For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value. – Author and professor Carol S. Dweck
When thinking about strategies for college, I always like to think of Seth Godin and his notion of the “wedding syndrome”. It’s his business philosophy about the difference between starting a company and actually running a company. It’s boiled down to this – the wedding itself is great and all, but it’s the marriage that counts over the long haul.
I think this philosophy applies to college students as well, because simply choosing a college and getting accepted is just the beginning. As Seth would put it, the wedding between your student and the acceptance office isn’t the main point, but having the right mindset for your student’s “long haul” is.
We have to help our kids think beyond merely “getting in” and focus on the forty years that will follow college, not the four. Instead, get them in the mindset of sucking their college experience dry of every benefit it can possibly provide. Imagine a world where kids set foot on campus with a sense of purpose and a plan to wring out every last drop of value they possibly can – where “getting from” is the way they roll.
Mindset is how kids program their behavior and manage their emotions. It’s a proactive, intentional effort toward achieving what they want (which, of course, depends on self-awareness). A student gathers information from a variety of sources and decides on a course of action for themselves; a follower lives in accordance with someone else’s predetermined plan.
The students have to do the work, and we have to hold them accountable for doing it. When we do, they won’t drop out, give in to peer pressure, or take six years to get a four-year degree. And we’ll save a small fortune.
If we’re about to make a six-figure investment in education, doesn’t it make sense to get the best return? A small investment in mindset during the high school years saves tens of thousands of dollars during the college years. Here are some key tools for mindset development:
- Intention: Set out with the end in mind, rather than just showing up and letting things happen.
- Push personal boundaries: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- Surround yourself with smart people: Cultivate and consult an informal board of advisers whose only objective is guiding you to your best possible outcome.
- Hold the vision: Visualize a bigger, brighter future for yourself.
- Follow through: Turn thoughts into action.
- Commit to always learning: Realize there are two educations – the one you get from school and the one you craft for yourself.
If you’d like to learn more about getting the right mindset, there’s a deeper discussion of the topic in chapter 5 of my book Never Pay Retail for College.