Viewpoint: Musing on High School Seniors

By Lola Coffey
Special to the Palisades News

I don’t know how many other people have seniors in high school, but I can hardly wait for the end of November. The majority of the early action/early decision applications will be completed, as will the UC applications.

My senior has four APs, volunteers, is on a sports team and has applied to 15 colleges. She has been working on her personal statements and essays, trying to make herself sound good to a college admission officer.

I support her, but I’m sad she’s caught up in this whole process. I was caught up in it, too, with my older son, who has now graduated from college.

In my son’s case, it started with a woman I chatted with at Rosie’s while we were having our nails done, here in town. She told me her son had just been accepted at Georgetown. My son at the time was only a sophomore in high school. The woman told me how she had this “fabulous” college counselor, who helped him with his essay, set him up with a “fabulous” SAT tutor, and helped him fill out his application.

I asked her for the name and she looked at me and said, “I don’t think you can afford it.” I got the name, called, and the woman was right. I couldn’t afford it.

I started to panic, because I couldn’t give my son the tools he needed to get in a good college. I spoke to my husband, and he told me to get the kid into Harvard, and then left it largely to me to arrange it.

Unfortunately, my son wasn’t particularly interested in taking SAT prep courses and his scores were decidedly average. He played a sport, but not well enough to get a scholarship. And, he took a couple of APs, but his grade point average was a solid 3.3. That’s a B and not good enough for the “upper echelon” schools.

Eventually, he did get into an out-of-state private college. The college counselor I could afford, assured us it was the best he could do. He graduated in four years and found a job almost immediately. Isn’t that the point?

My daughter is different: she took the PSAT, had tutoring for the SAT, which she took several times. She took the APs, has a 4.2 GPA and expanded her extracurricular activities, because she told me that’s what colleges wanted.

Here’s what she didn’t get: sleep. She studied until 1 a.m. or later every night and then got up for zero period, which starts at 7 a.m. at Palisades High School. I read that kids who are sleep-deprived have greater troubling controlling emotion and are at a greater risk for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

She also has never had a date. Some of her friends are the same. They participate in sports they don’t love and volunteer just to have community service on their resumes. They are good kids, but not very interesting people, because they have no time to question, explore or experience life.

I didn’t want to pay for a SAT tutor, I didn’t want to pay for 15 college applications, and I didn’t want her to take four APs. It’s all madness—a college madness. I wonder when parents will say “enough,” I wonder if kids will listen?

My daughter most likely will not go to Harvard, either. Wherever she goes, she will learn it’s not the college that defines a person, but rather, what you do with your education.

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