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A Text Message to a Student Who ‘Failed’ 

By Robert A.G. LeVine

By Robert LeVine

In college admissions, not every student achieves what they deserve. Far from it. There are always disappointments, but we must always remember that admissions decisions are not judgments on student caliber or the quality of parenting. They are decisions involving each college’s institutional priorities.

I recently received the following WhatsApp message from a student in Indonesia. I think Gina (not her real name) said it quite well:

“Thank you for allowing me to view this journey as a personal work in progress instead of just striving for an Ivy League title.”

To give you a sense of how we see our role in the lives of young people, I wish to share a shortened version of my message to Gina, whose final essay (written for Harvard) was simply spectacular.

“That essay, to my mind, is where you culminated your thoughts and found your next-level ability. Never doubt yourself. You can do great things wherever you go, now and in the future, because you will understand what it means to do your best. You are no longer on a grading scale. You are on a Gina scale.

“At first, grab everything you can. Then, let go of what’s available, because what’s available isn’t enough. Create your own state-of-the-art instead of memorizing and mimicking what others say. Analyze, be critical, be expansive, re-order everything, then erase the whiteboard to start with a better foundation. Simplify everything into macro concepts, then rebuild the paradigm by placing all of the pieces into your new structure. Make that structure overfull and overabundant, then break it again and start over with a new, more clear foundation. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

“Soon you will be facile with every new piece because everything will fit together. Then you can ideate and hypothesize the unknown into obvious truths. At that point -- which is not far off -- you will be able to answer every unanswerable question merely with logic and intuition. Your mind will fast forward as if time is standing still and the truths will flow out of you uncontrollably. The coolest thing? You can then simply and quickly explain these crazy ideas to someone, and they’ll look at you and marvel, saying ‘You are right! Of course!’

“At that point, you can execute on world-changing things. And good people will follow your lead and join your efforts. Those world-changing ideas will become world-changing realities. You will change so many lives for the better.

“It is a great essay, but for me, the essay is just a proof of concept. It’s a window into what you are about to do, and what you are about to do is fantastic.

“In every moment, be exactly who you wish to be. Hold onto your personal integrity at all times. That will be your foundation. But dare to dream. Because they are not dreams. They are realities not yet executed. The unknown is really just what has not yet been achieved. It is all possible. There are no walls. Solids and liquids and gases are only temporary states.

“Go forth into the darkness knowing that it’s not really darkness. It’s just stuff that nobody can see … yet. But you can’t find it without looking, and you cannot predict what it will be. Pioneer fearlessly, not for the sake of pioneering, but for the undeniable purpose of doing better, being better, and helping others be better too. Be selfless with your mind and your efforts. Lead not by leading, but simply by being Gina. Be Gina. Nobody else can. Live your truth. You can be more than a magician, more than an alchemist, more than you or anyone else believes possible.

“Why do I love that essay? It is a testament to the moment when Gina became Gina. The cosmos ripped (in a good way), the whiteboard wiped itself clean, the drafts were torn and shredded, not to be thrown away, but as a new chair on which to sit higher so you can see farther.

And just so you know, you touched my life in that moment, but not just my life. All of us here at UCA want to walk nearby you and help you however we can. You are our life’s purpose. We have been privileged to be part of your metamorphosis. For that, I am eternally thankful.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why we get frustrated with colleges but do not pout about admissions results.

Robert LeVine is the founder and CEO of University Consultants of America, an independent educational consultancy assisting students around the world with applications to colleges, universities and graduate schools. For more information, call University Consultants of America, Inc. at 1-800-465-5890 or visit www.universitycoa.com

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