College Prep

Many congratulations are in order this week for a remarkable High School senior from Long Island. On March 31st, the day the university offers are posted online, Harold Ekeh, a 17 year old from Elmont, logged on to His PC to find that he had received offers from all 8 Ivy League universities, PLUS M.I.T, John Hopkins, Vanderbilt, NYU and SUNY Stonybrook.

This future neurosurgeon now has the enviable task of selecting his final choice from some of the finest institutions in the world.

So how did he do it? His 2270 SAT score and 100.5 percent GPA certainly went a long way to helping his application, but coming from an immigrant background (he entered the US from Nigeria at the age of 8) with both parents working at Target to support the family, it really does make his success all the more astounding.

Amongst his achievements listed on his resume he includes scientific research, founding a college prep mentoring program, serving as Editor-in-Chief of his school newspaper and Vice-President of the model United Nations.

Clearly an extremely impressive young man.

The Ivy League Universities accept somewhere around 10% of applicants on average, ranging from approximately 5.8% in the case of Harvard, through to around 15% at Cornell, making them some of the most selective of all tertiary education institutions.(1) So what of the rest of us? The ones who don`t make the cut? Perhaps those of us not blessed with the ability to get Right Up There. Are we destined for a life of mediocrity, albeit many of us with the ability to ask “Do you want fries with that?” in at least two languages?!

It is a statistical certainty that the vast majority of people are not going to graduate from an Ivy League institution. So how do we become a “success” in our own right?

Of course, we are not “doomed to failure” if we don`t gain acceptance to a prestigious college, and there are many paths to the “top”, but where exactly IS the “top”?

This is an extremely difficult question to answer, as everyone has a different definition of what it means to be “successful”. If it can be defined as an impressive education, then yes, many of us are doomed to failure before we even get out there. Money? Well, there is an easily quantifiable measure, but many will say money doesn`t bring you happiness, although you can at least be miserable in comfort. So is happiness the definition of success? And can we somehow like the Kingdom of Bhutan find a way of quantifying our Gross National Happiness as a measure of success? Probably not, as it is such a variable, arbitrary measure. Although, absolute kudos to His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck for at least having a stab at it and raising the issue to the level of international debate.

Perhaps the greatest definition of success can come at an altogether more humble level – within ourselves. Perhaps if we stopped comparing ourselves with and competing against everyone else, we could turn our focus back on ourselves, create our own personal definition of what we believe success to mean for us, and go after our individual goals, with the beneficial side effects of happiness being realized from the sense of achievement we will feel in attaining them.

Ken Venturi, professional golfer and broadcaster who died in 2013 at the age of 82 once said “I don`t believe you have to be better than anyone else. I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.”

Or in short – be the best you can be – at wherever it is that your passion lies. Thankfully, our passions are almost as individual as we are, enabling us to contribute to our families, communities, societies, our country and even our world. Thankfully we don`t ALL want to be the same thing!

As people get older, it is rare to find examples of regret for failing to achieve something. It is extremely common to find regret for not even trying in the first place. So how does all this translate back to grass-roots level, when we are young and in the middle of what sometimes feels like the interminable years of schooling?

Like Mr. Ekeh, in everything you do, do the very best you can. If you are struggling with a subject you need to succeed in, in order to take the next step in your plan, seek help and guidance from school, and / or from tutors who have the expertise to give you that lift to the next level. Don`t give up. In Mr. Ekeh`s own words “The hard work has paid off.” He set himself a goal and went after it. Don`t have a long term goal in mind right now? That`s fine. “Get through 5th grade Math alive and sane” is an admirable goal for both parents and students in the here and now!

At REACH Professional In-Home Tutoring, our tutors are credentialed teachers with classroom experience. Our college test prep tutors will work one-on-one with your student to help prepare them for the SAT or ACT exams. If you`ve done the very best you can – you will achieve that peace of mind that comes from knowing you have reached the top of your personal mountain and can enjoy the view. It may not be the highest mountain in the range, but it can still be a beautiful view. Perhaps less windy too!

Do the best you can, but know that you don`t have to do it alone.