Oh, No, It's College Acceptance Letter Time!

The most important lesson some college-bound students ever learn could be the one they're about to hear for free from our contributor Ben Stein:


Now is the dreaded time of year when high school seniors find out if they got into "the college of their choice."

In modern times, there are so vastly many more applications for admission to the really prestigious colleges - Ivy Leagues, Stanford, Duke, Chicago - that it is most unlikely that the applicant gets into that "college of her choice."

It is a disappointment, and one that some people never get over. One of the most talented and famous writers in America kept and framed her rejection letter from Stanford for decades after she was a literary icon.

But, I would like to look back on life from my vantage point of having seen so much of it, and tell those of you who did not get into "the college of your choice" - and your parents, who are probably the most affected by that rejection letter - that getting into that certain ultra-prestigious college really means very little in a lifetime.

Maybe nothing at all.

As far as I can tell, the men and women who have achieved the most in life in terms of getting to do what they wanted, live a comfortable life, and get recognition for it, did so pretty much without regard to where they went to college.

Yes, it helps a tiny bit to go to Columbia or Yale. But it helps a lot more to have good work habits, make a minute-by-minute effort to get along with the people you work with, and (most of all) to harmonize your goals with your talents.

The giants I have worked with in my life - Richard Nixon, Norman Lear, Bill Safire, Jimmy Kimmel, Bill Buckley, Goldie Hawn and many others - tried a number of different avenues to success and eventually found the thing that they were very, very good at, and did that with extraordinary focus.

Notice that of those people, only Bill Buckley went to a prestige college. The others did it by using the talents they were born with, not being afraid of taking risks and failing, making sure they were not prima donnas, and staying in the game until they got over the goal line.

No name on any diploma can mean as much as using what you've got in you from day one and using it with extreme focus, flexibility and inner mobility.

You didn't get into the college of your choice? Fine. Neither did most of America.

It won't matter a bit to your autobiography if you don't let it matter to you.
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