Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Impossible Dream!

Huffington Post has a whole section now dedicated to College. I read a piece this morning that touted Wesleyan's highly selective acceptance rate, "The Numbers Are In: Class of 2014 Even More Selective." The Senior Associate Dean of Admission said that "selecting the class this year was a more demanding process because he found himself reading application after application and thinking, 'great student, obvious admit. Do that three or four times and you realize that you’re admitting at 100 percent, when you should be admitting students at a rate of 20 percent.' "

Wesleyan had been Kyle's top choice before we visited last summer. Thank goodness he felt that it was a bit too far from a city for his liking.

But what if it was still is top choice?

The mean SAT score for Wesleyan is 730. For those of you not in the college process right now that means that half the kids admitted are scoring 730 in all three sections of the SAT. To put it in perspective, the average high school student who takes the SAT gets 500 in all three categories. To put it more in perspective, when we took the SAT, there were two sections, if you broke 1,000 you were doing great.

I recently looked at Kyle's SAT breakdown and was astonished. To get a 730 on this lovely test, you probably can miss one or two problems a section. That's it. All those bubbles, over four hours of bubbles and you can only miss a couple of questions.

When Kyle first took his STAR ( California's Standardized Testing and Reporting) test the spring of his second grade year, he was a bit nervous. I gave him great advice at the time. I didn't put much merit in the STAR test so I told him to make pretty patterns with his bubbles. He gave me a smile and happily went off to school to fill in a pretty patterned worksheet. I would love to give him the same advice today. The problem is he wouldn't take it.

No, these kids actually study for the SAT. Thousands of dollars are spent on tutors. Hours upon hours of practice tests are wasted. Ways to game the system are taught. All in the hopes that you will be let into a school you want to go.

This summer my passionate, almost 17-year-old will spend hours studying for this exam. He wants to improve his score in the hopes he will have better chances getting into college.

He's 17! He should be working at a restaurant or a car wash, saving money to go out with his friends. No, the college counselors tell you, the summer before your senior year is very important for college admissions. You need to do something that will look good on your application. Something that helps market you as a student and as an individual. And all the while be studying for the SAT's.

Kyle will be attending Boy's State in June and then he will go to Fencing Nationals in Atlanta in July. He has an internship set up and maybe an hour or two to get an ice cream or visit with friends. I'm being sarcastic but it sucks. And I must have your common application essay done by the time you go back to school. Trying to fit writing all your applications into the first semester of your senior year is supposed to be very difficult. You know, the colleges really care that you are taking the most challenging classes your high school Kyle is taking calculous, and doubling up in English and History, plus taking AP BIO. He is dropping Spanish! OMG. Lot of thought. Colleges don't like it when you drop a language.

Once upon a time, we spent long summers doing nothing. Mornings turned into lazy afternoons and soon evening approached. We watched movies together into the night and delighted in the freedom summer brought.

Well, not this year. This year is all about college. I dread the thought of college, have since the moment Kyle was born. But now I dread college for a whole new reason--the stress and strain it puts on seriously wonderful kids and their weary old mothers.

We all know the problem. But how do we fix it? I would love to hear your points of view? I can write about this until I'm blue in the face but until we really decide to challenge what we want for our kids, as a community and as individuals, nothing will ever change. It's just too heavy a cost this generation of kids will pay--these once idealistic teenagers who are now addicted to another, far more threatening "Impossible Dream!"


  1. You and Emily both ...

    I just couldn't contain an answer in this little comment box, so you'll have to visit my blog to see my answer.

    TL;DNR version:

    Don't play. Go somewhere that isn't a pressure cooker and transfer in later to get your pretty sheep-skin for your wall. It won't look any different in the end.

  2. Oh, the horrors of a substandard college education!

    My oldest (graduating this year from Ga Tech) got a 1590 on the SAT (pre essay). He was a 4.0 student with 52 hours of AP credit and was active in debate, academic challenge and math competitions.

    He was flatly turned down by MIT and wait listed at Stanford. So he told them to go to hell and went to Ga Tech, where he got a stellar education and had grad schools fighting over him this fall.

    Ivy Leagues are over-rated. And when who gets in boils down to which kid had a parent willing to drop the dough for "college admissions specialists," someone needs to stand up and tell them to go to hell.

    You won't be the only one.

  3. It'll be a whirlwind, thats for sure. Just stick together and don't lose sight of who you are and who Kyle is.

  4. That is all pretty scary stuff, Terry. I feel kind of disconnected from that, probably because my son is just starting high school in the fall and for some awful (good?) reason tons of Arizona kids stay in state to go to college. I guess we aren't hearty enough to handle inclement weather!

    But the Jewish mama inside of me says that if I had an ambitious kid who clearly was a great match for a certain school and LOVED it, I'd probably move heaven and earth to try and make it happen. Just based on my past history, I could see that happening!

  5. Agreed, agreed, agreed. That's all I can say. Agreed.
    Oh, and I also agree with goofdad. Start somewhere else, then finish at the school that you most want hanging on the wall in the pretty picture frame. That's what our daughter is planning for the fall. Much less pressure, much more enjoyable summers. :)


  6. And I thought getting my kids into preschool was tough! I know you'll try to help your son relax and enjoy some of this time, in between the studying and the writing and the practice-testing and the fencing and the worrying about dropping Spanish ... Ye gads, I dread when it's my turn to guide my kids through this.