Change your college planning mantra

Too many students (and by extension, their parents) plan for college with the mantra,

“If I get into my dream school, everything I’m doing will be worth it.” 

That’s a terrible mantra.  You’re putting all the power in the hands of the colleges and totally ignoring all the long-term benefits of pretty much everything you’re doing. 

Here’s the mantra I’d repeat over and over again:

“If I work like I want to go to my dream school, it will be worth it no matter who admits me.”

That mantra lets you care a lot about what you’re doing without letting prestigious colleges alone decide whether your time, work, energy, passion and personality are impressive enough to be admitted.  It lets you be pleased with your effort when you study like crazy for a trig midterm even if you get a “B-.”  It lets parents praise and appreciate their kid for being a good kid who works hard and is nice to other people, whether or not he has high SAT scores. 

And most importantly, it keeps you focused on developing your work ethic, curiosity, interest in learning, and character, all of which will play much bigger roles in your future success than whether or not the college you attend is a famous one.