The story below has shown up in my inbox and news feed several times over the past few months. As we head into the decision season for college admissions, I think the message is one for all teens (and their parents) to hear.
A father said to his daughter upon her graduation:
"I am very proud of you for graduating with honors so I am gifting you this old car of mine. But, before I give it to you, take it to the used car lot downtown and tell them I want to sell it and see how much they offer you."
The daughter went to the used car lot then returned to her father.
“They offered me $1,000 because it looks very worn out.”
The father replied:
"Take it to the pawn shop and see what they offer.”
The daughter went to the pawnshop, returned to her father and said:
"The pawn shop offered $100 because it is a very old car.”
The father then asked his daughter to go to a local car club and show them the car. The daughter took the car to the club, returned and excitedly told her father:
"Some people in the club offered me $100,000 for it since it’s a Nissan Skyline R34. They said it's an iconic car that is sought after by many.”
With a knowing smile, the father looked at his daughter and said:
"Always remember that the right place will value you the right way."
Over the coming months high school seniors around the world will be receiving college admission decisions. Some will bring joy...and others will lead to tears of disappointment. Though 80% of colleges in the U.S. admit more than half of their applicants, the anxiety that permeates this process grows and grows each year. It's easy for us to tell our students that these decisions shouldn't define them, but boy does it feel like that for them. With so many students and parents focused on a very small handful of selective schools, this anticipation can be mentally exhausting.
So, if you are a student going through this process right now: know your OWN value. Don't let your college decisions determine your worth. The schools that send you the virtual confetti and videos of mascots doing the latest TikTok dance moves are your car club. THEY value you and, in turn, are the ones you should focus on in this moment. Leave the pawn shops behind for someone else.
Parents: you already know how awesome your teen is. Where they are accepted or not should change nothing about who they are in your eyes. Let your visible pride in them speak for itself. Be there to remind them of the importance of always knowing their own worth, and to not let others determine that for them. Remember that this is their journey to navigate, but just knowing that their value to you is immeasurable will help them traverse any disappointment that comes their way during this time. You've got this.