How good is 'good enough'?

sweebySeptember 7, 2006

And how old should a young person be when they get to make this decision for themselves?

I'm writing about my older son, a very responsable, bright and capable 15 year old. He's a sophomore at our city's best public high school, which is very competitive and academically rigorous. His academic classes are all GT/Honors/pre-AP, and he's currently getting about half A's and half B's (A's in the easy classes, B's in the tough stuff). He could do better and has admitted as much, but he tends to be lazy and is easily distracted. He is not interested is sports, arts, community service or other extra-curricular activities, and prefers to spend his free time playing computer games with his friends, listening to music or napping.

Like a lot of parents, his father (my Ex) and I would like to see him really apply himself and go to a top-ranked university - if possible the same one we both went to. DS has visited the campus (which is beautiful) and really wants to go there too. He has the ability and there is some 'legacy' preference, but at this rate, I suspect DS's chances for admission are about 50%. I've discussed this very frankly with DS, and he understands -- agrees even.

Without changing course, DS could still go to a "good" college. But going to a really top college will require more effort from him, and he's not sure he wants to make that much effort.

So do you think 15 is too young to make that decision for himself?

And if not, how hard we should push?

It's not like he'll have to quit the basketball team and church youth group to have adequate study time -- he's not ON the team or in the group! And DS has expensive tastes -- He doesn't fully realize that the standard of living he grew up with (and wants as a minimum for himself) is what one could expect from a top-notch education and a serious work ethic -- not from a "good" college and "good enough" work ethic.

(And I know it's possible to get a great education from a less-prestigious school if you're self-motivated -- but DS is not really that type of student.)

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I'm going to jump feet-first into this one. My gut says you're addressing the wrong issue. (duck and run for cover..!!!)

DH and I are both oldest children whose parents pushed us very hard- if we got As, our dads wanted to know why we didn't get A+s. We were capable of better grades than we got, and in my case, anyway, it was a very effective rebellion to do less than I could. I knew it would never be good enough. I know you and your DH would not 'encourage' your DS in this manner, but the fact remains that you can't make him study harder FOR YOU.

I know there are kids who 'know' what they want to do when they are 15. It sounds as if your DS is really into 'being a kid' though. Your concern for his future school is good, just voiced (to him) a little early.

My suggestion would be to drop the university business like a rock. There are other things you can bring up to discuss with him which will help put him on the right track for 'life'.

Think about what you want for him when he is 30 years old. It can't include grades, education, money or position. You will probably decide that you want him to have a good work ethic, to accept the consequences of his actions, to have a well-developed social conscience, a willingness to help others in whatever way he can, good health and a good relationship with his peers and family.

If he has these virtues, he will be a happy, successful man. IN DEVELOPING these qualities, he will understand the value in doing his best. He will do it for HIM- not for you.

I'm sure others will address the other factors to college admissions- the volunteering, etc. etc.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 4:32PM
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It depends on the personality of your son. Some, if you push, will do their best to try harder. Then you have sons like me. :-) My father pushed me hard. To the point where I got turned right off to the whole idea of even going to college. Because of it I really wasn't successful in college till I got out of the navy. My father pretty much forced me to go to my ONE semester right out of high school, and as rebellious as I'd become I flunked every course, just to piss him off. After that, he agreed-- he wasn't going to pay another dime for my college. (can't blame him, but I really hated every second I was there)

Now my example is extreme, and I pray to GOD that your son isn't as ignorant as I was, but you definitely don't want to push too hard, because then it becomes a test of wills.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 4:46PM
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You might want to have him sit down and have a chat with his school counselor regarding what schools look at when they consider hs grads to admit. When my older son and I were looking at colleges, they emphasized over and over again that the things they take into consideration are:

1. Grades specific to the course in which it was earned. In other words, a B in an honors course for example, might carry more weight than an A in a non-honors course. Bs made in a semester where the student carried a heavy load of difficult courses, honors courses, etc, are better than As made in an easy semester.

2. By the same token, outside activities are examined. If the student had a lot of outside activities, leadership roles, etc, and made Bs, that student is better off than one who made As but had nothing going on after school.

3. We were told repeatedly that SAT scores, while important, are not going to get you into a school without the above falling into place.

At 15, I would say that your son is not experienced enough in life to know what's good for him. If he graduates top 10% in Texas, he'll get in to UT no biggie. But if he wants to go elsewhere, or if he doesn't get top 10%, he's got to get moving on making his college application look good. Like I said, if he won't listen to you, get him to talk to his hs counselor. Or see about making an appointment with the admissions counselor at the school he wants to go to.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 5:58PM
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What great advice so far -- I knew I could count on you guys!

To answer the main concern right off -- So far, I really haven't pushed that hard. I ask if he's done his homework, he tells me he has, or sometimes asks for some help on a topic or two, then he goes his merry way. If he gets a low C or a D on a test or quiz (and I find out about it), I'll ask him what went wrong, and if he now understands the material or if we need to review it or get some extra help. His father does push harder for high academic achievement and accuses DS of being lazy. (DS admits that he's lazy but it doesn't seem to bother him too much. I admit that I'm lazy too, and advise him to turn that laziness into an asset by finding easier and better ways of doing things.)

Pecan - You're not barking up the wrong tree at all. You've jumped right into the meat of my real question. It is entirely possible to have a meaningful and wonderful life without excelling in every area. And he is responsible, generous and kind, and is developing a strong character with ethics and values I can respect. (A little more materialistic than I'd prefer, but considering what's around us...) I totally get it that he won't study harder *for me*. He has to want it for himself if he's going to do it. And he really does seem to want to get into the prestige college, to have the glamor career, and to make tons of money, live in a mansion and drive that fancy car. He just doesn't seem to truly understand that it'll take a lot of work on his part for a lot of years to make it happen.

"If he graduates top 10% in Texas, he'll get in to UT no biggie. But if he wants to go elsewhere, or if he doesn't get top 10%, he's got to get moving on making his college application look good.
Lowspark - I suspect he's not going to be in that top 10%... This school is really, really competitive, and there are a LOT of college-driven kids from families with high expectations. There are kids who transfer OUT of this school just so they can make that magic 'top 10%' for UT. And actually, he does seem to listen to me when we discuss these things. I don't yell; he doesn't get defensive. I think he's honestly trying to find where in the "social and academic heirarchy" his place is.

If he's rebelling against anything, I think it might be against the kids he characterizes as ultra-competitive college-freaks -- the ones so focused on getting into the Ivy League that they start bogus clubs just so they can be president of them, and do everything with an eye toward making themselves more attractive applicants. He says there are a lot of those kids at his school, and I gotta say, I believe it, and can see his point. Stepford Students (But at the same time, that IS the 'game' and if you refuse to play, you're unlikely to 'win'...)

Please keep these great comments flowing!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 8:18PM
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Over the years I've seen friends and acquaintances agonize over the school thing. Where I live it is like a mania. The parents are incredibly pushy and feel they have failed if the kid doesn't get into the school of their choice.

That type of pressure doesn't foster an achiever. It fosters a child who thinks he/she's a loser because he/she cannot live up to the parents' expectations.

Love him, encourage him and let him find his path.

I learned this from my DH when DD2 came back to live with us after college. She's a brilliant girl. She got into every one of the top 5 universities and literally had her pick.

But the top notch education never translated into a career. Just a series of ok jobs before she married.

I had a really hard time with what I felt was her lack of ambition. But DH has a great philosophy. He feels you cannot deprive them of their mistakes any more than you would deprive them of their successes. IOW their experience might not be the same as ours.

She didn't want a career and certainly not one as demanding as mine has been. She is happily married to the perfect person for her.

She attended one of the best colleges in the country and it didn't really matter, except that she loved school and has great friends.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 8:19PM
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My kids have both graduated from one of the top universities in the country, and they both have good jobs with good companies.
From my experience I have found that you can guide, encourage, and set an example for your kids, but you can't demand or threaten them into being good students.

However, I wouldn't accept endless hours of idle time with no constructive work or studying. If your son is really wasting time, I would sit him down and make a time management plan- maybe he needs a job, or to volunteer somewhere.
My kids were always on school sports teams. The one season my son did NOT play a sport was the semester he got the LOWEST grades. When he was busy he didn't waste time. He got right down to business and did his work. That one semester off, he thought he had all the time in the world to do his work, and never really applied himself.
The next year we "suggested" he play 3 sports, and his grades were terrific!

Colleges do not look for well-rounded students. They look for well-rounded classes. They want a poet, a flutist, an author, a politican, a student businessman, a quarterback, etc.

Encourage your son to follow his passion. If it's computer games, get him a job or internship at a video/computer game company. If he's into music, try a radio station, etc.
Colleges will want to see that he has an interest, ANY INTEREST, and that he pursued it.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 9:22PM
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Artteacher, I don't know when your children went through the application process, but we are hearing that the admissions pendulum is swinging back toward 'well-rounded'.

When DivaD1 sent out applications 5 years ago, the strong emphasis was on well-rounded classes. DS went through the process 2 years ago and we were informed by school counselors of the shift. What schools want right now- I have no idea.

I don't suppose there is any hope that by the time DD2 applies that 'very cute and blonde' will be a desired criteria...

    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 10:57PM
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This caught my eye and is sooooo applicable. My youngest just called tonight. She is on her 3rd college and is unhappy, not making friends, etc. because everyone is acting immature and is "stupid". My daughter always tested out as gifted, but, being the youngest of 4, had learned all the rebellious tricks of her sibs and decided that Bs were "good enough" in high school. She got into a decent university where she partied and had a great time. She couldn't understand why her usual study methods earned her an invitation to take a year OFF (yes, they asked her to not come back for a year). She couldn't believe we made her attend community college. Now she's at another University (my ex is paying, I have no say) which is way beneath her intellect.

My advice to you. Have your son get a job. Once he earns minimum wage for a while, he may see that working can be a real drag. Help him get career counseling so he has an actual dream to pursue; sometimes kids can be ambivalent about "more school". And also I would let him see the local colleges where the students who don't do so well in high school go. He may think that every institution is as great as the U where mom or dad went. oldest, also gifted, got into our alma mater and cruised through never really applying himself. He worked, but drifted unhappily from job to job for 3 years. He took some more classes to improve his GPA and started med school two weeks ago!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 11:34PM
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My BIL experienced sort of the same thing with his son. He's a really bright kid but couldn't get excited about school and spent all his free time on computer games. He didn't join any service organizations at school and didn't really have any interests. Both parents are well off and bought him everything. He did work but knew that he really didn't have to so I'm not sure how much it helped making him get a job.

All his college will be paid for by his parents so he's never worried about filling out a scholarship application. I think that may be why he never realized what they look for at college. He had no clue that they indeed were looking for high grades and well-rounded students.

Needless to say, he did not get into the college of his choice. His dad instead sent him to a college that's "near" his college of choice. If it were me I would have sent him to the local community college and had him take out a student loan to pay for it to give him a taste of what life has to offer if you don't put forth any effort.

You may want to go to the student counselor's office and pick up some scholarship applications. The questions they ask are very enlightening. It may give him an idea of how other students are spending their time and what his competition is like.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 9:11AM
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Yes, yes, yes and yes. My son just graduated from high school and I could have written your e-mail. This is what I have learned: Help your son find a passion. Then get him involved in that passion. My son finally found an intense passion in music. Next require that he volunteer someplace. (You might have to make the arrangements and then drop him off.) My son groused at this but oh was he happy when it came time to fill out a job application and he had a reference to put down. Finally, when he gets old enough (in CT you have to be 16), help him find a job. Two magic things happened following my son's 16th birthday--driver's license and job. Both were a big step in responsibility and trust. That gave him a real boost in confidence and self esteem. Managing his money and watching his savings account grow each week also made him feel in control. He told me one day that it was a real kick for him to go to a store and see something he thought was neat (a new piece of equipment for example) and say to himself, I could buy that if I really wanted to. For me the neat thing was seeing that mostly he doesn't. He has become very good at budgeting and saving for college. Finally for my son it really mattered when he had more flexibilty in his school schedule. He just didn't see why some of his classes even mattered to him. I could discuss this with him until I was blue in the face but he just didn't see why calculus was ever going to matter to him--he doesn't ever see himself as an engineer like his dad. He excelled at the classes that mattered to him. Their vision is just so narrow at this point that sometimes you just have to step back and realize they are going to make mistakes. I think my job as a parent is to make sure they don't make mistakes so detrimental that they can't recover.

Oh, and my son was also totally turned off by the whole competitive, consumeristic crowd. He has never nor will he ever step foot in a Hollister store. He wore his hair long when the other kids wore theirs short and now that they are wearing theirs long, his is high and tight. Go figure.

I am just crazy about him though and really look forward to the next year or two to see what kind of butterfly emerges from the shell.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 9:39AM
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Hmmm, underacheiver, lazy, mediocre grades, and expensive tastes. I have to wonder who's feeding his expensive tastes and why? I'd tie his allowance or purchases to his grades, or have him get an after-school job.

Interestingly, we had a babysitter for years who was extremely bright but not terribly career-oriented. Also with very expensive tastes supported by her parents. Now she's graduated, not making much money, and the last time I saw her she was complaining how expensive everything is and how little money she has. She actually got really good grades throughout his school and college too, but her parents never taught her the value of money.

Is your DS anticipating getting a car when he turns 16? I would definitely tie the privelege of owning a car to his grades somehow.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 10:30AM
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That's a little harsh chiefneil... Yes, he is capable of more A's and fewer B's, but I don't consider his grades 'mediocre'. The occasional C's and D's on assignments or tests most often result from his misinterpreting the questions (he's dyslexic) rather than not understanding the material or doing a half-a$$ed job. He does complete all of his assigned work (school and chores) on time without nagging, and he's in all GT/Honors classes in a top school. And while he does have expensive tastes, they're certainly not all being fed. There is no allowance and are no 'free toys' except at Christmas or birthday, and he does work tutoring his little brother (no picnic - little bro' is autistic).

"Over the years I've seen friends and acquaintances agonize over the school thing. Where I live it is like a mania. The parents are incredibly pushy and feel they have failed if the kid doesn't get into the school of their choice."

That describes this school perfectly Rococo. It's one of a very few public schools where the parents who feel that way don't feel the need to opt for private schools. DS is very uncomfortable with that mindset, and I can see where he's coming from. However, that mindset does drive a certain level of achievement that builds a solid foundation for adult life.

"However, I wouldn't accept endless hours of idle time with no constructive work or studying. If your son is really wasting time, I would sit him down and make a time management plan-
The one season my son did NOT play a sport was the semester he got the LOWEST grades. When he was busy he didn't waste time. "

Great points Artteacher, and great suggestions. I find that is true of myself as well...

Interesting situation jaedwards -- I could see something along those lines happening... In fact, an extra year to 'grow up' a bit might be a really good thing for DS. I do think 'the goods' are in there, and that he'll see the advantages of applying himself and 'playing the game' -- but the timing may just be off.

"You may want to go to the student counselor's office and pick up some scholarship applications. The questions they ask are very enlightening. It may give him an idea of how other students are spending their time and what his competition is like."

Excellent suggestion. We have already reviewed and discussed some articles about what colleges are looking for, but that hasn't solved the motivation/laziness factor. And it plays into that 'Stepford Student' picture that disturbs him.

"I think my job as a parent is to make sure they don't make mistakes so detrimental that they can't recover. "

Good outlook CTRemodler -- And it sounds like you've walked in my shoes. Your approach makes a lot of sense, and I'll have to see if I can get my Ex to go along with it. (He's reluctant to 'force' DS to do something he doesn't want to do, and at this point, DS doesn't want to do anything other than school and computer games.)

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 11:55AM
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Sorry sweeby, I was just distilling your initial description, no offense intended. Now that you've provided the other side of the coin, maybe you see that the situation isn't too bad? He actually sounds like a pretty good kid and a somewhat typical sophomore.

As others have said, academics may not be his thing or maybe he's only interested in certain subjects. I'd definitely encourage him to participate in some extra-curricular activities both for him personally and to help his college admissions. I was on the lazy side myself (still am), so although the academics came easily to me I had a lot of free time. I spent a lot of time on the tennis team and chess club at school, and hanging out with friends. Looking back, although I could have applied myself more, the socialization of the extra-curricular activities was a really good thing for my development during those tough teen years. Also some sports will be critical for keeping in shape with the rising teen obesity going on these days.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 12:51PM
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I have friends who would gladly trade their sons for yours because their very bright sons are SERIOUS underachievers and even dropped out and another whose very bright daughter is going to beauty school....

I take it that you and ExH feel that DS would ultimately be happiest and apply himself at a highly prestigious, highly competitive university, even if it means DS's classmates would be the very ones he currently disdains, or that his probable career path demands that he goes to such a school. My crystal ball sees DS at a lesser known quirkier prestigious (but not highly prestigious) school that he will find intellectually challenging.

That being said, I would be concerned if my kid spent a lot of time playing computer games, listening to music, napping, or (at least with girls) IMing, text messaging, e-mailing, and watching TV. Finding a kid's passion so that he or she spends time productively is easier said than done. I think my daughter filed away/hid the service project idea book I gave her as soon as she received it.

What are your son's closest friends like? Do you feel they are also underachievers? Several other moms and I were able to get our daughters to tackle a big project (Scout award) together that our daughters never would have done by themselves. Maybe as a start your son would want to design a computer or other game or work on a political campaign with his friends?

It really doesn't sound like your son is that much of an underachiever given the type of courses he is taking. At least you know he's not peaking now and burning himself out. He could be a kid who really turns on the juice in college and grad school where the coursework is a lot more stimulating.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 3:33PM
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I am not sure if this adds much but I will tell a little about my son. He is 15 as well, in his junior year (he skipped a grade) in a very demanding all gifted high school. They only have either Honors or AP classes. He is also A and B student but his grades are more related to how much he likes his teacher not the subject per se. He is capable of getting all A on all of his classes but he just does not see the reason to work hard enough to achieve that.
He does not do any sports, but runs and swims in the pool, he is in great shape. He is only in Anime club, so no real extra curricula activities. He is helping out his art teacher a lot and that's where he is getting all of his community service hours that are required in his school. His passion is his computer, he built it himself and is constantly upgrading this and that and day trading. We had a deal with him that after he makes $ 10,000.00 on simulated account we will set up a real account for him to trade. So he did the 10K this summer and now has the real account for couple of weeks. He has made $ 450.00 this far, we will see how it continues, as it is much harder to trade real money than simulated one.
So that's what he wants to do, trade for living. He does not want to go to college at all. Here we have gifted kid with great education who does not want to go at all. We have an agreement that he keeps his grades so that he will be qualified for free college education. He has to start using this program with in 3 years after graduating from high school, so he will have time to see how it goes before he looses this opportunity. He is the entrepreneurial type, so I can see that he really does not necessarily need a diploma, it wouldn't hurt but he can do with out it as well. It might be harder but not impossible. So my story shows you it could be much more difficult. By the way, I have a great son, just some of his ideas are not really mainstream ;)

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 4:46PM
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Dear Sweeby,

I have three perspectives on this: I have a 30 year old son; I teach at a state university; and I teach the piano privately to gifted, or pushed brilliant kids, many of whom are eager to attend the Ivies.

My son is a brilliant young man who has found his niche as an orchestral conductor. Getting him there was a great deal of work. Early on, I could sense that unless he found the thing he loved, he was going to be a lost cause. Thank God, he had the opportunity to develop as a serious musician--I just sat on his case, knowing that every hour practiced was a step forward--and has built the beginnings of a nice career. This is the secret for every success--your son has to find what he loves, and you have to help push him to achieve as much as he can when he is young. Later on, at least he'll have the tools to go forward. Keep him busy and involved--and it doesn't have to be sports--sing in the choir, write for the newspaper--anything that keeps him with people and producing something in which he can take pride. And most importantly, keep him safe! I consider it a great success if our kids get to age 18 without psychological or substance abuse problems. If their brains are clear, they'll find their paths.

Teaching at a state university has taught me a great deal: we call it Value-Added. Kids come in as first generation college students; many of these are exceedingly bright, others aren't. They do the thing I call the Golden Rule of success: They get out of bed every morning and do at least one useful thing every day. At the end of four years, they've matured, they go into the community and they are good citizens who teach, who manage businesses (and many times become rich) and/or the occupy the cubicles at tech companies next to the guys who graduated from the Ivies. . . .State Universities are great places and produce many great leaders.

My observations in the last 15 years of working with--admittedly, mostly Asian--gifted piano students (they work, need I say more?) is that getting into the Ivies is a crap shoot. I had a sensational boy with a wonderful gift with people a few years ago: Perfect SAT scores, Perfect SAT II's in Physics and something else I forgot; competitive pianist who won tons of National awards, including the Philadelphia Orchestra competition--he played with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Sawallisch; and only got into 1 of 4 Ivies to which he applied. The kid was crushed--and I couldn't imagine what on earth more this young soul could have done to achieve. He's very happy where he is now and at the end of the day, it won't have mattered at all.

Just be patient with your lovely son but sit on him--if he is a kind, generous young man, as you say, he'll grow up into a kind, generous gentleman--they all, mostly, grow up into good people. Good luck to him!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 8:03PM
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Sweeby, the one thing I know is that some kids who are bright and successful later in life don't "achieve" in high school and sometimes not even in college. They also can drift afterwards. They just need more time to gain the confidence to excel. But at some point in their 20s or 30s they start becoming successful at something and then, Whaam! the "genes" kick in. And they become like their parents.

I've seen it many times and also seen some of the early achievers crash later on because it was so easy for them when they were young.

I guess what I'm trying to say is worry less and praise him and encourage him more. Criticism -- even implied -- is very tough on them. They feel the disapproval because they know you so well. I learned this the hard way with DD2 who's always a bit defensive with me about work as it isn't as important to her as it is to her Dad or to me.

But you have many good suggestions here.

One more thing -- a reverse story.

DD2 had a longtime boyfriend with an incredibly famous father whom he adores. The young man didn't go to one of the best universities but certainly went to a respectable, popular one.

Started an alternative type business in college financed by the dad, but eventually failed. Never successful enough on his own for the Dad. Then went to work for the Dad -- the one thing he DIDNT ever want to do.

He earns a lot of money. But DH and I think it's so incredibly sad. He was never able to measure up and his life is not of his making. I don't find him to be a successful or a happy person and fortunately DD2 broke up with him. Most people thought we were nuts because we were happy about that.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 8:10PM
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"He doesn't fully realize that the standard of living he grew up with (and wants as a minimum for himself) is what one could expect from a top-notch education and a serious work ethic -- not from a "good" college and "good enough" work ethic."

I would be more concerned about the work ethic than the specific college he goes to. Napping and playing computers? I am convinced that computer game usage is a major cause of laziness, distraction, lack of ambition, etc.

I don't want to say he sounds spoiled, but he does sound a little bit indulged. He is enjoying the standard of living you and his father have earned, but hasn't earned it (being a kid, of course) and he doesn't realize what it takes to get it. I have a close friend who is wealthy and self-made. His son sounds just like your son. He is a wonderful boy (the most polite 15-16 year old boy I have ever met) and a good (but could be better) student who goes to a top notch school and often uses the competiveness of it as an excuse for his grades (which are As and Bs). He wants nice things, he likes the finer things, but he seemed to think they just appeared. Of course he did! They did for him! This summer he went overseas for a month with a student group. He experienced and saw things that really woke him up (nothing horrible or scary, just not rich New England). My friend says it was like his son matured overnight. I realize this is long, but I guess what I am trying to say is that all the telling and talking to him didn't do a thing (my friend had numerous heart ot heart talks with his son). He needed to SEE the world. To meet people that are not rich little cookie cutters of him. To eat whatever food was given him, rather than always being given things his parents knew he would like. For once in his life he wasn't the center of the universe (as most parents, rich and poor alike, treat their kids).

Maybe something like that would be good for your son? An educational adventure of some sort. Even if he doesn't have an epiphany, he will have an interesting experience and something to write about on college applications.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 10:08PM
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What a wonderful discussion -- With some real insights.

KitchenObsessed - Wow - Your comments really opened my eyes. Perhaps a boutique college would be exactly the right sort of place for DS. Something stimulating and quirky -- challenging, but different enough to make sure he thinks for himself.

Also, your comment about sending him to a school filled with classmates that are "the very ones he currently disdains" piqued my interest. Actually though, I think he's a bit of a closet Republican. He thinks his over-the-top classmates are a bit freaky, but I do think he actually buys into the system. In all honesty, I think the 'disdain' is a bit of a 'beard' for insecurity and fear of failure.

"I don't want to say he sounds spoiled, but he does sound a little bit indulged. He is enjoying the standard of living you and his father have earned, but hasn't earned it (being a kid, of course) and he doesn't realize what it takes to get it. "

Sue, I think you've got it about right. He's not quite as unmotivated and underachieving as some - as many even, but just enough to keep him out of the top tier opportunities. Sending him overseas is something we're seriously considering. (I was an exchange student for a year in high school, and it really opened my eyes as well. I think it was the factor that tipped me from being "just another over-achiever" into someone interesting enough to get into an Ivy League school.) The sticking point is that I won't agree to it if it's a country that speaks English; and DS is nervous about living somewhere that doesn't. He'll have to get over it. (poor kid...) He does need to see the world. (and not from a 4-star hotel)

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 10:55PM
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Sweeby... your son sounds alot like mine! except his hobbies also include reading for hours on end! oh, and he's 14 not 15!

What I tell my children is that all I ask is that they do their best. I regularly explain to them that I want them to do as well as possible because that means they will have future choices. I never try and tell them where that future will be, just that I want them to have a choice.

In the recent years our family have started karate together. Odd to me, but of the small handful of teens in the class from their school, they are all academic achievers. Karate has given my son a sport and discipline too. He is not a ball sport guy at all. I wanted him to start something like this as it not only builds confidence and defence skills it is something he can follow through as an adult.

We also do family activities like camping, fishing, canoeing, outdoor sports like rock climbing, high ropes, abseiling, bush walking, biking...

Importantly, these experiences give him an identity beyond one linked to how smart he is- I want him to feel he more than the label of "that nerdy kid at school".

Would you consider intrducing him more extra curricula activities?


    Bookmark   September 9, 2006 at 8:20AM
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Not a parent so I don't have a lot of suggestions. I mostly lurk in kitchens but had to jump in with one possible suggestion.

My stepdad pushed me to play golf/take lessons all through highschool. I never did it, and still haven't gotten in to it to this day. I have done pretty well for myself being female in what is mostly a male dominated field, but I now know that my dad was right, and it is the one thing I regret. I should have listened to him!

I am completely *amazed* at the doors it opens up in the business world.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2006 at 11:55AM
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I don't have kids either but have been following this thread with interest because I am so amazed at what I see happening related to college for nieces/nephews and friend's kids. In spite of the fact many of the people I know are college educated and do well financially, none are what I would call obsessed with their kids getting into "top schools". Even so it seems it is a major concern just to get into a reasonably good public or private school.

DH and I have said more than a few times how glad we are not to be a kid today. We both have good jobs and good incomes and we just went to a moderately priced local university. Even for DH who comes from a family of professionals (lawyers, docs, etc.) and a few ivy league cousins, it was just not a big deal to get into the best schools. And we all talk about how none of us went all over the country on college trips with our parents!!

That said, to this day DH wishes his parents and school counselors had pushed him more. He was mainly into hockey and socializing in high school - and at one point when he was having a bit too much fun his parents did threaten to send him to a private college prep high school. He's said more than a few times that in retrospect he wishes that would have happened.

However in the end everything has worked out just fine. I'm sure it would be much more difficult in today's very competitive environment. Based on DH's situation though, I'd say it's better to press your DS a bit more - whether it's academics or activities.

Also, as someone who hires recent college graduates, I can tell you that kids who have worked more and been involved in more activities typically are much more likely to be hired (assuming they're "average" kids without a degree from a prestigious school). In most cases they have better communications skills and present themselves in a much more mature, professional way - than those who don't have much more on their resume than education, greek life, and a short internship.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2006 at 1:37PM
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Sounds like your DS is pretty intelligent, but not intensely motivated. I think you have to consider whether or not he will be able to make the grades in a top ranked college if by chance his motivation doesn't increase in the next few years. Our DD was intensely motivated, but not truly a brilliant student. Only working like a dog enabled her to get accepted into the #1 ranked university in the country. Well, in a nutshell, DD discovered that sheer effort wasn't enough at this school, you also had to be pretty academically gifted. So most of her peers could do well without cracking the books too much because they were truly the cream of the crop, from across the country and overseas. They could socialize, have parties, etc., and still get good marks. DD would usually have to refrain from joining them in order to obtain even mediocre marks at a school with such rigorous standards. She felt very inferior and often told us she must be the dumbest student to ever get an entrance scholarship to that school. Understandably, DD became very frustrated with both her academic results and her lack of social life. She sadly informed us she wanted to leave this school following the first year. AH, the end of a goal that she had worked toward for so many years!

Well, she is now in a school that is not even ranked in the top ten. But it has its benefits. The #1 school had some classes of up to 2,000 students where you watched the professor on suspended screens, like at a rock concert. You could never ask questions because you couldn't be heard from that far up. The prestige of finally attending that university was not enough to make up for the frustration it caused her. I guess my point is, years of well meaning guidance, scrupulous preparation and outstanding effort don't always bring about the anticipated result, if the expectation was to HAPPILY attend a very prestigious school. DD said she'd rather have a social life and graduate top of her class from a 'lesser' university than have no social life just to barely get by, at the other one. I think our kids should be encouraged to strive for and then stick to their goal, IF that goal never impedes their health and happiness. Your son's true academic aptitude is not really evident right now since he admits he isn't trying as hard as he can. If he is capable of getting better marks and is willing to put forth the effort to do so, he'll probably get into the school of his choice. But it can't stop there...he has to decide if he's willing to keep up that effort once he's in college, it's not just a matter of getting in the door. Otherwise, a different choice might be the better alternative.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2006 at 6:53PM
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Pickyshopper: Thank you. My daughter, now in middle school, sounds similar to yours: highly motivated and bright but not brilliant. She likes to be around other motivated kids. I see our challenge for high school and later college is to identify schools that are sufficiently challenging but not so much so that she finds herself drowning and feeling dumb.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2006 at 9:25PM
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I can strongly second pickyshoppers's comments. My DD, now a sophomore at her first choice school, is so happy she did not accept the offers at the more prestigious schools who accepted her. She worked earned straight A's in HS honors and AP courses, but college work is another story, even at a small liberal arts school that is only in the top 50! Her fear is that the work load at the other schools would be even more intense and the students so far above her intellectually that she'd be struggling just to keep her head above water.

Her father, an Ivy grad, always wanted to push her more, but knows that she's the type of kid who does well because she works hard, not because of her innate intelligence. And in life, that may be the more valuable commodity.

Hopefully your son will realize that his work ethic could be an impediment to his success in any college setting. Are there any older siblings of his friends that can give him the real scoop on the academic challenges in college?

    Bookmark   September 10, 2006 at 6:34PM
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"He is not interested is sports, arts, community service or other extra-curricular activities, and prefers to spend his free time playing computer games with his friends, listening to music or napping."

He sounds like a typical teenager! Sometimes it's diffcult to light a fire under them! But I agree that he needs an extra-curricular passion. He needs to show that he has a dedication and committment to SOMEthing other than school. It might even help him find his "niche". (DS#1 is a hs senior so we are going through the college admission process now. We were told by both admission officers and by an admission counselor that the trend is still for well-rounded classes, not well-rounded students. Each student needs an EC activity that he/she is passionate about.)

I've always had to push encourage DS#1 into activities; he's somewhat introverted and was never interested in team sports. But I knew he would excel in individual sports so I encouraged him :-) to enroll in taekwondo (with the stipulation that he could quit after 3 months). Luckily he loved it and now has found a niche. Also got him involved in Boy Scouts although it took awhile to find a troop that fit him. (btw it's not too late even though your son is 15 - there are opportunities in the Boy Scouts after he turns 18!)

Work experience and community service are also helpful. The Common Application form contains sections for both "ExtraCurricular, Personal, and Volunteer activities (including Summer)" and "Work Experience". Is there some type of volunteer work he would enjoy? Perhaps tutoring, working in a library, helping the local PTA or a local animal shelter.

But perhaps the top, highly-competitive schools aren't his style. He may not need many ECs to get into a less selective college. There's a great book by Loren Pope called "Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools You Should Know About Even If You're Not a Straight-A Student" that details schools like this.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 1:29AM
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Wow, what an interesting thread !!!!!!! Especially since our family has just gone through, is going through . . .
many of the same things . . . It sounds to me, that your son is doing just fine . . . he is maintaining his grades in an admirable fashion . . . and this, in spite of being dyslexic, which has GOT to be harder, so hats off to him !!
He could have so totally given up, or not applied himself as much as he has. I agree with everyone else, in that he find a passion, and channel that passion in a positive direction . . . You know, sometimes, it takes a lot more guts to "march to one's own drummer" than to follow the herd . . . This college ratrace can get kind of crazy . .
and it becomes such a full-time job with many students and their parents . . . Having just gone through a year of that with DS . . . the topic of conversation with parents was always . . . Well, so where has DS applied, and have you heard yet, and what do you mean, he might want to go to Jr. College??? . . . I think it's a feather in some parents caps, as well as the kids, to rattle off about 15 colleges to which they've applied, and been accepted to.
DS just wasn't falling into that . . he saw NO POINT in going through all these applications . . . he felt that if they didn't have any better idea of where they wanted to go and applied to many, many colleges, that that was kind of dumb . . . As for my son . . . he applied to just three colleges, was accepted to two of them, and IF he had really wanted to go away, the one that didn't accept him was his preference, but even that . . he just plain didn't want to go away the first year. The only reason he applied is because I encouraged him to do so, telling him that he had no way of knowing in October of one year what he'd want to do in September of the following year, that it at least left some doors open to him. He felt very honored to be accepted to the colleges that he was accepted to . . . but he was never one to go around talking it up . . . He has ALWAYS been his own person . .
never fallen to peer pressure . . . and I am so thankful for that . . . He is going to J.C. this year, and likes it very much. When late summer rolled around and many of his friends were talking about going away, wearing their college sweatshirts, etc. etc. . . . I asked him if he regretted that he wasn't going away, also, and he said not for one minute did he regret it. In many ways, I wish he had gone away, for the "total" college experience, but what we think is good for our kids, is not always what IS best for our kids. They have to find their own way. I've seen so many instances of where kids (and parents) got caught up in the "college merry-go-round", only to have the kids fail miserably at first year of college and end up back home.

Some kids just plain and simple are NOT ready to even talk college, think college, etc. etc. . . . while other kids have been going to college faires since they were TEN !!!
Your son is just 15, a sophomore, and I really do think you have a good solid year before you have to start "worrying" about "good-enough" . . .

I think I would encourage that your son find a job and hopefully in an area that he has a passion for, as suggested by others . . . A job, the responsibility that comes with it, not to mention the bucks . . . all go a long way towards developing into who they're going to be . . The computer games, and napping . . . well, time spent there could be directed to something else maybe . .
Those things could be just a bit of boredom going on . . .
The more kids have to do, the more they WILL do . .
Nothing worse than a kid who's bored with "nothing to do" !!

Re: "a quirky college" . . . there's a great book
"Harvard Schmarvard" by Jay Mathews that is wonderful, and talks about "100 outstanding (but underappreciated) colleges" . . to quote a phrase on the cover of the book.
Lists so many really cool sounding colleges. I found it really interesting . . . DS never looked at it. He just really didn't want to talk colleges !!! And not due to lack of motivation . . . just didn't want to talk colleges.
He took Honors classes, AP classes, graduated with honors . . actively involved in what HE wanted to be actively involved in . . . . . . Well, anyway, I didn't push, he is home for this year, and totally happy. His passion is construction, carpentry, woodwork, and he really is a true craftsman, at this young age. I have no doubt that he will channel this into something he really loves . . . I've always told him that he can do anything he wants to do in life, that the world and all it has to offer is in front of him . . . We can suggest, guide, and he may or may not take our advice. So far, it's all worked out pretty darn good, though. He has a strong sense of self, and so much of this comes from being who he is, knowing his passion, developing it, . . .
He has done some really incredible things with his talent, and has received many accolades from it all, from many walks of life. But even without the accolades, he is doing what HE wants to do . . . As someone else mentioned, all we've asked from him, is that he do his best.

Something I had to keep telling myself, is that this is HIS life . . . not mine . . not mine to do over, not mine to get better grades than I had (and I think that all of us can fall into that !!! ) . . not my life to go to this college or that college . . we all had to make our own mistakes, or our own successes, and we have to let our kids do the same . . .

Well, this has gone on way too long . . .. I always do seem to get a bit long-winded, but bottom line, Sweeby . .
your son is getting good grades, is in the right classes, so I think you really don't need to worry at this point.
IF he were failing classes and not applying himself AT ALL, then . . . you'd have grounds for worry. Something else I found, is that at this age, they really are starting to realize that life as they've always known it . . . is coming to some sort of crossroads . . .
Fourteen . . they're still a kid . . . 15, well, everyone starts talking college, and that is a HUGE life change !!
And sometimes, plain and simple, they're just not ready to deal with it.

Okay, I'm outta here . . .


    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 10:18AM
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I haven't read the other posts. I have a 16 year old son with dyslexia who, unlike your son, wants to get into the top schools in the country. My son tries really hard and has really good grades but he has dyslexia and he will never get straight As and he has taken the PreACT and PreSAT and he scores in the top 98%-top 99% on everything until you get to language arts where he scores in the 60s%--the less than 4.0 GPA and 60% in language arts will not be good enough to get into the best of the best schools. My son's dyslexia will always drag him down (but not as far as he thinkgs) and although we want him to succeed at his dreams we know that he will never get into the top of the top colleges that he has his heart set on (unless we play the dyslexia card and get lucky and find a sympathetic admissions counselor). I know my DS is going to be extremely disappointed by this and I worry that this disappointment will follow him around all of his life because he also has a mild anxiety disorder that makes him worry excessively about stuff like this. So, I guess where I am coming from is that a kid with dyslexia has a lot burdens to overcome and has to work extremely hard at everything that involves reading and it sounds like your son has accepted his limits and is setting his goals at a level that he can achieve with a minimum risk of failure and that will make him happy. I think that being happy with yourself is very important and leads to a happy life. I guess I wish for happiness for my son more than I wish for great success, but then I have a son who is always unhappy because he can never be as successful as he wants to be. And your son and my son will both be successful because they are smart and work hard, it's just that you need to really think about how you measure success.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 3:26PM
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I heard a radio commentary by an admissions counselor on this subject today. It's about not adding to a teen's stress during a very stressful time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Let Them Breathe - 2 minute audio clip

    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 4:34PM
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I'm not a parent, but your son's situation brings back memories. I went through a large, urban public high school on that all-honors/AP track, after attending a small neighborhood elementary school and a slightly larger junior high. I'd always had an easy time hitting academic targets and was used to being gushed over, but it was right around your son's age that my interests started diverging from the future my parents had envisioned. I felt most at home with arts and humanities but, as the whole college and career thing loomed and my parents wondered how I'd make my way in the world, things got very uncomfortable. I'd express an interest in creative writing, and my mom would wish I'd go into engineering. I'd write something sad, and she'd say she wished I'd write something happy. In retrospect I know my parents wanted the best for me, but the inflexibility of their vision was thoroughly alienating. I don't think I understood it at the time, but I was dying for the sort of approval I'd had such a steady diet of earlier. Without it I didn't know what to do; I could follow my own instincts and passions or I could please my parents, but not both. As a defense, I think, I tended to disengage.

I agree with the many others that prescribe encouragement of whatever his passions might be. By encouragement I don't mean telling him that everything he does is great; I just mean taking him seriously, with a minimum of presumptions about his future. The more you can accept his interests as legitimate and engage him on his terms, the more willing he may be to engage you on yours.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 9:42AM
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Had another great talk with DS the other day and brought up a few of the excellent points from this forum --

- that maybe he wouldn't enjoy the Ivy League if he didn't really like the 'Stepford' students at his school;

- that there were lots of good smaller colleges that weren't geared toward a 'cookie cutter' environment;

- that we honestly weren't trying to pressure him into any one mold or career path;

- that he needed to find the type of college and career that fit him (and not right away)

- and that we were just trying to assure that he had the foundation he'd need to make every option available when the time came.

His response was that he actually DID want the whole Ivy League thing, and that he did kind of admire and like the 'Stepford' students -- but that he was frustrated that he would have to compete with them to get what he wanted. He also didn't think the schools that most people here go to - UT (major party & sports school), TX A&M (politically conservative, sports & military), or Baylor (conservative & religious) - would be a good fit for him (I totally agree).

Anyway, he'll be taking the PLAN test (as I understand it, the 'pre-ACT' which includes a career aptitude/interest survey) next month, so I guess we'll see where that leads us...

Any suggestions for helping him find his passion?

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 10:25AM
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jon1270 - What a great post. I hope everyone with kids reads through it a couple of times.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 4:15PM
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Finding a passion can be a hard thing, especially for kids who are hesitant to try something for the first time and/or expect to be perfect and skilled the first time out. I guess that is what immaturity is all about!

There's the obvious large team sports like soccer, baseball, football, basketball, and lacrosse. The kids who like those sports have probably identified themselves.

Then, there's more obscure sports that are more individual like golf, tennis, and I suppose bowling, ice skating, gymnastics, and cheerleading. Less obvious team sport is ice hockey.

Some teens are passionate about various environmental issues, become vegan or at least vegetarian apart from the rest of the family, etc. Anything in the news ever catch your son's attention?

Drama, including the technical stuff like lighting sometimes sparks interest, as does creative writing. But maybe the kids involved in those activities don't appeal to your kid?

My kid has strong interests (tennis & choir), not passions. That is okay; I just want her to stick with them since she can do both through her adulthood. The tennis has been more problematic since she hasn't found another girl close to her age to play. For girls, at least, being involved in an activity with other compatible kids is key.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 9:33PM
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I wanted to post a few things. I've got young kids so I'm not where you are yet, but I'm from a high achieving, all ivy family and we live in a real pressure cooker of an academic environment so I anticipate a lot of these issues--especially the one that people have pointed to which is that it can be very hard for children to see just how much work, and of what kind, is necessary for sucess in a world in which they've only ever seen success.

But I really wanted to post this--I've got a cousin who is both dyslexic and has epilepsy. In addition, he was raised by a foster family because of other family problems. He wound up going to a top ivy league school and getting top, top, honors and awards and foreign scholarships. Dyslexia won't hold your son back one bit when he finds what he wants.

It sounds to me like he's afraid of competing and losing against kids he knows, and sort of afraid of ending up caring too much when he might end up not doing as well as those other kids. That is a very common feeling for all kids--why play if you are going to get beat? why look like you care if you think you might not do well. How he gets around that might be a struggle but I'm sure he will. Once he realizes that he is competing not with the other kids but against himself for his own "best time" and his own "best interests" he will stop looking at those kids at all and just put his head down and work.

I guess what I'm really thinking is that this is also very typical of the small group effect of highschools. Kids in highschools tend to sort themselves out into an internal hierarchy or not intersecting groups of achievers, slackers, nerds, etc...Often kids choose roles, or have them thrust upon them, that they find they can drop once they get away to the wider world of college. In fact that is one reason kids leave home and go to college--to stop being "sweeby junior" or "so and so's little brother" or "that kid with the weird haircut" or anythign else.

Have your son look at brochures from lots of colleges (the boutique ones someone mentioned) with lots of specialized interests. Remember that to some eastern college he's going to look exotic and remind him that he doesn't have to go be a "cookie cutter" kid--getting into college is just the first step towards opening lots of doors. Its not the end in itself.


    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 7:59PM
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"It sounds to me like he's afraid of competing and losing against kids he knows, and sort of afraid of ending up caring too much when he might end up not doing as well as those other kids."

You nailed it Abfab! That's absolutely a big part of the equation. And as you mentioned a bit later, he's self-selected a group of friends that are also very bright, but reluctant to visibly compete and play the Stepford game.

DS is even to the point where he has admitted that he knows his life would be better if he took more risks. (Took me much longer to get there!) So I'm hoping a few more exertions won't be far behind...

My family of origin sounds pretty similar to yours -- They were a bit surprised and disappointed when I chose to stop my formal education at only a BS, since my brother, sister, and every single cousin went on to complete their PhD's. But what can I say? Guess I'm the 'black sheep' ;-)

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 12:32PM
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I personally LIKE my DS to take risks and compete in situations where he is not an automatic winner (as he is academically). I LIKE him to feel defeat. I want him to know failure, to have to strive to improve. To see other ways people can achieve, and value those ways.

Sort of my own experiment to give him a multiple intelligence understanding and appreciation of humanity!

I also think being in a unfamiliar circumstance teaches resourcefulness and resiliance leading to boosted confidence- good skills that can be applied to life in general. Also, it helps him break out of 'nerds ville' where he is safe relating with intellectually similar peers. These extra curricula activities give him experiences in relating to a broader range of people. Improving general communication skills he can then use in new situations. My greatest fear is that he becomes an academic snob/ or feels 'elite'.

Does your DS have any extra curricula ideas at all?
As I said, my son trains in karate. But he has his nerdy things too- robotics class, D & D and minatures. But a balance is good.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 8:45AM
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Nope - No extra-curricular ideas at all...

And I agree with you about wanting him to take a few more risks. (Strage thing for a mom to say when her son is just learning how to drive!) I want him to know that failure isn't fatal, and that NOBODY is great at everything! And to realize that what makes us human is our imperfections even more than our strengths....

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 11:55AM
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There is an article in the 9/18 Wall Street Journal about how many CEOs went to Ivy League schools. Surprisingly few. Only 10% on the Fortune 500. More went to U Wisconsin than Harvard. The article says that leadership talent and drive for success are more important than a prestigious degree.

The article quotes recruiters who say that once you have a few jobs, where you went to school doesn't matter. "It's what you've accomplished that matters, not what you were doing at 21."

It also mentions the successful CEOs who never finished college - Jobs, Gates and Dell. It also says that only works for highly inventive people with a great idea.

When this thread was really active I was thinking about where I work and where the people went to college. The second highest person in the huge corporation I work for went to a state school. There are many, many people here from state school and "lesser" privates. I have a state school BS and 2 private school law degrees. People couldn't care less where I went. It is more about what you can do, how smart and creative you are, etc.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 1:56PM
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And I might add to what sue36 says - there were alot of people with prestigious educational backgrounds at Enron.....

Sometimes the desire for an education at a prestigious top school reminds me of the desire for many other prestigious "brands" - cars, clothes, kitchen appliances, etc. Many people can get by VERY well without the top brands because in the long run it's really the quality of what's behind the label that really matters.

It seems like smart, motivated, positive, well rounded young people with good values, a decent education, common sense and a strong work ethic would have a high likelihood of a happy, successful life - regardless of where they receive their education.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 11:35PM
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I was going to mention the same thing about the Wall Street Journal article. But I do want to weigh in about our kids feeling failure. They'll feel plenty of that in life--how about extracurricular activities that are win-win? I have a friend who is the Supt. of Schools in a big, academically strong suburban city. He says that the number of young people who are involved in extracurriculars is dropping yearly--not enough kids to write articles for the papers, to help with the yearbook, to run the clubs. If a student doesn't show some sustained interest in an activity--any activity--he'll have a more difficult time getting into school. There's got to be someplace he can be useful. Sports become so selective in high school that it is hard to make a dent. Choirs are inclusive; chess club? Future Businessmen/Farmers/Cheesemakers? (I just drove through southern Minnesota today--can you tell? What beautiful country; acre after acre of gold and green fields. A treat!)

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 11:37PM
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Sweeby, we just went through the whole college thing last year.

DD went to a small private high school. It wasn't a prep school and there wasn't the typical frenzy of getting into the highest ranked colleges. Instead, students looked for colleges/universities that were a good fit with their personalities.

DD and I (yeah, I got too involved) had our hearts set on a couple of schools with prestigious names. She didn't get into them even though she consistently had the highest GPA in her entire school through most of her middle and high school years. She also has an area of passion in which she has a lot of talent. It seems that last year was a particularly competitive year for getting into colleges (the number of applications was up by quite a bit.) I've heard that this trend is going to continue and peak during the next several years.

Anyway, my point is that DD ended up going to a school that was not particularly high on her list and we can't imagine her being anywhere else. It fits her perfectly. She didn't have much of a direction but an added bonus with this school is that while studying the course list this summer, she found a major that really excited her--a unique twist on a more traditional major found at other schools. She may change her mind several times over the next couple of years but the fact that she's feeling engaged is a biggie. Plus, an added bonus is that she received a substantial merit-based scholarhsip.

I worried about the college process a lot more than DD did even though she's the one who is extremely prone to anxiety. I was consumed with all the "what ifs" and was miserable during the summer between her junior and senior years. AND it turned out that most of my worse-case scenarios came to life and it still turned out well in the end.

I don't know if this relates to your son at all. It's possible that a prestigious school would be the best fit for him but it may not be the only fit. A less well-known school may actually spark something. The spark is what is needed for all the stuff that comes after college.

A college guide we really liked was "Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges."

I wish you both lots of luck.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 11:45PM
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What a great thread! Our kids are only six & nine years old but it's never too early to become educated on what those with high-school age kids are going through. Thanks!

Given that we don't have kids in HS, I do strongly believe in helping them find their passion and keeping them relatively busy (not too busy) so that they don't get lazy or get involved in drugs, etc. Also, I'm promising myself that I won't push my own needs onto them (easier said than done). We've already got them in academic private schools now! :-)

    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 9:58PM
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I've thought about this thread and the great discussion and counsel I received her many times over the last three years. And having just got off the phone with DS, this seemed like the perfect time for an update.

A few weeks after this thread started DS began to get involved with an activity in high school. (Yes, 'an' as in just one.) But he enjoyed it, made some new friends, and began to become more social and more happy, spending less time on the computer. Soon, he was excelling in this activity and won a few city-wide awards. Grades remained As and Bs and efforts remained spotty.

Summer before Junior year, I enrolled him in a summer college class in an area of his academic interest in the region where he wanted attend college. He loved it and got excited about learning at the college level. He never talked so much as when he got home from that two-week course! We also toured colleges on the trip up, and he discovered what type of school appealed to him.

Junior year he continued to take college prep courses, pull As and Bs, and scored 'OK' on his college boards. NOT Ivy League, or even second tier, so we lowered our sights. The two schools he liked best from our summer tour (one Ivy, one just below) seemed out of reach. But he did win a prestigious art prize (raw talent, not effort or interest) and began putting together an art portfolio.

Summer before senior year he worked with a coach to write his essay (dynamite - but he did it himself) and application. Senior year was more of the same, though his grades actually improved a bit. He kept retaking his ACTs until one lucky Saturday he scored well enough to slide into the bottom of the 'middle-50% range' at his preferred two schools.

Then we crossed our fingers and waited. He was accepted at his safety schools, wait-listed at my top choice (his #2) due to late paperwork (the disorganized dope!), and turned down at his stretch schools, including the Ivy, his #1 choice. Oh well... But then his luck turned, and the Ivy offered him a spot next year if his freshman grades were 3.0 or better. And his #2 school (my #1 for him) accepted him off the wait list.

So that's where he's going, and he LOVES it. And things are going GREAT in every respect. First off, DS went back on his ADHD meds -- his own idea. He admits that he should have been on them all along (Duh! But Dad wouldn't hear of it!) and that now he is able to focus SO MUCH BETTER! Well, apparently it's true, because midterm grades are just in and I am thrilled to be able to brag on my kid! He is THE #1 biology student in the entire college, has an over-100 Chemistry average, and no lower than a B+ in any other subject.

So it's all turning out pretty darn well, if I say so myself!
(Amazing what a little maturity and Concerta can do for a teenage boy!)

    Bookmark   October 7, 2009 at 2:50PM
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Congratulations Sweeby! It's always nice to hear about a positive turn to events, and so lovely to hear your son is growing up well and taking responsibililty for his future. Thanks for the update; I'll bet you can't stop grinning!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2009 at 10:17PM
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What an interesting thread! Especially cool that it has an "update" on where your son currently is at. Good job!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 12:27PM
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Thanks - You KNOW I am thrilled!

And for what it's worth, while the school DS is attending is considered to be a very good one, it is not well-known (especially where we live) and was chosen for 'fit' more than prestige. We especially liked the school's diversity (it attracts lots of international students) and small size. Mainly, it just 'felt right' --

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 1:49PM
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It's time for another update -- and I couldn't be more thrilled!

In the middle of DS's senior year in high school, he decided he wanted to become a doctor. Well - He clearly had the ability, I'd even go so far as to say he had an aptitude for it. (Marvelous hand-eye and fine motor skills.) But the dedication? Yeah, well... (Hence this thread.) But I encouraged him, with the view in mind that he could always do something else with a pre-med preparation.

But something happened when he went off to college. He grew up. He realized for himself that success would only come to him if he combined his talents and abilities with hard work. So he started working hard - really hard. And he achieved. That B+ I mentioned in my last post was the last one he ever got; the rest were all A's.

And about an hour ago, he called to tell me that he has just been accepted into medical school. Woo Hoo! --

So yeah - Good Enough ;-)

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 6:02PM
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WOW! What a lovely outcome! I wasn't on the forum when the OP was made or the updates. Read the background and feared DS was going to be "over-encouraged", but was really pleased to read of the on-going success. Thank goodness there is another successful generation to take care of us baby boomers! Congratulations, sweeby!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 2:23PM
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Congratulations to both of you (his work, your patience)!!!! I hope my DS works out as well... His first semester in college - no grades yet...we'll see (in his case, Cyber Security)!

As is the case with most of us, parents can only do so much. We have to find our own way and discover things for ourselves.

(I wish those ADD drugs worked for my DS, but sadly none did - he had bad reactions to all of them.)

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 3:14PM
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