Nov 7, 2019

College is NOT the Goal

I do a lot of research on the topic of parenting, because being the best mother I can be is incredibly important to me. And it seems like every other article, blog post and podcast I come across is directly or indirectly about the stress and anxiety that teens feel.

Some teens feel incredible pressure to perform at school - to get straight A's, take the most rigorous courses offered at their school, and make sure they can check all the right boxes about extracurricular activities on their college applications. Some teens feel a tremendous amount of social pressure - to have the "right" look and the "right" friends. And of course, some teens feel both kinds of pressure and more.

One of my favorite sites is Growing Leaders, where Tim Elmore writes often about the struggles young people deal with today. And one of my favorite authors, Rachel Macy Stafford, often talks about teens and their mental health, and she just wrote a book for teens, although I can't find direct reference to it on her website.

My oldest son just started high school, and I know he's already feeling the pressure to perform academically. He's always been an outstanding student, but now the grades really matter, because they'll be part of his college applications.

College is NOT the Goal

For my part, I've been thinking about college for a while now, and while I've mostly focused on how to pay for my kids' educations, a big factor in the financial side of things is their academic performance in high school, because it can result in merit scholarships.

One thing I realized as I started my research is that it's important to think beyond the goal of getting into college. Because that’s not really the end goal. The real long-term goal is about helping my kids set themselves up for a productive and happy future.

I’m sure that means something different for every family, but for ours, it means graduating from college with little to no debt, and in a position to embark on a career they’re excited to pursue. As we start the high school journey, I want to keep reminding my son that while the portfolio he’s building for his college application is supremely important, it’s not the ultimate goal.

If we get to his senior year and he doesn’t get into his first-choice college, I don't want him to feel like his entire life is now a failure. Conversely, if he does get into his first-choice school, I don't want him to feel like he’s fulfilled his life's purpose.

In essence, I don’t want getting into college to be more important than it should be.

If you have a high school student, how do you handle all the stress and anxiety?

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