Vicarious Kid Syndrome: Parental Intent Impacts College Success

Let’s talk about motivations. One of the crucial fundamentals is analyzing the first thing that comes into your head about the elite college admissions process. Have you ever thought: “Hey, I never had the chance to go Ivy when I was a kid. So now, by gosh, my kid’s gonna get that chance”? If so, you may suffer from VKS. You may be trying to relive your life through that of your kid’s. Lots of potential land mines here, folks.

Okay. What exactly does vicarious mean? In general, it means, “taking the place of another person.” You have to ask yourself the hard question: “Do I want my kid to seek Ivy so that the ‘prestige’ [whatever that means] will rub off on me?” Be honest. You’re reading this in private and no one is impatiently waiting for your answer. Just nod your head if it’s true. You don’t have to attend a VKSers Anonymous meeting, stand up, and say, “Hello. My name is Dave Berry and I want to live vicariously through my kid.” Just be aware of your stance here.

The purpose of this chapter is to increase your sensitivity to your kids’ deep-rooted potential. If, after being properly sensitized, you judge that your son or daughter has true competitive potential for the Ivy and elite admissions process, then you may become an advocate for that outcome, should you choose to do so. However, if your intentions are rooted anywhere near your own self-interests, then you should do some serious soul searching. You may be gambling with your kid’s long-range happiness and college success.

Loud Angry Voice from Offstage: “Hold it, dude. You almost just put me to sleep telling me that I should be a talent scout for Princeton or Harvard. Now you’re saying that I shouldn’t? That’s one confusing message, man.”

Not really. The message to parents is pretty straightforward: “Observe your kids. Discover who they are. If they’re competitive, advocate some top colleges.” That’s all. Notice that the message is not: “Dedicate your life to getting your kid into the Ivy League, come hell or high water.” There’s a big difference. Don’t be a vicar for your kids. They’ll have a hard enough time living their own lives. Don’t burden them with the extra weight of your unfulfilled dreams.