Everything will be okay

People worry. A lot. About a lot of things. Worry is a part of our lives as we navigate our way through an uncertain and unfair world.

I find people, especially when they are parents of American high school students, worry about their students finding, gaining admission, and attending the right universities. It's possible a person has never worried about anything more in their lives than being a parent responsible for their child's education. I don't know what that is like, but I see the anxiety associated with it.

That anxiety is okay, understandable. Regrettably, college admissions is a stressful, anxious, and uncertain time. Especially when students and families place such a high value on institutions like the University of Texas at Austin, college admissions can seem like a life or death situation. 

It isn't. College is not a life or death decision. It is an opportunity to grow as a person.

Everything is going to be okay.

Occasionally, I work with families now and in the past who can take a step back and observe their situation objectively. Their son has a 33 on the ACT, is in the top quarter at the best private school in their community, and is a leader in an organization. They're happy, well-adjusted, and healthy if sometimes temperamental and stubborn teenagers. 

Does this sound like your kid? It sounds like hundreds I have worked with anyways. I appreciate when parents recognize that they have raised a responsible, mature person empowered to do well.

Often, parents love to split hairs over the competitiveness of their high school and how state laws may or may not work in their children's favor while diving deeply into the minutiae of college admissions. They parse admissions policies and look for any parcel that suggests a slight edge over other applicants - or they look for any small fault or error in their daughter's application.

Is their ACT writing subscore too low? What about that 4 on AP US History? Or that friend at the public high school with lower scores who got in? What if my son chooses not to take Spanish 3? Will they be penalized for dropping AP Calculus BC? Should we panic over a tiny typo in an already submitted essay?

Does this sound like you? Maybe. And that's okay, too.

Until I am blue in the face, I can decry the college admissions madness and plead with people not to worry. But people will still worry. I worry. It's what we do.

I'm not a parent and I feel uncomfortable giving parenting advice. I just know my parents trusted that they raised two well-adjusted sons and that, regardless of where we went or what we did, we would probably turn out alright. 

All that I can do is encourage parents to take a step back and realize the privileges alongside the disadvantages that their sons and daughters have. It upsets me to see people getting so worked up over college admissions outcomes seemingly neglecting the outstanding opportunities and resources their students often have. 

I come from a working class community to parents who do not have college degrees. I barely learned math and science in high school. Few of my friends went to college and even fewer received degrees. UT was the only school I applied to. I never visited campus. SImply put, I didn't come from a college going community. I can only hope that when I do become a parent, my children will have access to some of the resources that many of the state's top students have.

You can't have your cake and eat it too. Sure, you could send your child to a public school allowing them to have the chance to be in the top 10%. But sending them to the best, and thus most competitive, private school in town to receive a better education comes with a tradeoff. Presumably, parents who send their children to independent schools or relocate to strong public school districts do so for much bigger reasons than a few percentiles of a class rank. I suspect the motivations of moving neighborhoods when their oldest is in sixth grade are far removed from the needs of their daughter in her senior year of high school.

I am all about process - trust in the process of parenting; embrace starting early and putting forward your best effort on your college applications; have confidence in the skills that allow you to succeed inside and outside of the classroom.

Maybe you get into your dream school. Maybe you hire someone like me to assist in this process.

But what if it doesn't work out? Your hypothetical son with an SAT of 1300, A's and B's at a great school, and 27 college credits through AP will probably do just fine wherever life takes them.