Is there really a perfect school? A perfect job? A perfect life? I’m sure we could all spend hours debating whether or not these things exist. I often think we spend too much time considering the outside manifestations of people we see, deem those things desirable and thus, evidence of perfection. A+ grades, new fancy cell phones, Ferraris, big houses, important jobs, and perfect schools are good examples.
The reality is that there is nothing truly perfect. But there are things that are certainly great. We can lead happy successful lives, but undoubtedly there will be problems along the way. We may have a great job but a bad boss. We may love our house, but have lots of bills to pay. There may be attributes of wonderful things in our life, but life is life, work is work, and we do need to find some sense of reality.
Often when speaking with students, they have this image of going to the perfect school, with the exact major they want (now), which will lead to a world changing career. I love their enthusiasm. At the same time, I also know because of age and experience, that while they have ideas of what they hope to do and achieve, the world has other plans.
Goals and targets are great. Working toward those goals and targets are integrated into plans, procedures, and following through to reach them. I do want people to change the world; I want scientists to stop cancer, politicians to eradicate war and poverty, as well as many other ills of society. I hope that my enthusiastic students will achieve those dreams.
I am not sure, however, if most of my students know the amount of work it takes to get there. Now, you may be saying, “this is a rather negative point of view, and dimming the hopes of my future.” What I am trying to point out that it is important to be realistic. Don’t settle for less, but rather build up in logical order your plan bearing in mind that events may change the direction you take.
What I am actually referring to are student essays and school choices. Many times, students outline their grand ambitions in a general way without supporting evidence. How do I know this? Their essays tell me so. The essays jump to grand conclusions of potential outcomes. Below is one possible example.
Because my mother suffers from cancer, I have worked hard through high school to learn science. My passion for science and my love for my mother have inspired me to become a doctor so that I can cure her cancer.
While I love the ambition, it is too vague and a college admission committee will certainly have questions, most of them unanswered in the essay. Instead of making sweeping statements, the student would benefit to focus on why he or she loves science and what work or research they have done which has inspired their desire to become a doctor. Do you love scientific research? Are you willing to spend years cataloging miniscule variations of genetics to solve the problem?
Another area where perfection raises its head is when choosing a school. This comes under the heading “Dream School.” Just because a school has a beautiful campus and a highly regarded reputation, what do you know about that school?
To summarize, I find it interesting that students talk about dream schools while their parents talk about ranking. The only people who seem to talk about the concept of fit are college counselors and university admission representatives. There is a new book out called Excellent Sheep by Willam Deresiewicz in which he talks about striving for excellence but missing out on the important factors of a true and responsible life. While most of the book is about the problems with elite, highly selective schools, he points out that in trying to achieve entry to those schools, students end up feeling inadequate and thus unhappy.
While trying to tackle a rather large topic, it is my hope that students and families will begin to truly assess what is valuable in life. It is not the outside that people should be concerned with, or the brand name products we own, but more about the inner peace we have of doing a job well done. This means building meaningful relationships with family, friends, and colleagues while providing, not only for ourselves, but for others as well. Most importantly, it is being realistic in determining what success means to you.
A Kindle version of Excellent Sheep can be found through Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Excellent-Sheep-Miseducation-American-Meaningful-ebook/dp/B00GEEB960/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408525659&sr=8-1&keywords=excellent+sheep
Hamilton Gregg is the founder of International Educational Consulting and has worked in education since 1985. He helps students and their families understand their personal and educational needs and find the right school to meet their requirements. If you are a student or parent who would like to ask Gregg a question on our blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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