About six years ago I went to a school fair in search of a middle school for our daughter. I ended up in a room with representatives from an independent Westside school. The first question a prospective parent asked was, “Where do your students go?” The representative responded, “We have gotten students into Stanford, Harvard, Brown…” I was bowled over. We were looking for a middle school! My gut instinct was to run. I didn’t want, for my child or me, to live the next seven years gearing up to get her into the “right” college.
Here I am, however, seven years later, to share that Lily did get into the “right” college; thirteen of them, actually. And what makes them right is that they are right for her. Despite news that says otherwise, college acceptance can be accomplished without pressure, SAT preparation courses, hired consultants, or a cottage industry of professionals who prime children for this exact thing. Instead, Lily got into college by loving high school and being engaged in the things she likes to do.
One may think, “Okay, that worked for you, but our kid is not (fill in the blank).” Before completing this thought, allow me to share that we have a child who has struggled. She is not gregarious, doesn’t have 4.3 grade point average, is not a good athlete, would rather read manga than Tolstoy, hasn’t gone to Guatemala to work in an orphanage, and can’t take a standardized test to save her life. So how did she get into college? And not just one college, but many of them? This is how: Our daughter understands what it is to have a point of view, and to be able to engage with both the material and her teachers. When we visited Whitman College and attended a psychology lecture, Lily went up to the professor after class and asked him if he was aware of a particular study that she had learned about at Waverly. After about 15 minutes, the professor looked at her and said, “What is your name?”
Lily nailed interview after interview. She was able to talk passionately about the things she liked, without invented experiences or a script someone prepared for her. It is inevitable that the college application process is going to be stressful, but there is a difference between stress and sending the message to your child that they are not “good enough.”
We owe Waverly a lot, much more than we have paid in tuition. We have a child who has never in four years said, “I don’t want to go to school.” Who loves learning. Who is certainly “good enough.” I hope sharing my experience will help to put the college process into perspective for parents who may be starting the college admissions process with their child.
Parent of Lily, 12th grade