Stressed out students?

by L

Too much stress in high school?

High-Stress High School

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194 thoughts on “Stressed out students?

  1. I talk with my child about school stress about once a quarter, or whenever something comes up that seems to be causing higher stress levels. As a freshman going to a new school where she didn’t know anyone and did not come from one of the feeder elementaries, I wanted to make sure the coursework she’d selected wasn’t more than she could handle and that the associated stress was not exceedingly high. Overall, stress exists and except for a few times, usually near the end of the grading period, when teachers are ramping up the assignments, it does not seem excessive for her.

    A classmate of hers cries at school almost every day and clearly has high levels of stress and exhibits high anxiety. My child has expressed concern about her classmate, but the classmate clearly chose to be in the program and is successful in terms of grades and other qualitative measures. I don’t know if as a parent, I could watch my child seem so unhappy EVERY day.

    This also harkens back to a prior discussion on what is good enough. The high work load has required my child to be more flexible and to figure out what does it take to get the desired grade and to do that and not much, if any, more. We have a few rare nights of less than 8 hours sleep, but many of her classmates are working off of 5-6 on a regular basis.

  2. I was very stressed about grades and tests in high school. I put the pressure on myself. My Mom was top of her high school class and I wanted to be the same, I think I ended up around 10th out of just over 100 students.

  3. I remember a lot of homework in high school – one history class in particular freshman year where the teacher regularly gave us 2 hours per night. I think maybe there wasn’t so much hoopla about excessive homework back then so we just accepted it and didn’t worry about being stressed out. There also wasn’t any pressure to do community service or excel in an extracurricular to get into college.

  4. There also wasn’t any pressure to do community service or excel in an extracurricular to get into college.

    This. Nobody talked about building a resume for college applications. It was simply get good grades, study a bit for the SAT or ACT (maybe take a short prep class), and do a few extracurriculars. Homework wasn’t overwhelming unless you were taking 5 AP classes or something.

  5. I think this is a big problem, but it isn’t a new problem. There is a lot of work, a lot of activities, jobs, sports, pressure to get into college etc etc.

    I’ve been doing the alum interviews and I just think that some of these kids are so stressed out because they have to do too much, AND they don’t get enough sleep to recharge. It is a vicious, never ending cycle until college. It seems like some of these same kids are finally relaxing, and enjoying their studies in college. I know it isn’t the case for certain undergrad majors, but it does seem like a lot of these same kids can finally enjoy school once they get to college.

    I just don’t know how you convince a teenager and some of their parents that there is another path. We discuss it here all of the time, but some of these kids put too much pressure on their kids.

    I had a sixth grader in my house last week, and she wouldn’t go home because she didn’t want to tell her mother that she received an 84 on a science test. She said her mother would kill her. come on – it is sixth grade, and this kid is already scared of her mom.

  6. My mom was the grade nazi but she and my dad divorced when I was ten so there was only pressure from one side. She grounded me for a month in middle school for getting a C in math. I’m not sure my dad ever looked at my report card. He owns his own blue collar business and has done reasonably well so I don’t think he ever thought college was the be all end all.

  7. some of these kids are so stressed out because they have to do too much, AND they don’t get enough sleep to recharge. It is a vicious, never ending cycle .

    Isn’t that why Goldman pays a junior analyst from Princeton $140k to start vs. E&Y paying a junior auditor form SUNY Binghamton $57k? Your ability to get into Princeton make it likely you won’t balk when they give you one day off a month.

    Obviously, a lot of it is about intellectual ability. But, just as much, if not more, is that you’ve proven you’re able to put up with a lot of abuse in pursuit of your goals.

  8. When I was planning my senior-year schedule, the guidance counselor tried to dissuade me from taking “too many” AP classes (if I recall correctly, I think I took 3 or 4 plus one college class each semester). My parents scoffed at the idea that there was such a thing as taking to many APs, and I think that’s probably a light schedule these days.

    That said, I was remarking to my husband the other day that I don’t feel like the approach my parents had to education inculcated much of a love of learning in me. I took advanced classes and did well because that’s what was expected, and I carried that mindset with me into college and beyond. But for me–and this may well just have been a function of my personality–it was just a set of boxes to check. And I think I could have had plenty of success in life without unthinking devotion to taking the hardest classes etc. just because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do when you are a certain level of smart.

  9. “That said, I was remarking to my husband the other day that I don’t feel like the approach my parents had to education inculcated much of a love of learning in me. I took advanced classes and did well because that’s what was expected, and I carried that mindset with me into college and beyond. But for me–and this may well just have been a function of my personality–it was just a set of boxes to check.”

    I find this so interesting, and think about it a lot. My DD works 100 times harder than her brother ever did, for *much* lower grades. But I have never known a kid to be as enamored with her classes and learning as my DD is. Over dinner, she tells us what they learned in chem that day as though she’s relaying details about a trip to Disney. She has always been like this. Loves every class and gets so totally into it that you’d assume she got the highest grades. She rarely does. As a parent, I would take her attitude and a B average over an A average from a kid who’s not engaged.

    The trick is finding college admissions offices who feel the same way. There are some (a good starting point is the Colleges That Change Lives list), but it takes a lot more work to find them, arrange for individual visits and interviews and all the rest of it. A kid like DS just submits an application and lets the decision rest on grades and scores. DD has to be a lot more strategic and targeted about it. She is working on her college search a solid year sooner than her brother did. The other thing is that DS could apply to all the big publics and let his grades and scores lift him to the top (topISH). Those schools aren’t as available to DD. The “change lives” ones and the others willing to look at engagement and the like are the private SLACs. DS will have 75% of his college fund left over after undergrad, and DD will have $1 of hers left, if that.

  10. I have thought about “how much stress is enough stress” a lot. I grew up in an academic system where there was a lot of stress and competition. Some of my friends rebelled against their parents by just not choosing majors that involved a lot of studying. You could say that they underperformed their potential. Then there were others whose parents were more easygoing/not clued in and yet those kids as adults did fine or even better than expected.
    So, now as a parent I make sure there is time for schoolwork and activities but there is downtime and free play time as well. I have come to realize that free play is very important for older kid. I didn’t quite get DH’s point about this in the earlier grades but now I realize this.

  11. How much does the application essay really matter? My DD is in the thick of the application process and the whole family is suffering along with her. She finally just wrote the damn essays and set off some applications. As the process went along, it dawned on my that no one really knows who writes the essays.

  12. Ahhh Murphy – I am channeling Rhett here – I bet there is a black market for college application essays.

  13. Wasn’t that what the essay part of the SAT was originally intended to do when it was added — give colleges a chance to notice that an applicant with a great application essay suddenly can’t write in complete sentences for the SAT essay?

  14. This CollegeConfidential discussion thread generated over 300 comments.  However, as the article pointed out, these stressed-out students are not the majority.

    Frustrated re amount of homework – quit fabulous classes to keep kid’s (and my sanity???)

    Our family is in a quandry – looking for suggestions!

    DD’s class schedule includes Honors Algebra II, AP Bio, AP Euro, Honors English, and Latin II. She is also on the Cross Country team instead of PE (it’s honestly not a choice at our school, and she finds running stress reducing). Right now (nearing the end of 1st quarter) she has about 92% in every class. I consider her teachers “The Dream Team” – every one is top notch, and I can’t honestly say they require much “busy work.” They are good about giving monthly work calendars, and nearly all said “Homework for my class shouldn’t take more than a half hour.” It doesn’t…unless there is a test/quiz (at least 8 a week); a review due, or a paper. DD leaves for school at 6:00, returns at 4:45 with an hour study hall between class and practice, She does her homework efficiently (makes a schedule, uses Quizlet to speed review time, tries to get things done ahead of due date, etc) and there are simply not enough hours in the day. By the time she ices her shins and eats a quick dinner, it’s 6PM. 3.5 – 4 hours of homework is standard, even though she studies most of the day on both weekend days. The cost to her health, her extracurriculars, and our family is excessive. I have no idea what to do!!!!! The material is well within her capabilities -it’s simply the amount of homework demanded. Right now, we have her taking documentation data, and I am thinking of going to the school to discuss the issue. If a kid like this, who is the type of kid that honors courses are supposed to serve, has to drop out because she can’t stay healthy there is something wrong!!! Really open to suggestions!!!! I don’t want to be a helicopter parent, but I do see this as a systemic issue as well as my daughter’s issue. Really, really need suggestions!!!!

  15. I’m sure there are many college applications that stretch the truth because accuracy can be hard to verify. Some colleges claim that they can tell if an essay is written in a student’s voice, and that can be hard to fake. I think guidance counselors act as some level of verification for activities, but verifying everything is not really practical.

    “set off some applications” As in an exploding a bomb? Freudian slip? :)

  16. HM, perhaps that was the intent, which would make a lot of sense, but the implementation, from what I understand, does not give the highest scores to the best essays, but rather gives the highest scores to the essays that best hit certain check boxes that aren’t made public.

    In this respect, I think an optional essay, unscored but proctored, would make a lot of sense.

  17. I think there is some truth to Rhett’s observation that the weeding of students able to withstand the stress of getting into elite schools is part of the process used by some employers. But it’s also true that some individuals are able to run the gauntlet without breaking a sweat.

  18. CoC, I’m wondering what the problem is for that kid. If she has an hour before practice to study, and has 3.5 to 4 hours of homework, that means she needs to get 2.5 to 3 hours done after she gets home, and she’s done with dinner and icing her shins by 6.

    So if she goes to bed at 10, which gives her 7.5 hours of sleep (5 sleep cycles) if she gets up at 5:30 to leave for school at 6, she has 1 to 1.5 hours each night to relax, wind down, do chores, etc.

    I’m also wondering what she does in the morning. If she can get home from school, ice her shins, and have dinner in 1:15, then it must take her less that than to get to school in the morning, so it would seem like she should have a significant block of time in the morning for some combination of study, socializing, recreational reading, etc.

  19. 3.5 – 4 hours of homework is standard, even though she studies most of the day on both weekend days.

    At some point, if the kid is working that much harder than the other kids, the most likely explanation is that they are in over their heads. As such, the SAT/ACT scores are going to come in low and she’s going to be out of the running for any school in which taking all AP courses is going to matter.

  20. Rhett’s comments about willingness and ability to run a gauntlet resonate with me. I’m pretty sure my children will not be working this hard in high school. I made sure DS1 completed his project for a story they’re going to write but this morning while loading his backpack, he found a “prewriting” paper that was supposed to be done. He hunted for a pencil with plans to complete it on the bus.

    He is clearly his father’s son.

  21. CoC, I’ll also add that my kids, and a lot of their friends, use the transit time to/from school for some combination of sleep, homework, winding down, parental communication, etc.

    One year we carpooled with another kid about once a week, and it seemed like pretty much every time I drove, within 5 minutes of getting into the car, that kid was sound asleep.

  22. Contrary to what some have posted above, I was definitely thinking about building a college resume, and I certainly did not go to an elite high school.

    As for CoC’s quote from college confidential, that sounds a lot like my sophomore year of high school, if you substitute Spanish III for Latin II and AP Chem for AP Bio. Maybe there were some nights when I was legitimately doing four hours of homework, but it wasn’t most nights, and I definitely wasn’t spending most of both Saturday and Sunday studying.

    When she says that her daughter is the type of kid whom “honors courses are supposed to serve,” what does she mean by that, and how is she reaching that conclusion? And what, exactly, is the issue that she would take to the school? The school is not forcing her daughter to take the hardest courses, she admits that they’re not assigning excessive homework, she doesn’t say that they’re grading unfairly or arbitrarily. It seems like she’s upset because her daughter is the type of kid who’s “supposed” to be ranked among the best, and even though she’s getting all A’s, the Mom feels like this is too much work for her. Is she upset because other kids apparently don’t have to exert as much effort?

  23. “any school in which taking all AP courses is going to matter.”

    DS told me that at some of the schools he is looking, AP credits allows for more electives. E.g., if you got a 4 or 5 on APUSH and AP European History, you don’t need to take US History or European History in college, opening up more time for electives.

  24. Finn, my nephew told me the same thing. His AP credits let him enter as close to a sophomore, so he got preference in picking his classes and he got to take fewer classes (more time to spend with his fraternity like organization) or classes he liked instead of requirements.

  25. How do you figure out or help you kid to figure out if their load is too high? My eldest doesn’t seem to have time for fun in high school, but she wouldn’t cut back her workload.

  26. He hunted for a pencil with plans to complete it on the bus.

    In my house – if a test is forgotten – even after having the whole weekend and more to study – no need to panic there is always time on the bus.

  27. I would have my kid quit the cross country team and take P.E., unless the explanation for this is that there is a really long commute to school. Assuming the school day is about 6.5 hours, she is gone from 6 AM – 4:45 PM, 10.75 hours. Even with an hour of after school study hall, her practice and commute time is 3.15 hours daily.

    If she is too stressed, then they need to speed up her school trip by driving her, or take her off the team, or both.

    This kind of work schedule is what the i-banks, consulting firms and BigLaw firms expect from Ivy graduates, and I do think a large part of their recruiting strategy is that the Ivies have already screened for this work ethic among the academic admits.

    However, having done it from age 12 (when I started high school) to 32 (when I quit BigLaw), 20 years of it is draining.

    And from an earnings perspective, that was probably not the optimal 20 years to work that hard.

  28. The article linked in the OP starts by citing “‘an average of $10,000 per year ” for elite private high schools.

    Around here, those schools cost upwards of $20k, and I know in other parts of the country they cost well above that.

    So I’m wondering, where do elite private high schools cost under $10k/year? There have to be a lot of them to bring the overall average down to $10k.

  29. “no need to panic there is always time on the bus.”

    Reinforcing my point about making use of transit time.

  30. “I would have my kid quit the cross country team and take P.E.”

    Since XC provides her with stress relief, I would leave her in it.

    As I pointed out, she should have ample time to meet all her requirements,get a decent amount of sleep every night, and still have some unstructured time left.

  31. I think there’s a big range for “thinking about a college resume”. I wasn’t trying to be super-special elite, but I did do everything at the time that was “normal” for a college-bound kid who didn’t just want to go to Directional State U — took the honors track that were offered, took college classes as a senior in HS (we had this in lieu of AP), play sports, stay in choir/do competitions, and stick with the yearbook & become editor of the HS yearbook. I had fun doing those things, but it’s not like I didn’t think about getting into colleges at all or that wanting to look “well rounded” wasn’t on my mind back in the dark ages. Most weekdays between practice, activities, and my PT job, I didn’t have a ton of free time. Just enough to relax & not enough to get into too much trouble!

    Still, I don’t really remember a lot of schoolwork-related stress in HS. I remember social stress for sure. But not around grades/tests. (I went to a party the night before the ACT – enough said.) But maybe I am just not one to feel a lot of that pressure – it came out recently in a work exercise that I am known for being even keeled in stressful situations now as well. Who knows.

    I wonder how different my kid’s experience will be 30 years after mine, and how much of the difference will show because we are totally different people and not because the environment is different. DH always says he felt enormous pressure in HS, but that it all came from himself. His HS was not really more elite than mine, and if anything, his parents had lower expectations for him than mine did. Even now, he is not great at handling work-related stress though.

  32. Rhett,

    He got priority in registerting for classes and he spent a lot of time having fun. His facebook feed was a blast to watch.

  33. I actually tried to get my oldest to NOT take one of the AP courses (AP Global History) because the course is known for an extremely high workload, my son had issues with the teacher’s style the year before, and he is taking every single other advanced course that one can take in 10th grade. My son refused because he said, he likes the content even if the busywork load is too high, and he said that the regular global history was going to be really boring. I think one factor for him, too, was that all his friends are in the AP.

  34. “Such that he can graduate in ~3 years?”

    Not necessarily. From what DS told me, some of the schools don’t give credit for AP classes, so you’d still need to earn the same amount of credits to graduate as if you hadn’t passed AP exams, but you’d have freedom to fill those credits with whatever your want in place of the AP class subjects.

    This could facilitate a minor or a second major, or just getting better in some subject you like or is more germane to your post-college career.

  35. “So I’m wondering, where do elite private high schools cost under $10k/year? There have to be a lot of them to bring the overall average down to $10k.”

    I’m thinking that what the article is calling “elite” is really just all private schools or something. Most of the city Catholic schools around here are $10K. The equivalent of the type of “elite” school that you are thinking of is in the same range here. (check out the “scenarios”

    http://www.latinschool.org/Page/Admissions/Tuition-and-Financial-Assistance/Tuition-and-Fees

  36. He got priority in registerting for classes and he spent a lot of time having fun.

    So, he time shifted his fun from high school to college? That’s certainly a valid choice but not quite so valid as if he was also saving $60k.

  37. Finn, I don’t believe there are elite private high schools under $10k. Even here, our most elite school is around $15k without add-ons.

    Milo, my high school experience was similar to yours. In only one year (junior), did I have to work much at all. I suspect that’s because both of us see patterns quickly and can complete work (or ignore it, if we don’t have to turn it in) because of our pattern recognition capability.

    I recently reviewed IT requirements for our new tool. In a ~75 page document transliterated from the original Japanese, I found three items I suspected were outdated or no longer correct. I e-mailed the vendor, who confirmed my suspicions, and provided that update to our local IT department. We’ll see when we try to get the software running whether I found all the incorrect (or incorrect for us) facts in the document or not. People who are process oriented are more likely to wait and attempt to install the software according to the instructions/requirements rather than to hypothesize about what “requirements” are really required. I am not process-oriented; I am lazy and strategic…I hope.

  38. I definitely was thinking about a college resume back in the dino days, but most of my peers were not. I was looking for a ticket out of the South, and needed financial aid so I had to shine.

  39. About 50% of my students come from the kind of Catholic schools that cost less than 10K. There may be good reasons, probably mainly safety related, for sending kids to those schools, but I would not call them elite. Academically, those kids are pretty indistinguishable from the ones who went to NYC public schools.

  40. Rhett,

    I think the opportunities for fun opened up. He went from a suburban enviroment to a more urban one. The college suited his talents/interests/personality very well and he made the most of it.

  41. My kids get a lot of homework but I do notice that DS2 spends less time on it than DS1. Still, I think DS2 is putting in a good 2 hours each night (DS1 is more of a 3 hour kid), and both of them work a lot on weekends. Actually, I work a lot on weekends too, and DH often gets work calls, so we can be rather boring at our house on a Sunday afternoon. I also see DD’s homework time creeping up, though she tries to do it TOO fast.

  42. I know that most of the kids in my local HS do not have time for lunch if they take 1 o2 APs, and some honors classes. They go straight from early morning to mid afternoon, and then many do have to go to after school activities, sports or jobs. One reason that some of these kids postpone the road test in NY state is that they have no time for drivers ed because it hits at the same time as SAT prep and APs etc.

    I do think it is different vs 20+ years ago for the AP track. My college never told me that I had to have x number of APs when I applied in the 80s. I know that they expect it now unless you are from a district or country that doesn’t offer AP/honors – OR you are from a financially disadvantaged family that can’t afford APs. Some colleges want to see that you took a very challenging load, and I don’t think that was always the case just 20+ years ago.

    Also, a lot of these kids have to “commute”, and it isn’t just in NYC. They spend time commuting, but that doesn’t mean they can study during these commutes. It is difficult if you are squashed like a sardine in NYC, Chicago, Boston, DC etc etc – many of the students from the high schools in large cities will commute via public transportation and it is too crowded to study during rush hour.

  43. “How much does the application essay really matter?”

    IMO, it depends a lot on the school to which the essay will be sent.

    What our college counseling office tells us is that the essay comes after grades and courses, and before standardized test results. I’m skeptical, and think that’s an oversimplification.

    Given what you’ve told us about your DD, I think her test scores and grades will pretty much get her into a lot of colleges, and she just needs to not screw up the essay.

    But if she’s applying to some highly selective schools, where her resume is average among 5 to 20 times the number of kids as slots, then the essay will, IMO, be second in importance to certain hooks (e.g., recruited athlete, URM, legacy) among that cadre of kids.

  44. “That’s certainly a valid choice but not quite so valid as if he was also saving $60k.”

    OTOH, a much more valid choice if you’re a NMF on a full tuition and fees scholarship.

  45. To illustrate the opposite of the topic… On Friday, I got a haircut from a different lady at my usual chain hair place. She was telling me all about herself and her family. She was a “CNA” (certified nurse anesthetist?) before she got injured on the job by a patient. After getting a decent worker’s comp payout, she decided to go back to cutting hair instead of doing administrative work at the hospital.

    But the story of her DS, and his Mom’s reaction, was what I found more perplexing. He’s a recent high school grad, good kid, living at home, told his parents that he wasn’t interested in going to college right now, just feels like he’s been in school enough. He’s one of the demonstrators at Costco, handing out samples. He works part-time, earning $11.50 an hour, which his Mom told him was “VERY good money for a kid just out of high school.” And she told me that her philosophy is that he has plenty of time to figure out what he wants to do, and there are all sorts of things he can train for.

    I agree with all of that, but something surprised me about the fact that he’s only doing it part-time, that he’s not looking for more work, and that they’re all perfectly happy with this arrangement. It seems like when you’re 18 or 19, you have no responsibilities, no family, no kids, for God’s sake, at least work full-time, or just pick a vocational training/certification program, or something. WTF is he doing with himself working only 20 hours a week? I realized I could say the same thing about our 20-something part-time nanny, who watches my 3 yo a couple days a week, but other than that, you know, there’s not much else going on.

  46. Lauren, my son doesn’t have a lunch period. The culprit, though, is the health credit, which just can’t be jammed in. It appears to be a problem for a lot of the kids. Back in my day, those of us taking full schedules used to take health by correspondance course. I don’t understand, in this day and age of online education, why they can’t let the kids take health online rather than forcing them to give up lunch?

  47. “I don’t understand, in this day and age of online education, why they can’t let the kids take health online rather than forcing them to give up lunch?”

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the teachers’ union has something to do with it. The wrestling coach needs something to teach before practice each afternoon.

  48. “he has plenty of time to figure out what he wants to do, and there are all sorts of things he can train for.”

    But it sounds like he is frittering that time away not figuring it out and not training for anything.

  49. She was a “CNA” (certified nurse anesthetist?)

    CNA: Certified Nurse Anesthetist = $160k

    CNA: Certified Nurse’s Assistant = $10.99 an hour

    Based on your description I’m leaning toward the latter.

  50. “But it sounds like he is frittering that time away not figuring it out and not training for anything.”

    that was my thinking. I would say just go and do something beyond handing out samples of cocktail wieners. Become HVAC certified, or get a commercial drivers license.

    There was another slew of articles this weekend about record low labor force participation, and this anecdote was in the back of my mind when I was reading them. There are a lot of proto-MMMs out there. They get along great with their parents, there’s no reason to leave the house, they’re not looking to get married, they really don’t care about “growing up,” whatever that means, they certainly aren’t looking to start families. It’s like there’s just no rush to do anything.

  51. Rhett – Ahh, that makes more sense then, especially given her description of how a patient injured her.

  52. “I know that most of the kids in my local HS do not have time for lunch if they take 1 o2 APs, and some honors classes.”

    I’ve mentioned here before that it’s pretty typical for kids at my kids’ school to eat lunch in class. Their schedules do have breaks, but those breaks are often well before or well after lunch (one of DS’ friends had his break first think in the morning on some days one year, and didn’t need to be in school until something like 9:30 on those days, and last year DS had his break at the end of the day once a week). Not having to schedule a break specifically for lunch if one fewer compromise that makes it easier to schedule the kids for all the classes they want.

    “They go straight from early morning to mid afternoon, and then many do have to go to after school activities, sports or jobs.”

    My kids’ school limits the number of classes they can take to 7, to ensure that all kids have a break sometime during each day. A lot of that time is spent socializing, but that still provides a break that allows a bit of recharging.

    “One reason that some of these kids postpone the road test in NY state is that they have no time for drivers ed because it hits at the same time as SAT prep and APs etc.”

    Another is that the kids like to use the time being chauffeured to do things like sleep, homework, etc, that they can’t (or shouldn’t) do while driving.

  53. Usually the term is CRNA (registered nurse anesthetist) to avoid that exact confusion. I would hazard that job-ending disability is much higher in the CNA universe.

  54. My kid’s AP credits and placement test scores enabled him to graduate early from a top ten university, saving us about $30,000.

  55. Milo,

    On the other hand, adjust your numbers to her world. She made $11 an hour at the hospital and maybe makes $15/hr (maybe $20?) at Supercuts including tips. The kid is making $11.50. The the totebag average hourly wage is $64. If we adjust our perspective, it’s like a totebag kid being 18 and making $48/hour working part time. I think most of us would be fine with them taking their time if that was the case.

  56. @Milo – my mother thought there was something wrong with our part time baby sitter – a young lady with some college and a pleasant personality. What my mother was perplexed about was why she wasn’t in a better job. I suspect that she was waiting for her boyfriend to marry her, so that she could give up paid work.

  57. “saving us about $30,000.”

    That must have been quite a while ago. Top universities now cost somewhere around $60k to $70k per year.

  58. “I think most of us would be fine with them taking their time if that was the case.”

    I don’t think I would.

  59. Rhett – true.

    Louise – Our sitter has told my DW that she had been hoping to meet someone to marry. Unfortunately, she’s overweight, so it’s sad. She’s fairly religious–not Duggar-religious, but more involved with the church than we are. She’s one of five or six kids. She’s mentioned that her parents are encouraging her to pursue some work that’s more full-time, and while we wouldn’t try to hold her back from that, it’s never gone beyond those few comments. (as an aside, our previous part-time nanny, the married mother of two, has found a full-time job with the county school system as one of the aides for special-needs students, so we were happy to hear that).

  60. Finn, actually it was closer to about $35,000 and he graduated 2/3 of a year early very recently.

  61. I’ve complained frequently about the work load and the stress in DS1’s life. I know I had a heavy work load in high school, but it’s harder to watch your kids go through it than to go through it yourself.

  62. Mooshi, BYU offers an on-line health class. It’s popular among my set here and is designed to fulfill requirements in most states, according to my mom friend. She and I share religious beliefs, she grew up in Boise in a heavily LDS area and her husband is Chinese and Christian. She completely understood the joke when I said, “So in your family, the kids have to get their PhD’s AND be married before they have sex…”

    Mr WCE and I graduated early due to AP credits but we didn’t save anywhere near $60k. He stayed in the undergrad dorm instead of moving to the grad dorm during his MS for social reasons.

  63. I don’t think I would.

    Is the objection the part time vs. also taking a class or two? Or?

  64. I know there are lots of online health courses out there. The problem is that our district won’t accept them. At least that is what the guidance counselor tells me.

  65. Back in my day, getting AP credit meant that I got to take a few 15-credit-hour semesters when other engineering students had 18+ and still finish in 4 years. I had 5 credits for calculus, 4 for physics w/lab, and 3 for English. Ironically, those were my scores on the AP test too. I did not get any credit for my 2 on US History! High school was much less stressful back then too. Some of my friends & teachers were shocked when I decided, with my parents’ blessing, to take “regular” biology and chemistry instead of AP. The AP classes spent most of their time on science fair research papers, which required weekends at the local university’s library and lots of other outside-of-school time, but I wanted to be able to spend more time on my drafting (architecture/engineering) and art projects and felt that I just needed the basics of those science disciplines before college. My A’s in those non-weighted classes drove my GPA down to make me 4th in my class of 280 instead of 2nd or 3rd. I was never going to be valedictorian anyway, but it might have kept me from getting accepted to my reach school. And I was happy where I ended up, so it didn’t matter.

  66. Mooshi, our guidance counselor’s first answer is generally no. The next step is to ask to see the policy and if something can be worked out. Generally, something can be worked out.

  67. “Is the objection the part time vs. also taking a class or two? Or?”

    I would be OK with a kid taking his or her time at that age, but they would need to be making progress toward at least being a fully self-supporting adult, and the kid Milo described sounded like he was in a holding pattern, not making any progress toward such a goal.

    A $48/hour part time job would be OK if also accompanied by working toward an educational goal, exploring other work options, etc.

  68. A $48/hour part time job would be OK if also accompanied by working toward an educational goal, exploring other work options, etc.

    He’d be making $50k at 18, the starting salary of an electrical engineering major is $66k (working full time). I’d say let him run with whatever lucrative niche he’s managed to find for a while. If that’s what he wanted to do.

  69. Way up thread, Risley made an excellent point about helping HS students very strategically choose the colleges they want to send applications. This is really sound advice. She also suggested SLAC’s as an alternative choice for the students who have good, solid grades, but not top[ish] of the class. Again, great advice. I would just add to ask each prospective college what percentage of their grads go on to post grad education. Sometimes this number is quite high. It colors the type of course offerings, the teaching style and of course, what types/how many companies show up on campus to recruit for internships and post grad jobs. Case in point: Our youngest fell in love with a SLAC and was accepted. When he learned that 65 percent of the grads immediately went on to more schooling that school fell right off the list. He had no intention of more than four years of college. He ended up at a mid-size State U with a very strong business school offering many employment connections and has no regrets.

  70. Mooshi, how important is it that your child graduate from high school? I had a similar situation with my high school not accepting a course I thought they should toward graduation requirements and I requested an exception from the school board for college economics instead of the required high school economics. I really didn’t care if I graduated or not, and the school board eventually changed the policy, which helped people behind me.

  71. I’ll confirm what MM wrote about our school refusing to accept online courses for credit. Our GC expressed her frustration with the policy, particularly as it applied to students she worked with who had various difficulties (emotional, health, home situations, etc.) that made graduating on time a challenge. I have heard that change is coming.

  72. ” I really didn’t care if I graduated or not”

    Would your chosen college admitted you had you not graduated?

  73. I will let Mooshi answer about her district, but I doubt my neighboring school district would grant an exception from the health requirement or change the graduation requirement for one student.

    NY state has so many rules about what is/what is not required for a HS diploma. A district can determine the type of diploma that a high school(s)offer – such as regular diploma, regents, or regents with honors, BUT the state and the Board of Regents set many of the standards in NY.

  74. One thing I do not worry about with my oldest is that he’s threatening his health through overwork.

  75. Risley, I wouldn’t worry about your DD. She sounds like the type of kid who will get the most out of whatever school she attends.

  76. Finn, all the colleges I applied to would accept me without graduating from high school. At the time, there was a rubric where you could get in the colleges I applied to without a high school diploma if your ACT/SAT exceeded a certain level. Plus, I talked to the admissions people and they were supportive of the change I was trying to make within my school district.

  77. One thing I do not worry about with my oldest is that he’s threatening his health through overwork

    LOL. Likewise. I’m reading all these posts and thinking there’s no way this is going to be us. For those with incredibly hard working highschoolers, were they always like that? Or did it magically appear in late middle school years?

  78. The health concern is real, and it is having a negative impact on some HS kids. I sit on a board that brings speakers to parents for a handful of micro districts. The speakers address topics that impact families from k – 12, but many of the speakers address stress,failure, and health issues.
    I attend all of the events, and read the books even though I am still a few years away from dealing with HS problems. The speakers address things that I wasn’t even aware were growing problems due to the stress. One example, is the increasing rate of girls that cut themselves due to stress.

  79. Finn – thanks, and I agree. The worry is about getting in. Once she’s in, I think she’ll do just fine.

    Longtime lurker – welcome! Join us more often! Good point about SLAC –> grad school. Definitely something to ask about at the SLACs. Some are *very* research-oriented and have a lot to say about how many of their students go on to get MAs and PhDs. Not for everyone, to be sure. I’m glad your son found the right place.

  80. Hi LR,FTP, glad you jumped in! I agree about looking at the percentage that go straight to grad school. It is also good to see if you can tell what percentage of grads go on to internships or Teach for America. It can be a surprisingly large percentage.

  81. incredibly hard working highschoolers

    I honestly can’t wrap my head around it. I can imagine them being tiger mom’d into it but that they are so self motivated? I can’t comprehend it.

  82. On the other hand, adjust your numbers to her world.

    When I was working at the nursing home, I was in the break room with a couple of the housekeeping staff one day. One of them was talking about how her grandson just got a job making $16 an hour and how great it was because “that’s really good money.”

  83. I honestly can’t wrap my head around it. I can imagine them being tiger mom’d into it but that they are so self motivated? I can’t comprehend it.

    Same here. My senior way, I achieved my goal of not doing any homework at home, aside from a few papers where it was unavoidable. I did it all during free periods or lunch. I was in AP calc but no other AP classes. I graduated with a 4.0, which put me right at the 10% level for class rank.

  84. DD,

    We must have some incredibly hard working former highschoolers here. I’d love to hear an explanation of what was going on in their head at the time.

  85. I did not realize how much I missed this place until I decided today to peek in and see if everyone was still here. And, amazingly, most of you are.
    My old handle was based on the gender of my children, and you may remember that I disappeared after a cancer diagnosis. I am OK now, but had non-oncological surgical complications so was forced to undergo several additional surgeries, and the recovery process took way longer than I expected.

    This topic interests me because we started sending kids to high school in the DC area and finished in the much smaller midwest city in which we now live. With respect to high school academic pressure (and, OK, most everything else that matters) it has been like night and day. One reason I agreed to make this move was to remove our younger kids from the college admissions pressure. We were pretty sure that they would have the grades and SAT scores to be admitted to the university where DH teaches, and they did. And because we only have to pay room and board, we persuaded both of them that starting adult life without student loans was far more important than going to a different college. They attended a very small private school with a classic, non-AP curriculum, and got an excellent education at half the cost of the somewhat larger private school they attended in DC. They rarely had to spend more than two hours each night doing homework. The school did not assign homework before breaks, so the boys would LEAVE THEIR BACKPACKS AT SCHOOL on the last day before a break. There was no busy work or silly projects. We never had to talk about what college admissions officers want to see. Other than suggesting essay topics, I had nothing to do with the application process for either kid.
    But apart from that, we aren’t living among highly-educated and hyper-competitive parents. There just aren’t enough of them here to create the milieu we experienced back “home.” We don’t have to listen to parents agonizing over 10-point improvements in SAT scores and Junior’s B+ in Calculus and the number of kids getting into the state university from the wait list.

    I guess this is a long way of making the short point that most high school students, even the very able ones who are applying to top-20 colleges, aren’t living this stress-filled life. And, with respect to the study that triggered this post, the researchers only examined two schools. One was a boarding school, which for all sorts of reasons is not going to have a “normal” student body from which to draw conclusions applicable to regular kids. Both were East Coast schools filled with Totebaggers. We are not the norm.

    And it’s great to be back.
    I figured that if one regular can be Rhett, I can be Scarlett. Though I suspect that Rhett is far more like his handle than I am.

  86. Speaking for myself, I would routinely be sitting in one class cranking my homework for the next class and it worked for me because (a) I was smart enough that I still did a decent job on the homework/participation in current class and (b) there wasn’t that much homework in the first place by modern Totebag High standards. I would put solid work into things like the big paper and would study for tests, but this was never anything that threatened my ability to have a life outside of studying and still sleep. I don’t know if I could have kept up the physically grueling pace that some kids do today.

  87. “I honestly can’t wrap my head around it. I can imagine them being tiger mom’d into it but that they are so self motivated? I can’t comprehend it.”

    OK, this is going to really surprise some people, but I think peer group has a lot to do with it.

    When your kids are hanging out with other kids who are trying to get into top tier schools, whose parents and older sibs went to, or are attending, those top tier schools, trying to keep up with those friends can be quite motivating. And when you load up your schedule with AP and honors classes, guess what kids you will be seeing most of the time.

    Last year, while waiting to take DS home after a debate tournament, I listened to some of the conversations going on among the other debaters, and a lot of it was about what they needed to do to get into the colleges and programs to which they aspired.

  88. Scarlett! So happy to see you! Many people have asked about you here, many times, and have hoped you are well. Thrilled to know that you are!

  89. OK, this is going to really surprise some people, but I think peer group has a lot to do with it.

    Isn’t that more birds of a feather? They get along because of their shared interests? I’m fairly certain that if you added 16 yo me to the mix I still wouldn’t care.

    Then again, I assume if you randomly assigned slacker A to workaholic peer group B it would move the needle at least somewhat….

  90. “’I’m so happy you’re back!’

    So you do give a damn.”

    Nice one, Finn. Totebag award for the week, imho, and it’s only Monday.

  91. Welcome back Scarlett!

    I remember some stress in high school but more surrounding tests and papers than it being an everyday sort of thing. I had plenty of time to play a sport, work a part time job and spend a lot of time with my boyfriend and friends. I had a lot of fun in high school so the whole kids are so stressed their making themselves sick seems crazy, but maybe it is just a NE big city thing. DH and I are kicking around moving back up north primarily for family reasons, but as a bonus so we won’t have to deal with the elite private school vs. OK middle school thing.

  92. My DD, during cross country season – up at 5:15 am, dress, make lunch, pack the laptop that was charging overnight, depart for school at 5:35 am. Arrive at school at 5:55 am, shove everything into the locker, start practice at 6 am. Practice dissmissed between 7:20 – 7:30 am, head off to showers. Shower (10-12 girls and 4 showers), dress, eat breakfast, and be in the first period class by 8:15 am. School ending varies by day, between 2:40 pm and 3:50 pm. Bus always leaves at 4 pm – on average, she has 45 minutes between school ending and bus leaving. On the earlier days she does homework, goes to band sectional, works on group projects, or goes to engineering lab to do “homework” that has to be done in the lab. Bus arrives at 4:30, I pick her up, we are home by 5 pm. 5-5:30 pm is nap time. Dinner at 5:30, every other month is dish duty, so on average back to homework by 6:30 pm. Goal bedtime, is 8:45 pm, but ranges as late as 9:30 regularly. Sleep 9:30 pm to 5:15 am – almost 8 hours. This is only do able, because she works a head on weekends. Some study at lunch, but that is when clubs generally meet.

  93. Scarlett, welcome back, though Finn said it better than I did. Please come when you can- we’ve missed you. I have a baby girl now, so I can’t steal your old handle.

  94. “OMG! I thought you were dead!”

    Wow, Rhett.

    Scarlett – I think I’ve quoted you a lot on here. I’m glad to see you back.

    I did the no-backpack thing a lot senior year, and that was when I was taking AP Calc, Spanish V, Bio, Physics, and English. I got an early acceptance to my first choice in October, and after that I slipped from 8th in the class (of about 450) to 13th.

  95. “Isn’t that more birds of a feather?”

    Yes, to a large extent it is.

    Imagine a kid capable of a schedule full of AP/honors classes in a HS which doesn’t have enough such kids to field such classes, and/or doesn’t have teachers capable of teaching such classes.

    While some of those kids will avail themselves of other resources, e.g., JCs, online courses, not all of them will be so motivated. But put that same kid with a bunch of other such kids, IMO he/she will be much more motivated to work at that level without a Tiger mom’s push.

  96. “I can’t steal your old handle.”

    Well, actually, you could, but that would be very confusing. It would also be inaccurate, but that didn’t stop PTM.

  97. Thanks Rhett. I took your comment in the spirit with which I know you intended it. I have missed your sometimes brutally frank commentary, and have often wondered “what would [insert your old name by which I still “know” you] think of ____ or _____?” And thanks to everyone else too. At some point before I disappeared, someone filled me in on everyone’s new name, but chemo and surgeries turned my brain into mush so I can’t recall it all. However, your voices are so distinctive and most of you provide just enough detail about your life that I can figure out who you are. Or were.

    It’s a sad commentary on my real life that there is nothing in my real life so consistently interesting and thought-provoking as the conversations on this blog.

  98. “It’s a sad commentary on my real life that there is nothing in my real life so consistently interesting and thought-provoking as the conversations on this blog.”

    I vehemently disagree. As someone who find this blog consistently interesting and thought-provoking, I think it’s more of a commentary on the people who comment here and how consistently interesting and thought-provoking they are.

  99. Scarlett–welcome back!

    DS is a senior with four AP classes, one regular class which is challenging to him, and two regular classes. He does 2-3 hours of homework a night, with maybe 6 hours or so on the weekend. Definitely not overwhelming.

  100. WRT SLACs, I think Mooshi expressed a caveat a while back about some lower tier SLACs not being a good place for STEM or CS.

    A lot of SLACs are in rural settings, which is not for everyone. A coworker told me that his daughter had targeted a particular SLAC as her top choice, based on her reseaarch, So the summer after her junior year they visited the campus, and when she saw how isolated it was, it was quickly removed as her top choice. She ended up at another SLAC just outside a major urban area.

  101. Scarlett, very glad to hear you are okay :)

    I’m with Finn on the peer group – I can already see it affecting DD’s effort level in second grade. Some of her friends’ parents have stopped lecturing their kids about the importance of college and started talking about grad school!

    Ironically one of my reasons for moving to Totebagland was that it is less pressured than the city….

  102. “So the summer after her junior year they visited the campus, and when she saw how isolated it was, it was quickly removed as her top choice.”

    Back in the day, it’s easy to imagine how this might happen. No websites, no College Confidential forum, no virtual tours, no Google street view, etc. But how does it happen that a child with access to all of these virtual resources would NOT know that a rural college was in the middle of nowhere? All she needed was a good AAA map.

  103. Would there be any interest in a topic about the protests at Yale and Missouri and the atmosphere of universities?

  104. Scarlett

    Great to hear from you. My new handle reflects my actual role as resident grandmother. I have 3, all girls. The most far reaching change in this site is that the former most frequent poster has taken taken her talents elsewhere. Yes. I said that out loud.

  105. Scarlett,
    So very glad you are back!
    I do think it is easy to miss how isolated some places are when you are a high schooler. I remember assuming everyplace was pretty much like all the places I had been when I was that age. We vacationed up and down the east coast. It wasn’t until I moved from NY to the midwest as an adult (and had to look the state up on a map – [hangs head in shame]) that I realized there really were places where you could drive for three hours and and not see a town.

  106. She knew it xx miles from the nearest city, but when you grow up on an island like ours, it is not always easy to picture that sort of distance. She had to see it IRL to appreciate it.

  107. Welcome back Scarlett !

    Lark – I have seen that older kid is caring more about grades and doing enough to keep them up. Can’t say that he is working very hard though. His teachers though seem very happy with him overall.
    In conversation with DH about grades and awards, DH mentioned that he never got an award till he was forty and considering that older kid is much like DH we have a long way to go.

  108. Sky, I would be interested in that topic.

    Meme, I was wondering what happened to that prolific poster. Thanks for clarifying.

    Finn, that makes sense. She knew it was in the middle of cornfields but didn’t know what it feels like to be in the middle of cornfields. I can relate to that.

  109. “But, I think it came out wrong given the response.”

    Oh, I didn’t mean to cast aspersions. It made me laugh just before I left work.

  110. Sky, definitely interested. I just was talking to the dad of a kid who’s currently at Yale, but wasn’t familiar with the details of what’s going on there now (the dad wasn’t familiar; he didn’t know if the kid was).

    However, he could tell us where his kid’s phone was, “using my iPhone tracking app like any good helicopter parent.” Based on the location and time of day, he figured the kid was having dinner.

  111. “I was wondering what happened to that prolific poster. Thanks for clarifying.”

    And, believe it or not, I had nothing to do with it.

  112. Scarlett – I am so glad that you are back. Many people have been wondering about you and wishing for your recovery.

    On senioritis – I vowed not to bring home my 12th grade government book, and I managed to get an A. I fit in the homework and reading at odd times, and somehow it worked out.

    On the topic of AP credits and graduating early, I know I have mentioned this before, but DD had 10 hours of credit, which coupled with one summer quarter and a school trip to France (that netted 15 hours in 6 weeks) allowed her to graduate in 3 years.

    She decided to do this so that she could get her Masters in Accounting, and the programs all started in the Fall, so she didn’t want to finish up one or two quarters early and be stuck waiting around.

    I haven’t calculated the savings, but she was at an out-of-state Flagship, and the tuition was around $8000 a quarter. We actually saved money on the trip to France, as they charged us in-state tuition for those hours, and in the summer she stayed at a Fraternity house for very little money!

  113. I was that kid that studied last minute to get decent grades in school. I am Not self-motivated and would not have had such a peer group. But, some kids from my group did surprise me with their grades in high school. They obviously were studying behind my back. Like Rhett said, it moved the scale a bit but not enough so that my study habits came back to bite me in college.

    I would not have been able to get into top school in today’s ultra competitive environment.
    My kid is just 3 years old so we are some.years away from the madness. Who knows how competitive college admission would be in another 15 years! But just last week DH and I agonized a bit over how our 3 year old seems to have forgotten some lower case letters and resolved to point them out when reading. God help us.

    welcome back Scarlet!

  114. Scarlett, very happy that you’re back. My old handle reflected was a county that could have been the northeast twin to your old county on the east coast.

    Milo, your comment about having nothing to do it with it was a close second to Finn’s funny post.

  115. Scarlett: I’d say welcome back, but I don’t know who the heck you are from the few hints you’ve dropped. Can someone clue me in?

  116. It feels great to have Scarlett back and not left wondering…..
    All this talk about kids doing their work or not reminded me of what my Dad used to say “You can lead a horse to water but can’t make him drink”.

  117. Scarlett! Welcome back! Am so happy to hear from you.

    And Rhett, your spontaneous gleeful comment in all its honesty was downright sweet.

  118. Scarlett, so delighted you’re back! And long time lurker, thanks for speaking up!

    Like HM and Lark, my son is not in danger of over work. But in a reminder that we are all motivated by something, he spent 2 minutes inhaling dinner because he had just VPN’d in to a server in New Zealand to get access to a game that is being released tomorrow that he’s been anxious to play. So the potential exists….

  119. Scarlett, glad you are doing well!

    It wasn’t until I moved from NY to the midwest as an adult (and had to look the state up on a map – [hangs head in shame]) that I realized there really were places where you could drive for three hours and and not see a town.

    We went to Lincoln this weekend for the Nebraska-Michigan State game. It wasn’t three hours between towns, but it’s 7 hours through pretty much nothing.

  120. Scarlett, happy to have you back.
    posting late, but my daughter was crying a couple of weeks ago because school was so stressful. she’s a junior in high school, and took 4 grade boosted classes (3 ap, 1 honors). we told her at the time that it was too much, and advised her to take just 1 or 2 at most. she didn’t listen. we have an older son who went through this 4 years ago, and he did fairly well, so my daughter thought she could handle it. we gave him the same advice as well. she’s managing okay, but it’s been stressful for her. we are hands off enough that we didn’t think we put that much pressure on her to push herself. i guess it was her friends and her brother’s experience that pushed her. as stressful as it is, i think she’ll survive and hopefully will learn from it.

  121. thang, IMO it’s good that you let her make her own decision, but be there for her. I hope we can do the same for our DD.

  122. So glad you’re back, Scarlett!

    The private school tuitions that have been cited above sound really inexpensive to me. In the Boston area, private school is typically over $40k per year for the middle/high school level (and that’s for day school, not boarding). Here’s an example of a pretty standard fee schedule:

    http://www.bbns.org/page.cfm?p=535

    In my area, well outside the city, tuition seems a little lower, but by “lower” I mean about $32-$35k per year or so. For this reason, the North of Boston children will be staying in public school.

  123. Another thing that amazes me about Boston-area private schools is how many parents can apparently easily afford them. Many of the schools try to encourage lower-income families to apply by posting comments on their websites like, “Almost a quarter of our students receive financial aid!” But of course, the fact that almost 1/4 of students receive aid means that over 3/4 of the students have parents who are able and willing to pay the full $40k per year (and often for more than one child). This is in no way a criticism, by the way — I admire the families who can make those numbers work.

  124. “I can’t steal your old handle.”

    “Well, actually, you could, but that would be very confusing. It would also be inaccurate, but that didn’t stop PTM.”

    Well, Finn, you have to give me credit. I hide myself very well.

    Welcome back, Scarlett! I’ve been computerless again since Sunday and just around got my problems fixed around midnight. Otherwise, I’d have been among the first to express my delight that you are back and, more importantly, healthy. I think I was a tween on the verge of my first bra when you left, and I’ve missed you.

    But what was really the most interesting thing has happened since you left is the identity of the poster that finally drove our prodigious poster (and my e-friend) away: it was Risley! although I fear I and a few others were co-conspirators.

  125. NfB – from my own extended family experience, people who are not wealthy as in family money but successful Totebaggers is that there is a lot of pressure on the kids to do very well at expensive private school because so much money has been spent on the kids from K-12. It is not only tuition but expensive activities, vacations etc. that come with the package. If the kids ended up at colleges that a lot of kids in their area went to, it would be seen as a failed investment. If they don’t get into the top ten then, I think the SLACs offer a way of saving face. The parents can spin this into things like – it is a better education, small classes, specialized field and the majority of relatives wouldn’t know where Ponoma, Carleton are.

  126. Welcome back, Scarlett! Missed you a lot. Now we need an Ashley. Longtime reader, how about it?

    The kids I’ve seen who are motivated to work super-hard seem to be born that way. No doubt peer pressure has some effect, as does parenting. But if the kid doesn’t have it in him/her to begin with, external motivators tend to go only so far and might even seem to have a deleterious effect. I marvel at these super kids, especially since my kids are not like that. However, mine are perfectly successful in their own ways.

    An additional point to be made is that I’ve seen quite a few kids work really, really hard for those things they really, really want. But those things they want (like skateboarding skill or video gaming) may not have the same payout as an elite college degree or a lucrative job.

  127. Welcome back Scarlett. PTM can you get Jr. a laptop for Christmas? This would be a good back up for you to post on.

  128. “I think the SLACs offer a way of saving face”

    I fully agree, and often the “S” stands for small and not for selective. These parents see a small college that is expensive and they seem to assume it will be better for their snowflake than the state school. I know in many cases it’s legitimately about fit and the experience, but not always.

  129. Coc – Also, the kids and parents have been in an environment where you know everyone in the the whole school, so the thought of going to Big State U (even flagships) or a mid sized college is daunting.

  130. Wait a hot minute, there, PTM! Don’t lay that on me! When I talked to her right after the incident, she made it clear that the *group* response that day was the final straw, but only after a number of other incidents I wasn’t involved in.

    You know I can’t take that kind of guilt!

  131. “people who are not wealthy as in family money but successful Totebaggers is that there is a lot of pressure on the kids to do very well at expensive private school because so much money has been spent on the kids from K-12.”

    You know, there’s an easier solution to that with a higher probability of success. :)

  132. An additional point to be made is that I’ve seen quite a few kids work really, really hard for those things they really, really want. But those things they want (like skateboarding skill or video gaming) may not have the same payout as an elite college degree or a lucrative job

    There is also a sizable number of kids who only find their motivation once there is a paycheck involved. At the same time, there are also academic stars who loose their motivation once a paycheck is involved. I find it a fascinating dynamic.

  133. There is also a sizable number of kids who only find their motivation once there is a paycheck involved. At the same time, there are also academic stars who loose their motivation once a paycheck is involved. I find it a fascinating dynamic

    I also find it fascinating. DH and I have a close colleague who was an academic super star – valedictorian at an academically intense high school, Ivy for college, another Ivy for graduate school. Very successful all the way through. And now really, really struggling professionally. Our thought is that it’s not a lack of motivation, it’s a lack of transferrable skills. The things that led to success in the academic arena – perfectionism, ability to be engage in single-minded focus, competitiveness – are not skills that are needed in the workplace. This person would have been well suited to just stay in academics, but did not. For me, this is another lesson in the importance of knowing who you are, and finding roles in life that reward your strengths rather than trying to make yourself fit into a role that isn’t right for you.

  134. with respect to SLACs, there is a wide diversity. Some are awesome for STEM fields in which grad school is required. I am thinking of Grinnell in particular, but also Wellesley, Swarthmore, and a bunch more I can’t quite remember. At those schools, the STEM faculty are actively participating in research, getting grants (so the equipment is state of the art) and they tend to involve the undergrads in their research, making those students attractive to the top grad schools.
    Other SLACs are so teaching focused that the faculty can’t do research, meaning that they will not have good contacts with the grad schools and top companies, there won’t be up to date equipment, and the curriculum many be old and tired.

  135. are not skills that are needed in the workplace

    I should have said not the skills most important in this person’s work place.

  136. Lark,
    I think your friend needs a better supervisor. If his boss can’t make that skill set work, then it may be the leadership, not the employee.

  137. WELCOME BACK SCARLETT! We’ve missed you. So sorry your recovery was so long – a friend of mine also had some complications with her disease and it is scary to see how quickly a small complication can turn into a big one. Hope your kids are doing well! Are they all out of college now?

    Meditating on this topic has me thinking again about our possible move to the country and, hopefully, to a less competitive school district. We’ll need to make an offer with a really far away closing date!

  138. If his boss can’t make that skill set work

    I noticed that Lark said “close colleague” rather than close friend so maybe there is a personality issue? In that case, while you can put them in a technical role, their personality is such that they are unlikely to be promoted into management.

  139. Rhett – I was very self-motivated in HS. Looking back, my implicit goal in HS was to get into a good school so I could get out of my state and away from people who would rather go hunting than do “anything cultural” (my health teacher/gym coach), but I didn’t really think about building a resume for college, just doing as much music/theater as possible. I was thrilled when I got to college and there were other students who liked learning and being smart – no need to hide my light under a bushel there. Although my HS was not the best, it did offer some APs and I took 3 my senior year. Side note, my guidance counselor wouldn’t let me take any more because she wanted me to have a social life (ha!). I didn’t find the work for the APs any more time-consuming than my regular classes. I also didn’t have to study or spend much time on homework, compared to my peers. And I was That Kid who was irritated that the AP and honors classes didn’t get more points on the GPA scale than the non-honors classes – it prevented me from being the sole valedictorian. ;) Maybe we should have a Reddit-style AMA for the self-motivated where you ask us questions, and then another one for the slackers where we ask you questions. :)

  140. Ris, I actually thought that our criticisms of dribbling a basketball at night on the downstairs tenant’s ceiling (which in your and my case, nice as we tried to be, came from “friends”) were the icing on the cake or the smoking gun or whatever you want to call it. I certainly won’t and shouldn’t lay anything on you without sharing it myself. And as I recall there were some others who voiced similar thoughts on the nighttime dribbler.

    In any event, I hope she is doing well.

    I am more than delighted that Scarlett is back!

  141. The SLAC for the snowflake phenomenon is what is driving the parental drive to place my niece in a smaller school. Not issues of bragging rights or financial investment, but a desire to overcome the effects of being Lake Wobegon above average in a top and highly competitive MA public school system. Milo’s comment above at 6:48 probably applies, but who knows that when the kid is in utero and you buy the steal of the century modest house for a great price in the top district. Her mom feels that she needs to be the Big Girl on Campus somewhere. But they don’t have the money for this, so she is aiming low enough in status so that there will be merit or other aid. The child wants Clark (mom prefers something else so forbids early action), and I am hoping that it can be worked out. Her mom’s biases have convinced her that state flagship is suitable only as a financial fallback.

  142. Ris: Has your DD read Cal Newport? He talked about projects/internships as a great way to strengthen a resume in preparation for college. This is the route DS is going for.

  143. My girls’ experience in a Boston elite private school twenty odd years ago was not typical even then. With their scholarships, which were offered because of their academic potential, the cost to us was similar to Catholic elementary school. They worked hard enough in school, but nothing extreme, did crew, which involved early mornings, the older did theater and the younger worked as a barista. For us it was always about the academics – the private school began at 5th grade, and my kids spent 4th grade staring out the window because the teachers no longer called on them so everyone could have a turn. We in our weird liberal way preferred the peer group in our neighborhood and at the public high school. The school has been transformed in 25 years not only by the academic rat race, but by the change to a parent based board of directors from the old money families. The old money types in the early 80s had the vision to keep it single sex, and refused to sell the very valuable in town real estate and merge with one of the suburban boys’ schools. The current board is primarily parents – hedge fund, tech and medical entrepreneurs, who raised the endowment to levels unheard of for a girls’ school and built a totally over the top arts/phys ed/learning center.

  144. Clark in Worcester? They may not be mega elite, but they have some good departments and faculty. Worcester is a dreadful college town though

  145. Mémé-What reasons does your niece’s mother give for not letting her own child decide what college she wants to attend? If money is an issue, then I can certainly understand not encouraging the child to apply to a particular school, but otherwise the mom should let her child make her own choices. My dd has friends whose parents are very controlling about what classes their kids take,what sports they participate in, etc. I just don’t get it.

  146. Well, if the parents are paying, they may feel they have the right to choose. Not saying I would follow that logic, but I can see how some might feel that way. Even in my day, I knew kids whose college was chosen by the parents

  147. On the other end from the SLACs are the for profit schools. I know a young woman from overseas who works part time at the nail salon I go. She is taking MBA classes at one of the for profit schools in town. She seems very earnest and hardworking but will have to start at a very entry level professional job. She will probably need to take classes to improve her spoken English. I wish she had gone to the state school city campus. Local employers recruit there and she would have gotten more exposure to employers.

  148. PTM – yes, I agree w/ your assessment. It was an “Et tu, Brute?” sort of thing, I think. I think Brute was a group though, not an individual, in this case. Maybe I’m completely wrong though.

    Houston – I’ll look for that writer. Thanks. She and I have discussed that strategy.

  149. I’m a believer in a student “branding” themselves to help in competitive college admission situations. If a student can package themselves to stand out, it could boost their chances. I know it’s hard to stand out because there are so many others trying to do the same, but a Girl Scout interested in physics who is passionate for Neil Diamond, for example, might get some attention that improves chances.

  150. Ris, I actually thought that our criticisms of dribbling a basketball at night on the downstairs tenant’s ceiling (which in your and my case, nice as we tried to be, came from “friends”) were the icing on the cake or the smoking gun or whatever you want to call it. I certainly won’t and shouldn’t lay anything on you without sharing it myself. And as I recall there were some others who voiced similar thoughts on the nighttime dribbler.

    I don’t think it was just the criticism of the dribbling, there were some comments about her attitude during that discussion that she didn’t appreciate (one of which came from me).

    It was a bit reminiscent of when another person left because she felt she was being attacked when people questioned her about something she posted.

  151. I’m pretty confident it’s not a failure of leadership or mentoring, it’s just a square peg in a round hole type of situation. And that can be hard to overcome.

  152. @Houston – when would these projects/internships have to be done ? During the school year ? In the summer ?

  153. @costofcollege — I agree. When I used to do admissions interviews for my moderately selective alma mater, I would ask students, “Tell me something about yourself that isn’t apparent in your application.” They had so much difficulty with that! I wanted to hear that they loved old French movies, maintained a tumblr related to cats, played in a garage band or something. Most looked at me blankly. One came up with that she had self-published a novel, “but that’s not so important.”

    I think when we look at these schedules and say, There’s 8 hours of school, 4 hours of homework, 8 hours in bed, 3 hours of sports and that leaves 1 hours for cleaning your room/clearing the table/updating facebook/watching tv – that’s plenty!, we are not giving kids the opportunity to develop interests, ideas, projects that really allow them to stand out.

    An acquaintance from college has two children in a very good school district. Based on what I know of her and her husband, I expect their two children have been bestowed with raw intellectual ability to not exclude them from any school. The mom is Lego obsessed and is known in that world fro some of her huge creations and teaches classes on how to build things without plans. Her kids (middle elementary) create their own works and have won awards. In another 5 years, they will have developed their own interesting college hook.

  154. There’s 8 hours of school, 4 hours of homework, 8 hours in bed, 3 hours of sports and that leaves 1 hours for cleaning your room/clearing the table/updating facebook/watching tv – that’s plenty!, we are not giving kids the opportunity to develop interests, ideas, projects that really allow them to stand out.

    Isn’t that what the three hours of sports were for?

  155. Risley, I agree. I was part of the group, and I still think the group was correct.
    I was thinking of you the other night when I was watching Madam Secretary because the episode involved Huntington’s disease.

    I happened to stumble into the filming of an episode of madam secretary in lower Manhattan. I think it is fascinating to see how these shows are filmed. An episode of the Affair was filmed nearby, and it is so interesting to see how they use the towns or the back drops to create the locations.

    I am still avoiding HGTV. I am watching the new Property Brothers episodes because they’re all from westchester and fairfield counties. I just can’t stomach the perfect endings on all of these shows as I wait (and wait) for my contractor to finish some minor work in my master bath.

    I

  156. For the vast, vast majority, I think the 3 hours of sports is box-checking. I think we overestimate the value of sport on college admissions. How many soccer players per year get favorable college admission treatment based on their sport practice? I would guess it’s 1 per 50 or 100 that play in high school. How many Eagle Scouts get favorable college admission treatment based on the activities and interests they demonstrate through their scouting? 1 in 5?

  157. How many soccer players per year get favorable college admission treatment based on their sport practice?

    I think it’s conspicuous in its absence. It’s not that you’ll get in with your soccer skills it’s more that the lack of a sport will raise a red flag.

  158. totally agree about the sports on the applications. Every kid that I interview wouldn’t have played a sport 20 or 30 years ago, but now they find something. track, swim, tennis or even fencing. just to show that they participated in a sport.

  159. Ada – I think sports are as good as any other activity for college admissions. Their value will depend on level of commitment and all those other soft factors, but just because an applicant doesn’t parlay varsity soccer into a soccer scholarship does not mean that he did not gain admissions points from playing varsity soccer. I say this as someone who was a varsity captain with no hope whatsoever of being good enough for Division I.

    If a student really doesn’t enjoy it, and it’s just box-checking, then certainly he should drop the sport. And there’s your three hours to pursue the other interests.

  160. Milo – I think we are mostly in agreement. I think there is very little difference (in college admissions) of playing soccer competitively but not spectacularly vs becoming a black belt in Aikido. However, the time and cost to the student and family is drastically different. Aikido can be seriously pursued 90 minutes twice a week with summers off, for a few hundred dollars per month. I think most people don’t realize this – they think the captain of the varsity squad (or even better, the travel team!) is going to reap serious rewards for their dedication.

  161. Ahh, I see what you’re saying. Also, I hope you’re correct, because we’ve looked at the way the commitment requirements for the traditional sports have ramped up so vigorously (several days per week, plus a weekend event, by the time you’re in later elementary school) and we have sort of opted out already.

  162. “the lack of a sport will raise a red flag.”

    I’m curious to see how this will play out for my second child. He does not have sports, and has few other ECs. He walks or runs about 90 minutes a day, more on school breaks, because he likes being outside and it helps him manage stress. He’s pretty religious about making sure he gets that in every day, some days twice. There is no where to put that on a college app, but he prioritized that above some clubs that would be solely for the purpose of ticking a box. For a lot of directional state u schools, his GPA and test scores will be enough to get him admitted, but for those that are a little more competitive, I think it won’t. I guess we’ll see how much those things matter.

  163. CoC said “I’m a believer in a student “branding” themselves to help in competitive college admission situations.”

    I know you are right, but… ugh. Double ugh. This is just sad.

  164. Her Mom is a wonderful human and my favorite among all the in laws, but she is the sort who gets up each morning and so overloads her plate with doing for others, family and otherwise that everything in life is a project that must be controlled. Mom really likes Dickinson – I think one of the Totebag regulars is an alumna. Following a hunch, I just checked one of the “best schools for our ethnic origin” websites and Clark U is not on it, and Dickinson ranks very high in its small college category. That has to be the reason – she hated her college experience at a WASPy highly rated SLAC.

  165. I always thought Clark was a Jewish school, as opposed to Holy Cross (also in Worcester), which is Irish, Irish, Irish.

  166. “For the vast, vast majority, I think the 3 hours of sports is box-checking. ”

    I’ve heard and read many times that box-checking to create the ‘well-rounded student’ is an anachronism going back to my HS days. What I’ve read is the colleges want a well-rounded student body, i.e., a bunch of students with different hooks, not a body of well-rounded students.

  167. What I’ve read is the colleges want a well-rounded student body, i.e., a bunch of students with different hooks, not a body of well-rounded students.

    Right. I’ve mentioned before my aunt works in admissions at a major NE university and what they want to see are students who have shown a strong commitment to one thing, not students who have dabbled in many things to check the boxes.

  168. it’s more that the lack of a sport will raise a red flag

    Really? I’m not sure I buy this. I do think kids need to demonstrate a commitment and willingness to devote time & energy to something, but I don’t think I agree it has to be sports. Music, arts, technology – there are a lot of pathways.

  169. “the lack of a sport will raise a red flag.”

    I’m curious to see how this will play out for my second child. He does not have sports, and has few other ECs. He walks or runs about 90 minutes a day, more on school breaks, because he likes being outside and it helps him manage stress. He’s pretty religious about making sure he gets that in every day, some days twice. There is no where to put that on a college app, but he prioritized that above some clubs that would be solely for the purpose of ticking a box. For a lot of directional state u schools, his GPA and test scores will be enough to get him admitted, but for those that are a little more competitive, I think it won’t. I guess we’ll see how much those things matter.

    My DS didn’t do any HS sports, and we were worried that could hurt him. He didn’t have very many extracurriculars, in fact – no scouts, no service, no sports. He was a leader in the marching band and played in the pit orchestra for the musicals. His final 2 years he did get involved in some academic competitions and mock trial.

    He had always been an introvert, and needed more “alone” time than our other 2 children combined, so we never pushed the outside activities. He did very well in school, but didn’t seem to have to work very hard for it. (Hard to say for sure – a lot of his time was spent in his room. His siblings both claim he didn’t work as hard as others.)

    He did really well on his SATs, and was a NMSF. He applied to 7 elite-ish colleges (acceptance rates <20%) and was accepted to three. The one he chose is a perfect fit for him. I'm so glad this is behind us!

  170. I know this is late, but Scarlett, I just wanted to say how glad I am to see you back! I can’t remember whether I was posting or still lurking back when you stepped away (I read for a number of years at TOS and here before jumping in), and always appreciated your voice and perspective.

  171. Scarlett, you are back!
    Rhett, your comment nearly made me cry. (Meme, you really said that out loud?)

  172. Meme – I didn’t go to Dickinson but a school very close by (and probably pretty much the same type of college experience) . I looked at Dickinson and for some reason didn’t like it enough to apply, but it has risen in the rankings a bit since then, surpassing my alma mater.

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