My inbox is littered with emails that include the word “Emergency,” have subject lines that are WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS, or are polished off with an assertive looking line of exclamation points insisting on the topic’s importance. Occasionally, I will receive several phone calls and emails about the same topic in rapid succession, and phrases like “immediate attention” and “urgent response required” will be used. My friends who work in high schools report that students and parents employ this frantic tone with them even more often than I see it. And with final deadlines approaching, it would appear many of you have gone into crisis mode.
But with no knowledge of the details of these scenarios, I would guess that 99.999% of the time: they are not emergencies.
And how do I know that? Because I do not work in an emergency room, I work in admissions. As a general rule, we do not have “emergencies.” The risk of injury or death in this world is statistically insignificant. So when you think you have an emergency, take a deep breath. In all likelihood, you have one of these instead:
A Category 1 Non-Emergency: Something (moderately) important that you messed up. For example:
A Category 2 Non-Emergency: Something (moderately) important and generally unexpected. For example:
A Category 3 Non-Emergency: Something that actually isn’t that important. For example:
A Category 4 Actual Emergency: Something that is important, but is unrelated to admissions. This is where real emergencies fall. The kinds of things that make you forget that you’re even supposed to be applying to college. Things that actually matter in the real world to real people. Natural disasters, serious illnesses, major accidents, deaths in the family. Legitimate, unfortunate, out of the blue stuff that no one can control. We hope none of you have to deal with things like this, but it happens.
Now that you’ve identified your flavor of (probably-not-a-real) “emergency,” take action! Here’s how:
Category 1: Own up to your error, apologize as needed, and act to rectify it in a timely manner. Don’t blame other people, and show some remorse. (The Catholic-raised/educated part of me thinks you need to feel bad about this for a while, but do your penance and any sin can be forgiven.) Most of these issues can be resolved if you make a good faith effort and communicate with the parties involved. Fire up your email, and put a corrective game plan in place.
Category 2: See above. Subtract the Catholic guilt.
Category 3: For most of these, you should probably just let them slide. But if you’re all hopped up and it feels important, just send an email.
Category 4: Do what you need to do, ignore us, take care of yourself and your family. Applying to college is SO not important when the house is literally on fire. Know that the real human beings on the other side of the desk will be there to work with you when you surface. Let the dust settle, then connect with your counselor and your colleges. I promise you: we have souls and we can figure it out together.
And for any type of issue, remember:
Happy applying, friends. Be good to yourself, be good to others, and stay sane!