The role of role-players

Collegewise students will often ask some version of the question, “But what if I’m not the best?

With so much measurement and comparison that’s become part of the college admissions process, it’s natural for students to look at every learning or activity pile and assume not only that whoever resides atop it must be the admissions shoo-in, but also that those further down the list have somehow come up short.

The reality? Not every student can be at the top of the class. Not everyone will be named the MVP, first chair violinist, or perennial debate tournament champion. Not everyone can be student body president or team captain or editor of the yearbook. Yes, colleges appreciate the work ethic and passion necessary to achieve. But honors, awards, and other accolades are just one way to show those traits. Another way is to be the role player that helps those groups succeed.

If you’ve often felt dejected about your admissions chances because your hard work doesn’t translate into the brag-worthy lines on a college application, I hope you’ll listen to “The Team of Humble Stars,” an episode of University of Pennsylvania professor Adam Grant’s podcast. His discussion of the role of, well, role-players will give you some encouraging insights that your contributions can be just as valuable when they’re part of a larger group’s success as they can when driving your individual achievement.

Every group needs role players. And they have the same opportunities to stand out if they play those roles well.