From Seth Godin's blog today:
"If you're waiting for a boss or an editor or a college to tell you that you do good work, you're handing over too much power to someone who doesn't care nearly as much as you do."
Here's how I think high school students should apply this thinking to college admissions.
Seth isn't suggesting that you shouldn't try to achieve your goals, or that there's no need to work hard to gain admission to college.
But if you work hard in your classes, you shouldn't need an admission from Yale to feel proud of your effort.
If you spent every Saturday of your junior year volunteering at a local homeless shelter, you've done great work whether or not Duke says, "Yes."
If you played three years of varsity basketball, or had a successful stint in Model United Nations, or acted in plays, sang in musicals, trained guide dogs for the blind or flipped burgers for extra money, you don't need your dream college to admit you to know that you're a good, talented, hard working kid.
The pressure of college admissions has pushed too many kids to leave their self worth in the hands of a very short list of selective colleges. They believe admission from one of these colleges will validate all of their efforts. If you believe that, you're giving too much power to the colleges.
Study. Work hard. Be curious and engaged. Be nice to other people. Make an impact in activities you enjoy. Show your enthusiasm for things you're doing. I promise you that you will get into college. Keep being that same engaged learner and doer while you're there and you'll be happy and successful, no matter which college is lucky enough to get you for four years.
And parents, if you've raised a good kid who tries his best, who plays on the soccer team, who kids and teachers like, who's nice to his sister and always helps clear the table, you shouldn't need him to receive an admission from a highly selective college to be proud of him (or proud of the job you've done as a parent).