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Reining In College Admissions

There was an awards ceremony at my daughter's school last week for 11th and 12th graders. The school and the community gave out awards, including some for English, music, math, and sports.

An 11th grade girl was honored by a national organization for her academic excellence and for overcoming some personal disadvantages. The group further rewarded her with a $250 prize. Everyone there was proud of this wonderful kid. A little while later, we learned that a 12th grader had been honored for her equestrian prowess with a $13,000 scholarship.

After the ceremony, I asked my daughter what she thought the message was. She smiled, knowing what I meant, and replied, "Forget studying. Get a horse."

Don't get me wrong. I don't begrudge the horseback rider her scholarship. I've seen enough "up close and personals" during the Olympics to know how much an athlete and her family have to sacrifice in order for her to excel. It's great that she was rewarded for her talent and hard work.

I just wish that similar resources had been available for the other girl. Although my daughter's statement was somewhat tongue in cheek, the ceremony did seem to suggest that something might be off in terms of what we value in our society.

It would be as if comedy writers were paid more than schoolteachers.

Bad example.

A few days after the ceremony, I heard about a girl who had been accepted by Mount Holyoke College. She, too, is an equestrian, and she plans on bringing her horse to school. In fact, the college is going to pay for the horse's upkeep. So, even the horse got a scholarship!

I'm particularly interested in these things because my daughter is an 11th grader. According to all the newsmagazines, when she applies to college for next year, it will be the most competitive admissions process in history. These same magazines always urge parents and teenagers to not feel stressed about the application process. Nowhere in the magazines do they suggest that one of the reasons that kids and parents feel so stressed is because of all these magazine articles.

But now I felt some of the tension lifting as I realized that all we had to do to guarantee our daughter admission to the college of her choice was to get her a horse. I wasn't immediately sure where we'd keep the horse. We have a basement, but it didn't seem right to expect a horse to walk up and down all those stairs. I decided I'd worry about where the horse would sleep later. First I had to buy one.

I knew racing thoroughbreds cost a fortune, but we didn't need one that good. We didn't even need a new horse. A used horse would do. So, I did what people do today when they're looking for a used item: I went on eBay.

I had never been on eBay before. My wife has been buying things that we don't need for about a year there, so she showed me the ropes. There were pictures of horses, horse blankets, horse jewelry, horse salt and pepper shakers, horse bookends and horse serving trays. But there were no horses for sale on eBay.

I didn't know where to turn next. I got a little depressed as I realized that it looked like my daughter might have to depend on her high school performance instead of a palomino.

Then I cheered up.

I remembered that my daughter has a friend who just got into Northwestern. Like so many kids, she's a great student, an athlete, and an all-around wonderful person. But unlike most kids, she's a pilot. That's right, an 18-year-old whose hobby is flying airplanes. Colleges should be more impressed by that than by horseback riding. And if my daughter can learn Latin, physics and calculus, all while listening to rock music, how hard could it be for her to learn to fly a plane? I'll bet I could find a nice used one on eBay.

E-mail your questions and comments to Lloyd Garver

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver

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