What is a “Brass Ring,” anyway?

Historically, a brass ring hung from the outside of a carousel or merry-go-round. Riders at old-time carnivals or circuses had a chance to grab it, and if they got their hands on it they could win a free ride. The expression “grabbing the brass ring” or “reaching for the brass ring” has come to mean living life at its fullest or giving it your best shot.

When I founded the Brass Ring, I chose this name because I love that idea of having a chance at something wonderful. Anyone can go for a ride. Anyone can give it a try. I feel the same about going to college. Unlike in some countries where a single test in the tween years determines the future or where social status, race, ethnicity, or gender limits a kid’s opportunities, in the United States we have lots of options.

There is always room for a second chance.

But that’s not a message that students today hear very often. Instead, we talk about the Ivies. We put bumper stickers on our cars from schools that turn down over 90% of their applicants. We expect near-constant perfection from our kids. They have to have top grades and test scores. They have to take all AP courses. They have to be captain or leader of every after-school activity. Volunteer work. Summer research programs. Cure cancer! Dig a well in Africa! Solve the world’s problems!

Well most kids aren’t like that. Most kids screw up sometimes. Most kids don’t have all the answers, but they’re trying to figure it out. Most kids are regular people just like you and me.

That’s where I come in. I love the kids who might not have perfect school records, but who get excited about something that’s unique to them. Maybe they love to sing. Maybe they’re gamers. Maybe they work at a restaurant after school and on the weekends and they’re really proud of the money they’ve saved. They’re quirky. They have a spark.

Those are the kids who are going to change the world.

I help creative and entrepreneurial students make their best college match. That brass ring is out there. Reach for it!