Last Friday afternoon during my Instagram Live, I mentioned that I wanted to change the way we talk about college admissions and how we talk to young people about life. The words we use to describe them shape who they become. As a young adult, I had to learn how to correct the words I used to describe myself in order to break through as a woman.
For a long time, I didn't think I was smart enough. And I didn't think I was worthy of pretty much anything. I remember a high school teacher telling me at one point that I wasn't even "college-material" because I couldn't write a paper if my life depended on it. She was right. I didn't know how to write. But that would change—in college, no less.
My goal is to help any student get to college, if they want. Some of the students I work with start in community college and transfer to a four-year institution. A few head overseas for university while others attend colleges that I never imagined I could ever attend when I was their age. Anything is possible if you are willing to think and speak differently about yourself (and others).
Here are some incredibly empowering, modern-day versions of terms we need to embrace:
1. "Likely" colleges is a more accurate term than "safety" or "back-up" colleges.
Having plenty of likely colleges on your list ensures you are likely to get admitted to college! It is a much more inclusive term and doesn't make others feel bad when they attend a college that you see as a back-up.
READ MORE: How to Build a Balanced College List
2. "Limitation" replaces "weakness."
Limitations are temporary—like me not knowing how to write before college. Weakness implies that we are "less than." The only thing "less than" is talking about ourselves in terms that don't serve us well.
3. "Pivot" instead of "failure."
I felt like a failure too many times as a young girl and young woman. Now I focus on the pivot because even better things are just around the corner if you are open to them.
4. "Genius" takes the place of "crazy."
All those years I thought I was crazy! But in fact, I was just really different. Now I see genius in myself and every student I encounter. Don't waste the genius within you.
5. "Audacious" should be used instead "hardworking."
If I never hear the word "hardworking" again, I'll be a happy woman. It is an empty term. Teachers often use it to describe female students in letters of recommendation. It means nothing because it is overused and misinterpreted. Putting in hard work is an expectation in life. Being audacious sets you apart because you are bold enough to do things differently.
So the next time you almost use the term "safety college," or refer to a weakness or failure, or even describe yourself as crazy or hardworking, take a moment to pivot. And see how likely you are to turn your limitations into triumphs and your genius into audaciousness.