Did Your Child Get In?

With only a couple of weeks left to make the final college decision on May 1, many high school seniors and their parents are agonizing over making the “right” decision about which college to choose. As someone who’s been through this three times now, I can say that it’s probably a lot less important than you’re making it.

So, if your kid is applying to more than one school (something that has been made quite easy by that unfortunate invention known as the Common App), you’ve probably already received the small envelopes of rejection and the large envelopes of “Congratulations! We’re pleased to welcome you to _______.” At least that anxiety is over, right?

Now, assuming that your young adult has been admitted to more than one school (and can afford the exorbitant tuition) and is trying to decide where to go, how do you know if the decision will be the right one? You don’t. We can never really know anything for sure, can we?

I will say that in my own experience, my son started out at a school he thought he would love, hated it, and came back to go to one of our large state universities. Decisions can be changed. He graduated a year early and is now gainfully employed, living on his own and without debt in Dallas. I honestly don’t think it was the school that has made him successful so far, but his work ethic. He worked hard in college, took advantage of everything he could learn, and used the career center to get help in his job search.

Both of my daughters, still in college, go to small liberal arts schools. So far, so good. The colleges have been a good fit for them. They did a lot of research on colleges while they were in high school, read the book “Colleges That Change Lives,’ and ultimately found places that matched what they wanted in a school.

So, despite all the mistakes my husband and I made as parents, our children have, at least up to this point, managed very well. And, after all the anxiety and worrying about this college or that college, I’ve come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter very much. In fact, as I look at people I know whom I consider to be successful, they’re all over the map. Some went to college. Some didn’t. Some went to “name” schools, others to junior college. It really doesn’t seem to matter. As much as we may want to believe otherwise, research backs that up.

A New York Times OpEd piece called “Does It Matter Where You Go to College?” by Martha O’Connell (http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/11/29/does-it-matter-where-you-go-to-college/what-you-do-vs-where-you-go) points to a “long-term study of 6,335 college graduates published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.” The study found that students who went to colleges with higher SAT scores were not more successful post-graduation than their lower SAT-scoring counterparts. And students who got into elite schools but didn’t attend them actually did better than students who went to the elite schools.

Categories: Editor’s Blog