About a year ago, I spotted a book at the library. I can't remember the title, but it was something about "packaging" your child for college. In other words, it was a guidebook for parents on how to market their child so as to successfully beat all the competition and get into college. I skimmed a few chapters and what I read was so abhorrent, so depressing, I left the library under a black cloud which stayed with me for the rest of the day. I didn't check the book out. Its affect on me was such that I feared even seeing the cover again. The book described the world of college admissions as cutthroat as the deck of a pirate ship--a literal meat market. Millions of kids are competing for a precious few college acceptances. Will your child be chosen or rejected? Will his failure to be elected student council president, or your failure to sign him up for the correct enrichment activities, get him into the correct kindergarten, ruin his prospects forever? How can you maximize your child's SAT scores? How can you make him write the BEST POSSIBLE admissions essay? How should he "market" himself at the interview? The book was the embodiment of the worst sort of competitive parenting. Its mindset is the reason that so many high achieving students cheat--if Mad Scientist's and Drama Queen's observations of their classmates can be considered representative.
Mad Scientist has been accepted at Canisius College. Not only accepted, but offered a generous scholarship. He hasn't gotten an official letter yet, but the admissions office called him yesterday to say that the letter they'd sent him showed an incorrect amount for his scholarship because they'd decided to offer him an even bigger scholarship. The fact that we didn't get the letter yet says a lot about the difference between the postal service in the South--where I've seen local letters take a week to reach their destination, compared to the postal service in the North--where you can mail a letter late in the afternoon and it will be delivered by the next morning. But that's not the point.
The point is that this is the kid who got an F in health--health for crissakes--because he made a bonfire of his notebook and class work. This is the kid for whom we had agonized meetings with teachers and school administrators about his self-destructive habits. This is the kid about whom the school secretary called me with a shaking voice to tell me that his backpack had been found in a random backyard in the city and did I know where he was. This is the kid who was on the road to being expelled and who I allowed to drop out of high school because his misery in public school was so extreme. This is the kid I despaired of ever getting into any college, let alone winning a scholarship.
The school, Canisius, OK, it's not Harvard, but it's a solid, private, Jesuit, liberal arts college. (Let me know in the comments if you've heard of it.) It was founded in the 1870s, when Catholics kept themselves to themselves, at least as far as education went. My father graduated from Canisius in 1965. Jon's father was a Canisius alumnus too, as are most of mine and Jon's male relatives. (Canisius did not admit female students until the 1970s.) Jon and I are both graduates of Canisius. It's a relentlessly preppy school, the sort of college where the student body is more conservative than the faculty. (How I hated the smug "Young Republicans" when I was a student there, and George H. W. Bush was president.) Then again, Mad Scientist is conservative himself and might fit in better than I did. Canisius graduates tend to become doctors, lawyers, accountants, pillars-of-the-community businessmen and obscure congressmen from insignificant districts. Perhaps not a lot of fashion designers or film producers, but respectable citizens, and within the fabric of the student body there are vibrant, creative, intelligent people. I'm really pleased.
So you see? No need to pimp your child for the holy grail of college acceptance.