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:
- high grades- daughter has high GPA
- leadership- she’s a captain or holds a leadership role in at least 3 activities
- community service- double her schools requirement
- awards and honors- yup- those too
- 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.
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?