Student Stress – My Speech to our Honor Students

March 21, 2016

This is a speech I gave to our honors students and their parents in the fall of 2015.

The 21st Century Superintendents’ Consortium is a group of seven high performing school districts across the United States seeking to learn from each other, from current research, and from schools around the nation. 

 We are thinking a lot about students like you these days. 

 Who do I mean when I say “students like you?”

  • Amazing Young Women and Men
  • Intelligent
  • Hard Working
  • Passionate
  • Achieving
  • Extracurricular Excellence
  • Destined for Greatness
  • In short, it could be any student at our school.

 And if you are like most students like you, you are . . .  Stressed

 We’ve done surveys – you have told us that you are stressed.  The biggest reason – College admissions.  Second biggest – Parents.  Third – Teachers

 We’re trying to figure out what we can do to make it easier on you.  Not easy, but easier on you.  Your principal, counselors, teachers, and the Board of Education are all talking about what we can do.

 But college admissions is still the biggest stress you have.

 Let me promise you this: If you do this well throughout high school, you will get into a very good university that will give you all that a college can give you to be highly successful in life.  

 Our goal here at MBUSD is not just to get you into a great college.  It is, along with your parents, to give you all we can to be successful in life.  We want you to be able to provide for yourself or a family doing something you love to do.  We want you to have great friends and an amazing family, all of whom you can support and who can support you throughout your life.    

 And where you go to college determines very little of that.

 I know so many students who were excellent students in high school, and have become highly successful as adults.  They graduated from all kinds of colleges, and many started in community college. The CEOs of our biggest companies come from Harvard and Stanford, but they also come from San Diego State, Minnesota, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, North Carolina and many more.  The name of college will not define your future.

 But remember what I said first.  These successful men and women had great habits in high school.  They maximized their intelligence.  They were hard working. They had great friends.  They had the tools they needed to be successful at the next level.  

 Need more convincing? Just look at Google’s Lazslo Bock: “It’s one of the flaws in how we assess people,” Bock said. “We assume that if you went to Harvard, Stanford or MIT that you are smart. We assume that if you got good grades you will do well at work… There is no relationship between where you went to school and how you did five, 10, 15 years into your career. So, we stopped looking at it.”

 You have shown us that you are high achieving.  That’s why you are here.  Congratulations.  We are so proud of you.  But I hope you find the time in high school to figure out who you are and what your interests really are.   I hope that you are finding the time to pursue the things that you know you love, to pursue the activities that define who you are, and to pursue the friendships that make life so wonderful.  And I hope you know that if you do that, you have a great deal of control over your own destiny.  No college admissions officer can take that away from you.  You are smart, you are doing what you love to do, and you will go to a place that wants you to be there.

 From Frank Bruni – Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be

Dear Matt, On the night before you receive your first college response, we wanted to let you know that we could not be any prouder of you than we are today. Whether or not you get accepted does not determine how proud we are of everything you have accomplished and the wonderful person you have become. That will not change based on what admissions officers decide about your future. We will celebrate with joy wherever you get accepted—and the happier you are with those responses, the happier we will be. But your worth as a person, a student and our son is not diminished or influenced in the least by what these colleges have decided. If it does not go your way, you’ll take a different route to get where you want. There is not a single college in this country that would not be lucky to have you, and you are capable of succeeding at any of them. We love you as deep as the ocean, as high as the sky, all the way around the world and back again—and to wherever you are headed. Mom and Dad


Keep doing great things.  Find and pursue what you love to do.   The rest of it will work itself out.

Congratulations to all of you.





Sign up to my newsletter.