Dating the Prom Queen

Today’s post was inspired by a comedy I watched last week about a high school prom queen who fell into a coma and woke up 20 years later. The comedy is about her return to high school and her attempt to recapture what she missed (being prom queen)…but as you can imagine, my take away was a little different.

I’m sure the comedy was an attempt at light-hearted and carefree humor, but I just couldn’t get past the desperation the (now) 37-year-old felt about the significance of this pursuit. To be fair, the movie had a plot, I just couldn’t get it out of my head because this kind of propaganda spills over in other ways.

The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that the average high school in the United States has a graduating class of about 200 students. That means for 198 of those students, they will never be prom queen or prom king. It’s fair to say that 99% of students will not become a prom queen or king. And yet…

While my analogy is not perfect, elite colleges are our prom queens. The tippy top colleges sit as a shining example of exclusivity. Elite colleges are not representative of where most people go, what most people do, or how most people build their career. And yet, they sit in envy and as a target for teens everywhere.

It’s not a big deal except for the fact that the numbers tell a different story. The numbers tell us that 61,300 teens applied to Harvard this year and 1,950 got in. I’m not bothered so much that Harvard is picky, but I’m frustrated that 59,000 teens were rejected.

The College Board has an entire strategy page for education professionals to help teens and parents deal with college rejection letters. These professionals are given the following guidance:

  • Students who have been wait-listed or rejected by a college rely on you for insight and direction on how to proceed with their college enrollment plans.
  • Guide your students to focus on the real choices: the places that have sent acceptance letters.
  • Understanding this reason for rejection can help students and their families better handle their disappointment.
  • Lift their spirits by letting them know that you think the college that refused them is missing out on a great student.
  • Let parents know that it’s okay for them to feel disappointment.

I also found a therapy blog that outlines 15 ways to handle depression and anxiety that stem from college rejection. (!)

It is our over exaggerating of the significance that teaches our teens to care so deeply, so desperately, about getting into a specific college. What if, instead of traumatizing students with crushing disappointment for not achieving an impossible goal, that we instead just helped them earn their credential and move forward. It’s nothing more than a tiny piece of life.

Back to the movie…

Had I written the ending, it would have been a celebration of her survival, but that’s why I’m not a comedy writer. 😉 Some quotes to close with:

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. – Epicurus

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. ― Oprah Winfrey

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” ― Socrates

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” -Proverbs 17:22


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

3 thoughts on “Dating the Prom Queen

  1. Excellent article & I agree wholeheartedly. More than 3 decades ago, when I was a senior in high school, another student, devastated because he did not get into an elite college brought a gun to school because he wanted to kill himself. Thankfully the school counselor talked him out of it.

  2. “Dream school” is a marketing tactic that manipulates students and parents. Parents (and students) ask yourself “What is the purpose of attending college/university?” How will we know if my student’s “university experience” is a success or a failure?

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