Bright, Shiny Future for Sale


My oldest daughter is a sophomore in high school, and I knew to expect the flood of college brochures and postcards we’d start getting in the mail toward the end of this school year.

What I did not expect were the other letters – some of them Very Important with Great News for Your Child and Exclusive Opportunities for Your Qualified Student.

We have received half a dozen of the most frustrating, borderline insulting letters from “top scholar” organizations telling us that our child has been chosen/invited/hand-picked for everything from entry into an exclusive scholarship competition to a conference in Washington, DC…


we are able to cough up several hundred to several thousands of dollars for the luxury of her participating in an event she’s been invited to.

What a total scam!  And how infuriating that they sell these programs as being the best possible things to put on college admissions papers.  It has been a revelation to me that it’s not always hard work, good grades, or enriching extra-curricular activities that secure you a sound college education.  It’s the dollars.  And I don’t mean the dollars you pay to attend school, I mean the dollars some people are willing to pay to even get their foot in the door.

No question some of the parents receiving these letters are figuring out a way right now to pay for their child’s participation.  With words like scholar, leader, and honor gracing the pages of these “ads,”  it’s easy to become anxious over wanting your child to be there, to be recognized, to be one of the best among the best.

I just hate the feeling like they’re telling me, “Hey, we just found out your daughter’s a pretty great student, and if you pay X amount of dollars, we’ll make sure everyone else knows it, too.”  My answer to that is, “Hey, I’ve just decided that I don’t need you to tell me what my daughter is.  She knows, we know, and we’ll take our chances that she’ll be able to let colleges know, too.”