A little less than two weeks ago, high school seniors across the world received their college acceptance letters. In many cases, this was documented in self-recorded videos – later posted to social media – of students opening their admissions results, eliciting either a euphoric celebration, or devastating disappointment.
While it’s natural to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when accepted into one’s dream university, it’s important to also recognize how this practice of publicly posting acceptance/rejection videos creates a toxic culture around the college admissions process. It treats college as a prize to be won, rather than a symbiotic relationship of growth and learning. Moreover, it impresses upon teenagers, on the cusp of adulthood, that external validation – whether in the form of an acceptance letter, or “likes” from their followers – is more important than their sense of fulfillment, learning and growth through the process.
This kind of external validation can provide a temporary boost to our self-esteem, but it is not the key to long-term happiness. True happiness comes from within; it is based on the values that students identify and cultivate, the relationships they form with peers, teacher, and mentors, and their personal growth through the process, often documented in their application essays.
As students embark on their college journeys, it’s important to be mindful of both the outcome (a college acceptance) and the process (students learning more about themselves and developing their identity and skills). By seeking out meaningful relationships, pursuing passions and interests, and taking advantage of opportunities for personal growth and development, students can shift the compass needle away from external validation, towards more intrinsic motivators, thus finding a deeper sense of fulfillment.While college acceptance letters are a cause for celebration, they are not the end-all-and-be-all. It’s important to remember that there are many paths to success and fulfillment in life, and that success is not defined by external validation alone.
Let’s celebrate the achievements of our young people, but let’s also encourage them to find happiness and fulfillment in all aspects of their lives. Congratulations to all students on their college acceptances, and best wishes for a mindful, fulfilling and rewarding college experience!