Before we throw stones

Joe and I walked seven children through the college admissions process and we have lived to tell about it. It’s a grueling, hand-wringing endeavor even for those supposedly trusting God for our child’s destiny. While I cannot imagine devising a plan to secure an acceptance for my kids through cheating and bribes, I totally understand what motivates those actions.

For one thing, both Joe and I attended Princeton, and it comes with all kinds of social and professional advantages. Not only that, we have lived for 23 years at a prestigious boarding school with an endowment valued at more than $300 million. Our house here has a bronze plaque on it, a signal someone put down money to build it. The most we could afford was two bricks engraved for our youngest daughters upon their graduation from a similar boarding school.

Prestige and pedigree is a thing we understand and we fed into our kids as they considered which colleges to attend. I’m not necessarily proud of that, especially since we steered five of seven to private schools that cost more. But I am admitting to it because I found it easy to wag a finger at the wealthy for cheating, while forgetting what’s at the root of their actions. Entitlement? Yes, that’s an inexcusable root. But so is parental pride.

We all have it, and it reveals itself uniquely during the college admission process. For some parents, the Ivy League doesn’t matter, but Christian colleges do. Either way, we place value on these destinations for our children as a sign we have been good parents. Let’s be honest, few things bring more joy than college acceptance letters. Videos like these bring happy tears and broad smiles this time of year, amirite?

The Cambridge dictionary defines image as the way that something or someone is thought of by other people. All parents strive to create an image of good parenting, and where our children attend college is a defining factor in the persona we hope to project. It’s true that nobody should cheat to fulfill these vain desires, but it’s also true that vanity and pride in college admissions is at work in all parents to varying degrees.

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