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Aspen seniors deal with disappointment

John Colson
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” As local high school seniors await their fates as far as college acceptance is concerned, some are learning that their wildest dreams might not be the ones that come true.

Aspen High School, as are all secondary schools across the United States, is in the midst of the current round of college search efforts by high school seniors and their families.

According to AHS college counselor Kathy Klug and her chief assistant, Susan Walter, they will have sent out an estimated 700 letters and application packets to untold hundreds, perhaps thousands of schools, when all is said and done.

So far, the only students who have learned the results of their applications are those who filed early, back in the fall semester of 2007. Most applicants will not hear back from schools for weeks or perhaps a couple of months.

One student who applied early was Taylor Crist, who hopes to be in theater some day and whose local work this year alone has included parts in plays and musical reviews.

“My basic focus in life is theater,” she said in a recent interview, “one of the most selective and difficult fields to be accepted into.”

In keeping with that focus, she applied to Emerson College in Boston, Mass., which Crist described as “a small, very, very artsy alternative school” that accepted only 20 new students for the 2008-09 school year.

She, unfortunately, was not one of the 20.

But she also applied to seven other schools and was accepted at three ” McDaniel, in Westminster, Md.; Whittier College, in Whittier, Calif.; and Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.

She still is waiting to hear back from two other schools ” Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., and Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. ” before deciding where to go.

She admitted she was disappointed to miss out on Emerson, noting, “I was pretty bummed” and that when she first learned of her rejection she had “a kicking and screaming fit.”

But, she continued, “It was definitely worth it” to apply there, despite the slim chance of getting in, because she had put a lot of effort and energy into the application process.

Actors put a lot of stock in approval from outside themselves, she said, and “It’s difficult to take when they say, ‘We don’t want you.'”

She thought about making a follow-up effort to convince the school it had made a mistake, but thought better of it.

“I just had to realize, it’s not where I’m supposed to be,” she said.

This kind of stoic acceptance of life as it is, rather than as one might want it to be, is an attitude that Klug and Walter say they work hard to instill in the students as they go through the mill of the college applications process.

For example, Klug said, imagine that a drama major at AHS is dead set on getting into Yale or New York University, two schools famous for their drama departments.

Rejection from such top-tier schools might be difficult to take, Klug said, but she added that there are many lesser-known schools that have excellent drama degrees that are as good as anything offered in the top-tier institutions.

“Lesser known,” Klug stressed, “that doesn’t mean not as good, it just means lesser known.”

Walter noted that it is the college counselor’s job to find a “match” between student and school, and that the benefit of being in a relatively small school like Aspen is the bond that can form between counselor and student.

And that bond makes it possible, Walter continued, to keep students from becoming fixated on getting into only the top-tier schools, the world famous Ivy League universities, and to understand that there are fine schools where the education is just as good and into which admissions might not be quite as competitive or difficult.

“We try to help kids get to understand themselves, what they want,” she said. “We ask them, ‘Who are you, what are your aspirations, what do you want your college experience to be?'”

As for Crist, she said she has moved past her disappointment.

“I’m really getting to experience some of the colleges that do want me,” she declared.

For instance, she said, an admissions official at McDaniel College sent her a personal note urging her to pick that school.

“I feel really good,” she said of her current status. “I’m not stressed out about college right now.”

Which is good, because she is in the middle of rehearsals for three different shows that will hit local stages in the coming weeks ” “Taps,” which opens next week at The Crystal Palace dinner theater in Aspen; “The Odyssey,” which will play at The Crystal Palace later in February; and “Guys and Dolls,” a school play which opens at the District Theater at Aspen Elementary School in March.

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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