We have been told since childhood that college is the key to success. Get good grades, participate in extracurriculars, study hard. If you do all of these things, you should get into a good college. Now more than ever, students are competing for relatively few spots.
We put so much pressure on doing well on a single exam. While it is supposed to give students an equal chance at success, wealthier students have a much larger advantage. They can hire top of the line tutors - ones that go for $1000+ an hour. By comparison, their less well-off counterparts are stuck teaching themselves how to take the SATs or ACTs. They may not have the liberty to take the exam multiple times and may be stuck with their first score. We make it seem that the only way to be successful - and for poor people, the only way to overcome an unfortunate situation - is to go to a good college. This is just not the case. Plenty of successful people have forgone college to pursue passions or trades.
We do not encourage trades like plumbing and hairdressing. We promote that everyone should go to college. High schools boast the number of students who attend college each year. It is sad because college is really not for everyone, but we put everyone into a one size fits all. We are stifling the creative career paths students may want to pursue. This can be seen as we look to cut music and art programs.
Thus, we put so much pressure on students by saying that unless you maintain perfect grades and have insane test scores, you will never be successful. It is no wonder that students have mental health issues. Every little grade and the test score is not an indication as to whether or not a person will achieve future success. Future success is found through grit and determination. It is achieved by failing again and again yet continuing to get up.
Some of the world's most successful humans went to mediocre colleges (at least by society's definition) and went on to become the ones who achieved a success that most of us can only dream to have. This leads me to my next point. Going to a good college may make finding your first job easier, but it does not mean you are guaranteed success. It does not account for passion and drive. Good colleges have become a status symbol for many - namely parents. It's fun to say that your child got into Yale or Stanford. But is your child happy? Will your child go on to do great things or merely follow the crowd? These are questions we neglect to answer.
All of this brings me to talking about the college admissions scandal that broke in the news recently. I am happy that this story proved the joke that college admissions are. Colleges have always catered to the elite. This fact should not surprise anyone. Look at all the kids who get into college because of alumni connections or because their parents donated a building. These methods need to be stopped. Will they? Probably not. Schools need money. However, what happened is a gross representation of privilege at its finest. It is the rich trying to keep its money in its little circle. Students who were born into unfortunate situations do not stand a chance. I mean look where the top schools recruit. The high school I went to does not have a lot of funding. As a result, very few students get into Ivies and other top name schools. Is it because the teachers are worse or the students are any less deserving? Not at all. It has to do with how much money our families make. How then can we call college the great equalizer if students from all the wealthy, surrounding towns send so many more students to Ivies and name brand schools each year? College admissions are not fair, so why are we saying that they are? We should at least tell the truth.
We see it happen all the time. I know people who got into schools because they knew someone. This is nothing new. It is pathetic and disgraceful, but sadly, I have little hope of it ever changing. What the parents in the college admissions scandal did was deplorable and gross. It is further proof that our college admissions system is broken. But who is going to fix it? The rich seem to control the system, and it seems to be working for them just fine. So why would they change it? The top 1% has reached maximum capacity and is not recruiting for new members. The Huffman's and Loughlin's made that really clear. People are driven by greed and status and will do anything to maintain their image.
It is unfair that a poorer student is not awarded the opportunities as a wealthy student. I, however, think that if wealthy students take advantage of the pricey tutors their parents can afford, then, while unfair, it is merely taking advantage of opportunities offered to them. It is pretty sad to think that even with the top of the line educational opportunities, these star's children were incapable of pulling out a high SAT score.
One parent was even paying for the cheating service to retake online classes for his daughter who had failed many of the first rounds of the classes. This teaches that money can buy your way out of anything. And honestly, it really can. As much as the FBI may want to throw the book at these people, the celebrities will just hire high priced attorneys to get them off with a little community service.
These parents drove home the message that their kids were too stupid to make anything of their lives. They apparently did not have any confidence in their kid's abilities to succeed. That had to have hurt the most. Again, they are driving home the message that without a name brand degree, you are destined for a life of sadness and failure.
Some of the parent's children were social media influencers and had other non-conventional careers. They were doing great for themselves, so why did it matter that they did not have the status symbol of a prestigious college degree? Would the kids be upset or would the parents?
This brings me back to the pressure we put on students to go to top schools. If you want to learn and continue your education, you will find a way. I was reading an article about the first chief data scientist who went to community college because he was horrible at math and got low SAT scores. He got a doctorate in applied mathematics. You can do anything you put your mind to. The college process is just one step in the long road of life.
The SATs and ACTs mean you can take a test. Life does not have standardized tests. You may be able to get a 1600 or a 34, but can you make friends and talk your way out of a tough situation? Intelligence and talents go beyond book smarts. We need to look at those capabilities.
So don't worry if you did not get into your dream school. Don't worry if your parents don't have enough money to bribe your way into a prestigious school. College admissions are a joke anyway. You have the capabilities to do great things. It comes down to having a passion and believing in yourself. That will mean more in 10 years than a bribed spot to USC.