How about this for a strategy?

Melissa Chen:

One reason it continues is because too many parents believe that a certain kind of education is necessary for succeeding in life. Too many parents believe that it is necessary to get into the right pre-school in order to be ready for elementary school, because if you’re not identified as gifted by the time you leave elementary school, then you’ll be left out of the honors and advanced-placement tracks that are necessary to transcript-build in high school and successfully apply to top colleges. Too many parents believe that it’s crucial for high school students to play a sport and be an elected officer and volunteer and participate in national math and science competitions. Too many parents believe that you should always take the SAT at least twice (unless you scored a perfect the first time), because you can always do better and every point might help. Too many parents treat admittance into an Ivy League school (or Ivy League equivalent) as the end-all be-all of an accomplished teenage life.

As a college admissions counselor, I see parents and students all the time who stress out about every test taken and every hour of community service served. I try to remind them to remember the bigger picture — that nothing is worth it if a student is miserable. I can’t imagine what it’s like for students who are so stressed out that they cannot see any other exit besides taking their own lives.

The narrow and insanely competitive path to college admissions, I believe, is all wrong. Firstly because there are easier routes to success. And secondly because I think taking the competitive road makes admissions to an elite college harder….

The other problem with this all-out sprint to the Ivy League is that it makes so many students look the same, which as any college admissions officer can tell you, is the death knell for an application. I counsel a couple dozen students every year, and in any given year more than half of my students — affluent, extremely hardworking, probably overstressed students — have nothing to set them apart. They all serve as the president of at least one major campus organization. They’ve all volunteered for work abroad trips after sophomore or junior year. They all have perfect SATs, SAT IIs, APs and GPAs, despite all taking every advanced placement class available at their high school or community college. They all come from top feeder schools like Paly, Los Altos, Gunn, Monta Vista, Mission, Harker, Bellarmine, Lynbrook. They all play at least one sport. They’ve all placed in national science and math olympiads. They are academically perfect; they have literally maxed out on all numerical measures of comparison. And the vast majority still won’t get into their top choice schools.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.