Harvard is not a Golden Ticket

This week I read a series of articles about the high rate of drug and alcohol addiction America’s high performing high schools.  Kids are 2 to 3 times more likely to get addicted to drugs or alcohol compared with the national average!

2 – 3 times!

Some of those studies even went on to say things like kids were more likely to be addicted it at a high performing school than if they were at a low-income school.  I’m sure that is not what parents intended when they moved to those school districts. 

The studies said that there were several factors but one of the largest was the incredible amount of pressure that kids in those schools feel to have a perfect high school resume.

Gosh that was such a bummer.


But as parents we have the power to change that for our kids because we know the secret:  It isn’t about the school we send our kids to, it’s about supporting the kids we send no matter where they go.  

That is such good news.

Many high school parents are losing their mind trying to pave their way for their kids to get into that right college. It’s like their kid’s future hinges on an admission officer’s decision at a college with a fifteen percent acceptance rate.

If you really believe that then you are going to feel a lot of pressure in high school. Because if you think that your future hinges on an admission officer’s decision, that’s like staking your financial future on winning the lottery.

Right?  That’s crazy!

And that kind of thinking is putting all the power outside of yourself. It makes your child feel anxious.  Like they could do everything right and still not make it to the school that is supposed to set them up for success.



A better lesson to teach them is that their success doesn’t lie in someone else’s hands. Their success lies in their own hands. They have the power to create an amazing future. Because of who they are.

This isn’t some Pollyanna level sunshine and unicorns.

It really is true. The New York Times did an article where they looked at the statistics of the income brackets of incoming students at schools across America. Then they looked at their income coming out of school and then five years later.  And then maybe lifetime median earnings. 

They looked at how likely a school was to change its student’s income bracket. Now I know that your income is just one measure of success. but it is a measure that parents look at and consider when they talk about schools like Harvard being a golden ticket.

What this study showed is that you are much more likely to go up in income brackets at “value” schools, like state schools. So big picture it showed that schools like Harvard aren’t a golden ticket that you are likely to come out in the same income bracket you came into school in.

For many kids, they come out even at a lower income bracket, because now they have huge amounts of student debt that they might not have had if they’d attended another school that was offering more significant financial aid.

Now I know what you’re thinking. I can hear you rolling your eyes at me.

You’re asking:

“So if Harvard isn’t the golden ticket, what is?”

“I don’t want them to live in my basement forever! I don’t want them to be 22 and still be playing video games on my couch.”

I hear you.



What we want to be doing while our kids are still at home is teaching our children personal agency. Teaching them that the responsibility for their future is on them. With our support of course. Teaching them that their success is within their control.

Because once they understand that their future is their responsibility, not a school’s, then becomes all about teach your kids how to be responsible for their own success.  It’s a big shift from thinking that we need to get them to the right school and then it’s the school’s responsibility to make them successful.

Here’s another analogy.  You can kind of think about finding the right college for your child is like helping them find the right partner.  Anyone who’s ever dated knows that finding the right person really comes from knowing who you are and what you’re looking for.

You can date that dream guy but if he’s super into sports and your super not into sports, then even if he’s great on paper you’re gonna be miserable

Similarly, if your kids change themselves to go to the right college, they’re going to be miserable.  Even if that school is great on paper.

I’m not saying that it’s not a good thing to be pushing yourself in high school and taking challenging classes. Instead what I’m saying, is that you want to focus on gathering all of the skills that you need to be successful, not just the correct number of AP classes or the perfect combination of clubs and extracurriculars.


And I love this idea because we all can do this. we can teach our kids the skills they need to be successful.

  • We can teach them how to make and keep commitments to themselves.
  • How to get important things done
  • How to ask for and receive help
  • How to try new things that you might not ever be good at, just for fun
  • You have to discover how to get along with people. Even difficult teachers because that is a lifelong skill (difficult bosses).

Because when you take the pressure to have a perfect resume off, then you have the freedom and the free time to
try things.

You drop the transactional relationship with your life. No more “I’m gonna take robotics even though I’m really not
that interested just because it looks good on college applications.”


Because at the end of the day that thing that you tried just because it seemed like fun, can be the exact thing that sets you on a new path.

  • Like my client whose daughter changed her major after a skiing accident landed her in the ER to set a broken
    bone. She was so fascinated watching everything that was going on that she changed her college major from
    engineering to medicine and went on to be an incredibly successful doctor.
  • Or my son who fooled around and cut hair on our deck while watching YouTube videos and ended up at a top
    barber shop in Europe.
  • Or my client whose daughter tutored for hundreds of hours in high school. She discovered a real passion for math and ended up sailing through college math because her math skills were honed during these hundreds of hours of tutoring.

Let’s help our kids in high school figure out who they are so that we can get them started on a path that relates to them.
Only from that place of clarity, they will be successful no matter where they go.  Because the true work of high school is to know who you are.  Not to complete the maximum amount of AP classes.

We don’t want to help them find the easiest path. We want to help them be stronger so that they can take any path that suits them. There’s this whole idea about lawn more parents out there that are trying to clear their child’s path so that they have the easiest path forward. I think those parents are really missing out on giving make their kids the skills they need to be successful.  Teaching the kids to preserve through their own problems.

Those are the kinds of skills that are better than any Ivy League education.

Week by week these are the skills that I’m sharing with you so that you can share them with your teens.

Make no mistake, I don’t have anything against the Ivy leagues. What I want you to see, is that their future is not dependent on getting into a prestigious college.  And it’s not over if they don’t.  They can go if they want to.  That’s not a problem. But they can be successful no matter where they go.

And taking that unhealthy pressure and fear of failure off will put them back in the driver’s seat.


Think about what skills you have that you think made you successful. And then to start to think about how you can help your kids develop those skills too.

If you want to shoot me an email and tell me where that skill is I would love to hear it.  Just hit reply and let me know your secret sauce to success.

I’m so glad you’re here.  Helping you with your kid’s, that’s what lights me up.

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