We spend a lot of time in the Command office helping students prep applications to America’s top colleges and universities. But once the “submit” button has been pressed, we also spend quite a bit of time coaching students through the inevitable highs and lows of admissions season.

Although we’re in the business of helping students get into elite schools, we’re also of the opinion that where you receive your education matters not nearly as much as what you do with it. This can be a tough pill to swallow, especially since you obviously care a lot about where you go to school. We aren’t suggesting that shouldn’t be the case. What we are saying, however, is that there’s a lot more to the story, and maintaining sight of that can help you conquer this time in your life with minimal freakouts and a healthy dose of perspective.

Every single year, some of the most promising 17 and 18-year-old kids in the world enter the gates leading to the most esteemed ivory towers in existence. A lot of them think that simply doing so—merely getting in and showing up—is the key to a lifetime of personal and professional success. It makes sense that they think this way. Our culture emphasizes the admissions part of the equation to such a high degree that what comes after gets invariably obscured.

So these kids get into top schools. They show up to orientation in August. They take some classes. Rinse, repeat. But—and here’s the kicker—without a clear understanding of what they want out of higher education and why they’re even there, the majority of these students will not change the world. They won’t own businesses or lead countries. They probably won’t even reach their own personal benchmarks of success and self-actualization—most likely because they never even had the guidance or the audacity to go out and establish them.

This isn’t meant to scare you. Instead, it’s meant to inspire you and to help you understand that getting into Yale will not—should not—be the most important or best thing to ever happen to you. And so if it doesn’t, rest assured that everything you want out of life and every goal you hope to achieve is still well within reach.

So instead of sitting by the computer (or staring at your iPhone) waiting for an admissions decision notification to pop up, we recommend using this time to set some personal intentions instead. Have you given much thought to why you’re going to college at all? If the answer is “to get a prestigious, high-paying job,” that’s totally valid, but we implore you to dig a little deeper. With a clearer, more mission-driven approach to your own higher education, you’ll stand a much greater chance of realizing your potential—both inside the classroom and outside of it. And whether you attend Harvard or your local community college, this is a crucial step that absolutely cannot be missed.

Early Decision results will be here before you know it. But this week and afterward, try against all odds to focus not on where you’ll gain admission but on why you’d like to continue your education and what you want out of college after all. You’ll feel less insane, for one, but you’ll also ultimately be more prepared for whatever campus community is lucky enough to have you.

 

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