A few years ago, I began hearing some students and families mention the idea of creating a “brand” so a student would be better highlighted to colleges during the admissions process. Admittedly, I felt so uncomfortable by this idea. I just had a really hard time grasping that a student should develop a resume that includes activities, internships, and service opportunities for purely external motivations. Furthermore, that these activities were done as part of a marketing strategy and not for the sole reason of personal or professional exploration and development.
When I meet with students, I really try to work on topics around purpose. In my years as a college counselor, I find that when students have explored and expanded their concept of purpose, they tend to have a more fulfilling high school, college admissions, and college experience. With a purpose, students are able to articulate their values, their interests, and this often provides greater ease with problem-solving and decision-making.
Finding purpose is not something that happens overnight. For students, it can involve a lot of trial and error and for some it comes easier than others. However, I strongly believe that if we give students access to exploration and questioning and failures, we are supporting their personal growth and development of purpose.
So, what is purpose?
It is the intersection of developed skills, needs of the community, and what you love to do.
How can we support students with finding purpose?
Motivation: We need to encourage students to seek intrinsic motivation around a specific goal they want to achieve. This means we have to shift the concept that prioritizing external achievements (i.e. college admissions, good grades) is the driving force behind participation in an activity and refocus it to one of personal fulfillment.
Working Together: We are often conditioned to think that success and true accomplishment comes when we do something independently. Realistically, no one can go at it alone. Therefore, when helping your student identify their purpose, encourage them to seek others who have a shared interest and to understand that working in teams and in partnership will expand your student’s minds to see beyond themselves and more for the greater good.
Mentorship: Developing relationships with teachers, coaches, employers, and other mentors can be fundamental to a student’s ability to find their purpose. Again and again , students will share that it is the interactions and relationships they remember most about high school and less about the content of a course. Foster the building of relationships with adults who can serve as mentors for your student as they explore their interests.
Access: Providing students access to experiences, opportunities, people, and circumstances is going to help them see the world differently than the one they create or the one they see on social media. When we purposely expose students to experiences that are new and different, they are not only learning something new, but they are expanding the possibilities for developing a sense of purpose that would otherwise not be available to them.
Failures: We need to recognize that failure is typically the exact thing that needs to happen for a student to learn what their purpose is really supposed to be. We have to avoid cushioning the world to prevent failures, as not being successful is usually the moment that provides the most clarity. Think of the times when failing something made you realize that you needed to pivot and shift your perspectives or efforts. Encourage that students try things out and when it does not work, find the positive in that moment as it brings students closer to their true purpose.
The Why: When a student is in class, they are repeatedly asked the question of “Why?” when it comes to a lab experiment or historical event. Yet, how often do students ask “why?” outside the classroom? We need to encourage students to ask themselves and others why they need to do things. Why are they working so hard for their grades? Why are they doing a particular activity? As supporters and advocates, we need to not just ask them “why?” questions but we need to help them formulate and realize their answers matter. When they have a good sense of the “why?” they are one step closer to the purpose.
To learn more about how to support your students with finding their purpose and how this fosters a positive college counseling experience, please contact NYC Admissions Solutions at www.nycadmissionssolutions.com/contact and schedule a complimentary 15-minute call.