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I am so grateful for the questionnaire that we were asked to complete by the private college counselors we have engaged to help us build John’s college list for applications. It asks questions like: “How would you describe your son’s or daughter’s personality and values?” and “What is his or her greatest achievement?”
Of course, they also want a copy of his transcript, and to know what his SAT scores are, but at least that is not the entire focus of the conversation.
One of the things we have experienced with our older children is how de -personalizing the college admissions process has become, relying on matrices of numeric comparisons. In fact, the college planning consultants will end up with a number valuation for John – a compilation of assigned values based on his grades, test scores and extra-curricular activities. They use this equation to predict where John will likely be eligible for admission, based on the thousands of profiles they have reviewed over time. So, his profile will be somewhere between a 1 to a 14, depending on how strong or weak his individual assets are measured.
But, with the consultants, we will also have a conversation about John – who he is, and what makes him special – that will inform the process, and help us develop a college list that reflects more than the strength of his GPA and SATs. They ask about his creativity, and I get to talk about his beautiful, sharp mind, and how he loves to wrestle with new, unfamiliar ideas. They ask about his strengths and weaknesses, his motivation and self-discipline, his energy level, organization, independence, and level of confidence. They measure all of these qualities, too, as they work to place that numeric valuation on John.
Without questions like “How would you describe your son’s or daughter’s personality and values?” I don’t get to stay focused on John’s kindness, commitment to fairness and harmony, soulful atheism, and propensity toward peace-keeping. I don’t get to focus on his strengths: his natural aptitude, curiosity, independence, and willingness to work hard. And I want to stay focused on these things. This child of ours will leave our home in a year and a half, and he will go to college – wherever that may be. So, rather than focusing on how he compares to other students on a grid, I really want to keep my eyes trained on that spark in his eye when he shares some good news, or the speed of his feet as he runs down the stairs to greet his dad at the end of the day.
I’m grateful for the reminder that even though this is a competitive process, and he will be measured above and below his peers, it is a young man’s life we are plotting, not just a math equation; and that young man has a bright future.
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