By now you’ve heard all about the college admissions scandal involving desperate parents paying to bypass the proper college admissions process to get their kids in to prestigious schools.
There are just so many layers to the Operation Varsity Blues onion that it took me a while to know what I really wanted to write about.
There is So. Much. Here.
One of the most disappointing things about the scandal is, of course, the utter unfairness to every other student who tried to get in and didn’t. Another is the fact that the system is not a meritocracy as we’d like to believe.
And that Aunt Becky could possibly be involved in all of this.
Best College Fit vs. “Best College”
But yet another important theme has emerged for me: The arrow-like focus that many parents and students tend to have on getting into the “best college” rather than the “best college fit.”
Status and prestige are big players for many families when it comes to college. And as we’ve seen, the perceived status of getting into these “highly-ranked” schools can turn those with means to the use of fraud in order to game the system to get accepted.
Some of the biggest culprits in helping to support this theme are the “Best Colleges” ranking reports that come out every year, most notably from U.S. News & World Report.
I’m sure you’ve heard of them. And if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I can’t stand ’em. Anxious parents and students pore over these college rankings, considering them the end-all-be-all to where they’ll ultimately send applications.
These rankings reports are teeming with inaccuracies and unverified, self-reported data. And they don’t even consider things like tuition cost in the equation.
Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell criticized the U.S. News’ rankings in the New Yorker: “There’s no direct way to measure the quality of an institution—how well a college manages to inform, inspire, and challenge its students. So the U.S. News algorithm relies instead on proxies for quality—and the proxies for educational quality turn out to be flimsy at best.”
These bogus rankings and the culture surrounding status and “getting into the best college” is toxic. Students need to be focused on finding the schools that best match their individual talents, preferences and ambitions.
As a college planning coach, I’ve always been committed to helping students discover who they are and then identify those colleges where they’d thrive – that’s the whole point! If we have our priorities straight as parents, we’re encouraging our kids to attend college at a place where they’ll have the very best opportunities to grow, to find success and to shine.
There’s nothing easy about the college admissions process. And there’s nothing easy about parenting. (I know don’t have to tell you that.) If we’re staying true to ourselves and our kids, it’s our job to help them to find the path that helps to create smarter, more competent, wise, honest and fulfilled human beings.
Let’s continue the conversation! Leave a comment below.