As my middle son prepares for graduation from Dartmouth next month, I have been trying to understand why Dartmouth felt like such a worthwhile experience for him and like such a worthwhile financial burden for our family. Robbie’s time has been idyllic, and for a long time I just assumed it was because Dartmouth was so special. But as a professional guiding my own students to colleges that are “worth it,” I began to ponder what really about Dartmouth made it so very “worth it.”
Then I knew. Dartmouth was so perfect for Robbie because of how Robbie approached Dartmouth. He learned to eat what they eat, he studied what they offer, he participated in new and unusual activities because they were the tradition at Dartmouth. Dartmouth was good because Robbie was good. Parents often ask me about return on investment for college, and I tell them that so much of the return depends on how much effort the student puts into the college. If students wait passively for college to inspire, nurture, and prepare them for the future, they will never get their return on investment.