Beyond the Book: Background information when reading A Nation of Wimps

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A Nation of Wimps

The High Cost of Invasive Parenting

by Hara Estroff Marano

A Nation of Wimps by Hara Estroff Marano
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  • Published:
    Apr 2008, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

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Competitive college admissions are one of the reasons regularly cited in Wimps for parental over involvement and the increasingly heavy academic pressures placed on children and teens. With this in mind, the March 31, 2008 article in The New York Times undoubtedly sent a cold shiver down many a parent's back but, arguably, unnecessarily so ....

This year, many top colleges are reporting record lows in acceptance rates. For example, Harvard accepted only 7% of the more than 27,000 applicants (about 2,000 students), in the process rejecting many of the 3,300 applicants who ranked first in their high school class and many with perfect scores on one or more SAT papers (2,500 scored a perfect 800 in the SAT critical reading test and 3,300 had a perfect score in the SAT math exam).

As William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard College, puts it, "We love the people we admitted, but we also love a very large number of the people who we were not able to admit."

Factors contributing to the increased competition include simple demographics - the number of high school graduates has grown year on year for more than 15 years (but is projected to peak soon and then reduce a little).

Despite many people's perception that success in life hinges on entry into the 'right' college, admissions deans and high school guidance counselors spend countless hours each year reminding students (and parents) who have been rejected or wait-listed for the top colleges that there are many other excellent colleges available and, most importantly, that rejection is often about the overwhelming numbers, rather than a candidate's individual merits.

"I know why it matters so much, and I also don’t understand why it matters so much," said William M. Shain, dean of admissions and financial aid at Bowdoin. "Where we went to college does not set us up for success or keep us away from it."


Hara Estroff Marano is an author, journalist and editor who, although not a trained psychologist herself, has been Editor-at-Large of Psychology Today for the past 15 years, in addition to writing for many other publications such as The New York Times and The Smithsonian. She writes a regular advice column for Psychology Today called "Unconventional Wisdom" and is the author of two previous books, the most recent on the social development of children, Why Doesn't Anybody Like Me?: A Guide to Raising Socially Confident Kids (1998).

In 2001, she created Psychology Today's "Blues Buster", a print newsletter that was the first publication to identify and document the mental health crisis on America's college campuses. As a result of her reporting she was invited to join the groundbreaking Bringing Theory to Practice Project. Funded by the Engelhard Foundation, it seeks to advance student engagement in learning and civic service as natural means of countering the epidemic of depression and other disorders of disconnection so widespread on American college campuses today. She is also a member of the Board of Governors of the University of Haifa in Israel.

Samples of her articles from Psychology Today can be found at her website:

Article by Jo Perry

This article is from the May 2, 2008 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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