College Admissions Isn’t a Game

Students and their parents worry, as is often the case in this springtime of year, about who will be admitted and/or rejected at what college, believing that the outcome of a meritocratic, formulaic decision making process that defines winners (those accepted) and losers (those denied) is the final arbiter of who succeeds in life and who doesn’t.  

The quest to be “a winner” in the college admissions game often begins in earnest during elementary school when parents and students often choose those experiences that they believe align with the ideal candidate in the eyes of the Ivy League admissions officer, often endeavoring to curate the “perfect” academic and extracurricular resume.

Under the influence of such a belief, parents and students can be stressed, consistently sizing up the “competition” and reacting accordingly to “keep up with the Joneses.”  Parents routinely ask me about the weight of a class rank in determining their child’s eventual admissions to college, as they monitor their student’s place in the academic hierarchy like a stock market chart. 

Similarly, students report that seeking the highest grades possible defines the educational experience, a daily, recurring academic brawl, where one student after another blurts out statement after statement, desperate to get the right answer and prove their worth to teachers, all the while diminishing prospects for actually broadening each other’s perspectives in a rigorous exchange of ideas. 

Furthermore, I often receive phone calls from moms panicking, having been spooked listening to other moms “Parent Bragging” on the sidelines of soccer practice, believing that their kid is not competitive in relation to so-and-so’s kid and thus no longer the The Ideal College Admissions Candidate, temporarily losing sight of their children’s unique talents and qualities. 

In reality, the competitive academic meritocracy only diminishes the learning process and skews parents’ well-intended efforts to guide their children toward prosperity. Instead of soccer field sidelines becoming a parent support group to collectively nurture the next generation to fulfill their individual life’s purpose, parenting itself mirrors the competitive sport being played on the field. 

Instead of protected environments to wrangle with the ignorance inherent to human experience, classrooms are where the teacher (benevolent dictator doling out grades for the most meritorious) and student (knights in need of gold stars to vie for the most elite college admissions, The Golden Ticket if you will, to lifelong prosperity), battle Gladiator-esque peer on peer in the combat of rote memorization and regurgitation on demand form of diminished learning.

So, by spring of a high school senior year, it’s no wonder that students and their parents worry about how they’ll fare, seeking validation for their efforts. Yet, when families collectively and continuously acknowledge that competition and education are dichotomous, our youth can finally be freed from a scheduled childhood designed to fabricate The Ideal College Admissions Candidate.

For more information about how Creative Marbles experts help families navigate the complex college admissions process to increase youth’s prospects for prosperity, contact us at 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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