Press-Republican

FYI...

April 1, 2014

The madness of college admissions

(Continued)

Going to college seems to be the most talked-about subject among people with kids around the same age as ours. And by now we've heard plenty of stories feeding fears that your child will be left behind, will miss out on the best education and, therefore, will see his life ruined before it even begins. "All is lost," a friend wrote to me after her daughter missed the deadlines for many of her college applications, had a meltdown and dropped out of her private school. My friend's sentence made me wonder: What exactly did she mean by "all"?

It doesn't help that we're in Princeton, N.J., where it's especially clear how competitive American college admissions can be. Last year, Princeton University received 26,498 applications, and only 1,291students entered the Class of 2017. That's less than 5 percent of applicants, or about 0.03 percent of kids in the United States turning 18 that year.

I've tried to maintain some skepticism, to resist getting too caught up in it all. I managed to keep my jealously more or less in check when a friend emailed that her youngest was just admitted early at Yale, like her brother and sister before her. What a lucky mom to have such super-smart wonder kids - and to understand how to navigate the system.

At the same time, I don't want my kids to lose out on a good education because of their parents' ignorance or because our sense of adventure involved moving three teenagers across the Atlantic at a crucial age.

"You definitely should see a private college counselor," a friend told me. "You need help. It will cost you thousands of dollars, but it is well worth it. You can start with a free consultation."

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