College as “Insurance” For Your Children

By College Advice
Parenting through the college process

I lived in Washington, DC, Philadelphia and New Jersey before Connecticut so most of my life long friends come from those parts.  My wife is from the Boston suburbs so we similarly have another base of comparison with our Connecticut friends.

The college conversation with those live in suburbs of major cities is different than the college counseling conversations I have with those who live in suburban Connecticut.  To the extent that Shoreline Connecticut types are more balanced – in a healthy way – they are far less driven about college than those in the affluent suburbs of major cities.  That must sound crazy because I know there is still a great deal of college craziness among those in Guilford, Madison, Old Saybrook, Essex, Old Lyme, East Lyme etc.

Nonetheless, those in the aforementioned areas have a far more singular drive: get my college into the highest ranked college possible.  Prior to the Great Recession, this was likely an unhealthy obsession.  Post Great Recession, there is a challenging reality to post-college employment.  Not everyone gets jobs or at least career building jobs.

I have a friend who lives outside New York city who is extremely balanced, not at all competitive, and minimally image oriented.  He asked me for SAT help for his sophomore daughter.  I was surprised since most students in Connecticut start junior year.  “Not around here”, he said, but that wasn’t the issue we discussed.  Instead, he immediately focused on post-college employment.

Parents in Southeastern Connecticut do not run into that many twentysomethings because most young adults live in or near cities.  We do not readily see the vast number of unemployed or underemployed twentysomethings. My friend works in New York city and routinely runs into twentysomethings working in retail or in restaurants or in coffee bars.  He’s discovered that most of them went to college.

I pause to emphasize that I find nothing wrong with digging ditches or doing any type of honorable work. But my friend relayed that all of those that he has spoken with in such situations went to lower tiered colleges.   CHe viewed college counseling and SAT prep and as “insurance policy” for his children so that they would have good jobs upon graduating from good colleges. Sadly, I agreed.  The economic reality we live in has made us face this reality.