Erick Rommel

Erick Rommel

Some questions have answers so obvious that we often don’t ask them, even of ourselves.

For example, are you more likely to hear swear words in rap or classical music? What food is most likely to feature jalapenos: Mexican or Japanese? What story is most likely to receive the Pulitzer Prize: a historical biography or an angst-filled graphic novel?

The answers are obvious not because we already know them, but because we think we do. Our answers are based on the reputation of what we think we know about rap or classical music, literature or cuisine. Reputation is everything.

You earn a positive reputation through a life of positive actions. Be good and do good, and people will see the good in you. If you live this way, your reputation will become great and your name will become synonymous with your actions.

Think of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata or Michelangelo. One has a reputation based on acts of kindness and the other based on art. Compare someone you know to either one and no other words are necessary. Those names take the place of dozens of adjectives.

We all have dreams of being seen in the same light, and our choice of college is our first decision toward achieving that goal. Many factors come into play when picking a college: distance, cost and areas of study. Another consideration is the school’s reputation. When it comes to reputation, there is no better than the Ivy League.

Every year many high school students apply to these institutions. Most are rejected. For the few who are accepted, their reputation grows merely by association.

Ronald Nelson is one of those students. The high school senior from Memphis, Tennessee, wants to be a doctor. He earned high scores on his college entrance exams. He’s class president. And he’s taken advanced placement classes as well as racked up academic honors. He also plays the saxophone.

With that record, it should come as no surprise that he was accepted to Harvard University, the rest of the Ivy League schools and also to a variety of other high-profile universities and colleges.

Each of those schools has a great reputation. But instead of choosing one the Ivy League schools, Nelson chose the University of Alabama.

Not the selection you expected, right?

Nelson looked past reputation and saw reality. And the reality is that college is expensive and Ivy League schools cost a lot of money. Each Ivy League school offered Nelson partial financial aid, but only the University of Alabama offered a complete scholarship and a stipend to pay for campus costs as part of an honors program. And that’s what Nelson chose so he could save money for medical school.

Next time you’re faced with a tough decision, try to remember Nelson. He walked away from a dream because he wanted a greater reality. Do you have the strength to do the same?

Looking ahead, Nelson is confident he’ll have the skill and ability to move on to the next level of his education. Who knows, maybe Ivy League schools will give him a second opportunity to turn them down.

After all, he has a great reputation.