As the college admissions process looms, some students feel pressured to participate in activities that help build the “ideal” application. Because getting into a “good” college is seen as essential to future success, students who try to take their focus off of college can feel like they’re falling behind their peers who are constantly racking up achievement after achievement. It makes sense that many students judge their success by their external achievements rather than by how much they learned or improved.
Mr. Willy Oppenheim, this year’s keynote speaker at Convocation, referred to this mindset as an “achievement mindset.” He noted that students, especially at academically rigorous schools such as Deerfield, are constantly pushed to achieve more and more. These pressures that students face, he argued, are often a result of an achievement mindset. Instead, Mr. Oppenheim encouraged a “growth mindset,” which measures success by what is learned from an experience, rather than external validations such as awards.
We believe that there are many advantages to adopting a growth mindset. Because a growth mindset alleviates the burden of working to reach expectations, students are empowered to do what they truly love and be creative. In the long run, students will feel fulfilled knowing that they chose to pursue their true passions, rather than just building a path to college.
At Deerfield, there are many opportunities to succeed in the classroom, extracurricular activities, and beyond. Students should focus not only on tangible achievements like a spot on a varsity team or a 95 on a paper, but rather how they can grow while facing these challenges. While it may be difficult for ambitious students to entirely abandon an achievement mindset, we believe that ultimately, a growth mindset will be far more rewarding than an achievement mindset.