I spent the better part of last evening at my older son’s College Night at school. He’s a junior, and we’re now officially part of the whole college experience we’ve been hearing about.
At the latter part of the last century (that’s how old I am), I applied to college. I barely remember it because it was such a non-event. I filled out a one page application, wrote a small check, and ordered a transcript. A few weeks later, the University of Texas sent me a one page acceptance letter.
That was it.
I should have clued in that times have definitely changed a couple of years ago when my son was a freshman, and he came to me with a concern.
“I need to start a nonprofit organization or write a book,” he told me, “I’ll need it for my college application.”
At first, I thought he was joking, but a few little snarky comments launched by me in his direction made it clear that he was deadly serious.
“I’ll see what we can do,” I assured him.
I followed up with a few parents who’d already done the college application drill, and they confirmed what my son was saying.
“I heard about one kid who had a 4.0 and a perfect SAT, and Yale turned him down,” one friend told me, “The kid was really upset, so he went to New Haven and met with the Admissions Department. He told them he wasn’t arguing with their decision. He just didn’t understand it. That’s when they showed him information about the kids who were admitted. Evidently, they’d already discovered breakthroughs in cancer research and written books the Pulitzer Prize committee was considering.”
Okay, the last part is a bit of an exaggeration of what she told me, but it’s not far off from what she said.
We’re living in this strange paradigm in this country today where high school kids are operating under tremendous pressure to make the grades and achieve the accomplishments necessary to get into a good college. Once there, the cost of tuition for a four year university is about equal to the cost of my first house. Many of them get loans to pay for all this which they’ll have to pay back. Then many of them graduate and end up working retail or managing a fast food restaurant if they’re lucky.
It’s really a travesty when you think about it. So what’s the solution?
I’m asking because I don’t have one. I’m just concerned because I think we’re testing the intestinal fortitude of our kids and by extension of ourselves.
First, we pamper our children through elementary and middle school. If anyone dare correct them, particularly their teachers, we lawyer up. It’s not their fault that they begin to believe they can do no wrong.
Then they go to high school and everything changes. Every grade becomes monumental, dictating what kind of college they’ll get into and by extension what kind of job they’ll get. At least that’s the theory because, as described earlier, there aren’t a lot of jobs out there.
What makes things worse is that if and when they do land that job, I’m told by management types currently working with these people, they don’t always make the best employees. It seems that years of always being right about everything and having started a nonprofit as a teenager leads to an inflated ego. Who knew?
I’m going to do my best to keep my chin up through this whole college application process. I sometimes tend to get carried away, and I don’t want that to happen this time.
In the meantime, however, if anyone happens to know a good nonprofit organization that a sixteen-year-old could start, I’m all ears.