Many parents and students can’t accept that much of this process is about who you are, not what you do, and desperately look for how to play the game, which, like Heisenberg’s Uncertainly Principle, changes as they play it. The more “they” (students/parents/private counselors/even school counselors) try to beat the system, the more the system changes.
Kids are told to “take the most demanding schedule available and have the highest performance” (even, parenthetically, by colleges reps from schools that don’t really require this). So kids grind themselves into the ground taking 5 AP’s in major subjects and an elective of AP Computer Science and joining the Fed Challenge Team and spending countless hours on fencing or crew and hours more in SAT or ACT prep, only to be told that they “don’t ring any bells”, though they have run out of time and energy and thoughtfulness by just trying to meet the minimum of what they think they need to get in the door.
It is a treadmill that just keeps on getting faster and faster and steeper and steeper every year, causing kids to wither under unrealistic expectations. Its no coincidence that so many of our talented and intelligent kids are on medication and in therapy, are cutting themselves and attempting suicide and end up being referred out to facilities.
I just read another article in the Times about how a person had trouble reconciling that her grandmother was a Nazi with the kind of cognitive dissonance that must have gone through through her grandmother’s head.
We are not in this situation, certainly. But we are in a situation where we are creating a system that is unhealthy for students and going along with its increasing push into the absurd because that is what everyone else is doing.
I keep putting on two hats when I advise kids, asking if they want my parent response or my college counselor response, for they are totally different. As a parent, I want a kid to be happy in their skin, to take a demanding yet not crushing schedule that causes them to really understand and appreciate the world around them. My college counselor response is to tell them that meeting their goals may mean joining a game that is increasingly unhealthy and destructive.