Ah, I can see from the responses that College Admissions is going to be a rich and fertile topic here at The Chaos Chronicles. And, thank goodness, we have so many college profs amongst the Chaos Crew to keep me sane and honest as the next 18 months of my life is circumscribed by the admissions process for my older son. On Chaos Chronicles 502, I talked to Dr. Nancy Berk — psychologist, stand-up, and mom– who wrote a new guide about the admissions process for parents like me called College Bound and Gagged.
I admitted on the podcast that I’m trying to keep an open mind about what college my son might attend, but here in California, parents focus in on the Ivies and the UCs. Everything else is the “next tier” down if you listen to the talk in the bleachers. (Okay, I’m exaggerating– but it’s close to that kind of mindset! Trust me! The list of “good schools” is shockingly short considering the large number of overall colleges and universities.) I expressed to Dr. Berk that I didn’t worry about my son’s expectations, it was my expectations that concerned me. How could I keep a healthy perspective when all the parental talk around me is about ratcheting up the stakes?
I loved Nancy Berk’s no nonsense advice: Avoid those parents!
I also loved Jennie from Iowa’s advice on my blog. So I cut and pasted her response here:
Loved the show — here are my thoughts as a) a Midwesterner b) someone who went to a GREAT and unknown college (Earlham College) and c) a professor at a school rated by US News as “an A+ school for B+ students”
a) If people are judgmental, they aren’t worth your time…let them live their lives of quiet desperation….as Holden Caulfield would have said, “You don’t need Phonies”
b) There are a MILLION great schools, only about 8 have a “big” name, 30 have a “almost big” name, etc…..AND, there’s NO saying that the teaching, learning and peers there will be good. My friends who went to Harvard and mostly teaching-assistants as their Prof’s were too busy being important Harvard profs.
c) Having gone to a small, unknown school, I found the disadvantage was only in the first few years out — the alumni circle was less powerful – so whereas my friends who went to Harvard, Brown, Stanford started in entry-level positions, my friends from Earlham were secretaries and worked our ways up. After 2-3 years, it was all our quality, not the name of our school. Also, when people had heard of my school, it earned me extra points because they knew its worth and value (and probably knew I wasn’t a “phoney!”)
d) LOTS of very smart people are professors and can’t all get jobs at those “important big schools.” Dare I say, there are outstanding professors even at community colleges and small, unknown schools. In fact, I think you’re MORE likely to get a good professor at a “less important” school that cares about teaching more than CV’s/Publishing (I’m biased. )
e) Probably the best thing for a kid will be not to be laden with debt. Being debt-free will go a LOT further than the name of an “important big school”
I am deputizing Jennie from Iowa, aka Ma Schmidt, to keep me sane on my journey. She’s right: I don’t need the phonies! But I do need Chaos Crew member and fellow blogger Professor Alan, on my “Talk Me Down” team. Here’s what Prof. Alan wrote in response to Ma Schmidt’s comments:
As a tenured professor of a mid-ranked state school in the Midwest, let me “amen” everything Ma Schmidt said.
Thanks, people. Oh, btw, I’m now getting the SAT Question of the Day, and I miss about 90% of them the first try. Even the English ones with the grammar. That’s humbling! All those things I sued to know, like Algebra.
Embracing my chaos, Lian