Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Parents: We're to Blame in the Arms Race that Is Admissions

Every April, due to news coverage and real-life examples (your teens, their friends), you can't help but feel that the college admissions process has become an anxiety-inducing major industry, not a thoughtful matching of student and college.

But it's our own darn fault.

We can all list the parties responsible for the mess: US News & World Report for its acceptance-rate centric approach to rankings; colleges, for hyping everything from the Nobel laureates they've produced to fantastic food; prep providers; consultants; even the College Board which has never seen an expensive test it doesn't like to administer.

But, guess what? As parents we are aiding and abetting this craziness. We, the parents, who want only the best for our kids. We who say apply to as many schools as you like, who pay for endless tutoring and go on many, many campus visits.

I'm guilty as charged. I don't want to limit the number of schools applied to, and we'll provide whatever preparation seems worthwhile. Here's what is even more insidious. We may be unconsciously encouraging the wrong approach to choosing a college. Who hasn't thought that attending a so-called "good" school may make it easier to navigate career and life? And maybe some of us have even had the fleeting thought that if we're paying so much for the education, it ought to be at a school people have heard of.

Here are some short, to-the-point essays on why the process has gotten out of hand.

The essays' authors don't all blame the parents. Still, we all need to do a lttle self-evaluation. How can we lessen the pressure on our teens? How can we help them look beyond that sacred handful of colleges? How can we encourage them to think carefully about what they want out of college, and then help them work back from that point?

We need to be honest. I will start.

Hi, my name is Karen and I am a college addict.

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