The New Year is a great time to sit, reflect on the past, and set goals for the future. I bet a lot of you have academic, extracurricular, social, and personal goals for 2014.
One of my goals for the year is to keep running. I started last summer (literally off the couch) and I did a couple 5Ks in 2013. For 2014 I hope to run a 10K in March with a friend from college and the Disneyland half marathon with my sister at the end of August. My goal is to train and finish even though I’m not fast.
I’d encourage everyone to take a little time, set goals, and make plans wherever you are on your college-planning journey. It is easy to get carried away (look how busy gyms are this month.) I want everyone to keep some perspective in the process.
College admissions hype can cause out-of-character craziness for parents and students. It is easy to worry when you hear that each year Harvard rejects 80% of the valedictorians who apply and 94% of everyone else. But for every frightening statistic or single digit rate for admissions, there are positive truths you may not hear:
Two-thirds of college freshmen are attending their first choice school.
Most of the “scary statistics” come from the highly-selective universities. In reality, less than 100 colleges nation-wide reject more students than they accept. (That means the other thousands of schools accept more than they reject!)
There are still a number of four-year universities that will accept any student with a high school diploma or equivalency. (So even the kid who graduates last in the class with horrible test scores can go to college.)
Students from middle class (and even upper-middle class) families receive financial aid each year.
If you keep in mind that a majority of colleges admit a majority of their applicants, you can avoid panic and keep perspective.
Families also need to remember that while planning and preparing for college is important, it is not everything. There are things our kids need to learn and do, not because it will help them improve their grades or class rank or help them get into college, but because it will make them better people and better citizens.
Sometimes it takes a crisis to help us put things in perspective. A few weeks ago, just before Christmas, my neighbor learned that her 8th grade son had a brain tumor. He went into surgery and they were planning to start radiation and chemo. I thought back on conversations we had about classes he was going to take and how this would help prepare him for high school and college.
Academic planning seemed so pointless in the face of this crisis. The priority wasn’t what math class he was taking or his grade in foreign language. What was important was faith and family. (There is good news— just this week doctors found that the tumor was benign!)
We shouldn’t need a medical crisis to help keep perspective. We need to teach our kids that academic success is important, but it is also important to work hard, be a good person, use your talents to help others, and maintain quality relationships.
There may be disappointments along the way: rejection letters, lower than expected test scores, not earning a place on the team or in a production, difficult teachers, hard classes, challenging classmates, or disappointing grades. We would all be better off keeping these setbacks in perspective; they are not the end of the world.
So as you set goals and make plans for college admission, keep in mind it is not as impossible as the media would have you think. There are some highly-selective universities which seem to be harder and harder to get into, but a majority of colleges continue to admit a majority of their applicants. Remember there are things in life more important than getting into a top college, earning high scores on the SAT, or graduating in the top 10%.
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