Skinny envelopes containing college rejection letters filled her mailbox; she felt crushed by the constant reinforcement of her perceived mediocrity. This is what it can feel like to be a high school senior in spring who, despite numerous attempts to improve, had SATs in the toilet, a no-great-shakes GPA, and a meager class standing ONLY in the top quartile. Further adding to the self-repudiation was watching gleeful friends revel in the glory of strong testing results, honor society grades, and enviable class percentile, being accepted into 1st choice schools. Wesleyan, Smith, NYU—she was happy for their success and would enjoy visiting them from her home next year, where she was to remain post graduation to attend the sole place that had accepted her and her averageness: a commuter branch of her state university.
Today, the college application process and commensurate pressures are more intense, drawn out, and fraught with angst than ever before. No longer confined to late junior and senior year, it now rears its ugly head early and often, starting in 9th grade if not before. High school students have little room for error in their studies and productivity, lest it wreak havoc on their grades; their time is stuffed to the brim with activities, sports, and camps designed to build a resume beyond reproach. They have evolved into commodities, oft-times with little regard for what it is like to be them or best suits them and their learning styles and interests.
For those who will soon be jumping on the hamster wheel of college searches, SAT prep classes, and application essay writing, I hope you will take the time to read Frank Bruni’s new book Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania. It will help you to quell the madness that has become associated with the college application process as well as encourage you to keep it all in healthy perspective. Academic and AD/HD coaches can also be very helpful by allowing parents to step back from the process while letting their student take ownership of the process.
As for the student mentioned in the opening paragraph, it took many years for her self esteem to recover from that college admission process: she felt stupid, inept, and painfully timid for years to come. But she did go on to graduate from college in 4 years, earn a MA from Georgetown, and work in international health field at the World Bank for 12 years before “retiring” to raise her children.
That student was me, an Academic, AD/HD and Life Coach for 14 years.
Laurie Chester has been an academic and ADHD coach for 12 years who focuses on homework support, time management and study skills. Real-life expertise comes from working with her own two children (ages 24 and 28), who have ADHD and various learning challenges. This first hand knowledge gives her an understanding of children who struggle with getting homework done and parental frustration that goes along with it. Click here to find Laurie in the JST Directory and how to connect with her.