Recently I was given the opportunity to talk college with an intrigued group of young woman. During our conversation, amidst their many burning questions, a shy girl half raised her hand and asked “do you think everyone can go to college?” This broke my heart in two.

The sad reality is, many children are told they don’t have what it takes to succeed, or rather they can’t because they can’t afford to. Well, I simply won’t accept that. Think about where you are in your life, and how you got there. Was it a series of fortunate coincidence or did you have to work for it? Have you always desired success? What teacher or coach pressed the importance of self-discipline, and drive? For all of us, there is that one person that comes to mind. That one teacher, coach, parent, author, superhero, etc., that impacted us most. Whether directly through one-on-one influence, or indirectly through literature and hero films, there’s been someone special that made it known to you, that you were special.

Many people feel strongly one way or the other concerning the importance of college, and how early adolescence should begin to prepare. Is it ever too early to talk college? Typically, there are two sides to this question. There’s your “kids should be kids” side, and the “it’s never too early to think about college” side. Both, equally well argued, but I choose the argument that it is never too early to talk college, think college, and prepare for college. Studies have shown that early exposure to ideas of success, what it means, and what it will entail, translates to desire for success later in life.

Our teenage years are the most important years of our lives. It’s when we develop our core. Our core beliefs, admirations, and dreams. Every child should know that they can do whatever they put their mind to, and they don’t need anyone else’s help, nor permission, to get there. I think it’s hard today when thinking about college because other than it being extremely important to our self-growth, it’s also extremely challenging. It’s long, draining, and as we all know, expensive. But how many can say it isn’t worth it? I think today we give college a bad rep, when in fact we know it’s one of the most monumental milestones this generation has to offer.

Let’s talk more college. Tell our youth to reach for the stars. Bring out the books. Get organized. Have a desired profession, even if it won’t be the same in five years, five months, or even five minutes. Let them know that they can graduate from college, they can be a surgeon, or a veterinarian, or a top chef, or an astronaut, or an actor, or a musician, or Batman, doesn’t matter really, as long as they have the confidence to know there is endless possibility for any number of those options. That’s the beauty of America, the country of opportunity. We dream, we inspire, we conquer.