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Take a peek over Jim Borgman's shoulder

Jim Borgman has been the Enquirer's editorial cartoonist since 1976. Borgman has won every major award in his field, including the 1991 Pulitzer Prize, the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in 1993, and most recently, the Adamson Award in 2005 as International Cartoonist of the Year. His award-winning daily comic strip Zits, co-created with Jerry Scott, chronicles the life of 15-year-old Jeremy Duncan, his family and friends through the glories and challenges of the teenage years. Since debuting in July 1997, Zits has regularly finished #1 in reader comics polls across America and is syndicated in more than 1300 newspapers around the world.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Pimp my Transcript

I read recently that 64 of 83 higher education institutions surveyed reported that anxiety on college campuses is increasing as measured by student usage of mental health services over the past three years.

It's lousy what we're doing to our kids.

My high schoolers have managed to keep well-rounded social lives against all odds under the ever-increasing pressure to vamp for colleges, but I see their friends buckling under the weight. One young friend of mine, a dream student at Sycamore HS excelling in Advanced Placement classes and SATs, said to her mother recently, "Is the rest of my life going to be as hard as this?"

A couple of years ago my then-high school senior declared that once she got to college she was going to finally relax a bit. Since freshman year she had been piling up the kind of grades and activities that might land her in a good college, calculating every summer what volunteering or camps or sports might help round out her resume. She got to college... and now stresses about racking up the grades that will get her into grad school.

So it was with mixed feelings that Daughter #2 and I took a swing through liberal arts colleges in New England recently. I have such fond feelings for my own college years that I want something just as great for her, but I also cringe to launch her into the college search rat race.

We learned the drill quickly. You arrive on campus around 10AM for the Campus Tour (led invariably by a high-spirited student who can imagine herself nowhere else), followed by the Information Session at 11 where an admissions officer explains that scores and tests don't really matter -- they're just looking for passionate students who will enrich the class. At this point you can watch the parents check for their wallets in unison.

Grab lunch in the campus town at the funky alternative sandwich shop and get to the next college for the 1PM Tour and Info Session. We settled into a groove -- two colleges a day, then zone out back at the B&B trying to remember, "Was that Wesleyan or Swarthmore?" Like a herd of cattle, we moved with other families through the circuit, unaware that we had fallen neatly into a well-trodden path. You could almost hear the admissions officers calculating, "If this is Wednesday afternoon, they're visiting their sixth college of the week," (though we ran into one manic family that saw 27 colleges in 5 days. I have to think they were indiscriminately touring everything that called itself a college, dental and mining schools included.)

A friend, watching me plowing through the Fiske Guide to Colleges years ago when my oldest began the process, told me that he thought most kids could be happy at most colleges. Somehow those words relieved the pressure building in my brain and I repeat them like a mantra whenever the process seems overwhelming. If you believe the statistics, colleges are all filled with a race of superhumans who leave your child in the dust.

Who are they and why don't I see them graduating and solving the problems of the world?


at 4/27/07, 10:32 AM Anonymous Dan said...

My wife and I have four teenagers, the first of whom is a junior this year.

Your observations are WAY too funny!

at 4/27/07, 11:15 AM Anonymous Chuckie G. said...

“Most kids could be happy at most colleges”

That is some good advice.

Higher education institutions tout themselves as the one and only institution capable of providing a quality education. The reality is, that like their campus tours, they all provide a cookie cutter (read: strikingly similar) education experience. And why is this? They have to. Anyone going to college or helping their children with the process have surely realized that no one reasonably expects an 18 year old to have plotted their way to age 60. Colleges must be able to adapt to the ever changing interests of their students to keep them enrolled. College is after all a business. How to do this? Lots of options.

I am about two years removed from my college experience at Bowling Green State University. What compelled me to go from Cincinnati to BG?

First, I decided that it is really hard to make a bad choice for college when considering four year major universities. They all offer a program somewhere in their curriculum that has a quality reputation with perspective employers, or else they would cease to exist. That is after all what you are buying. The reputation of the school is what will get you to the next point. Make no mistake this is vastly more important than your GPA.

Second, I recognized that distance from the nest would be a good thing and I am even a west sider! This is something I am glad I did and I will push my own children to do. The most valuable of my college experiences was learning how to cope with life when no one was there to make me a sandwich.

Last, it needed to be cheap. I was paying for this on my own nickel.

I did not visit many schools. I did not care to hear the spiel you described over and over again. Bowling Green was a big school that had a reasonably reputable business program, it was the cheapest university at the time, it is reasonably distant from Cincinnati. I came I saw I graduated and I found that my assumptions were correct. I obtained quality employment based on the reputation of the school alone.

at 4/27/07, 12:09 PM Blogger concerned heart said...

Dear BorgBlog:

Thanks for the great blog!
There is an important issue that is not discussed very often.
The rise in anxiety and depression and serious mental illness such as schizophrenia in youth today is in a great part, on a population level, due to the great increase in average paternal age in this country since 1980. Men 33-35 are rapidly accumulating mutations in their sperm making cells and this leads to kids whose nervous systems are not as tough and in some cases leads to full blown autism/schizophrenia like in Seung-hui Cho's case.

We should all learn more about this if we want our children and future generations to be strong, happy and healthy.

This article is especially helpful in understanding a bit of what happen to the paternal germ line as men age:
My blogs have abstracts on paternal age and autism etc. and on the paternal age effect in general.

at 4/27/07, 2:46 PM Anonymous Dylan said...

I don't think that its a coincidence that it has gone from workers to students having massive nervous breakdowns in the past twenty years. Those people are having children and those children are feeling the same pressure that their parents did to succeed in a rapidly changing world.

at 4/28/07, 2:56 PM Anonymous Drew said...

Here's an idea for a post-Draft day Benglas cartoon:
A drawing of a prison, with two guards talking. There is an empty cell with a banner above saying "Welcome 2007-08 Bengals."
One guard is pointing at this, and saying to the other guard, "...It's draft day."

at 4/28/07, 2:57 PM Anonymous Tim said...

Or, alternatively... The banner says "Reserved." and the guard says to the other guard "The Bengals are drafting, we're gonna need the room."

at 4/30/07, 3:43 PM Anonymous Jessa Ramsey said...

It is unbelievably easy to get sucked into the whole college process. For a place swarming with 18-22 year olds, one would think that it wouldn't be so daunting... unless of course one was a high school junior who had already managed to overwhelm herself with standardized test scores, volunteer hours, and extraneous rehearsals....
Thanks for the great entry! It's a relief to hear that I'm not the only one wearily trudging down this path to matriculation!

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