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Answer Sheet
Posted at 11:26 AM ET, 04/05/2011

A college counselor’s rant about irrationality

This was written by Elizabeth F. Zucker, a college admissions consultant in Cambridge, Mass., to fellow college counselors. She posted it on the listserv of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling with this subject line: Warning: rant ahead, the rant being about college-bound kids and their parents. She gave me permission to republish it, noting that there is nothing in it that she doesn’t say in parent presentations or to her clients.

Here’s what she wrote:

Perhaps it’s been too long a season, but reading all the posts today about kids with a “change of heart” AFTER they’ve been admitted to the schools they thought they wanted and the queries from counselors about kids who want to tap dance and do small mammal veterinary science as they minor in Sanskrit, I’m wondering whether it’s time for the adults to reclaim the territory.

The truth is that most kids in this country go to State U’s, that many Nobel Prize winners came out of small denominational schools with tiny menus of course offerings, that freshman who enter college with the most common designated major — “undecided” — seem to find their way.

I cannot feel sorry for the kid who doesn’t make it into Bowdoin (15.59% admit rate), so has to go to Bates (26.87%). Nor do I have patience for the parent who would have paid for Harvard (6.2%), but, since the kid only got into Chicago (15.8%), is now at the end of the process, insisting on State U because it’s cheaper.

We do these kids (and parents) no favor when we pander to their irrationality and immaturity. It’s critical that we teach the lesson that there are many routes to whatever goal the kids think they have at the moment. In fact, in a world where they will have not only serial jobs but serial careers, exploring multiple paths may wind up being a better strategy. Furthermore, it is our responsibility to remind them that college choice is not a choice between chemotherapy and radiation. We all aim to help kids make the best match. But the bottom line is that the experience kids will have is what they make of it — wherever they wind up.

Bah, humbug.

Liz

ELIZABETH F. ZUCKER

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This post has been updated since it was first published.

By  |  11:26 AM ET, 04/05/2011

 
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