Our local Tiger Mom and Yale

Awhile back I wrote about Tiger Mom’s.  Every community has one.  You just need to know where to look, ie, within the Chinese community(everyone has one of those, too)I gave a brief illustration on one in particular.  The one that doted on her children, loudly, in a well thought out and systematic way.   She was the one with the PLAN.  Her goal wasn’t the local nationally ranked top 20 university….nooooooo

She wanted Harvard or Yale. 

"I would feel a great shame", if I had to apply to the local school, she told my wife.

This Tiger Mom always got under my skin.  Her efforts were just too contrived.  It didn't help when I only half jokingly invited her daughter over for dinner one night, to better expose and inspire my own daughter to the benefits of hard work.  (Yet though it was summer, the Tiger Mom couldn't fit a visit to our house in her schedule.)

Yeah, you could say I kinda felt she thought her daughter was better than my daughter.

She was meticulous in her planning.  Created a proper resume for volunteer activities(reading to adopted Chinese kids), had the music thing laid out(2nd in state in piano), and of course had the grade thing going on…(1st in her class!).

Her daughter took the SAT, and was only 60 points shy of a Full Score….a FULL SCORE!

They got the letter back the other day….before we open it, we need to look at the above, and figure out amongst ourselves what weaknesses are there in the above planning? 

Let’s start with Volunteering:

Sounded too contrived….the Ivy league schools have figured out that a lot of folks just aren’t  culturally given to volunteering.   Needs to sound authentic!   Did she really help out any poor or suffering kids here? 

Piano….ask the Ivy schools themselves….a Chinese kid playing and excelling at piano is so…normal.

But the biggest factor to me would be the academic side…yep, she got first in her class alright….in a 70 student program!   You see, she lives in a school district often considered amongst the best in the State.  The Ivy leaguers have a type of SW program that allows one to understand which high schools merit “elite status”, and they could see that she did not attend any of those local high schools.   Her local high school for instance this year has already had it’s top 2 students accepted to MIT.   The school’s class size is approx. 500 students…bigger achievement.  So while she did attend an elite 70 student program….I think that’s why….(and we are now opening the letter!)

She was sadly deferred.  Not rejected.  I’m not sure of her status, ie Jr or Sr, but she still has time to get in.  Other kids from her 70 student program often go to elite schools.   However, the MOM was devastated.   Me, well, times are different.  I never had my parents take a special interest in my education.   I took the ACT without any preparation whatsoever, took it again the following week, and only applied to one school.   The State School.  Of course I was accepted.  It was great fun, and I’ve never had any regrets.

I’ve since told my wife that with a little help from me, I’m sure our daughter would be “a cinch” to get into Dad’s good ole alma mater.   Whenever I mention this my wife feigns a barf.
I understand that the educational cultures of both China and India drive the competitive process more and more in my country, as it does in others.   And the elite admissions committee’s all react.

What the above Tiger Mom didn’t figure out perhaps was that her daughter is not competing against Julie Marie or Tammy Ann, but against other Chinese.   And those other Chinese kids all play the damn piano, and they all have high SAT scores as well, and they all have Tiger Mom’s…
As for me, it once again made me ponder exactly how will I classify my daughters, ethnically?  In America, it’s an optional classification.    Admissions committee’s quite often take their applicants and have them compete against each other, within their respective race.   I suspect that is why Tiger Mom’s daughter was deferred.

But are my daughters really white?  No way in Hell will I classify them as Chinese.    Will it be to my advantage if I classify them as “other”?

There is another downside of course.  I always have to hear about it when one of my wife’s friends does well, ie blows off the locally ranked top school in favor of a “status” college.   I feel for my daughters.  (Our daughter brought home her first B of the year this week.   She blew an A on the final day of class. ) I feel for the oldest one, who will have to now hear in the household abt another mom’s child’s success.  The unspoken meaning being that we don’t work hard enough and just maybe my wife is too Westernized(hah!), and thus not properly dedicated enough with her own kids.   And that maybe if she wasn’t burdened with a Western husband, and his “way of doing things”, that maybe, just maybe our children would stand a better chance of getting in to a better school.  

Meanwhile, my daughter will feel the pressure.    Her mother will continue to harangue her whenever she see’s my daughter watching a bit too much TV, or reading too much of one book.   The mood within the household will turn sour, as we all wait for my wife to internally deal with the peer pressures created by her own friend’s children’s success.  She will ponder the ways to address the future educational options of our girls, against the background of her daughters’ “potential”.
Will my wife just pack it in, and be happy with a “lower standard”?   Or will she continue to push our daughters to keep apace of the immigrant onslaught?  The jury’s still out.


  1. GL mate. Good that I'm not in your shoes. Happy that my wife and kids all live here in Denmark. Takes the pressure a bit off, though my wife already started yakking about how we need to help our kids study. It was always my plan, but not sure the missus and I agree on how much :)

  2. I'm convinced there need to be a "shitty part-time job" category on college applications. It didn't even warrant a mention back in my day, because it was expected you had one of these anyway... This will fix the cultural divide in these things and is shows real character (as my dad would say). In my kanfa, Tiger Mom would never dream of sending her kids out to work some shitty job.

  3. Problem is that the kids today don't work "shitty jobs". Their Tiger Mom's are too busy trying to game the college application process by creating marginal volunteer opportunities for their children. It's a short sighted effort, because the college admissions folks know all the tricks. And one loses an opportunity when working a summer job to mingle with people of a different social strata. This inhibits one's EQ. And it's your EQ that gets you ahead once you gotten a post college job.


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