Stop the Competitive, Stressful, Painful Race to College

Many parents are anxious and concerned about where their child goes to college. Many are convinced that their child must only attend an elite, top tier university. Why? To those parents, the university choice is a sign of future success for their child. Once accepted, nothing is in their way, they’ve arrived, and their future is set. Plus, parents think acceptance at a prestigious school reflects well on their parenting.

Getting into elite, top tier universities is not the most important thing for students. It’s more important to purse one’s passions, not a university name.  There are hundreds of schools that might be good options for personal interests and strengths.

Working at a high school with a very rigorous curriculum and competitive environment, I see the best and the worst that comes out in students as they plot a course after high school.

The best: so many students leave high school feeling prepared for college and the expectations it will bring. They have been pushed and they rose to the challenge. They leave confident, inspired, and prepared.

The worst: a rigorous, competitive environment can lead to too much student anxiety, depression and lowered self esteem. The pressures surrounding college applications and acceptance can be overwhelming. Many students lose sight of who they are, in a battle for the limited spaces offered at the elite, top tier universities.  They become divisive with their classmates because there are all trying to get in to the same schools.  The students sitting next to them in class can feel like enemies, even if they don’t really know them.

As parents and educators, let’s remain mindful of the most important aspects of happiness in life. It’s truly not about the specific university one gets into, but about how one takes advantage of the opportunities that are offered wherever one goes. “Blooming where we are planted” makes us unique, passionate, sensitive, and alive in the world.

Want more specifics? Here’s an excellent article that parents and educators need to read and put into action.

ivy league pennantsHarvard, Schmarvard; Why Getting Your Kids Into College Should Be the Least of Your Concerns

by Michelle Rose Gilman

It’s almost that time of year. I can feel it in the fall air and see it on the faces of parents and seniors everywhere. It’s almost college application time and the race begins, as parents and kids vie for the chance to get into their first choice colleges. For some parents, college acceptance approaches the culmination of every single parenting choice ever made. Continued…


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