Growing up, I was taught to view universities as an indication of a person's intellect, work ethic, drive, and, if I'm being honest, the amount of respect a person "should" get from me (I cringe too, and I don't actually feel this way anymore.)
I was taught that the university I would eventually go to, and the reputation it would have, would brand me as a certain kind of person. It would be an indication of how far I would go, and how successful I'd be in life.
In the spring of my senior year of high school, I wrote this poem, of sorts, because I was afraid of knowing which university I would finally be attending. Eighteen years of wondering: Who will I be? Am I Ivy League material? Am I a liberal-arts-college type person? Am I more East Coast or West Coast? What sort of university vibe will I choose and what will that say about me? What if I'm left with no options? Will this university be good enough for everyone else?
I knew I could do well in school, but I didn't know who I really was - as if a college acceptance would be able to tell me that. College counselors told me to aim lower, as if I was worth less. One by one, rejections would roll in, and I was left thinking that the smart, hard-working image I had was all a facade. I was nothing special. I didn't work hard enough.
So yes, I wrote myself a poem as a reminder to believe in myself, and to try to break myself from generations of societal beliefs that I wasn't good enough if I didn't get into a Top 20 school.
This is "To Every Ex-Lover and College Rejection" (because in retrospect, handling a rejection from a college felt like a break up):
I'm trying to recover and find the version of me that is okay with not being part of this rat race, where the finish line is my own satisfaction that only you can give me. When I look back and all I see are the stresses and missed opportunities, I can only tell myself it was worth it because I know I can't go back and change it. I'm trying to stop viewing my worth as something I can only get by your acceptance. I am more than what you say I am, but your name will be something I carry with me for the rest of my life, and everyone will judge me for it. I'm trying to re-discover the me that is unattached to you. And I know she exists.
Poetry has always been special to me as it was able to capture a moment in time. Looking back, I've realized that everything is relative, and because everything is relative, nothing really mattered. Someone's "back up" school could be someone's "dream" school, and someone could dislike your school just because of its location. Just as long as you work your hardest and you love what you do, it doesn't matter... Honest.
(Well unless you have ambitious goals in a difficult field, perhaps this isn't the wise and useful tip you're looking for?) High schoolers are under enough pressure at such a pivotal time in their lives that they don't need people judging them, or need to judge themselves, by numerical results and their college rejections.
Have pride in what you know is true: You are an amazing human being.