Is There Insensitivity Around College Decision Day?


Brandon Woods

Seniors pose for a photo wearing apparel from their respective colleges.

On May 3, seniors donned t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and other apparel emblazoned with the names of their respective future universities. Although the day raised concern from the College Counseling Office and the Upper School transition team, with regard to this year’s complicated landscape of college applications, admissions, and decisions, seniors continued the tradition of Decision Day on the first day of full in-person learning since March 2020.

Does a tradition that may seem ubiquitous at high schools across America—college gear and social media posts congratulating acceptance into a school—actually lead to students flaunting, or does it just allow them to considerately celebrate their noteworthy accomplishments?

The College Counseling Office initiated the move to not hold an official Decision Day, and it later gained support from the Upper School transition team. While in a typical school year, students would have committed by May 1, the nationwide decision day, that was not necessarily the case this year. Interim Co-Director of College Counseling Alexandra Fields said, “Students might feel pressure to reveal where they are attending even if they’d prefer to keep it quiet, and come May 1, students can be in very different places.” In addition, Ms. Fields mentioned that some seniors could be on admission waitlists whereas others may feel disappointed with their outcomes.

But some students have pushed back on the idea that Decision Day should be scrapped. “To be honest, I kind of disagree with the administration’s decision because even though not all of us got into our top choices, we still completed the college process, and everyone is going somewhere,” said senior Sam Szykowny. “I think that’s a reason enough to celebrate.”

From a student government perspective, the 12th-grade representatives viewed Decision Day as an opportunity to bring the grade back together. Even without an official grade-wide photograph, seniors gathered in the park and other nearby places and took their own photos in smaller groups. “When thinking about the planning of Decision Day,” senior grade representative Cole Lindemann said, “I wish it was pushed back later in the school year so that more people would 100% know where they’re going, but it’s important to keep in mind that Decision Day isn’t Latin-specific.”

In terms of the insensitivity associated with Decision Day, Dean of Community Learning Suzanne Callis emphasized the importance of respectfully celebrating and acknowledging the community’s achievements. Rather than the college apparel itself creating a potentially unsupportive environment, the conversations that are inherently attached to the apparel may produce unhealthy levels of insensitivity and envy. Ms. Callis said, “We should be proud of our individual achievements and also honor the achievements and decisions of others without leaving anyone feeling less than.”

While the intent around celebrating college decision day is to celebrate students’ accomplishments and spotlight their respective future universities, the reality is that it can still put pressure on students’ self-esteem.

Along with displaying their college commitments, many seniors post congratulatory stories for one another on social media such as Instagram. Sam finds the college acceptance culture on Instagram problematic. “Instagram can kind of reinforce the idea of flaunting when photo after photo, there are messages like ‘you’re going to kill it here,’” he said.

Notably, the @latindecisions2021 page allows seniors to share their respective future schools and majors with peers. By creating this non-school-sanctioned effort, students can congratulate one another, virtually. In fact, seniors from across the nation have launched similar initiatives to spotlight seniors’ accomplishments through an optional format.

With respect to Latin’s overall college process and Decision Day tradition, Ms. Fields said, “I wish we had a culture where people didn’t feel a way about name brands, but unfortunately, that’s where we are, and there’s a lot of competition that comes with the college process.” She later said, “I wonder if there is a way where we can celebrate students heading off to college without it necessarily being about which college.”