College counselors often come across parents who couch their kids as victims in the college admissions process. They’re victims of a system that seems unfair or of purported preferential treatment toward other students. And in some of the more bizarre expressions, they’re victims of the lack of a life tragedy (which is now being labeled as a disadvantage).
I’ll admit that while I still don’t agree with those characterizations, since having children of my own, I have more empathy for the parental love that drives them. Wanting more for our kids is part of a parent’s job. That’s a big job, one over which we only have so much control. It’s only natural that the responsibility can lead to occasional irrationality.
A recent Atlantic piece, “Dear Therapist: I’m Worried the College-Admissions Process Is Rigged Against My Son,” doesn’t pull virtual punches in its tough love-infused response. But it also addresses some of the facts many parents who feel this way might be overlooking. And even more importantly, it offers some good reminders for parents to avoid injecting feelings of disappointment or failure where our kids may be naturally resilient enough to move on. This passage in particular captures that notion well:
“… how you handle the application process sets the tone for how your son will respond to it. It’s true that sometimes there isn’t enough to go around—there are only so many leads in the school production, so many spots at a given college, and so many openings for a job someone really wants. At the same time, parents have the potential to turn a situation that their kids would otherwise handle just fine into one that’s miserable. At that point, it’s the parent creating the child’s misery, not the situation. The messages parents send their kids have the potential to either prepare them for adulthood or hold them back much more than not being at an Ivy League school would ever do. You have a great opportunity right now to teach your son well.”