Confront the brutal admissions facts

Jim Collins is a former Stanford Business School professor who spent four years studying the secrets behind the greatest companies and the leaders who helped them get that way. One of the findings that he shared in his book Good to Great was that the path to greatness began with a company’s willingness to confront the brutal facts of their current reality. When a company was disciplined enough to look at a difficult or even dire state for what it really was, the best course of action often became a lot more obvious.

But the companies also maintained an absolute, unwavering faith that they would prevail in the end. Not necessarily that everything would turn out exactly as they’d originally hoped—confronting the brutal facts often changes that outlook. But they never stopped believing that they would ultimately survive and carry on. They were disciplined about confronting facts, but they were also resolute in their hope for the company’s future.

It’s not easy, but if you can do it, this can actually be a wonderful tool for counselors and, more importantly, families.

For example, I’ve met many families who were unwilling or unable to confront the brutal facts of their current college admissions reality. The degree of proverbial brutality varied widely, from a C in trigonometry to a suspension for cheating on an exam. But instead of confronting it for what it was—something that will negatively impact their chances of admission at certain schools the family had chosen—they kept making excuses or searching for a magic solution to make the problem disappear.

“But it wasn’t my fault!”

“Won’t my community service hours make up for it?”

“My co-worker knows someone on the board, so that should probably help my son.”

I understand where they’re coming from. In fact, I started Collegewise specifically because I felt the anxiety in the college admissions process had spun out of control and that families should try to enjoy this time. We want to take fear out of the process, not up the dosage that’s injected.

But there’s a difference between being pessimistic and realistic. The less willing you are to confront your current brutal admissions facts, the less effective you’ll be in identifying the best path forward.

Once you confront the facts, you can then be resolute in your belief that life will go on at whatever college you end up attending.

One grade, test score, or even suspension may change your admissibility to particular colleges. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t go to college at all. It hasn’t robbed you of your intellect or drive or character. It doesn’t take away all the opportunities you’ll have in front of you at literally hundreds of potential schools.

Confront your brutal admissions realities, but keep believing in yourself and working hard, unwavering in your faith that while things may not turn out exactly as you’d imagined (life works that way a lot), you’re almost certainly going to be OK.