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  /  Opinion   /  PSA to Parents: Stop Climbing the Ivory Tower

PSA to Parents: Stop Climbing the Ivory Tower

In the past decade, the application process for entry into top colleges and universities has become much more competitive. Back in the day, all it took was good grades and maybe a grandfather who could pull some strings, and bam–you were in the college of your choice.

It seems as if  the college process has become increasingly demanding, making students and parents progressively feel like they have no control in the matter. This has led them to search aimlessly for a way to gain some agency. This confusion only seems to cause friction between parents and their children as they work to find a way to master the admissions process. This frustration often manifests itself through parents forcing extracurriculars on their children and paying an absurd amount of money to get that ACT tutor who seems to know all the tricks and trades of the test. Though it may seem that it is just cutthroat New York City parents who are unhealthily obsessed with their children’s successes, statistics only seem to echo the high demands colleges’ are placing on students now. For example, in 1992, Harvard University had a 14% acceptance rate; today, it accepts only 5% of applicants.

Although the acceptance rate for Ivy League colleges has gotten increasingly lower, there are many more institutions today that are providing phenomenal education and are not considered less prestigious than Ivy leagues. I feel that because many parents lived in a time where Ivy League schools were the only colleges considered to be good, their mindsets are still heavily oriented toward the belief that in order to be successful, their children have to follow their same paths. But as students educate themselves on the college process, they have begun to realize that indeed there are many more amazing colleges outside of the Ivies.

“I used to feel pressure to go to an Ivy League when I was younger and didn’t know as much about college,” said Nina Houston (‘19), “but now that I’m more knowledgeable about college I don’t feel that pressure because the college process is so ridiculous. Honestly, sometimes it’s just a name, and I could be way happier and get an equal education at a lot of schools that aren’t Ivy Leagues.”

Nina seems to echo many other students’ perspectives on the college process. As students learn more about other colleges and the different programs they offer, the pressure to go to an Ivy continues to disappear. So why is it embedded in people’s minds in the first place that in order to be successful in society the Ivy League education is the way to go?

This could be thanks to our good friends over in the media, portraying every teenage protagonist as an Ivy League student, causing younger children to think of this as the norm. This could also be implemented by children’s parents, who put their newborns in head to toe Yale or Cornell merch.

But why, really, is an Ivy League education seen as superior to a smaller liberal arts education? Emily Benson (‘18) said, “I think that Ivy League schools have a long standing reputation that they are the best of the best, and I think that a lot of people go into the college process striving to be admitted to Ivies only on the basis that they are the top schools. That being said, I think that there is a growing recognition and appreciation for small liberal arts colleges as elite schools.”

“I think that people typically look at how selective a college is and equate that with quality,” said Lisa Shambaugh, one of Packer’s two college counselors. “As the colleges in the Ivy League are highly selective, people think that it means they are the best schools.”

Because our society is so competitive, especially in this day and age, it seems that people often get wrapped up in this cutthroat process. Too many, it is as if getting into an Ivy League college dictates your future.

“There is some mythology around simply the idea that if you go to a certain school, you will be a success in life, and people think it’s a magic bullet to your future success,” said Nila Fortune, the other college counselor. “I would say that how you use your time at college and how you take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to you will be a far greater indicator of what becomes of your future than the name on your diploma.”

A common theme that is displayed in how teenagers and parents choose to tackle the college process is a lack of consideration on which college best suits the person applying. It seems to not be a priority to focus on what college will help the individual in their future based off of the skills they want to enrich.  Success doesn’t derive from the name of a college or the reputation it upholds–it comes from the hard-working, driven, and well-rounded student that Packer brings us up to be. 

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