The Pressure to Get My Kid Into College Is Intense — and She's Only 9

Yep, my husband and I are already prepping our daughter for college, even though she's only 9 years old. Some people may think it is too early to be thinking about college for her, but we beg to differ. To start, we live right smack in the middle of Silicon Valley, where it is near impossible to get a job with a livable wage without a college degree, especially at one of the large tech companies based in our area (many of which require a master's degree or higher to even be considered for a job). She's surrounded by the college messaging every day, and frankly, we want her to go to a good school — so it seems we are required to begin prepping her now.

On top of that, the pressure to get her into college is already very intense — even though she hasn't even lost all of her baby teeth. She's facing down all the normal pressures students today are under (grades, friends, tests), while contending with her grandparents' high expectations about college. My mother immigrated to America when she was a young adult and did not have the opportunity to attend college. However, she worked extremely hard and made a wonderful life for herself. She taught me how nothing in life comes easily, and I must work hard in order to get what I want. Because of my mom, I was able to attend my first choice college — and she expects her grandchild to be able to do the same. According to my mom, not attending college is completely out of the question. And while my mom is strict about school, we're very fortunate because my parents have been putting money aside for my daughter. Though they make it very clear that the money is only to be used for college.

And let's face it: Getting a college degree can cost big bucks. For example, just one quarter as an undergraduate at Stanford University (the closest large school to where we live) for the 2019-2020 school year costs $17,619, not including room and board or textbooks. I can only imagine what tuition will be like a decade from now. So the moment we found out I was pregnant, we started saving for our child's college fund, and I'm especially grateful for my parents' contribution. Every year, my husband and I save money especially for her college fund. And any monetary gifts our daughter receives, from birthdays and graduations, to baptism and first communion, go straight into the college fund. When the time comes, we're really hoping to have enough to cover all the costs — or at least most of them.

Of course it takes a lot more than money to get into college. It also takes getting good grades, and going to a school that prioritizes excellent grades in the first place. Because of this, we decided to enroll our daughter in a private school over our local public because its academics and curriculum seemed more enriching and challenging. Plus, we think she'll receive more individual attention from her teachers in private school. We're grateful we had the opportunity to get her into a school with such a strong focus on academics. And even though she's only in the fourth grade, she understands how important it is to work hard to keep her grades up, and is willing to put in the time and effort to get them. We also are lucky enough to be able to afford to hire a tutor to help her in subjects she struggles with. With a learning environment like this, we hope our child can build a strong educational base that will help her get into the college of her choice.

We also know how important extracurricular activities look on college applications. We learned our daughter had a passion for acting, so as soon as she was old enough to be in her school's drama club, she enrolled. She's been in drama for three years now and is loving every minute of it. She's also begun doing solo stand-up comedy routines during the intermissions. Besides that, she's an excellent artist and even has her own Instagram account to show off her creations. She caught the eye of the upper grades art teacher, who applauds her talent and has displayed her work in his classroom. We're proud that she's following pursuits that she loves but can't help but stress to her that these kinds of extracurricular activities will help set her apart from her classmates when it comes time to fill out applications.

It feels insane to be putting all of this pressure on our elementary-school-aged girl, but it's the unfortunate reality we're facing. College admission rates are so competitive, and we want her to have the best shot at getting into her dream school. But the bottom line is we love our child so much and just want her to have a fulfilling life. And while we're doing all we can now to instill important values in her and set her up for a bright future, it ultimately will be up to her to decide what path she takes in life. All we can do is hope that all of our time, work, and sacrifices will help her make the best decision for herself and her future. And we'll be proud of her no matter what.