Column: College acceptance an achievement

Janie Simonton | Staff Writer

The other day, I pulled into my driveway after school, locked my doors and walked to the mailbox. Perusing the daily post, I see the usual suspects: the bills for my parents, the “Hey, come check out our campus!” letters from colleges I would never even consider. Usually, most of the college envelopes that show up go straight to the recycling bin. But not today.

Today, there was a big envelope.

I still remember the first time I learned the significance of the “big envelope.” I was twelve years old, watching an episode of “Gilmore Girls” with my mom, watching Rory and her classmate Paris discuss their acceptance letters. Oh, that was an upset: Paris, class grade-grind, scored a large envelope from Yale, but Harvard, her dream school, had sent her back a small envelope. Rory, the more relaxed of the pair, received big envelopes from both.

Big envelope equals acceptance. I got my first big envelope.

I eagerly peeled back the silver sticker that had fastened the envelope shut, and pulled out my information. “Congratulations, Jane! You have been accepted to our class of 2015!” I leafed through the papers, the anticipation of college life zooming through me. It stopped short, however, when I reached one document.

They gave me a certificate.

A literal certificate, official-looking enough to qualify it for wall-hanging, maybe even framing. My suburban-cultured, pretentious mind immediately slapped a look of “really?” on my face. I automatically wondered why they had chosen to congratulate me on my acceptance. Seriously? Um, getting into college isn’t a huge deal, my narrow-minded perspective said haughtily. Everybody I know does it. Since when is it worthy of a certificate?

Okay, wait. Here, in Mason, we have an 87% rate of students who go on to two-year or four-year universities. But according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the class of 2009 only sent 70.1% of its people to college, nationally. Getting into college is important; the rate isn’t very high.

So why do I feel so pompous about this? Basically, Mason is at a huge advantage and bias regarding college, because we have such a high acceptance rate. But we shouldn’t be. Getting into college is a huge deal, and something to be proud of. We’ve worked hard to get those acceptance letters, and, dang it, we deserve the certificates. So you know what? When you get that certificate, you take it, and you know what you do with it? You hang it up on your wall.

Because getting into college is awesome. The big envelope is still a big deal.