Your opportunity is waiting

Any student who applies to a highly selective college is exhibiting laudable bravery. The only way for a college to become that selective is to deny just about everyone who applies, including students with off-the-charts scores and accomplishments. You’ll see unforgiving math at work when the highest achievers from all over the world apply to the same 40 or so colleges, none of which have nearly enough spots to go around. It takes a certain fortitude to put yourself out there when the odds of “no” are so much higher than they are for “yes.” But tens of thousands of students summon that resolve every year.

That bravery can also be channeled into a thousand other things that are guaranteed to pay off.

Raising your hand in class. Calling a director of a non-profit to inquire about volunteering. Launching a club or a fundraiser or initiative. Trying something new that might not work. Abandoning something old that stopped working long ago. Accepting responsibility, deflecting credit, asking the tough question—all of these things come with perceived risk. What if the director turns you away? What if your big idea doesn’t work? What if you feel foolish? These are all potential outcomes that come with doing important work.

But that’s why this kind of bravery is guaranteed to pay off—you’ll learn from it.

You’ll be smarter, more informed, and more resilient. You’ll train yourself to be the kind of person who doesn’t sit back and wait to be told what to do, who instead leans in and pushes forward and leads other people to a place you all want to go. These are learned skills. Every time you put yourself in a position to practice them, you get better no matter the outcome.

It’s these skills that lead to almost any definition of success (including gaining admission to a highly selective college). But they are available to anyone. A “C” student has the same opportunity to wield it as an “A” student does.

Your opportunity to be brave is always there waiting.