A Therapeutic Approach to College Admissions

I recently read an article in The Atlantic that wrapped up in a tidy little package the approach that every parent should take when helping their kids deal with college admissions. Now, I know that every parent will not need to follow the sage advice given in this article. Many students will gain acceptance to their colleges of choice while and others already understand that when less than 10% of the applicants gain acceptance to an elite school; a lot of very deserving applicants will be turned away.

I applaud Lori Gottlieb for her response to a reader who worries that the college admissions process is rigged against her son. It is obvious that her words are measured and carefully selected. She has the unenviable task of teaching a lesson to a concerned parent while maintaining her attention and not dismissing her feelings. By the time the reader reaches the end of the article, they find that the response neither confirmed nor denied the suspicions. What they did do is arm the concerned parent with the right mindset to help her feel better and with tools to pursue a path of teaching her son a life lesson that will truly make a difference in everything he does.

The message this article reinforces is to look beyond the headlines and the talking points. Just because something a friend, colleague, news article or report offers an opinion on something doesn’t mean you have the whole story. Find the source of the information and evaluate it for yourself before making a decision. This does require a bit of work on your part but when the subject is your child’s future, it’s worth a little extra effort.

We learn from a wide array of stories, lessons, parables and experiences that there is no magic potion that will result in our “happily ever after”. So, why do we buy into the idea that a degree from a specific college will make that myth come true for our children?

What if all the Ivy League colleges were heavily invested in the same financial markets and some huge scandal eliminated them from the college landscape? Would we cease to produce outstanding scientists, doctors, lawyers or engineers? The answer is no. With more than 3,500 institutions of higher education in this country, more than a handful will be a near-perfect place for every college-bound student. And rest assured, very few of those perfect campuses are included on the roster reserved for “elite” institutions.

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