Looking at bulletin boards around D block, you will come across inspirational posters from VALUES.com, headlined by something like “From Homeless to Harvard,” or “Quadriplegic. A-. Harvard.” Typically, they detail somebody triumphing through hardship and difficult circumstances and eventually graduating from an Ivy League university.

We are concerned that these messages, and countless other societal cues, speak of the prestigious Ivy League university as an immediate token of success–not explicitly, of course, but as a given, assumed already to be true for the headline to be dramatic. And that’s a problem ever-so-present in our student lives today. College decisions have come to define us as students almost entirely.

As Early Decision results started rolling in last December, we could not help but feel deeply unsettled by this fact. It’s as if other labels, like sexuality, social class, and political inclinations, have become archaic; it seems as though nowadays, the institution you will attend in the fall most accurately reflects who you are as a student and as a person.

We are the same person that we were before we received our acceptance or rejection letters. Our mental capacity does not increase or decrease, nor do our characters suddenly change just because we were accepted to, deferred from, or denied from by a school.

Being denied from a school does not change who you are, nor does it necessarily say anything about you. Let’s face it–the college process, when it comes down to it, is almost completely subjective. Chance inevitably holds a few cards in its hands. There are always going to be “deserving” candidates who don’t receive proper recognition, and “undeserving” ones who slip through the process for unknown reasons. Whether a school decides to take you or not does not reflect on your intellect or your work. Subjective factors like how well you would fit into the student community invariably come into play.

So, no. Attending a prestigious university is not an immediate indication of success–this we all acknowledge, but never seem to actually believe. Of course, it probably means that you’re well under way, but that is based on your own merit and hard work, not on the reputation of your school.

Seniors: regardless of results, you each have something to be proud of. If a school sees that, then that’s great. If it does not, that does not make any of your hard work disappear. When it comes down to it, there are hundreds of schools out there that will offer you an incredible education. If we shed all preconceived notions of prestige and reputation, and actually look at schools for the pursuit of knowledge, then it will be easier for everyone to love where they end up. And even if you don’t end up where you want to be, you can always do more about it by applying to transfer in the future. A letter printed with some words you’ve been dreading for months, though terrifying, is not the end of the world.   

As more of us find out where they are headed over the next few months, everyone must keep in mind that one’s worth should not be defined by any label, much less by a few letters. Even if they do spell out “congratulations.”