Tempering the college admissions mania, which has reached junior high

Tempering the college admissions mania, which has reached junior high

My daughter recently expressed some concern about college, and the fact that she does not know where she wants to attend. It was a topic of discussion at her lunch table, and many of her friends shared that their sights are set on big name schools.  My child seemed to feel that she was behind because she doesn’t know where she wants to get her degree.

My daughter is in seventh grade.

Some of her peers are already thinking about their college applications and seeing their accomplishments as stepping stones to the universities they dream of attending. I’m tempted to gift them a copy of Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni.

The book calls out the problems that come with the emphasis placed on gaining acceptance into elite, highly selective colleges. Bruni highlights how the college admissions process is flawed, and that we aren’t doing our kids any favors by focusing on Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and the like. I attended a talk by him tonight and really appreciated his message of sanity regarding a process that has become rather insane.

Bruni urged students and parents to shift their focus from getting into an elite school to getting into a school that is the best fit for the student. Moreover, we should talk more than we do about how students spend those four years of college. He stressed discussion of how to maximize the opportunities available at college.

“It’s not where you go college, it’s how you go to college.” – Frank Bruni

He shared a few interesting stats to illustrate that students can be incredibly successful without attending and Ivy League school or similarly selective university:

* 9% of business leaders characterized alma mater as very important when asked about what they consider when hiring.

* 85% of those individuals making hiring decisions characterized field knowledge and work history as very important.

* Fewer than 1/3 of the top CEOs of Fortune 500 companies went to elite colleges.

* 1 – The number of the CEOs of the top 10 companies on the Fortune 500 list who went to an Ivy. It was Dartmouth. Most of those CEOs went to state schools.

* Fewer than ¼ of governors went to Ivies or similarly selective schools.

* 2.9 – John Green’s high school GPA. He went on to become a best selling and beloved author.

Bruni explained that he wasn’t saying parents should not push their children to succeed. In fact, he encouraged parents to help their kids reach their full potential, but not solely because it will increase their chances of getting into a certain school. Don’t make every accomplishment about getting into a certain school.

“One should push one’s kid to get straight A’s, break track records, be their best. But they should do that because excellence is worth it for its own sake. Part of being alive is maximizing your gifts,” Bruni explained. “You can exhort kids toward achievement without talking about college.”

It seems that the college talk has already started for my daughter. It feels like the kids at the lunch table are already caught up in the hype about getting into elite schools, but around our dinner table, the conversation is going to focus on how she can develop her skills and talents now simply for the sake of being her best junior high self and that the college admissions process is not about getting caught up in a name game or status race.

College is about so much more than that.

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