I can’t say how many times, if ever, Chinese New Year and the Winter Olympics coincide but this year they did. Chinese New Year, the time families come together to reconnect to ring in the New Year and the joys of the coming Spring. I love the Olympics – the greatest amateur (usually) athletes come together to compete on the world stage.
There are lessons to be learned from the celebrations of both these major events. Family is important, for it is the root from which we come. As students in the application process or about to embark on that process, students want to bring honor to their families. Their hopes and dreams are tied to where they plan or hope to go to further their studies. Day to day, studying and preparing for the goal – a great education that will make them successful or so they hope. Yes, many ways they are working for themselves, but always in the background, there is family.
Little do they know, these same students, are in a race quite like those at the Olympics. In the application process, students are very much like the athletes coming from around to world to meet in Korea last week. When a student (family) says they want to apply to a top 10 or 25 school, they have just indicated they think they are world caliber. I believe they rarely think they are in that deep – competing on the world stage, but by choosing a school of that level, that is their competition.
Top schools have students applying from around the world – top students from which to select their next class. The completion is that steep. When a student speaks about their “dream” school, the hope is that they have been working their whole lives to make that dream possible – reading books, developing their language skills, deepening their academic and personal interests, to name a few things they should be doing in making that dream possible.
Coming back to Olympic athletes, they have worked tirelessly to reach the pinnacle of their careers. Sometimes they have met with injuries, lost races, and human tragedy, but they have focused, laser-like on reaching the podium. Take Lindsey Vonn – one of the top women skiers in the world. Over her career, she has won, lost and had to come back from major injuries. Her resolve goes beyond what many might think is humanly possible. Yet, Vonn is one of the most decorated women in her field.
As students, seeking a place at a top school, you may not need to go quite to those lengths, but certainly in trying to achieve a goal of that ilk, one must spend many years in preparation. It cannot be the last minute goal when the difference between acceptance and denial can be a perceptible as the loss of a race at 100/second. Preparation takes time, energy, and focus. It is not a dream but a long run to the finish.
One thing to notice is that many athletes come back year after year to reach the podium. Tweaking their skills, working even harder in the interim. But even if they don’t make the finals, they have proven themselves to the world, they are among the best in the world, not only from their country but among other athletes in their field. And that is what I love about the Olympics. There are no losers. These athletes come to compete, and even without medaling they are Olympians – Winners.
The same is true of students in the application process. If the list is good and broad, there are no losers. Everyone will get a deserved place to reach their goals and expectations. Sure, have a few wild card schools but make sure every school on the list has a reason for being there and that some are attainable. Even if you’re a world-class student, make sure there are schools that you can make, because, in the end, you may win or lose by 100/second. And if you lose, remember you tried your best but don’t consider yourself a loser, you have still won. The next race is right around the corner.
As for family, they will be there to support you and cheer you on. Whether you win the Gold or not, this is your race. Give it your all but know the race is just a race and life is a long time. Make the most of what is in front of you, no matter if there is a Gold Medal around your neck or you just finished the race. You’re still a winner!