Getting In

I had planned to write about the end-of-the-school-year stressors in this 4th marking period blog but given the recent news regarding the college admissions scandal, I decided it was a subject worth exploring. The news isn’t exactly “news” for most of the general public. We have long known that those with the means sometimes use their influence to help get their kids into a better college. Frankly, I’m happy to finally see some repercussions for that type of infraction. It is most certainly unfair to those who do not possess any privilege or hold any ability to sway admissions counselors or coaches. However, there is a more important aspect to this scandal. The illumination of such an unfairness is an opportunity to rethink not only what is at stake but also what is most significant for high school students preparing for college. Is where they go to college really about the university and its reputation? I’ve heard many parents justify the push for prestigious universities for their children because they want them to have opportunities for lucrative employment after graduation, which certainly seems reasonable. But is it true?
In 2018, PayScale, a Top 100 software company, analyzed 2,645 degree-granting institutions in the United States to determine which students earned the most after graduation. According to CNBC’s report of those results, “Surprisingly, only two Ivy League schools made the list. In fact, the number one school for salary potential is a small liberal arts college with a total undergraduate enrollment of just 844.” I am not in this blog stating who ranked where on their list because that would defeat my purpose, but the point is that it isn’t what we tend to automatically think. I don’t want to undermine the Ivy League schools; they provide accomplished professors and a wealth of opportunities. But so do many other schools. The real question is does it matter: Is your child’s future dependent upon the college they get into?
My answer is an unequivocal no. I’ve worked for over a decade with high school students preparing for and applying to college. Every single child is unique in their college search and each has their own set of goals; that is if they know what their goals are at all in high school. Quite honestly, it’s okay if they don’t. The charge here for students, parents, and educators is to help students find themselves. It sounds cliché but the search for self is the underlying, often forgotten, core principle of the college search. It won’t matter much if they “get into” an Ivy or other highly ranked university if they feel overwhelmed or out of place when they get there. The idea is not to attend the highest-level school that accepts them, but rather to find the school that matches their personality as well as their ambitions. My son was granted acceptance into a school of a “higher level” than the one he ultimately attended. This was for several reasons. One reason being who is to decide what level a student is going to be comfortable with and which school will challenge yet not push them over the edge. Another good reason is cost. Ultimately, college is expensive no matter where you go or what you do. If one university is willing to give you more in scholarship money, they are certainly worth a look. In my son’s case, the top university he was accepted to offered him $8,000 per year in scholarship. He was fortunate enough to have two other universities offer him over $25,000 per year in scholarship. One must ask the question: is one university worth that much more? Sometimes the answer will be yes, but it should be because they are going to offer the student more of what they need and present them with enough knowledge and opportunity to build a career in something that they have a desire to do.
Hopefully, your children are attempting to chase their dreams. They may stumble and fall along the way. Allow them to explore without concern for some report or organization who ranked one school over another. There are many factors in deciding where to get an education and the cost-prohibitive nature of the endeavor can make it stressful. Don’t lose hope and, more importantly, don’t lose sight of the common goal: helping students find a university or secondary education where they can study what interests them in a place where they can live happily for two or four or more years. You want happy, productive young adults, not stressed out students who feel unworthy of their high school diploma because the very top college they applied to didn’t accept them. They need to feel welcomed and supported when they embark on this new and exciting journey. In your search, connect with them and see if together you can determine what aspects of a college appeal to them and why. If it’s the pasta station or the swimming pool, perhaps you can help them dig a little deeper. It isn’t easy but they don’t know what’s ahead or how to navigate what has become a pressure-ridden process. They do, however, somewhere in there, know who they are and who they would like to be. Let’s help them get there.

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3 thoughts on “Getting In

  1. As I have a senior who has heard, and is waiting to hear from “top ranked” colleges, I find everything about the process interesting. Now, in the case of my kid, she wants to go to a “top” school because she is hoping to be surrounded by hard working, innovative smart students…and honestly, I think those are th3 kids getting overlooked in this whole thing

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      1. Thanks. The 28th is the big day, but regardless she got into one of her top 3 schools. Her stress level has been insane

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