We've been all going a little crazy lately, as some of us see this as the end all be all for the next major part of our life.
"If I don't get into such and such University, I'll never get an opportunity for a tenure track position at such and such University, and I'll never get that Nobel Prize, and I'll never..."
It's not. Remember how crazy we all were when were applying for our undergraduate schools? At the time (for almost everyone!) it was the end all be all. If I didn't get into a top-ranked school, I'd never have an opportunity to do well enough to go to physics graduate school and get my PhD. And really, for 99% of us, has that really been the case?
I go to a large state public institution. Large is good in a sense that there are many students, many faculty members, for which you can converse with... but at the same time, it's easy to get lost as just one of the numbers. I think I did the best with the situation I had, started research early by aggressively targeting professors with email, and landing my current gig through sheer luck and stubborn persistence. I imagine if I had went to a private institution I would not be as tenacious at pursuing academic opportunities as I am now (no offense to any Private schoolers here, but Im just the lazy type if there are opportunities abound!).
As I'm sure most of you have, you have dealt with a not-so-ideal situation. Some of us had to deal with grade inflation (or lack thereof). Some of us had to deal with getting exposed to the college scene for the first time. Some of us had to deal with the lack of research opportunities. Some of us had to deal with that god awful test known as the Physics GRE. But you can you honestly say that you aren't a better person for it?
I enjoyed my past four years, and I know wherever I land for the next 5~6 years I'll cherish them too, but I'll make the best of whatever is given to me. I'm pretty sure the base reason most of us went into physics (and astro) is because we enjoyed doing what we do ... isn't just the opportunity to be able to study and contribute (and to be paid to boot) one of the most amazing things? I have dozens of friends who will make much more money than I ever will but are miserable with their jobs and take to escapism to make life bearable. All we have to do is go to work/school.
I've pored through the applicant profiles (as I'm sure most of you have!). Most of you had the good sense to apply to a "safety" school, but that's neither here nor there. I am sure the vast majority of you WILL find a Physics graduate school that is right for you, and to hell with admissions committees. If you're not deemed worthy, you can only get ahead by making sure they regretted that they aren't able to put you in their list of honored alumni.
We should all calm down.