Sounding Off: Success needs to be measured more holistically 

Success is an abstract concept and can mean different things to so many people. As a society, we should look into measuring it more holistically. Illustration by Zaire Diaz/The Daily Campus

In my senior year of high school when I was applying to colleges, the word “holistic” got thrown around frequently. In fact, it’s currently used on the University of Connecticut’s admissions website. The word was used positively, with a whole host of admissions officers explaining that by holistically reviewing each application, schools were doing more than just zeroing in on very specific, easily-quantifiable factors like SAT scores or GPA. 

According to a Nov. 15, 2022 article by Michael T. Nietzel in Forbes, over 80% of four-year colleges will not require standardized testing for Fall 2023 admissions, following the trend of looking more holistically at students. 

I’d argue that while this trend is definitely a positive shift in college spaces, it raises an important question — why we don’t think more holistically when it comes to all other facets of life? Brace yourself, here’s where this article takes a turn for the heavily anecdotal. 

I’m a college senior with about two months remaining in my undergraduate career. This school year, I’ve dropped one of the degrees I was pursuing, completely scrapped my honors thesis idea mid-project to start over and set a bunch of goals at my job as the managing editor of The Daily Campus that I likely won’t be able to see to fruition.  

In short, I’ve spent a large portion of my year feeling like a failure. This article and the thinking behind it more broadly is my attempt to turn those feelings around. 

As the SAT proved with its decades-long reign as the gatekeeper of higher education, people broadly really like easily-quantifiable factors. When I came into this year, I would’ve called myself a success if I accomplished everything I wanted to do at the DC, along with keeping the major path I’d chosen as well as the career path that came with it. 

When those things didn’t happen as planned, it was very easy to simply say that because my ideal of success didn’t occur, I therefore was not successful. However, life really isn’t that simple. Just as a student with a 1200 SAT score might bring more value to a university than one with a 1400 because that’s not the only quantifier of value, I’m beginning to view the wider concept of success the same way. 

Sure, I’m not going to graduate with the exact degree I was planning on getting, but I am still graduating in four years, with honors at that. Sure, I’m not immediately going into the field I was planning on entering, but I’ve found a love for journalism that I feel I simply have to try my hand at. While not everything I had planned to achieve at the DC has come to fruition, I’ve had my hand in the making of over 100 issues of a daily newspaper, and that’s honestly pretty cool to be able to say. 

Success is an abstract concept and the more we try to boil it down to figure out a formula for it, the more we ruin the amazing feeling that comes with it. It can mean so many different things to so many people, and that’s the beauty of success. The only person who can know if they are truly successful is that person, and that’s how it should be. 

For me, I’m going to choose to be optimistic and try to shed the tunnel vision that depresses me while continuing look towards the bright side. I’m about to finish my time here at UConn, I’m in a relationship with the love of my life, I’ve made many genuine friendships and I’ve got a whole life left to live. In short, I’d say right now that I am successful. If you’re reading this and you’ve been struggling to check all the boxes you thought you had to check, please know that it’s okay — every checklist has limited space, and it could never contain everything it’s possible for you to succeed in. Don’t let it limit you! 

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