Saturday, July 3, 2010

Advice to the parent of an Ivy-aspiring kid

I often get inquiries from prospective clients, which in essence say, "Get my kid into a prestigious college."

Here's how I responded today to one of those queries:

The path of least resistance: Let her be her designer-label self--get into the most prestigious college she can but you be very savvy about filling out the financial aid forms. Use this great book. She'll probably get as good a deal from the Ivy as from MegaState U--the prestigious privates have beaucoup bucks. Negotiate hard with those villains.

I haven't found many kids who say "I've worked so hard to get into a prestigious college" be open to often smarter options such as deferring college for a year or 40, doing interesting things in the real world. Then, if needed, she can return to college. Girls are especially likely to be enamored of the straight-to-college plan, which is erroneously perceived to be the low-risk approach. Most high-achieving girls also love the structure of school. Alas, too often, those choices are not in the kid's best developmental interest let alone long-term career interest.

Parents too are subject to the "I'll do anything for my wonderful kid" mindset-- "How could I deny her Ivy when she's worked so hard?" It's fallacious thinking but pervasive and nearly impossible to dissuade from.

Where I can, without too much resistance, add value is helping her choose a career, teach her how to maximize her chances of achieving career success, and importantly, teach her how to make the most of college. Colleges don't want to tell you how, because if more students used these techniques (e.g., get course credit for customized one-on-one courses) it would cut into universities' profit.


Anonymous said...

"Girls are especially likely to be enamored of the straight-to-college plan, which is erroneously perceived to be the low-risk approach. Most high-achieving girls also love the structure of school."

Not to get too off topic, but that quote made me think "Is there a dark side to girls' high achievement in school?"
1) Is this yet another confirmation that our preschool-to-grad-school education system is so very female-centric?
2) Despite all the talk of the "man-cession," could girls be at a disadvantage in the work force once they leave the structured, low-risk environment of school and enter a much riskier, less structured environment?
3) If I had a daughter, should I worry about #2 and impress on her the importance of taking smart risks and working in an unstructured environment, which are crucial to entrepreneurship?

Marty Nemko said...

Whether or not my kid went to college, kids, male and female, need to learn appropriate risk-taking, to develop intrinsic motivation, and to learn how to function without undue structure. If my kid was at all entrepreneurial, I'd encourage them to start their own simple business--from that iconic launchpad of entrepreneurs--the lemonade stand--on up.

Cornhusker said...


Even if your child was not entrepreneurial, would you still teach them entrepreneurship? I think it's worth a shot. They may learn to like it. I wish my parents had done so. I sold Avon in high school and bombed. There has to be a way to help kids find their niche when it comes to self-employment. It certainly beats sitting in a cubicle and working as a Federal drone.

E said...

I've always thought one way to eliminate some of the stress and anxiety would be to make admissions more straightforward. For example:

If you want to get into University X, you need to score at or above 130 on several IQ tests, have a GPA at or above 3.3 and be involved in at least one extra-curricular for three years of high school. Barring that you can't even apply (unless you're a rich man's daughter/son). This would take *some* of the stress out of the process.

Anonymous said...

Here's for all you Ivy Leaguers!

Warren Buffett-I don't care where someone went to school, and that never caused me to hire anyone or buy a business...