Last week my post spoke about the Six Stages of the Reluctant Hero. Hopefully readers were able to view many life tasks as undertakings of the Hero. One could break down life lessons, important or even trivial decisions, as part of the journey. Self-discovery is certainly part of the journey of the Hero – a vital part of the process. In the case of the college applicant, this job is one that many students take hesitantly. But it must be taken. And as with any journey, it is important to map the route one must take. Good planning and foresight are important for hopefully a successful and happy arrival at the intended destination.
The map should include all the tasks that need to be completed and a timeline for completion. This includes testing, researching schools, visiting campuses, writing essays, completing applications and conducting interviews. Key to all of this is self-reflection and evaluation. Obviously one cannot climb Mount Everest if one has not prepared and gone through the rigorous training necessary. Nor would one attempt to climb such a monster unless they were prepared. Each day in the coming months our Hero needs to take action on the tasks required. Each must consider what they need to do to achieve the arrival at the destination. If our Hero has a specific target, they must consider and take action to make sure there is more certainty in arriving at that specific target. It is after all essential to embark on the journey.
Part of this journey of self-reflection involves answering several pertinent questions. 1. What have I done today to reach my goal? What is my story and how is my story going to be told? What am I doing to enhance my story? Every day there are opportunities to take advantage of, which add to or detract from one’s story. Are you ready? Or are you going to put off taking on those opportunities? What is more important, what will you sacrifice? What are you doing to challenge yourself today, or are you just going to hang out with friends and play video games? This is all a part of the Reluctant Hero’s journey. Each step of this assessment is part of the map we need to lay out.
In thinking about self it is important to assess your strengths and weaknesses. A true assessment of self is key to a successful journey. But also important is what will you do now and in the future. What plans have you made for the summer? Are you engaging in something new and interesting? Have you found interesting programs, which will shed new light on things you currently do, provide new opportunities to improve your weakness or expand your knowledge? Or are you going to spend the summer toiling away on test prep?…(a False Prophet may have engaged you on this last task).
Also crucial to the self-assessment is how you will tell your story. Think about this. Half of your story is related to academics: grades earned (transcript), testing (SSAT, SAT, ACT, TOEFL), and letters of recommendation (teachers and counselor). The other half is personal: activities, interests, hobbies (resume, essays, supplement essays, and interviews). At this point there is not much to be done about that academic half except doing well on final exams (if you are applying in the coming year). For the most part letters of recommendation could be written today. Testing is still a variable, but with tests it is important to keep them in context of the whole process. It is really a small component of the overall whole. In reality most of this part of the story and journey is already written.
Students have the most control of the second half – their story. By the way, this is a true story as interpreted by oneself, not a made-up, fictional story created by you or someone else. How one tells this story and how one looks at their “intellectual curiosity” as it applies to self is the key. Activities and interests, academic pursuits and the process of learning/experiencing in and out of school should all come together in the telling of the story. This is the actual Hero’s Journey – one written with the heart of a Hero. In evaluating this overall journey, pulling out the important threads and key moments (crossing thresholds and experiencing trials), writing them into a compelling story, is how the story comes to life for the intended audience – the admissions committee.
Over the coming months the actions you take, as the Hero, will continue to build and develop your character, hopefully adding to your story. As well, these actions will define your journey as you apply to college or boarding school and in some ways the rest of your life. Don’t be a Reluctant Hero but the Hero of your own story – there is a worthy prize at the end!