Get Into College Blog (May 2015)
By Kristin M. White
I wrote It’s the Student, Not the College: The Secrets of Succeeding at Any School – Without Going Broke or Crazy to open the discussion on the relative value of selective schools and to try to break the stranglehold these colleges have on the collective minds and wallets of today’s families.
Working as an independent college advisor over the last decade, I’ve found that the mania and madness surrounding top college admissions seems to be getting worse every year, and it has spread to other parts of the country and the world. I have clients in China, Australia, and South America who are just as stressed about getting into elite American colleges as kids in the U.S.
To be sure, these schools do a great job of collecting intelligent, motivated teenagers; however research shows they don’t add much value in the production process. Studies by Kruger & Dale shows that high achieving students have the same average income whether or not they attended the elite college that admitted them. A 2014 Purdue / Gallup “Happiness” Study of 30,000 college graduates found no correlation between well-being (defined as sense of purpose, social well-being, financial well-being, physical health, and sense of community) and engagement (defined as liking what they do, feeling connected at work, and they do their work well), with attending a selective college.
Today’s students are unfortunately not gaining skills in writing, critical thinking, or complex problem-solving while in college -- skills employers are looking for, but find lacking in today's applicant pool. Students aren't studying much or preparing themselves for a competitive global economy. I wrote this book with the hope that students will spend less time and energy on "getting in" to college, and focus instead on the things that they can do during high school and college to better prepare themselves to be successful as a student and in their early careers.
The book also reminds parents that your kids have wonderful talents and abilities, and they will mature and grow those skills over the years. You don’t need to go deep in debt or mortgage your retirement to make sure your children all go to the most expensive schools. Our job as parents is to help them develop their passions and gain the confidence to help them be successful in the future. This has little to do with a particular college or SAT score range, so it's OK to worry less about that.
The book’s message to students is that you shouldn't worry about getting into a specific college. That doesn't mean that you can relax and surf the Internet or text friends all day. You need to take charge of your education and career preparedness. You also need to weigh the costs of each college and how you will finance it. But once students stop worrying about how they will look to college admissions deans, they will be able to take risks, focus more deeply in subject areas and maybe even find the fun in learning again.
Imagine if you will what these students will be like upon entering college if they concentrate more on developing themselves and their own skills and exploring interests and passions. They will have a different mindset, a stronger belief in their own abilities, and a more personal connection with the material they study. When they enter college, they may be more engaged, engrossed in their work and ready to take on challenges academically, and in internships and careers. They will be ready to reach their goals and excel in their careers, and it will have nothing to do with the name brand of the college they attended and everything to do with their own preparation and determination.
The biggest misconception in educational circles today is that students who don't get into what is perceived as a "good" college are doomed for mediocrity; and those who are admitted to elite colleges are destined for success no matter what they do. The reality is success is in a student's own hands, and not some admissions officer at Harvard or Amherst.
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Kristin M. White is the author of "It's the Student, Not the College: The Secrets of Succeeding at Any School - Without Going Broke or Crazy" (also available on Amazon) and founder of Darien Academic Advisors, an educational consulting firm operating since 2005. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.