Parents of Sophomores and Juniors:
💰Along with earning merit aid and being awarded scholarships to pay for college, there are two ways to apply for college financial aid: the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the CSS Profile (College Scholarship Service Profile).
There are about 400 colleges, universities, and scholarship programs that require families to complete the CSS Profile to award institutional aid.
Knowing what to expect will help you avoid scary surprises if your student is interested in Baylor, Brown, Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Hillsdale College, Patrick Henry College, Michigan, Notre Dame, or hundreds of others.
😨Don’t be scared; be prepared!
📌Firstly, know that the CSS Profile is a more detailed look at your family’s finances.
Among the larger differences between the FAFSA and CSS Profile are how they treat your assets (ex. FAFSA ignores home equity), your income (ex. CSS expects students to contribute up to $6,000 per year), and your family (ex. FAFSA considers income and assets of custodial/non-custodial parents/stepparents).
😨Don’t be scared; be prepared!
📌Secondly, know that you will need a lot of your financial documents and information.
These include your tax returns, W-2 forms, untaxed income and benefits, assets, and bank statements (cash on hand). A complete list will be given after you register.
😨Don’t be scared; be prepared!
📌Finally, know that the CSS Profile is not free like the FAFSA.
Along with the college application fees, the College Board charges an initial $25 registration fee with one free school report. Beyond that, you will be charged $16 for each additional report required.
Visit https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org for more information.
All of this to say…
🏫You and your college-bound teenager need to start considering potential colleges today. For a sophomore and junior, an ideal list would have 4-10 options. For the colleges that require the CSS Profile, you can plan ahead and be prepared.
I am sharing a series of seven thoughts from the Making Caring Common report, “Turning the Tide II” that addresses character in college admissions. This is specifically for parents.
As a recap, here are the first two lessons:
 Keep the focus on your teen.
“In an effort to give their kids everything, these parents often end up robbing them of what counts.”
 Follow your ethical GPS.
“The college admissions process often tests both parents’ and teens’ ethical character.”
 Use the admissions process as an opportunity for ethical education.
The college admissions process is the same for everyone.
The college admissions process is different for everyone.
Unfortunately, both statements are true. When applying for college, students are made aware that “there are vast differences in access to resources in the admissions process, and that college is unaffordable for staggering numbers of families.”
The Turning the Tide II authors point out that this where students may “struggle with how much they can embellish their applications and ‘play the game’ without compromising their own authenticity and integrity.”
One of the challenges students face is standardized testing. As FairTest.org summarizes in a report, “young people of color, particularly those from low-income families have suffered the most.”
Students from low-income families have lower scores because they lack the support and/or resources to prepare for the tests.
Boys are affected more than girls.
Students of color score lower on the admissions tests. This prevents them from being considered for merit aid scholarships (which rely on test scores more than GPA).
This has not always been the case. “Standardized” tests were created to make the college admissions process fair for all students.
Enter the coronavirus.
Since the testing sites are not able to host students or are booked because of local social distancing regulations, most colleges (public and private) decided to be test-optional for 1-3 years.
And many of those same schools are test-optional for merit aid scholarships as well. This means the high school GPA has more weight on admissions and scholarship decisions.
We are hoping this testing reprieve will challenge higher education to create a better, equitable college admissions process.
Parents, we have an awesome opportunity to help our teenager(s) navigate the ethics of education.
They need to be kind, be fair, be true to themselves, remain above reproach, and be prepared to support all claims made on their essays, tests, extracurriculars, and college applications.
What are we doing to help them develop character that lasts?
Last week I wrote about why character counts because the coronavirus has prompted a change in how applications are being considered.
In a recent Zoom meeting, Temple University shared that they are thinking about how they can extract characteristics like “citizenship, social justice, or tenacity” and admit students that exhibit those traits.
Swarthmore College has been looking for students with “intellectual curiosity, creativity, generosity and problem-solving skills.” For years, they’ve struggled with how to measure those traits in an application.
As we move forward into the new admissions cycle, it may be easier for a college to deny admissions if they see evidence that is contrary to the character they desire in their students. More on that later.
On August 24 it was reported that over 100 admitted freshmen had their admissions rescinded from Northeastern University (Boston) because they posted their intent to gather on campus against NU’s coronavirus guidelines.
Colleges are serious!
Over the next few weeks, I’m sharing a series of seven thoughts from the Making Caring Common report, “Turning the Tide II,” that addresses character in college admissions. This is specifically for parents.
 Keep the focus on your teen.
The “college admissions process is a key rite of passage in adolescence and can be a wonderful opportunity for parents to get to know their teen in a deeper way. It’s also an important opportunity for parents to model the empathy in their relationship with their teen that is key to their teen’s relationships.”
We love our teenager(s) and want the best for them. As I am learning as a newly adoptive father of a sixteen-year-old, we want to fight for them. In my experience as a youth pastor and educational consultant, I’ve observed that too often, parents want the best for their teenagers based on what THEY perceive is the best. They adjust the focus on opportunities THEY missed out on when they were a teenager.
“In an effort to give their kids everything, these parents often end up robbing them of what counts.”
Since you are not going to be in the classroom or on the campus, use your past to teach and lead the discussion. Remembering that your children are uniquely made (Psalm 139:13-14), help them discover what problems they want to solve, and which career and college will prepare them for that task.
The focus should be on your teenager.
Preparing your teenager to make long-term decisions a part of the college decision process.
Your involvement is important to them.
Really, it is.
Sometimes parents, we just need to “pause and listen.”
What adjustments do you need to make so your college-bound “baby” takes personal responsibility for their career and college decisions?
So, your fourth grader is interested in climbing trees, Minecraft, macaroni and cheese, dressing up like Princess Mulan, and college? How exciting!
One elementary school student just celebrated birthday number ten! She enjoys singing, playing the piano, drawing, and Skittles. She has already “committed” to attend Texas Southern University. That’s right! One of her young classmates was talking about college, declared where and what she was going to study, and all the girls followed suit. I told her mom not to discourage the decision, because she can build on that desire later. Let them “play college.”
If you think about it, didn’t we all have career dreams or play career dress-up? I wanted to be a fireman, policeman, teacher, architect, astronaut, and a preacher. I soon learned that I was not fond of heights, so flying to space was no longer an option.
Even though some states require that every grade explore careers and college options, nurturing your young child to prepare for college is actually a brilliant idea!
My wife and I had lunch with mom of three children ages 12, 9 and 4. After the meal, the kids were playing with cars, reading, wrestling, and crying. Once mom learned that I was an educational consultant in the world of college planning, she began asking a lot of questions. She shared that in her circle of influence, the parents were already discussing the possibility of their children going to college.
In one conversation, we discussed what it would take to major in astronomy because her middle child is interested in flying (her dad is an airline pilot), telescopes, and space. I mentioned attending space camps, playing with telescopes, and having fun. I also emphasized math, science, and learning a second language.
Kids love connecting the dots to discover the image on the paper. As parents and educators, we need to help them connect the dots from careers to majors to higher education to their higher calling.
Consider how the National Association for College Admission Counseling is helping build a career superhighway. They have a guide called “College Awareness and Planning: Elementary School.”
I agree that “introducing students to career and college exploration in elementary school will provide them the opportunity to establish a foundation for more in-depth conversations and exploration about their futures in later years.”
School counselors should help students identify personal interests, link those interests to possible careers, and encouraging students to express their initial thoughts about college. They should also prompt students to list some characteristics they might look for in a college, understand basic college-related terms, and incorporate aids that match their preferred learning styles.
Caralee Adams wrote that, “by creating a college-going culture in elementary school, the hope is that students will aspire to a lifelong path toward higher education and deeper learning that ends with a degree.” While higher education is not every student’s dream, creating an environment in the classroom and at home establishes a mindset that all things are possible.
Prepare for College
Here are four simple ways to help your children prepare for college.
Students need to do their best in school. Encourage them to try new things and work through problems.
Let your children explore the world of ideas, art, creativity, science, and diversity. Visit children’s museums, visit college campuses, invite college students to the elementary school, and have a career dress-up day. There is no replacement for a great education.
And encourage your kids to have fun playing games as they learn about jobs.
Read. A. Book. One that has paper, a cover, a spine, and the potential for paper cuts. While technology is wonderful, limit their screen time.
Another tip is to encourage your child to read a lot.
One more tip is to read aloud to your child so they develop an interest in reading, careers, and hearing the voices that you give the book characters.
After they read, encourage them to play inside and outside. They need to explore, be creative, learn to fall, learn to fail, communicate, and enjoy being a kid. Challenge them to build a “sand-campus” – a college university in the sand (I did this with adults!).
One of the MOST IMPORTANT decisions you can make as a parent is to include higher education in your annual budget. Yes, it will be hard. But it is worth it. Just know that the four-year cost of attendance for a highly selective private college bachelor’s degree program is a quarter of a million dollars ($250,000).
There are many ways to reduce that by 50%-75%, but not if you wait until the second semester of their sophomore year.
The Student Aid Checklist for Elementary School gives three steps you can take now:
Elementary school is not too early to think about what you want to be when you grow up.
Since learning, reading, playing, and saving are important for your elementary school children, it is more important if you have a student in high school. Contact me when you are ready to start planning for college!
Autumn A. Arnett (Education Dive) points out some changes to the Department of Education (DOE) data that I believe could reshape the success rates (and those treasured rankings) in higher education.
She writes that “many institutions hide poor outcomes for lower income students by enrolling fewer of these students and lumping their graduation and retention data in with that of more affluent students, who are naturally better prepared to succeed on campus. However, with more students coming from lower income backgrounds than ever before, shedding light on how well schools are or aren't serving them could be a critical first step to actually ensuring their success, which is critical to meeting national security and workforce demands.”
Reporting this new data could elevate Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) as affordable examples of college success. In 2014-2015, there were around 700 MSIs (14% of all colleges) that enrolled 4.8 million students (28% of all undergrads).
Arnett continues, “Though often the lowest resourced institutions and traditionally raked over the coals for their often dismal graduation rates, data has shown that when controlled for the same population — that is largely Pell grant recipients and students of color — these institutions actually do a better job of retaining and graduating these students. And they're doing it with less money, which could serve as a lesson for the industry as a whole as it continues to struggle with declining public support against the reality that these students are more expensive to educate.”
Reporting this new data could slow the annual 4.0-4.5% rise in college tuition. Some students are paying a quarter of a million dollars to earn a four-year bachelor’s of science in biology. This makes sense when you equate the quality higher education with higher costs. As students (and their parents) compare the cost with the outcomes, they will begin to attend more affordable schools. In the long run, this may help drive costs down.
Reporting this new data could help prospective college freshman understand that “where you go is not who you’ll be” as Frank Bruni shared. This is echoed in the Gallup-Purdue University survey that shows the learning and living experiences in college impacted their future more than the type of institution they attended. The data will allow parents to consider all outcomes (full-time, part-time, transfer, Pell grant recipients…) to inform their decisions.
Generation Z students understand the need for higher education. And they do not want to pay for what they don't need. They are not as concerned with athletic programs and dorm life and are more concerned about earning a degree.
In Pulling Back the Curtain (ACE and CPRS), they show that minority serving institutions have better than average outcomes. Consider the completion rate (students who completed their degree at their starting institution within 6 years) for public full time students. (NOTE: MSIs have received federal recognition between 1965 and 2008.)
The report rightly states that their "analysis cannot directly speak to the quality of education offered by these institutions (PBTC, p8)" but it looks like these MSIs are producing college graduates! That is one HUGE step in the right direction.
Eventually, this new data will improve conversations with college-bound students and their parents and help them make better decisions about continuing their education.
That's right. College athletics. Actually, it's when a few “insiders” secure deals to encourage, no, to ensure that those athletes commit to play a sport in the college the insider selects. For them, it's not about fit; it's about finances.
Speaking of insiders, [James] “Gatto is … accused of helping funnel approximately $100,000 to the family of an "All-American high school basketball player" to secure the prospect's commitment to a school which Adidas sponsors. According to court documents reviewed by CBS Sports Insider Gary Parrish, the prospect committed in June. And the only All-American high school basketball player who committed to a school Adidas sponsors in June is Brian Bowen, a five-star prospect who is now enrolled at Louisville.” (CBSSports)
Individuals like Mr. Gatto have forgotten why collegiate-level sports are the best. They are still pure. These students are future Olympians. They are highly competitive. They’re having fun.
The Goal of Postsecondary Education
For some, athletes are greater than academics. More than 480,000 of the 8,000,000 high school athletes play in college. So, if recruiting a top athlete might translate into more revenue, there are a few adults who would capitalize on this through sponsorships and television deals.
This is what make it tough for people like me.
First of all, I enjoy collegiate sports. I can’t wait for March Madness or the College World Series. My wife and I schedule our fall Saturday’s around college football. She also enjoys watching college gymnastics and cheerleading.
When athletics becomes the priority, it makes it difficult for school counselors, college planners, and college admissions officers to place prospective students in the right academic setting. While many students want to get their college degree while playing their favorite sport, it does put pressure on those teenagers who are trying to balance academics (what is necessary) with athletics (what is challenging and fun).
The mission statements of colleges focus on improving the region and world with education, innovation, health care and more. None of them talk about sports. The goal of higher education is, well, education,
Fortunately, "the likelihood of an NCAA athlete receiving a college degree is greater (than non-athletes); graduation success rates are 86% in Division 1, 71% in Division II, and 86% in Division III" (NCAA).
Unfortunately, college sports has become a form of idolatry for some.
David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times reported on why Reggie Bush, the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner, gave his trophy back.
“Investigators ultimately concluded that he had taken improper benefits from the San Diego sports marketers who hoped to represent him after he turned professional. Bush's family had lived without paying rent in a home owned by one of the marketers.”
Reggie’s athleticism was evident since high school. It had nothing to do with what was going on behind the scenes, but it did violate NCAA rules.
Nothing Has Changed in Decades
Sports scandals are nothing new. Richard Vedder and Matt Denhart (Wall Street Journal) “bemoaned the massive financial exploitation of super good college athletes” in 2009. Taylor Branch, wrote “The Shame of College Sports” in 2011 and in 2012, David Ridpath wrote Tainted Glory detailing athletic corruption, particularly during his service at Marshall University.
Vedder writes, “In short, for many years numerous commentators have outlined horrendous problems with college sports: cheating, exploitation of athletes, the debasing of academic values, the potential long run health effects of high contact sports, and so on. The sex-based scandals at Penn State shocked the nation, as did the revelations of “phantom courses” for athletes at North Carolina.”
Protect Your Children
Parents of potential collegiate athletes need to protect their students and help them make wise decisions about their future. You can’t allow yourself to get “caught up” in the accolades being doled out so you can focus on what is important – higher education.
My wife’s cousin was a high school, college, and club team pitcher who was also in a strikeout battle during the U.S. Semifinal game during the 2002 Little League World Series. There were three major Division 1 baseball programs interested in his arm. So were a few dozen major league teams who wanted to draft him in 2008.
When deciding which university to attend, he ultimately selected the college because of the education he would receive. Since he hurt his arm in college, his full-tuition scholarship was redistributed to the next freshman phenom pitcher. While he’s no longer playing baseball, his parents helped him make good decisions (and had good guidance) that helped him stay grounded.
Build a Solid Foundation
The Bible says the wise build their "foundation on the rock" (Matthew 7:25). Trusting in and applying the Word of God will solidify the building. David Roach, Baptist Press News, reported on the need for a God-focused perspective in athletics.
David Conrady, boys basketball coach at Prestonwood Christian Academy (TX) shared with his team that "it all starts with your foundation of what you believe in. Hopefully, that starts with a relationship with Jesus Christ.... Then we can use Him and His standards as our barometer."
Conrady, who has coached at the college level, said the emphasis on money and winning at all costs among some college programs tempts coaches and athletes to commit the types of ethical and legal violations alleged by the federal investigators.
I personally hate that a few foolish people are using talented high school athletes as a pawn in their personal game of life, and "building their foundation on sand" (Matthew 7:26). While these are not the life lessons we want our students to learn, it is good that those involved in the scandals are being brought to justice.
David Conrady sums this up with a great life lesson, “there's never a right way to do a wrong thing."
In part one, I wrote about how easy it is for seniors to get distracted with drum rehearsals, AP classes, and homecoming floats. So hosting college planning seminar at your church, taking informal campus visits, and sharing important information on social media are ways youth workers can keep seniors focused on their college journey. You also need to
Challenge Seniors to Strengthen their Faith in Jesus
David played loud harp music, worked outdoors, took on challenges bigger than himself, made mistakes, failed and succeeded as a leader, sinned, and followed God with all his heart.
So will high school seniors.
So how can youth workers influence the spiritual lives of college-bound David’s?
Challenge them to attend church regularly – especially in the first two months of the school year. Why? It’s biblical (Hebrews 10:25)! Fuller Youth Institute researcher Kara Powell suggests that college students who do not join and begin attending a local church within the first six weeks of the semester, may not attend over the next four years. Seniors who serve will stay. Get them involved!
Challenge them to pray with and for one another. Pray about everything (1 Thessalonians 5:11). You can lead the way.
Challenge them to learn how to avoid (and respond) to temptation. It’s more than just running from temptation like Joseph from Potiphar’s wife. They need to learn how to stand firm, make wise decisions, be mature, and show self-discipline.
Challenge them to know who they are in Christ Jesus. Writing and reading their faith story will develop and strengthen their spiritual growth. Christian students who are not confident in their faith will lose their voice in a noisy college environment. Their faith story has three parts: before knowing Christ, the moment they put their faith in Christ, and after trusting Christ. Review it. Share it. Own it.
Challenge their beliefs. In my “I Believe” class, we discussed six major doctrines and examined the beliefs of our denomination, other denominations, and other religions. Then students wrestled with what they believed. Write it down. Share it out loud.
If our teenagers do not know what they believe when they begin college, there will be plenty of voices sharing theirs. School counselor and former youth worker Jen Lynch, said the best advice she gave her students was “the importance of putting a stake in the ground and deciding that you are going to follow Christ in college.”
Remember that Jesus hung out with people, talked about the future, and ate a lot of fish sandwiches.
Now grab some fish sandwiches and join the conversation!
For all the independent consultants and school counselors, I'd like to share an article from David Leonhardt of the New York Times discussing the benefits of marginal students graduating with a bachelor’s degree. Knowing the benefits of higher education, we need to be intentional about having college planning conversations. To recommend the right careers and colleges, ask open ended questions about what they are reading, listening to, and doing in their free time with family and friends.
Reading and parental interaction are two of the most important aspects to the educational success of students. I've met a number of parents who did not graduate high school who support their students desire to attend college. So don't be afraid to probe into the educational history of their family. Research shows that persistence increases with each subsequent family member that attends and/or graduates from college.
Leonhardt shared that two independent studies showed that “enrolling in a four-year college brings large benefits to marginal students.” Marginal students who are given a chance to challenge themselves can be successful. Research shows that “students do better when they stretch themselves and attend the most selective college that admits them, rather than undermatching.”
He points out that while investing in students enrolling in community colleges makes economic sense, failing to invest in students pursuing bachelor’s degrees could be harmful in the long term. One twenty-nine year old college student did not graduate high school or earn his GED. Yet, his end of semester grade in calculus was a 97! He's closing in on his bachelors degree.
Even with a national six-year graduation rate at fifty-six percent, some don’t believe marginal students should be encouraged to attend college because of the debt incurred. Yet, “most people with no college education are struggling mightily in the 21st-century economy.”
Since attending college benefits everyone, teach students how to select a college that is a good overall fit.
And remind them of the benefits of a graduating with a bachelor’s degree - which is better than just attending.
This weeks guest post comes from Jon Gordon. Parents of student-athletes will connect with Jon as he shares how he almost ruined his daughter's desire to play lacrosse.
This post comes from his new book, The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World, which releases on April 24, 2017 (pre-order now at Amazon or Barnes & Noble).
His Power of Positive Summit (April 10-19) features short messages from leaders from a variety of disciplines. It's a free online event!
Since I played lacrosse in college I encouraged my daughter to play as well. But in elementary school, it didn’t look like she had a future in lacrosse. While the rest of the kids were running up and down the field she would stand still, pick grass, and look up at the sky. It was honestly very frustrating to watch. In middle school she started to get into the action a little more and I saw signs of life. We would often throw the ball around together and work on her stick skills. I saw improvement in practice but when she would play in the games she was very tentative.
I had to admit I wasn’t a very positive leader at the time and by pushing my expectations and frustrations on her, I almost caused her to quit playing. I was a classic transactional parent, where my identity was tied to her success. I read Joe Ehrmann’s book Inside Out Coaching, which is about being transformational instead of transactional, and it changed me as parent.
I still played and practiced with my daughter to help her improve but this time I did so with encouragement instead of frustration. In ninth grade she made the high school varsity team and even started a few games, but was benched because she missed a few passes in key games. I continued to encourage her. We would practice her dodges in the backyard often and she really improved, but she was still tentative and never tried to dodge and score in the games. I started to tell her she was unstoppable all the time. I would say “You are unstoppable, Jade. They can’t stop you. Take it to the goal. You are unstoppable.” This was funny because at the time she was very stoppable.
In the 10th grade she became a starter once again but was benched after not playing well one or two games. I knew she had it in her to be great but she wasn’t showing it. The old me would have yelled at her but the new me just encouraged her and kept telling her she was unstoppable. “Just take it to the cage and shoot, Jade. They can’t stop you. You are unstoppable.” I said it often and she would just smile. I kept hoping and praying she would realize her potential, unsure if it would ever happen. During her junior year I kept practicing with her and encouraging her and telling her she was unstoppable.
And then finally she became unstoppable. She scored 80 goals that season, 8 in the district finals and 7 in the state semifinals, to help her team make it to the state finals. She was named an Academic All American and received offers to play lacrosse in college. It was so enjoyable to watch her play and rewarding to know that we did it the right way. I had to experience the power of positive leadership firsthand before I could write a book on it. From almost ruining my daughter, to becoming a positive leader who encouraged and believed in her, I know the difference it makes.
What could your team accomplish at work or at home if they knew you truly believed in them? What could they achieve if they truly felt unstoppable? It’s amazing what people will accomplish when they know you believe in them. There’s a power associated with positive leadership and you can become one today!
P.S. My daughter decided to go to Clemson, where she is a freshman, instead of playing lacrosse in college but I’m still encouraging her to be unstoppable as she pursues a career in sports broadcasting and digital media.
This week's guest post is written by Heather Choate Davis. She was very gracious to allow me to share her blog that was originally posted on Ed Stetzer's blog, The Exchange. Heather is a writer, speaker, liturgist, thinker, and co-founder of icktank. Her books include Elijah & the SAT and Man Turned in on Himself: Understanding Sin in 21st-Century America. You can follow her work at heatherchoatedavis.com.
While high school seniors compare their financial aid award letters, juniors are taking standardized tests and underclassmen are doing homework. For college-bound students, "making the grade" has become more important than life itself. But are grades more important than God?
When I was growing up, there were A-students, and B-students, and C-students, and no one—not the kids, not their parents—worried much about it. We all found our way. A single generation later, my son arrived at our local public high school fresh out of a K-8 parochial environment to discover honors students taking Adderall to give them the edge in AP-cram sessions and the SATs, and parents being called home from PTA meetings to find their high-achieving daughters breathing into paper bags.
It’s not surprising that our secular culture has allowed the pressures of quarterly-earnings-report thinking to invade the American childhood in the name of “just wanting them to be happy.” By what other standard would success be measured? But what about those of us who claim to follow a God who promises that our children are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); that in all things He “works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28); that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)? Assured that there are as many kinds of good lives as there are rooms in our Father’s house—why don’t we believe it? How is it that we have fallen prey to the same lie that our best hope for our children is to make sure they look good on paper? Many have even reduced church to a platform for creating resume points: youth group team leader, oversees mission trip, “oh, and I served Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless every year.”
Data shows us that the majority of Christians are hedging their bets when it comes to their children’s futures. But times have changed, we say. The world is so much more competitive. And besides, excellence is a virtue. What we don’t say is that we’re absolutely terrified that the world won’t think our kids are quite as extraordinary as we do:
So we fluff them and fold them and nudge them and enhance them and bind them and break them and embellish them beyond measure; then, as we drive them up to the college interviews that they’ve heard since birth are the gateway to the lives they were destined to lead based on nothing more than our own need for it to be true, we tell them, with a smile so tight it would crack nuts, “Just be yourself.” (Elijah & the SAT)
It’s not that we don’t know there’s a problem: we do. We know all about the anxiety and the depression. We read all about the exceptional kids who go off to college only to find they have no idea who they are or what they care about. Kids who have mastered the art of jumping through hoops at the expense of curiosity, grit, spark, and their own unique callings. Kids who have so little experience with failure, they are unable to “shake it off” no matter how loudly they blast Taylor Swift. Looking into the shell-shocked eyes of our own striving teens we can almost hear Him say, enough! “My grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Instead we say a little prayer as we rush them off to SAT-prep class, unwittingly revealing the truth that most Christians have mixed up priorities.
So how do we break the cycle, knowing that the secular world will keep on competing, no doubt celebrating the spots our kids leave open as we endeavor to let them find and follow the path of life He has for them? Well, the parents of the prophet Elijah faced a similar challenge. At a time when Jezebel and her blinged-out pantheon were attempting to drown out the sovereignty of Yahweh, they named their son, “my God is the LORD, ” boldly professing the great I AM and teaching Elijah—not with flashcards, but with their very lives—to pray, listen, and obey.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to be countercultural. As Christian parents living amidst the 21st-century lie that says that we and our children must prove our worth to the world, we are asked to repent of our own sins of pride, fear, and faithlessness, and hold fast to his Word: “For he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). And when we start to believe that what he promised was a 2000+ SAT score, a full ride to a DI school, or a plum internship that’ll give our kid a leg up on the competition, we may want to check the Word again.
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.