Skip To Main Content

Haven and Hope

Sign with arrow pointing to the left for success and an arrow pointing to the right for failure

Put together four words to define college success. Did you come up with something like “Achieved grades, degree, honors,” or “enjoyed learning, tackled challenges”?

How will you define success in college? In the face of societal pressure for college to be the “best years of your life” and the hysteria around getting into a “good” school, can your answer be personal? Do you and your family know what success means to you?

Emerging young adults face many challenges. The erratic and alarming news coverage highlighting the insecurity of global politics does not provide a secure environment. It can be hard to establish an internal spring of motivation, purpose, and hope if you experience the temporal nature of the world around you as a threat to wellbeing. The rigors of high school and growing pressure to epitomize the ideal college applicant can be draining and demoralizing. In service of a secure future, young people are working toward one outcome: college.

Instead of looking at college as a product of so much work and effort, you may want to define success in college by acknowledging it is a process. College can be your first attempt to practice and develop skills with more independence. College, in the best-case scenario, will be full of uncertainty, responding to pressure, asking for help, learning who to trust, and learning to trust yourself. College will be about you trying, adapting, and then succeeding.

At the Brooke Whitted Center (BWC), a transitional living program in Chicago that helps college-bound young adults like you achieve self-directed living, we help you discover new ways to gain coping skills, learn to become self-reliant, and set a course to a productive college experience. The BWC, like college, is an immersive process. It is a process where you set your benchmarks of success and work with professionals to plan how to reach them. If your plan doesn’t quite get you there, you change course and find another route to your definition of success. The concrete goals of which classes to take, what grades to earn, and what degree you are aiming for are the bones of how you build success. How you work toward those goals is what gives life to your plans. Will you get there by being determined and flexible and understanding how to use the resources available to you? Or will you get there by going it alone and accepting only one definition of success? The exciting and scary thing about college is that the answer is up to you.

College is not the finish line; it is the practice field. One critical skill that will determine any definition of success is self-reflection. You will have the opportunity to practice and make the necessary changes to your approach as you see yourself moving forward. You will gather skills—concretizing one strength at a time. Initially, you may focus on time management. What method will you use to track your homework assignments, social calendar, and need to do laundry? You will troubleshoot as you put your plans into practice. Maybe after a week or two, you will set your alarm 15 minutes earlier so you can grab an orange juice and an energy bar from the cafeteria on your way to an early morning class. As time management skills strengthen, you can turn your attention to understanding how you produce work. Do you work well in small groups, with the buzz of a coffee shop in the background, or in a quiet study lounge? Skill-building in college thrives with self-reflection; noticing what works and what doesn’t. When you are defining success, you are also acknowledging what is not contributing to your advancement.

The other pivotal skill for college success is emotional regulation. Do you know what makes you anxious, worried, or overwhelmed? Do you have a way to respond to these feelings and keep yourself on track? Difficult feelings often result in avoidance. With practice, you may find that when challenged with anxiety, too much to do, or fear, you need to dig in. Use your resources, ask questions, and gather information that helps you produce work. Teachers, advisors, counselors, peers and other resources in your support system are a good place to start. Your definition of success can be personal, and your process can be collaborative.

Define college success in four words. Did you put together four words that describe achievements in college or four words that describe how you will navigate that time period? Define college success in four words and share your answer!

Made mistakes, achieved goals.

Identified strengths, acknowledged limitations.

Enjoyed learning, tackled challenges.

Surprised myself, reached out.

Stronger together, developed confidence.

Had fun, took risks!

Hard won accomplishments, whew!

Kelly Baas, LCPC, is a Therapist for the BWC. To learn more about this new program and how it could support your young adult successfully transition to college after graduating from high school, visit the BWC’s website at

If you have a loved one who you believe may benefit from the BWC’s services, please visit our contact page or call our director of admissions, Kristin Friesen, at 773-420-2891.

  • College Success
  • Residential treatment
  • anxiety
  • autism
  • autism and family
  • depression


Haven and Hope is a destination for professionals, educators, and parents to learn from O-School experts about the issues facing children and adolescents with a variety of social-emotional challenges and/or autism, and how various aspects of the School’s 21st century therapeutic milieu provides a safe haven and a path to hope for those in need.

Date Range