This is a re-post in honor of my very favorite senior who was just accepted into the school of her dreams after waiting it out and the college finally acknowledging they’d be fools not to bring in her fantastic-ness. And for all the teenagers and their parents beginning their quest- you’ve got this.
Let me begin with an Opinionated Fact. Furthering one’s education is a near necessity to get to where you want to go in life. We are fortunate to have so many options of colleges and universities with so many opportunities that allow our children to learn and thrive and grow. However, I do not believe where one goes to college or how they get their education determines how successful they are going to be. It’s what they DO with their education, that will get them where they want to go.
So, what’s my issue? I don’t believe in the college admittance process. I think it stinks…which is the kindest word I can come up with right now. How does it make sense to rate a person over a four year period in their most hormonally driven, self reflecting and often deprecating, continuously adapting to change, time of life? From ages 14-18, many kids are often dealing with their first major loss. It could be over a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend or their parents divorcing or losing a loved one to death. They are navigating the challenges of peer pressure and learning what “friendship” really means. They are often pulling away from their parents influence and begin modeling other influences which may be good or bad. They are like chaotic beasts really. All the while, they are going to school and expected to put all distraction aside and “do your very best because if you want to go to a ‘good’ college, they want to see you have high grades and that you are challenging yourself proving that you will be successful in life.” Seems fair right?
Opinionated Fact #2. There is something to be said about putting on your big girl/boy pants and dealing. That’s the ultimate goal right? But in a society where we are so often sheltering our children from the dregs of our neighborhoods and hardships of real life, how are they supposed to know what to do when they are slammed with an unpleasant reality with no prior exposure? They have to figure it out, of course, but with what skill? Unless you have parents or caregivers who allow you to feel your own feelings, fight your own battles and make your own mistakes, this may be a challenge. Sometimes the way we think we advocate for our children is really a disservice to their sense of ownership and responsibility. We need to expose them to life and support them in their journey, not walk the journey for them.
But here’s my real issue. It’s not the kids who cry when they get rejected from their top choice school. I actually never see them. It’s the kids who cry from the overwhelming stress of not feeling good enough while they are applying to their list of 25 colleges, who they feel are judging them of how they managed their four years of school (in actuality, its typically 3 and half) as they were trying to figure out who they are and what on Earth they are doing here, all while they are learning the historical importance of the Great Wall of China and how not to blow up your cat when mixing some obscure chemicals you may come into contact with. As if how they “performed” in high school defines who they are and what they hope to accomplish.
So I now prep my students in our preliminary college talks with the advice of going into the process with the framework that “it is YOU who are judging them, not them judging you. There are thousands of colleges out there that can offer you what you need. They all have strengths and weaknesses and you have to pick the ones that support what YOU are looking for and want to invest YOUR time and money into. At the end, yes, they may be comparing you with other students because they only have so much room, but if you don’t get in, you can accept the fact that they missed their opportunity or you will find a way to get in if that is what you truly want. There are always two paths to every destination.” That’s Opinionated Fact #3.
When preparing our kids for college, it’s important to be realistic about our expectations and helping our kids figure out what is important to them. Let them choose their options based on how they feel when they are there. Personally, I tell kids never to apply to a college where the name won’t look cool on a sweatshirt. Especially because you will wear that sweatshirt for an awfully long time.
(Insert mental image of John Belushi in College sweatshirt here)
The process doesn’t have to be as stressful as it’s made out to be. Do a college search, visit the schools on your list and choose which ones fit. Put your best foot forward when completing the application and see how it pans out. It’s a lot of legwork, no doubt, and a big decision, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the ride. At the end, you are still doing the choosing as to which option you want to take. And the power of choice rocks.
Okay, Rant over.