It is easy to relate dozens of stories of disappointed parents who believe because they went to Harvard, Stanford, St. Lawrence, or Colby and loved it, that their son or daughter would follow. Some parents who never went to college, who had always dreamt of attending the likes of Notre Dame, now insist their children achieve what they (the parents) could not. To some degree, we all live through our children. Here are some points to consider:
1. Schools have changed. They are nothing like the ones you remember 25 years ago.
2. Competitiveness of college admissions has become intense. You might not even get into the school you went to with today’s criteria.
3. Students today are not like “liberal arts” students of 25 years ago. Huge numbers think about majoring in business or communications. These are two majors that hardly existed at the undergraduate level. Students will have a very different college experience than you did.
4. Many more students want to be near a big city or attend schools with over 5000 students, but the numbers of schools that fill their criteria are fewer than they think. The beautiful bucolic campus that you loved many miles from anywhere often doesn’t fit the image the teenagers have of their fast paced lives.
When working with families, I try to help them explore schools that match both the parent’s criteria and then the student’s; two lists. A college information session offers hard facts. If you can’t visit, open the statistics/facts pages of the college websites. Colleges are great at telling everyone what their statistics are, what high school program is expected, SAT/ACT numbers, and their acceptance rate. These numbers set a reality platform. Many parents come back with a “wow”, I’d never get in there. Thus a real list begins to take shape.
“But I know a trustee or my best friend is an active alumni, they can get my adolescent in” are regular comments from parents. The fact is, unless you want to build a new science center, it does not work. Everyone, these days, knows someone. Colleges are inundated with such letters. There are actually some colleges that forbid trustees from writing in behalf of candidates. Stanford allows two academic recommendations and throws out anything else. “Pull” isn’t reality anymore.
Parent’s vision of college for their child is wrapped up in many factors. “What does it say about me? What will people say when they see the name of that school on the back of my SUV? A great deal of emotion is tied to all of this. Some people believe they have failed their children if the school isn’t what they envisioned. Nothing can be further from the truth. Finding a college that matches your adolescent’s individual interests, abilities and needs, will help to bring about a successful happy student. Finding a college that matches your vision for your child doesn’t necessarily bring about an independent successful individual, rather it usually brings about an extension of you.
Counseling in the college and independent school placement field since 1988, Andrea Glovsky has successfully helped hundreds of students by matching interests and abilities to the most appropriate school. For more information, visit her website: www.findingcolleges.com
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