One of the most important things to remember about the pay-to-play college scandal is this was a practice from an elite group, which is not representative of the average American. And the reason for a visceral reaction is many regular parents—not part of this elite class—have done [seemingly benign] things to help advance the education of their children and have faced serious consequences. The stories have come out including one of an Ohio mom who was arrested and is serving jail time for sending her children to a better school district by using her father’s address.
Every day I encounter parents who are willing to spend their last dime to help their children attend a high-ranking, or prestigious college, while weakening their own financial stability to foot the bill. Personally, I come from a family that made a lot of sacrifices to support my drive for success, but we did not have the ability to buy a helping hand. My upbringing mirrors that of millions of average Americans, and their real life experiences of struggle and perseverance, even when it all felt impossible.
Unfortunately this scandal, along with other aspects of popular culture today, has inflated unrealistic standards of what it means to be successful. Witnessing the children of the elite attend top-ranked schools, gaining acceptance that was not earned through their own hard work, it can make today’s youth feel like they will always lag behind this “perfect” image of success.
This controversy has struck a chord with me, because I do have a passion for my work, which is helping people just like me—the ones who had to figure it out—navigate the world of applying to and paying for college. Yes, the admissions scandal and fraud is a real problem. But for the average American, I would say these are some important points to keep in mind.
Your success isn’t reliant on which college you attend. Your success is largely due to your drive! Yes, some people may have been born into better circumstances, and have a “head start” so to speak. But remember, there are plenty of self-made wealthy people who share your roots and your drive.
Did you know the CEO of Costco Wholesale, James D. Sinegal, earned an associate degree from San Diego Junior College, before he went on to earn a bachelor of arts from San Diego State University?
What about Oprah Winfrey? Her upbringing was far from comfortable, being born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a single mother. She was able to win an oratory contest, which secured her a full scholarship to attend Tennessee State University.
Your own personal drive is a major factor in your own success. It’s one thing to attend college, it’s another thing to participate in networking events, find ways to develop your skills, and be willing to constantly grow. Money is not the only currency you can invest. Invest in yourself and your success by spending your time wisely. Time ticks the same for everyone.
It was a Nike commercial that reminded me a few weeks ago that, “It’s only a crazy dream until you do it.” And that’s what you need to keep in mind.
There has been a shift in culture the last few years. With many managing the burden of college against the expected return on investment, young people are beginning to ask if the cost of college is worth it. And the answer is, it depends. Attending an expensive school with a high cost may actually hinder you from achieving your goals. Know the earning potential for the path you want to take before you incur debt.
Going to college is an opportunity, no matter what college you attend. It’s up to you to use the opportunity to achieve your own personal greatness.
Everyone has their own path, and their own definition of success. Some have dreams of owning their own companies, others have dreams of devoting their lives to helping others, while others want to earn a certain salary to help support their family, or turn a passionate hobby into a career. What does success mean to you? What is needed for you to achieve it?
It’s ok to feel that the playing field is uneven. The unfortunate truth is, it is. But your success is not defined by the name of the college on your degree, or the money in your parent’s bank account. It’s defined by you. Set your goals and work toward them. And when you experience that feeling of satisfaction you get when you achieve your dreams, when your hard work has paid off, you’ll know the true meaning of success.
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