Based on an article I wrote for the high school news publication, The LJHS Hi-Tide, published on April 6th, 2015.

During the fall and winter season, many high school seniors are bogging down and finishing their college applications. After the months of waiting, they huddle around their laptop screens and wait outside their mailboxes, anxiously waiting to see what they have been waiting for all year: college acceptance letters. It can be the most pivotal moment for seniors in their high school careers. But the fear of having college of their dreams turn them down or even worse, get accepted into colleges or universities without a big name, looms over many high school seniors when the time comes. Students think that not getting into a well-known college will negatively affect their future and will be judged because of it. This raises an important question for all high school seniors: does it actually matter what college or university you end up at?

To make it short and sweet, I don’t think it does at all. Don’t get me wrong, getting accepted into an Ivy League school or a well-known college or university is fantastic, but let’s face a fact: not everyone that applies to Stanford gets into Stanford (their acceptance rate this year was 4.6%), same as any other school. For high school seniors, they really don’t know if they are going to end up at their top choice school or at any schools they applied to, even if they are 99.9% sure they are going to get in. I am fortunate to have been accepted and attending one of the top schools I applied to, but for other seniors’ my year, in the past, and in the future, who only got or will get into the schools’ people do not know about or would just brush off, how do you think they feel? Those seniors were or are probably scared and wonder what people will say or how they will be viewed if they go to that school. But it doesn’t matter at all about what college they go to. What matters is what they do where they are at and what they accomplish after college. Success in the next 20 years from now will not be based on what university they went to after high school, but what they have been able to do from going to that university.

I’m pretty sure they are high school seniors who think that going into an Ivy League college will make them viewed as the top student with the brightest future, and not getting accepted would be social suicide. If people have told you this or think this, they are 100% wrong. Former Yale English professor William Dereiewicz explained in an interview with Quartz his essay on how Ivy League schools have given misconceptions to many students, thinking they will surely succeed if they go there, saying, “… it’s Harvard or the gutter: If you don’t get into Harvard, Yale or Princeton, it’s a disgrace. If you go to Wesleyan, you can never show your face in public again. This is not really the only way to succeed, but this crazy definition not only of success, but of how you achieve success, doesn’t even really reflect how actually successful people achieve success.”

Success is, therefore, derived from someone’s motivation to succeed, regardless of what school you go to. We have Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest film directors of all time. After high school, the mastermind behind films applied to both UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television and the University of Southern California's School of Cinema and Television but did not get accepted to either school, so he went to California State University, Long Beach and got his first job as an unpaid intern at Universal Studios. Since going to the small school, he has created some of the best films of all time. Next, there is Walt Disney. Walt Disney went to McKinley High School and attended the Academy of Fine Art’s at night to refine his drawing skills and later decided to pursue a career in the commercial art industry, starting his rise to fame with a drawing pad and a mouse. And to highlight a local star from my hometown in San Diego, there is Ralph Rubio, the founder and owner of the restaurant chain Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill. Going to the low recognized San Diego State University back in the day, him and his friends came up with the idea of opening a taco stand in San Diego. The small taco stand has now become a huge franchise, having restaurants all over the West Coast. Those three men, who only went to small schools and community colleges, are some of the most well-known and successful men in their different industries, and they did not go to big-name schools.

In the end, ultimate success is not shown from where you go to college or where you are at in college. Getting into any college is only a minor battle in high school; the real battle occurs when you are immersed into the real world, into a university where it is every person for themselves. It is there that determination and perseverance are the keys to success. You can get into any college or university if you put on a good show, but that won’t matter at all if you do not use what is given to you for your own advantage. So, to all the seniors reading who are going away on their college applications, or to the underclassmen in high school who are unsure if they will get the grades for that Ivy League school, go to a school you know you will succeed in and you want to succeed in, even if it is a school that can be overlooked.