College Admissions Inspiration from an Unlikely Source..."Hamilton" the Musical

Last week, I took my 13-year old daughter, Sophie, to see the Broadway musical, "Hamilton." For the past several years, I felt like the only adult in America who hadn't seen it. I was a bit ashamed. If anyone knew how special Alexander Hamilton was, it was me.

For four snowy years of college, I spent all of my free time outside of class giving admissions tours to parents and students visiting my college—Hamilton. I would regale them with how Alexander Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury, wrote essay after essay (sound familiar to those rising high school seniors these days?), and was the trustee and namesake of this beautiful college we were standing on.

I wanted the visitors to understand how special he was. Most of the time, his legacy didn't resonate with them like it did for me. He wasn't George Washington. He wasn't Thomas Jefferson. He was an orphan; an immigrant; a forgotten. 

As I walked into the Richard Rodgers Theatre with Sophie, I was surrounded by people from all walks of life. Many of them had tears in their eyes, like the woman who couldn't believe she had just found out she won a contest to go. Or another couple who had scored the tickets through a lottery. Or the bus full of members of a Baptist church from Birmingham, Alabama. We all bonded in sharing this incredible experience.
 

It reminded me of the college admissions process.


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Many students worry about getting into college. They tell me they aren't famous. Their parents are just hardworking people. They don't have connections. 
 
You don't need them. But you do need to find a college that values you instead of your connections, or lack thereof. That might mean attending a school that isn't on your friends' lists. It may not have a flashy title to it like being "Ivy League." It is not where you go, it is what you do with this opportunity. 

If you get tired of writing all of those supplemental essays already, think of Alexander Hamilton and the "Federalist Papers." While John Jay wrote five and James Madison wrote 29, Hamilton wrote a whopping 51 "essays." Don't worry. You won't need to write that many essays to get into college. But when you feel like you can't write another supplemental essay, channel Hamilton's motivation. This is your shot.

And if you think that you aren't polished enough and not sophisticated enough for a certain college, or even college itself, think again. College is a great equalizer. Those who work hard, succeed. Plain and simple. 

One of my favorite lines in the musical was when Alexander Hamilton admits, "The problem is I got a lot of brains but no polish." I was reminded of how I felt going to Hamilton. One of my high school teachers told me I wasn't good enough to go to college. That statement was my motivation. At Hamilton, I was surrounded by students who came from fancy boarding schools and a whole lot of polish.
 
College doesn't change you; it transforms you into the potential you always knew you had. By the way, that can happen anywhere. At your local university. At an Ivy League school. And even at Hamilton College. 
 
As I sat elbow to elbow with Sophie and the rest of the theater-goers, I had tears in my eyes. We all came from different places. We got our ticket different ways. But we were there together, experiencing a moment of theatrical brilliance. 
 
Everyone should have a chance to go see "Hamilton." Everyone should have a chance to go to college. Whether I was a lost high school student wondering if I had the smarts to go to college or arriving at Hamilton College feeling like I had no polish, I knew one thing: I am not throwing away my shot.