I've led an OK life, but I just can't escape the feeling that with only a little more wisdom, knowledge, and maturity back at the beginning of high school I could done much better.
As I wandered Yale, what I was struck by was how none of these people are demigods: they're just bright kids, as I was. But at the time, although I knew going to college was essential, I never thought anything like this was possible: Yale or Harvard were part of a life that other people lived.
At the time I applied to colleges, I don't think a Yale or Harvard application would have been accepted: but if I'd held this out as a goal from day one, and lived the kind of forward-leaning life that results in acceptances, who knows.
Stated differently, I think I can understand how some people go through childhood not believing college is anything that could be part of their world: it's the same as how I thought none of this could be part of my world, not for lack of money but really just out of my own distorted stereotypes.
Personally, I now think parents have it backwards when they visit schools with their son or daughter in their senior year of high school: those visits should be happening in the last year of grade school, and should include at least one ivy league school as well as your home state's biggest university, so that whatever course high school takes for them, either seem like concrete possibilities assuming the desire for them translates into action.
If you make a sincere effort at any serious university, and add up all the time you spent studying, my guess is that that total wouldn't be that far behind what the total would be here. But, a degree from Yale or Harvard is a force multiplier for that same amount of effort.
I'm not sure that if I had the chance to rewind my life I would have made any different choices: I would certainly behave more maturely, but too many unique things have happened to risk their lack of replacement.
I guess it just disturbs me that my own prejudices limited what I believed was possible.