The Hail Mary Reply

Hail Mary PassWe’ve all seen articles like this one from HerCampus.com. They detail the absolutely Ka-Razy things some students have done to ensure they get into the schools they most want to attend. From baking cookies to filming song and dance numbers to crafting art projects, these stories are entertaining and heart-warming.

But they aren’t always model tales to be emulated. Here’s why.

Warning: This article may seem like a bit of a downer, but it’s here to set expectations, and ultimately tell you what you actually can do.

You want to get into your First Choice University (FCU) so badly. You’re sure that you could get in, if only you could get noticed, make yourself stand out among all the rest of those students who’re applying. Or maybe you’ve been waitlisted, which means that you haven’t been told no, but that yes is still hovering just out of reach, and now more than ever you feel like you have to prove yourself to the college admissions officers who hold your fate in their hands.

So you set about filming yourself singing a song, or you put together a collage of words cut out from magazines that supplements your admissions essay, and you send it on, thinking that this way, this will show how devoted you are, and what you can bring to FCU. Heck, you’ve seen articles like this before, too, articles that show off the crazy and amazing things past students have done to get themselves noticed. You’re just following in the footsteps of those who have come before.

Maybe it will work. Maybe this will be just the nudge you need to tip you over into admissions. But most likely, it won’t. The stories we hear about, where these kinds of Hail Mary application plays actually work, are most often special because they do work. They’re the exceptions, not the rule.

There are a few reasons why these kinds of plays don’t work, reasons you should keep in mind.

You’re not alone. You do have a voice that is your own, but so do all the other students applying to the same exact school, and you can bet your bottom that at least some of them are having the same thought process as you are. Even if you sing your heart out and submit that video, there could easily be other such videos submitted by plenty of other students, and that means that your video’s success is not by any means guaranteed.

Admissions officers are people, too. That means that they have lives in addition to their jobs, and every single other tidbit that a student sends in is something else that has to be reviewed and filed and judged. Essentially, if you submit something that’s going to take more time from them, or is going to complicate their lives, then even for the most fair-minded admissions officers there’s a not-insignificant chance that you’re just going to contribute to their aggravation. That’s never a good place for you to wind up. This point is especially true for anything you submit that wasn’t part of the original application, that is extra material the school never asked for.

There’s a fine, fine line between passion and madness. (Yes, madness is a little strong here, but work with me — I enjoy hyperbole.) It’s a very delicate balancing act to show off your interests and your drive, without coming off as a bit too intense for comfort. Again, keep in mind that college admissions officers are people, and they’re trying to get to know you through a series of snapshots. Your academic record, your recommendations, your resume, your college essay — imagine these as pieces of a mosaic that forms you, or at least your appearance to these officers. And then, throw into that some crazy attempt to impress them, or to show your uniqueness, or to put your passion on display, and it might very well make the mosaic a little more off-putting. It might be just the ingredient that makes the mosaic beautiful, too! But the odds aren’t guaranteed to be in your favor.

So what does this mean? You should steer clear of these crazy, last ditch attempts to get into your FCU?

Nope. Not at all.

But it does mean you should go about these Hail Mary application supplements or admissions essays or whatever with a clear head. Don’t kid yourself, and don’t do it willy-nilly. Here are some principles for keeping a clear head on your shoulders when submitting these Hail Maries:

Check first! Contact the school’s admissions department. Find out from them whether or not you can submit extra materials. If you need to, you can indicate that this is all out of your intense desire to attend the university in question, but always be polite, calm, and considerate. If they tell you “No extra materials,” then don’t ignore them. Don’t think that you’re just the special exception. That’s a real great way to get yourself blackballed.

Keep your expectations grounded. Maybe, just maybe, your attempt will be the successful one, and you’ll get in, and it’ll be amazing, and you’ll have the best story to tell for years to come! But most likely? That’s not going to happen. Do a Hail Mary because you’re sure you want to get into the school, that it’s the right place for you, and you’d like to try one last time to push yourself over the edge. Don’t do a Hail Mary because you’re confident it will work. Don’t let yourself get too disappointed if it doesn’t work. If you’ve done your applications right, even if you don’t get into your FCU, you’ll get into somewhere else, and you’ll be able to find a path all your own there.

Represent yourself. This one would seem obvious, but take to heart that you need to be doing this for you, and from you. Don’t do a video of singing a song because you saw an article that had a student doing such a video, and it worked. Don’t do an art project that mirrors someone else’s successful Hail Mary art project. Do something that is all about you, that speaks to who you are, and that represents you, through and through. If you can’t think of something, then you need to spend more time considering before you attempt a Hail Mary. If you’re just aping someone else’s efforts, you’re shooting yourself in the foot more than helping yourself.

Hopefully, some of this will help you to decide whether a Hail Mary is right for you. And at best, it’ll help you make your Hail Mary work.

Have any good stories of successful Hail Maries, though? Please share them! Even if you need to think about them rationally, they’re still absolutely fantastic stories.

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