Buzzword: Delayed Gratification

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Your high school years represent more than just classes and homework. Just as important as earning your best grades is reflecting on the kind of person you are now and the kind of person you are becoming. We’ve all seen movie and television tropes about high school: the math nerd, the cocky jock, the mean queen. In reality, we don’t usually fall that neatly into such categories; our identities are complex. So, by definition, understanding ourselves can be complicated, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth pursuing that wholeheartedly as understanding your next math assignment.

 

In addition to what gaining such insight will mean to you personally, finding clarity about what makes us who we are is important in the college admissions process. Most admission reviews are holistic, which means that colleges look beyond grades and scores to size up candidates’ inner selves. So how do you prepare for that? The first step is to identify those values and guidelines that are important to how you move through life.

 

We can help with that. Each month, we’ll focus on a buzzword that is often bandied about in college admissions discourse. Your job is to figure out how this concept relates to the way you live your life. Allowing yourself to reflect on these ideals now will give you the time and opportunity to build them into your life, so that by the time you are nearing the completion of your high school years, you will have concrete evidence and experience to show how you’ve done just that.

 

This month’s buzz: delayed gratification

 

Have you ever heard of the marshmallow test? In a study that has been reproduced numerous times, children were led into a room and seated at a table where a single treat, a marshmallow, was waiting for them. The children could eat the treat, the researchers assured them, but if they waited for 15 minutes without giving in to that temptation, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. If they ate the first one before the end of 15 minutes, then the one marshmallow in front of them would be the only marshmallow they’d get. The results were interesting. Some children could avoid the marshmallow, and delay gratification, because they could envision the long-term benefits, even if that meant covering their eyes so they couldn’t see it. Other children ate their marshmallow right away.

 

Why is this noteworthy? The ability to delay gratification has been linked to better life outcomes as measured by health, academics, salary, and other criteria. The good news, according to marshmallow test researcher Walter Mischel, is that we can learn skills to help us delay gratification.

Think about how delayed gratification could benefit your own life. Should you play that video game now and write your English paper later, or vice versa? Do you want to get your workout in before school or see if you’ll have the stamina later in the day?

Jeff Knox

Counselor

As an education planning resources counselor, Jeff Knox guides both middle school and high school students through their educational careers with an aim toward admissions to selective institutions. His resourceful one-on-one approach to admissions planning encourages students to strategically develop their academic interests and talents and to create a compelling narrative, whether applying for...

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