May 6, 2019
by Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School
A Middle School mother recently shared with me a conversation she had with her child. At the dinner table one night this week, her son burst into tears. He said, “I’m so stressed out because I don’t know what the right career is for me.” If the stress and anxiety over colleges and careers is beginning for students in Middle School, I know it is beginning for parents even sooner than that.
There is indeed a general anxiety in U.S. culture around the college-application process driven by an inflated importance of attending the “best” school instead of the “right” school. The best fit for one student is not the right fit for the next, even among high-achieving, academically strong, and otherwise talented students.
In his book “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania,” New York Times columnist Frank Bruni attempts to refocus the search process. In a time that stress and anxiety is associated with the college admissions process, Bruni hopes to “restore the excitement of going off to college, which should be a time for taking intellectual and social chances, for finding or confirming a passion, and for discovering yourself,” rather than getting caught up with getting into elite, higher-profile colleges and universities.
The mission of our College Counseling office is to provide information, structure, and attention to the classes as a whole, as well as to each student individually. We share a common goal–a college choice that fits each child well and provides opportunities for further growth and accomplishments. Our integrated and multi-faceted approach includes the seminar and advisory programs, individual student and family meetings, special speakers and events, test-prep resources, and practice test opportunities.
Like our approach to education, the college admissions process at MPA is grounded in the whole child. College selection is driven by a student’s unique set of interests, preferences, and aspirations. Students also explore their own learning style, personality, and ideas about career possibilities. As the school balances arts, academics, and athletics, we encourage our students to strive for academic excellence, but also become a well-rounded individual through artistic pursuits and extra-curricular involvement.
Carefully considering each student’s individual interests, priorities, and aspirations and balancing that with the current college admission landscape takes time and reflection. With this in mind, students are led through a comprehensive and thoughtfully designed curriculum that starts in ninth grade and continues through junior and senior years. In each grade, MPA integrates developmentally appropriate elements of career exploration and college counseling through our advisory and seminar programs, mindful of where the students are on their educational journey.
I often wish that I had access to the college counseling available at MPA when I was in high school. It was clear to me that my parents expected me to go to college, but I lacked support at home or at school to engage in the kind of college search afforded to students at MPA. In retrospect, I enjoyed an excellent undergraduate education complete with incredible opportunities to grow and discover who I am, my strengths, and my passions. I was fortunate. I fell into my college rather than embracing my choice after a thoughtful and deliberate process.
I want to encourage MPA parents to shake off any anxiety that they have about college admissions: you’re already well positioned for the college-search adventure by having your child attend MPA. With the wisdom, experience, and guidance of our outstanding college counselor, the college search can indeed be an exciting process of discovery, to dream big and do right, to embrace their individual interests and talents, and to become the people they’re meant to be.