Preparing for College

A Counterpoint to Pursuing Your Passion

Over the years in my work as an independent college admissions counselor, one of my most frequent admonitions to college-bound students has been, “Follow your passion." In my own life, too, I have followed my own advice and found happiness and success. In my case, though, it took me until almost mid-life before I came into the fullness of my life's work enjoyment.

I often think back to my days as a high school student in an attempt to identify with the young men and women whom I advise. Maybe a better way to put it would be, “I often think back to my daze as a high school student." Pun definitely intended. At that time in my life, I had several “passions": tennis, girls, and driving. Believe it or not, I briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a professional tennis player. Back in that era of the mid-Sixties, my tennis heroes were Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzales, and Lew Hoad. (Don't feel bad if you don't recognize any of those names.) My tennis dreams were an analog to other young people's hopes of becoming a doctor, lawyer, or politician. The tennis phase eventually passed.

Then I found myself infatuated with science. I set my sites on MIT and told anyone who asked me what I wanted to do with my life that I wanted to be a nuclear physicist. That sounded really impressive, but I honestly had no idea what all that entailed and my only credential was an “A" in senior year physics class. My Robert Oppenheimer revelries also passed but then morphed into an interest in computers, which were just then beginning to dominate the world and were as large as industrial air conditioning units (and just as noisy). I recall traveling to Pittsburgh with my Dad for an interview with an admissions dude at a place called Computer Systems Institute, which, I have just discovered thanks to Google, now resides comfortably in the dustbin of history, along with the IBM 360s that took up so much room back then. I was accepted, but chose not to go. Good decision for me, but I didn't know it was good at the time.

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