Senior Class Bonds over College Decisions


The Class of 2016 celebrate admission decisions from colleges.

Heart rate elevated and hands trembling, senior Nathalie Naor opens her decision email from New York University at 4 p.m. on a December school day and begins to read: “Dear Nathalie, congrats on your acceptance to NYU!” Seeing the word “acceptance,” Naor screams and tears up as members of the class of 2016 hug and congratulate her. She later taped the email to the wall for everyone to see. This year, the Class of 2016 has decided to post acceptance letters from colleges on a “Wall of Acceptances” to support one another and to and recognize the class’ many accomplishments.

Senior Sadie Lidji created the wall in early November when many of her classmates received word from schools they applied to in the early decision/ early action round. Lidji noticed that some of her friends’ acceptances did not merit the same amount of attention or congratulations that acceptances from more highly-selective colleges did.

“Some of my friends had gotten into schools and had not been publicly congratulated,” Lidji said. “Even though they weren’t showy or fancy schools, any acceptance is still something to celebrate.”

To even the playing-field of college acceptances, Lidji constructed a sign for the wall of acceptances and explained her idea for the wall in her grade-wide Facebook group on the day before Early Decisions and Early Actions were released.

“Since the wall allowed everyone to be acknowledged and receive the same congratulations, people in my grade were in favor of it,” she said.

The response to the wall was an overwhelmingly positive one.

“Teachers noticed and respected how the wall was able to bring a lot of positivity to our grade,” Lidji said.

But not all letters bring good news. Recognizing the inevitability of rejection in the college process, the senior class also created the ritual of “hitting the gong” after not being admitted to a particular college.

The idea was born when seniors Nicole Calonne, Sunila Steephen, Ellie Johnson and Manisha Ratakonda were brainstorming possible activities for seniors who were rejected from an institution in the Class of 2016’s Facebook group.

Senior Nicole Calonne took the initiative by purchasing the gong and placing it in the senior hallway. After a senior hits the gong, other seniors typically encourage the rejected senior or offer her a hug.

Calonne says that hitting a gong eases some of the negative feelings that come with a rejection.

“Hitting the gong makes you feel incredibly empowered and supported,” Calonne said. “I know that regardless of a rejection, I have the support of my grade.”

Lidji agreed. “Both the gong and the wall of acceptances make the [college process] less of a game,” she said. “This way, we can celebrate as a grade when it goes well and commiserate with the gong when it doesn’t.”

Form IV Dean Rebekah Calhoun supports the class’ initiative and applauds the seniors for making the “Wall of Acceptances” and the gong happen.

“What makes this class different is that these girls made [the college acceptance wall and the gong] happen,” Calhoun said. “In the past, other senior classes have talked about the idea but haven’t made it happen.”

Calhoun believes that the way the seniors have supported one another throughout the college process reveals incredible resilience and unity on the part of the class as a whole.

“Applying and hearing back from colleges is intense, but I am so proud of how these girls have supported each other throughout the process,” she said.

Like Calhoun, Director of College Counseling Carol Wasden commends the seniors for supporting one another when decisions are both positive and negative.

“The level of support in this senior class is phenomenal, and by the end of the [college admissions] process, every senior is going to have an acceptance letter on that wall,” Wasden said.

The The rejection gong and college acceptance wall have generated positive feelings among the class’ members, and thus far in the process, seniors have not heard any complaints about either of the two rituals.

“I think that the wall has made everyone feel a lot happier because it allows us to bond and to feel supported throughout the process,” Lidji said.

In fact, seniors came together in defense of the wall when a Facebook commenter argued the acceptance wall fostered an unhealthy sense of competition and caused rejected students to feel academically and personally insufficient.

Seniors responded to the commenter by saying that the wall had given them a safe space to for their victories to be publicly acknowledged.

Wasden agrees and believes that negative emotions such as anger and disappointment are natural parts of being rejected, rather than feelings triggered specifically by the wall.

“Whether there is a wall or not, these feelings are still going to happen,” Wasden said.

“If someone is admitted to college and is excited about it, they run down the hallway and scream or post about it on social media,” she said.

Regardless, the wall and gong have promoted positive feelings, and seniors have already worked together to plan other activities like the “Wall of Acceptances” and rejection gong.

These include the ritual of watching the sun rise and set as a class, which is intended to further strengthen the class’ bond of sisterhood.

“We’re a very sentimental group of girls, and we thought that we could come together and watch the sun rise and the sun set together,” Lidji said. “We really want to experience senior year together as fully as we can, so I know we’re going to do it.”