My husband, son and I sat in the guidance counselor’s office one sunny afternoon this past fall to discuss college planning.
“So what colleges are you thinking of applying to?” She asked Josh.
He rattled off five, including an Ivy League school and four top-tier universities.
Her smile faltered and she looked down at the clipboard on her lap for a moment. When she looked back up at him, there was a look of concern in her eyes.
“Those are all very…ambitious goals,” She said carefully, looking him right in the eye. “You must know that these Y and Z universities are probably going to be reach schools for you.” To drive that point home, she pointedly informed us of the low percentage of people actually accepted to each.
Josh maintained eye contact with her, smiling and unfazed.
“Have you considered applying to the state schools? They would be great safety schools for you.”
“I will not be applying to those schools,” Josh said pleasantly but firmly. Our son knows what he wants and he is fearless about going after his dreams.
He and his dad had thoroughly researched the schools to which he planned to apply and those five universities represented the only places he wanted to go. He wasn’t willing to settle for anything less. (Note: we have nothing against state schools. Both Doug and I went to state colleges and had perfectly delightful experiences).
Josh’s guidance counselor is a lovely, well-meaning woman who really cares about the kids. But I was a little sad that she was so discouraging to Josh because he was reaching for the stars.
Doug and I are not the kind of parents who tell our kids that they can do anything they set their minds to. That sounds nice but it is simply not true. For example, neither of our kids are going to be mathematicians or physicists, no matter who hard they try. We would never set them up for failure. We—and Josh—believed that he had the grades, the extracurriculars, and the ambition to get accepted to those schools. If that had not been the case, we would have told him the truth.
As we left that day, I couldn’t help but wonder if a student less confident than my son might have been discouraged from setting such high goals after receiving such a less-than-enthusiastic reception from the guidance counselor.
As the months went by, I received similar responses when asked what colleges my son was applying to. Widened eyes, raised eyebrows, a look of surprise. I also received several inquires as to why he was not applying to the state schools. Apparently, “everybody” does that, just in case.
“Does he really have a shot at Y and Z?” One person came right out and asked.
“Of course he does,” I replied..because I believed it to be so.
It can be dangerous to have a big dream and share that dream with others.
People can be so quick to throw water on the tiniest of flames. They can also make you feel like you are being just a little too big for your britches, having these giant dreams. The naysayers will take every opportunity to point out that after all, you really are quite ordinary and it would be best to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground.
This past week, my son received two acceptances to his chosen top-tier schools. He was placed on the wait list for the one school he never visited. He will hear from the Ivy League university tomorrow afternoon and the other one any day now.
Regardless of what the other decisions are, we are so proud of Josh. He went for it. At the end of his life, he will not have to wonder, “What if?”
Be careful who you share your hopes and dreams with.
You have the freedom to dream the biggest dreams you can. What is your passion? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
Dreams possess tremendous power. They energize us, give us a reason to get up in the morning, and encourage us to be our best selves.
Don’t let the naysayers rob you of that precious gift. Nobody has the right to try to kill that part of you that comes fully alive.
The world needs you. The world needs your dream.
Go for it.
“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”—Anonymous
*Update: Our son was not accepted to the Ivy League school. That was a rough couple of days while he processed the disappointment. We were disappointed for him. However, he worked through it with the help of his friends and is delighted to be attending the school where his father received his master’s degree. We are proud of him because he went for it! He will now never have to wonder, “What if I had tried?”
We will all be disappointed in this life. I choose to deal with it as Kay Arthur has suggested: “See disappointment as His Appointment.”
There is always a reason.