Decision Day marks the end point of the college application process, when high school seniors let colleges know where they are heading. It’s not uncomplicated, though.
This moment is the outcome and fruit of so much striving, and an event on which we’ve pinned a heck of a lot of hope. “Miss, I just want to hide in a corner,” one student told me. And he was happy, proud, about where he was admitted.
A flurry of articles are published around now about how to help seniors get anything out of the remainder of the school year. One NYT’s article focused on where we lose sight of the learning process along the way and how to help seniors reinvest in themselves.
Or maybe reinvent themselves, and how they think about themselves.
Yes, We Could ALL Value Process More
In theory, I totally agree. One of the major issues we face in education is that the learning process is not necessarily valued for itself, but only for where it might lead. That’s capitalism right there, friends.
But beyond that, from pre-K applications all the way to college applications, we’re always telling our students to keep their eyes on the horizon- what’s NEXT? Where -or what–will this get you?
But how about: where am I right now? What’s of value right now?
What if there is more than the future that we’re totally missing out on?
Take, for example, my students. My middle school students at The TEAK Fellowship are some of the brightest in their public school classes. They have joined a fellowship that invests in them as future leaders, armed with the “best education money can buy.” (And their financial aid packages subsidize the cost).
But there is a(nother) cost: these students have, for themselves and their families, been trained to think far into the future. Everything they do is for something that comes later, hopefully. But what if you get hit by a bus? The value of “later” evaporates.
Do we understand what “rewarding” really feels like?
So why is it so hard to value NOW? Learning for its own sake is profoundly rewarding. It’s also a process of self-knowing rather than pure projection. I’m not against having goals. I’m just against living every aspect of our lives in subservience to them.
Also, we send this ‘process, not JUST product’ message too late. It’s not cool to tell young people, “College, college, college is your Ultimate!” and then, once they are admitted (or not), to say, “Whoa, but never mind! Focus on yourself, on life!”
Nope, that just makes us look like hypocrites. We only encourage them to do this when the carrot of higher ed is in the rearview, and we have little else to dangle.
If we don’t say “Focus on process, not just outcome” from the beginning, we look like hypocrites.
Can we create learning environments that reward investment in process? In stretching yourself for your own sake, because you’re alive, and because that matters RIGHT NOW?
NYTimes preaches right process message…sort of!
This bit from the NYTime’s article cited below sums up the problem and paradox: HS learning has to be about more process than outcome, even though outcome matters too. I am certain we grown people can make this clearer to students (but only if we actually think so!).
“It is common for many students, when denied admission to their dream college, to lament that “it’s not fair” or that they’ve “wasted all of this effort,” as though their work as students in high school and their aspirations for college were merely transactional rather than part of their development as learners and, more so, as people. In the aftermath of a rejection, more students than I can count have told me they should have gone to an easier high school or taken easier (or harder) classes, taken more or fewer AP classes, or should have dropped sports, music or debate “to get better grades.”
Typically in this situation, students and their parents cast about for some path or reason that would have delivered the result they wished for. They rarely reflect on the possibility that the sport, class or activity they engaged in may pay off down the road in other ways, through a talent developed or interest kindled. Many of these kids feel that the whole point of working hard in high school is so they can get in to an even harder college, then move on to a future that they know little more about than that it will be hard-charging. It is easy to understand how painfully the rejection hits, since the process has all been framed around the outcome.”
Our Turn, for its own sake!
How are you helping your students, your kids, yourself, your peers– stay in the present? Who is helping you do the same?
Can we handle inevitable rejections because we can say, “But what I did really mattered to me?”
Students, if no one was telling you, success in the future looks like this, what would you really want to learn?
Tell us about it, or even better, write something that shows what you love. We give fast feedback that respects your process and helps you build the college essays of your life.
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