This week we welcome Regional Director of Admission, Mid-Atlantic, Kathleen Voss to the blog!
In the college admission world, I am considered a dinosaur – which is a polite way of saying I am a fossil. To put things into perspective, the summer after college, the president walked into my office and said, “We’re implementing a revolutionary new platform called EMAIL.” When I started on this journey, way back in nineteen hundred and ninety-three, I was 5 years older than most of the high school students that I was working with!
I remember talking to the kids and completely relating to them. After those students enrolled, they became like my younger sisters and friends. We had much in common, I listened to the same music they did, watched Days of Our Lives in the dining hall during the lunch hour, and understood their struggles with school work and social pressures.
These days, I tend to relate more to the parents, many of them graduates of the class of 1993. We commiserate about our kids and share our worries. I am still musically savvy and can tell the difference between the Justins (Timberlake and Bieber) but I no longer have the time or brainpower for Days of Our Lives, and the memories of youthful struggles are fleeting.
Sometimes, while standing behind my table at a college fair (over 500 of them in my career!), I look around at all of those young faces, and I hear that Talking Heads song… “And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?”
While I am not sure where time has gone, here is what I DO know after 23 years of working with high school kids.
They Are Socially and Culturally Aware.
By the nature of their generation they have been developing skills since early childhood that have aided them in better understanding and “acknowledging the importance of harmonious social interaction.” Today’s young people are more open to diversity than we were 20 years ago. I like that kids today have more sensitivity to people who are different, and more confidence in sharing those differences. There is no doubt in my mind that young people are evolving by being exposed to all types of diversity.
They Work REALLY HARD!
According to Business Insider, kids today are taking 27.2 credits, compared to the 23.6 that high school kids took in 1990. At Georgia Tech, the average number of AP/IB courses our admitted students have taken is 10, and that’s on top of logging hours of service learning outside of the classroom. We see first-hand the volume and personal benefit of service learning. These hours, in addition to sports, work, and all of those other activities found in high school, make for very busy teenagers!
Often I am asked, “Should Johnny take AP Chemistry or stay in band? His schedule won’t allow for both.” My response is, “What does Johnny love?” I tell my own children, “too much of anything isn’t good for you,” and that includes AP’s. For many kids, they need the freedom that band, art or sports provide to help recharge their brains for those higher level courses.
They Face Pressures That Would Have Given Me Nightmares.
YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat. Your entire life captured for the world to see! That Facebook meme that says something about being glad that there was no Facebook when you were in high school… it’s the truth!
Many of the young people I meet are burned out. They suffer from chronic stress. While I do meet kids who thrive on the pressure, I have to be honest folks, if my parents were like some of the parents I’ve met out there, I would be stressed out too! Asking about the college profile for your 1st grader because you want to make sure they are in the “right” classes, calling the admissions office to tattle about the disciplinary infractions of your child’s classmates, writing your daughter’s application essay because “I can just do it better,” berating guidance counselors when your child doesn’t get into the school that only accepts 5% of its applicants… where does it end?
One of my colleagues at an exclusive private school in the Washington DC area begins his college night presentation for parents with the following statement; “think about your alma mater…. over 50% of you would be denied admission if you applied there today… can you give your kid a break?”
They Are Going to Be Okay.
I have answered the same questions for 23 years: “What is your average GPA? SAT? ACT? How hard is it to get in? My friend said you don’t accept grades under a B, is that true? My counselor said that I don’t have enough safety schools on my list, what do you think? ” I’ve seen some kids come in on fire and burn out in a semester… others needed a few months to acclimate and then take off. But in the end, most made the right college decision, especially if they were true to themselves. In his book Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, Frank Bruni does a great job explaining why it’s what the student does in college, not where they go, that determines success.
I’ve told parents and students at all of those college fairs and visits to high schools is that it IS going to be okay. A year from now you will have landed, and if you stay true to yourself, it will be enough.
Finally, there really will come a time when all of this will be a blip on the radar. Your college journey will be a story that you tell your own kids when you, too, are a dinosaur.
“Same as it ever was… Same as it ever was…”
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