Tag Archives: Smith College

Say “No” to an Admission Offer from a Highly Selective College?

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Sometimes I cringe when I re-read some of my older Blog posts. And sometimes I think I was spot on.

Early April is here – and with it, I’m moving beyond the March Madness of basketball (that final game where the underdog team Villanova beat UNC at the buzzer was well worth staying up late for) – and again observing the annual “madness” that the college acceptance season has become.

I wrote a Blog post in April, 2015 expressing my thoughts on what really matters when making a college choice.

Here is what I said then  – I think it rings as true today as it did a year ago ———>

 

———> Yes, it is a ridiculous and harmful obsession that some parents, shared at times by their teens, have with getting accepted to an elite, highly selective college.

And yes, “getting in” can become the narrowest of goals in the madness of this college admission season.

But – can I be honest here?

I think it really DOES matter where a student goes to college.

But probably not for the reasons you think.

1st – Attending a college with a well-known brand name DOES open future doors.

I agree 150% that fit matters far more than brand name. Yet brand name can help, especially in the post-college years – – let’s not kid ourselves.

When I applied for internships and jobs, every interviewer I met labeled me (rightly or wrongly) as smart based upon the school from which I had graduated.

“You went to Smith? My (daughter/wife/sister/niece/cousin) went to Smith. You must be smart.”

The name of my college opened doors – got me interviews, introduced me to well-connected alums.

Here’s the key though: It was up to me to achieve once I got in that door.

So if your teen pushes for a brand name school, he understands its’ name will always be on his resume. He’s right; that name alone may ease his path to jobs and graduate schools. But he has to do the work once he gets there.

2nd – Going to a college that offers a diverse and intellectually stimulating community in which to live DOES matter.

Much of the learning in college comes from outside the classroom – which is why it is important to attend a college where you will be surrounded by people you will learn from.

And, assuming a student, is open to new ideas, because this is really what college is about, isn’t it? –  she will not learn as much from people who look like her, think like her and grew up near her than she would from people who are dissimilar.

Diversity DOES matter – because highly selective schools usually can and do offer more financial aid, a student may find a truly diverse student community, in terms of background, beliefs, ethnicity, race and social class in a more selective school.

3rd –  and most important to me  – Where a student goes to college DOES matter to that student’s Mental Health.

Parents and their teens must discuss the topic of college student mental health – before the student sets foot on campus next fall.

The absurd stress of the college admission process is but a harbinger of things to come. If a student gets accepted to the dream elite school of her choice, the prize is an entrance ticket into an even more stressful academic environment.

Highly selective schools function as pressure cookers, packed with intensely focused kids driven to succeed and achieve, to get that A, to find the best internship, to land a prestigious job after graduation or get into a top medical school.

And the impact of all of that stress?

An increasingly deleterious impact on the mental health of college students. More students than ever, according to recent studies, report feeling anxious, depressed and/or stressed.

The University of Pennsylvania, seeking its own answers after a series of student suicides,  wants to change its own campus culture of  self-described “destructive perfectionism” – – a culture sadly familiar to many at similar top colleges where driven students put immense pressure on themselves to achieve and then think they have failed themselves (and perhaps their parents) if they don’t meet their often overly ambitious goals.

So step back a minute.

If accepted to a highly selective school, congratulations – and yes, it’s true that its’ name brand will be a helpful lifetime credential and alumni connection.

And yes, a top college often offers the most intellectually intriguing and diverse community in which to study and make forever friends.

But perhaps – if your student gets accepted by the most tippy-top, elite of schools, because of his perfect grades, mega test scores, impossibly impressive list of awards, achievements and leadership positions, even if your son or daughter is the kind of student who could barely find time to floss in high school, given how busy he or she was –

Perhaps your student should do the unexpected –  and  consider saying “no, thank you” to that most elite of colleges?

What if your student instead considered instead a college with a culture that is not one of  “destructive perfectionism” – but instead one that will support as well as challenge a student.

Here’s the plan:

  • Colleges themselves must take the first step to lessen the pressure to be perfect in order to be accepted.
  • Parents should dial down their own expectations.
  • Students should put their own mental health first (and second, and third) – and start rethinking about college (and high school) as places in which to enjoy learning, to thrive in instead of being driven into a frenzy of unrealistic achievement goals.

Then the only March Madness will be the games we watch on T.V.

 

 

 

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under 1st Job, College, College, Education, Mental Health, Parenting, Raising Kids, Young Adult Mental Health

Let’s Stop The Real “March Madness”: the Stress of College Admission Season

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I disagree with part of what New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni, said  – and take issue with what he didn’t say – in his recent column about the madness of this College Admission season.

Yes, it is a ridiculous and harmful obsession that some parents have, shared at times by their teens, with getting accepted to an elite, highly-selective college.

And yes, “getting in” can become the narrowest of goals in this March Madness college admission season.

But – can I be honest here?

I think it really DOES matter where you go to college.

But probably not for the reasons you think.

First – the name brand cachet does opens doors.

When I applied for internships during and for jobs after college, every single interviewer I met labeled me (rightly or wrongly) as smart based upon the school from which I had graduated.

“You went to Smith? My (daughter/wife/niece/cousin) went to Smith. You must be smart.”

(note that the interviewer in my day was always a man. always)

The name of my college opened doors – got me interviews, introduced me to well-connected alums. But it was up to me to achieve once I got in that door.

So if your teen pushes for a brand name school, he understands its name will always be on his resume. He’s right; that name alone will ease his path to jobs and graduate schools.

Second – going to a selective college offers a diverse and intellectually stimulating community in which to live.

Much of the learning in college comes from outside the classroom – which is why it is so important to attend a college where you will be surrounded by people you will learn from.

And, assuming a student, is open to new ideas, because this is really what college is about, isn’t it? –  she will not learn as much from people who look like her, think like her and grew up near her than she would from people who are dissimilar.

Diversity does matter – because highly-selective schools can afford (although not all do) to offer more financial aid, a student is more likely to find a truly diverse student community, in terms of background, beliefs, ethnicity, race and social class in a more selective school.

Third –  and most important, IMHO, where you go to college matters to a student’s mental health.

Bruni does not discuss this but parents and students must.

The absurd stress of the college admission process is but a harbinger of things to come. If a student gets accepted to the dream elite school of her choice, the prize is an entrance ticket into an even more highly stressful academic environment.

Highly-selective schools function as pressure cookers, packed with intensely focused kids driven to succeed and achieve, to get that A, to find the best internship, to land a prestigious job after graduation or get into a top medical school.

And the impact of all of that stress?

An increasingly deleterious impact on the mental health of college students. More students than ever, according to a recent UCLA study, report feeling anxious, depressed and/or stressed.

The University of Pennsylvania, seeking its own answers after a series of student suicides, acknowledges but wants to change its own campus culture of “destructive perfectionism” – – a culture sadly familiar to many at top colleges where similarly driven students put immense pressure on themselves to achieve and then think they have failed themselves (and perhaps their parents) if they don’t meet their often overly-ambitious goals.

Don’t the most selective of colleges bear much of the responsibility for the creation of this pressure cooker culture since it is the colleges themselves that have ratcheted up, with each passing year, this March Madness of the college admission season?

So step back a minute.

If accepted to a highly selective school yes, it’s true that its’ name brand will be a helpful lifetime credential and connection.

And yes, an elite top college may provide the most diverse community in which to live.

But perhaps – even if your student gets accepted by the most tippy-top, elite of schools, because of his perfect grades, mega test scores, impossibly impressive list of awards, achievements and leadership positions, even if your son or daughter is the kind of student who could barely find time to floss in high school, given how busy he or she was keeping up the most competitive of applicant resumes –

Perhaps your student should do the unexpected –  and say “no, thank you” to that most elite of colleges?

What if your student instead considered instead a college with a culture that is not one of  “destructive perfectionism” – but instead one that will support as well as challenge a student.

Here’s the plan:

  • Colleges must take the first step to lessen the pressure to be perfect in order to be accepted.
  • Parents must dial down their expectations.
  • Our students must get the message that colleges (and high schools) are places in which to enjoy learning, to thrive in instead of being driven into a frenzy of unrealistic achievement goals.

Then the only March Madness will be the games we watch on T.V.

Let’s all bet on that.

 

 

 

 

 

14 Comments

March 31, 2015 · 4:19 pm

My Wonderful Senior Year in High School. NOT. (It got better in College.)

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In high school I was that girl who was attractive enough to date the captains of the basketball and football teams (not at the same time, of course) while smart enough to be in the top honors classes. Being attractive and smart was not a good combination in 1970.  The pretty girls thought I was not cool enough to be friends with – and the smart girls thought I was too cool to be friends with. Neither fish nor fowl, I thought I was a solo specie.

By September of my senior year I could not wait for high school to be over.  Perhaps there are still girls out there like I was, nice-looking but not popular, smart but sensitive, sitting in their bedrooms writing poetry, and working on their college applications; hoping that once they reach college, they will finally find a community that fits who they are.

That is what happened to me.

My parents wanted me to go to the same college my mother had gone to – Smith College -a highly-regarded women’s college in Massachusetts. My Mom loved her time at Smith, still had many of her college friends, and happily returned every five years, dressed all in white to march in the campus reunion parade.

A women’s college? I didn’t think so. Let’s not beat around the bush here, I liked to date guys. And yes, I had a thing for athletes who happened to be smart. Maybe because I completely lacked athletic ability (always was, still am, the last to be picked for any team) so dating an athlete was the closest I could come to peer acceptance in my sports-obsessed high school where cheerleaders ruled the popularity pyramid.

The boys I dated did very well in school, too, but somehow their intelligence wasn’t seen as a social handicap as it was, at least then, for girls. We were advised by the teen magazines to hide our smarts if we wanted to keep a boyfriend. So I wrote the requisite soulful poetry holed up in my bedroom but showed it to no one; I would not have dreamed to show it to one of my boyfriends.

I applied to Smith, as I was asked to do by the parental unit but put my hopes on my applications to five other coed schools. Come April 15th, our mailbox was filled with four thick envelopes and two thin ones. The thickest one was from Smith and the thinnest one was from my first choice – a top men’s college on the cusp of its first year of co-education, telling me I was not going to be in their entering class. My parents insisted that Smith offered the best academics, and wasn’t that why I was going to college?

So off I was to a women’s college. Yes, I grudgingly admitted, the extensive course catalogue did impress me. And how hard could it be to find boys to date? I read that they regularly showed up in droves on weekends.

And surely I would find girls in my class who were attractive as well as smart and not afraid to show it to each other –  or to the boys they dated. My mother reassured me on that point too.

On the second night of college, I went with a small group of girls from my dorm, all of us new to Smith and to each other, to walk down the hill to see a movie called “Anne of A Thousand Days.” It was a British historical drama about Anne Boleyn, the wife, briefly, of King Henry the 8th, until she failed to produce a male heir to the throne and was subsequently executed. I was a big fan of British history so loved the epic story of politics, religion and romance.  My kind of thought-provoking movie; one that I never would have even suggested seeing with friends in high school.

After the movie ended, we started to walk back up the hill to campus. I waited, then said, a bit tentatively, to the girl walking next to me, “Didn’t you think that was an amazing movie?”

She quickly responded, “Oh yes, but I wonder if it was all historically accurate. Do you think the meeting between Anne and King Henry shortly before her execution really happened?

We talked about historical accuracy versus the need to make a movie appealing to the masses all the way back to the dorm. Wow, I thought, maybe I could really be my true self here in college.

High school has evolved since I was a student but some things stay the same; the athletes are still popular, the pretty girls are in demand and the smart kids join the debate team. While being a female with a good brain is no longer as uncool as it once was, I am sure that there are still many girls, and boys, who like I was, are on the social fringe, for whatever reason, afraid to really be themselves for fear their peers won’t accept them.

Let me reassure you that things do re-sort themselves once you get to college. It happened that way for me; it can happen that way for you, too.

1 Comment

Filed under College, Female Friends, Moms, Relationships, Women