These days, the American education struggle starts early. Top-notch preschools get applications for kids that are still in diapers. Elementary schools take field trips to colleges, and middle school students plan their math classes accordingly so that they're on the path to taking calculus as high school seniors. Such arduous educational journeys seem the norm for those attending the nation's best universities.
But how effective is it, really, to have first-graders setting higher-education goals? As great as it might be to hear that your 6-year-old wants to be a veterinarian, the revelation that it's because your child loves the family puppy makes the declaration more fantasy than realism.
So how young is too young to get kids thinking about scholarships and dorm rooms?
As the NYTimes reports, the students in Kelli Rigo's first-grade class at Johnsonville Elementary School in rural Harnett Country, North Carolina, already have campuses picked out. A recent writing assignment was to explain their college choice and what career they'll pursue upon graduation. Once complete, the mock applications were stapled to a bulletin board for all to see.
"The age-old question is: 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' You always ask kids that," Rigo told the NYTimes. "We need to ask them, 'How will you get there?' Even if I am teaching preschool, the word 'college' has to be in there."
But as more and more youngsters get campus tours before they've hit puberty, economic prosperity remains a major deciding factor in the achievement of collegiate success.
According to the NYTimes:
"Research shows that the college advantage is growing only for students from educated, high-income families. Since 1970, the rate at which affluent students earn bachelor's degrees has nearly doubled (from 40 percent to 77 percent) while it has barely moved (from 6 percent to 9 percent) for low-income students, according to a report out this month from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education and the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy."
While children from all economic backgrounds are taking tours of top universities, the early introduction doesn't guarantee that exposure to college at a young age is the key to future success. Yet it doesn't appear to be a hinderance.
Still, the overload of schools requesting campus tours, though an excellent example of spreading brand awareness, has led some universities to fork the flow of visitors.
Boston College, which doesn't allow official tours for grades below high school, notes on its website that is has a "desire not to contribute to the college admission frenzy," as the NYTimes points out.