It’s not necessarily bad to be a control freak during college admissions planning. But it’s important to be the right kind.
There are lots of components of the college process that you can only influence, but never completely control. You don’t control whether or not you get straight A’s. You can and should set goals and work like crazy to achieve them. But ultimately, somebody else is assigning those grades to you. You can only control the effort you put towards earning them.
A few other things you can influence, but not control:
- Your SAT score
- Whether or not your school ranks students numerically
- Where the people in your high school are applying to college
- Whether or not you’re named the starting catcher on the softball team
- The election results for a post you campaigned for
- The number of spots available in an AP class that’s already full
- The admissions decision from your dream college
A lot of the stress I see families experience during the college admissions process comes from attempts to control outcomes like those above. Waging battle with a Spanish teacher to get a B+ raised to an A-, spending two years preparing for and retaking the SAT, making every decision based on how it might influence an admission to Princeton—those are examples of ineffective control freaks.
It’s healthier, saner, and far more effective to be the right kind of control freak, the kind that is obsessive about:
- How much you care about your education and your future
- Your curiosity to learn new things
- Your work ethic
- How you treat other people
- Your willingness to try what you might not be good at
- Your ability to bounce back from failures
- Your initiative to start and complete projects
- Your character—the desire to do what’s right, not necessarily what’s easy
Nobody else gets to control, grade, admit or deny those personal qualities. Those are all yours. So go ahead and be a control freak. Obsess about your learning, work ethic, and character. You’ll be happier, you’ll get into more colleges, and you’ll build assets that will last you a lot longer than any grade or SAT score will.