I’ve talked to two local high school PTOs this month about the “Am I Worthy?” mindset, treating admissions like a relationship, and the often-asked question “what do colleges want?” I needed to write out the full text of the speech for one group, so I thought I’d share it here.
Last week I gave a talk at a local P.T.O. meeting, explaining to a room of parents why the phrase "it looks good to colleges" is a red flag, what the "Am I worthy?" mindset is, and why it's a better idea to treat college admissions like a relationship. After the talk, a woman asked if I had any books I could recommend. Of course I do! Here are four, in no particular order.
The first finding is that mindsets are even more important than many of us may think. McKinsey found that student mindsets--their attitudes and beliefs--are the best predictor of academic success....student mindsets are twice as predictive of students’ PISA scores than even their home environment and demographics."
If you only read the major news headlines, you might think that there's too much demand for universities and not enough supply. The news is dominated by stories about the really, really low acceptance rates at places like Harvard and Stanford. But the reality is often the opposite: most colleges are trying to get people in, not keep them out.
Bear with me a moment while I talk about literary theory. I promise it's relevant to you.
In his 1921 essay "Hamlet and His Problems," T.S. Eliot uses the phrase "objective correlative." Eliot isn't the first to use the phrase, and certainly not the first to use the concept, but the term really stuck when Eliot used it and it's usually attributed to him. Eliot calls the play Hamlet an "artistic failure." (I don't advise you call Hamlet a failure, especially if your English teacher is within five miles.)
What does this have to do with you? This has everything to do with your college applications.
One of the main things that gets us into the "Am I Worthy?" mindset about college is that we don't really understand colleges--especially admissions. When we're high school students, living among a bunch of other high school students, it's easy to see how unique and different each high school student is. Lumping them all together is really quite silly.
I normally hate mission statements. Ideally, a mission statement is honest, written well, to the point, helpful, and something that directs the group on a daily basis. As far as I can tell, no mission statement actually meets all those criteria. Personal, as opposed to organization, mission statements are even worse. They're usually so grandiose and vague that there's no way they can actually direct a person's energy and actions toward a better future. To my thinking, a feasible and actionable to-do list for tomorrow is almost always going to be better than a big fuzzy mission statement that covers the next three years.
But the thing is, college admissions season is actually a pretty good time to write a mission statement.
If you're an ambitious high school student who plans to pursue a double (or even triple) major, that's fine. Double majors are on the rise. However, you could help yourself out by not telling people about it. To understand why, let's think about the reasons why you might declare yourself a double major.
You need to take the SAT, ACT, or both for college admissions, but there's another test you should consider taking for yourself. It's called the Myers-Briggs. The first thing a professional would point out is that the Myers-Briggs is an "instrument," not a test. There aren't It's a way of gauging and categorizing personality.