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Helping kids and families shed their Ivy-worship

IBviolamomIBviolamom Registered User Posts: 219 Junior Member
edited May 17 in Parents Forum
I am a psychotherapist and I work in a community mental health center, and I work with quite a number of adolescents in high school. I constantly witness the effects of high school pressure on these kids, but the worst thing I see are the feelings of anxiety and helplessness these kids experience because they believe that there are eight good colleges in the country and the rest of them are all crap. Sometimes there are a few other schools that make the cut, Stanford and MIT, of course, and a couple of other top 20 universities. This belief pretty much always comes from the parents. And the thing is, the parents have the best intentions. Most of them did not grow up in this country, and they want to see their children succeed, but they have been led to believe that there is only one very narrow path to success. They have communicated to their children that if they do not get into one of these schools they have failed and they will not be successful.

Wanting to go to an Ivy is not the issue. Of course there can be many good reasons why a person would want to attend one of these schools. But these kids, under the influence of their parents, are desperate to get into these schools before they know any single thing about them other than their prestige. My heart breaks for them because I know what the odds are. I know the odds are even slim for excellent students. Some of these kids are already feeling the pressure as high school freshmen. Having been through this process with my own child, I believe I have a very balanced and realistic perspective on the college admissions process. However, I am not a college admissions coach, I am a therapist. There are some things I can do when speaking with these kids and their parents, but I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions about where I might direct these families to get more information and that would help them gain the knowledge they need to broaden their perspectives and take the intense pressure off their children? I don't think that these parents would be receptive to a book like Colleges That Change Lives, because I think the leap from Ivies to schools they have never heard of might be too much to stomach, at least initially. But any resources would be helpful. And I wish, in addition to college admissions consultants, there were "College admissions reality checkers" that worked for a reasonable fee! Maybe I should start a new field.
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Replies to: Helping kids and families shed their Ivy-worship

  • IBviolamomIBviolamom Registered User Posts: 219 Junior Member
    edited May 17
    @intparent I wonder if sending them here would make things worse! I would worry that once they see all the stellar students who get rejected they would double down on the pressure! I know if I could only filter out all those threads and direct them to the helpful ones, hmmmm...

    I used to be a teacher and I went back to school to become a therapist. I can't imagine going back to work in a school! :))
  • AroundHereAroundHere Registered User Posts: 1,137 Senior Member
    edited May 17
    Two resources that put the numbers of rejections in perspective:

    Look for Will Dix's chart, "Charge of the Bright Brigade" (it's on Forbes which is really hard to make a working link tO so Google it).

    The Princeton Review and Fiske guides would expose these parents to other schools out there. Rugg's Recommendations puts a lot more than just the usual suspects in the top tier group for each major. The book "If the U Fits" and wiselikeus.com blog (both by the same author) talk about finding best fit colleges rather than highest prestige ones.
    Post edited by MaineLonghorn on
  • hzhao2004hzhao2004 Registered User Posts: 452 Member
    Don't send them to CC for sure. This is a site with a lot of people obsessed with ivies, either for or against.
  • STEM2017STEM2017 Registered User Posts: 2,966 Senior Member
    edited May 17
    OP, the Frank Bruni book, "Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be," talks to your concern. I thought it was an OK read, but I'm not sure if will drive the point home to people who are truly obsessed with the Ivies, but its a start.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 27,374 Senior Member
    Tell them to stay off the Ivy pages, and they will be fine.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 7,418 Senior Member
    The parents need education on the wide range of school choices, and the excellent outcomes students have after attending. Much of this is cultural and may reflect how things work in the country of origin. Class is a word that we don't throw around much, but is at the root of some of these obsessive pursuits of Ivies.

    And to some, it is important to have a "name" school that everyone has heard of. Some of us have "heard of" a lot more schools than others. For instance, I have "heard of" Hamilton, or Davidson, or Grinnell and would be impressed by someone attending. Even schools like Amherst and Williams are off the radar of some.

    I also think that high schools need to deal with this better. They could hold workshops for parents and students alike, on the options for schools, the realistic odds for Ivies etc., how to research schools, career outcomes etc.

    There are some good books out there. Loren Pope wrote Colleges that Change Lives of course (and the website is useful) but he also wrote a book called "Looking Beyond the Ivy League"- outdated perhaps but very good. I had a book entitled "Creative Colleges" that we really liked. There are lots of books out there.

    There is a film on this- does anyone remember the title?

    The kids are programmed by the parents, in my experience, and it is hard to get through to them on this. When they are older and more mature, maybe, but of course that is too late.

    Nice of you to worry about this....

    ps I do want to add that Ivies are indeed great experiences for many; but there are large lectures, grad TA's, and liberal arts colleges are more personalized so better for some...so maybe talking about the education itself will help
  • AroundHereAroundHere Registered User Posts: 1,137 Senior Member
    Another organization to look into is Challenge Success. They work on academic pressure more broadly, rather than just focusing on Ivy-pressure specifically.
  • prezbuckyprezbucky Registered User Posts: 3,369 Senior Member
    edited May 17
    @IBviolamom

    Do you get a chance to talk to them before they have applied to schools or do they just come to you after they have applied (and been rejected or are suffering the stress of waiting...)?

    If they come to you before applying, you might try to explain to them that:


    1. They should choose schools based on Fit and Cost
    2. Typical fit variables include things like Academics, Environment, and Social vibe.
    3. To find out if a school will probably be affordable, run the Net Price Calculator (NPC)
    4. Do not just apply to highly selective "Reach" schools. Kids should also apply to matches and at least one safety.
    5. Every school to which the kid applies should be one which he or she likes and can afford.

    If they follow these relatively simple guidelines, they can rest easier while the apps are being evaluated and they can be fairly certain that their admissions outcome will be a happy one:

    With a safety, they are highly unlikely to be "shut out"; and they won't be stuck with a school they either don't like or can't afford.
  • STEM2017STEM2017 Registered User Posts: 2,966 Senior Member
    edited May 17
    There is a film on this- does anyone remember the title?

    Ivory Tower?

    Race to Nowhere?
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