Wednesday, January 20, 2016

College Entrance Pressure

Since the fall Bridgett and I have been having informal data gathering sessions with community members who work with our kids to get a pulse on how our kids are doing and how Youth Connect can help.  We heard a consistent message: that our kids are stressed by the pressure to get into elite colleges, and that this pressure is mounting at lower and lower grades.  We also clearly heard that this pressure is resulting in real risks to our kids in the form of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.  

A new report due out today from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, "Turning the Tide" documents the same message we've been hearing here in Sewickley.  Here are some highlights:

The study found that "rates of depression, delinquency, substance abuse and anxiety ... appear to be considerably higher in [middle and upper income communities]'"

"Kids are getting the message partly from the admissions process, but also from their parents that if they don't get into a certain kind of school they've failed in life and forever more will be behind..."  Frank Bruni speaking on CBS this morning in a discussion about the Harvard study. 

The report suggests that colleges put less emphasis on:
- standard test scores
- class rank
- number of AP classes

See links below for more information on this study.

Time will tell if the college admissions process changes as a result of this study.  In the mean time Youth Connect will remain mindful of the stress on our kids and we will be looking for ways to minimize that stress.  We hope you will too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Kindergarten to College ... Help Please!

From transitioning into Kindergarten all the way through starting the college entrance process there is SO much to know!  Sewickley Academy webinars are a great resource for our entire community (and beyond!) to find help.  These 30 minute, free to the public, programs are informative and easy to access from your desk at work or your kitchen counter while you eat lunch!  Please take a look at the 5 Topic Series and see if there is something there for you.  

Thank you!
Bridgett Bates and Emily Lyons

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Response to New York Times "Is the Drive for Success Making Our Children Sick" January 2 article (follow link below)

Excellent, but disturbing, article. I can tell you that my 16 year old regularly reports on stress related illnesses in her friends. One recently developed (what sounds like) an eating disorder and another has regular migraines (and has since 4th grade). Both of these kids are AP students and one is pushed intensely by her mother (I've known the mom for years). These are the worst cases, but sleeplessness and anxiety are a regular conversation at our dinner table. As the parent of a kid with learning differences, it is a constant anxiety on my part of when to push and when to let go. Luckily my kid talks to me extensively and I know when the stress is taking a toll, but I think many of her friends are at risk due to "suffering in silence" (because they accept it to be a normal part of teen life today).

The pressure to be the best and succeed (academically and extracurricularly) is intense in high school. I feel like an oddity because I don't push my kid to succeed in and out of the classroom. Being a kind, sensitive, good person with "good" (not excellent) grades is not nearly enough in the eyes of today's culture, and our kids know that. If, like my daughter, you are smart but have trouble navigating the current system, you perceive yourself to be "stupid." That's what I hear her call herself regularly, "stupid"--even though she is managing two honors classes and an AP class with learning disabilities.

The pressure is there for a reason though. Kids and parents know it's what you need to do for scholarships. No one can afford college!!!

It's an awful system and it is too much for adolescents. I hope this type of information comes to light more often so our expectations can be modified, and our kids can have more reasonable expectations of themselves.
Susan - (mom of 16yr old)