The short answer? Probably.
As a mom of a kindergartener, I'm no stranger to the stresses American parents face today when it comes to schooling their kids. These days, it's all about where you go. How good of a preschool you go to determines how good of an elementary school you go to. How good of an elementary school you go to determines how good of a high school you go to, and that in turn can influence where you go to college. Parents put tremendous weight on the college their kids go to, focusing on the opportunities that could be available to them once they graduate. Indeed, statistics suggest that where we go to college is a strong determinant of success.
Jonathan Wai, a research scientist at Duke University, has written about the implications of education, gender, cognitive ability and other factors when it comes to success. His research has shown that education does matter, but he questions whether or not that has to do with the education itself. "For students throughout the range of colleges and universities, going to a more recognized school is likely to help open doors for their future — at least in the current U.S. educational and occupational structure," he writes. "This, of course, doesn't mean that it is necessarily the elite school education or experience that is the driving factor. Among other things, eventual success could be attributed to individual characteristics such as brains and motivation, which unlocked the door to admission to begin with."
Frank Bruni, a New York Times op-ed columnist, recently wrote a heartening book for parents and students, looking down the veritable rabbit hole of the American education system. The book is called "Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be." Motivated to write the book after seeing his friends' kids and his own nieces and nephews get whipped into a frenzy over the college admissions process, he argues that where you go to school is not necessarily a determinant of how successful you'll be. In his book, he explains how colleges have transformed into a business, marketing to more and more students, just so they can turn students away and therefore decrease their admission rate. (In fact, Harvard and Stanford recently made headlines for turning away 95 percent of applicants.) And with online applications streamlining the admissions process, kids are applying to more and more colleges, thereby making their own personal rejection rate much higher. He also argues that kids and their parents place too much weight on the brand of the school, as opposed to actually weighing the pros and cons of the education they receive.
However murky the college process may be, recent studies suggest that emotional, not intellectual, intelligence is the biggest predictor of career success. In a meta-analysis conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010, researchers combined results from years of studies about emotional intelligence, and found that emotional intelligence is a solid predictor of career success. As a parent, that's reassuring news, since building my kids' emotional intelligence is a lot more attainable (albeit somewhat difficult at times) than prepping my preschoolers for the SATs.
As John Gottman writes in his tome "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child," "Evidence is mounting that kids who can feel their parents' love and support are better protected from the threats of youth violence, antisocial behavior, drug addiction, premature sexual activity, adolescent suicide and other social ills." He continues, "Studies reveal that children who feel respected and valued in their families do better in school, have more friendships, and lead healthier, more successful lives."
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