Acceptance shouldn’t have to come via email or post

There is a big difference in wanting your child to be the best they can be and needing them to achieve the dreams you have for them. The first is loving and liberating. The second is destructive and debilitating. The parents who participated in the college admissions scandal have sent possibly the worst message we could send to our kids–you aren’t good enough to become the person that I want you to be.

When a child has had every advantage–the best schools, the best tutors, access to any kind of special program/interest/hobby their heart desires–and parents still turn to unethical and illegal means to get said child in to the parent’s school of choice, it sends a clear message. You are not good enough. You can’t make it unless your parents take some desperate measures. You are simply not acceptable unless the right college says so.

How many years of therapy does it take to overcome that?

The Mystery of Admissions

And it’s not only the super wealthy who insist and/or foster the belief in their children that they have to get into a certain college or university. In today’s weird world of college admissions, this is an unreasonable expectation to place on any kid. Thanks to the Common App and increasing competition, colleges are wading through record numbers of applications. The college admissions decision process rivals the trinity when it comes to explaining or understanding it. Our family knows someone who didn’t get into a small state college, but got admitted to NYU. Another kid who had great test scores, lots of extracurriculars, and even a ton of volunteer hours only got in to one of ten schools he had applied to. I’m sure everyone who has high school and college-aged kids has similar stories to tell.

So not only is the idea of the “right” school unreasonable, it’s damaging. What happens when the kid doesn’t get into that school? Is their life over? Should they just throw in the towel now? Are they doomed to slog through the next four years at some second-rate university that is akin to living in District 12 from The Hunger Games? The “right” school theory perpetuates the notion that only people who get into a certain “tier” of schools go on to have happy and productive lives–which is ludicrous.

What if our kids end up exactly where they need to be?

Perhaps parents should consider the idea that the schools our children get into on their own merit might be exactly the kind of place they will thrive and grow into the people they are meant to become.

Perhaps parents should embrace the idea that college (no matter how “right” a school it is) isn’t for everyone.

Perhaps parents could just love and support their children as they are instead of insisting they become someone they’re not.

Acceptance shouldn’t have to come via email or post. Christian parents should (no perhaps about it) make sure their children know that they are deeply loved by the people who raised them, the God who created them and the Savior who came to make life far more abundant than anything that could be imparted by a college admissions letter.


Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Doubting Believer is a progressive and inclusive community of Christians. Follow us on Facebook, sign up for emails or learn more about our member group.

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