Put your name on it

Homework assignments, exams, and yes, college applications—you can’t submit them without attaching your name. You’re claiming ownership and saying, “I did this.” And there will be a record of your work that you’ll have to stand beside no matter the outcome.

What if you had to do that with everything?

Your boss asks you to organize the stockroom at your part-time job. What if you had to put your name on the finished product?

You approach your teacher after class to ask for extra help, guidance on a project, or a letter of recommendation–what if you had to put your name on the request?

The server at the coffee shop gets your order wrong. What if you had to put your name on the way you respond?

College admissions pressure can chip away at perspective. Some families give way too much attention and gravity to elements that are on your permanent record and not enough to those that aren’t. If you care a lot more about getting your desired number of community service hours signed off than you do about actually contributing and doing a good job, that’s the loss of perspective I’m talking about. The same can be said about the kid who’s off the charts with qualifications but who’s also an arrogant jerk to his counselor, his teachers, and his fellow students. He’s putting plenty of energy into places where he’ll need to sign his name, but forgetting that his name remains attached to his behaviors outside of those records, too.

The message here is not that kids must be perfect human beings all the time. Nobody pulls that off, and colleges really don’t expect it.
But it’s worth considering—not just for kids, but for adults, too—how we might change our behavior if we had to sign our names to it.

The most well-liked, respected, successful kids I’ve had the pleasure of knowing don’t reserve their best selves for official documents. They understand that their reputation is more than a resume and that day-to-day actions add up over time. They act like everything they do will have their name on it.

Whatever you’re doing today, would you do it any differently if you had to put your name on it?