College Admissions Craziness: What I Want My Teen to Know

The college admissions scandal is prompting a lot of discussions about everything from the power of wealth and privilege to the dangers of helicopter parenting to issues with NCAA regulations. It is also spurring conversation in my home with my high school junior, who is smack in the middle of the college admissions craziness.

This controversy is certainly a conversation starter for many important topics, but I dashed off this letter to her to stress what I feel is most important for her to know.

Dear Teen,

My mind was rather blown when federal prosecutors indicted dozens of people because they allegedly lied and cheated to get their children into elite colleges, with some paying up to $6 million.

I hope you know that I love you with all my heart but I will not commit a felony to get you into a university. We both know that I have neither the money and the knowledge of how to (or who could) rig the college admissions system for you, but even if I did, I would not do it.

That’s because it is morally wrong and because I believe it is unnecessary.

I believe in you and your ability to succeed regardless of where you go to college, or if you enroll at all.

Whatever grades and SAT score you earn will be just fine. 

You are an amazing kid and you consistently make me proud.

Your future is ridiculously bright. I beg of you to remember Frank Bruni’s wise words (and book title):

“Where you go is not who you’ll be.”

You are the one who decides who you’ll be, not an admissions committee or a standardized test or a transcript.

The big decisions you’ll make, including about where to go to school, definitely have an impact. However, it’s the many small decisions that you make every single day—especially the times you opt to be truthful, hardworking, and kind – that determine who you are and who you will be.

I am confident that you will land at a university that recognizes both your present gifts and your future potential. I am also confident that you will do so honestly and legally and, sweet child, that’s so very important.



A version of this post originally appeared on Between Us Parents. It has been reprinted with permission.

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