Taking Ownership of Your College Admissions Process

I often get a lot of emails right now from panicking high school students about not passing their senior year classes. Per usual, I advise them to go out of their way to make up for the classes they didn’t pass and they often scoff at the idea. They argue with me about why it’s not a big deal, why they shouldn’t be required to do that, and how they have fulfilled the a-g requirement and therefore the class they did not pass should not matter. I’m exasperated whenever students come up with these excuses. I try to explain that the UCs are looking for students who will go out of their way for their education and to achieve their learning goals. But, I have come to realize that, if these students had the mentality of always going out of their way to do their best, they wouldn’t have gotten themselves into this mess (extenuating circumstance notwithstanding).

Regardless of where you are in the college admissions process, I want to give you this piece of advice: Good things come to people who work hard. If you have the mindset of always achieving the best, you will always get the best of whatever life has to offer or pretty close to it (or, at the minimum, you will have the satisfaction that you did your best). If you’re always looking to expend minimal effort, don’t expect disproportionate return on your investment.

At the end of the day, I cannot tell the future. Maybe some of these students will get lucky or maybe not. What I’m trying to make clear to you is that you have to take responsibility for your actions and decisions. I think one of the reasons students argue with me is because they want me to approve their actions, that somehow my approval will make everything ok. What I try to remind them of is that everyone has to live with the consequences of his or her actions. My approval is worth exactly nothing (I don’t make the admission decisions nor do I cancel admission offers, the UCs do, and what the UCs giveth, the UCs can taketh away!).

Amidst your college admissions process (which essentially starts when you choose the classes you take in 7th grade and doesn’t end until you actually graduate high school), the choices you make (academic or otherwise) will likely have long-term impact on your future. Best effort today translates to best possible results tomorrow and mediocre effort today translates to mediocre results tomorrow.

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