Thursday, December 8, 2011

"It's Kinda Like American Idol Auditions"

Everyone is feeling it.




College counselors.

It's the bedlam of emotions raging within.

Excitement. Anxiety.

The letter could come any day!

The letter could come any day...gulp!

In the next couple weeks, high school seniors all across the globe will be getting admission decisions back from early admissions at selective colleges.

There will be rounds of champagne-for-everyone.

And there will be "hell to pay" for someone (college counselors usually).

But right now - we're all just waiting for the results.

I always tell parents, in particular, that it's kinda like American Idol auditions.

We're the folks that have to wait outside the doors while our kids go sing their hearts out to the college admissions judges.

For 12+ years these kids have been preparing for this moment.

This mother-of-all adolescent auditions.

And, of course, we all think that everyone of our kids is "American Idol" material.

Or in this case is UVA material. Or Duke material. Or Princeton material.

Do you remember Jordan Sparks?

For whatever reason she comes to mind.

Maybe it is because I'm not an American Idol junkie like my wife, but I do remember her audition a couple seasons ago.

Truth is, we all think our kids are Jordan Sparks.

I have 7 kids who applied Early Decision or Single Choice Early Action.

I think every one of those kids should come squealing out of the audition doors with a "yellow slip" (aka admission letter).

But I suffer from the same cockeyed myopia that everyone else does.

Because I live in a small little bubble world at Casady.

And I forget, like parents do, that at some colleges, there are 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 who are auditioning as well. And every one of those applicants has a family member standing outside the door thinking their kid is Jordan Sparks too.

In closing, I think that every parent of the 7 kids who applied early would agree with me that the hardest part right now is not the waiting.

That's penultimate.

What causes fits of insomnia is knowing that the decision is ultimately out of our hands.

All we can do during this wait period is take deep breaths.

Say longer prayers.

Keep the "big picture" in front of our faces (these decisions don't define our kids; they don't define our parenting skills, etc.; there is an excellent college fit out there; our kids are going to do great things regardless of where they matriculate...)

Tell our kids we love them.

And prepare ourselves to rejoice with those who will rejoice,

and weep with those who will weep.

And for those who get deferred (and the forecast seems to suggest a lot of deferred kids) - it means we get to do this whole audition-wait-outside-the-door thing again in April.

Nobody said this process was for sissies.:)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Freakonomics in an Age of Freakadmissions

I read Levitt and Dubner's book Freakonomics for a book club a few years ago.

Very interesting book.

One chapter that really got my head spinning was the chapter titled, "Perfect Parenting, Part II; or: Would Roshanda by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?"

At the time, my wife and I were trying to sort through thousands of names to find "the One name" for our 1st child.

The chapter was fascinating because it essentially espoused the idea that the name you give your baby not only reveals things about your child, but can also reward or penalize your child.

Levvit and Dubner argued that names often have a correlation to socioeconomic status. Level of education. Names even play in, consciously sometimes, subconsciously other times, in job employment.

An audit study was done that Levvit and Dubner use as their argument's impetus, in which a researcher sent two identical (and fake) resumes, one with a traditionally white name and the other with an immigrant or minority-sounding name, to potential employers. The "white" resumes always gleaned more job interviews. A Molly or Amy advanced in a job interview. The same with a Jake or Connor. But an Imani or Shanice, a DeShawn or DeAndre, that carried economic penalty.

In a recent Huffington Post article entitled "Some Asians Don't Identify as Asians in College Admissions", the writer makes essentially the same argument for college admissions.

Being of Asian ethnicity, in particular, with a clearly "Asian sounding name" disadvantaged you in higher college admissions.

Why? Well because there are more Perfect SAT and perfect 4.0 GPA Asian students applying to the Ivies and other highly competitive institutions than non-Asian.

The article reveals that some Asians - who don't sound too Asian in name - are changing their ethnicity (checking the "Caucasian" box).

It makes me wonder if we're not going to hear stories in the near future of families changing their last names to something more "white sounding" to advantage their children in selective college admissions.

In what we might go ahead and dub the "Age of Freakadmissions" (patenting that phrase), perhaps the writers of Freakonomics have hit the nail on the head. Names and ethnicity can advantage or disadvantage. Asians are clearly getting creamed. Ironically, however, it could also be pointed out that the "blacker" your name is in highly selective admissions, the better chance you have at gaining admissions. While Asians/Indians are being held to a higher standard (200 points higher on the SAT, for example), African-Americans are being held to a different standard (sometimes 200 points lower on the SAT, for example).

I don't know. Last year, though, I did wonder if our top student, who had a non-white last name, might have received different news from Stanford if his last name had been more white. Who knows? And maybe the freakish nature of college admissions is at a point where almost everyone, minus athletes, are up against the Nile River to get in. No matter their name. Ethnicity. Test score. Pedigree. Socio-economic status.

Indeed these are freakishly crazy times in higher college admissions.