Four years ago, I posted a thread to advise parents whose students planned to apply to top colleges. The thread recounted mistakes that we made in the process, along with some truths about how hard it can be to get into these schools.
My D was what I termed “average” excellent: good grades in challenging classes, high test scores, lots of APs, a smattering of clubs, played an instrument with proficiency, artistic, shy and quiet. She applied to 12 colleges and ultimately was accepted to 9. She deposited at a school, and, in the summer, got off the waitlist at another school.
She took that waitlist spot, and I am happy to report, she has milked it for all it was worth. Today, my D is graduating from college. The average excellent student has done many amazing things in her four years. Of course, I was proud of her then, but I could not foresee in April 2016 the young woman she is today.
D had a rough start at college. In the first few months, she was miserable. She felt she had made the wrong choice, but today she realizes she made the right one. D was on the Dean’s list six times, won a prestigious national scholarship (sadly cancelled due to Covid), won a fellowship to fund summer research at a university, was inducted by her professor into an honor society for her major, won a college award for highest grades in her subject, won a campus writing competition, designed artwork which has been permanently installed on campus, had numerous tutoring jobs, was a TA, and even co-designed a hat, on sale at the book store. She has great friends, fell in love, had a ton of fun, and loved her classes and professors.
D has a summer job doing meaningful work. In the Fall, she will start a good job with fantastic benefits that frankly, a Harvard grad would kill for (and in fact, her fellow new hires are from Harvard, amongst others.)
My point with all this is not to brag, though I’m beyond proud. I want to reassure the worried parents out there that their “average” excellent student will be fine. They will find their feet. They will become the people they are meant to be. And they will end up at the best school for them. Let your child aim high if your child WANTS that, but don’t fret if they don’t get in. Don’t encourage unrealistic goals. I am so glad now that she didn’t end up at the one Ivy League school she applied to, or the LAC with intense academics. Those places probably wouldn’t have been right for her.
If you’re worrying right now, “Is my child good enough to get into Stanford or Williams?”, know that your child will do what they need to do and what they WANT to do. They will do it, or not do it, regardless of your concerns. Who my daughter was in high school isn’t quite the same person she is now. 17-year-old her is still there, but 21-year-old her is a better version of herself. Your teenager has yet to become the adult version of themselves.
My shy, quiet girl who didn’t win a single award in high school will soon be leaving home for a grown up job. She’s achieved a truly great goal: graduating with a hard-earned degree. She is going to be fine, and my mission is accomplished.
P.S. For those interested, here is the link to the original post: