Agile Learning Centers Network Spring 2020 Webinar Series
“What About College?”
with Antonio Buehler of Abrome
[00:00:00.480] – Title Card
What About College? Discussing some of the realities for young people in Self-Directed Education with Antonio Buehler from Abrome
[00:00:00.840] – Antonio
This webinar – second to last one – is: What about college? We’re going to discuss it just in general. We’re going to cover a lot of what needs to be covered when talking about what is college. But we’re also going to focus in on specifically self-directed-education-related aspects to it. So.
All right, so about us, this is the Agile Learning Centers webinar series, this is our second the last one. I believe the next one will also be next week at 1:00 pm on Sunday.
And as that web site right there, which allows you to see all the webinars that you’ve done. All right, about us. Me, I’m Antonio, I’m a facilitator at Abrome, which is an Agile Learning Center in Austin, Texas. I have come to this work because I want to undermine oppressive institutions within our society. And one of the most oppressive institutions that I believe upholds much of the other oppressive institutions of society is conventional schooling and just the schooled mindset.
[00:01:31.300] – Antonio
I have experience as a teacher, investment banker, military officer. I have degrees from West Point, Stanford, and Harvard, which has value when we’re talking about college options, especially when I’m talking to people who don’t want to listen to the notions of giving children autonomy and freedom in schooling.
More specifically, when it comes to this topic, I have done a fair amount of college admissions work. I’ve always done it on the side. I started out doing it for friends and family after I had some unpredictable success within college and graduate school admissions based on some of my numbers. And then people wanted me to help them game the system to get into the schools of their choice. And so I just started helping people and that resulted in a lot of success early on. So more and more people started coming to me through word of mouth. I had particular success with Harvard and Stanford Universities; MIT as well. And by the last year that I was doing college admissions consulting on the side, it was my only source of revenue and I was actually charging twenty two thousand dollars a year to help kids apply to college. I didn’t have a lot of clients at a time, because I was very engaged with various activist efforts, so I never have more than three or four kids at a time, but it did help me fund my lifestyle for the few years before I actually launched Abrome.
[00:03:22.700] – Antonio
What even is college? So what does college provide to young people in your view? Are some colleges better than others? Which colleges are the best? And is self directed education worth it if it makes it harder to get into Harvard or Stanford or the other sort of prestigious colleges?
[00:03:51.060] – Crystal
So I really enjoyed college. It was the first time I was away from my home town and away from my parents and I just got to be like, very free. I don’t use any of my degrees right now, but I still feel like it was worth it to go and have the experience and kind of grow.
[00:04:19.750] – Antonio
Crystal, do you think some colleges are better than others?
[00:04:23.340] – Crystal
I mean, if you’re working in the corporate world then some colleges are better than others. You know, the experience I got at a state school versus a private school probably did mean that I got less opportunities in the field that I was in, but for me, didn’t make a big difference.
[00:04:40.510] – Nicole
My thoughts, I mean, for me, like Crystal, a chance to get away from– from home and just make connections with people from all over and hear different perspectives. I just– I think in my college classes, I had the first experience of like, learning how much I don’t know, and just the vastness that was out there. And I went to a small liberal arts college. And so there was a lot of– at least in a lot of classes, time for discussion and so that exchange of ideas. I think there’s a lot of– I mean, it seems like there’s a lot of networking that I don’t know that led to connections later and– and just friendships.
But also, I mean, looking back, this was– yeah, I mean, there’s also systems of oppression that were reinforced in this college and lot of ways of thinking that weren’t, you know, that were reinforced. That were– reinforced stereotypes and things, though, and just due to inaction against oppression and things like that, so it was kind of a mixed bag, I guess.
[00:06:10.850] – Abby
Yes, I picked the– I went to NYU’s Gallatin School, which is a design your own major program. And so I knew I wanted more choice than I’d had in high school and I knew that I didn’t want to be stuck doing like Gen Eds or a really kind of strict major program, but I was from a place in a class background where I didn’t really know how the system worked. So it was disorienting sometimes being in part of a cohort at NYU because there was class stuff going on that I felt but didn’t– hadn’t been expecting and was too busy trying to just keep my head above water to be able to really reflect on. And senior year I took Anthropology of Ed class and my professor had written a book about college and how admissions work and why people go. And he opened the class talking about how elite schools are essentially where families send their kids to find spouses who are from the same social class and to replicate their class status. And it felt so good to hear someone say the thing that I had been kind of quietly wondering about.
Yeah, and in terms of are some colleges better than others, you know, it depends on what you want. And so self directed education does feel worth it to me if it makes it harder, because at least the kids know why they’re doing what they’re doing. More than they would otherwise, I guess.
[00:08:13.000] – Antonio
Yeah, it’s interesting, when I started Abrome I wanted to leverage my understanding of the admissions process and my ability to game it effectively because– because it’s not a meritocracy. That’s what I always tell people, it’s a game as sort of like a selling point.
It’s like, hey, you can [do] self-directed education. And, oh, by the way, you can still get into these top colleges. And I actually moved away from that because I found that that messaging drew in people who only wanted to consider self directed education as an end around the traditional system to get into school easier and it tended to push away people who were just like you talk about this too much. And so we’re interested in allowing our kids to be free, not getting into Ivy League schools. And so it was actually backfiring on me. It was drawing in the wrong people and pushing away the right people. So I recognize the ability to be able to talk about this with prospective families, to talk about this with adolescents who are really starting to stress out over it and to be able to give supportive guidance and feedback along the way. But I definitely don’t think that we should be leading with this is the way to game the system that is ultimately harmful and, oh, by the way, your kids get to be a little bit more free in the process.
I actually have one family who, after sitting through one of my presentations, they said, OK, so explain to me exactly how if I send my kids to Abrome, they will get into Harvard. And that wasn’t the point. But nonetheless, we still have to be prepared to answer these questions and it does help to understand how the process works. So that’s why I’ll try to– that’s what I’ll try to do.
[00:10:25.050] – Title Card
[00:10:25.050] – Antonio
I’m going to break– I’m going to go through this section relatively quickly. I assume that most of y’all understand it. If you don’t feel free to just jump in and ask for clarification.
So there are – and these are very arbitrary distinctions and cutoffs that are being made – I am saying that there is a group of elite research universities in the country. And I’m just going to say that’s the top-10 US News Research Universities, so that’s Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, M.I.T.; the top-10. Here they are. And so amongst– amongst this top-10, you know, six of them are always up there and maybe those bottom three rotate out with some others in the top 12, on occasion.
If you look into the numbers a little bit more closely, five of the eight are Ivy League schools and two more of those are what some people call the “Ivy plus”: the Ivy League schools, plus Stanford and MIT. One of the big reasons why these are considered the elite research universities is because everyone thinks that they’re elite and so everyone applies to them. And so their admissions rates are– tend to be among the lowest in the country and that builds the brand. And every year these schools become more exclusive and their brand gets stronger and stronger. And it’s a cycle that reinforces itself. And the reality is, is that there’s very little difference between an education from a top 10 school and a top fifty school or top two hundred school in terms of the education itself. But these are the elite ones that parents are dying to have as bumper stickers.
[00:12:16.360] – Antonio
All right. Then there’s the highly selective research universities. These are – I’m just going to cut it off at the top 25, right – and so these are the top 10 plus very prestigious and selective schools like Caltech, the other three Ivy League schools – Dartmouth, Brown and Cornell – schools that are in other parts of the country, like Notre Dame, Bryce, Washington University at St. Louis, USC, Carnegie Mellon. So schools like that.
Then there are the top tier public universities. Here, we have the Cal schools, such as Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, UCSD. You also have UVA, Michigan, University North Carolina, University of Texas. And everyone’s perception of what a top tier public university is– it changes based on, oftentimes, who– what high school you might go to, or where your parents went to school, or what the people in your neighborhood think. There’s also schools like Georgia Tech and William and Mary that are considered top tier public universities.
And then there’s the elite liberal arts colleges, and so, again, if we’re just working with the top 10 schools, you might recognize some of these names Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, Wellesley, Pomona, etc. These are smaller schools. They’re very affluent. And generally, they also have high admissions standards, low admissions rates.
And then there are– there is the huge universe of the lower ranked universities and college colleges. So if you the first the first four groups that I highlighted, that might cover a total of maybe one hundred universities and colleges, but there is over three thousand four-year colleges and universities in the US, although that number is decreasing. [laughs]
[00:14:35.510] – Antonio
And and you don’t actually need to go to one of those top colleges to get into, say, really selective graduate schools or into selective career fields, but the more affluent, the neighborhood that you live in, the more schooled the neighborhood that you live in, and the circles that you run in, the more likely it will be, you know, within the water there that if you don’t go to one of those schools in the top four, that you’re kind of a failure or that you’re wasting your money and time on a degree that’s not worth it. But, it’s not true, you can get into Harvard Medical School or Yale Law School from any one of those other three thousand colleges.
And then lastly, there are the community colleges, such as– California has amazing community colleges, but other states have a great community college systems that are often feeders into the top tier public universities. So the state of Washington, for example, the state of Texas, I know Pennsylvania has some good community colleges that can provide that pathway, I believe New York does, as well. But in most parts of the country, community colleges are a great way to access higher education, particularly for people who don’t have the resources or the knowledge of how college admissions works straight out of what would be their high school years.
[00:16:22.740] – Antonio
All right, so do you need college? I think that most people on this call would say no – right? And one thing that we can sort of recognize, at least at least in our current economy, even before the pandemic, was that college actually didn’t guarantee much of anything.
So this one article from Forbes from seven years ago said that half of college grads are working jobs that don’t require a degree. So people are going to college and then taking jobs that don’t require a degree. That’s why a lot of people like to joke about baristas and bartenders like people who are getting college degrees and then they don’t actually need those degrees for the jobs that they have.
And then, of course, there are degrees that are necessary for certain jobs, like if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a civil engineer, a degree is necessary on that path, most of the time. Then again, not everyone wants to be in one of those professions.
All right, so there are many alternatives to college that don’t require degrees. One is the military, one that I highly discourage people from doing. But that is a pathway that certainly does not require a college degree. You can work in your community and there’s many non-profit jobs, there’s many community-service-oriented jobs that don’t require college. You can go to a trade school, or you could become an apprentice, and work to develop a very specific skill set and a trade. And those often are much better, from a financial perspective, in terms of return on investment, and avoiding debt, and building financial security, than going to colleges.
There is also sales, if you’re– if you are focused on money, going into sales is a great way to have a very high paying career and you typically don’t need a college degree in most sales jobs. Although for technical sales you might, such as a medical device sales, etc. Arts and entertainment has a long history of definitely not needing college degrees. And there’s an example of an article. And then technology is probably the one that people like to highlight the most these days for not requiring college degrees. One one thing that was that caught a lot of people’s attention was when Google decided to stop requiring college degrees for their teams. And there was one one report that said 14 percent Google teams don’t have college degrees. Granted, the percentage of people in the US who have not graduated from college is greater than 14 percent. But still, you know, it highlights that there’s a real path to working in tech without a degree.
[00:19:52.250] – Antonio
There’s also those who went to college or the– and then dropped out – right? And those who went to college and got their degrees and found that their degrees weren’t necessary or helpful for what they were trying to do. And then they went back to a programming boot camp, just so that they can become programmers within the tech industry. So technology has been interesting in that it has opened up access in many ways to people who don’t want to go to college, although there’s definitely still barriers in technology, in other ways other than just education.
And then lastly, entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship has never required a college degree. Most of the people, I feel like most– the plurality of the people who are on the Forbes 400 who did not inherit their wealth were people who didn’t get college degrees.
So anyways, this is just some example of different articles that have come out that highlight how unnecessary a college degree is. And so the question is, is: do you need to go to college? And the answer is often no, because there’s many different ways. If you’re just talking about a return on investment. If you’re just talking about career options. That’s a very narrow view of what education is.
[00:21:20.800] – Antonio
But do kids need to go to college in order to be successful? And the answer is not really. Not usually. And if they do, it certainly doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to go to a top college – right?
So there’s this great book, Excellent Sheep, that I actually recommend to every kid that I interview in the college admissions process, because now I’m an alumni interviewer, and I recommend this book to everyone because it does a pretty good job of arguing against the necessity of focusing on going to the so-called elite colleges.
It talks– it does a really good job of arguing that if you do go to college, you’re probably better off going to a liberal arts school, a place where you can actually focus on education, as opposed to just meeting sort of curricular demands, as some of some of you talked about, the opportunity to really engage with ideas and talk to each other. I know that, I believe Rebecca and Jessica, both of you talked about that opportunity and just have back and forth give and take discussions in a liberal arts setting.
And the author, William Deresiewicz, also argues that these so-called elite colleges, they provide the most resources and the best opportunities to the people who need it the least. Particularly people who are already affluent, already have connections, don’t really care about education as much as they care about winning the game. And it’s kind of a backward– it has a backward effect on society where it gives the– it gives the most resources to the people who need the least and deny it to those who who actually need it most. And I– and I tend to agree with that. That’s why I recommend that book to everyone that I do an alumni interview with.
So, I think that the answer is no, that you don’t need to go to a top college. But there are certain fields and degrees and opportunities where it does certainly help. Again, feel free to jump in at any point, because I’m just going to keep punching through these slides, OK?
[00:23:57.340] – Antonio
So the next question is, is is it easy to get into college? And the answer to that is it’s very easy to get into college.
Over seventy five percent of applicants get into their first choice college. 80% of private schools and 90% of public schools accept more than 50% percent of the people who apply there. Demographic changes and visa restrictions are going to make it even easier in the coming years, so there’s– there’s a population drop off that is hitting the United States in particular. (And everyone on this call is in the United States currently.) And so there’s going to be fewer and fewer people that are applying from the United States to schools within the United States.
And given what’s happened, particularly within this presidential administration, the Trump administration, but quite frankly, ever since the war on terror started, there have been more and more restrictions on people coming to the US and studying in the US. And this has led to fewer and fewer people wanting to come to the US for college. And so that’s going to decrease the numbers even more. And so it’s actually going to become significantly easier, I believe, to get into the college of one’s choice. And it’s going to make it easier, even amongst the Ivy League schools of the world to get into college in the coming years than it has been in the recent past.
And then finally, community colleges are open enrollment, anyone can get into college, it doesn’t matter if you were the worst student in your high school class, if you’re a high school dropout, or if you are unschooled kid who spent your four years doing nothing but playing video games; once you’re ready to, at any age really, past the minimum age, you can just go ahead and go and enroll and community college. And once you have that foot in the door, every college becomes a potential option for you as a transfer or as a graduate student.
So, for example, Cal Berkeley and UCLA, they have a huge percentage of their class are community college transfers. And one of my– one of the people that I studied with at Harvard was a Ph.D. in Physics at Harvard. And I was talking to her about her experience getting into Harvard and if it was worth it and all that. And she was first generation. She graduated from UCLA, but she told me that she started off in community college. And I was like, “oh, wow, that’s amazing. That, that must not happen very often.” She was like, “actually it happens all the time.” There’s lots of people who started off in community college and navigate the system. So it’s just an entry point. And it’s, and the point is, is that it’s really easy to get into college, especially if you’re not focused on a very tiny, select handful at the top.
[00:27:15.780] – Antonio
But because we all deal with families who are asking questions about how do I get into that small number at the top, let’s go over some numbers.
So it’s not so easy, at least from a numbers perspective, to get into the so-called elite colleges. And I just listed some of those top 10 schools right there with regard to the number of people that they reject. So a lot of people look at acceptance rate and a lot of people have a hard time really seeing what a 8% acceptance rate means. So I flipped it. And so Stanford rejects twenty two of every twenty three applicants and Harvard rejects twenty one of every twenty two applicants. This was as of the class of 2022, so that the freshman class that was accepted two years ago, because Stanford stopped releasing this information. So if you go back the year before, you’ll see for all of these schools, it actually became harder, at least from a percentage perspective, harder to get into these schools than the year before.
And if you go to the year before, again, for all but one of them, it actually became harder to get in than the year before. And this has been a trend. It’s been getting harder to get into these schools from an admissions rate– acceptance rate perspective. But it actually hasn’t been getting harder. What’s really been happening is just a lot more people have been applying. And I’ll explain that a little bit more as we get further into the presentation.
[00:29:05.670] – Antonio
So for those families that are looking to do self directed education in your community, or for those parents who are trying to help their children navigate the system, or for the facilitators who are trying to be supportive of their learners who are trying to get into these elite colleges, it’s worth asking: what are they looking for? Because what these schools are looking for is very different than what the state schools are looking for, or the many schools that are outside the top one hundred or two hundred, which are really relatively easy to get into.
Texas A&M: I know that, Jessica, you were talking about the admissions process for Texas A&M. You’re absolutely correct. They are very numbers oriented. All large public education systems are very numbers oriented because they just need an efficient way to accept and reject people. They don’t have the time to invest in the admissions process like a smaller liberal arts school would. But even the even the selective schools don’t spend much time actually reviewing applications. Someone in one of the admissions departments said once that they spend an average of eight minutes per application, which is pretty depressing if you consider how much time kids spend on their applications.
But most schools have pretty simple SAT, ACT, and GPA cutoffs that they use in their admissions process. And it’s not until you get to the really selective universities where they start looking at other factors.
But, for those other schools, the question might be, what are they actually looking for? And so they’re typically looking for a few things. And this is what most guidance counselors will tell you. This is what most admissions consultants will tell you, and this is what the schools tell you. It’s not necessarily the truth, but this is what they’re going to tell you. They’re going to tell you that they’re looking for academic excellence.
[00:31:27.260] – Antonio
Right. And academic academic excellence, it means different things depending on the school that you’re applying to. But, I will just say that for the Harvard class of 2019, they had eight thousand one hundred people who applied, who had perfect grade point averages and thirty five hundred who applied, who had perfect SAT math scores, and twenty seven hundred who applied who had perfect SAT verbal scores. So even if they were focused solely on academic excellence in terms of perfect scores, they would not have been able to accept all of any one of those categories because they didn’t have enough seats in their class to accept all of any one of those categories, much less all three of those categories.
But they’ll tell you, they’re looking for academic excellence, particularly in a rigorous curriculum, at a school that provides those opportunities: so lots of AP courses, advanced courses, et cetera. GPA, SAT, and SAT II: fortunately, a lot of schools are moving away from the SATs, the University of Washington just announced that they’re not going to require them moving forward. The University of California has already indicated that they’re going to phase them out as well. University of Chicago was the first top five school who said that they were no longer requiring the SATs. So these are generally good trends. But when it comes to academic excellence, they are looking at GPAs, the transcripts, and standardized test scores in general. Rigorous makes AP courses and honors more important.
They’re also looking for extra-curricular activities and engagement. They say they’re looking for quality, quantity and not quality. A lot of people are really focused on getting their kids involved in lots of different activities they want them to be on– in the Spanish club, student government, they want them to be involved in three sports. They want them to be involved on the debate team. They want them doing community service hours. And so a lot of parents really drive their kids to be involved in a ton of extra-curriculars.
In general, the schools say that that’s not what they’re interested in. They’re interested in quality. So they would rather see kids involved in maybe just one or two sports but being team captains or all-state; maybe not as many school clubs, but being president, vice president, treasurer of those clubs. You know, just doing– maybe not doing one hundred hours of community service, but doing really quality community service where you’re having a big impact and it’s clear that you really care about it. So they’re definitely looking for extra extra-curricular activity.
They also say they’re looking for personal qualities and character. You can take that with a grain of salt. And then they’re also looking– so that’s that’s generally what they say that they’re looking for and that’s what schools, school counselors, admissions consultants, et cetera, will try to emphasize.
[00:34:58.840] – Antonio
Now, I’m going to I’m going to try to explain hooks. And again, we’re only talking about the selective colleges and universities, where they actually have to sort through a bunch of applications to decide who gets in – right? And so there are hooks in the admissions process. Hooks are things that allow you to gain some sort of admissions edge.
So all things being equal, if you have a hook, you know– if your extracurriculars and your academics are the same as someone else’s, what is that hook that would allow you to get in over them?
What a lot of people do in the US is they jump straight to underrepresented minority. They think that being Black makes it way easier to get in than being white. That’s the sort of source of contention. It is, certainly, there’s–there’s certainly a lot of racism involved in a lot of the arguments against underrepresented minorities in the admissions process, and there’s been lawsuits. To include a very famous one that– that has been happening at Harvard University, wherein a group supposedly representing Asian-Americans has sued Harvard to claim that they are discriminated against in the admissions process because of preferences given to underrepresented minorities. And underrepresented minorities in most contexts are considered Black or Latino/Latina, and Indigenous Peoples, and sometimes Pacific Islanders as well.
There’s also recruited athletes– Oh, I will say about the under-represented minority hook is that there’s certainly there’s certainly merit to people who say that underrepresented minorities have an advantage in the admissions process because it’s been shown that for Black or Hispanic applicant that the sort of cutoffs that allow them to be seriously considered are lower than it is for a white or an Asian applicant.
[00:37:35.160] – Antonio
What they don’t point out is that, well, one is there is no context behind that. Where do people go to school? What other conditions in the neighborhoods or the households that they come from, et cetera? But they also conveniently ignore, for example, at Harvard, the number of Black students relative to other Ivy League schools is quite high. They’re like 12 percent or something, which is reflective of the US, the Black population within the US.
But when you actually look at who the Black students are who are getting in at Harvard, it is disproportionately rich Black applicants. So wealthy applicants, it is those who are the sons and daughters of senators, governors, and presidents, such as Obama’s daughter. And it is disproportionately, you know, immigrants from West Africa or the West Indies in particular. And so, so Harvard does accept a higher percentage of Black students relative to white students. But it’s certainly not– it’s very rarely what people would consider American Black because it’s certainly not representative of the Black population within the United States.
And it technically is the standard for Asian-Americans at these selective schools – if you’re looking only at SAT scores and GPA – the standard is higher. But in spite of that, Asians are still overrepresented at these schools. This hook is not the one that carries the most weight, though. This is just the one that people focus on, in large part because it’s it’s easy to make this a political argument, I think.
[00:39:46.560] – Antonio
A much better advantage is if you’re a recruited athlete. So it’s way easier to get into these schools if you’re a recruited athlete, with perhaps the exception of MIT and Caltech. For example, 13 percent of the class at an Ivy League school consists of recruited athletes.
Harvard, which is a small school, they have 42 varsity sports, the most of any college in the country. So even though they have a very small class size, less than two thousand students, they have more varsity sports than the University of Michigan or Ohio State University with many, many more students. So they need to fill those sports with recruited athletes and — with already a tinier, a much smaller class — that’s going to make up a significant proportion of the class. At Harvard, in particular, recruited athletes receive about two hundred likely letters a year. And a likely letter is if you apply, you’re probably going to get a spot. And so they get to circumvent, basically, the entire admissions process at Ivy League schools and the like.
[00:41:10.550] – Antonio
Then legacy, as Abby pointed out, legacy is –some people say it’s the most influential hook. In terms of numbers, it certainly is. Legacies are particularly pernicious because they give an admissions– an admissions advantage to those who should need it the least, given the fact that their parents have previously navigated the same system that they’re– that they’re competing with other people in. And a legacy means that your father, your mother, typically has gone to that school. In some schools, they include grandparents as well.
Then there’s faculty children. This is perhaps the most advantageous hook that exists, but it’s it’s it’s in relatively small numbers, but it’s but it’s a tremendous hook. So schools are– they often compete for professors, particularly the superstar professors, and they want to keep those professors. This is definitely outside of the adjunct world, which is a problematic situation in higher education. But for– for tenure-based faculty, for the ones who they are really going to invest lots of money into, they want to make sure those people stick around at the university. They don’t want them to jump ship and go to Princeton. And so if your child is applying to that college, then the chances of admission spike exponentially.
[00:43:02.830] – Antonio
And then there is development cases. These are people who are children of rich or famous people, typically, or rich people in particular. So if you come from a billionaire family or even a family that only has hundreds of millions of dollars, you know, you become a development case in the admissions department, and you typically work with the development office, or the fundraising office, to coordinate who are the kids that we need to be giving giving additional attention to. And your chances of getting in, if you’re a development case, are much, much higher than if you’re just a superstar student.
Jared Kushner is one of the most famous development cases because in the Price of Admission – right here [Antonio holds up a book] – Daniel Golden talked about him in particular and about how his dad gave a million dollars – I believe was a million dollars – to Harvard University the year that he was applying. And he got in, and everyone was shocked and offended that he got in because he was such a mediocre student in high school. And so that might be like the more– one of the more egregious cases. But every year, rich, wealthy families are getting their kids into these schools in spite of the stated standards that these schools have, because these schools are very interested in getting additional donations, which will add to their endowment. Duke University and Brown University in particular, have done a very good job of using development cases in their missions to really increase the financial position of the college over the years.
[00:45:10.690] – Antonio
And then lastly, there is the VIP cases. And these are the children of very famous people. So I guess you could include you know,– you can include Obama in this one as well, right? Everyone wants to have the child of the president go to their school. And I’m not taking anything away from Obama’s daughter or Clinton’s daughter or George W. Bush’s daughter, who: Harvard, Yale and Stanford. They may have all been really great applicants on their- in their own right but, you know, them being the children of the president, and it certainly made them a VIP. And that really boosted their profile within the admissions department. But, you know, if you’re Steven Spielberg’s child or any famous person, they want people who are going to add to the– the luster of the college. So those people have a huge advantage.
There’s also people who, you know, the people in these sort of buckets, minus the first three, can also be z-listed in colleges. And so there’s different terms that different colleges have, but Harvard uses the z-list. These are people who probably would not necessarily be competitive in any given year, so they tell them to take a year off and then come back the following year, and that allows them to not include them in the freshman statistics. And it’s a huge end around for development cases and VIP cases in particular. So if anything, that should tell you that the admissions process is not necessarily fair.
[00:47:14.360] – Antonio
I will try to go through this portion relatively quickly. I can really get down in the numbers but I’ll try not to. OK, so let’s use Harvard as an example. Why are we using Harvard as an example? Because it’s Harvard. Most people know what Harvard is and families tend to get really excited over that name. So let’s just use that name.
Also, Harvard has a lot of publicly available data with regards to their admissions process, both published by the students at Harvard. For years they would do freshman surveys and make that public on their– in their newspaper. And also, there’s been lawsuits against Harvard, which has allowed a lot of information to come out.
I will make a lot of assumptions because not all of the information is available or transparent, although it has become a lot more transparent just in the past year with the release of a lot of the information from a recent lawsuit. And that lawsuit is Students for Fair Admission vs. Harvard that has given them access to over two hundred thousand undergraduate admissions files. They were really questioning the nature of the race impact on the admissions process. And it gave– it gave a really good insight into some of the other factors in Harvard admissions. The focus is on race, as you can see from that last bullet. It doesn’t question the wealth, legacy or power.
[00:48:54.040] – Antonio
All right, so how selective is Harvard? OK, let’s get started. So I’m just– I’m just using numbers, all right, so. So if you look at this right here, URM is underrepresented minorities. At Harvard, the class makeup is about 30 percent of the class.
So if we assume that they receive about 43,000 applications per year for a class of about 1650 per year that matriculate, right? Then – and that means that they have to accept about 2000 people per year – that gives you an acceptance rate around five percent. So we’re going to we’re going to dive into the 2,000 people accepted in the 43,000 applied.
If underrepresented minorities make up 30 percent of the class, that means– and that the acceptance rate is eight percent, which is substantially higher than the five percent that’s accepted overall. That would mean you need about almost 7000 applications received from underrepresented minorities to get five hundred fifty to get accepted if you assume a 90 percent yield rate, OK?
The next one is recruited athletes. So we’re here- recruited athletes, you need to make up 14 percent of the class with recruited athletes. The admissions rate here is– the acceptance rate– is super high because they they tell the students beforehand whether or not they’re going to be accepted. And that influences greatly which athletes actually apply. So you’re going to fill 14 percent of your class with recruited athletes, but you’re going to accept an overwhelming majority of the recruited athletes who apply. And so for 231 athletes in the class of 1650, you may only need to have about 413 apply.
Again, I’m using rough numbers because we don’t know the actual numbers, but these are generally, I believe, pretty accurate. Right. So you’re using 230 spots in the class on four-hundred-some applications, perhaps. You also have walk-ons. Walk-ons, even though they’re not recruited, may have some sort of admissions preference. So schools are– they need to fill out their sports teams even if someone is not recruited, right? And so the football team, for example, has a lot of a lot of people in it and they’re only going to get so many recruited athletes. But, you know, the admissions department may still give a preference to certain walk-ons and the schools may make it very clear that some people are preferred walk-ons. So that certainly helps shape the class. But just for the sake of this exercise, this numbers exercise. We’re not going to include them in this calculation.
[00:52:17.750] – Antonio
OK, so legacies. As Abby said, legacies are a particularly privileged class. The children of students– the children of parents who have gone to Harvard College and graduated have a significant advantage. The children of parents who have attended Harvard College, for example, based on one study, have a 45 percent increase in probability of admission at Harvard relative to someone who applies, who doesn’t– with the same scores, who doesn’t have a parent at the school. So it’s pretty substantial. We do know that legacies make up about 18 percent of the class.
If you assume a 20 percent acceptance rate amongst those based on the increased chances of acceptance, you may be getting 1680 applicants applications received every year from legacies. So you take up another 302 spots in the class. And this is what the Harvard Crimson says, it’s “in the simplest terms, it’s just wrong” and I agree. I think most people tend to agree that the people who are most advantaged shouldn’t be the ones who have the easiest access to these universities.
[00:53:48.120] – Antonio
All right. Dean’s and Director’s list. This is development cases and VIP’s, really. So these are the children of very powerful, influential, rich and famous people, right? Now just the way our society is structured is there’s not that many people who are at the very top of society, but they do make up a disproportionate number of percentage of the people who get into these schools. So if you assume maybe a 40 percent acceptance rate, 90 percent yield, they’re going to make up nine percent of the class. That’s 450 applicants to make up 170 spots in the class total.
All right, and then lastly, the z-list, these are the people who are just so far outside of the range of what’s acceptable in the admissions process, even when they give all these preferences, that they just can’t get in, but they really want them to be at the school because of who their parents are. Just tack on another three percent of the class. We know that the z-list makes up about three percent of the class. So that’s another 55 slots for 373 applications received. It just goes into the following year.
So if you look at all that, and then you add the faculty children – it’s a small number, but it has a huge admissions preference, right? So that might be another 33 people within the class, but the super high acceptance rate for that group and the super high yield means that you’re– you’re not taking very much from the applications received.
[00:55:35.850] – Antonio
Right. And so if you look at this, if you make– you play with all this math for Harvard, which is one of the statistically hardest schools to get into. For the rest of the class, right, there’s only 22 percent of the class left. But out of that initial 43,000, you still have 33,000 plus applicants. And so the admissions rate for this half of the class has dropped to 1.3 percent. And for the self-directed education world- the kids who are homeschooled, the kids who go to ALCs, et cetera- this makes up the majority of the kids that we’re that we’re working with.
I mean, almost exclusively the kids that we’re working with because billionaires who can navigate the system are navigating the system, right? But, of course, there’s going to be overlap because sometimes a faculty child will also be a legacy. And so if we just adjust it and we just add 300 to the number accepted, that still leads to a much lower acceptance rate for people who don’t have hooks, right? So 2.4 percent acceptance rate for people without hooks just to fill 40 percent of the class.
And the majority of students at some of these colleges and universities are students with hooks. Meaning less than half of the students who apply don’t have a hook of any sort.
Does anyone have any questions at this point? I know I pounded through a lot there, but the next thing I’m going to talk about is what the schools are really looking for for the rest of that class.
All right, drink some coffee if you’re starting to get tired, because I just threw out so many numbers and I just went through that so quickly.
[00:57:36.390] – Antonio
So what are the schools looking for for the rest of the class? Because clearly we know that perfect test scores and a great GPA is not sufficient, right? They reject the overwhelming majority of valedictorians who apply to school– to those schools. They reject the majority of people who apply with perfect SAT or ACT scores.
And so what does it mean for someone in the self-directed education world or even in traditional schools? What does it take for them to get accepted? What are the schools really looking for? And the answer is: they’re looking for– yes, they are looking for academic excellence. So they still want bright and smart students. And Harvard scores applicants on a scale of one to six – with one being the best – on academics as something that they care about tremendously.
And there are only limited ways in which that can be measured. And that includes GPAs and that includes standardized test scores. For self directed education – children, students, learners – that does provide somewhat of a challenge because they don’t go to a conventional school with a standard curriculum, then they’re not being compared to other students by way of a GPA and class rank. So for self-directed education students to be able to demonstrate that academic excellence, oftentimes they may take some community college courses just so they can get something on their — their transcript that they write themselves so that they have some examples of, in a conventional setting, I can perform and I can do extraordinarily well.
For self-directed education students it’s also usually beneficial for them to take standardized tests and to do really well in them. So without the standard transcript and and class rank to use, it’s helpful to have an SAT score and ACT score, or SAT subject tests that show that you’re clearly able to perform along the measures that the rest of society is using in the high school years. But that’s not actually what’s most important. That’s a screen. They certainly want academic excellence, but that’s not the thing that they’re looking for the most.
[01:00:35.530] – Antonio
They are also looking for diversity. And when they say diversity, they mean it in terms of a personal context. And they consider many things in diversity. So most people think of race and gender, which are certainly aspects of diversity, but they’re also considering ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, family background, educational differences within families and within applicants, any employment history, and just general life experiences. Right. They’re also looking at geographic diversity.
And so this is from Harvard as well. And I just showed the Southwest region, which includes Texas, which is where– where Abrome located. And as you can see, the– the Southwest is underrepresented at Harvard College relative to the rest of the country. And so if someone were to apply to Harvard College from Texas, you know, they would probably receive some sort of academic benefit or– admissions preference based on the fact that they’re from Texas relative to from Massachusetts, considering how many people apply to Harvard, from Massachusetts. However, if they’re from Austin, they would probably receive some sort of discount because there’s so many people who apply to Harvard from Austin relative to other parts of the state. So geographic diversity is a big part of the college admissions process.
And then another example of diversity would be the stated interest of the field of study that they’re interested in. So many people – and these are older numbers right now – the computer science has gone through the roof, right? So if you’re a student who’s applying to one of these colleges and you say that you want to major in computer science – or economics as well, that’s another one that has a huge percentage or political science – there’s certain degrees where there’s just a ton, a ton of people who study that. That actually isn’t something that’s beneficial in the admissions process because they have tenured faculty, and a whole range of disciplines, and they need those faculty members to actually teach classes to justify, oftentimes, having the position. And so one of the great advantages in the admissions process is if someone wants to major in some sort of dying language, right?
[01:03:35.120] – Antonio
And like at Harvard, there’s a Sanskrit sort of– I’m not sure if it’s a degree or focus, but they have a faculty member focused on Sanskrit. And if you want to go to Harvard, if you’re applying to Harvard and you make it very clear that that is your area of interest, and you’ve already demonstrated that that’s– you’re not just saying it in the application, all of a sudden that gives you a huge preference in the admissions process. Just another example of what they’re looking for with regards to diversity.
And then, as Dave said, because he cheated and looked at the notes, intellectual vitality, and this is vitally important to the schools. Because when you look at the number of students who have a hook at these different colleges and universities – from legacy students to development cases to recruit athletes – they’re still going to – depending on the school, and depending on how many people apply – they’re still going to be able to apply some of their standards to those groups. They still reject, in most cases, the majority of students who are applying even with hooks. But they have a lot less ability– they have a lot less ability to shape the class with the students with hooks than than the students without hooks. Right? And so intellectual vitality becomes far more important in the admissions process than even numbers such as SAT scores or GPA for all the people without hooks.
And intellectual vitality is just a term that Stanford uses. But the various different schools all have their own measure of intellectual vitality, and it’s just the notion that you are eager to learn and understand things. You want to play with ideas. You want to figure out how things work. You want to figure out how to make things better, how to create new things in their place. It’s the idea that if you weren’t in school, what would you decide to learn because you loved it that much anyway? And what would you decide to pour yourself into? Those are some of the ways that they think about intellectual vitality.
Stanford specifically says to their applicants, quote, “We want to see your commitment, dedication and genuine interest in expanding your intellectual horizons, both in what you write about yourself and what others write on your behalf. We want to see the kind of curiosity and enthusiasm that will allow you to spark a lively discussion in a freshman seminar and continue the conversation at the dinner table. We want to see the energy and depth of commitment you will bring to your endeavors, whether that means in a research lab, or being part of a community organization, during a performance, or on an athletic field. We want to see the initiative with which you seek out opportunities to expand your perspective, and that will allow you to participate in creating new knowledge.”
[01:06:49.130] – Antonio
So that’s what intellectual vitality is, on paper, to Stanford. If you think about it in terms of shaping a class, if you were the Admissions Director or you’re on the admissions committee, what is it that colleges and universities are? They are many things. They are oftentimes endowments with a school attached, right? Which a lot of people argue. But they’re also places where people are pushing the boundaries of knowledge, right, they’re research centers; they’re sometimes semi-professional sports teams.
But what the schools ultimately want is they want to be seen as sort of an intellectual center, a place where people come together to exchange ideas and to learn. And so they want to admit people, not just who are going to do really good in class, but they want people who are going to really challenge each other, and challenge ideas, and play with ideas, and make the place a really vibrant intellectual and academic community.
And so they’re looking for this intellectual vitality. And it’s something that I used to tell people when I was doing admissions consulting. It’s the one thing that they– that there’s not enough of in the admissions department. They have enough people who are perfect GPA. They have enough people who have perfect SATs, they have enough class presidents and all-state football players. The one thing that they don’t have enough of in the admissions process are people who actually have high degrees of intellectual vitality. And as you all know, because we’re all in the self-directed education world, that’s because so many kids are just jumping through the hoops that they’re told to jump through, and they’re performing, and they don’t have time to actually engage deeply with things that they care about. But that’s what the schools are looking for the most.
[01:08:52.070] – Antonio
So the next section I’m going to talk about is how to actually get this influx of vitality in particular, and how to show it. But so– does anyone have any questions about intellectual vitality or the admissions process before I move on? OK, I’m just going to keep pushing ahead, unless I hear anything from people as far as questions. All right, here we go. Let me get some more coffee. All right.
So how to get it, and how to show it. As I’ve said before, admissions is a game. It’s certainly not a meritocracy. And there’s nothing about the admissions process which is about the best and the brightest rising to the top. It’s the people with the most connections, the people with the most money. The– hands down, the number one factor in getting into any of these colleges and universities is who your parents are. So if you want to get into Harvard or Stanford, the saying is pick your parents, right?
[01:10:02.540] – Antonio
All right, so as I as I suggested previously, consultants make a lot of money because they help people play the game really well. You have people like me who would really hammer people who are applying to get the essays perfect, to make sure that all their administrative data is right, to manage their recommendations really well. But you also have people like the recent Varsity Blue scandal, which you may have paid some some attention to, in which this admissions consultant was paying people to take SAT’s for his clients and paying off coaches at various schools to claim that they were recruited athletes to give them an admissions edge.
And what was happening in a lot of schools — like Yale soccer, Stanford sailing, multiple USC sports, Texas tennis. You had these coaches that were getting paid under the table by this admissions consultant. Well, actually, he was facilitating it – they’re getting paid through parents – anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars to say that this applicant was a recruited athlete, even though those kids never actually ended up playing the sports once they got in because they weren’t good enough. But consultants get paid a lot of money because they know how the game is played, especially the good ones. They know how to play the game and they help applicants play that game.
[01:11:46.760] – Antonio
Parents know that admissions is a game as well, so not only do they pay for admissions consultants in high school, right, but they’re also grooming their kids in middle school through sports camps, for example, or STEM camps and getting them into the right high schools and whatnot. But in places like New York City, they– the process starts at birth when they’re trying to get them into the right preschool so they can get into the right follow-on schools. So a lot of these kids are getting are are being groomed to play the game right from birth, particularly in New York City, but also other wealthy enclaves in the United States, and overseas.
And because admissions is a game, students are spending a lot of time padding their resumes. Often this means that their parents are creating opportunities for them- at cost to them- so that they can position themselves better in the game. So the trip to China, the service trip to Haiti, the starting a nonprofit. A lot of times those are parent-initiated, parent-led type of activities that are meant to do nothing more than to make the student look more desirable as an applicant.
So is this a game that we want to play? Most self-directed-education-focused people are not, because the reason for education isn’t just to to play the game well, it’s to– to actually lead meaningful lives. But I’m going to talk now about the pyramid structure of society, so.
[01:13:37.310] – Antonio
Does anyone know what this is, by the way? Illuminati. Yeah, it’s the great seal. Yes. I don’t want to get into a conversation about the Illuminati, but this is on the back of the dollar bill. And I just needed a pyramid to be able to show in the presentation. And so this is the one that I found when I did a Google search for pyramids. And I like this pyramid the best because the top is sort of separated from the rest of the base.
So I argue – and I’m probably not the first person to come up with this, I just don’t know what the original source is – that we live in a society is built like a pyramid. There is some– there are people at the top who disproportionately benefit from the way society is structured, at the expense of everyone else who’s at the base. There’s different levels of the base, but everyone else makes up the base of society. And that’s how you play the game. Tn order to play the game, you got to get to the top of that pyramid, and there’s many different ways to do that.
In the high school and college admissions process there’s GPA, there’s standardized test scores, there’s extracurriculars, and there’s service sort-of engagement projects, right? So you want to rise to the top. You got to be number one in your class.
SAT– perfect, SAT score, maybe 1580, if you– if you’re not quite ambitious enough to get a perfect score, extracurriculars, lots of leadership. You want to be number one; class president is always good. You maybe state or national recognition, and with service projects, right? You want to have a ton of hours, lots of impact. You know, oftentimes you’re the one who’s starting a really impactful service project. Right? That’s what many people consider is necessary to get into these top– so-called top colleges.
[01:15:50.570] – Antonio
Or you can just lead a remarkable life. And this is what I– when I used to talk to parents and try to convince them to consider alternatives to forcing their kids to go down a really miserable path and say, “you can you can let them go down this really miserable path or you can just let them lead a remarkable life. And by doing so, you’re kind of not playing the game. You’re- you’re not playing that game. You’re just allowing them to lead remarkable life. And then in a roundabout way, that allows them to demonstrate exactly what the schools are looking for, what matters most to them, which is intellectual vitality, diversity, and a level of academic excellence which is not easily captured by GPAs, transcripts, and class ranks.”
All right, so. I’d also argue that – and I think most of you would agree – that leading a remarkable life is something that is desirable for all of us, whether or not college is an option, right? And leading a remarkable life is something that we want to do today, not necessarily 10 years down the road. And when it comes to our children, or young people that we work with, we certainly want them to have that.
So, what is it that makes for a remarkable life? A lot of my opinions are going to come out from here. At least with the others– the other parts of the admissions process, we were really leaning on what the colleges want. A lot of what’s coming now is my opinion, and feel free to adapt it for your needs.
[01:17:36.510] – Antonio
So what are the components of leading your remarkable life? Because we don’t want our kids to compete in order to be able to get in college, or to do anything else that they want to in life. We want them just to be able to lead a remarkable life, whether or not it’s in a competitive context. Right. So so what are the components?
I would argue that the components are– there’s three of them. Happiness is the first one. And so what makes people happy? A lot of people say money makes people happy. And it’s certainly a necessary component in a capitalist society that makes you spend money in order to survive, right? So money helps people move away from the misery of poverty in a society that makes you spend money to survive. Right. So it’s hard to have happiness if you can’t feed yourself, if you can’t get health care when you need it, for example. If you can’t afford to have shelter, for example. So money certainly helps with regard to happiness.
One Princeton study that was done in 2010 said that $75,000 is sort of that point at which money no longer matters. Every additional dollar doesn’t bring in any additional happiness, but underneath seventy five thousand, every additional dollar contributes directly to an increase in general happiness. Which is difficult for a lot of self directed education educators to hear because very few people make seventy five thousand dollars in self-directed education. But and seventy five thousand dollars is also greater than the– than the average American makes. And so I’m not I’m not dismissing the importance of money within the system. Money certainly helps, but it’s not everything.
[01:19:50.600] – Antonio
OK, when it comes to happiness, beyond just the notion of money, you know, there are different things that impact the differences between me and you in terms of happiness. And so and so this is like the variance, right? This is not the– the the the raw degree. This is not the raw amount of happiness that someone has. This this is talking about the differences between people. And so what makes for the differences between people in happiness?
Fifty percent is genetic, 10 percent is circumstance and 40 percent is mindset. You can’t really control the genetic piece. You sort of can, but you can’t. You can to some degree control the circumstance (not entirely, but a little bit) and mindset you can control. You generally have control over mindset. There’s just a graphic of the same.
All right, so with the variance and happiness, 50 percent of it is genetics, right? So – and there are some terms there that highlight that there are to some degree ways in which we can impact that genetic variance, particularly through epigenetics. So, things like the food that we eat, potentially, the way that we construct our environments, if we have that ability, can have some degree of impact on that. But that’s what we can control the least. So I’m not going to spend time on that.
[01:21:35.020] – Antonio
The next is circumstances. Where are you born? Race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality. Those things have a huge impact on happiness in a society where those things are often weaponized against people. Financial conditions in the years that you graduate college or high school; like that is something that actually you can’t control. You don’t control what the economy is in the year that you happen to step into it, for example. And family as a financial security blanket, that should say. So family as financial security, or as a security blanket. You know, that just that provides you a lot of freedom if you have a family who’s willing to underwrite your life, your living experiences, and setbacks that you might have.
And the reason I say sort of, that you can control this, is a lot of people, not everyone, a lot of people — you can’t control your place of birth. You can’t control the area that it is. You certainly can’t control your race or gender or ethnicity. But you can control, you know, oftentimes the fact that you live in a town that might be toxic for one reason or another to you as a person, you know, you could potentially pick up and move and takes privilege to be able to change your context. But for many people, they can change their context.
[01:23:06.690] – Antonio
For me, I couldn’t change my context when I was when I was in school. But for two years, I lived in a small farming town in eastern Pennsylvania and I was doing really bad there. I was one of the very few non-white people. I was getting in fights every day. I got suspended four times over two years from school for fights and once for setting a fire at the bus stop. And it was just like a really bad environment for me. I had lots of poor grades. My brother would joke that I had a three dimensional report card because I always had three Ds on it. And we lived out there because my dad was dating a woman who lived out there. That relationship fell apart. And so we moved back to my hometown of Pottsville, which is not a big town, but it’s certainly much bigger than the town that we were in. And all of a sudden, the challenges that I had in that other environment disappeared overnight.
And I went from a troublemaker to a good kid, and I went from a bad student to a good student. And so overnight my context changed. And with that I was bullied less. I got in less fights. I got higher grades. People validated me more. My happiness certainly skyrocketed just by virtue of the change in context. And so that’s what I mean by we can to some degree control circumstances. We can’t control all of them, but we can change them and thereby control them to some degree.
[01:24:44.510] – Antonio
And then lastly, mindset, mindset is the thing that we can control the most. And from the resources I pulled from, there’s three areas of which we can control mindset best. One is thankfulness or gratitude, just being grateful for what we have, thankful for what’s available. Another aspect of it is being part of a community. Are we a part of a community or do we feel like we’re out on an island by ourselves in an oftentimes really difficult world?
And then the third one is, are we doing things for others? It’s kind of the opposite of selfishness, which a lot of people believe you need to have in order to be happiness. In order to be successful, you’ve got to get yours right? You got to– you got to take care of number one instead of helping others. But when it comes to our mindset with regards to happiness, it’s actually doing things for others is a huge positive player in that.
[01:25:52.590] – Antonio
The second part of a remarkable life is accomplishment, and this is something that most people focus on when it comes to education for their children, when it comes to measuring success in their own lives.
So what is accomplishment? For most people, it’s academic, professional and financial. For children, it’s really focused on academic and that’s because they believe that the academic will lead to the professional, which will lead to the financial right? And that’s why so many families are afraid to step away from conventional schooling, because without the academic piece that you can play by the rules with, if your kid can get to the top of that, they think that they’re ready to navigate the other ones. It gives them a head start in the professional, in the financial world. And so that’s where a lot of parents really focus in terms of developing accomplishment for their children.
And then lastly, I would say contributing to the world is a way of viewing accomplishment that ignores academic, professional and financial successes. And I think that if we were to focus on that, that would allow us to have higher, higher degrees of happiness. It would allow us to redefine what accomplishment is, letting go of the way that society defines it, and creating a measure for ourselves.
When I give this– a similar talk, I often talk about my own personal experiences of going through academic– trying to navigate academic success and professional success and financial success and how within the systems of society I was able to navigate some of those pretty well. But it wasn’t until I refocused my attention on measuring, sort of, my own success or accomplishment through the way that I contribute to the world, that I really was able to improve my life substantially in terms of happiness. But I’m not going to do that because I have way too much to cover.
[01:28:22.920] – Antonio
All right, so let’s go back to the pyramid structure of society. The argument is, especially when we are talking about helping kids navigate the academic system and then into adulthood, is if one works really, really hard and competes their way to the top of the pyramid, then they can get into a top college. Once they get into that top college, they have to navigate their way to the very top of their class to get into a top graduate school, or to get into their dream job. And then once they’re in there, they again have to rise to the top so that they can do the same once they get into their careers. So it’s just– it’s a process of always trying to get into the next higher, you know; you want to rise to the top of one pyramid to get into the pool of another that you have to rise to the top of.
So one pathway that a lot of people like in New York City or San Francisco might consider as a way to success is you get to the top of your high school class and then you get into an Ivy Plus college. You rise to the top of your class there, you go in McKinsey or Goldman Sachs, which are a management consulting and investment banking firm, the two most considered prestigious firms. Then you rise to the top of those firms and then you can get into Harvard Business School, or the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and then you rise to the top of that and then you get into Bain or KKR private equity, right? Like that’s one example of rising to the top. And if you get to the top of those firms, then you’re extraordinarily wealthy.
[01:30:14.590] – Antonio
Another example is going the law school route. You still have to get to the top of your class in high school to get into a top college, and you have to get to the top of your college class in order to get into Yale Law, preferably, but if you’re a slacker, maybe Harvard or Stanford Law, and then if you climb to the top of that class and you get a clerkship and then you navigate your legal career, and maybe one day you become one of nine justices on the Supreme Court.
Another example is maybe getting to the top of your class at high school, going to a top college, then you get a job at a tech firm like Google or Facebook, you work that system really well and then you go ahead and you go start your own technology company. You make it really big in that, you IPO and then you jump over to KKR, or or some other gigantic venture capital firm, and then you just live a life of relative leisure and you become extraordinarily wealthy.
Those are examples of rising to the top. The problem with this approach to life, to success, to our entire society is that you do get some people who rise to the very top, but you can’t have that unless you have a ton of losers. You have to have lots of losers. By definition, in order for you to get to the top, you need a bunch of other people to be at the bottom. And so you’re going to create a society full of losers if this is the approach that we take to– to building a society.
And even the winners, oftentimes they’re burned out, dumbed down, and they lost their dreams in the process. So I encourage anyone who doesn’t know corporate lawyers to go talk to some corporate lawyers who’ve spent their careers there and are at the top of their firms and– and ask them sort of what they wanted out of their life. And– and you’ll probably hear a lot of sad stories about everything that they gave up to get there.
[01:32:25.390] – Antonio
All right, so going back to school. I’m preaching to the choir here. This is a slide that I often use when I’m dealing with parents, but the pyramid structure of schooling leads children to believe they’re losers.
I did have this graph, I took it off for this presentation, but it had the likelihood, the belief of the likelihood of success in school and it was a survey of kids entering into preschool. And every two years it was just asking them, like, “do you believe you’re going to be successful at school?”
At the preschool level, 90 percent of kids thought that they were going to be successful at school. Four years later, it was down to, I believe, 60 percent. It was just a continual decrease. The kids– fewer and fewer kids thought that they were going to be successful in their school over a span of four years. And if you take that all the way out through high school, it just keeps decreasing. And so the way that we structure academics, or schooling, for kids in our society is we convince most of them that they’re going to be failures, or that they’re losers because they haven’t risen to the top. There’s only so much room at the top, and schooling allows for that– that notion of success to be very narrow. So there are very few people are able to consider themselves successes in that regard. Fifteen thousand hours of children’s lives are spent in school.
[01:34:11.820] – Antonio
So we obviously opted out of conventional schooling because we’re in the self-directed education world, so we opted out of that, which is great.
I already talked about financial, but, you know, if you think about it, the way that our society is set up financially, right, it’s the people at the top of the pyramid, they don’t just make the most because they create the most value. What they’re doing is they’re just capturing the value that’s created by everyone lower than the in the pyramid. Right? And that’s the way our economy is set up. The higher you are on that pyramid, the more power that you have, the more of the economic surplus that you get to take. And so even though the people at the bottom create most of the wealth in society, it’s the people at the top who take most of the wealth. And people talk about how the people at the top took all the risk and invested the capital. And I’m sure there are certainly risks in starting companies, and there’s certainly investment that is made within companies. But the great thing about this recent economic downturn – a depression – that has been shown, is that without the workers, without the essential workers, or without the workers, there is no value in these companies. Yet we as a society have made it very clear that we don’t value the workers in most cases. All right.
[01:35:53.850] – Antonio
So. I said that instead of measuring accomplishment through academics, career, professional success ,and financial success, we could focus on redefining accomplishment as contribution to the world. So how do we contribute to the world? Here are just four examples. We can improve lives by addressing social ills. We can serve others through market function; so this means, basically, starting a company that is able to meet the needs of people. Create knowledge for the sake of humanity – like you just want to add to human knowledge. Or you can make the world a more beautiful place through art. These are just examples of how we can contribute to the world.
One thing that we as facilitators that ALCs are all doing is we’re contributing through the world, through the creation of community, and valuing children for who they are in the moment, not for who they could become someday. So I would argue that in many ways, many of us already feel high degrees of accomplishment because we are living our lives through contribution to the world. But the question is, how do we allow young people to also have that sort of perspective of accomplishment?
So when we focus on contributing to the world, there’s no need to get to the top of the pyramid, right? Because when you’re contributing to the world generally, it’s not about outperforming other people. You don’t have to be number one in creating knowledge. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s still competition in the world of academia and there’s still competition in the world of creating art, getting into galleries, etc. There’s no question there’s that there’s still, in many ways, competition in those areas. But when your focus is on contributing to the world, your focus is on making other people’s lives better, improving communities, improving sustainability, etc. There’s less of a focus to rise to the top. The measure of success isn’t based on who you beat out. Typically, it’s usually based on being able to contribute.
[01:38:24.200] – Antonio
And that leads us to the third component of leading a remarkable life. And that’s meaning.
So meaning is the third component and meaning – I pulled this from Victor Frankl, who you may have already, he was someone who survived the Holocaust in a concentration camp, and then he became a renowned psychologist – and he said that we can discover meaning in life in three ways. We can create a work or do a deed. We can discover meaning by experiencing something or encountering someone. Specifically he says, “When we experience something such as goodness, truth or beauty, we bring ourselves into relationship with that thing, the goodness, truth and beauty that we see around us enter into us and become a part of us. We are engaged with them and they are engaged with us in their own way. When we experience another human being, we enter into a relationship with him or her.” So that’s a second way of discovering meaning in life, according to Victor Frankl.
And the third is by the attitude that we take to unavoidable suffering. And so someone who survived a concentration camp, this obviously has a lot of meaning to him, right? He could not avoid the suffering that was a part of being in that environment. But he tried to he tried to take the best that he could away from it. And he said everything that can be taken from a man– “everything can be taken from a man but one thing” is what he said, “the last of the human freedoms, the freedom to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
[01:40:23.570] – Antonio
Therefore, we create meaning by deliberately doing all the above, by creating work or deed, by experiencing something or encountering someone, and our attitude to the way that we react to a given set of circumstances. And each of you ideally have been able to find meaning in your life. Me personally, I’ve found meaning in creating alternatives to oppressive systems, at least that’s what I’m trying to do, and to be in relationship to those that I work with within those alternatives and by responding to oppression and undermining, that’s like my way of creating meaning within my life.
And ideally, everyone gets that opportunity. Contributing to the world gives life meaning. So what– meaning is about contributing to something greater than oneself. Giving. And meaning is enduring, right?
[01:41:25.080] – Antonio
So I spoke previously of happiness. The difference between happiness and meaning is that happiness is something that is temporal. It’s a moment in time. It feels good because we’re eating ice cream, or we finally get to go to sleep after not sleeping in a long time, or we make a great connection with someone that we’ve been missing. Happiness is by definition fleeting, right? Because after happiness comes moments of less happiness, right? And without the down moments, we can’t necessarily have the higher moments. We want more happiness than not, in our lives. But the one thing that we can have, even when happiness is not necessarily there, is meaning because that’s enduring that just– that can last even through the unhappy times. In terms of meaning I pulled this quote from a book that we read through the ALC book group Braiding Sweetgrass, and this also reflects on contribution as well.
“Isn’t the purpose of education to learn the nature of your own gifts and how to use them for good in the world?” So this is a great example of, you know, looking at education through a lens of how we can contribute, how we can find meaning in the world.
All right, so how do we how do we help young people lead remarkable lives? Happiness, accomplishment and meaning. They can lead remarkable lives to get into Harvard or Stanford or any other top school, right? Because this is a webinar about college. And so they can lead a remarkable life as sort of the end around, in a positive way, to the strictly competitive space of playing the game the best that it can be played way to getting to the top. And they can lead a remarkable life through happiness, accomplishment and meaning.
[01:43:30.210] – Antonio
With regards to happiness for young people, there are things that we can do as facilitators or parents, we can eliminate oppression within their lives. That doesn’t mean that we eliminate challenges. Challenges are good, generally, if they can be overcome. We want to eliminate oppression, though, we want to take away oppressive environments. We want to take away people who are going to oppress them. We want them generally to be liberated and free.
Unlimited free play is a great way to promote happiness for young people. Something we all believe in self-directed education is giving them agency over their lives. The more agency they have, the more likely it is that they’re going to be happy. And then this one is– this is actually for parents and facilitators– is spending time with them. So don’t outsource spending time with kids, don’t hand them off to other people, necessarily. Don’t just hand them some entertainment, but be available for them to be in conversation with them, to play games with them, to listen to them, etc.
[01:44:40.600] – Antonio
Accomplishment, the second one, in order to help them lead remarkable lives. We take the focus off of the other measures of accomplishment. So don’t weigh them down with academic career, or financial concerns about what it means to be successful in life. Ignore GPAs, SATs, college admissions and the first job. When we talk to kids, make it very clear to them that they’re not valued based on where they’re going in life. They’re valued just for who they are in the moment, because every human being is valuable. Allow them to define accomplishment according to their own terms. And if they can define accomplishment according to their own terms, they’re much less likely to be drawn in to wanting to be in competitive rank-based hierarchies.
And then give them the space and time to dive deep into things that they care about so they can have those you know, they can experience accomplishment in different ways, particularly when it comes to contributing to others, to the world, to their communities.
[01:46:07.020] – Antonio
And then lastly, meaning. And meaning has to come from them, right? It’s not something that’s going to be that they’re subjected to. So forcing them to do some sort of volunteer project doesn’t give them the same type of meaning as them deciding that they want to participate in a cause that helps other people. So allow them to create and find opportunities that contribute to society, in ways that are relevant to them. Allow them to own their own education and be in relationship with others, and again, motivation must be intrinsic.
So three things, happiness, accomplishment and meaning, right? Those are three things that we’re focused on. Happiness, the variability of happiness that we most control is mindset, circumstances, yes, but mindset in particular. Right? Circumstances – ou can change the context sometimes, not always, but change the context. One thing I always tell parents who come in and visit with me and they say that their kids are miserable; I say “you don’t have to send your kids to Abrome, but for God’s sake, get them out of that situation. You can homeschool starting today. Don’t ever send them back to the school that they’re miserable in. Whether it’s for bullying, whether it’s for for academic reasons, whether it’s the unhealthy relationship with the adults, just change the context. That alone can make all the difference for the for that child.” And, of course, self-directed education is drastically changing in context.
But mindset: that is the thing that we can control the most. And if the kid– if the young people can implement some of these things into their mindset, that’s going to be huge in terms of their happiness.
Contribution as an accomplishment. If we can get young people to consider contribution as a much better measure for themselves of accomplishment than academic career, and financial success, then they’re much more likely to lead remarkable lives.
[01:48:19.880] – Antonio
And then lastly, meaning, right? So a meaningful life requires them to be able– all the things I talked about, like with Victor Frankl, right? Giving to a cause greater than yourself, increasing your– I’m actually forgetting them off my head because it’s so late in the presentation. But the things that Viktor Frankl talked about, like meaningful life, allowing kids to lead a meaningful life, will allow them to lead a remarkable life.
And so when we look at all these things together – happiness, accomplishment, meaning – what’s interesting is, is how they reinforce each other. And for people who choose self-directed education, they are often able to see how beautifully this happens. But I drew some arrows in here. Right. You know, being able to focus on mindset, for example. One of those is like being a part of a community, and being a part of a community directly feeds into leading a meaningful life, and meaningful life allows you to focus on doing things for others, right? The opposite of selfishness. That leads into contribution as accomplishment, right? And they all feed into each other and they all reinforce each other. And that’s just one of those really healthy, virtuous cycles that that can come about. And when that happens, more good things than bad are going to happen. And that allows young people to lead remarkable lives.
[01:50:04.310] – Antonio
And that’s their end around into getting into a school like Harvard or Stanford. They’re able to because, again, the great majority of colleges they can get into without any academic prep and without having to ever compete against anyone else, at least until they get into college, right? And so when you’re dealing with parents who are concerned about what the college options are, just you can always tell them that it’s super easy to get into college. If you’re worried about them getting into college. It’s easy. Opt out of that silly game that you’re playing. Take away all that stress. Let them enjoy their lives now because they don’t need it, to get into college. But if they’re really focused on getting into these, like very few selective colleges and universities, then, sure, the end around is leading a remarkable life because that way they can demonstrate intellectual vitality. That way they’re adding to the diversity of that class that the college is trying to build.
So academic options for your child. Not everyone can be at the top of the pyramid. That’s just something we have to accept. Most parents when their kids are born, they’re like “my kid’s going to be president. My kid is going to be this. My kid’s going to be that. My kid’s going to go to Harvard.” Right? And then as time passes, parents are hit by life, and the kids are hit by life, and they realize that not everyone can rise to the top. And typically, based on power and privilege, you know, society just sort of falls into place. The people with the most resources and the most power tend to take their spot at the top of that pyramid. It’s not fair, but that’s the way that it works.
And so when we think about where our children, or the children that we work with, fall inn and we need to recognize that not everyone can be at the top of the pyramid.
[01:52:05.800] – Antonio
Obviously, not everyone can get into Harvard or Stanford. One because not everyone can be at the top of the pyramid and there are more valedictorians per year than there are seats in all of the freshman classes of the Ivy League combined, right? Because– I forget the number now, I think it’s thirty seven or forty three thousand high schools alone in the country. And that doesn’t include all of the home schoolers who are number one in their class of one, right? So there’s just there’s not enough room for all of the valedictorians in the Ivy League alone.
So obviously not everyone can get into Harvard and Stanford. But that being said, the easiest way to gain admission into these top colleges, with or without hooks, is to lead a remarkable life because that allows you to demonstrate the stuff that they’re really looking for. Of course, the easiest way to get in is to be the daughter or son of a billionaire or president.
One can excel academically and professionally from any college or without college at all. Right? And so we need to always remember that. The people who tend to excel the best long-term are actually the ones who have the most resources, and the most privilege, and power. But those who can navigate and get beyond that are the ones who learn how to leverage those resources and maximize whatever opportunities that they may have available to them. And that doesn’t require college.
[01:53:41.730] – Antonio
And then lastly, as opposed to an end in itself, college can be a tool that’s used in the service of a remarkable life.
So we in the self-directed education world where we don’t believe college is necessary, we believe for many people, college is just a distraction or a waste of time or money. In many ways, people go off to college, as some of you, including me– some of us have experienced college was the way for us, using Crystal’s words, as like, “I got to be free.” Right? That was your chance to to actually have freedom.
As Abby said, it was the first time that she had a choice getting to decide what what to study. Right? Like these were these were the opportunities for people. Rebecca, the opportunity to get away from home. Right? But if we’re focused on leading a remarkable life today and allowing young people to do the same, many of those things don’t require college.
[01:54:42.220] – Antonio
You don’t have to go to college to have autonomy in your choices in education, if you’ve had that from the get go. And Abby was choosing obviously a very specific school that would allow that when most schools don’t necessarily allow that. You don’t have to go to college to be free when you’ve been free your entire life because your family and your community focused on that. But that’s how we can help young people lead remarkable lives with regards to academics.
And the– and the wild thing about this is that this allows them to be positioned to get into these top colleges if they so choose, and to have a much easier pathway to getting into them. But the– the sort of hook to that is, or the caveat to that is, is that when people are allowed to be free and people are allowed to lead remarkable lives in ways that aren’t dependent upon ranking, or brand, or how we measure up to other people, all of a sudden those learners are much less likely to be drawn into trying to compete to get into Harvard or Stanford because they don’t value their self-worth on their ability to navigate to the top of these various pyramids.
And to the extent that they may go to one of these colleges, they’re much more likely than other people who go to those colleges to be going there specifically for the opportunities that that might afford them. Like the opportunity to participate in a very particular program, or to work with a very specific professor or in a certain department, for example. So can we be sure that this will work?
[01:56:37.140] – Antonio
So if we actually allow children to be free or when we’re talking to families who are debating this, like, can we be sure that this pathway will work for those families who are intent on their kids going to an Ivy plus type college?
Well, the first thing is, is that there’s no guarantees in life, right? Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. The one thing that we’re certain of is that the college admissions process does not guarantee that hard work results in success, because if you’re– if you’re poor and you come from a family who doesn’t have anything, you’re already put a huge disadvantage. Even if you outwork and outperform people with a lot more privilege. No guarantees in life.
[01:57:26.350] – Antonio
I do like to point people to the five regrets of dying. It was a blog post that an Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware wrote up, you can look it up. I believe that she also wrote a book about it, but the five regrets of the dying and here they are: I wish I’d had the courage in my life to live a life truer to myself, not the life others expected of me. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends and I wish that I had let myself be happier.
And when we think about this, when people are dying after leading a wide array of possible lifes, lives, some that were very successful financially and professionally and some that weren’t, right? And it’s interesting that– that these consistently came up amongst the people who are dying. People didn’t talk about – they wish that they had gotten into Harvard, MIT. They– they typically didn’t regret not becoming the CEO or a billionaire. It was the other things in life that mattered the most when they were dying. And this is something that’s really unique in the way that we in the self-directed education world approach living life, and approach supporting young people. We give them the opportunity to value these things because we’re not focused on rising to the top of the pyramid and we give them an opportunity to enjoy life now as opposed to believing that life is– is lived in order to position yourself for future success.
[01:59:19.900] – Antonio
So can we be sure that allowing children to lead remarkable lives now will work in terms of getting into a top college, or the other forms of success that this society measures? Well, of course not. We can’t be sure anything will work, but we can be sure of is that we can drastically improve the quality of our lives. We can improve their chances of getting in, but when we focus on what really matters in life, and what it really means to lead a remarkable life, ultimately what college they go in– get into, or whether or not they go to college at all really becomes a minor concern in the grand scheme of things.
So that’s me. Getting off my soapbox, does anyone have any questions? You know, I’ve been talking for a very long time.
[02:00:29.320] – Crystal
OK, my question that I thought about is that when I’m marketing, I say, “OK, these kids are free, they’re going to explore their interests and their passions. They may or may not– may or may not go to college.” But I think I kind of picked up on the idea that as a teenager, as a young person, they get these ideas, and they have all these passions, and that leads them to what their career is – with or without college.
And I don’t have a question, but I’m wondering how does that fit in when we’re talking about, you know, where we’re helping these kids, you know, lead a life that’s worth living ,to appreciate, to be happy where they are?
[02:01:14.350] – Antonio
Right. You know, the one thing that I used to try to give people very clear examples of, of how if you let kids follow their passions, everything else falls into place.
But the reality is, a lot of kids at the age of 18 have no idea what they want to do with their lives. I didn’t have an idea what I wanted to do with my life until I was in my late 30s. People change careers often, and it’s more of an expectation now than ever that people are going to be changing careers.
And I think that we do a great disservice by telling parents – and I had to work hard to stop doing this – that, “Oh if you let kids follow their passions and they want to play video games all day, eventually they’ll want to code, and then they’ll become engineers, and then they’ll be successful.” Or “Oh yeah, the kid loves playing around in the dirt. If you let him keep doing that, eventually he becomes a geologist.” And yeah, like sometimes– sometimes they end up getting an office job. Right? And that’s the way they pay to pursue their other interests in life. Right. It doesn’t necessarily it doesn’t always work out that their passions end up being their careers. There’s a lot of people who are passionate about music who can’t make a career out of it. Right? But they love playing in the band with their friends and brings immense value to their lives. And that’s great. They don’t have to make a career out of everything.
[02:02:42.340] – Antonio
But when you give children freedom and autonomy and you’re there to support them, what they do learn how to do is they learn how to learn. They learn how to set goals. They learn how to recognize what resources are available to them and what resources are not available to them. And they can learn how to navigate the world based on their access to various resources.
And sometimes they have to– they have to alter their plans. I want to become a professional pilot, but you can’t become a professional pilot unless you join some sort of military program, which means you have to fly for the military, or you go to a college that costs a lot of money because there’s very few options that aren’t private schools, right? You know that costs a lot of money and you have to get a pilot’s license. So for a lot of people, that might actually be not possible. Right? And they might have to fulfill their their interest and love for aviation in different ways.
But that’s not that’s not a strike against allowing children to be free. It’s just a recognition of constraints that we have in a society doesn’t afford opportunities to everyone equally.
[02:04:05.460] – Abby
Well, and a society that’s changing, so as somebody who went into college before my current career existed, right, because this didn’t– the school I’m at now didn’t exist. And part of why I stayed in New York was because this is one of the few places where I could do this work seven years ago. And like seven years is not a long time but already the landscape has changed so much that there are options that there weren’t before. So making decisions that are going to cost a kid – or any of us – years of our lives, solely based on the moment we’re in, isn’t isn’t necessarily the best strategy because it all keeps moving.
[02:04:52.470] – Antonio
Yeah. And. And another point is that– you know, if you’re– if you’re focused on making sure your kid finds a certain career field that’s going to allow them to live out financially comfortable life, you know, like you’re probably not looking for self-directed education. You’re probably more focused on forcing your kid to go to some sort of academically competitive school or some sort of STEM-based school or something, or some like career track field school. All the things that we care about in the ALC world is being in community with each other, being in relationship with each other, being able to appreciate what we have, and being able to build collaboratively, collaboratively with each other.
And those things sometimes can lead to career options, but sometimes it’s just about us being able to lead a meaningful life, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean financial security. And even if even if they don’t going– they don’t become animators in their future lives, right – because a lot of young people want to be animators these days, right? We have one of the learners at Abrome wants to be an animator for, for Pixar in particular. Well, a lot of young people do. And the reality is, is that there’s only so many jobs that are going to be available in that field. And quite frankly, if– if too many people go into it, then the wages are depressed and they’re not going to make much anyway.
But if they have the opportunity to dive in deeply and engage in something they care about and love, they’re going to get that experience of being able to do that. And that’s just something that a lot of young people never get the opportunity to do. If you’re focused on performing according to the standards of school, and to the standards of adults, you spend most of your time just meeting their expectations and excelling on their expectations, but avoiding the opportunity to to dive deeply into things that you really care about. And being able to do that when you’re young allows you to do that later, perhaps when you’re doing a career change, for example.
[02:07:16.580] – Antonio
The other thing that you brought up was people asking either you if she thought about art school, or if that’s a path, or asking her specifically like, “Do you want to become– what do you want to do this when– What do you want to do when you grow up?”
And I’d be interested in hearing what y’all do when you hear questions like this, how you can support young people. Like one question is, “what grade are you in?” Right. And just like do you all have a response to be like, “no, we don’t do that.” Like, don’t don’t waste our time with questions that are schoolish in nature.
Or “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Do you have ways that you respond in which you say, “well, what’s wrong with what they want to be right now? Like what’s wrong with their current?” So I’d be interested if any of you have sort of ways to respond to adults who are constantly trying to frame things in terms of school or career when when you– when you don’t necessarily need that in a child’s life.
[02:08:18.740] – Participant
I think sometimes people, especially I find like grandparent type of older boomers, end up kind of are saying that just because they don’t really know what else to say, they are trying to connect in some way. But they can’t. They you know, it’s just that’s kind of– it just comes out kind of they’re not really trying to imply anything about how you’re raising the child or how, you know, whatever else that we kind of to it because we’re in this world and this work, you know. So sometimes I just– I just segue into a topic about what they’re interested in now, I just don’t even, like, really acknowledge the content of their question and more acknowledge the intent of their question. And usually that works for me, but I’m very non-confrontational as well. So that would be a method I would go with.
[02:09:17.880] – Abby
As the opposite of non-confrontational, sometimes I make a joke about how much the world has changed in the past 10, 20 years and be like, “really, you expect them to be future like, you know, fortunetellers, Like, eh.” You know, and then do the segue.
I think Rebecca had asked about higher ed, that’s an option for– like that’s more aligned with SDE and I know that you and I have been– and Catherine have been tracking what’s happening with the higher ed landscape right now. So I just want to acknowledge, like there are programs out there. We’ve got a list of them. The question right now is who’s going to be open in the fall? And even if they’re open in the fall, are they going to make it until the spring? Because like, you know, the program I went to is unusual and that is tied to a big university with an endowment. A lot of these schools are smaller. And so the financial hit from the pandemic is pretty serious.
[02:10:27.260] – Antonio
And the point Abby brings up is, is really something to consider, though. A lot of those schools might fold. Right? Like there was, I think, Bennington College in Vermont or in Burlington. Whatever college was in Burlington folded that was, you know, was considered more, you know– that invited more self directed type folks, unschoolers, et cetera. Hampshire College almost folded. And then they, may I say, come up with a really good plan. And they only accept the ten kids last year. And this year was going to be their big leap back into the world of being sustainable. And then Covid hit. You know, there’s Wayfinder Academy, which I don’t know much about out in the West Coast, the northwest, you know. But all of those schools are potentially at risk of a failing, which is really unfortunate.
But then there’s and– but there are like create-your-own type major programs within bigger universities such as NYU. Brown has carved out itself a somewhat nice little niche within the Ivy League world as being more more free and being able to craft your own major type thing.
[02:11:48.350] – Abby
Take a leap year. I’m telling all the children to take a leap year. Just, just– you can, if you’re crystal clear, college is what you want. That’s rad. Don’t waste your money on their grand experiment, so all just take a leap year.
[02:12:02.180] – Antonio
The exception to that potentially is people who can get into schools that otherwise couldn’t and they have a very specific reason for wanting to. So there’s maybe not Harvard and Stanford, but like maybe maybe the Cornells of the world, they– they’re going to have a hard time filling their class. And maybe someone who otherwise would not be able to get in could take advantage of that and get in. And one, you know– for the overwhelming majority of people, going to Harvard doesn’t provide you much of an advantage over going to the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
However, for underrepresented minorities and for people who come from the lowest rung of the economic ladder, there’s marked advantages of going to such schools because all of a sudden it provides you access to resources and networks that you simply would not have had anywhere else. And so there have been studies that show that the people who disproportionately benefit from those schools are underrepresented minorities and people from the lowest rungs of the economic ladder. And, and for the ones who are from the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, it just so happens that those schools are often the cheapest to go to. It’s actually cheaper to go to Harvard than it is to go to your local state school, because Harvard will cover everything to include room and board.
[02:13:35.850] – Antonio
Every life is unique and people need to make choices that make sense for them. I’ve avoided Praxis just because of the politics of people involved with that, but I mean, it sounds in general like a good idea to be able to do something that is an alternative, and particularly for people who want to develop, you know, get internships and whatnot.
But I’ve never liked the idea of internships that are designed by programs anyways. I feel like the internships that people create on their own are going to be much more valuable. Me as someone– first, people love helping young people, right? People don’t like helping old people. Like, I go to someone and say, “Oh, I really like what you’re doing can learn from you?” They’re like, “how old are you? No, get out of here!” But if you’re a 20 year old kid and you want to learn and you go to someone, chances are like, yeah, you know, I would be interested in helping you.
But, you know, it’s very different if they say– if I as someone go to someone says, “Hey, I have a kid who’s really interested in what you do, would you mind working with them?” Versus that kid going to that person and saying, “Hey, I really like what you do. Can I work with you?”
I mean, it’s just Praxis and any type of program that designs or sets you up with internships I think really undermines the opportunity for people to get practice at accessing opportunities and creating their own experiences. So, yeah, I don’t necessarily have anything against structured programs if that’s what works best for people. But I really do feel that people who create their own opportunities tend to get the most out of them.
[02:15:18.310] – Antonio
So thanks, everyone, for coming. Really appreciate it.