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.



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.







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.



We’re Not Talking About Painting the Dining Room

Prep school is a big decision. Few other family choices include so many components of such importance.

  • Your child
  • Your child’s future
  • Your child’s education
  • The sport your child loves
  • Your child living away from home
  • Your child’s college options

If you tried to save money by painting your own dining room and it didn’t turn out like you hoped, you could pay someone $500 to fix it a month later. The damage is minimal. A bad prep school choice is a much bigger problem. We’re not talking about painting the dining room. You need to get it right the first time.



QB Position Dilemma

Andrew was a good enough high school QB as a senior to garner interest from a handful of D1 football programs. None actually offered him as a QB, but fairly mobile at 6’5″, 245 lbs., many had serious interest in him as a tight end or lineman. He refused, saying he was a QB and that’s the position he wanted to play in college.

Our search for a prep school produced very limited options. The QB spot is very competitive at the prep school level, especially as a post-graduate. Many of the schools we would have liked did not want him as a QB but wanted him badly as a lineman or TE. I discussed this option with the young man and his family. Their self-confidence in him as a QB was unshakable. I remember his mother telling me he had been to some D1 schools exposure camps and had received very favorable feedback from those schools regarding their interest in her son as a QB. We continued to look for a prep school and ended up finding one we were happy with, but at a cost. We had to make a significant sacrifice academically while spending twice the family’s budget.

As the summer progressed, and before he got to prep school in the fall, Andrew and his parents came to grips with his recruiting reality. They discovered that the colleges they thought were interested really weren’t, and the family was forced to make the tough decision many QBs face at some point. He called his prep school coach and told him he was ready to change positions.

Prep school was a great experience for him. He liked the school he chose and the school loved him. He struggled to make the position switch, but stuck with it and did well, receiving D1 offers as a TE/lineman from some of the best academic colleges in the country. He and his parents are happy with their decision and the outcome.

It’s hard to argue with the outcome in this case, but consider the alternative. Making the decision to switch positions in February that he ended up making in July would have yielded more and better prep school choices and changed two things. Instead of sacrificing his level of prep school education, he would have gotten a world class, life changing one, and gotten it for free, saving this family of limited means over $20,000.



Picking Prep Schools: When to Get Help? Understanding the Timeline and Whom to Trust.

I received a call from a family whom I had been recommended to by a previous client. By the time they contacted me, they had already communicated with some prep schools. They also were getting help from one of their child’s coaches, as well as a friend who had been through the process before. As a result, they felt they had a good list of schools and decided they didn’t need my help at that time. They did leave the door open to hiring me later, in the event they needed help with the financial part of the process.

When they called me a few months later, their son had been rejected at the school that was their first choice. They were stunned. They shared with me that they had come to realize that, having no experience at this, they had misinterpreted the feedback they had been getting from the coach at that school and had overvalued the help they’d been receiving from friends and others. Compounding the problem, they assumed they were going to get into their first choice and made little effort with the other two schools they had considered. They were upset and looking for answers.

We talked about applying to other schools, but by this time most other schools had filled their spots and handed out their financial aid. Schools that would have been good options a few months prior no longer were. In addition, they told me after what they’d already been through in this process they didn’t have the emotional energy to start over with new schools. Consequently, this family was forced to choose from a very limited list of schools, most of which they wouldn’t have otherwise found acceptable, and/or, lacking options and leverage, pay $5,000 – $15,000 more than they would have.