Beginning at birth, children are like “sponges,” absorbing everything in their environment. Their minds are filled with soaking up as much information as possible, constantly and effortlessly. This is the beginning of a lifelong process in exploring the world with an innate sense of wonder and eagerness to learn.
Children who use their natural curiosity and hunger for knowledge will cultivate a lifelong love for learning. When they are internally motivated to know about things of interest, children will enthusiastically ask how, what, and why. They will become self-disciplined and confident. As a result, they will take initiative and develop strong academic skills.
A love of lifelong learning can help gain acceptance into selective schools and colleges—the ethical way. Just as parents want their children to get into excellent colleges where they will excel, colleges have needs, too. They want students who reflect the institution’s priorities (although each one differs).
In addition to having good grades and test scores, students who help to enhance a strong sense of community with their strengths are desirable. This is where a love of lifelong learning can be instrumental in gaining acceptance into schools of choice. Students who cultivate their authentic interests are passionate about learning and are hardworking. These assets are valued by schools who believe in building a strong educational environment through students with a diversity of talents.
It is important for parents to ask themselves what kind of model they want to be for their children. They may think they are communicating the message that being a good person is what is most important. However, if kids are “pushed” into schools that do not meet their personal academic goals, they may hear “achievement, achievement, achievement” instead of “be a good person” or “follow your dreams.”
Let us ponder a love of learning and its relationship to the recent 2019 college admissions scandal, Operation Varsity Blues. This scheme involved wealthy parents of high social status who cheated and bribed top college officials and others to accept their unqualified children. After investigations, federal prosecutors discovered the scandalous ways in which students would gain acceptance into targeted colleges: Exam proctors were bribed to alter entrance test scores, coaches were bribed to choose unqualified athletes, and elite colleges were offered substantial donations.
At least 50 people have been charged in connection with this scheme, with nearly 33 parents facing felony counts of conspiring to commit honest-services fraud. Consequences for many of these individuals are prison and monetary fees. Some have already lost lucrative employment due to termination or resignation. The children are emotionally distraught. The aftermath of this illegal and immoral scandal is still evolving, and one wonders how its outcome will affect future college applicants (and educational institutions).
Perhaps some families do not seriously consider the fact that higher educational institutions are bound by morality and laws. They may see its governing rules as conditional and depending on convenience. Although a small percentage of schools may move students toward graduation because they realize that today’s students are future donors, many unqualified individuals who are accepted to college as a result of bribery will find it difficult to finish their degrees.
Will children be happy and productive when enrolled into schools that are not the right fit for their intellect and passion, or will they thrive when viewed as confident young adults who aim to fulfill personal goals? It is important for parents to decide what is really best for their children’s future.
Through almost 30 years as an accomplished educator, I have found that it is important for parents to just pause and listen to their children’s wishes and trust that highest academic potential will be reached through a genuine love of learning and a focus on individual strengths. It is essential for parents to help children cultivate ethical character and reduce achievement-related stress. Let them pursue and reach their true dreams and school acceptance will be a process of alignment rather than judgment.
Anna Chobor is an award-winning teacher, literacy and learning specialist, and education consultant. For more information on instilling a love for lifelong learning and overall educational support for your children, visit AnnaChobor.com