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Students: remember the forest

Life is hectic. It’s hard to see beyond the here-and-now to the big picture. This is especially true for young people, who are so caught up in the day-to-day that they don’t get much time to think about long term goals. For young people who don’t have a lot of life experience or perspective, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.

But they should, and here’s why: they may be missing out on incredibly valuable opportunities. Let me give you an example:

Recently, a professor I know needed someone to shoot short amateur videos of some basic science experiments. She was doing the experiments and only needed help with recording for a website. Anyone with a semi-new cellphone and a few hours to do very basic editing could have done it. She circulated the job (with a job description, a respectful hourly rate and a request to see a test video) to the students in the class where these videos would be used and asked her students if anyone could help her. Despite two verbal offers to help, no one formally applied. So she circulated the job ad more widely to students in earlier years of the program. Still no one responded. So she asked me and I did it.

When it was done, I wondered why no students offered to do the job. Maybe because it wasn’t much money? Maybe because they thought they didn’t have an extra few hours, or perhaps some students were not interested in working with this professor? In any case, it doesn’t matter; none of these reasons are good enough for a student to turn down a golden opportunity like this one.

Yes, it was a golden, see-the-forest-for-the-trees, opportunity.

Let me explain…

The professor is a highly respected person with a long and successful career, and many national and international recognitions. She knows everyone in her field (and a few others too) across Canada, and everyone knows her. If a student helped her with this small project and did a good job, she could potentially connect him or her to other opportunities, such as summer research positions, or put in a good word for a scholarship, or (if she knew the student well enough) act as a reference for a graduate or professional school application.

So, students, I know life is busy. All I’m saying is to try to keep the big picture in mind. You have an end goal, a destination, and there is often more than one way to get there. Try not to get too caught up in the little things that you miss opportunities like this one – one that has the potential to lead to a series of events that could get you to your final destination faster and easier.

Keep your eye on forest, and try not to get stuck in the trees.

Want to learn more about how I can help you win scholarships? Please visit my services page.

About the author

Janet MacDonald is a Scholarship Coach with mycampusGPS Education Consulting. She is a former Canadian university admissions officer. For seven years, she was the coordinator of a scholarship program at a major Canadian university. Janet has helped her student clients win hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships.

You can find her online at, and on LinkedIn.

Learn more about Janet MacDonald by visiting the About Page.

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