Postcard From Lucerne

 Postcard From LucerneIt’s wonderful to be back in Europe again, this time in Lucerne Switzerland with its tranquil efficiency and beautiful presentation.  I’ve been commissioned to speak about US education and college admissions.  It’s a depressing subject in general but especially here where predictability is highly valued and is the norm.  The fact that one can never really predict admission to one of the great US private universities seems unbelievable to my European colleagues.  I can see why and I struggle to offer any good news on the subject.  I title my presentation, “Down the Rabbit Hole”, a reference to Alice in Wonderland’s trip to the place where nothing is as it seems.

The further away one is from it, the more the US private college admissions process can be seen as one big, roiling behemoth of craziness, utterly subjective, and the rational among us would be right to ask why it was designed that way.  But like most human endeavors, the reasons are complicated with no malice intended.  Solutions are hard to come by, however, and I find myself rooting for a complete deconstruction of the system.  Sadly, that’s about as likely as a reconstruction of Wall Street.  There are too many reputations at stake.

In the meantime, the New Yorker in me struggles to obey the pedestrian traffic rules in this gorgeous city.  I find it stressful to stand and wait out the change of traffic light from red to green when there is no traffic coming in either direction.  The people around me wait patiently in silence.  Worse, I have to force myself to slow my walking pace enough to notice the flower boxes along the covered pedestrian bridge crossing the river and the rocks at the bottom of the crystal clear lake outside my hotel where people come to swim on their lunch breaks.  Was the Hudson ever so clean, clear and swimmable?  And why am I rushing when local convention calls for strolling?  What’s the big hurry anyway?

As I write this, little Swiss sparrows surround my lakeside table, the braver ones hopping straight up to my plate, waiting patiently for me to finish before stealing crumbs from my baguette.  Well, I think, better sparrows than squirrels, like the ones that mug you for your French fries in Madison Square Park near Shake Shack, and I wonder how any work gets done here.

Less Stress, More Success

"Her book has added to her reputation as a kind of guru of the movement to tame the college admissions frenzy.”
New York Times
Our book group just read your book and it sparked more conversation than we’ve had in the seven years we’ve been reading together. Being successful professionals with busy lives and even busier children, we’re all trying to figure out how to find the time to just stop and enjoy our lives amidst so much pressure. Some of us find ourselves quoting you to our husbands and kids now, so you are our hero. ;-)
Sophia N. and Nancy R.

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