My College Summit
School closings. ACT & SAT canceled testing dates. Grades moving to Pass/Fail. Extra curricular activities are no more and internships or summer mission trips not even a possibility. All of your kids’ chances to stand out on their college application and prove themselves have been taken away. Or have they? You have been sold on the idea that school, testing, and a plethora of activities and involvements are what is going to guarantee your kid to be successful. You have been sold that in order to get into college, everything has to be perfect, no stone left unturned, no whitespace allowed. Whitespace is for slackers. You haven’t had a family meal together in months, but it’s for their future! We all have to make sacrifices for success! Nobody got anywhere without hard work and HUSTLE, right? I just want you to have more opportunities than I did, you tell them. This rat race we have entered our kids in is reckless. Since when is the appropriate lesson to teach our own offspring that their worth is equal to the sum of their accomplishments and test scores?
In my 12 years of working in college admission, I have been on the receiving end of hundreds of volatile, disrespectful calls from parents. I’ve been hung up on, yelled at and threatened. This usually because their son/daughter didn’t get into my school’s engineering … or whatever program. Here are some of the most common things I would hear every single spring from parents.
“Do you have any idea how hard we have worked for this?”
“How dare you not admit him/her or give them a scholarship?”
“Don’t you know they are on the national honors society?”
“Don’t you know how much money we have spent on programs to ensure we get him/her into a good college??”
“I’d let my student call you, but they are busy on a mission trip right now helping orphans/studying for one of their 12 AP exams or….(insert a million excuses here that make their student sound very important).”
I’ve watched parents take out $200K in loans against my recommendation just so their kid goes to that ‘name brand’ school. I’ve watched parents force their kids into activity after activity because it “might pay off in scholarships.”
But you want to know what I also hear over and over again from students when their parents are not present?
“I just want them to be proud of me, I don’t want to let them down.”
“I just want a minute to breathe.”
“The pressure is too much, I am so stressed.”
“I don’t even know what I want.”
Students of all backgrounds have told me their stories, they have shared their anxiety and they have begged me to give them the ultimate answer they all seek…. am I good enough? Yes, a kid with a 4.0 and a 36 on the ACT has asked me … will it be good enough?
Now I am flooded with messages from parents panicked about what this pandemic means for their child’s education, about what this means for their college acceptance and future. Here we are amidst a crisis, and we still don’t get it. Our kids are grieving and they are confused. Yet, we are still concerned about their college future, their rat race to success. A race they didn’t enter and likely never wanted to be a part of.
These students have been given a beautiful and complex gift. They finally have a chance to face their shadows, to be without the armor of all the things we shove on their schedule. They have a chance to ask the ultimate question, who am I and what do I want? These are the questions we should have been giving them space to answer all along. These are the questions that lead to true success.
They have a right to be sad about the loss of high school activities, time with friends, senior prom, athletic events, etc. But those things are a privilege and sometimes it is really good to learn first hand what not having privilege feels like. Because of this, these students will learn empathy; they will learn what they are really made of. In my opinion, because of what is happening to them right now, this is the generation that will change the world.
I encourage you not to stress about what the college landscape looks like right now, even colleges don’t really know. Be here with your kids. Grieve with them. Love them. Give them grace and for the first time, stop worrying about their future and worry about the right now. Let them rest, let them sit with the discomfort and be there for them to lean on. It is the best gift you can give.