My daughter wants to apply to “Highly Selective” colleges.  For my purposes, I will define those as schools that accept less than 20% of the applicants that apply.  They are four year universities that have instant name recognition, and can be found on lists of top schools in America.  They are schools that some will be impressed when they hear that you attended, while others will think you are pretentious.   Getting accepted at one of these colleges is my daughters goal.

Now to get into these schools, you need, at minimum, the following:

  1. high grades- daughter has high GPA
  2. leadership- she’s a captain or holds a leadership role in at least 3 activities
  3. community service- double her schools requirement
  4. awards and honors- yup- those too
  5. high SAT/ACT scores- OK here is the problem…..if you want to call it that

My kid is not a great standardized test taker.  Now- this point could be debated.  97% of the kids in the country would like to have her PSAT score.  I didn’t score that high on my SAT, back in the day (though we can’t compare- I was a lousy student).  But it’s a brave new world now.  A world where it’s 1500 + or bust.

So what do kids do now, to get those 1500 or better numbers?  Well, first off, if you think a kid grabs two#2 pencils and races in the room to take a test- you are mistaken.  Kids read test books.  Kids take prep classes.  Kids get tutors who specialize in how to take the test- they don’t teach algebra or English.  They specifically tell you how to look for clues in the question to help you determine what the right answer is.  I spoke to one of these type of tutors the other day.

Good times.

Now, my kid is a high achiever.  She studies a lot.  She invests much time and energy into her extracurricular activities. I don’t think she has slept since 3rd grade.  You get a picture of my kid?  Now imagine that the tutor basically told me that my kid doesn’t work hard enough, and does not do the right things.

First off- he chastised me for having her prep so late for the test.  She’s taking the test in March and then in August.  He actually said that she is behind and that she will never catch up.  Ok- how much do you think I liked this guy at this point?

Then, he told me that she should cut out all extracurricular that she has no chance of getting a scholarship in.  What.  The. *%^&.  My daughter LOVES her extra choices.  She loves law team, tech crew, tennis and school paper.  Like, these are often the high point of her day.  Give them up, so she can prep for a test, because they don’t “mean anything”?  How about – they fulfill her.  They give her something to dream about.  They engage her mind and body in things other than academia? As her Mom- these things are important.

Then he told me she should apply to at least 20 schools, including the top 12.  First off- applying to 10 schools is hard enough (10 is the number her school suggests)  Secondly- she doesn’t want to go to a brand name school just because it’s a brand name school.  She only wants to apply to 3 or 4 top 25 schools- the ones she really likes and knows would be a good fit for her.  I don’t get applying to schools just to say you went to a top school.  In my mind there is a difference.

He then told me we should hire someone to “work on” her essay with her.  Now he said “work on” but what he means is write the essays for her.  Now- what do you think I thought of that?

My kid is a humanities girl.  Her school limits the amount of AP courses you are allowed to take, so she did a hard target and is only taking humanities AP this year, and then next year- meaning no AP science or math.  He said she should take the science/math AP’s instead next year, because they look better.  My kid does really well in science and math, but she doesn’t like them enough to take the more advanced classes.  I agree with her.

He said some other things that I didn’t like, but at that point I had stopped listening.  My mind was made up about halfway through the conversation.  I did not want this guy anywhere near my daughter.  We had philosophical differences.


He was a good prep coach.  And my daughter needs a prep coach.

So I politely got off the phone, promising him that my daughter would consider his online workshop that he runs on Saturdays, 7-9 pm.  (OK- for the record- my daughter is often studying on a Saturday night- but sometimes she is actually having fun.  I know this guy doesn’t approve of fun- so we won’t even go there)

After I digested the conversation and told my husband that the guy was a lunatic (my Husband had gotten the number from a co-worker) I went to talk to my daughter.  At the end of the day, it was her decision.

Remember what I said yesterday about bias?  How it’s almost impossible for someone to relay a story without tipping the scales in their own favor?  How do you think this tutor sounded when I talked to my daughter about him?

My daughter agreed that this wasn’t the right tutor for her.  We would try someone our neighbor used.


I’m good at making decisions.  I weigh out all the options, the pros and cons, and I come to a conclusion.  My gut is telling me this guy is the wrong tutor.  Fine.  But what if the gist of what he is saying is right?  What if she does need to spend a billion hours to move her scores up to 1500?

This is where I hate parenting.  I feel that my daughter already spends too much time studying, but I balance it out with the fact that she has activities that she loves, and a great group of friends.  I think she is as well rounded as someone of her personality type will ever be.


I also know how much she wants to go to some of these elite schools


I know that even with a 1500, her chance of getting into these schools is still really slim

See- I’m going back and forth.  I don’t think his tutoring method is right for her, but maybe I don’t know everything.  (I know, I know- of course I know everything….)

Did I manipulate the facts when I spoke to her so that she wouldn’t want to work with this guy?

Will this be a decision I regret, down the line?

Parenting sucks……


72 thoughts on “Highly Selective

  1. I don’t like that coach. I believe he’d be anxiety-producing. That’s the LAST thing she needs. I’d suggest a good mediation coach. Get her started doing Transcendental Meditation. If she’s worked this hard, gets great grades, pays attention in class, she has all the tools she needs EXCEPT the ability to trust that knowledge. And by this time in her life she’s taken enough standardized tests to choke a horse.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d say that it’s your job as a parent to “manipulate” the facts in order to keep your daughter safe, on the right track, balanced. Back when I applied to colleges they wanted you to have varied experiences; my grades weren’t the best, but my willingness to try things was what got me into one of those highly selective colleges. Times change, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh….it’s insane……I watch these kids work so hard at everything they do….and it’s not enough….the day early action/decisions come in is now sacred….my daughter said the next day, to see the smiles on the kids wearing the college logo vs the kid in regular clothes….it’s heart wrenching….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. My niece went through all of this last year, and it was stressful beyond the pale. She got into where she wanted, but what she went through was ridiculous imho. *shakes head*

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I honestly don’t know how I would handle this situation. I guess I’ve lucked out in that (for now anyway) MC is only looking at a couple of local schools and is seriously leaning towards one that is here in town because he likes the idea of living at home and not doubling his tuition fees because of room and board. He is crazy practical like that. In a way, it doesn’t matter where he goes because he is going into computers and pretty much is a shoe in to get an internship with Hubby’s company if he wants it. In the end, we’ve encouraged him to really look at the programs the schools offer and make his decision based on that and not name or even location.

    The pressure that is put on kids today when it comes to college kind of makes me ill. My daughter is only in 8th grade and they have been pushing the concept that she needs to know exactly what she wants to take in high school, all 4 years, so that she can do what she wants in college since she was probably in 6th grade. She has the smarts to do whatever she wants. The problem is… she doesn’t know right now. That just isn’t acceptable to the school, which ticks me the hell off. She is a KID. Let her be that for just a little while longer. He future will not be over if she doesn’t take the exact right class in high school.

    Sorry! I’ll get off my rant. It is just kind of a peeve of mine.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The whole thing is crazy now. And what’s funny is your daughter doesn’t know, which is great, because she’s a kid and should be exploring all options, cause it’s a great big wide world! But my daughter wants a specific field, and people are like why does she want that? You can’t win!! Your son is very smart money wise. My daughter doesn’t want a nyc school and I can’t blame her. She wants a more college experience, and you don’t get that in the city

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, my son is very specific in what he wants. I don’t doubt he truly feels that way, but he is just enough of a blend between Hubby’s technical/mathematical side, my creative side and a touch of his own with a real passion for science, I worry that he is only wanting to go into computers because 1) it is considered a really safe field job security wise 2) it is what Hubby does and he idolizes his dad. I have to wonder if he will go through school and come out the other side not really liking the path he chose. Hubby actually did that himself as his degree is in electrical engineering, but he ended up on the software side of computers in his job (so, so, SO lucky it worked out that way).

        It is so hard because you want to support and encourage your kids dreams, but you want them to also dream with a touch of realism and practicality as well. It is difficult as a parent to find a balance between the urges and needs to do both.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This dude definitely has his priorities backwards!!! Ugh. I’m sorry you had to experience that. On the other hand, I believe your daughter has all the right materials to get her into the school of her choice. She’ll be so much happier if she sticks with those extras because she may find them in college and connect with potential new friends quicker.
    I am a HORRIBLE test taker. I still went to a great school and did well there, despite scoring low on standardized tests. Granted, I didn’t apply for a top school, but that was never my intention. My advice? Just let her experience this time and enjoy it! 😁 but best of luck for the times to come…I’m sure it’ll work out for her.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It is rather unfortunate!! And the sad thing? Grades and test scores won’t get you through the rest of your life…that’s the lesson that needs to be learned. Sadly I don’t think it’s gonna change any time soon…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Ditch that tutor. He sounds like a miserable sod, sucking the joy out of kids’ lives for the sake of a few lines on a resume and a few points on a standardized test. Life isn’t a competition. No one gets a trophy for attending the ‘best’ college, (whatever that is). None of us gets out of here alive in the end, so why don’t we just enjoy the ride, do what we love, and make the most of that? Your daughter loves the humanities, so that’s what she should stay in. Sure, she could try to shift over to math/science, like Tutor the Dour suggests, but if her heart isn’t into it, then what’s the point? She’ll have made herself miserable for… what? A line on a resume? Is that resume more important than her happiness?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re not wrong. He’s secretly a dementor who wants to suck all the joy from your daughter’s soul and leave her a husk on the classroom floor where all she’ll be able to do is mindlessly repeat the quadratic equation. My advice? Forget him and go treat everyone in the house to some nice chocolate. It really helps.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I dont have kids so I’m probably not the one to be giving advice. You have to follow your gut. You have raised a great kid. If she is meant to get into one of her choices she will. The tutor sounds like a jerk but it’s probably part of his job. He gets paid to be brutally honest. But that’s only his point of view. There are others and I’m glad that your daughter is choosing to go with another tutor. Looking forward to reading future posts. Sending positive thoughts and hugs to both of you.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The college process is very stressful even when you aren’t applying to selective schools. I can’t imagine this situation. I’m thankful that my son only applied to 4 in state schools and my daughter only applied to 7 total with only one selective school on the list.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Two of ours wanted nothing to do with college. Our third is about to graduate in May from a school that is about an hour away from where we live. A nice school but not one of THE schools. She’ll have a BA in Psychology. She did everything on her own (except pay) and that’s how I knew she was doing what she wanted.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your kid sounds pretty smart. So are you. Your instincts about this “coach” sound very astute, and your daughter surely realizes that you know her well enough to know whether he is a good fit for her. This is an important formative year and it should be enjoyed rather than filled with stress. Working with this guy for several months is sure to be unpleasant, demoralizing, and potentially damaging. A good coach encourages learners and helps them make good decisions based on their personal goals and preferences. Sounds like he wants to turn out a bunch of Stepford students, even if it means crushing their souls. You and your daughter are wise to steer clear of him. She sounds like the kind of kid who will make the very best of whatever school she goes to—whether it is her first choice or her tenth. I hope she refuses to have her year ruined by excessive pressure and makes enjoyment and learning her priority for the months ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have several thoughts on this and perhaps can help you since I have had two sons who were advanced placement scholars and have been through this whole crazy process.

    My first thought is this particular tutor is nuts. Let your daughter enjoy school and her extra curricular activities. Ten years from now she will remember the activities and not the test. And will resent you and the memories she lost because of some stupid tutor. Let her enjoy school.

    As far as her college essay on the application, the tutor has nothing to do with that. He isn’t an English teacher. Her Language Arts or English teachers are supposed to teach the specific requirement skills for college essays. Essay requirements change every couple of years and the high school teachers are up to date on current requirements. Discuss with your daughter if she has studied that in her classes. There is a format on how to write them. The kids practice in class and become highly sufficient in that area. If she hasn’t done that she needs to. Ask her guidance counselor(s) which English teacher specializes in that area of expertise and talk to that person. I am sure it is being done in school. I can’t imagine it isn’t. If she is bright and taking advanced or advanced placement English/Lang. Arts than she will be learning the particulars on how to write a college essay. BTW, it isn’t the lengthy essay that it used to be.

    Next, advanced placement classes. Your child doesn’t need to get an A in those classes and can still take the state AP tests and get credit. Example. My son hated his AP psychology teacher. He felt the teacher was useless and he got a B in the class because he thought the instructor was a nut and didn’t like how he tested. But he got a perfect score on the state AP test. He took pretty much every AP class they offered and took the state tests and received a special scholarship for doing so well on them. And an advanced placement scholar certificate which meant he had his class requirements already done and did not need to take those classes in college. The AP classes enabled him to go into college with almost two years of credits already completed. So have your daughter take all the AP classes she wants. I cannot imagine why your school doesn’t offer them unless it is because they don’t have enough teachers to teach them. She can still take the state test and if she does well she won’t have to take those classes in college. Also they get an extra point so a 4 point A is then 5 points and I can’t recall but I think my son’s final GPA was like 4.7 or 4.8 something like that. He is 29 now so I am not sure.

    But do not make her life miserable. I didn’t use a tutor. My son said he didn’t need one and I trusted him. He took the ACT and SAT or whatever they are called twice and they used the highest scores. He did really great in spite of me going through a divorce during it all. Trust your child. This tutor is a jerk. Get someone else. Let her apply to the schools she wants and a few back up schools. She will be fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The whole process is insane….it’s actually harder than when your kids applied….I have friends who have oldest kids about your kids age, with the youngest being my daughters age. Whole different ballgame. They don’t go over how to write a college essay in her school, and yes, people hire essay specialists to write the kids essays now. It’s a thing. They spend thousands to hire college placement specialists who literally go line by line through the common app with them, and go through all the supplementals. The competition is fierce. And my daughter has not visited one school who will accept ap course credit. They want you to take the classes, but you still have to take the class….you might be able to move up a level, but that’s it. Her grades aren’t an issue…they’re stellar. Unfortunately, this tutor is not unlike a lot of tutors….or parents for that point. 20000 kids want the same 1500 spots….20000 qualified kids….and 40000 crazed parents

      Liked by 1 person


        It’s not the school’s ap credit it is the State ap test score that they accept. That’s different . Colleges don’t count the extra gpa credits, but if she passes the state ap tests at the end of the year, her points on those tests determine if she has to take those classes, example. A high score on the state AP world History exam would mean she wouldn’t have to take world history in college. (Basically it means the core courses kids take their first couple of years in school they can skip because they have already taken them in high school and passed state standards with flying colors. The State ap exam is held at another location not the School .

        My oldest granddaughter is a senior this year so I’m aware of current college application requirements. She said Her AP English teacher reviewed what was expected at the beginning of the year. And she said the college essay applications are easier than most of the assignments she has in class. So according to her (and her friends) the essays aren’t really that big a deal. So chill out Mom. She’ll do fine.

        I think you are worrying way too much. Is your daughter even a senior? My son took her to several schools in Fl this year to check them out and at Christmas time they visited a few schools up north. She’s applying to a bunch and is waiting to hear back from her favorites before she makes a decision. She will need academic scholarships to attend the schools she likes best, so we shall see. But you can’t stress about it. If she goes to one and doesn’t like it shecan always transfer No big deal.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My daughters school isn’t doing any essay review. They do curriculum and just that. But, yeah, I am stressing a bit cause I know how hard the schools are to get into. At the end of the day, 6.2 acceptance rate is really hard. I don’t care where she goes to school, as long as it’s not in nyc, but she does care. She saw a couple schools she loves, and wants to do her best to get in. She’s a junior, but think of it like this…the official kickoff to college breakfast is next week for the juniors…they get their navianve passwords. Seniors are done for the most part….half of them already know where they’re going to school. A lot of my daughters friends are actually done with the standardized tests already. My daughter chose to take them later. It’s tough cause I know how selective the schools she likes are. She knows great students that got rejected to some of these schools. It’s tough cause I’ve seen her work so hard for the past 8 years….I’d like to see her get into one of her top 5


      3. She’s got plenty of time and you are offering her the tools she needs to do her best. That’s all you can do. You can’t control everything so give yourself a break. This is one thing we parents have no control over. My grand daughter wants to go to the same university her boyfriend got accepted to and she hasn’t heard back from that school yet. Their criteria is really high. She has to figure outa Plan B and C and she knows that. Your daughter will get into a few schools and she might not get into some others. But It’s not the end of the world. Seriously, I’m sure wherever she goes she will be fine. And she can always transfer going into in her junior year. It will all be a good learning experience for her. This mother and grandmother stuff is really hard isn’t it? (Makes us feel rather helpless.) I’d say your daughter is darn lucky to have you assisting her in all of this.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Parenting is way harder than marriage, I think. Does the guy have feedback scores on his online classes? Can you find a few folks who actually used him and see what they had to say about him? Think of him like a doctor….if he said your daughter needed certain medicines and tests, etc. would you get a second opinion? Try someone else and see what they say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well….they are filled with kids that work really hard, are hard wired to succeed, and take advantage of opportunities before them. The things she also wants are between 5 and 10 thousand undergrad, urban setting, housing for the majority, no Greek system, not huge sports schools and not huge party schools, and where the atmosphere is open to free discussion no matter what ones view is on an issueAnd yes…I can totally see her at the schools on her list. And the schools she doesn’t like I totally agree that they weren’t right choice for her

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Awww….sending you so many blessings of Light, and to your daughter and this tutor too. 🙂 It sounds like you get a clear indication in your gut. And I appreciate that you care about your daughter and want to make sure you’re doing the best by her. One question came up for me: Have you run this all by your daughter? It’s possible that she may have insight here to help guide what to do.

    Anyway, I’m so glad to know you and read this post. I applied to pretty strong schools myself and appreciate what you’re sharing. Blessings, Debbie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I share everything with her….well…I may have manipulated the words a bit….my daughter is very strong and very hard working. I appreciate that. But my mom instinct is to make sure she has a somewhat well rounded life….what this guy suggested, though I know people do it, is not the right choice for her, mentally and intellectually

      Liked by 1 person

  13. There are schools that don’t even look at the SAT scores anymore even if it is a requirement for applying. They use them to weed out the really low scorers. When my son was applying to grad school some schools wouldn’t look at him without a high GPA from his undergrad but he applied to some of them anyway and he got into one for his Master’s and they put him on academic watch for the first 2 semesters. This was worth it for him because he loved the program and aced it. Sometimes it pays to talk to the schools directly. She sounds as if she would be a great fit for any school and an asset so let her pick out her top 12 and write their essays to her ability. Tell her it is not always her but her major. My husband is a coach at a state college known for a couple of majors and if any player is applying for that major they need to be the cream of the crop. Some have actually applied as undecided. Don’t second guess your parenting instinct it has obviously been working pretty well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately my daughter is only interested in schools that require sat/act. And yes, she’s a student with a great work ethic, but she has schools that she loves, with solid reasons why she loves them. I don’t want her to have regrets that she didn’t do all she could to get into one of those schools

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had 2 kids go through this process and it is daunting for them as well as the parent, not to mention expensive. My son does not test well so we did a lot of practice tests etc. My daughter had quite a few friends like your daughter and they went to BIG schools. It is hard to imagine most kids at the age of 17 knowing what they want to do for the rest of their lives.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. This is what I get for catching up on my blogs on the weekend: being WAY down in the comments and potentially repeated what was said.
    You have an amazingly-observant idea of what your daughter does, likes, prefers, needs, studies like, etc.
    That said, the way that she is will reflect how is in college. If she wants to do the extra-curricular things she does and spend as long as she does studying, that’s what she will do at college. So, an even better indication of fit IS exactly this sort of process you are going through: she will not be happy at an advanced center of learning for which she had to sacrifice what was really important to her to get into.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I so understand the thing about “parenting sucks”. I have the same doubts about my son. He’s also a junior, but instead of worrying about what college he’s going to, I’m worrying about is he getting enough credits to graduate high school by being in mainstream classrooms only half time. I also stress on how to get him to brush his teeth, take showers, and wash his hair because these are the things he struggles with. One thing one of his therapists told me has become my mantra. “I am doing the best I can for my child right now with what I am doing.” I think you are doing the right thing for your daughter. If she’s happy and thriving, everything else is just a bonus. Just remember to breathe. On a side note, why not go to school in NYC?

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Howdy,

    Interesting thread, and many good points made, but I’m gonna play the contrarian.

    Since the bastards have found a method to maximally monetize “higher education,” And are doing so under the guise of a meritocracy. I’d find me the toughest, meanest, most cynical bastard in the prep game, and have him/her speak to your daughter about the how and why of the fix, the dedication needed to thwart it, and the steps necessary to position oneself to best beat this rigged game.

    You’ve remarked thought out this thread that this process is not a pretty picture. Now that would suggest that as a parent, you should technicolorly share this ugly view with your daughter, and then allow her, eyes very wide, to look very hard at her options.

    Nice post. And I’m glad it’s your problem, not mine. That’s Chicago cold, but I do hope you enjoyed your NYC concert today, and I hope your husband twice beat the NFL spread.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Concert was amazing! Thanks for asking!! He didn’t wager on the games, but is unhappy with outcome and potential outcome as he preferred the other two teams! My daughter knows how ugly the whole thing is. In nyc the kids apply to public middle and high schools, so she’s used to the whole bs with applications. She’s been working hard pretty much her whole life….I’ll let her pick where she wants to go, and I’ll help her in the parental role. Just crazy!! Hope your weekend and bourbon was good!!


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