“What do I have to do to get into [insert name of any highly selective college]?”
That’s the underlying question most of you want us to answer.
And you prefer an answer that goes something like this: take every AP (or similar) course you can, get perfect grades and test scores, and then do this or that specific activity.
Why? Because up to now, your path to success has been mapped out for you by the well-meaning adults in your life. You are used to being told what you need to do in order to achieve your goals. Your job has just been to do what you are told.
But you are growing up, and it’s time for you to start mapping your own path to success.
If you want to get into the college of your dreams, you must use your passion, talent, and initiative to create an impact on the world around you.
What does that mean for you?
We can’t tell you, because each of you has to map your own path, remember?
Your path has to start where you are with the resources you have – ideas, people, place, things that are yours. Some of you will have more resources, some of you will have fewer, but all of you have some.
Now what can you do with those resources to meet a need in the world? It’s probably more than you think. Take your ambition to attend a highly selective college and channel it into doing something that matters in your own community right now. It can be close to home or farther away, but it should be something you can do right now.
Here’s an example of one student to inspire you. His name is Arjun Verma and he’s a sophomore at Lake Highland Prep in Orlando, Florida. His parents are doctors, and he has an older sister who is a junior at Yale.
Like every high schooler in the world, he is at home because of the pandemic, and he hears his parents worrying about their older, high-risk patients who can’t access their doctors or families because they don’t have the necessary electronic devices.
Arjun doesn’t tune his parents out or think, “Whoa, big problem, hope some adults get it solved.”
Instead, Arjun has an idea: what if we collected unused electronic devices from our family and others and gave them to those in need?
Great idea, right? And one that he could act upon right then, starting by gathering up devices they had at home.
Arjun could have stopped there, and it would have been a nice thing he did. But Arjun is ambitious and has initiative. So he takes a next step. He recruits his sister and a friend of hers, and together they form a team. They decide on a mission and come up with a solid plan for achieving it.
Then they go to work and they work hard. As of May 19, less than eight weeks after Arjun had his great idea, they have donated 500 devices to seniors in need, partnered with 48 clinics, raised $10,000 through a Go Fund Me campaign, created a network of 80 volunteers, and reached 23 states. Behind the scenes, they have found a sponsoring non-profit organization while they go through the process of obtaining their own tax-exempt status. Along the way, they have tapped into the resources their respective schools provide and called upon their wide-reaching social networks. Arjun’s great idea is now a fully functioning organization, Telehealth Access for Seniors.
No one told Arjun to do this. It certainly wasn’t part of some master plan to get into college that he had carefully mapped out, because eight weeks ago we all lived in a different world with different needs. Arjun just did what kids who get into the college of their dreams do: he used his passion, talent, and initiative to make an impact. Sure, he took advantage of all the resources he had, including helpful adults, but he didn’t rely on the adults to tell him what to do.
He made his own path to success.
You can do the same.
(Read more about Arjun’s project here.)
Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.