College Admissions as a Competitive Sport

College Admissions as a Competitive Sport

Children (and their parents) today start thinking about college at increasingly early ages.

It used to be that discussions about college didn’t come up (besides those related to college sports) until high school and then often not until the 10th or 11th grade.  Today, I hear parents and students talking about college in upper elementary school and certainly in middle school.

I was speaking at a middle school this past week about allowing your child to face and experience adversity in order to learn how to succeed, and there was a mini-discussion going on amongst 6th and 7th grade parents about how grades from the 8th grade now “count towards” college.  Their insistence of this “fact” made my jaw drop almost as low as the jaw of the school principal who also overheard this conversation.  We both assured these parents that sending 8th grade transcripts to college wasn’t a “thing” but I know they all walked away not really believing either of us.

These were parents of 12 and 13 year-olds fraught with worry that their child won’t get into the school of their choice because they were having trouble with 7th grade math.  While it should have blown my mind, unfortunately, it didn’t.  I hear comments like this more and more often.  I often get questions about college prep when I’m speaking to parents at elementary schools (on nothing related to college admissions).

Everyone seems to know that college has gotten harder to get into than it was for our generation.  Some of this is due to the Common App and the ability kids have to easily apply to more schools.  Highly selective schools certainly have their choice of the cream-of-the-crop students as a result of all the applications they receive.  That though, doesn’t mean that your child won’t get into school and won’t get into a school he/she wants to go to.

Parents need to stop over-analyzing every-single-thing related to their child’s academic careers including:

  • Stop checking the school’s parent portal every day and obsessing over every grade
  • Stop pushing your child to take classes they aren’t ready for or shouldn’t be taking just because there’s an “honors” in front of the name or it’s an “AP” course
  • Don’t worry if your kids had a slow start in high school, improvement and effort matter to colleges
  • Kids don’t need a passion (I heard from a mom 2 weeks ago at a program that she was worried that her 9 year old son hadn’t discovered his “passion” yet and she was worried that would affect his future) – they need to stick with things they like but don’t worry about “passion”
  • Extracurriculars and athletics are great but not to the exclusion of a social life and enough time to focus on academics. Having outside interests and activities is great and important but kids need to make sure they balance their time with those activities, academics and free time – you never get your teen years back and teens need a social life

Relax.  Your child will get through high school and move on.  They may not choose the path you want for them but remember, this is their life and they should be able to make some decisions about their like, dislikes and yes, their future.


Julie Fisher, M.Ed., is the founder of The Social U and consults with schools, organizations and individuals through the MJ Fisher Group.  

Twitter: @Julz Fisher, @the_social_u

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