Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Days of Our Work Lives: Part III: Adam's Saga. Episode 6: The College Admission Frenzy

Part III: Adam's Story

Episode 6:
The College Admission Frenzy

In the previous episode, Adam's bicycling accident resulted in a trip to the optometrist, where he finally found a career he could be excited about. 

He set his sights on colleges that offered a 7-year combined bachelor's and Doctor of Optometry program but those are quite selective. Adam's GPA nor his SAT score were exceptional, despite having taken an SAT prep course. 

A side note: He had felt pressure to take the SAT prep course from peer and parent exhortations, which in turn are fueled by fear-mongering by SAT prep companies and by colleges' deceptive implications that admission is more selective than it is. In fact, SAT prep courses have only an insignificant average effect on score. Importantly, even if an SAT prep course did result in a student getting into a notch more selective college, there is no evidence that would result in more student learning or even employment enhancement. In fact, there's reason to believe that being a bigger fish in a less-selective pond would help more: a higher GPA, more leadership opportunities, less stress, etc. But the college-search frenzy suppresses reason. 

That frenzy also made Adam search for an extracurricular activity that would impress the colleges. It would have made sense for him to volunteer at an optometrist's office but, "Mom, that doesn't feel sexy enough." 

Susan replied, "Okay, I guess. Why don't you run for school treasurer? You're good with numbers and I've really benefited and feel I'm making a contribution as treasurer at Rotary."

Teenagers usually dismiss parents' advice--part of their attempt to become an autonomous adult. But this time, he agreed. "Running for office sounds cool and it'll look good on my college applications." Susan sighed but wasn't brave enough to tell Adam what she was thinking: "How easily students will prostitute themselves merely to get into a college that's a notch more selective. God knows what he'll do to get ahead in his career."
A side note: Children often imitate their parents, including choosing their career but that only partly explains why so many kids follow in their parents' footsteps. Parents pass on their genetics, give their child inside information, and can open doors in that career. Unfortunately, parents are often criticized for encouraging their kids to look at a parent's career. Typical criticism: "Put your ego aside and don't push your kid to do what you do. Let him find what he likes." But this writer believes that criticism is invalid. If a parent believes the child might be well-suited in his or her career,  it's wise to encourage--although not pressure--their child to consider it. 

Alas, Adam would not win the election. He was earnest, cognitive rather than emotional, and not socially adept. He lost in a landslide to a popular class clown whose platform was to steal money from rich kids to give to the poor... and to put a coke machine in the hallway.

Adam still needed an extracurricular.

The next episode is HERE.

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