Exciting Game Without Any Rules -- where a good old game of Poker turns into a time-honored way of separating suckers from their money.

Oddly enough (and quite the perfect segue, really), that brings us to college admissions. A process where suckers, if not (yet) to be separated from their money, are surely separated from their sanity.

Talk about a game without any rules -- or at least rules that are neither discernible (at least by students and their parents) nor disclosed.

Take the case of two seniors from the same high school. The first is number 3 in the class, with stellar grades and scores. The second is number 18, with significantly lower academics. Both have a vast array of significant extracurriculars, and each completes and submits timely applications to, say, the College of Hard Knocks.

Lo and behold, number 18 gets an acceptance to Hard Knocks, while number 3 is denied admission.

Exception? Aberration? Something we're missing absent knowledge as to the secret formula? Perhaps.

Maybe 18's essays blew the admissions officer away. Perhaps there was a legacy, thrice removed, in the mix. Could be they needed a second Bassoonist in the marching band. Who knows?

Or maybe, at least to some degree (they don't call it a BS for nothing :-), college admissions is merely the spin of the wheel, a matter of luck, a season without rhyme or reason.

With so many factors to consider, well beyond grades and scores, any one could be the ticket in or the tipping point out. To be sure, there are factors beyond the control of the applicant. Factors, such as race, ethnicity and demographics, which, dependent upon perspective, are either embraced or cursed.

Then, too, there is the sheer mystery of the admissions process. Not unlike the Great and Powerful Oz, admissions officers and admissions committees [so no one individual ever has to take responsibility for the ultimate decision ("Oh, so you're the one who welcomed John Wilkes Booth to the Class of 1865, eh?")], there is a shroud that envelops those involved in making the critical, if not life-altering, decisions, and no one among us mere mortals ever really knows what goes on behind the curtain. Heck. Sometimes even those behind the curtain have no clue!

After all, there are few hard and fast guidelines -- or at least rules that cannot be bent if not broken -- in the admissions game. Who's to know? "We don't have to tell anybody!"

And let's face it, college admissions is not a science -- it's not even a liberal art -- though many, particularly those who supposedly make the rules and decide the fate of the masses, would argue vociferously otherwise.

So, what to do? Are students simply to roll the dice, cross their fingers and hope that the other fella doesn't have an Ace up his sleeve? To some extent, absolutely. That the other guy, with a less than shining academic record, who never helped raise a roof for Habitat for Humanity or build the next i-something for the Robotics Club, got in, but you didn't, is, all too often, a matter of chance. Providence was on his side -- this time.

Of course, while there are never any guarantees in college admissions (and this applies, as well, to financial aid awards), you can -- and should -- do everything within your ability to attempt to stack the deck in your favor.

Work those grades and scores. They are the best hand to have at the TEGWAR table. Engage in meaningful extracurricular activities in school and community service after, keeping in mind that it is always quality and consistency over quantity and passivity. Be certain that your essays, personal statements and even those silly short answers, put you far above and way beyond the madding crowd. Check and recheck those applications -- for both admissions and aid -- with a fine-toothed comb, because completeness and accuracy count. Get those applications in on time -- or better still, early. Be courageous. Be bold. Be persistent. Be a fly on the wall in the high school guidance office. Above all, be prepared, be undaunted and be not afraid (that Poker face comes in very handy in the world of college admissions). You will not fail and you will get in -- to the very best college for you!

3 and 18 may well end up at different colleges on different tracks. No, it is definitely NOT the end of the world. [The greats don't all graduate from the Ivies!] That's TEGWAR. Both, however, are very likely to not only secure a top notch education at a great institution of higher learning (as well as to have a fantabulous four years), but, when all is said, if still far from done, will have risen above that most exhausting and mind-numbing game without any rules we call college admissions, to prevail in that bigger and much more important game we call life!

Plan. Prepare. Prevail!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.

Who knows what peril lurks in the college application and admissions process? The College Whisperer knows. . .

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