On preparing for college

Preparing for college is a very hot topic for parents. There are many ideas and philosophies and methods for helping kids get ready for it and it is not just the Sudbury Valley Schools kids that are nervous about going or making it to the degree. With that said, every discussion I have ever been a part of regarding college readiness has an unspoken lie in every idea and plan. It’s is almost 100% pervasive in discussions, but is almost never discussed, yet it’s destruction on a child’s educational experience and happiness is profound.
The lie is: You must start early, and build a foundation of knowledge or your child will always be behind.

  1.  Do you know the studies that have been done on the difference between kids that have been drilled heavily in the basics their entire childhood vs the young adults who are choosing to enter college a little later who had not been drilled in similar ways? (age 23 or older)
  2. Do you agree that in most academic settings, that emotional / life management issues is by far the common reason for dropping out of college then academic inability? Have you done research to this effect?
  3. What is the advantage of having a high GPA at the college to employers? How many employers ask for GPA? What do employers weigh more heavily then other things when choosing to hire?

Here is an idea to chew on:
Child #1, is heavily drilled in basics to prepare for college for 12 years of his schooling. Fun, self exploration, learning to be responsible are all secondary to academics and he is admitted immediately to the college of his choice for his degree, which he gets by age 22.
Child #2 is given no basics for the 12 years and is instead left to have fun and then sent to community college for 2 years of remedial work, and enters the college of his choice at 20 and gets his degree by 24.
Child #1 has the degree and has chosen the usual rout, but now has to figure out how to live life, because everything about him was focused on getting the degree, not what to do with it or what makes him happy. Child #2, spent two years preparing for college instead of 12 and made it through the same school, but graduated 2 years ‘behind’. Child 2 however, had 12 important years to learn to manage his time, find what makes him happy and learn to interact with others.
Guess which one I want for my child. And before you start asking about admittance, which do you think would carry more weight to an admittance board: Straight A’s in high school AP classes, or straight A’s in college?
Lets stop robbing our children of critical years of life for no reason. Spend 2 in search of the degree that will change your life, not 12 (and for the record, it does not usually take 2 whole years to catch up). And if you are worried that the child will ignore schooling if they are not pushed, I suspect that it would be the right thing to do for that child. If not, they can always pick it up later in life. What is the rush, to prove that your kid is smarter then my kid?
Now, the actual data on Sudbury Valley Schools children attending college shows that the two years I suggested above is not necessary to get in to or succeed  in college. In every single case, before a child becomes interested in a degree, they study things about it because it gives them joy. I am trying to give a worst case scenario to put fears at rest using perspective.
I am not addressing what I consider the more important question of: should my child actually go to college for their happiness?  I would suggest here, that options are what’s important to thinking parents. When we let go of the unproven lie that education needs to start as early as possible, many more options become available. In this case, it’s the option to chose what makes you happy.

Dr. Evan Hughes – Concord, MA


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