Great people see potential in a certain light. Schools, specifically undergraduate schools, consider potential quite differently.
Over a year ago, I visited a bunch of colleges that I didn’t choose to attend. As liberal arts schools, they sold themselves in a very specific way, a way that appealed especially to me. They knew what they were doing. They advertised well, they made people feel at home, and they made every prospective student feel the same way: good. Everyone leaving the school after a visit felt as though they could really, truly, have fun and learn at that school. But mostly, have fun.
For me, this feeling came in the form of the ‘undecided’ option. One school— small of campus and creaky of stairway, with free food and a stone library— offered two full years without having to pick a major. Through freshman and sophomore years, the student needed to do nothing but pay their bills and take random classes, until junior year when they would have to pick a major or, for those who really couldn’t decide, make up a major of their own. All this because they were creaky of stairway.
Over the past four years, I have seen piece after piece of advice— essay after essay, talk after talk— encouraging people to pursue their passions and pursue them now. If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be a cartoonist, cartoon. Before you can become anything, you have to do it first. This struck a chord with me as well. (In fact, I’m sure I’ve turned around and given the same advice here on the blog.) If you work hard enough at something, you can succeed at it. This was the message all these successful people would give.
Funny, isn’t it? I’m not trying to say that people running colleges are not successful people, nor invested in the success of their students. But why is the approach so different? One group says you don’t have to decide what you want to do— just play in the sandbox as long as you want, then figure out a general direction. The other group says if you know what you want to do, you have to do it— there isn’t time for the sandbox. (more…)