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October 24, 2016

Getting into the “right” college

“Our numbers-driven society perpetuates a pressure on our kids to perform. High-stakes testing has taken the place of meaningful teaching and learning. College rankings and endowments are also predicated on numbers (e.g. inflated GPAs, the ratio of applicants to acceptances and test scores). All of which adds up to an education system focused on competition, performance and rankings.”
(Vicki H. Abeles)

The world has always been involved in some kind of collective insanity, but one kind seems to be gripping us all: the pressure to get into the “right” college.

I’ve counseled several New York families who were driven by this pressure, and their kids were just entering preschool. I’ve counseled numerous “high-achieving” families, finding themselves somewhat shocked by their child struggling with substance abuse, eating disorders, or even suicidal thoughts.

Just last week, my 12th-grade teaching wife counseled multiple kids suffering from panic attacks while facing a week of 5 major exams.

This is insane. If you haven’t watched the critically-acclaimed documentary Race to Nowhere, I urge you to take a look. It powerfully highlights this insanity, and the toll it’s taking on our teenagers, who are increasingly improving their math minds while increasingly endangering their mental health. It also highlights why millennials are swimming in college loan debt, accumulated primarily in pursuit of their dream school when “lesser,” cheaper schools were available.

Look, I get it. I have a 19yo daughter in college, and 17yo engaged in the all-important junior year of high school. There’s a million forces pushing them toward this craziness, and unfortunately their mom & dad have echoed these pressures a time or two. But we have tried, and are trying, to emphasize one truth:

If you’re going to college, the most important name on your college degree is not the school’s; it’s yours.

Peace begins with pause,

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