Almost all the standard college admissions metrics focus on individual achievements. Classes, grades, test scores, honors, awards—it’s all about what you did and what you accomplished. Given that students are immersed in a feeding frenzy of peers all trying to best each other, it’s no wonder that we’re also seeing higher rates of stress, depression, anxiety, and even loneliness. Relentless individual achievement can be a lonely pursuit.
There’s nothing wrong with pairing individual goals with the work ethic to achieve them. But the happiest, most successful people rarely get there alone. They lead, they join, they ask for help, they build relationships, they find mentors, etc. People who spend all their time looking out for number one eventually have nobody left to look out for them.
Students, ambition is good. Set goals, take the challenging class, feed your mind, pursue things you enjoy. It’s your life and your college future after all. I think it’s both healthy and mature to take your share of the responsibility for creating it.
But while you’re amassing those accolades, it’s worth thinking about what kind of impact you’re making on the people around you. Your teammates, your classmates, your coworkers, your co-members, your constituents, your school, your community—how is your work improving their situation, too?
I’m not suggesting that you should necessarily spend all your time doing things for everyone around you. But once you go to college, and even more so after you leave it, the world will care a lot more about how you score with people than it will how you score on a test.