Good reassurance

Some families want to measure every potential decision based on its perceived college admission value. Would it be better to go to a summer program or to volunteer? Which leadership position would be the most impressive? Should I edit the yearbook or audition for the school play? Making informed decisions that satisfy colleges’ stated requirements is good planning. But making every decision against an imagined rubric where colleges label some choices as inherently more valuable (to them) than others is not only letting someone else make all your decisions for you, but also guessing—often incorrectly—what the decider thinks is important.

What many of these families are seeking is reassurance. They want reassurance that this is the right choice, that they will not regret it. They want some sort of proof that everything will be OK. It’s completely natural to want this. But the problem with reassurance is that it’s not a renewable resource. As soon as you receive it, it’s gone. It doesn’t last. If you’ve ever checked your pockets a dozen times for your passport or your phone or your wallet—just to make sure it’s still there—you’ve experienced this. If you’re a family who seeks lots of admissions information and advice but never feels better after receiving it, you’ve experienced this. And if you’re a counselor who feels like you repeatedly answer different versions of the same questions from the same family, you’ve experienced this.

If you’re used to seeking reassurance, it’s a hard habit to break. But if you recognize it as a habit, and you want to break it, one way to start is to accept that no amount of reassurance will ever be enough. Seeking it just perpetuates both your need and the cycle of seeking.

And the more difficult but ultimately liberating realization is that you can find your own reassurance. You know if you’d rather go to a summer program or volunteer. You know whether you’d like to edit the yearbook or audition for the school play. You know which leadership position actually appeals to you based on the change you’d like to make within that organization.

You still can’t be sure everything will be OK (we really never know that). But you know what’s important to you, you know what the factors are, and most importantly, you know the person making the decision. That’s good reassurance.