Election Lessons for Every College Applicant

11/16/2016 10:25 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

2016-11-16-1479307703-295730-iStock_83166177_LARGE.jpg

As pundits and parties sift through the smoldering results of this presidential election, I can't help but think of our high school seniors. Seniors are in the midst of their own long and difficult campaign to finish high school and get into college. They face real world uncertainties regarding where they will go and what the consequences will be if they don't get in. This election should serve as a reminder to seniors applying to college that no matter how much one hopes for an outcome, they need to prepare for all outcomes and adapt accordingly.

So as we regroup as a nation, whether we supported Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or another candidate, there are lessons to be learned from this election that can be applied to the college process. Regardless of who won, our youth must remember what really matters.

Be yourself. As much as high school can be about fitting in and following the crowd, getting into college and being a transformative citizen and leader in the world requires a person to do the exact opposite. That means that you shouldn't apply to the same colleges as all of your friends or classmates. And, pursuing that major you love is much more important than the major that everyone loves for you. Where you go to college and what you major in doesn't dictate your future; it only informs it. In fact, breaking free of stereotypes and societal expectations leads us to embrace the very qualities that distinguish us from the crowd.

To heck with your critics. Don't let others define your goals and ambitions. One must be realistic about the likelihood of college acceptance in general, but the reality is that most colleges have an acceptance rate that is far more generous than Harvard's. We don't need every college to like us and want us. We just need one college to open its doors.

Be wonderfully lopsided. High school students should be exposed to all academic areas, but they don't need to be the expert in everything. Legacies are made when a person pursues a singular interest with an unwavering, laser-focus and then has the wherewithal to trust and surround themselves with equally talented colleagues. Embracing that one thing is far more powerful than juggling many.

Pathways to success are uneven and fraught with unpredictable challenges. You will get there. It could translate into you getting into that dream college for graduate school instead of undergraduate, or working there instead of going there. But if all the focus is on that one college, you may overlook the perfect place for you.

Do not fear the untraveled path. Even if no one in your family went to college or no one from your high school ever got admitted to your dream college, keep up the pursuit. Life isn't about rewriting the past. It's about writing your future.

If you fail, move on. With grace. Finger-pointing makes us feel better initially, but it only delays us. To be able to pivot is the single-most effective tool we can employ whenever we fail. Pivoting allows us to be inspired once again by another college, another opportunity, and another chance at pursuing our vision.

Analyze. The candidates and students who can take a step back and see things with perspective will continue to grow and mature throughout their lives. It's not necessarily about what went wrong in a given situation, but what can be gained from the experience.

Try again. You have youth on your side. That is something that not all presidential candidates have after an election. Take this opportunity to heart. You can re-take the ACT or SAT. You can rewrite that college essay. You can ask a teacher for another chance to redeem yourself.

Most of all, know fundamentally, that you have strived. And, in this results-driven world, know that striving is success. Your complete commitment to this process may not yield the result you desire, but the experience will serve you well when time comes to meet your next challenge.

You will get in. I promise. And even if the college you attend isn't your dream school, striving to do your very best there will predicate future success.

In this time of great reflection, we wonder what the next four years will hold. We can't focus on what might have been. We must focus on what we have, and make the very most of these next four years whether it's in the White House, in your own house, or on a college campus waiting for you.