Students select colleges, colleges don’t select students

The criminally fraudulent actions of Rick Singer and 50 parents and college administrators indicted in the college admissions scandal in 2019, highlighted the disparities and weaknesses in the college admissions system, as well as the cultural bias that a college degree is a salve for life’s uncertainties.

As Washington Post journalist, Jeff Selingo writes:

These rich and powerful parents — like so many of us — seem to think that getting into the “perfect” school is the most important thing. College certainly matters. But the notion that a specific college is going to transform your child’s life, especially when you’re already rich and powerful, isn’t borne out by any research.

And, I would argue, that no matter a student’s family background—rich, middle class or less-than-average—students who don’t understand why they’re attending college in the first place, let alone a “name-brand” college, will likely be devoid of a road map and self-awareness to recognize and engage opportunities during their college years. Then, they may graduate without having built further confidence in their aptitude, thus a foundation for prosperity.

Furthermore, the rich academic resources and diverse networks of alumni may be less valuable, as students, ignorant of their own potential, aren’t able to or don’t know to capitalize on such opportunities. It’s as if students have a mint-condition Ferrari sitting in their garage, but no driver’s license to operate such an intricate machine.

In a second Washington Post article, Mr. Selingo’s sentiments about college reputations not being the key to success are echoed by Jerome Lucido, executive director at the University of Southern California’s Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice, who published a paper calling for change in college admissions back in 2011:

If I could change anything [about college admissions] I would change the pressure students and families feel to design themselves and their K-12 education to please admission officers. Kids need to grow up to be their truest selves and that will make them better students.

Thus, when a young life is focused around the desire to merit the most elite college acceptance possible, the frustration, disappointment, and worry that success will never be had when denied the “coveted” acceptance, can cause parents to behave irrationally (and criminally). Mr. Selingo writes:

Last spring, Eric Furda, the dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, told me he spent part of early April responding to emails, phone calls and letters about admissions decisions, mostly from parents whose children were denied entry. (Penn accepted only 8 percent of applicants last year.) What he noticed was that some parents started their inquiries by questioning the accomplishments of a student they knew was admitted rather than espousing the merits of their own child.

Washington Post, June 26, 2019

The frenzy for the “right” admissions overlooks the power of a college degree as an experience where a young adult begins to actualize their life’s purpose. Instead:

This [Parents’] anxiety reflects a perception that economic stability is increasingly scarce, and so are slots at the big-name, elite colleges that are supposed to guarantee it. That perception isn’t entirely wrong: At many schools, class sizes have stayed stable even as applications have skyrocketed as higher education has turned from a local industry to a national and even international one.

Washington Post, March 14, 2019

Yet, assuming that an elite college education is more advantageous, is based on conjecture and opinion:

Without good measures of what makes a college good, we fall back to the power of popularity and exclusivity. The more applications a school gets and the more students it rejects, the better it seems.

Washington Post, March 14, 2019

In sum, a college doesn’t make a person successful. A person who’s a success is one who knows themselves, so they can connect with mentors who help them become their best selves, and will continue to collaborate with others to refine and realize their potential in the world. And, in living according to one’s inherent purpose, they’ll have joy and peace of mind, so the others around them will have joy and peace of mind. And, what more prosperity is there?

For more information about how to navigate the complex college admissions process to prepare any student for the challenging labor market, check out Creative Marbles Consultancy

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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