When it comes time to apply to colleges, we may not be serving our children well.
That’s according to a growing chorus of voices who work with youth and their academic endeavors. For example, Malcolm Gladwell, one of the most recognizable public intellects, regularly asserts that brand prestige from an Ivy League name doesn’t necessarily suit the needs of individual students.
Jeffrey Leiken, CEO of Evolution Mentoring International, agrees. He provides mentoring for teens and young adults, going beyond the typical work of a therapist by building a relationship so that they come to see Leiken as a trusted confidant who answers their late-night text messages and isn’t quick to label them.
“We continue to be obsessed with being associated with the top 1 percent of anything, whether it’s wealth, looks, social media followers or achieving that Ivy League status,” says Leiken, author of “Adolescence is Not a Disease: Beyond Drinking, Drugs and Dangerous Friends – The Journey to Adulthood” (www.Leiken.com).
“Far more important is not the school’s brand and our cultural obsession with it. Rather, it’s helping to ensure that every student who attends any school gets closer to reaching their potential.”
What criteria should students and parents look for when determining where to apply for college? Leiken offers some crucial guidelines to keep in mind.
• Seek a college with programs that may help with lifelong skills. Self-awareness, self-leadership, self-actualization – those qualities are often overlooked when considering higher education. Learning the tangible skills for a future job is important. However, those requirements change over time. Coursework, professors and other programs that speak to a student’s ethical intuition, however, make up the educational gold that is enduring.
• Look beyond the typical menu of schools. There is a common denominator among millions of 17-year-olds: an anxious balance between their “reach” schools and their “safety” schools. It turns out that many college counselors guide these kids to a similar list of “reach” and “safety” schools – about 50 of them. Between public and private institutions, there are thousands of other schools to choose from!
• Ask yourself, “Where will I flourish?” Learn more about the culture of these institutions. There are two distinct stages for young adults in college life: the time where students adjust to a new environment and, later, when students realize they are becoming independent adults. A name-brand school isn’t necessarily the best place for millions of kids to best reach maturity.
“Just as we don’t all wear the same size clothing,” Leiken says, “the intellectual development of young adults doesn’t always fit into the same small box of name-brand schools.”