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I was glad the NYTimes wrote this piece all about a very impressive young woman, working hard to get into college.  Nathaly Lopera is just one of thousands of students who is honing her skills, practicing, studying and pushing herself to always do more as she keeps her goal of going to college ahead of her. Two things especially struck me about Nathaly and I think that all high school students should be thoughtful about her example as they go through this process.

First, Nathaly relies on a huge amount of support from teachers, from counselors and from organizations that are working with students just like her to help her put her best foot forward. Lesson the first – no one can do this alone.* It is important that you bring your friends and family in to support you the best they can. Teachers are not only people who grade you, they are people who want to help you learn; people who will answer your questions and push you forward. Counselors can help to guide your college process and make sure that you keep the big picture in mind.

Second, that Nathaly is an impressive and powerful young woman who seems to take the metaphorical bull by the horns. She spends tons of time and energy and effort working on that goal of going to college. Lesson the second — focus and hard work are what pay off. Not complaints or self pity or mindless surfing on the internet. How much more could you do in a day if you kept your goals at the center of everything you do? You’ve come this far, clearly you’re capable of doing even more. Need a push? Remember our first lesson and pull someone in to give you a boost.

The title of the article was “Learning to Play the Game to Get Into College” and, sadly, there are times when applying to college feels like playing a game in the wrong way. We think about ways we can get a leg up by fudging here, cheating there and otherwise “gaming the system.” What if we thought of it as learning the rules of a game that we could get better at, like chess or tennis? Nathaly’s example can be a model for all of us. She has spent time learning the rules and is now practicing. Practice can be boring and even painful, but it is the only way we make progress. I think we can expect that Nathaly will have good news in a few months, once college decisions are released. Chances are that you will also if you apply yourself just as hard!



* Someone pointed out to me that this construction is highly unusual. I am borrowing the phrase “lesson the first” from one of my favorite teachers, Spike of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. Wanna see for yourself? Check out one of the best episodes, Fool For Love, season 5, episode 7.