Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Word to Parents: The Great Temptation

There is an ancient Greek story about a legendary robber named Procrustes who used to force his victims to fit a certain bed by stretching or lopping off their legs. Sometimes as parents we can unknowingly do to our children in the college process what Procrustes did to his victims. We stretch our kids to apply to more highly selective colleges. We lop off any schools on the list that aren’t ranked by Newsweek. We coerce our kids into applying to only “car decal” colleges, because let’s be honest, the bumper sticker matters!

So easily we forget that the college process is not about us. It’s about the child. Michael Thompson, a well-known psychologist, noted that the college process is really about separation or individuation, about the students defining themselves in terms independent of their parents. Thus when we take over, we rob our kids of that “rite of passage” experience into adult-decision making.

Our goal is to subvert the Procrustes impulse that often quickens to a manic beat around the release of the US News and World Report College Edition. Now don’t misinterpret our cautious posture: It’s not that we don’t want to “stretch” our kids; it’s how we “stretch” our kids and in what directions. Our hope then is that we “stretch” them to find the absolute best fit college.

Frank Sachs said it best: "College is a Match to be Made, not a Prize to be Won." It's important to remember through this entire college process that your student is the prize.

In the end, we are confident that your student will have college choices - plural. And our overarching hope is that your student doesn't just "gets in", but that they flourish while they are in college, and Lord willing, graduate in four years ( your pocket book is saying "Amen" isn't it?).

To the journey.