How much would you pay to get your kid into the college of their dreams?

Monday, April 29, 2019

by Noah MacDonald

Earlier this year, one of our country’s worst kept secrets was made painfully public as the Justice Department charged 50 individuals in a major college admissions bribery scandal. For most, the scheme itself was hardly surprising; it’s a natural thought for most high school students when looking at potential colleges to think, ‘If only my family could donate a building!’ Granted, this scandal, which charged 33 parents including actress Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, and a currently unknown defendant who paid $6.5 million to get their child into college, cites conduct far worse than simple donations including bribes, falsifying application material, and cheating on standardized tests.

While we can condemn the lying and cheating, it’s a completely natural desire to do everything you can to see your children succeed. College has increasingly become the de facto path for students graduating high school, and now more than ever, prestige is an attractive force for many students and their families. In pursuit of prestige, and as a result of greed, families across the country, a small number of which having been revealed through this scandal, seek desperate and dishonest ways to get their kids into schools that they couldn’t if this were a true meritocracy. They spend hundreds of thousands, and in some cases, millions of dollars so that their children have the prestige of an accomplishment they don’t deserve. What if there were another way?

Imagine how different the story would be if, many years ago, these parents invested in an academic coach when their child entered the 6th grade. Research shows that the academic habits formed while in middle school continue well into high school; more importantly, many of the topics covered in middle school are foundational to the success of the student when taking higher level classes. A student’s unmet need in an area of math may stunt their academic development irreparably, leading them to believe they simply aren’t good at math, and welcoming a future of academic struggles. An academic coach would work with the student to learn time management, goal setting, and study skills. Any extra time would be spent reinforcing, reviewing, and previewing the concepts that many struggle with for the entirety of their academic careers like fractions, word problems, and reading comprehension. Over the summer, a student’s academic coach would ensure retention of the previous year’s material, get a headstart concepts for the next year, and maybe even facilitate fun and engaging ways to stimulate curiosity through experiments and projects.

Once the student moves on to high school, they will have built many of the habits and skills to be successful. Their academic coach should remain to provide accountability and help them adjust to many of their newfound responsibilities. Further, their academic coach would begin to help them craft a grand plan for their high school career, including which classes to take, clubs to join, and areas to focus on. Through this plan, the student and their family would see the path through high school as actionable and goal oriented. Eventually, the student and their academic coach would start preparing for college by preparing for standardized tests like AP, SAT, and ACT. A student’s academic coach would help them navigate the complex process of finding, choosing, and applying to colleges. There would be no need for lying, cheating, or otherwise disingenuous behavior. The student and their family could rest assured that they had done everything they could, for many years, to ensure that their student could go to any college of their choosing, because they had done the work.

At this point, the college acceptance wouldn’t be the reward, but validation. Through this honest process, the student will have become an individual better prepared for college and life beyond. The persistence, hard-work, and dedication of the student better empowers them to be a successful and contributing member of our society. While not all of us can affix a six-figure check to our child’s application, we can start earlier, and work harder. In the end, your child will be better off for it, and your face won’t be on the front page of the New York Times.

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