There are lifelong Raiders fans who will tell you that their team can get to the Super Bowl this year. Even though the Raiders are currently in what one writer called “the deepest rebuilding project in the league,” die-hard fans believe their silver and black are going all that way. It’s not about logic—they believe the story they’re telling themselves.
There are people who tell themselves that attending a prestigious college will lead to a happier and more successful life. To them, it doesn’t matter that almost no evidence exists to support that belief. It doesn’t matter how many successful people there are in nearly every sector who didn’t attend famous colleges. It doesn’t matter that all signs point to the reality that what you do in college matters far more than the name of the college where you do it. Most people who tell themselves that prestigious schools are better schools aren’t going to change their minds.
One of the most important decisions you and your family will make is which college story you choose to tell yourself. One story will lead to a high school career filled with anxiety and the very real chance that no matter how hard you work, you won’t get to join the elite schools featured in your story. Falling in love with a short list of schools that reject thousands of seemingly perfect applicants every year is a story that only ends well for an equally short list of students. The story’s ending isn’t up to you.
Or you can tell yourself a different story, one in which your work ethic, curiosity, and character will matter a lot more than one grade, test score or admission decision from a particular college. That's a story that you get to write. Care enough about your future to challenge yourself and work hard. Actively seek out subjects and ideas that interest you. Discover and develop talents that make you happy. And most importantly, find colleges that fit you, where you can take those traits and keep developing them for four years of virtually unlimited opportunities for growth and learning. You control the ending because the story is almost entirely about you.
Whether you’re planning the start of your high school career or in the middle of your college applications, you get to choose the college story you tell yourself. Don’t let friends, the media or vague notions about “great colleges” make that decision for you. Think about it, research it, and talk to people you trust. Then choose your story yourself.
I think you know which one I’d recommend.