Tag Archives: New York Times

We Want You. Maybe.

10 Feb

“You’ve been selected!”

“You’ve impressed us.”

“We’re interested in you.”

“You’ve caught our attention.”

Flattery will get you everywhere.  Apparently that’s what the colleges are hoping for when they send marketing emails with these kinds of gushing statements in the subject line.  I had forgotten that my daughter had put down my email address on the PSAT form in October and now that the PSAT results had been released in mid-December, the colleges are sending information to her.  They’re flooding my in-box, several a day, even on weekends.  As they stream in, I’ve been madly forwarding them to her.  Just to keep organized, she created a separate folder for all these emails.

“Have you looked at any of the colleges yet?  Do any of them interest you?” I asked her eagerly.  Ok, perhaps I’m a little more excited than she is.  Some of the colleges looked intriguing to me.

Because she has been busy with schoolwork and tests, she hadn’t looked at any of the emails yet.  At my slightly disappointed look, she said, “Mom, just because they send you an email doesn’t mean you’ll get into the school.”

She’s right.  She and her friends know that colleges send out these recruiting materials but it doesn’t mean they will admit you when you apply.  The New York Times in conjunction with the Chronicle of Higher Education addressed this issue in an article by Mr. Eric Hoover published on November 5, 2010 called “Application Inflation: When is Enough Enough?” The article mentions that colleges buy names of students whose standardized test scores and grade point averages fall within certain ranges.  Nowadays, the College Board sells 80 million names to 1,200 colleges at 32 cents a name.  You do the math.  (I had to open an Excel spreadsheet since my handy-dandy solar-powered calculator couldn’t handle all the zeros).  Ka-ching!

They’ve been doing this since my generation applied to college except back then they used snail mail.  My husband recalls that Harvard sent him a letter encouraging him to apply to the college, which he did.  He was rejected.  He remembers feeling miffed, thinking, “Well, why did you ask me to apply?”  Some things have not changed in thirty years and Mr. Hoover interviews recent students in his article who have similarly felt the sting of rejection after being targeted by a college’s marketing department.

Still, it’s hard not to fall for the marketing come-ons, especially since they so cleverly play to the teenager’s ego (and by extension, said teenager’s mother’s ego).  My daughter admitted that it made her feel good to read the colleges’ adulatory acclamations about her academic accomplishments, (“You’re a successful student!”).  She felt encouraged, and it feels nice to be desired and pursued.  Who knows?  When she finally gets around to reading some of the emails, she may want to visit some of the schools.  Meanwhile, it’s best not to read too much into anything.  They want you…maybe.

 

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Helicopter Parent

5 Jan

Recently I had occasion to wonder, “Am I turning into a helicopter parent?”  Defined as an overprotective, overbearing parent who “hovers” over her child, taking care of (or control over) her child’s life whether the child wants or needs it, helicopter parents have gotten a bad rap in the press lately and are being blamed for raising a generation of children unprepared for life’s setbacks.

When I first heard this term, I was so aghast at the concept, I vowed never to become one.  But being part of a generation used to scheduling play dates and making sure that our little ones are exposed to every sporting, musical or artistically life-enhancing activity imaginable, I’m figuring out the boundaries when it comes to college admissions.

This issue confronted me when it came to registering for the SAT and ACT tests.  My daughter recently decided that she was going to take the standardized tests in spring.  In the back of my mind, I kept meaning to remind her to register for the tests.  Alas, my addled middle-aged brain kept forgetting.  Finally, when a friend urged me to sign up early to avoid being shut out at the test site, I went online to register without waiting for her.

I thought, I’ll just go into the website, select a test venue and pay for it – it’ll be simple.  Instead, the website took me through a litany of questions about my daughter’s college preferences, the majors she is interested in, her current subjects in high school, her GPA, her extracurricular activities and so on.  Many of the questions I could answer but as I continued clicking through – the questions seemed endless – I grew steadily uneasy.  Hmm, perhaps she should answer these questions?  Judging from the wording, the website evidently assumes that the student is filling out the questionnaire.  But then in a mixed message twist, the website expects payment by credit card; few teens I know own credit cards.

Little did I know that registering for the SAT and ACT would become a metaphor for setting boundaries between parent and child in applying for colleges.  Since we’ve embarked on my daughter’s college search, I have needed to remind myself that she is the one going to college, especially when I’ve spent too many bleary-eyed hours reading college guidebooks or trolling college websites.  I’m not the only neurotic parent.  Kelly Dunham wrote a helpful checklist of do’s and don’ts for parents and students during the application process (New York Times, December 15, 2010).

Much as I’m invested in helping my daughter find the right college and getting in, I don’t want to drive her college search.  So I hesitate, uncertain about what to do next.  The webpage stares back at me, its blinking cursor oblivious to the tug-of-war in my head.  I look for a way to skip ahead and go directly to payment; luckily the website lets me do that.  After successfully registering her, I make a mental note to talk to my daughter about going back and filling out the questionnaire herself.

She’s going to college, not me.

 

Some Links to Interesting Articles

16 Dec

Just a short post today – the holiday busyness is ratcheting up.  Recently I read a couple of articles in the New York Times that gave me much food – the no calorie type, perfect for this time of year – for thought, and I trust that readers may also find intriguing.

The first article “Parents Embrace Documentary on Pressures of School” by Trip Gabriel published on December 8 concerns a documentary about school pressures that has been making the rounds through various school districts in private screenings.  The documentary called “Race to Nowhere,” was created by Ms. Abeles, a mother and novice filmmaker, and shows how the demands of homework and sports and high expectations combine to exert enormous pressure on teens, so much so that some of them become physically ill.  The article describes the reaction of parents and school officials to the film and much of what is discussed resonated with me.  It might be a film worth bringing to your local school district.

The second article “The Case for Early Decision” by Dr. Robert Massa of Lafayette College, and published on December 13, seeks to set straight some media misperceptions about early decision.  According to him, no college will hold a student to an early decision commitment if the family determines that a financial aid package is insufficient.  He confirms that the chances of being admitted through early decision are better because colleges want the most qualified students.  He also writes that it’s easier to get financial aid during early decision because colleges have not depleted their financial aid budgets yet.  His article is worth reading if only to get a different perspective on early admission.

 

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