Any selection process doesn’t just evaluate who you are today—it’s actually trying to predict who you’ll be tomorrow. Will this student make an impact at our college? Can this programmer do great work at our company? Is this person someone I want a long-term relationship with? Each of those decisions is based largely on potential. And potential is often found in the intangibles.
Just because you get straight A’s in high school doesn’t guarantee a college that you’ll do the same once you join their campus. The student council president might never win another election. The starting third-baseman might never play again after high school. Teenage musicians, philanthropists, photographers—who you are in high school is not a promise of who you’ll be tomorrow. And it shouldn’t be—you’re only seventeen.
But the student who loves to learn isn’t likely to turn that off after high school. The student who’s passionate about something in high school is more likely to bring that trait with them even if they redirect it to something different. And a nice kid who gets along well with peers and teachers probably won’t morph into a jerk after he moves into a dorm. Few applicants offered admission are perfect, but those who demonstrate these traits have a lot of potential to be perfect at the right college.
I notice this during our hiring process at Collegewise, too. There’s rarely such a thing as a perfect applicant, someone who presents the impeccable combination of pedigree, experience, and personality to appear as if they were made just for us. It’s a lot more common to find someone who’s proven that they have potential. They’ve got passion, drive, and curiosity. They’ve demonstrated those traits over and over again, even at jobs that they didn’t necessarily love. We don’t know for sure if they’ll be perfect here. But those intangibles are strong signals that they’re potentially perfect. And that’s a good reason to give someone a shot.
Colleges don’t expect perfection. They’re more interested in potential, a sign that you’re bound for great things. Yes, colleges want you to demonstrate that trait with your classes, grades, activities, etc. And a track record of hard work and success is your strongest starting point. But remember that intangibles, the things that can’t always be measured on a transcript or a resume, can be great signs of what you could be capable of at the right school. Potentially perfect tomorrow is more important than perfect today.