“Success” by Merriam-Webster’s definition misconstrues the core value of a success.(Photo provided by

Last night, I signed a petition to support Strayer University in their Readdress Success campaign to change the definition of success in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Merriam-Webster currently defines success as, “The fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect or fame.”

If that is success, I don’t personally know many “successful” people. If affluence and admiration are the only traits of a successful individual, then there are many people who have little hope of being successful.

Under this definition of success, there are many who strive for success every day that will continually fall short.

Is the mother who watches her child graduate college, after sacrificing her career to ensure his or her education, not successful? Is the man in poverty not successful when he lands a job and works himself out of the life he lived before? Is the student who studies countless hours and earns a 100% on his or her exam not successful?

Success is more about achieving the goals we set, rather than being held to a specific standard of three words.

“We get to create our own success,” said Strayer’s spokeswoman, Julianne Hough.

And she is right. There are no three nouns that can define success for every individual — success depends on the individual and the situation. One person’s success might even be another’s failure.

Hough, Anthony Anderson and Charles Mann, among other “successful” individuals, support Strayer University’s campaign. Each one shares their story of success and how they have redefined the word for themselves, exemplifying that even those who are successful by Merriam-Webster’s definition may not feel that wealth, respect or fame are the true meaning of success.

The current definition of success isn’t representative of everyone. For some, just making it through the day may be a success, and if that is their success, then who is a dictionary to tell them otherwise.

Jean Donaldson is a junior biology major. This column reflects the views of the writer only.