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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Pertinent Read

It is rare for me to sit down and read a new novel.  Don't get me wrong; I love to read, but it's usually non-fiction or classic literature that fills my bookshelves and nightstand.  Every now and then, however, I discover something that catches my attention and draws me in, and I devour it within hours.  The Admissions was one of those books.

I found myself immediately connecting with the mother in this story.  She's a bit more type-A than I am, but I could definitely relate to her trying desperately to make everything in her life work successfully and ensure that all family members are happy and well-adjusted.  Like many modern mothers, she struggles with finding and maintaining a balance of ambition and relaxation.  She also sees the enormous pressures placed on adolescents competing for the top spots in academics, sports, and extra-curricular activities in order to get accepted at the "best" colleges in the nation.  She contrasts this with her own childhood that allowed for plenty of free time to explore, play, and create just for pleasure.  She hates to see her children stressed out, but she can't envision a way out of the typical upper-middle class suburban lifestyle of both parents working long hours away from the house while the children attend the best local public schools and many lessons, practices, and activities that occur all week long.  

Without giving away too much of the plot, I will say that there was something that I found reassuring near the end of this book.  A Harvard admissions officer states that it's not the 4.0 GPAs nor the near perfect SAT scores nor the gazillion activities on applicants' resumes that get them into the Ivy Leagues.  They want to see depth and passion for one or two areas of concentration instead.  That is what makes young people stand out. 

This is actually consistent with a lot of advice from admissions officers today; although, that's still no guarantee of acceptance of course.  When most of the Ivies have only a 6% acceptance rate, even a ton of passion and depth may not cut it.  Even so, this advice should bring some relief to parents and teens alike.  This novel quite accurately displays the utter exhaustion that so many families feel while attempting to keep up with the numerous sports and activities young people believe they must participate in for college admission.  To simply focus on just a couple interests sounds heavenly.  I think the difficult part for many is narrowing it down to just two, and which two might be the most impressive to an admissions board?  I have a son who would probably say gaming is what he's passionate about, but then again, he has no interest in higher education at all, so he probably won't be trying to impress any college officials any time soon.  I think this is another positive of homeschooling since the child can devote lots of time to a given talent or interest.

Reading The Admissions from cover to cover in half a day helped me redirect my focus on what I really want for my family.  Even though our competetive society pushes us to be busy and the best at everything, that's not ultimately what brings us peace or happiness.  While I don't want my children to waste their God-given talents and abilities, I also don't want them spending their childhoods feeling anxious, pressured, and incredibly stressed out all the time.  The world won't end if they don't graduate at the top of their class, if they don't get into a top college or even go to college at all (that one's a little harder to swallow,) or if they never play a varsity sport.  I am reminded that what I truly hope for my children is that they grow up feeling loved, accepted, nurtured, and guided enough that they exhibit those same traits themselves as adults.  I feel this novel emphasizes this as well.  If you're looking for a novel that's pertinent to modern day middle-class families that you won't want to stop reading at the end of the day, this is a must-read.

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