It doesn’t matter where your kid goes to college. Really.

By Kelly Hockenberry, Columnist, The Times

It doesn’t matter where you go to college. There, I said it.

Out loud.

To a community of over-achievers (thanks to a FANTASTIC, highly ranked, competitive school district, for which I am grateful. Honestly.)

I know what you’re thinking. This is not a sour grapes commentary, considering that I did not go to an Ivy League school (the footnote being that I could not have gotten into such a place without a rusty lantern and magical genie). It’s just that, as the parent of an 11th grader, the water cooler conversation has just gotten so damn predictable.

How many of you reading right now are tired of answering the following question (you pick the most applicable):

“Where is your kid….”

  • Going to college
  • Applying to college
  • Going to visit
  • Taking the SAT
  • Taking the ACT
  • Taking the AP exam

It’s an EXHAUSTING loop of one-ups and humble bragging. And you know what I say?


Thankfully, my husband and I have the experience of going through this process with our older son. He was a good student (aka, he was not a 4.0). He studied (relatively speaking), was involved in extracurriculars, and had decent standardized test scores. We visited a handful of colleges and (thankfully) he was accepted into a university that checked off most of the boxes. He is doing better academically in his sophomore year than ever before.

The truth of the matter is, in twenty years, no one cares where you went to school. But, as parents, we seem to forget all that. Right now, we instill fear in our children that, if they don’t achieve to the level of their peers (or beyond), they don’t measure up. There is a delicate balance between demanding excellence and creating unnecessary anxiety. Countless studies have examined whether going to an elite, private college is a predictor of future success (in terms of job satisfaction and income level). Turns out, it isn’t. (Here’s an example

Yet, that doesn’t seem to stop the madness.

I had a friend ask me if it was “wrong” that her 10th grader wasn’t registered to take the SAT. I said “No, you’re normal. That’s what the P -SAT is for.”


Next thing you know, they’ll be lining the kids up at the middle school.

My junior, like his older brother, seems rather unphased by the fiercely cerebral culture at Unionville. While I would love it if he studied Spanish with the same fervor that he practices his jumpshot on the basketball court, he is a well -rounded kid who I have no doubt will be a success story. I could care less which college he chooses. I just want him to be happy in this next phase of life.

So, the next time you’re thrust into the middle of the competitive dance of “whose kid will win the prize for peaking in high school,” remember this article and slowly back away. You can thank me later.

( p.s…my husband would like to point out that this rant has nothing to do with him and he would like to remain on good terms with all of our friends who will find this article offensive.)

Happy Weekend

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  1. Kelly says:

    Dear Anonymous,
    I don’t think you read my article closely enough. My complaint wasn’t about hard working kids…it was about obnoxious parents who think that GPA, SAT, AP (and whatever other string of consonants) matter more than anything else. I do celebrate your daughter who loves Calculus (hopefully she’d like to date my son?). I just don’t think it matters for her long term success or happiness if she attends a state school or Yale –

  2. Kelly says:

    Thank you for the comments Tracy and Mike!!

  3. Tracy Holcomb says:

    As a mother of two kids from Unionville who are now college graduates, let me say I wholeheartedly agree. Not only won’t it matter twenty years from when they graduate, honestly it won’t matter in five! Going to a highly competitive high school has its benefits but also comes with a lot of unnecessary anxiety. The average/good student can be made to feel that they aren’t good enough, not by the school but by their peers or parents. It doesn’t matter where you go to college, it’s what you do with your education after that makes you successful!

  4. Barbara Rechenberg says:

    Teaching our kids value is also important. Don’t we all pray our child won’t pick a $70,000 a year school when they could go to a great school for the same degree for a lot less money? If your child knows what they want to do in life there is no need to pay for it 2 or 3 times over by going to a super expensive school. Extreme example to get my point across is, you don’t need to go to Harvard to attend Nursing school and get the full college experience. Applying for scholarships and teaching our children to value value is important. Parents are going broke trying to keep their kids from having enormous student debt.

  5. Julia Layser says:

    I have said this for years ( my kids are much older than yours). I saw the strain on children who were pushed in academics and sports from an early age and how it could affect them emotionally and even physically before they even got to college. Participation is key all through their lives to allow them to grow as a well balanced human being. It seems that only competing is important to some parents and the kids are thrown into the ring by preschool. They need to experience life and enjoy not feeling stressed to try to excel at everything. By high school if you know your kid, you know what makes them truly happy.

  6. Anonymous so not humble bragging says:

    Please stop throwing around tired stereotypes that academically achieving kids are miserable, not well-rounded, don’t participate in outside activities or have parents who care only about impressing people. Some kids truly enjoy challenging themselves academically. My kid will never have a great jump shot, but she can solve a calculus problem in her sleep. Everyone has their unique talents, interests and abilities. I assure you, we gave her no “academic goals”, just encouraged her to do her best and supported her in pursuing HER dreams and goals.
    There are academically achieving kids who are also athletes, involved in the arts and/or “gasp” have other outside activities, friends and social lives. Many of them have parents who just like you, who don’t care a whit about impressing people and just want their kids to be happy and productive. Let’s celebrate all of our kids varying accomplishments and stop making baseless assumptions about how they got there. I promise, I don’t care where your kid goes to college either.

  7. Mike McGann says:


    As the parent of two 11th graders at Unionville, all I want for my kids to find where they will be happy, and grow both academically and socially/emotionally (something all too often retarded by the atmosphere at Unionville and entirely too many misplaced priorities by parents and some educators). We gave them moderate and reasonable academic goals — most certainly not 4.0 GPA and 1,400 on the SAT — to be balanced with outside activities and personal/social growth. We’re trying to raise kids who turn into whole people, not academic superstars who are miserable and unable to cope with the realities of life.

    So, kudos to Kelly for writing exactly what I feel without any prompting from me.

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