Many students, particularly those with their hearts set on attending a college that turns away most of its applicants, are applying an if/then construct to their education and their future.
If I get in, then…
…all my hard work will have paid off.
…I’ll have a wonderful college experience.
…I’ll be successful in my career.
Three problems with the if/then approach:
1. It injects absurdly high pressure and stakes into the process.
2. It relies on a decision that the student doesn’t ultimately control.
3. It’s inherently flawed.
Data, studies, and anecdotal evidence have shown over and over again that students who attend highly selective colleges don’t necessarily enjoy better college experiences, emerge better educated, or prove to lead happier, more fulfilling, more successful lives than those who attend less famous schools. Giving any particular college that power means handing over almost all of your agency in your own future.
Some if/thens hold up. If you’re engaged in your education, if you’re curious, kind, and passionate, if you’re willing to take advantage of the staggering number of opportunities available to you at the right school (famous or not), then great things will happen to and for you.
But you, not your dream college, are the most important if.