Dealing with college rejection: Students can get over not getting in

The standard college rejection letter announces, “While you are a qualified applicant, we regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you admission.”

However, the rejected student often reads a subtext into the letter: “You are not good enough. You are not getting into this amazing college that would have changed your life.”

Allison Singh, 37, understands that reaction. That is how she felt when Princeton rejected her 20 years ago. She nursed her wounds until she realized that she ultimately benefited from the loss.

So, when a high school friend asked her to help her boss’ daughter deal with a rejection by her dream college, Singh composed a long email that began, “I was crushed when I wasn’t accepted to my first-choice college. I felt like a failure and was angry that all of my hard work hadn’t been enough for admission.”

But Singh ended the email with, “But slowly, I gave my school and my classmates a chance, and gave myself a break…I came out of college with a better sense of myself, a true appreciation for learning, good friendships, happy memories and even my future husband.”

That email led Singh to write the new book, “Getting Over Not Getting In.” She wrote the book for students who did everything right, achieved at high levels and still met with rejection.

The slim volume reassures students that rejections are owed to many reasons, almost all of which have nothing to do with the applicants.

Singh points out that many of the top schools reserve a large percentage of their spots for students with “hooks,” the legacies, underrepresented minorities, children of donors and star athletes.

Based on her research, those students can account for up to 60 or 70 percent of an incoming class, leaving only a third of the seats for regular applicants.

And because so many of those special category admissions may fall below the academic requirements, Singh says the applicants from the regular pool often have to offer the highest of credentials to balance out the low scores.

In a telephone interview from her home in New York, Singh said, “There isn’t enough talk about rejection at the start of the college application process. I couldn’t find any books on college rejection. After being rejected, students feel they’re second-rate. They go off to college very jaded.”

Counselors and parents often reassure students that their top grades and near perfect SATS meet the criteria of Harvard or Yale. But what they don’t say is that the odds are still against them.

Some of the Ivies reject 93 out of every 100 applicants, even though many of them had perfect math or English SAT scores.

“We set kids up for failure when we don’t give them an explanation for why they will probably not get into Harvard or these other brand name schools,” says Singh. “We owe it to them to say, ‘You did a fantastic job and you are a going to be a success. But you are probably not going to get in.’’’

This intense focus on a handful of elite schools turns them into luxury brands that everyone wants, says Singh.

“By perpetuating this notion that there are three or five really good schools, students focus on getting into these schools instead on figuring what they want to do with their life and what skills they need to do it.”

While Princeton rejected her, Dartmouth did not, so Singh has the benefit of an Ivy League degree. And she has a law degree from Georgetown.

But her own experiences and her research for her book have convinced her that we have oversold the value of an Ivy League degree. She can tick off an impressive list of accomplished people who attended state universities or never finished college.

But what about those surveys that suggest Ivy League degrees offer an edge in the job market?

“It might open doors,” she says. “But even if the name opens the door, it is a revolving door and you have to prove yourself. Many employers are suspicious of these graduates of elite schools because they feel they often have an entitlement complex. They want to always be challenged. So they don’t want to do the lower level work, the grunt work that comes when you start a job.”

For students unhappily bound for their second choice colleges in the fall, Singh advises, “You could be missing out on great learning opportunities and forming relationships if you always have your eyes set on someplace else.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

77 comments Add your comment

independent voter

May 18th, 2012
7:32 am

Ivy league schools are way over rated.. by the way we also have too many lawyers.. really need tort reform.. we need to encourage kids to be more practical.. don’t borrow money to get a degree in social studies, english, psychology, etc.. we need engineers, medical profession, or just electricians and plumbers, and get to WORK !!

[...] Dealing with college rejection: Students can get over not getting in The standard college rejection letter announces, “While you are a qualified applicant, we regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you admission.” However, the rejected student often reads a subtext into the letter: “You are not good enough. Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Lee

May 18th, 2012
7:49 am

“Many employers are suspicious of these graduates of elite schools because they feel they often have an entitlement complex.”

Ya think? One of the worst hires my department rver made was a Harvard grad. “Entitlement” doesn’t begin to describe her attitude.
————————

Bottom line, life is full of disappointments. Time to put on the big boy britches and get on with the rest of your life.

TO: Independent voter

May 18th, 2012
8:48 am

So lawyers who represent corporations are fine but the ones who represent individuals are not?

Csoby

May 18th, 2012
8:49 am

Colleg is the biggest ponzi scheme currently in government. Time to crank up the trade schools, teach some business finance courses and use you own self intianive….Of curse big corporation make it necessary to have a college degree to be a janitor supporting the ponzi scheme in lieu of hiring those who can make a difference in their organization prooving once again college supports the dumbing down of individuals..yes I am a college grad…

Dr. John Trotter

May 18th, 2012
8:49 am

I commend Ms. Singh on this book. I hope that it is very helpful for all who aspire to go to the Harvards and Yales and yet are not admitted. She is right. “Legacy” does indeed give many young people a leg up, so to speak. But, I want to point to the obvious: This rejection is part of the life-long learning process. Life is full of rejections. Life is not a meritocracy. Life is full of injustices. The quicker young people learn this fact and accept this reality, the better off the young people will be. The key is how young people react to these rejections and inequities. I encourage young people not to let the inequities of life to get them down, not to give up on fighting the inequities and injustices of life, and to consider problems as opportunities.

Look at the lives of people like Nelson Mandela or Stephen Biko or Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr. Some great people have lived in dire circumstances but have overcome the evil, even in death. Lincoln was a great lawyer, even though he did matriculate through Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. For that matter, neither did Johnny Cochran. I think that he started out as a Los Angeles police officer and attended night law school.

It’s not where you started; it’s where you end up. Or, better yet, it’s the actual journey of life. Did you make a difference? Did you help one or two people along the way? Even those who were born, as I crudely say, in the “lucky sperm club,” are not always blessed with easy lives. Just do a quick Wikipedia perusal of the life of Teddy Roosevelt. He grew up in Manhattan and was blessed with many material things. He was a Harvard man. But, in life, he suffered from terrible health problems. In fact, at night, his father was afraid to go to sleep, fearing that little Theodore would not wake up. Look what all this man accomplished. Or, look at the lives of Presidents Truman, Clinton, and Obama. We might not always agree with their politics, but we can still admire the many obstacles that they overcame to ascend to the Presidency. I know that Clinton went to Georgetown and Yale Law and that Obama went to Columbia and Harvard Law. But, heck, Truman never attended a day of college. Ronald Reagan attended little Eureka College. Where did Thomas Edison go to college? Or Henry Ford? Or Steve Jobs?

Life is not always about getting your ticket punched at the right college or university. Life is about making something happen. Making something out of nothing…and helping people along the way. If we let other people’s decisions about us affect us or in any way determine our destiny, then we have given up control of our own lives. I tell this to my children all of the time. I have always tried to take the rejections in my life (and I have had my share!) and tried to flip them. I call it “Mental Judo.” Or, I have used the GOOPS acronym since I was teenager: Good Out Of Poor Situations. It’s sort of a game that I play. It’s a challenge. Feeling sorry for ourselves never helps one darn bit. © JRAT, May 18, 2012.

Dr. John Trotter

May 18th, 2012
9:16 am

Correction: I accidently said that Lincoln “did” matriculate through Harvard. I intended to say “did not” matriculate through Harvard. Big difference. Ha!

Dr. John Trotter

May 18th, 2012
9:18 am

Corrected version:

I commend Ms. Singh on this book. I hope that it is very helpful for all who aspire to go to the Harvards and Yales and yet are not admitted. She is right. “Legacy” does indeed give many young people a leg up, so to speak. But, I want to point to the obvious: This rejection is part of the life-long learning process. Life is full of rejections. Life is not a meritocracy. Life is full of injustices. The quicker young people learn this fact and accept this reality, the better off the young people will be. The key is how young people react to these rejections and inequities. I encourage young people not to let the inequities of life to get them down, not to give up on fighting the inequities and injustices of life, and to consider problems as opportunities.

Look at the lives of people like Nelson Mandela or Stephen Biko or Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr. Some great people have lived in dire circumstances but have overcome the evil, even in death. Lincoln was a great lawyer, even though he did not matriculate through Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. For that matter, neither did Johnny Cochran. I think that he started out as a Los Angeles police officer and attended night law school.

It’s not where you started; it’s where you end up. Or, better yet, it’s the actual journey of life. Did you make a difference? Did you help one or two people along the way? Even those who were born, as I crudely say, in the “lucky sperm club,” are not always blessed with easy lives. Just do a quick Wikipedia perusal of the life of Teddy Roosevelt. He grew up in Manhattan and was blessed with many material things. He was a Harvard man. But, in life, he suffered from terrible health problems. In fact, at night, his father was afraid to go to sleep, fearing that little Theodore would not wake up. Look what all this man accomplished. Or, look at the lives of Presidents Truman, Clinton, and Obama. We might not always agree with their politics, but we can still admire the many obstacles that they overcame to ascend to the Presidency. I know that Clinton went to Georgetown and Yale Law and that Obama went to Columbia and Harvard Law. But, heck, Truman never attended a day of college. Ronald Reagan attended little Eureka College. Where did Thomas Edison go to college? Or Henry Ford? Or Steve Jobs?

Life is not always about getting your ticket punched at the right college or university. Life is about making something happen. Making something out of nothing…and helping people along the way. If we let other people’s decisions about us affect us or in any way determine our destiny, then we have given up control of our own lives. I tell this to my children all of the time. I have always tried to take the rejections in my life (and I have had my share!) and tried to flip them. I call it “Mental Judo.” Or, I have used the GOOPS acronym since I was teenager: Good Out Of Poor Situations. It’s sort of a game that I play. It’s a challenge. Feeling sorry for ourselves never helps one darn bit. © JRAT, May 18, 2012.

William Casey

May 18th, 2012
9:27 am

Dr. Trotter is exactly right. Presidents Clinton and Obama weren’t elected because of their Ivy experiences. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg would have been successful regardless of where they attended school. I’m discussing grad schools with my son right now. MIT and Stanford are the “gold standard” in his field but, he’ll do fine regardless of where he ends up. There is ALWAYS a way.

State school grad school person

May 18th, 2012
10:02 am

Grad school is about the department and the prof. When i got my grad degree, the state school i went to was the only one in the SE ranked in the top 20 in my field, and i needed to be within a day’s drive of home b/c of father’s health issues. After I graduated, many of the prof’s were poached to other name-brand schools and programs, others stayed and continued to build a powerhouse program. My prof never had many students despite being a (the) national expert in the field b/c the grad students were all terrified of working under her. I was a newbie (read idiot) didn’t know any better… so folks would look down their nose at me b/c i didn’t have all this experience, etc; then they’d ask who my prof was and i’d rattle her name – and a new glint of respect appeared… At one point, the second best grad school program for statistics was FSU, Harvard was 7th~ Am i still in the field i got my degree in? Not any more. Did having that Atilla the Hun in a designer skirt for a prof make me competent in my future endeavors – oh hell yeah.
Your life is what you make it.

Atlanta Mom

May 18th, 2012
10:09 am

As with almost anything in life, what you get out of it, is dependent upon what you put into it.

SBinF

May 18th, 2012
10:18 am

Singh points out that many of the top schools reserve a large percentage of their spots for students with “hooks,” the legacies, underrepresented minorities, children of donors and star athletes.
———————————————–

While this may be true in some cases, I’d hardly call this the norm. Doesn’t it simply continue to teach people that any failures and shortcomings in life are somebody else’s fault and not their own?

Sadly, it seems college rejection is the first rejection that many people face in life. So many kids grow up living sheltered lives where every action they perform is affirmed, awards day where everyone receives an award, you get the picture. It’s been ten years since I graduated high school, and I say students need to suck it up. This might be a surprise, but life is full of disappointment. You simply pick yourself up and continue on, wiser for the journey.

SBinF

May 18th, 2012
10:22 am

Second point:

Shouldn’t parents prepare their kids for possible rejection? When I was applying to schools, my parents, teachers, and counselors always said to prioritize. You have your top choice to attend, but you should also apply to one or two “fall back” schools, in case you don’t get your first choice. Georgia Tech was my first choice, Georgia State was my fall back. Though from the sounds of the book, it’s downright heresy to consider a state school. Private and out-of-state colleges weren’t even on my radar at the time, for better or worse.

independent voter

May 18th, 2012
10:25 am

TO… Too many lawyers… tort reform would allow Corporations to hire fewer lawyers.. not so many frivolous law suits… we need more productive people who build things and make companies grow .. not more people to fight over how everything is split up !!

destin dawg

May 18th, 2012
10:30 am

SBinF yes.. stay in State get a great education.. don’t borrow $$$.. in tern/ work part time .. private school liberal arts majors can’t really DO much

catlady

May 18th, 2012
10:47 am

Neither I nor my kids had any trouble getting into the top pick, but then again only one of us chose a college that was difficult to get into. My folks wanted me to go to Duke, my dad’s alma mater, but women could only go into nursing there. My mother had gone to a women’s college, and she wanted me to go to Smith or Vassar or Wellesley. I did not want to be “up North” and so far from home. While I think it is normal to have a college you want, it is important to see that there are other places that, while not so ideal, may be a good fit in another way.

Were Out!

May 18th, 2012
10:47 am

FYI, My husband hires graduates from Southern Polytech because they are work ready for his high tech company. He would not hire from Ga. Tech because they had ego issues and were not prepared to start the ground running. The elite school does not matter for companies… especially in this environment and those that want to rack up loans in the thousands for an elite school are obviously clueless.

Ashley

May 18th, 2012
11:00 am

Not getting into the school of your choice, shouldn’t reflect bad on you. You could be one of the brightest students in your senior class and get rejected. Living in Alabama in the 70’s most students were either Tuscaloosa or Auburn bound , but not me…I wanted to attend Vanderbilt …..unfortunately a 3.89gpa, 27 ACT, 1380 SAT wasn’t enough to get me in…..they chose a fellow classmate with a B- average minimum ACT and SAT scores…..he had what they really wanted , football skills. My guidance counselor assured me it wasn’t my fault…..they probably had enough “A” students in the freshmen class of 1976-77. College football is big business in the south, especially the SEC. Sometimes your second choice can be just as sweet, Although Tuscaloosa wasn’t my second choice, I did attend University Of Alabama(Huntsville) that and my continuing employment with NASA/MSFC I was a happy smart 18-year old who was knocked down by rejection and got back up, in otherwords I was an adult.

Prof

May 18th, 2012
11:06 am

This is really about rejection of high school students by elite schools and the Ivies. Somehow, there seems to be a connection between this thread and the earlier one, “Wages of young college graduates tanking during recession. (Is there room in the basement?)” on 10:41 am May 16, that dealt with huge student debt after graduation. I’m sure it’ll come to me if I just think hard about it……

Halftrack

May 18th, 2012
11:26 am

Basically most higher education proves that you are trainable. The main question is what are you actually able to do or perform after higher education? A dog school can train a dog to mind his master’s commands; however are they are real guard dog or bird dog in performance?

redweather

May 18th, 2012
11:33 am

Was this book published by a vanity press? I’m astounded that a real publishing house would bring something like this to market. But as someone upstream pointed out, maybe we are raising children these days who have no understanding of how the world works. Many (if not most) of our “dreams” don’t come true. Shouldn’t that be something parents clue their kids in on?

Class of '98

May 18th, 2012
12:15 pm

The best way to get accepted to Harvard? Claim you were born in Kenya.

Hillbilly D

May 18th, 2012
12:17 pm

I can’t exactly remember the first time Daddy ever told me, “You can’t have everything you want” but I can remember hearing it when I was about 3.

Prof

May 18th, 2012
12:22 pm

@ redweather. Yes. It’s published by Outskirts Press, which “self-publishes.” Not only does it offer “Book Publishing Packages” (”Sapphire, Emerald, and Diamond” according to price-level), but “Book Writing Services.”

@ Maureen. I know that you check out website links given in the blog entries, and I would hope you’d check out the press before touting the publication of one as a blog topic. I’m sure as a journalist you know the difference between someone’s home computer-printed “Newsletter” and the AJC. Same difference between self-published works and those published by reputable vetted presses.

what_what

May 18th, 2012
12:26 pm

+1 for Dr. Trotter’s advice. excellent!

I’m sitting here reading this column and watching the Facebook ipo-a company founded by a college dropout. So does one really need college anyway?

William Casey

May 18th, 2012
12:44 pm

@redweather: “maybe we are raising children these days who have no understanding of how the world works.” EXACTLY right. I’ve really worked to help my “smarter-than-me” 21-year-old son with this. My top priority has been to encourage him to make contact with and form relationships with people who have ALREADY DONE what he wants to do. Most of the time, he listens.

There is something to be said for Ivy League degrees. They DO open doors of opportunity. They DON’T guarantee success. I would be interested to see a study of Ivy graduates who did NOT have the advantage of family connections to get that first job. Yes, they get jobs, but I’m willing to bet that the jobs aren’t THAT MUCH better than those obtained by quality graduates of less exorbitantly expensive schools.

Stuff tends to work out. My son had a lukewarm interest in architecture, so he applied to that school at Georgia Tech. He was wait-listed for that fairly elite program. Could have gotten into any other GT program. Got tired of waiting, enrolled at Ga. Southern with plans to transfer to GT. While at Southern, he discovered that his true passion and aptitude was theoretical mathematics. These things tend to work out.

William Casey

May 18th, 2012
12:47 pm

@what_what: I wouldn’t exactly characterize Mark Zuckerberg as a “college drop-out.” Not many people as smart and ruthless as he is.

Yankee

May 18th, 2012
12:49 pm

Comment about how Ivy League schools are overrated without any factual support? Check.
Comment about how liberal arts degrees are worthless without any factual support? Check.
Comment about how someone’s worst employee is/was a Harvard/Yale/Princeton grad? Check.
Comment about how a few famous people didn’t go to college, so therefore it’s a waste of time and money for everyone? Check.
Comment about how those attending elite universities are clueless for racking up so much debt, despite the fact that they’re almost certainly paying less in tuition than their state-school counterparts after loan-free financial aid? Check.

All we need is a comment about how Ivy League schools use their gender and African American studies departments to indoctrinate students with liberal propaganda, and we’ll have a Jealous Hayseed Bingo.

Millionaire who attended a state college

May 18th, 2012
1:01 pm

Some people will succeed regardless of how little they start with. Some people will fail regardless of how much they are given.

Wes

May 18th, 2012
1:10 pm

“I would be interested to see a study of Ivy graduates who did NOT have the advantage of family connections to get that first job. Yes, they get jobs, but I’m willing to bet that the jobs aren’t THAT MUCH better than those obtained by quality graduates of less exorbitantly expensive schools.”

You’d lose that bet. Most Ivy League grads, regardless of socioeconomic status, have the option, right out of college, of working for an investment bank or Big Three consultancy, who recruit almost exclusively at elite schools. Banking and consulting pay substantially more than other industries and aren’t very accessbile to non-Ivy-ish grads. Take a look at McKinsey’s or Goldman Sach’s LinkedIn profiles, and you’ll see what I mean.

Don Abernethy

May 18th, 2012
1:16 pm

I would not send my kids to Harvard,Yale,and the rest of the Ivy League schools if they payed for all of the expenses. They are too liberal, non christian , and not patriotic enough for me. One of the problems with our national government is that too many attended these schools.

Ole Guy

May 18th, 2012
2:44 pm

Remember that game, musical chairs? According to the “rules” of self-esteem preservation and the “everyones a winner” concept, that game was rigged. Indeed, there are only so many chairs; so many slots; so many jobs, etc, etc, etc. THIS, boys and girls, is what the world calls COMPETITION. No, BOYS AND GIRLS, you are not deserving of all that you want, wish or desire simply because you are you…YOU are but a flyspeck in the big bad world of COMPETITION. If you make it…if you get what you want…good for you. Short of having an uncle in high places, you probably EARNED that which you have received. If you don’t get what you want, go to your PLAN “B”. Failing that, go to Plans “C”, “D”…and so forth.

GET IT!?

OMG

May 18th, 2012
3:12 pm

Atlanta Mom

May 18th, 2012
10:09 am
That is Bull&hit!

☺☻Have A Smile!

May 18th, 2012
3:15 pm

No, I’d say for the most part Atlanta Mom is right. I’d hardly call that “bullsh|t”.

There are always exceptions but generally speaking those who are motivated to do, will do. Others, well not so much.

bootney farnsworth

May 18th, 2012
4:01 pm

oh for God’s sake..what a stupid pity party.

back in the dark ages when I was in college, almost nobody go into their first choice on
their first try (football players not withstanding). you researched who taught what you wanted
to study and applied to the top three or four in your price range.

bootney farnsworth

May 18th, 2012
4:03 pm

and as I have said several times before, the Ivy League is a legend in their own minds and the minds of ubersnobbish liberals.

its overpriced, overblown, and overrated.

I’ll put the education of many of our backwards southern schools up again them anytime.

Atlanta Mom

May 18th, 2012
4:41 pm

OMG,
Really? I guess entitlement is what it’s all about in your book?

Atlanta Recruiter

May 18th, 2012
4:44 pm

As a corporate recruiter for a Fortune 500 organization, I’m always surprised at articles and books bashing ivy league students. Yes, I have come across ivy league applicants with an entitlement mentality, but I will say those have been few and far between. Most applicants I’ve met with ivy league backgrounds have been very accomplished, capable and pretty well grounded in reality. So the truth, at least at my organization is this – if you have an ivy league diploma, we do note that as a plus factor. It’s not enough to get an applicant the job, but all else being equal, it does help a resume get noticed and is picked up on during the interview process.

Atlanta Mom

May 18th, 2012
4:45 pm

SB is right “Sadly, it seems college rejection is the first rejection that many people face in life. So many kids grow up living sheltered lives where every action they perform is affirmed”
The fact is, most kids applying for Ivy League schools are exceptional. And they have probably excelled at all things academic. But, there’s more to life. And the sooner they learn that, the better.

Good Mother

May 18th, 2012
5:15 pm

This author is laughable. She says that “But her own experiences and her research for her book have convinced her that we have oversold the value of an Ivy League degree.”

Yet…SHE HAS AN IVY LEAGUE DEGREE.
What does she know about rejection ? Sheesh. She got into Dartmouth and a law degree from a very prestigious university and she wants to make money off of her book on the premise that to be a success you don’t need a prestigious college degree? Ironic huh?
If she got rejected from Princeton, then went on to Gwinnett community college and then got into a prestigious university like Georgetown, THAT would be interesting…but her premise means nothing to me when she hasn’t experienced it.
Good luck to her and congratulations to her but until she understands “how the real middle class lives” i ain’t about to buy her book.

Tabitha

May 18th, 2012
5:23 pm

Failure is a part of life. When you have helicopter parents who ensure that you are always picked and always get a trophy, it’s hard to function in the real world which is an imperfect meritocracy. Sometimes you don’t get picked, you don’t win and they did not want you. The sooner you learn to fail, get over it and get moving again, the closer you will be to success.

Truth in Moderation

May 18th, 2012
5:47 pm

Ivies produce the largest number of white collar criminals. That’s why they are rich.
As @Wes said, “Most Ivy League grads, regardless of socioeconomic status, have the option, right out of college, of working for an investment bank or Big Three consultancy, who recruit almost exclusively at elite schools. Banking and consulting pay substantially more than other industries and aren’t very accessbile to non-Ivy-ish grads. Take a look at McKinsey’s or Goldman Sach’s LinkedIn profiles, and you’ll see what I mean.”

Our entire financial system is collapsing because of them…..
“The People vs. Goldman Sachs”
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-people-vs-goldman-sachs-20110511

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-great-american-bubble-machine-20100405

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/jamies-cryin-dimon-j-p-morgan-chase-lose-2-billion-20120511

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-great-american-bubble-machine-20100405

James

May 19th, 2012
7:39 am

All of you people saying you wouldn’t want your kid to go to an Ivy League school are highly misinformed. Did you see that movie The Social Network? Ever read about Bill Gates life? Even if they didn’t graduate from those elite schools, they MET people and NETWORKED with those people, and ended up working with lots of those people when they started companies.

And the comment about Ivies being unChristian, too liberal and unpatriotic is probably from someone who has NEVER even set foot on an Ivy League campus.

Anonmom

May 19th, 2012
8:15 am

Sorry folks — I’ll be elated and pay out the wazoo if my son who has been working his little behind off gets into an Ivy next year and I’m sure he’ll work his behind off even more once he gets there. He is super organized, super ocd, a sport a season, 3 singing groups and 3-4 AP classes a year — he’s experienced failure — ever since the first girl, at age 4 said “no” and the next one in 8th grade said “no” and he didn’t get the national program he competed for this summer… And yes, he wants Wall Street and we discuss on a weekly, if not daily, basis how to do it ethically and he’s been having those discussions at camp and in religious school. So, I don’t have any personal experience on this front because those experiences weren’t available to me (and certain doors are closed to me because of it — because in my field there are some jobs that require that degree) — I want him to go as far as he can get on his own two feet with the fire in his belly and the skills he was given.

Anonmom

May 19th, 2012
8:17 am

fyi — his school has a 6 period day –one of which is chorus — which is his passion — his 5th class next year will be post-AP foreign language — the rest will be AP classes so 4 APs is the max he can take next year (BC calculus, Physics, Stats, & English)

Maureen Downey

May 19th, 2012
8:42 am

@James, I know very few people who turn down the Ivies — Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth, UPenn — if their child gets in. (My co-worker Jay Bookman turned down Harvard because he got an incredible scholarship to a state school. And he is among the brightest people I know. And a nephew of my husband’s turned down Harvard to go to UNC where he was a Morehead Scholar, but he went to Harvard for grad school.)
Having gone to a state school for undergrad and an Ivy league school for grad studies, I can attest to one major difference. There were plenty of smart kids at my state school but they were not the dominant force. There was a great mix of abilities in most of my freshman intro classes — my first realization that all high schools are not created equal.
When I got to Columbia for grad school, everybody was smart. Everybody was well read. Were some kids more motivated than others? Yes, but it was readily apparent that each of them was well above average in intellect.
If my kids got into a top school, it would be hard to turn down unless they had won entry into one of these honors programs at a state school that put them in rarefied company. (My neighbor’s child just won a Foundation Scholarship to UGA, and that is a fantastic opportunity with travel as part of the deal.)
Maureen

Anonmom

May 19th, 2012
8:44 am

one last tidbit about this ocd kid — he’s raised over $7,000 through a group he started at school conducting monthly bake sales for breast cancer — that has garnered the support of a quarter of the high school. The girls call it “baking for boobies” in his year book. He was new to the school in 9th grade — he was very over weight, maybe even obese, in middle school — and lost 50 pounds while in middle school — food is very important to him. He’s now pretty lean. He’s an interesting kid.

carlosgvv

May 19th, 2012
10:27 am

Millions of recent college graduates are saddled with huge loan debts and are unable to find work. I’ll bet they wish they had been rejected and had chosen to go to a trade school instead.

William Casey

May 19th, 2012
10:48 am

@WES: you might be right. I should have excluded Wall Street. No son of mine would ever be one of those parasites.

Shar

May 19th, 2012
11:19 am

It’s not hard to turn down Harvard. It is easier when they send you an obnoxious acceptance letter emphasizing how lucky you are to have been granted the honor of attending their school and informing you that a money order for a grotesque amount of money is expected immediately, but it gets really easy when you have friends who have gone there only to learn that the famous names in the course catalogue are not wasted on teaching mere undergrads and that in fact it is not until junior year that students can confidently expect to be taught by full professors. Until then, grad students answering to the doctoral candidates who actually get to work with the famous names are good enough.

Atlanta Mom is precisely right. College, like most other non-accidental things in life, is mostly a reflection of what you put into it. You may find yourself at a school where the prevailing attitude is not as academically rigorous as it might be, but it is up to the individual to decide how much effort to put into the various options available on campus.

It is also crucial to learn to look beyond brand names to the value within. Most of us know that we don’t have to buy a Mercedes to get comfortable, safe transportation and we need to look more carefully at the nutritional information on the side of a food package and less at the manufacturer’s name on the front. College costs more than a Mercedes, and with colleges unwilling to rein in costs it is part of the educational experience for applicants to learn to look at value rather than brand names.