3rd of 10 Most Important Factors for Success in College Admission And Beyond (Series)
Number THREE: Focus on strengthening the student’s honesty, integrity, thirst for knowledge, and commitment to improvement; these are the foundation for long-term success.
It might sound pretty high-reaching, but you know it’s the truth. Successful people don’t just go through the motions for temporary glory; they focus on building a strong foundation. It is the most intelligent approach, and it is the right thing to do.
A real-life example is reflected in the story of a highly intelligent and very capable student I met a while ago. When I offered him admission to enroll with our college planning program, he and his parents jumped for joy and enrolled. Soon I realized, however, that his work ethic leaves much to be desired, and that his arrogance and pretentiousness would likely get the best of him; I’ll just call him “Mr. Pretender” to protect his identity. Realizing my error in enrolling him, I nonetheless couldn’t go back on my agreement; I had already committed myself and my organization to give our best effort for Mr. Pretender, plus 10% more (as we teach our students).
So I convinced myself there must be a way to teach Mr. Pretender the power of a strong work-ethic, high integrity, and the strength and courage to change; after all I had successfully taught other students before. But no matter how many different ways I tried to convince him that any gain from a short-cut is only short-term and not the way to get ahead. Nevertheless, he continued his last-minute wheeling and dealing for projects and tests; he simply would not budge. Often he simply dismissed the whole conversation, declaring that his approach was working for him and he saw no reason to change.
The summer before his senior year, he came in to work on his college application essays (as we require from all of our students). Only he struggled to write even one meaningful paragraph. Bear in mind, he was attending one of the most rigorous high schools in the area with a decent GPA, and he had almost perfect SAT scores. After 2 to 3 weeks of excruciating work with him, he completed his essays and applications and applied Early Decision to one of the top 20 colleges. He got in. Honestly, I was disappointed with the system, knowing that he did not have what it takes to succeed there, nor did he deserve to attend such a high-caliber college. But sometimes we have to accept things as they happen.
Six months later, I got a distraught call from Mr. Pretender’s mother saying they needed to speak with me. Concerned, I asked what about, and she told me that her son (Mr. Pretender) had been caught cheating on a test at school and suspended from school. When the school reported the incident to his college as required, the college withdrew its offer of admission. And by mid-May, the application deadlines for most colleges had already passed; now he needed to figure out his options.
The greatest thing we can do to succeed – whether adults or students – is to focus on the foundation of success: uncompromising honesty, a high degree of integrity, care and consideration for community, the development of an unending appetite for knowledge, and a devotion to improving ourselves and our community. Gains based on anything less is short-lived at best.