Thursday, February 11, 2010
My daughter is 16 going on 17, a junior in high school. We've begun discussions of colleges, SAT scores, and her future.
Many of my peers in healthcare management have college bound children and are having the same dinner table conversations - what constitutes success, what college to choose, how to work together over the next year to guard against the stress acceleration every high school student is feeling.
College admissions should not be a beauty contest for parents to judge their success in child rearing based on acceptance letters from Ivy League institutions. College admissions should be about matching the needs of the individual with an institutional culture, location, and teaching style that builds self-confidence and resilience.
What do I mean?
I attended Stanford, UCSF, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Harvard, and MIT. My post secondary education lasted 17 years from 1980-1997.
My personality type was a bit odd - I majored in those topics that were most confusing to me. I speculated that if I could master my weakest areas, I would become a resilient life long learner of anything that would come my way.
My daughter is talented in ways that I am not (the visual arts, foreign languages, and mathematics that requires spatial sense). No doubt this is because my left brain (math, science, engineering) combined with my wife's right brain (arts, philosophy, creativity) to create a whole brain. My daughter is seeking to define herself, discover those areas in which she can be truly excellent, and build self-confidence.
She would not thrive at a large, urban school, filled with thousands of anonymous peers. She would not thrive in a competitive academic culture which rewards privation, suggesting that if you're not suffering, you're not learning.
She's seeking a school that is small to medium sized, rural or suburban, located in New England, with a supportive culture that can polish a lovely and intelligent young woman into an assertive but not aggressive adult.
With the right encouragement and opportunities, she'll be challenged but not overwhelmed, hard working but not fatigued, and encouraged to find her unique place in the world.
I do not define success as fame, fortune, or Google hit count. I define success as resilience to navigate the world, enthusiasm to get up each day because you love what you do, and happiness with the people around you.
So, you go girl. Find a college that makes you blossom. Your parents will be there, proud of its fit for you, not its ranking in US News and World Report.
Posted by John Halamka at 3:00 AM