The other day, I read a report in The Huffington Post that Kwasi Enin, a high schooler from Long Island, was accepted to all eight colleges in the Ivy League, plus Duke and three SUNY colleges.
Holy bananas! Where will he choose to attend???
The truth is, it doesn't matter all that much which school Kwasi attends for his undergrad: not because he would have the same experience at each of them (he wouldn't -- each school has its own "flavor") and not only because he's choosing from top-level schools.
The reason that Kwasi's success doesn't depend on which school he attends is because Kwasi has cracked the "big secret" that I hope to instill in every one of my students: ultimately, the power to succeed lies in you.
External factors shape our life experience. I'm not minimizing that idea.
But, I have a hunch that even if Kwasi decides to attend one of the SUNY schools, he will be highly successful in life because he knows how to dedicate his time, energy and power into achieving positive results.
Kwasi wasn't accepted to these schools by mistake: he graduated in the top 2 percent of his high school class, he scored in the top 1 percent on his SATs, and he is a first-generation American (his parents immigrated from Ghana). Note: he did NOT earn a perfect 2400 on the SAT... You don't need a perfect score to succeed.
Now, not everyone who ranks in the top 2 percent of their high school classes or who scores in the top 1 percent on the SAT will gain admission to Harvard. And that's okay! Everyone who has achieved feats such as these -- or accomplishments not as easily quantified, such as writing a first novel or making a consistent positive contribution to their community -- has honed values and habits that will serve them as they progress through life: in college and beyond.
If you don't believe that you have achieved anything particularly remarkable by age 17, that's okay, too. We hadn't heard of most world leaders by the time they reached 17. Part of the journey of life is finding the area in which we can make the biggest, most positive contribution and then following through with this awareness.
What's important to know is that by developing who you are on the inside, you will affect your external experience.
Making a commitment. Working towards a goal with consistent, conscious actions. Being kind to yourself and to others. These are the things that matter. These are the things that will determine your success in the bigger scheme of life.
No college can give you that strength of character if you don't intend to develop it, and no college can take away the benefits of intending to develop that internal strength if you're already on the path towards nourishing it.
At the end of the day, as impressive as it is to earn admission to eight Ivies, Kwasi will be able to matriculate at only one college. The journey doesn't end with the admissions letter. The journey is only beginning.
This post originally appeared on ErikaOppenheimer.com