Complaining won’t change the story

It’s hard to like a student who’s a complainer.  When things didn't go their way in high school, the most successful college applicants didn't complain.  Instead, they took those moments as opportunities to change the story. 

If you didn’t get into AP US History, don’t complain about it or send your parents in to fight with your counselor. Instead, change the story and learn college-level US history anyway.   Get a copy of the textbook and read it on your own.  Take US history at a local college or community college.  Or take a history class online for free at MIT. Then sign-up to take the AP test and see how you do.  Even if you don’t pass it, at least you’ve changed the story to something more positive.   

If you don’t get to be the starting catcher on the baseball team, don’t complain about “team politics.”  Work even harder.  Be an example to your teammates.  Bring a great attitude to practice every day.  At worst, you’ll spend the season as a capable backup who earned your coach’s respect and pushed the starter to keep her spot.  And at best, maybe you’ll get the starting nod someday.  Either way, you’ve changed the story.   

If you got an 89% in biology, don’t complain that your teacher wouldn’t give you the A.  You have two options.  1) You can either be happy with your effort and accept the B (there’s no shame in that).  2) You can figure out what you’ll do differently to get an A next semester.  Meet with your teacher to get his recommendations. Work even harder and show your teacher how badly you want to master biology.  Now instead of complaining, you’ve changed the story.

I’m not suggesting you should just keep quiet and wear it if someone is really treating you unfairly.  But most high school disappointments won’t be improved by complaining.  Part of being successful means learning how to navigate those situations and come out of them smarter, stronger and more mature.  That’s why so many colleges ask essay questions about failures, mistakes, and what you’ve learned from them.

You can’t always change an outcome.  But you can always change the story.