In my long career in education, I have worked as a college admission officer, high school director of college counseling, college admission consultant in private practice, university administrator, teacher, and fundraiser. I have also been a student for many years, culminating in a doctorate in education leadership. 

Throughout all these educational experiences, I learned that people think about the value and purpose of education in vastly different ways. I try not to judge these differences of opinion because one of the traits of a good educator is staying open-minded, especially when working with diverse students. But I admit, over the years, I cannot help but come to a judgment that most people get it totally wrong when it comes to the role of going to college in today’s world.

The Real Value of College

Despite what some believe, the ultimate value of going to college does not come from earning a degree from a prestigious institution, getting trained for a specific career, or having fun and making a lot of friends. Believe it or not, I don’t think the ultimate value of going to college is about scholarship either, even though research and classroom learning are the cornerstones of institutions of higher education.

I believe that going to college is the most profound rite of passage in our society today.

A rite of passage marks the transition from one stage of life to another. While all transitions are important, I believe the transition from adolescence to adulthood is the most crucial because adulthood is the longest, most profitable, most exciting, and most challenging stage of life. 

Marking the Beginning of an Incredible Life Stage

For many, going to college marks the beginning of the stage when they will make their most significant impact in the world, whether in a public way—through work, an invention or scientific discovery, creating new knowledge, a book or piece of art, solving a problem that makes the world a better place, etc.—or, equally as meaningful, in their private lives. The impact that people have on the world as adults can live beyond their lifetime.

To me, it is glaringly evident that how a person starts the journey into adulthood matters.

For most, the adult phase of life will last a long time, and despite anyone’s best efforts, where that journey will end is out of our control. But we do have control over how we start this journey. We not only choose where to apply to college but how we approach the college application.

Starting the Journey with Eyes Wide Open

I have observed that most people think about the college application process as a short-term problem to solve. They want to get through the tedious steps of filling out an application as quickly as possible. The application is viewed as merely a means to an end, without any value in and of itself. 

As a result, students too often move blindly through the application process. They let others make the hard decisions about what is important to them, where to apply, and what activities they engage in. And they make excuses for why they procrastinate. 

I believe it’s essential that students be intentional, thoughtful, and hardworking to make sure they make the best decisions in their application journey. If they can manage to do this, the experience and wisdom they gain from conscientiously going through the application process can impact their future experiences, both academic and personal. 

Ultimately, the application process can provide an opportunity to clarify goals and passions and deepen awareness of strengths and weaknesses. It deserves to be taken seriously.

The First Test on the Road to Success

I urge all young people I work with to recognize the college application as its own, once-in-a-lifetime rite of passage. Like ancient rites of passage that involved physical, intellectual, and even spiritual challenges or tests, the process of applying to college is the first “test” on the road to adulthood.

If you would like to talk more about how to successfully start your journey to adulthood by taking the first step of applying to college, please contact me. I’d be pleased to use the extensive knowledge I’ve gained over my many years as an Independent Educational Consultant to help you make it happen.