600 students and parents plus 85 college admissions directors filled my son's high school last night. It was a mock admission's evening. Let me explain. Parents and kids were all sent a packet of information last week. Included in our reading was a profile of a fictitious small liberal arts college and three, also fictitious, applications to said college.
Our mission was to become "admission directors" ourselves and discuss the merits of each student to decide who we should select into our highly selective school.
I was looking forward to this event and found the whole process interesting. But this morning, in the bright light of day I have come to some startling conclusions.
But, before I get to that, let me set the scene. After we broke into small groups to discuss the candidates as they are called, the fictitious leaders in our groups, who are actually real 'admissions directors' set up tables in the school's gym for a college fair. Kids and their parents pick up nicely printed information about the different schools and try and get a little face time with the admission directors. This reminded me of something. I just couldn't quite figure out what.
When it hit me, it hit me hard.
First, let me come clean. When I attended college, I did the first thing that really disappointed my father--I joined a sorority. He hated anything that was inclusive and was disappointed that I had let my idealistic standards down. I was commuting from home and needed to make this huge school feel smaller so I joined Delta Gamma. Anchors Away!
I didn't fully understand what my father was getting so annoyed about until I was on the other side of rush. I spent a week judging other young women to see if the would "fit" into our house--DGHOOD. It was one of the most disturbing experiences of my young life.
After chatting with someone for a very limited time you had to decide whether you wanted this person as a "sister." Being nice was definitely not good enough. During our nightly meetings we had three paddle, one that had the letters NGB written on it. You could vote Ya or Na or NGB. NGB meant Nice Girl But.....
I was disgusted. It was the last Rush I attended until last night.
From a few pieces of paper I was supposed to evaluate an entire human being in the pretense that I am are trying to see if this candidate would fit into my school and be able to handle our academic rigor.
It felt just like Rush. You see, you want to have the best house, with the best girls, the cutest, most fun, and most connected. You want to attract the best frat boys so beautiful girls are important. You want those girls who also have great personalities because, hey, you have to live with them. And if daddy is rich, perhaps he'll donate some money and turn the crappy living room into a spanking new parlor.
So, reading between the lines, universities and colleges have become big business. They want their student body to be filled with kids with great numbers, high GPA's and even higher test scores. This makes the school look sexy and more desirable--makes them look IVY LEAGUE. They also want a certain diversity, because, hey, that looks good and they want kids that will win awards because they can use this in their marketing materials. RUSH all over again. And if daddy can give money, added plus. Big, fat plus!
When we all entered the gym for the college fair, I began my slow parade around to the different tables. I caught myself.
I walked to the one empty side of the gymnasium and sat my large derriere down on the wooden floor. I couldn't do it! First, this was Kyle's thing, not mine. Plus I just didn't want to play the game.
Kyle doesn't think he has the option not to play the game. I don't think most kids or their parents realize that they can opt out. It is a contest, like Rush, who can get into the best house, oops, I mean college.
I got into a great house--DG was known and is still known as a "good house." I chose the house, just like it was choosing Yale or Brown. I might have been happier at Chico State but I would have thought why would I choose Chico State if Brown wants me.
The answer is simple. It might have fit me better. But like so many of our "rising" seniors, I was a snob.
If, as a potential sorority or fraternity member or as a "candidate" for college we take the control, then we have a system that works so much better. But I guess that is not in our nature. Somehow we want the best, defined by what is the most desirable, the hardest to get into, the one with the best looking girls!
I didn't sit alone against the back wall last night, I sat next to a new friend, a painter, an artist. We talked for the time it took our son's to wander around the gym. I enjoyed her. I had fun. Instantly, I was out of this frenzied room and into an interesting conversation.
We should make the choices of ours lives--the choices we really have some control over. Who we want to be friends with, what we want to do with our time here on earth are things we can assert a certain amount of control over. We know, or perhaps sometimes we forget, so much of what happens in life is out of our control. I think in this frenzied, made-up, well marketed world of colleges we forget that.
Last night was a great reminder.