You Just Never Know

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | May 01, 2010

"The best predictor of future performance is past performance."
Dr. Don Argue

Over the years I have seen them come from every walk of life, from every socio-economic background, from just about every ethnicity, from every part of the country and even from around the world. All college students arrive with high expectation to follow their dreams. In the beginning, hope reigns. 

Over the next four or five or six years I have watched them as they follow those dreams. Some of them excel from the moment they arrive. They jump into student leadership opportunities. They grab their assignments with both hands. They devour extra-curricular experiences. They associate with friends who are just like them. And you just know all will be well. 

Others take a semester or two until they become acclimated to the academy. But after a few miscalculations and immature decisions and sporadic self discipline, they join the ranks of those who have already hit their stride. And you know they too will do well. 

A few never seem to quite find their way for as Robert Henri said, "All education is self-education." There are some who sadly just don't make it. You watch them nibbling at the edges of this life changing opportunity and they just squander it away. Your heart aches for them. You try helping them in every way possible with loving boundaries and consistent challenges and inspirational dialogue and even an occasional strong warning, but you finally come to the conclusion that perhaps they will do well sometime but not today. 

For nearly 35 years I have been around college/university students in the environment of a higher education experience but while they have been learning from my colleagues and me, we have also been learning from them. 

Will a student excel in college and earn that coveted degree? Based on their application and their personal references and their high school record, we like to think we know they will but in reality, you just never know. Turning into the college campus is no guarantee they will turn out successfully. 

All across the country graduation ceremonies are taking place where families and friends are gathering to celebrate the huge accomplishments of the 2010 graduating class. Speeches will ring with calls to change the world. Hope reigns. 

But it is one thing to observe performance in college; it is another thing to observe it once the tassel is turned. Will these students live up to these lofty expectations? Will they really change the world or will they allow the world to change them. You just never know. 

Years ago I heard someone say that sadly some students graduate and then live their first year out of college over and over again for the next 20 years. Others roll up their sleeves and though it may take them five or ten or even twenty years to really get going, when you see them you hardly recognize them. One of my own college professors once said that in his experience, on average, it is the "B" students and not the "A" students who do their best after college. I was encouraged because in that class I needed to hear that. 

We all know that the game is different inside and outside the academy. The rules are different. The conditions are less consistent and definitely less predictable. The players are not nearly as fair. And the stakes are much higher. Survival in one is not a guarantee of survival in the other. 

As I look into the eyes of each graduate of the class of 2010, shake their hands and present to them their degrees, I will think about this. Yes, they have excelled here but will they excel there, wherever they go? We have all worked and prayed and laughed and cried and challenged and educated them. We expect great things. Hope reigns. But, you just never know. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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