I've written often on this blog that the most successful students work hard because they love to learn, because they're passionate about what they do, not because they want to be admitted to a prestigious college. They don't make college the reward. College is the fortunate byproduct of their drive to know more and to make an impact.
Richard Feynman was a professor of physics at Caltech who won the Nobel Prize. He worked on the atomic bomb and was a member of the team that investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. And he also wrote a fantastic book about how the best scientists are driven not by the chance at fame or notoriety, but by the joy of learning something nobody else has known before.
Here's a short video of Feynman explaining that he doesn't care about awards, not even the Nobel Prize. As he puts it, "I've already got the prize–the pleasure of finding the thing out."
What do you think he would have said to a kid who was taking calculus because "That's what Harvard wants"?