In this highly competitive college admissions climate, many parents are terrified of not doing everything right to give their children the advantages they need to ultimately be accepted into a top college. Getting into the "wrong" college, they fear, will negatively impact their child's entire future. As a result, parents sometimes behave in ways that are contrary to their deepest values.
So here's my best advice to parents who suffer from college admissions anxiety:
1 Don't become "helicopter parents," hovering over your children to make sure that their every activity, from sports to music lessons, has only one goal--getting into that right school. In trying to do their best, many well-intentioned parents miss opportunities to teach their children how to solve their own problems and develop their own passions. In short, the more we adults do for our children, the less our children seem able to do for themselves. And if they do not learn to think for themselves and trust their own choices, they may come to feel that nothing they do will ever be good enough--a pathway to weakened self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
2 Refocus on the "best match" rather than on the "best college." Take time to consider all the factors important to your child in choosing a college, such as size, location, academic challenge, curriculum, intensity, campus life, social diversity, opportunity for religious expression, and college costs. The goal is to find a place where your son or daughter can be successful academically, socially, and emotionally. From a Jewish values perspective, that may mean a college that emphasizes love of learning for its own sake (Torah lishmah) and opportunities to work for the repair of our world (tikkun olam).
3 Remember what is important for success in life. In general, one's success in life has no more to do with the name of one's college than a person's achievement has to do with his or her given name. Success is, instead, a reflection of what we make of that name. It is about what we accomplish through hard work and good deeds. It is the development of core values and strength of character that ultimately will be the best measure of success--and, with it, personal fulfillment.
--Judith Berg, educational consultant, certified educational planner, past president of Temple Beth Miriam, Elberon, NJ, and a vice chair of the Union for Reform Judaism