Dr. Victor Schwartz is the medical director of The Jed Foundation, an organization working to promote emotional health and to prevent suicide among college students. Regular readers here won’t be surprised by my favorite snippet from his recent article, College Applicants: What Matters Is Not What You Think!:
“Stop worrying about getting into that special elite school. Take a deep breath. It will not make as much difference as you think. There are plenty of schools at which you will receive an excellent and well-rounded education. And if you work hard and learn a lot, this will help you on the way to a successful career and life. But, as you start to consider where you will go to school, think about how well you will ‘fit’ with the school. This will make more difference than you imagine in keeping you on track for later success in school and in life!”
It might be easy for a high school student to misinterpret my regular message—and Dr. Schwartz’s words—as, “There’s no need to work hard. Just go to whichever college will accept you.” But that’s certainly not the intent.
I think every student should dream big. You should work hard and go after your goals. You should learn how to dust yourself off and bounce back after you fail. It’s your future, and you shouldn’t expect anybody to care more about it than you do.
But if you’re willing to develop traits like character, work ethic, and curiosity, you don’t need Brown or UCLA or any other prestigious college to deem you worthy of an admission to their school to go make your future.
That brand-name obsession, that belief that good kids who work hard will somehow be at a disadvantage if they don’t attend a school on the top 20 of some arbitrary rankings list, that’s what I reject. I hope that my readers here will, too.