Launch Global Education
Sparks blog: Failing to plan is planning to fail

by  Mr. Michael Wagner

I get asked all the time “Mr. Mike, how do I get into Harvard?”  Students seem to believe there is some trick that requires no work, only a magic formula. I always respond the same to this question no matter if it is about Harvard or any other school – the key is planning, and it should be done well in advance.

The importance of planning

Like many people, my wife and I like to travel.  When we get ready to take our next trip, we sit down together and plan it.  We think about where we want to go, how long we want to be there, and what we want to see, explore, and experience during the trip.  Once we know those things, we book our flights, buy our train tickets, and secure our accommodations.  Then we spend time building our knowledge of where we are going and make sure our plan includes those things that are important to us.  Of course, we cannot plan every detail, nor would we want to.  Part of the fun of a journey is the discovery along the way.

Planning for your university years is similar.  It is a trip, though not a leisure one, which can be life-changing and fun along the way, but only if you take time and map out the direction of your path.  Just like a vacation, things may not always go according to plan, but the better the plan, the more likely you will stay on your desired course.


Timing is everything

The sooner you begin to plan, the better your journey to a university will be.  There is a proverb that you may know: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.  So, no matter whether you are just starting high school or rapidly approaching your senior year now is the time to develop your plan.

Maximize what you are already doing

Part of your plan should be to maximize your potential as a student.  There are numerous ways to do this, but here are a few to consider:

  • Keep yourself organized; this will limit the unexpected.  Have a dedicated workspace, keep a calendar, and plan the work of bigger assignments in stages, these are just a few of the ways that you can stay on top of your work.  Get in the habit of meeting deadlines, you will need to meet many for your college applications.
  • Be goal-oriented; always strive to be your best.  It is easy to fall into the trap of putting things off or skipping over learning because you don’t think it will be on the test.  However, knowledge is cumulative.  What you chose to omit today will affect what you need to know tomorrow.
  • Control your destiny; be in charge of your learning and your life.  Don’t wait around for things to come to you because mostly they will not.  Instead, take initiative.
  • Incorporate reflection into your academics.  What worked well for you?  What didn’t?  How can you improve moving forward?           

Remember, grades are still the most important part of your college applications.  The better your grades, the more choices you will have.             

Demonstrated interest

These days, showing universities you are interested begins long before the application process.  If you are considering attending a college, go onto their website, request information, and take an online virtual tour.  Like many institutions, universities track your engagement, and it can become a factor in their decision-making process.

Expand your learning

Learn more about something (anything)!  Take an online credentialing course.  Read on your own.  Sign up for a newsletter.  Teach a skill to others. Consider taking a college course. These are a few of the many ways in which you can take charge of your learning and demonstrate to universities that you are the type of person who wants to be a life-long learner.

Do more, and do it differently

If you are already participating in extra-curricular activities and community service, great.  Focus on those that you enjoy, something that is not a chore and is important and impactful for you. If you haven’t been participating in activities outside of the classroom you need to start now. Either way, find opportunities to link your learning to the things you do outside the classroom.  If you can find connections to a future career or a college major that interests you, all the better.  We will share more ways of how you can do this in future articles.


Get ready for the next step in your life

It is one thing to be accepted to a university and it is another to be successful when you get there.  Spend time preparing to live on your own.  It may seem silly to say this, but do you know how to wash your clothes?  Can you cook a simple meal?  What will be your plan when you get sick?  The more you prepare for things you may encounter living on your own the better you will set yourself up for success. 

No wonder you need to start planning right now.

Mr. Michael J. Wagner

Michael Wagner, MAED is a founder and the Knowledge Pilot for Launch Education.  Mr. Mike has assisted hundreds of students around the world on their college pathways.