College Fervor. It’s a thing in this country, closely linked to helicopter parenting. The middle and upper classes feel that their children all deserve the best – so consequently they push them to get into schools that are viewed as ‘the best’. Be it Princeton, Stamford, Yale or Harvard, everyone wants their child to go to a top school, and every school system is starting to encourage this mania. Trust me, I know – our first ‘college information night for parents and students’ was offered to us and our oldest when she was in eighth grade.
Thank God we didn’t go – Song & Dance had no idea who she was yet, or what she wanted to do. College was – and rightly so – a dot on a far horizon – something no 13 year old should have to worry about.
In Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be, Bruni discusses not only the mania that has gripped us, but why it doesn’t serve our kids well. He also uses the following to illustrate why your child should forge their own path and stop focusing on the ‘advice’ kids get to get into the ‘best’ school you can.
He looks at how the experiences of world leaders like Condoleezza Rice, Chris Christie, and Ronald Reagan, going to schools you’ve never heard of, changed their lives for the better and led them to their leadership roles.
He explains how business and creative icons like Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz, makeup magnate Bobbi Brown, and bestselling author John Green had access to professors and experiences they’d never have gotten in an Ivy League that gave them the knowledge and confidence to become outstanding in their field risk takers.
Learn how college and universities are put into their rankings and on what criteria publications such as US News and World Report make their lists – and why these are NOT the things you and your college bound teen should be aspiring toward.
Understand that colleges are businesses, and the chances of getting into an elite one are diminishing based on the type of students they need to bring in to pay the bills (think elite athletes and wealthy foreign students whose family can pay the full price).
Bruni also discusses the costs – how the extreme stress, money, and pressure of being one of the 7% accepted to, say, Princeton, is not a guarantee of success.
It’s all information that students and parents need to know to avoid getting caught up in the lemming-like swell of people rushing to apply to colleges they can’t get into, can’t afford, and aren’t right for them anyway.
I’ll also add that in addition to the fast growing trend of even the most American tiger mothers sending their kid to preschools and prep schools that cost tens of thousands of dollars per year, there is a slower growing trend – but one that is more encouraging. Some kids aren’t going the pressure filled Ivy League route or entering the Scripps spelling bee at the age of 6 in hopes of an MIT acceptance letter. Some kids are going to community college for a year or two before transferring to a college for a number of the following reasons:
It saves the family thousands of dollars.
They don’t feel mature enough to handle college yet. That may sound strange for 18 year olds, but wait until you find out the drop-out rates on some of these places….
They don’t know what they want to do yet.
Many a parent just assumes that if they send their directionless child to Harvard, they will eventually choose between being a doctor, lawyer, or scientist, but what if he’s 2 years into his $60k a year education and decides he wants to be a kindergarten teacher or track coach or physical therapist? Harvard not only won’t have the best programs for him, but will burden him with the knowledge that he will earn, every year, only a fraction of what his education cost.
So before you spend the $50 on that Yale sweatshirt in hopes that your kid will get in, read Bruni’s book first – and then ask your kid what they really want.