Selecting a University: Where You Go Does Not Determine Your Future Potential

Meraal Hakeem, Senior Editor

Excitement for summer and graduation begins to buzz around the minds of graduating seniors who are already planning out their fall. With the crinkling and crackling of brown leaves comes tears trickling from the eyes of the college-bound who will end up leaving hometowns behind.

However, a lingering sense of regret passes through minds like wafts of a pungent scent as it slowly diffuses into the atmosphere. Questions of what could have been are left unanswered. What if I had studied a bit harder to raise my grade point average? What if I found an internship last summer instead of staying at home binge watching the first five seasons of that one Netflix show? What if I broke up with him earlier instead of wasting so much time in a one-sided relationship? Would I have gotten into my dream college then?

The answer to those questions is simple. It does not matter, at least not anymore.

College is a stepping stone, a transition from a sheltered world of small town seclusion into the vast realm of life. A test score or a letter on a piece of paper does not define you. Like tarot cards spread across a silk tablecloth in a dimly lit room, an entourage of numbers cannot predict the true outcome of your future unless you believe that they will. Your future simply depends on what you make of it, and as a result, it does not truly matter which college you end up going to.

There is always room for improvement, always small openings where hard work and doors of opportunity provide occasion to excel. A college degree does not define your success. Success is a fluid idea which is up to you to sculpt based on your own expectations and ambitions.

Take Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Records, Virgin Mobile and other Virgin brands, who never even attended college. In fact, he dropped out of high school when he was 16 years-old and on top of that, he was dyslexic with poor academic performance. Yet, he still has a net-worth of $4.9 billion. He made a name for himself. He found those hidden doors of opportunity and rose to the occasion, making use of his ideas and newfound acquaintances. Today, Branson is outspoken about the importance of education and strongly believes that schools should be doing a better job of helping entrepreneurs and providing funding for them.

Every year, approximately four million 18-year-olds make their way through the college application process. Three and a half million actually end up attending college and only a fraction of these four million, approximately 100,000 to 150,000, actually move on to attend prestigious Ivy League schools or others of similar prestige.

The rest, or rather the overwhelming majority in this case, are presented with thin strips of apologies and assurances which do little to elaborate on the reasons behind seemingly unreasonable denial of so many applications. Months of waiting, hovering in front of an illuminated computer screen or frantic speed walks to the mailbox are put to a probable harsh and disillusioned end. Students cringe into momentary fits of despair as they mull over back-up plans, thinking their futures are disintegrating to ruin. What they do not realize is that there is so much more that life has to offer. Not all those 100,000 to 150,000 people go on to be successful and certainly the entire rest of the four million do not go on to be tarnished in the reeking stench of failure.

The late Ray Bradbury, a renowned American fantasy and horror writer, was unable to afford college after graduating from high school in 1938. However, he was intent on blossoming into a successful writer since age 12 or 13 and did not let his financial situation hinder his access. He took to the local library, cultivating his literary skills and expanding his knowledge. His name is constantly passed around classrooms and he lives on for eternity in his astounding works of writing. He is an inspiration to prospective writers everywhere and has made a name for himself regardless of his lack of education. He has proved that one does not need a college degree to learn more about the world and receive the education needed to become a successful individual in an art as refined as that of literature.

As we go on to our own prospective colleges or do not go on to pursue a higher education at all, we must not linger on a string of what ifs. What could have been does not need to be dwelled upon for we have our entire lives left to make the most of them. One wayward application or quickly scrawled rejection letter does not define you. We possess multiple dreams and not getting into one school will not crush the rest of our dreams.

There is so much left to experience. Our lives are just beginning and we need to remember that success is what we define it to be as we begin to venture out to take our place in the world.