As a follow up to yesterday’s article by Jacques Steinberg explaining why colleges resort to a long waiting list, the New York Times published an op-ed piece by a graduating senior who is tired of waiting.
It’s a pretty good piece, and of course I sympathize with the student’s impatience.
But part of the problem in college admissions today is that too many kids look at hard work in school as valuable only insofar as it leads to the “reward” of getting into a competitive university. High school, as this student describes, as become a holding pattering, by which students defer happiness and joy, and instead “agonize” over their futures.
But the wait list also prolongs the holding pattern of teenage life. To many of us, rejection is a foreign concept, and colleges seem to think that our tender egos prefer a maybe to a flat-out no. Yes, getting wait-listed does soften the blow for some overachievers with flawless transcripts — the ones who agonize over College Confidential and other Web sites for college-bound students.
This student, and many like them, care more about their transcripts than they do about learning. Learning for the sake of learning is de-emphasized in schools today. Parents, too, send signals that a “good college” is the reward for good grades in high school: “get good grades, honey, so you can get into Duke.”
Parents, teachers, administrators, and students would do better to focus on learning stuff in school, rather than focus on far-off rewards in some sort of academic afterlife. As this op-ed piece laments, students will have little control over which college accepts or rejects them–or puts them on the infernal waiting list.
No, the hardest part of College Admission is not the waiting. It’s the ability to focus on what is really important in life. Giving yourself over to some abstract vision of nirvana while in the present you neglect your mind, body, and soul–that’s the hard part.
Too many kids (and their parents) are willing to sell their souls to the Mephistopheles of College Admission.
Stop waiting, kids. Go out and live your lives. If you are by chance accepted to some competitive college, good for you. But if you are rejected, or worse–thrown into wait list limbo–walk away. Focus on learning. Focus on life. No one is forcing you wait.
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