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"No One's Getting Into Stanford, So Do This Instead"--Perspective from coaches for teens

Updated: May 11, 2023

Cathy Chen and Meredith Herrera are educators, college counselors, and teen coaches in Silicon Valley. They have worked in college admission and independent college prep environments similar to the ones where I spent nearly 20 years (including in one case, the same school.)


Their Sh*t Your Teenagers Won't Tell You Podcast is outstanding listening for parents of teenagers, especially if you're trying to navigate implicit messaging around achievement in privileged and affluent settings, or seeing the kind of parental messages that are often shared in online parent groups.


A few of their episodes have me shouting, "Yes!" as I listen, and this new one fits that category.


Cathy and Meredith offer some tough love around supporting adolescents in a healthy, productive way, and framing the college search to be a journey of affirmation, rather than a soul and personality crushing exercise in futility.


I'll add that there's a counterintuitive truth buried here, too-- the students who end up being most compelling at the most selective colleges are the ones who have taken risks and forged their own path without constantly worrying about how their choices will "look" to an imagined college admission officer. In turn, if and when they get to the point of admission to a prestige name, they'll be prepared to assess if it's actually the best place for their continued growth. It's a win-win to break out of that narrow definition of success.


It's worth listening all the way through for some invaluable perspective on college admission and growing up. It's affirming to hear them say, as I express daily in my work with students and parents, that redirecting this conversation productively comes down to identifying authentic purpose and, above all, guiding values.


Cathy and Meredith's conversation here is a pretty good transcription of my inner voice...


Alternatively, here's a Spotify link.


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