You can’t outsource consequences

In 2012, as I was preparing to self-publish version 1.0 of If the U Fits, I hired an outside copyeditor to proofread the manuscript. I wanted to make sure the book I’d spent the last year writing was typo-free. And it was important enough to pay a professional to make sure the job was done right.

Unfortunately, the job was not done right. I discovered only after the book had already been published that the editor had missed dozens of typos. I was angry, I was embarrassed, and I felt stupid for paying far too much money to—and putting far too much trust in—someone who clearly hadn’t earned it.

But as much as the typos may not have been my fault, it didn’t change the fact that my book with my name on it had errors on most pages. Nobody who bought the book would know or care that I’d actually paid for supposed professional editing. Nobody was emailing that editor to point out the errors. No part of her job description included standing publicly beside the work and accepting blame for anything that didn’t go right. I’d outsourced the proofreading work, but the consequences were all mine.

Students applying to college this fall, remember that you can’t outsource responsibility for your application. No matter where you go to school, no matter how much help may be available to you, you—not anyone on your application support team—are the one whose college future is at stake. If you miss a deadline, if you ignore requests for additional information, if a ball gets dropped because you thought it was someone else’s job to pick it up, you’re the one who will bear the consequences. Most colleges will not take “My parent/school counselor/teacher/private counselor was supposed to take care of that…” as a valid excuse.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t trust anyone to help you. You can and likely should seek help from qualified people who have some skin in the game.

But don’t sit back and expect other people to care about this process more than you do. Don’t wait for people to tell you what to do and when to do it. Don’t point at your parents or your counselor and claim this is their job. It’s your college future. These are your applications. This is your responsibility. And the most successful college applicants seek (if not demand) that responsibility; they don’t wait for someone else to offer it to them.

You’ll be less likely to try to outsource the responsibility for getting into college if you remember that you won’t be able to outsource the consequences on the other side.