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Posts tagged "College Admissions"

He Was Number One (or, Why Not Everyone Gets A’s, According to Alfie Kohn)

Imagine a high school graduation. Family and friends proudly jostle for a view of their students turning tassels on stage. Imagine the students’ camaraderie, the collective sigh of relief: summer spans ahead, former identities fade. Outcasts, athletes, nerds all face the world, now wide with opportunity. Imagine, also, the salutatorian standing and speaking about her […]

The Dangers of Parenting Under the Influence

Waiting in the airport today, my family chipped away at a crossword. We were stuck with only a few clues left to solve, so needless to say, stakes were high. In a family where crossword answers are like currency, one can feel pressured to do the unthinkable under certain circumstances. Google. No, no, I wouldn’t […]

The Illusion of Prestige and the College Admissions Scandal

I spent every day after school when I was in fourth through sixth grade doing my homework in a conference room that was covered floor to ceiling in college brochures and posters. When I finished my homework, I would look over the various shiny brochures and marvel at all the options available. If you had […]

April Fools! College Admission and Parental Validation

As faithless as it is calculating, college admission becomes a decade of denial for most. The first of April becomes the focus of lifetimes. Many parents and their issue have connived, planned, even negotiated for this date: college admission — April First. This April Fool’s Day, millions of households will have their 17-year-old collegiate lay […]

Performancism 101: A Conference Breakout Preview

Here is the first of this year’s conference breakout previews–sneak peeks into what we’ll be talking about during the breakout sessions at Mockingbird’s NYC Conference April 14-16.


Sometimes it seems like our culture sees its students as mythical creatures, glowing embodiments of youth and drive; they represent who we as a society will be “tomorrow.” Often the social structures of our student bodies reflect the structures in society more generally, and no where is this more true than in the stress-inducing standards of performance-based living. For students, achievement is identity. Sound familiar?

Students currently live in a no-fail world where any misstep feels like a plunge off the cliff of college admissions and the good life after that. A 4.0 GPA is no longer enough. To get where they (feel they) need to go, they need extracurriculars, Advanced Placement classes, awards, and honors. Consider The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, which encourages college-aspiring students to begin recording their achievements in an online portfolio–in ninth grade, four years in advance. One high school guidance counselor calls it an “arms race,” while over at The New Yorker, Matt Feeney declares this lifestyle as “poisonous,” saying that it not only affects students, but also parents: “I’m starting to resent the prospect of having my family life colonized and deformed by a system that, though it works through educational channels, doesn’t serve educational ends, or exacts extreme costs in exchange for a meagre educational payoff.” Ella Gonzalez, at The Huffington Post, writes: “If you happen to be entering your senior year of high school, first I’d like to say, congratulations and I am sorry,” followed by, “You are not in control of anything.” Various admissions blogs discuss suicide and the threat of it, post-rejection.

920x920Some say, fear not: admissions reforms are in the works. But as discussions about limiting extracurriculars and AP classes occupy the news, Feeney asks: “What new and more exacting model of self, in other words, will colleges be urging their teen-age aspirants to approximate?” Reform of the law cannot fulfill it, and any attempts to do so will inevitably result in the high-pressure lifestyle of what we’ve come to call “performancism.”

At this conference breakout session (2:15, Friday April 15), we are going to look at how fear and the need for control contribute to performancism, particularly among students. We’ll talk about stress and how we cope with it. We’ll point some fingers. And maybe, too, after all that, we’ll find a cure.

Pre-register here!

But Now We’re Stressed Out

During my senior year of high school, around college admissions time, a friend of mine made possibly the weirdest confession I’d ever heard. She said that sometimes she’d get so stressed out that she would drive to Target and hide under the clothes racks where she’d watch shoppers’ feet passing by and imagine she was […]

Grace in Admissions

In the mid-day haze following a 4 AM After-Prom chaperoning experience at an arcade, I’ve been reflecting on the year before and the year ahead. Perhaps this is what four hours of go-carts, laser tag, and skee-ball encourage you to do. More likely, it just happens to be May. In the world of education, this […]

Under Pressure on Modern Family

I was recently thinking how ABC’s Modern Family just isn’t as good as it used to be (for me) and that I kind of watch it out of duty nowadays. And then, BAM! They produce probably one of their better/best episodes ever. It revolves around high school anxieties, SATs, and college admissions: “Under Pressure.” The theme is certainly timely since this is the time of year many high schoolers start hearing back from college and university admissions offices. The unquestionable hero of this episode? Claire Dunphy. You have to watch the entire clip below to find out why:

College Admissions, the Summer of George, and the Gospel of Free Grace

We are honored to present an exclusive excerpt from keynote speaker Tullian Tchividjian’s forthcoming book, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. (Yes, the title is a shout-out to the man himself). This part comes from the opening of chapter nine, which deals with some of the common objections to the message of […]