Lessons from the Tricksters

What do Loki, Coyote, Anansi, and Rumpelstiltskin have in common? They are all tricksters. Mythological creatures who torment the gods and heroes by making deals and agreements that have a twist at the end. The poor soul who enters into a deal with a trickster may reach their goal, but at a price. Usually this price is a terrible loss that they never saw coming. For many high school students, the price of college admissions prep is stress, unhappiness, and lots of money.

When it comes to college admissions and test prep, what are your goals and what price are you willing to pay to succeed? It may feel like you need to spend a fortune on advisors and coaches, or invest hundreds of hours of studying and taking classes to get the SAT or ACT score you desire, just so you can be accepted into the college of your dreams. Is that true? Or are you letting your fears affect your judgment, making you susceptible for believing any marketing scheme that comes your way? How can you avoid entering into a deal with a trickster?

First, take a complete and honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses: test scores, GPA, essay writing ability, extracurricular activities, interests, hobbies, and volunteering history. If you’re a typical student, you have much more to offer than you think you do. There is a popular idea that only the Best and Brightest and Busiest will ever be allowed to go to a Great College (or even a Good School) and no one else will be successful, ever. Please let go of this idea right now! Stop thinking about getting into college as a race to reach a limited number of prizes. Look for schools that are a good fit for you, and you will be successful.

When you have a solid blueprint of where you are now and a clearly defined set of goals you want to reach, then you will see what you need to do to get where you want to go. If you need tutoring help, get some. If you need to boost your GPA or polish your essay or have someone help you organize, plan, and execute your applications, take care of that. Hire someone. Go to the library. Use free online resources. Create a time management calendar on your own and follow it. There are lots of different ways to reach your goals and none of them require a deal with a trickster.

Don’t be fooled into entering a deal that might cost you more than it’s worth. The tricksters of our favorite tales are there to remind us that we can make smarter choices than gods or heroes. We can reach our goals in many ways. We don’t need to make deals, we need to plan and prepare. Plan your college application and test prep process. Get help when you need it. Work on your own when you don’t. Don’t bend yourself to fit a college or university-- that kind of deal won’t work. Find the college that is the best fit for who you are. That kind of deal has no tricks, just treats.