I heard a couple more horror stories from current students yesterday, so I am compelled to write more about how our lifestyle is infected by this virus of college admissions mania.
Some years back, I had a student (an avocado) who was a great human being. She was the kind of person you want as a friend: warm, positive, kind, playful. She was also a talented athlete. She had done OK at Menlo with academics; she didn’t excel but she had a B average.
In the spring of her junior year, her dad asked to talk to me. He said he had “invested” so much in her to this point, and he really wanted her to go to Stanford, to “get the best.” I’m not sure what was going through his head exactly – was it about prestige for him? Was it about thinking that going to Stanford would be the best thing that could happen to her? I don’t know. But what I did know was that this young lady did not have the academic talent to succeed at Stanford. She was a great person, but she wasn’t cut out for that high-power academic environment. If she went there, the academics would have been highly stressful for her (especially with playing a high-powered varsity sport).
I’m not saying anything bad about Stanford; I hear good things from alums who have been there recently. But this was about FIT. It was not a good fit for this student.
College choice and admissions has come to be seen like Olympic medals – are you going to get a bronze, a silver or a gold? (assuming you medal at all…and hey, you go to Menlo, so you better earn a medal, right?) A better image would be like picking clothes. Don’t pick the most famous brand; pick something that fits you, both fitting your body well and suiting your identity well.
If people will get out of that Olympic medal mindset and seek the college (or, heaven forbid, alternate life path) that fits them best, the stress levels will go down and we’ll get to a more balanced perspective on things.
PS – The student chose to attend a different school; I don’t think she even applied to Stanford, realising that it wasn’t a good fit for her. She did well at the school she attended, enjoyed her four years there, and now she is enjoying life after college. I think she’s pretty happy (from what I see on Facebook), and her dad must be proud of her.