Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My thoughts on college choices & admission March 14, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2016.


THE CURRENT COLLEGE ADMISSIONS SCANDAL got me thinking about the whole process of applying to colleges and the pressure on young people today to get into the best, the most elite, the place that will supposedly launch them into successful careers.

Why has this mindset evolved? Who decides if a particular college should get that “best” label?

Why is admittance to certain universities so important that parents will spend lots of money on tutoring and test prep and whatever else to supposedly increase test scores? Some students retake college entrance exams repeatedly in an attempt to bump up scores. I can only imagine the mental angst of that process. And are those scores then truly a reflection of the student’s academic abilities? Or are students setting themselves up for insurmountable challenges if they gain entrance to an especially academically rigorous college?

That’s a lot of questions. I don’t pretend to hold the answers. But I wonder why it’s come to this.

Why are some of the wealthy and powerful allegedly getting away with (until now) buying their kids’ entrances into these top-rated, highly-selective universities? Every single young person should gain admittance to any college on their own merits. But it’s no secret either, that cost excludes many qualified and talented students from colleges. Having money allows others to attend those same colleges.

So, yes, wealth can buy you into a university that is financially out of reach for many families. Yes, financial aid can offset costs, but still may not be enough to make all colleges accessible to all.

Financial talk aside, ideally students should decide on college application choices based on their goals, their aspirations, their passions, their interests. Not on what society or their parents or anyone else thinks. Maybe that so-tagged outstanding university isn’t the best choice. Maybe the best choice is a community college or a state university. Or no college at all.

We as parents, as a society, need to stop putting so much pressure on our kids to achieve. We need to stop comparing, stop interfering, stop trying to micro manage and solve problems. In challenges and failures, our kids learn, too.

We need to stop handing out participation ribbons and trophies to everyone. Kids need to learn from a young age that they’re not always going to be rewarded for simply showing up. Not everyone gets the prize. And that’s OK.

Circling this back to college choices, I hope students choose to further their educations at colleges that challenge them, stretch their thinking, prepare them for their careers, broaden their worlds and more. Not because they think they need to attend a so-called prestigious university.


© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “My thoughts on college choices & admission”

  1. Mark Ritchie Says:

    Excellent posting – great questions and a very positive perspective on what should be the key factors in college choice. Thank you for tackling this very important subject.

    • Thank you and you are welcome. It’s always good to open up conversations on important topics.

      I am thankful to have been raised by parents who allowed me and my siblings to choose our own paths in life. That shows in the diversity of occupations among the six of us: writer/photographer, part owner in a farm implement dealership, floral designer, CEO of an ethanol plant, special education teacher and attorney. We were all raised in a home with extremely limited financial resources. But we grew up in a home rich in love, faith and family. We each also possess strong work ethics. I never felt pressure from my parents to attend a certain college or to choose a certain vocation. What a blessing.

  2. CravesNephew would like to get a higher education degree and decided to join the Marines to help with that goal. I realize the military can be like college that it is not easy to get in, especially if you have a top choice in mind. I obtained my degree by working full time and going to night school and did it in stages; 2-year degree then 4-year degree. I heard on the news they may do away with the student loan forgiveness program for those in service, which I have been working on meeting the requirements for and have one more year to complete 10 years service and may not be an option anymore. I really believe that you need to find the right fit – be it service, college, trade school, a position to work and go to school, etc. I cannot imagine the stress and what does this teach these young people. It is sad as well as eye opening. Appreciate you sharing your thoughts – Thanks!

    • Thank you, Renee, for sharing your personal experiences and those of your nephew. You each show incredible grit in reaching your goals. Congratulations! I’m sorry about the possible ending of the student loan forgiveness program.

      I agree that we all need to find the right fit in life. Our choice. Not that of someone telling us what to do, where to go…

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    In 1946, my uncle applied for a job at 3M.

    Back then you actually got to talk to somebody rather than mail in a resume. The interview went like this.

    So what are your qualifications to work at 3M?

    I don’t have any.

    Job experience?


    So what have you been doing since high school.

    Piloting B25’s.

    You are hired.

    He went on to manage pilot plants. Pilot plants have nothing to do with airplanes, they are the intermediate step between a developed product and full production.


    As someone who has hired quite a few people and slogged through at least a million resumes, I never, ever, ever read anything under the heading of EDUCATION. I couldn’t give a rip.

    What I wanted to know was..can this person do the job and how do I know that?

    In fact, anyone who padded their qualifications with a long list of credentials, got their resume tossed.

    • Greg, this is one of the qualities I appreciate in you. No BS. Just authentic you. We can all learn a lot from your approach that focuses on the person and not (padded) credentials.

      That story about your uncle is a good illustration of the point you are making. Thank you for always adding to the conversation here with your take on things. I value you and your thoughts.

  4. Almost Iowa Says:

    Just to add another comment.

    Credentials tell us nothing about character. Sometimes, you have to look through the credentials to find the character.

    In the last hiring process before I retired, we were looking for someone to do complex statistical analysis. During an interview with one very impressive candidate, we asked him to describe his approach to problem solving.

    He basically said, “I find out what management wants to hear and then I coax it out of the numbers.”

    It was a very short interview.

    The guy we eventually hired was a PHD candidate at the U for quantum mechanics, the physics of subatomic particles. He was over-qualified in an academic sense but under-qualified in a practical sense. The thing is, he was the most honest, forthright and decent human being I have ever had the pleasure to know.

    He told us in so many words, that he was not going to find work in his field. That he had to support his family and he could learn anything he set his mind to – and the job fascinated him.

    We hired him before the end of the interview.

  5. Audrey- This was good to point out in light of the current scandals.
    I saw many young people enter the military (not because they were die hard patriots) because they wanted the benefit of being able to afford to get a degree.
    So many universities are priced so far out of reach of average working Americans it is shameful!
    What happens when a talented person in the USA is born into a family with limited means?
    Few options- military, scholarship, or tons of debt in order to follow a talent or a calling.
    I know people will call me a progressive as I feel it is every persons right to a good affordable education. But it isn’t a progressive idea. It is a reality in many countries in Europe. Affordable, high quality education for all!
    What is the price? Forward thinking young people making change in a world that needs it! Like the young man who is trying to clean up the Pacfic plastic patch.
    Great ideas exist even in small towns with people of limited wealth. Shouldn’t they be allowed the same kind of opportunity as those who can buy it?

    • Thank you for adding your input.

      My family is one of limited financial resources. Yet my son was able to gain admittance as a transfer student into a selective and rigorous college that challenged him. For that opportunity I shall always be grateful. Yes, he still has debt. Just to clarify, he chose to transfer. He searched for colleges that would fit his needs and challenge him and then visited and applied. He was accepted into all three and ended up going to the one which offered the best financial aid. He landed in the right place for him.

  6. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    You and your siblings are quite a testament to so many terrific qualities that do still exist in this country, but families are too busy working hard, dedicated to their family to be heard from much. Colleges have always honored legacies, but the public schools? What’s with UCLA. This is a most confusing story, except the forged stats, that’s pretty clear. Among all our other public muck, nice to see at least one story that should be beneficial in the long run. Shame on those celebrities.

  7. Susan Ready Says:

    Yes cost does exclude many talented and quantified students from gaining admission. Pressure from parents for their children to succeed harbors the wrong message. I just read where Lori Loughin’s children withdrew from school today fearing harassment and bullying. Gosh what were these parents thinking as now their lives are ruined and no college would ever accept them. And then parents have lost their celebrity status too, Overall a no win situation!!.

  8. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    “We need to stop handing out participation ribbons and trophies to everyone. Kids need to learn from a young age that they’re not always going to be rewarded for simply showing up. Not everyone gets the prize. And that’s OK.”

    I just had a conversation about this with my kids. “Life isn’t going to reward you for showing up. You have to work hard and earn your way.”

  9. Valerie Says:

    I agree with you and I have the same questions that you ask. It was very frustrating to discover this fraudulent activity in our institutions of higher learning.

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