Email of the Day: Problem Parents / Too Many Schools

These days it’s much more common than it used to be to find kids changing schools multiple times during their high school years. It’s something of an epidemic. I think it’s consistent with the overall mentality of immediate satisfaction in our society today, and it’s not good.

Here’s an email I wrote to some parents whose child must be close to some kind of record for number of schools attended (6 in 3 states), especially for a very good student.

 

Ron,

For 30 years I’ve guided families through the prep school and college process. It’s my full time job. I get paid to do it. I help families in similar situations every year, and my guidance almost always pays for itself. In your case, I wish I could help, but I can’t.

I’ve watched the highlight videos and I’ve been doing some homework on your situation. The pieces are coming together.

You and your wife are friendly, highly educated people. I’ve always enjoyed the conversations you and I have had, but you completely lost your sense of reality on this topic a long time ago. On my website, there’s a section of blogs entitled “Otherwise likeable, intelligent people”. You’ve made the list. If it’s accurate (or even close) that your son has attended six different schools in three different states since he started high school, that’s a huge red flag. It’s so bad in so many ways, I almost don’t know where to start, but here’s where it ends. I’m going to tell you what you don’t want to hear. You’re a problem parent, and that’s holding your son back more than anything else in this equation.

Your son has scholarship level athleticism (although he doesn’t play the game that well). It’s realistic to think he could get a D2 or NAIA offer, and he still might. However, if his academic profile is as you described (3.4 GPA, 1700+ SAT), the much better choice, the smarter choice, is a very good D3 school (a UAA, a NESCAC or similar school) for the next four years. He’d get a great education, have a great basketball experience, and, finally, get some stability.

Given your history, I expect you will choose a JuCo for a year or two, then yet another school after that. I said at the beginning I’d like to help, but I can’t. I’d have to tell college coaches about your son’s history and that they’re asking for trouble if they take him (although they almost assuredly would know it without me telling them). They’d ask me why. I’d tell them the parents are a big problem. Then they’d ask me why I bothered contacting them in the first place, and they’d be right.

Sorry for being blunt. I’ll call you later to discuss.

Thanks.

 

Mike

 

 

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Quote of the Day: The Prep School Recruiting Difference

I’m not sure where I’d be without (prep school). (Mine) offered me what no other school in the country could offer: great academics, great football, great culture and great recruitment.

 

This from a football player who had just signed with Clemson, talking about his decision to leave a top parochial school for prep school.

Before attending prep school, he was getting FCS recruitment. Within three months of his transfer he had his choice of offers from the best FBS schools in the country.

 

 

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Stat of the Day: Women’s Basketball Transfers

The transfer rate for women’s D1 basketball is up 33% over a ten year period.

In 2003 the rate was 6.8%. In 2013 it was 9.2%. Those numbers are still about 1/4 of the men’s numbers. As with many other parts of the game, the women’s game seems to be following the men’s.

Perhaps most interesting is that 6 of the top 10 rated girls in the 2013 recruiting class have transferred. A number of those 6 committed to colleges as sophomores (also similar to the boys) and some say they now realize that what they considered a dream school as high school sophomores is much different than where they want to be playing as 20 year olds. This is a pretty strong case that kids (and parents) are picking a college at too young an age.

 

 

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Today’s Quiz – Men’s D1 Basketball Transfer %

Question:     What % of all men’s basketball players who enter Division I directly out of high school depart their initial school by the end of their sophomore year?

 

 

 

Answer:     40%

Here’s the link to the complete article on the NCAA website.

http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/research/tracking-transfer-division-i-men-s-basketball

 

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Quote of the Day – Administrative Attitude

 

He’s a deadly combination of arrogance and insecurity.

 

A comment about the relatively new director of admission and financial aid at a well known prep school made by another person in the field. The school has seen a precipitous drop in the academic quality of incoming students under the new director, who is also single-handedly scuttling what was a top prep school athletic program. He dismisses any input from, or meaningful communication with, others at the school who want to fix the problem, telling them he’s the only one who could possibly understand what’s going on. A classic example of the Wizard of Oz mentality.

 

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Today’s Quiz – All-League Men’s D1 Basketball Players

There is a relatively small group of what many would consider top level prep school boys’ basketball programs, and a number of well known and successful coaches. Comparing programs and coaches is not easy, as each school has different academic and financial parameters. Athletic and academic success at the college level would seem to be one obvious measure. Still, the facts below are likely a surprise to most people, even many of those who are paying close attention. 

 

Question:     Which prep school in the last 15 years has had all-league men’s basketball players in the Ivy League (more than any other prep school?), Patriot League (including defensive player of the year), Colonial Athletic Association (two time all-league and academic all-league) and MEAC (including player of the year and HBCU player of the year), as well as a first team D2 all-American?

 

 

Answer:     The Hun School of Princeton, under coach Jon Stone

 

 

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Quote of the Day – Who Makes the School Choice?

I think you should treat kids like grown-ups. I think you should expect them to be mature and to behave, and I think that’s what it means to treat someone like a grown-up, although….It’s not about the abdication of authority.

 …it’s common now in this country to find … the parent functions as educational consultant. The parent makes a recommendation, but the child makes the final decision. I know of cases where the kid was clearly making the wrong decision and the parents knew it but nevertheless felt completely powerless to overrule their child. The child is the one who suffers.

Dr. Leonard Sax, speaking about his new book The Collapse of Parenting and about where today’s parents are making mistakes.

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Looking Back: Michael Wright – Missed Opportunities

As a college freshman, Michael Wright made an immediate impact on the football team. He became a starter after only one game before getting hurt and missing most of the season. In his second year, he picked up right where he left off. Not only is he starting as a redshirt freshman, he’s far and away the team’s best receiver. No one else is even close.

Most would say this is great and that in deciding on his current university he made the right choice. After all, he’s having the kind of success that every athlete and parent hopes for, but few ever find. He’s a star who’s going to have a great career. Everyone’s happy and excited. On the surface, it’s hard to argue with that. Let’s take a closer look.

Despite seemingly obvious talent, Michael had few options coming out of HS. Playing in a small town with limited exposure and support, not many colleges showed interest. At that point, prep school was an option. In the spring of his senior year he finally received a partial offer from one of the lowest D1 FBS teams. Ready to take it, he then received a full offer from a decent FBS program. Once he got those offers, his interest in prep school ended. He took the second scholarship offer, saying it was a great opportunity. On the surface, it was hard to argue with that. This kid from a difficult background was going to play D1 ball while getting a free education. Isn’t that the goal?

Prep school would have been a dramatically better choice. Here’s why:

  1. Better Education   (This is supposed to be most important, right?)
    1. He would have gotten two much better, life changing educations
      1. Prep School
        1. He would have attended one of the top five academic prep school in the world
          1. He would have learned to be a better student
            1. He would have been better prepared to get higher grades in college.
      2. College
        1. The prep school education would have propelled him to a much better academic college
          1. He would be at an Ivy or Patriot League school, or a place like Rice, Boston College or similar
            1. The college he’s attending now provides an average education
  2. Incredible Connections
    1. Prep school and college
      1. He would have made incredible contacts that would last a lifetime
        1. His friends would have been the kids who will be running this country twenty years from now
          1. He’s not getting anything close to that at his college
  3. Higher level of college ball
    1. This was a given after a year of prep school
      1. His immediate success at his current school likely proves that he could play at a much higher level
        1. Instead of playing for a non-noteworthy school, he could be playing at a big time school like Vanderbilt, Boston College, Northwestern etc.
  4. Better life preparation and perspective
    1. The extra year of maturity is an invaluable one time opportunity

This is not second guessing. This has nothing to do with the success he’s found at college. These were the options, and this was all discussed, from the start. The success he’s had only reinforces the point.

Some families would have taken the prep school option. Why didn’t Michael’s? Perhaps they didn’t listen to the right people. Or maybe, contrary to what he said, he just didn’t believe in enough in himself and his talent.

It’s not that this was a bad decision, it’s that there was a much better one. He and his family could have had so much more. They had an asset, an investment, that they failed to get the most out of. All parents want their child to develop as fully as possible. The Wrights missed an opportunity to do this. They also missed out on tangible benefits. It’s pretty easy to make the case that Michael’s lifetime earnings will be dramatically lower than they would have been if he’d opted for prep school.

 

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PG Injury Concern

Many considering a PG year believe that the risk of significant injury is a major argument against a PG year. That’s understandable, especially for those who hold full scholarship offers. Injuries get everyone’s attention. They’re very visceral, and that makes them hard to ignore, but there are two reasons to do just that. Here’s why injury concern should not be a significant factor when deciding on a PG year.

 

1)  Injuries are not the problem they used to be.

  • Medical science has changed.  It’s not like it was when today’s parents were kids. The days of career ending injuries are mostly over. Even a blown-out knee is no longer career ending. Athletes have surgery and are back on the field sooner and sooner. Consequently, college coaches are not scared off by that type of thing like they might have been in the past.
  • Prep schools can overcome significant injuries. The right prep school has the clout and the right coach has the recruiting experience and connections to get scholarships for kids who miss all or most of an entire season.

Two years ago Andy had no offers out of high school. He went to a prep school with a very good program but missed the entire season due to injury. Nonetheless, he ended up receiving a full ride to a good D2 school that also offered a much better education than he would have otherwise received. While not his D1 dream, that’s still more than he had out of high school. Some years before Andy, Harry was in a similar situation. He, too, had no offers out of high school. He played the first two games of the year before stepping on someone’s foot and spending the next two months in a cast. He still had his choice of three mid-level D1 offers.

Part of the reason these players were able to overcome their injuries is that a PG year offers more than just another school season. It also offers another summer recruiting period. Like it or not, these days that’s just as important. By playing well in the summer before they ever got to school they helped insure they would get the offers they so badly wanted.

2)  There are other risks, with a much greater chance of happening, that need to be managed, but are being ignored. These are what should influence the thinking of families.

  • Transfers are a virtual epidemic these days. A shocking percentage of kids are not finishing at the school they started at. Despite the spin you hear on it, that’s not good. Nobody commits to a school with the expectation of transferring (except those hoping to transfer up. That’s a whole different mistake for another blog.). The right PG decision reduces this possibility.
  • Not getting playing time. This has always been part of the equation, and it always will be. A certain percentage of kids will always sit. It’s the nature of a competitive team. Some will never play. Some will play after a year or two. A PG year reduces the chance of both options significantly.
  • Some athletes will fail or struggle academically in school. People think this applies only to students who were weak students when they entered college, but it also happens to good students, especially those attending the elite educational universities. People don’t understand the time and commitment demands of scholarship level sports. Consequently they fail to anticipate the strain that puts on classwork. There is no such thing as too much preparation, even for the very best students. A PG year provides that preparation.

The concern of injury is a little like those who are afraid of flying. While the statistics say flying is much safer than other methods of travel, some people simply can’t get the fear of flying out of their minds. Fight the urge to let to let fear of injury make your decision about a PG year. It’s a bad thought process.

There are no guarantees in this world, although it’s human nature to want them. If you’re starting with the thought that any scenario, such as having an offer in hand, means you’ve got a guarantee, you’re starting from the wrong perspective. Families need to understand this and act accordingly.

It would be unfair to say there’s no injury risk in a PG year. There is, but it’s not the risk most think it is, the chances are too small to pay attention to, and there are other risks that you’re not addressing that should be of greater concern. These are what should dictate your decision.

 

 

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The Two Biggest Overlooked Benefits of Prep School

The education and the athletic program are the two things virtually every family focuses on when considering prep school for their student-athlete. Most families can’t even process all the information in those two categories, so it’s no surprise that they overlook two other really big benefits when considering the value of prep school.

 

1)  Connections

Why do you think some families are readily willing to pay $55,000 for one year of prep school? It isn’t just the great education, or the great athletics. It’s the contacts, the connections. The kids your child is going to meet, the ones who will become lifetime friends, are the ones who are going to be running this country 20 years from now. If you believe it’s as much who you know as what you know, it’s hard to overvalue this benefit.

 

2)  College is taking more than four years

Many families aren’t sure they want to invest money in prep school, especially since they know they are likely to be spending money on college, money they may not have. Here’s what they fail to account for: college students aren’t finishing college in four years like their parents’ generation did. A remarkably high percentage (approximately 44% overall, and a startling 64% at public institutions) of students are not finishing college in what used to be considered the “normal” time frame.

Closely tied to those statistics is another, even bigger, one: college debt has become arguably the most important financial problem in the US today. A good chunk of that is a result of students taking more than four years to finish, or worse, not finishing at all.

For many students the issue is going to college before they’re ready. Many students, even some with very good transcripts, are now taking a gap year before college for that reason.

Finding yourself in college is tricky. Once you get off track, it’s hard to get back on. Colleges aren’t set up for you to find yourself. They’re set up to weed you out and take your money. Switching majors gets expensive in a hurry.

A post-graduate year is just the opposite. It’s designed to help the student discover more of him or herself. Consequently, it is much more effective and efficient at doing so, leading to a much lower risk.

Once families come to grips with these facts, especially the realization that there’s a good chance they’re likely to spend the additional money anyway, it is much easier to see that money is often much better spent on a PG year than on additional years in college.

 

 

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