Whether you believe higher education to be the pinnacle of all personal achievement or the biggest swindle in an age notable for the depravity of its swindlers, the cold hard truth is that if you go to college you'll end up with a better chance of success later in life. It's difficult for teens to get over this fact when the time comes to start applying for schools. How can you say, "hey, no pressure" when years of research and supposed common knowledge presents the opposite perspective? There is a lot of pressure to get into school, especially the right school.

But is all this tension really necessary?  "No," says experienced educator Leslie Turnbull, writing for The Week:

"Applying to and attending college is very important. 'Getting in' to a certain, specific school is not. The key is understanding the difference between those two things."

Her piece offers five bits of advice for maintaining perspective and understanding one's abilities and limitations when searching for the right school. For example, students and parents need to take a hard look at their finances before deciding to take out loans or settling on an institution that may not be able to offer adequate financial aid. This may seem like common sense to some. For others, getting into Stanford or Harvard is the end-all be-all.

Turnbull explains that it doesn't have to be this way. After all, the latest Nobel Prize winner in physics works at UC Santa Barbara, not MIT. Current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella didn't graduate from an Ivy League college; his diploma reads "University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee." (Of course, Turnbull's bio proclaims her a "Harvard-educated anthropologist," not that that's hardly relevant...). Her point is that folks are able to achieve great things on their own volition even if they don't attend the fanciest institutions.

Another useful piece of advice Turnbull offers is to ease up on the quest to amass the flashiest array of extracurricular activities. Having a little too much on your résumé may very well backfire. She quotes counselor Anne Love Hall:

"College admission officers are actually a little wary of applicants who claim to be able to letter in two Varsity sports while being active in student government and starring in the fall play and running the afterschool tutoring program and wailing on sax in the jazz band and volunteering in a lab on weekends. Admissions offers start wondering whether applicants are really committed to those activities, or just checking off items on some contrived list. You're better off being sincerely dedicated to a small number of things you actually care about."

For more strategies and myths, be sure to check out Turnbull's full article (linked again below) and let us know what you think. 

Read more at The Week

Photo credit: mangostock / Shutterstock