The details of the college admissions cheating scandal have been trickling out in the news for more than a few weeks. Parents with kids who have applied to college in the last several years, or who will be applying in the next few years, have been collectively astounded, outraged, and reconciled to the reality of the somewhat insane climate of college admissions in our country.
But what about the parents of kids who have yet to reach the middle school years? The ones who don’t even have college on their radars yet, and are currently concerned with their kids simply learning to read or tie their shoes? Are there any takeaways in all of this for them?
Absolutely! And as the parent of two college kids, I envy all of you for the perspective that you will have when it’s your turn and I’m hopeful that you’ll learn from our experiences.
Here’s what I’d like to offer to you, after processing all of what I’ve personally been through with my own kids and all that I’ve read about in the media regarding college admissions.
1. Be prepared for your kids to start hearing “advice” about college from teachers and administrators once they enter middle school. Classes that they take then can actually affect their high school transcripts and have an affect on college choice, as crazy as that sounds. Start the conversations then about how college is a big business in our country, and nothing about admissions is “fair.” That’s just a fact of life.
2. Teach kids from a young age that college does not equal success and happiness as an adult. There are many roads to satisfaction and fulfillment in life, and no college can guarantee that for anyone. If they do plan on college, what they do once they are there, is much more important than where they go.
3. Be just as concerned with helping your kids learn “adulting” skills as you are with encouraging them to do well academically and get into college. Far too many of us college parents are finding that our kids are getting there and then don’t know how to do things like make their own medical appointment or obtain a money order when they can’t use a debit or credit card for something.
4. Be mindful of wanting something for your child more than they want it for themselves. For me, one of the most curious aspects of this admissions scandal was hearing a teenager say they didn’t even really want to go to college, yet their parents were willing to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for them to have a degree from a certain school. What purpose did that serve other than feeding the parents’ egos?
5. There’s nothing wrong with making education a family priority, but it should be just one of many that you encourage – along with kindness, empathy, curiosity, and learning from failure.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype when others around you are buying into it, unless you’ve made a conscious decision beforehand to not get sucked in.
My sincere hope for you parents of younger kids is that in another 10 years, the pendulum has swung back even further in the direction opposite of the current level of crazy that now exists with applying to college.