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The Crushing Pursuit of College Admissions: What To Do In Response

The Moral Wages of College Admissions Mania

The Big Idea

So much has been said about the college admissions scandals this past month (March 2019). While it’s shocking to see the lengths to which some parents with means will go and the lines over which they will willingly cross, it’s not surprising. The prevailing college-prep culture has been heading in this narrow and unproductive direction for years.

In response, we can choose to model and reinforce the development of the responsibility, resilience, and resourcefulness in our kids that will provide the foundation they need to navigate and persevere in spite of corrupt systems like this.

What We're Up Against

In his New York Times column, The Moral Wages of the College Admissions Mania, Frank Bruni frames an important perspective, outlining what we're up against as we endeavor to equip our kids with the tools they need to thrive and prosper.

He quotes from a draft of a new report by the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common Project, "which has been 'a leading advocate for a less calculated and cutthroat process.'

'At its worst, it ‘corrodes the development of core aspects of young people’s ethical character, often fueling their self-interest, compromising their integrity, and depleting their capacity to either know themselves deeply or to authentically articulate their identity,’. ‘Many young people become cynical both about a system that seems unfair and divorced from their interests, and about the adults who created it.’

The narrow, yet hyper focus on performance and achievement in academics and in extra-curricular activities that have overshadowed our kids’ lives in the past decade has failed them in making this connection to themselves, to one another, and to endeavors that have meaning to them and to the world. It has robbed them of the opportunity to connect to something larger than themselves, to a sense of meaning, of purpose - beyond grades and test scores and goals scored.

What You Can Do Instead

Supporting our kids in discovering who they are, what they care about, and the ways in which they can make a difference in the world will equip them with the intrinsic resources they need to thrive and prosper in spite of the crushingly competitive culture and corrupt admissions systems.

To raise kids to be responsible, resilient, and resourceful adults who can be well, do well, and lead well in their lives, there’s a significant advantage to looking beyond "getting" our kids to conform to extrinsic expectations and focusing beyond the narrow path of achieving for the approval of others.

In order for our kids to discover, develop and experience a connection to a sense of meaning and purpose, it is essential that we create the time, space, and guidance they need to tune into who they are, what they care about, and how they can apply their talents in an area of interest to make a difference, to matter in the world.

When kids (and young adults and adults) discover, develop and use their innate Wiring in areas that are of Interest to them to address Needs they discover in the world, they naturally engage and excel.

How to Take Action

The first, fundamental step is to introduce your kids to The WIN Map. It's purpose is to facilitate a connection to themselves, to one another, and to the world.

Create time and space each day, if possible, for your kids to explore, discover, and develop

1. Their innate Wiring: WHO They Are — the natural strengths, talents, and skills they use to approach situations and people in their lives

2. Their emerging Interests: WHAT They Care About —the things that they like, like to do, and to which they feel connected

3. The Needs they discover: WHERE They Can Make a Contribution in their world - first their family, then school, and then the greater community in which they live and will one day, work.

Reflect on your own WIN Map and talk with your kids about it, reinforcing the importance of reflecting and assessing your path as a foundation for them to know how to tune in and map a path with purpose for themselves throughout their lives.

The WIN Map

WIN: Mapping a Path with Purpose

When your kids identify WHO, WHAT, and WHERE they can contribute, the next steps include connecting your kids to HOW they can take the lead in doing the work. The START process provides a 5-step approach to leading well. Click HERE for more on WIN & START.

The Results

For families who have shifted to this approach, the news is good. Intrinsically motivated and emotionally intelligent, the kids raised with this model demonstrate more meaningful, engaged behaviors at school, at home, and ultimately at work when compared to the extrinsically motivated kids for whom behaving, performing and achieving, and building a résumé for college admissions are the defining objectives. They experience broad success without sacrificing well-being, and they become the leaders we hoped they would be.

You can START now to create an environment at home where your kids can discover, develop, and become their best selves as they learn to take the lead in their own lives. And talk to your school. The START approach is also highly effective for teachers in the classroom, building these attributes of Responsibility, Resilience, and Resourcefulness while positively impacting classroom dynamics.

The results are powerful. When training is provided for both parents and teachers, the outcomes are even more powerful. And it has nothing to do with gaming the system, crossing legal lines, or sending the harmful message that you do not believe they are capable of doing well on their own by helping.

With this approach, you'll not only give them what they need most, you'll contribute to preparing the next generation of caring leaders our organizations and the world need.

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