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Friday, April 6, 2007

Post-Tribune
Merrillville, Indiana

Educated Advice Columnist
Gerald M. Bradshaw

Some students avoid elite-school 'rat race'



Is there such a thing as being too perfect? That is the question that the New York Times tried to answer recently when it researched what teens try to be as they prepare for college.

Everyone believes that to get into very selective schools, the student must have near-perfect test scores, perfect grades down to the third digit, be an athlete and play violin or piano near the professional level.

The length that parents and teens go to achieve these standards cause some students to reject the rat race.

Esther is a senior at Newton North High School near Boston. The Times reports that her and her friend, Colby, often joke about how qualified they are to apply an elite school. Colby is a classical pianist, fluent in Spanish, and a three-year varsity track captain.

Ester wonders out load if Colby fell short in some way. Or, she say sarcastically, "Did you have it all already?

These are what the article calls "amazing girls." They do everything to pad their academic resume-sports, government and theater. They are also girls that were brought up to believe they can do everything boys can do.

Still, the pressure is so intense to achieve that nothing they accomplish is ever enough. After all, they remind each other, your competing against all the other amazing girls in the country for the same elite schools.

Newton High students are drawn from a high concentration of professional families-doctors, lawyers and professors. The community culture is unusually centered around preparing for admission to an elite college. Within a few blocks, there are SAT prep storefronts (Kaplan and Princeton Review), Starbucks and even a SAT Café.

With houses averaging $730,000, parents are dead set on providing their teens with the best education. For many, that starts at My First Yoga, a pre-school for children 3 and up, owned by a Harvard graduate.

By the time they get to high school, most students are on the fast track, and taking honors and/or advanced-placement classes. I even had a call from a student on the Newtonite, the school newspaper, to see if I wanted to take out advertising space for my college consulting business.

Indeed, the Newtonite publishes its final edition in June that has a two-page listing of all the seniors and the colleges to which they were admitted. Ester tells the reporter that for the entire last week of school, that is all students talk about, "obsessing over who got into Harvard, Yale Penn or Stanford."

Esther decided to forgo the rat race and not spend all her time feeling guilty if she enjoys her high school days and hangs out with her friends. Academics are important to her, and she knows that getting into one of these schools will help her get a good job. But she decided she wants to be a theologian, following in her father's footsteps.

She would rather "feed the homeless" than pursuer a "a lucrative profession." Still she studies hard on order to get into a top school. Has it been worth it? She and her friend Colby were admitted to the University of Southern California. Her top choices were Amherst, Middlebury, Davidson and Smith, her mother's alma mater. The Times reported that she was finally admitted to Smith.

Creating time for her faith and working hard on her academics paid off.

Contact Gerald Bradshaw, The US States Top college consultant. One-on-one college consulting. Get help with the college application essay. Make you dream of being admitted into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania a reality.

Toll Free: 866-687-8129
gerald_bradshaw@post.harvard.edu

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