Yesterday a major college admissions scandal grabbed the country’s attention, as high-level executives and Hollywood actresses were among the wealthy elite who participated in an elaborate scheme to bribe their children’s way into colleges and universities they were otherwise unable to gain acceptance to.
This story brings to the surface many questions, most of which have been documented in the past 24 hours by writers nationwide. Among them:
- What kind of example are parents setting for these children?
- What about the students who missed out on these colleges because someone undeserving paid their way in?
- How are lower- and middle-class hard-working people to believe they are getting a fair shake when this is going on?
Of course there are dozens of others. But the one I want to focus on and have not seen covered yet is Why are these families prioritizing acceptance from others ahead of so much else in their children’s lives?
When I was younger I was into sports and multiple times a year I would try out for baseball and basketball teams. I believe I was 10 the first time I tried out for a baseball team. At that age I didn’t think of much aside from wanting to impress the coach so I could make the cut.
As I got older, trying out for teams became just a regular part of my life. Only once can I remember not making the cut, but even that time the feeling I was left with was disappointment and not a deeper reflection on the overall process.
At some point, however, maybe in my 20s, I began to really despise the concept of auditioning for a team, job, role, etc. That some other human is deciding if another is good enough really began to rub me the wrong way.
At 31 I ended up quitting a good job so I could start my own company. While not a perfect analogy, answering to a boss gave me a similar distaste; that of another person somehow ranking above me.
I give these examples because I cannot find the sense in parents teaching kids that it is of the utmost importance to go to a certain name-brand college. The fact that college is just a step toward the bigger goal of getting an education that will lead to a fulfilling and lucrative career only makes this whole scandal more confusing.
Thousands of students graduate from these universities each year; many of whom don’t find the success they were hoping for. Conversely, just as many people who never attended college have gone on to great success in their careers and personal lives. Going to a certain school has never been a guaranteed path.
Moreover, doing whatever it takes to get a certain person/group/entity to accept you has got to be in direct opposition to what college should be about: gaining the confidence in yourself to step into the world and make it on your own despite what others say or think.
Parents, students, or anyone else seeking approval from others are doing themselves a disservice. Those who pay or go out of their way in any other manner to gain acceptance really ought to spend their time and money doing whatever they need to increase their own self-worth until they no longer feel inferior. That is much likelier path to success than any college degree can give you.