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The Monthly Milestone: High School, College, and Steve Jobs

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Throughout high school I have been fortunate enough to feel as though I have never had to manipulate who I am to please anyone…until now. As a first semester senior, I am perpetually engaged in the act of filling out college applications. There are so many parts, so many pieces to this puzzle, and the worst part is that I am the designer of my own pieces before putting them all together. I have never before felt so hard-pressed to make myself look like the brightest, the most colorful, intricate, exotic puzzle in the store. Every time I think I have one piece set on the table, I begin to fear the possibility that I could make it a little more enticing and I pick it up again. The problem is that we know what colleges want: they want the best. And I’m not the best. I’m just me.

It was as I was worrying over this on October 5th that I stumbled upon the charming face of bespectacled man, looking at me from Apple Computer’s home webpage. He wore an expression of intense curiosity—as though he couldn’t wait to solve the puzzle that someone had just set in front of him. Next to him the text read: Steve Jobs 1955-2011. It only took me a few clicks to discover that Apple’s founder and visionary had just died.

Steve Jobs is someone I recognize as one of the “greats” of the past century. I respect his incredible determination and inventive skill. After all, I am not Steve Jobs, but I do share his passion to create and to move and shake the world in exciting ways that people will never be able to forget. Sometimes this is why college applications frustrate me so much…I cannot promise greatness from myself, I can only aspire to it, but I’m not sure that’s enough. Perhaps it was this sentiment, or perhaps it was simply the fact that his own invention was sitting beneath my fingertips, but I felt a connection to the bespectacled man on the screen and I wanted to show him some gratitude. I looked up an article to find out who he really was, this man who was able to stare down his own many puzzles and have confidence in where the pieces belonged.

At first, what I discovered was that Steve Jobs probably did not fret much at all about the perfection of his college applications, considering he dropped out of his college after one semester to pursue his vision. In a 2005 address to Stanford graduates he told them, “You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” For whatever reason, I felt like Jobs was speaking to me. Perhaps it is completely irrational to connect his words to the college application process, but it seemed that Steve Jobs was warning us to hold onto a personal confidence, a confidence that is so often rattled for me as I stare down at the common application’s essay prompt (which, no, Student Services, I have not yet completed).
Jobs went on to tell these ’05 grads, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” This all speaks to Steve Jobs’ overwhelming sense of drive for his vision. He also said something that our college-obsessed peers, parents, counselors, and admissions officers do not want us to know, “…most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

This is when I realized: of course Steve Jobs is right. I only fret over my college applications because I am so desperately trying to guess, “how should I write this essay?” or “what should I list as my prospective majors?” “Would they rather I look focused, or open to many new subjects?” I think Jobs speaks to the vision that I cast away too quickly. I know where my aspirations and my achievements lie, and I am happy with them. I see Jobs’ success as a manifestation of his personal tenacity. Now I want to be tenacious. When I apply to college, I am not going to try to be anything but myself. After all, Steve Jobs believes that happiness derives from being true to yourself, and I think he turned out all right.

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The School Newspaper of Harriton High School
The Monthly Milestone: High School, College, and Steve Jobs