College Parents of America has a long history of making observations regarding the insanity of the college admissions process, but nothing really prepared our editors and contributors for the college admissions scandal that was announced yesterday by the FBI.

It is very disappointing and disconcerting to those of us who promote the value of higher education to see such a vital part of our society to be corrupted by money. There are many themes to unpack that are relevant to all college families. We welcome a broader discussion of what is wrong with the modern admissions process but share today our immediate observations:

  • Who are these parents? The college parents we serve all want the best for their students and as the primary teachers of our children, what does this conduct by parents teach their students?  Does it convey a supreme lack of confidence in their children’s ability?  Buying access to colleges may be more frequent then we have understood, but we understood students of donors were given extra-consideration not actual pay-to-play for access or admissions.
  • Where are the audits by senior university officials of the admissions process? Pay to Play abuses. When both major niche sports comprise a clear path into very selective colleges, there is room for abuse. When being on a coach’s list is the equivalent of a +200 point swing on the SAT, that is huge (study here).
  • Arizona State University and schools that are committed to serving their communities at scale should be respected and not be diminished despite a statement by one parent that was reported to have said ‘I have some concerns and want to fully understand the game plan and make sure we have a road map for success as it relates to [our daughter] and getting her into a school other than ASU!”  College Parents of America applauds Dr. Michael Crow institutions like ASU “who define their success by who they include and not who they exclude.”
  • A college parent we respect – Jo Tango – has a wonderful perspective and said it well “I continue to believe that my children’s long term happiness is not aligned with the goals of college admissions officers.”

Some useful near term conclusions:

  • Parents are smart to avoid using college admissions as a report card on their parenting abilities.  Colleges admissions is not about the parents’ success, but about helping your student move towards self-reliance.  Instead, we suggest, that the discussion for many parents and families should be on helping our children understand their strengths and interests and look for career paths that match them and lead them towards becoming self-reliant.
  • Parents are smart to discuss the value of a college education and the importance of building knowledge, skills, and networks that occur within the college experience.  The evidence is clear that majority of jobs in the future will require more advanced skills than a high school education provides, so be sure to discuss the many paths towards this result – some involve technical schools, while some involve community college courses.
  • Parents are smart to discuss with their students that brands – just like cars and clothes we may choose matter less than your purpose. Some brands cost more but may very well get you to the same place or serve a similar function.  Despite all of the brochures, phone calls and sophisticated marketing efforts – including tuition discounts that are otherwise known as school scholarships – college families and their students are prudent to be smart consumers of the education they choose.
  • Parents and your students – remember that the process of education where ever you may pursue requires some discomfort. That discomfort is useful to recognize as real human growth.  Some growth may result from being disappointed by the schools that do not admit them.  Be comfortable being uncomfortable and be supportive of your students while they endure these moments.
  • Lastly – college families are smart to avoid the fixed mindset that is revealed by concentrating on the brand name schools instead of exploring the broad themes important to your student – such as “where do you want your life to be in 3 or 5 years” and exploring the unique aptitudes and strengths of your children. These conversations and your ability to listen carefully – demonstrates the love that students and young people need.

Stay tuned for further observations about how American Higher Education system can reform itself and fulfill its greatest promise to both students and the public.

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