We originally wrote this blog as a polite response to a parent who has decided that as much as her son loves Adventure Treks, next summer, he will instead devote his time to SAT prep courses and college essay writing clinics instead of returning to the mountains he loves.
While we have seen many students take this summer track, we’ve never met anyone who, in retrospect, felt it was a productive way to spend the summer.
While proper preparation for any challenge is key, and a high SAT score along with great grades may qualify one for certain merit scholarships, we question the efficacy of investing time into taking a test where the intent is less about actual learning and more about making oneself more attractive on paper to an admissions officer at an elite college.
Isn’t it a better idea to invest that time into building the skills which will help you better thrive in college once you arrive?
We encourage any family with a high school junior or senior to read Where You Go is Not Who You Will Be by the New York Times writer Frank Bruni. This book reminded us that ultimately it’s our kids who are in charge of their education and approach to life. College is merely an opportunity. Sure, it’s important for them to be immersed in a culture where they will thrive and be with peers and professors who share their values, but no college, regardless of the “brand,” is a magic wand or special elixir that will guarantee a young adult’s future success. Instead, it’s up to them to take advantage of the incredible resources they will discover at virtually any good university, apply themselves, discover their passions, and maximize their learning and personal growth.
Despite the pressure many students feel to get into an ivy league school, data shows that almost all Fortune 500 CEOs actually attended public universities and that ivy league graduates are significantly underrepresented in this elite club. While there is an initial earnings bump graduates of elite colleges may receive early in their career, it is usually nullified in less than 10 years as employees’ compensation becomes based on actual ability, contribution, and accomplishment, rather than on potential or educational pedigree.
Ultimately, though, we don’t believe that attending college should be about enhancing economic value—it’s about growing into the person you want to be, discovering new passions, making lifelong friends, forming relationships with professors and mentors, enhancing executive function skills, and building the skills and knowledge to become engaged citizens. And while there are distinct differences among colleges and their cultures, an engaged learner can fulfill these objectives at many different colleges, not at merely a few elite schools.