Letter: Parents Empower Students to Resist College Admissions Madness

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More than 25 years after college, a professor who became a lifelong friend was teaching psychology (in French) to doctoral candidates at University of Quebec. He invited us to Montreal for Thanksgiving.

When told our oldest daughter was Stanford bound, he gave her good advice: “It’s so big, students and even professors get lost. What we all need most to succeed is to be valued members of a more intimate learning community.” Our daughter made finding community her priority and thrived.

My beloved professor’s advice echoed in “The Right Way to Choose a College,” Wall Street Journal, April 22. The article includes a link to an earlier WSJ report on colleges ranking highest in “student engagement.” It also had a link to an interview on the college admissions scandal exploiting “desperation” of parents and students, cheating less privileged students who earned admission to top schools.

As an LBHS senior in 1969, my choice was a small rural college—living on a farm with other students, growing our own fruits and vegetables, and bartering with neighbors for milk and eggs. We hosted teachers and families for dinner, went into the city for Shakespeare plays with professors, all extracurricular.

After a third-tier law school, Peace Corps, U.S. Navy JAG, and as General Counsel for the U.S. State Department agency, my staff lawyers were from Harvard, Princeton, Yale. Brilliant men and women much smarter than me, just not great decision makers or problem solvers.

So, I was forewarned when our youngest daughter’s LBHS college orientation marketed the UC system like a coveted fashion brand to accessorize the lives of parents more entitled than their kids. As the token lawyer at Thurston Career Day, getting more questions on college admissions than law, I recommended parents and students read “Colleges That Change Lives.”

Our youngest daughter found her own path—Saddleback, worked in town, had fun, went on church missions, then two wonderful years finishing her BA at Azusa Pacific.

WSJ recommends “The Hidden Ivies” and “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be.” I recommend visiting schools like Agnes Scott Women’s College. Students sign an honor pledge mounted in the commons, accepting responsibility for academic honesty. They offer as good, or better, education, and are valued in the learning community. Why not?

That’s why it was wrong for our School Board to ignore parents and adopt grading policies biased by UC criteria, disempowering student and parent choice of admission and scholarship opportunities.


Howard Hills, Laguna Beach

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  1. Thank you for mentioning Colleges That Change Lives. We believe there are many, many amazing opportunities for students considering college. Check out our website for more info on our holistic, mission, and 2019 programs.


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