Just the other day, I had a mother approach me to ask if it was too early for her son to start working with me on a college admissions strategy. This is a question I get all of the time, however, finding out that her son was still in the fifth grade made me truly consider how desperate parents have become today to make sure that their child has a competitive advantage when it comes to getting into college. Whether it is the cost of attending college, or the increasingly high expectations of admissions officers to even get into many prestigious schools, many parents are left scrambling for even the tiniest perceived advantage that could potentially give their child the boost he needs to separate himself from the general mass of qualified college applicants. Unfortunately, this cult of uncertainty that has made its way into many households across the country can have a negative impact on the parent/child relationship; and, ironically, can prove to be counterproductive if the ultimate goal of parents is to help their children gain admissions to the right college (rather than the best college), where their sons and daughters can grow and prosper in a healthy and happy environment.
The mere mention of college or SATs in certain circles can lead to a litany of cautionary tales, ranging from rejection rants from parents who can’t believe their prodigy was spurned by his top choice, to the insider scoop on which SAT prep guy is the best. For many parents the only thing worse than no information is misinformation, and there is plenty of that to go around when it comes to college admissions. The harsh reality is that overworked and under-staffed guidance departments have forced parents and students to take the lead in the quest for college acceptance. If college admissions, and everything attached to it, have made for a less-than-harmonious home life, here is some advice that just might ease your frustrations:
‘Change Your College Perspective’
The truth is, contrary to the gloom and doom message that continues to get churned out by the media, the majority of colleges have very high acceptance rates. The problem isn’t that students can’t find a great college. The problem is that students all have the same ideas about what makes a college great; and, too often those ideas revolve around inaccurate rankings and “Best of” lists. If the majority of the highest achieving students continue to apply to a very small and very similar list of schools, then the outcome in most cases will be disappointment and disillusionment. Parents need to emphasize that the goal should not be to get into the perfect school (which doesn’t exist by the way), but to get into the perfect school for the particular child (of which there are many to chose from). There is a reason that colleges and universities spend tens of millions of dollars to build their brand; however, when parents and students alike look beyond the brand and begin considering schools that might not be household names, they often find schools that are not only ideal, but also more willing and able to offer financial incentives to attend. Those parents who encourage their kids to spend more time considering what kind of college suits them more often than not get exactly what they are looking for.
If your child doesn’t do so well on the SAT, don’t give up all hope. There are hundred of schools, like the ones listed at Fairtest.org, that don’t even require an SAT or ACT score. If your child wants to design a college curriculum free from the traditional restraints, there are colleges with open curriculums that will allow him to do just that. Rather than trying to force your child to develop the strengths that will get him into one of the top colleges, give him the freedom to pursue a curriculum that is designed to foster the things about which he feels passionately and that will lead him to the right college in the end.