Where You Go to College Isn’t Everything

I am following this college admission cheating scandal with rapt attention and horror.  I wish I could say I was surprised.  In many ways, my surprise is that we haven’t heard of this type of thing sooner. 

While I firmly believe in personal responsibility and ethics, and am not excusing anyone’s wrongdoing, I see how our society has created this problem.  This is “helicopter/lawnmower parenting” and “mommy wars” at its worst, where your child’s college admission measures your worth as a parent and makes all your sacrifices worth it. 

The reality is that it has gotten SO much harder to get into college.  How many of you reading this article would get into your alma mater today?  I’m not sure I would!

But, the other reality is that there are approximately 5300 colleges and universities in the United States.  There is a place for every student including trade schools or community colleges for those who might not be ready or fit for a four-year program.   Guess what?  It’s okay!  We have become so myopic that only 5% (or less) of these schools are deemed worthy. 

What message does it send to your kids when you have someone doctor their SAT/ACT scores?  That they on their own are not “good enough,” and need “fixing?”  That your approval and their worth are contingent on their scores or admission?  That to me is the biggest tragedy of this scandal, and we need to do better. 

Depression, anxiety and suicide rates among teens continue to rise.  It’s no wonder with the pressures on them (and the sleep deprivation).  I remember being stressed in high school, but not to this level.  Melissa Fenton says it so well in her article on “Why Average American Teens are Exhausted and Burnt Out.”

So what can we do?  I struggle with this one too.  As much as I tell my own children that there are more important things than performance, their peers and schools tell them otherwise. 

But here’s what I know:  Change starts with us.  The messages we convey to our kids are not lost upon them.  Not every child is a math whiz, a piano prodigy or a varsity athlete.  But every child is uniquely talented and worthy and deserves to be nurtured as such, even if that means no Ivy League to brag about!

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