Life

Inside the Pressure Cooker: Wealthy Families and the Ivy League Obsession

The Upper East Side is one of the wealthiest areas in Manhattan, New York, and is also synonymous with the “Old Money District”. Most of New York’s wealthy families live here.

The children of those whose wealth ranks among the top 1% in New York attend private schools on the Upper East Side, where there are highly educated teachers who graduated from the world’s top prestigious schools, as well as difficult courses that are comparable to those of prestigious universities.

What is the life and education of the top wealthy families really like? Will they also feel the pressure of chicken babies?

The author of this article, Bryce Rogelsberg, who graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree and studied for a PhD in psychology at Rutgers University, accidentally got a glimpse of the truth about parenting among the rich.

She works as an academic tutor at a top private school in Manhattan. By chance, tutoring a wealthy child with learning disabilities on his high school essay raised his grade from B+ to A for the first time, thus opening the door to a gold medal tutor for New York’s upper class.

For more than a decade, Bryce interacted with hundreds of children of wealthy families in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The education and life of these children aroused the author’s interest and became a window for her to observe the upper class.

“Parents all over the world have one thing in common, that is, they want their children to have a better future, but they don’t know what to do.” She found that wealth did not make the parents of these children feel comfortable, but instead encouraged them to The fear of class decline.

At the same time, she was also shocked to discover that on the other side of these elite children’s journey to Ivy League schools and following their parents’ footsteps toward glory and success, they had an overwhelmed and depressed spiritual world.
Busy and anxious “Fifth Avenue”

Fifth Avenue is the heart of Manhattan, a high-end neighborhood where many Bryce students live.

The family wealth of these students is enough to rank among the top 1% in New York. Their parents may be financial executives or bankers on Wall Street, may come from old money families, or may be celebrities who frequently appear in fashion magazines.

They own a villa in the Hamptons on Long Island, New York, travel around the world for business and vacation, and have no problem sending multiple children to private schools with annual tuition of $50,000.

What Bryce didn’t expect was that even such a family was eager to prepare for their children’s future and was giving them “chicken blood” every moment.
The task of raising chicken babies almost always falls on the shoulders of mothers.

They often receive a good education from prestigious universities, are very concerned about raising children, and take on the work of taking care of their children’s study and life, hiring tutors, and communicating with tutors. In their view, if their children do not do well in the exam, it means that their work is not adequate.
These parents have the resources and interest to participate in their children’s learning process.

They help their children choose courses every semester, and hold meetings with their children’s academic advisors, teachers, and tutors to discuss training plans during the beginning of the school year. They even send detailed emails to their academic advisors, ranging from things as small as lost books to as large as children and teachers. The relationship is not harmonious.

They are also keen to attend seminars to discuss how to help children improve their learning, and can talk for an hour about their children’s learning. Many parents also spend $4,000 to hire professional evaluators to evaluate their children’s learning patterns and write analysis reports.

Naturally, they also put a lot of energy into finding a tutor.

Wealthy families are accustomed to purchasing tutoring services to solve their children’s performance problems. If it doesn’t meet expectations, just change the tutor as usual.

In order to find a suitable tutor for their children, they will conduct interviews in person to understand the tutor’s academic background, which schools he has worked in, and his familiarity with the course syllabus. After that, it depends on whether there is a good rapport between the child and the tutor.

After working as a tutor for several years, Bryce has memorized almost all the required readings and course syllabus for middle school and college students. Even so, she will still be questioned by some critical parents.
Where there is demand, there is supply.

Over the years, the tutoring industry has flourished in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York. Many companies have jumped into this blue ocean, providing tutoring services at US$300 to US$800 per hour; tutors with doctorates from prestigious universities come and go here.

Tutoring is just one stop in the never-ending schedule of wealthy children.

Take Lily, the student tutored by Bryce, for example. She hired a tutor for almost every subject. Her banker mother had a carefully planned daily schedule to ensure that her daughter’s tutoring time for each subject was staggered.

Lily’s day basically goes like this: she attends squash training every morning, then goes to a private school to learn difficult courses, then plays squash after school, and finally goes home to do her homework and receive tutoring from two tutors.

By the way, in this area, almost all rich kids like Lily play squash. For them, squash is not just a niche sport, but a ticket to prestigious colleges and universities such as Ivy League schools or top liberal arts colleges.

Only Bryce knew that Lily preferred holding a needle and thread to holding a squash racket. She often said sadly, “I want to be a fashion designer, but I don’t have time to take fashion classes.”

In wealthy families, there are many children like Lily who do not have the right to make free choices or even have any time for leisure.
A life without a breath

The richest 1% of people seem to have a secure future, but after getting along with them, Bryce discovered that their lives are filled with more anxiety and competition.

They are more worried than ordinary families about whether their children will have a promising future, and they are more eager to shape their children into what they want them to be. Therefore, many of the students Bryce came into contact with were like living in a pressure cooker.
This pressure first comes from top private schools.

The course difficulty of the top private schools in Manhattan is unimaginable in many public schools. The school will require junior high school students to read the unabridged version of “The Odyssey”; in high school history classes, students must master the conventional historical narrative methods and analyze and interpret first-hand documents from hundreds of years ago; in the last year of high school, students will master more than standard calculus. Difficult content.

At the same time, students also participate in a large number of extracurricular activities: Latino student societies, feminist societies, mixed-race societies, Asian student societies, Jewish student societies, and other diverse interest societies.

In addition, many students practice niche sports to get into top universities. Because Ivy League schools usually accept students with top grades from elite private schools into the school team.
All in all, students’ energy was stretched to the limit.

They spend their days playing with personal trainers, traveling to tournaments, and receiving guidance from SAT tutors who charge $800 an hour.

Bryce’s student Trevor, a boy whose family is engaged in banking and real estate, is a member of the highly competitive football team in a private school. He has to train until 10 o’clock every night and can’t go to bed until midnight; if he performs poorly on the court and embarrasses his father, he will be severely criticized.

High-intensity study pressure, physical training, and traveling to various places to participate in tournaments have made sleep a luxury product. In school, students often lose control of their emotions because of exhaustion, and even burst into tears.
Spending too much time on sports also overdraws the child’s body.

Some students have permanently injured their shoulders while playing tennis and can no longer realize their dream of playing tennis in college; some students have become thin and fragile due to long-term practice of individual sports, making it easy for them to improvise in basketball games. Medium fracture.

Despite this, parents are not willing to let their children give up any activity, as if the children will fall into the abyss of eternal destruction once they are idle. Their after-school time is all filled up, and they don’t have a moment to breathe.

Among Bryce’s students, Alex, a 16-year-old boy, whose parents both graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, hoped that he could go to Harvard or Yale.

In order to make time for physical education, Alex’s homework was done by a tutor, and all aspects of his life were taken care of in an orderly manner. The room was cleaned, and clean clothes were magically placed in the closet. He never went out. Bought food.

It seems that the uncertainty in these children’s lives has been largely removed. But in fact, once they are freed from their parents and tight schedules, they are more likely to indulge in various “narcotics” – video games, e-cigarettes, alcohol, and even marijuana.

Alex, 16, not only smoked marijuana but was also diagnosed with depression.

Even so, for wealthy families, it seems that these are not big problems. As long as their children are still on the way to Ivy League schools, other things are not important.
The generational curse of having to attend an Ivy League school

In the global education arms race, the source of anxiety for wealthy children often appears to be more direct—that is, they must attend a top Ivy League school.

The Ivy League school alliance, headed by Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (referred to as HYP), is a guarantee of return on education investment in the eyes of wealthy parents – if you can attend an Ivy League school, it proves that the time and resources invested by parents have produced results.

This is also excellent bragging rights. After all, there is nothing more worthy of bragging for the upper class than having their children admitted to a top Ivy League school.

Of course, it is also a direct guarantee to prevent the decline of children’s social status. For parents who have graduated from top schools, it is important for the next generation to enter a prestigious school if they want to maintain their class status and continue their path to success.

However, many parents overlook that there is another important variable on the road to success, which is mental health.

Daniel Eisenberg of the University of Michigan and others have found that mental health affects a student’s ability to handle academic work, which in turn affects long-term outcomes such as employment and income. Students suffering from depression and anxiety are also more likely to drop out of school.

Bryce has tutored students who have dropped out of school due to poor mental health; others have developed major depression and bipolar disorder in college.

In addition, children of the elite who have been immersed in a competitive atmosphere since childhood often inherit a strong “survival of the fittest” mentality: “There are only a few top schools and good jobs. Either you lose or I lose.”

It is the mentality of “you can only win, not lose” that has led some wealthy families to risk their lives by hiring gunmen to take exams for their children, bribing college sports coaches, and falsifying their children’s results, which have landed them in jail.

It seems that while wealth brings endless resources to the children of rich people, it also increases the risks in their growth.

A follow-up study by Suniya Luthar, professor emeritus at Teachers College at Columbia University, shows that children from wealthy families are more likely to develop substance abuse disorders than children from poor families. Behind this is both the airtight pressure to achieve and the lack of daily parent-child companionship.

Some of these children will continue to abuse drugs after they go to college, and parents may choose to turn a blind eye because they are more concerned about their children’s academic performance. Many parents will say, “My child would love to go to a therapist, but the problem is there is no time for consistent therapy.”

Children from rich families are twice as depressed as children from ordinary families. They are like flowers in a greenhouse, lifted up by their parents and a group of support staff and sent all the way to college. However, it is difficult to predict how they will control their future lives.

In addition, Bryce also found that rich children (at least some of them) who graduated from prestigious schools were unable to plan their own life trajectories because they were not free to choose the careers and paths they desired.

The expectations of wealthy families for their children will still be limited to the narrow industries in which they are engaged. For example, boys will be escorted by their parents into the finance, law and real estate industries (in recent years, some boys have also entered the technology industry); girls are mostly engaged in careers such as education, art and design, or are encouraged to enter the banking, legal and medical industries.

When Bryce checked the students’ information, she found that most of the students she taught would follow their parents’ footsteps after graduation, such as working as analysts in banks or financial technology companies. Few stray from the traditional path.

She lamented that although many families are already extremely wealthy and can provide their children with generous lifelong income protection. However, parents who encourage their children to pursue their ideal careers are extremely rare.
“If I can get through it, so can he.”

There is nothing wrong with planning a safer path for your children. Surprisingly, on the one hand, many parents are worried about their children’s future, but on the other hand, they are indifferent to their children’s emotional world.

Bryce compared New York’s “Upper East Side” to a world dominated by grades, SAT scores, college admissions and squash rankings. Here, no one treats students as teenagers with growing pains who need to talk to others.

These children, who were born with silver spoons in their mouths, do not feel at home even at home. My parents are either attending charity balls at night or traveling around the world on business, and there is often only a nanny at home.

These kids, despite thousands of hours of tutoring and physical training, don’t know how to do laundry, cook a simple meal like eggs or pasta, send a letter, calculate a tip, or pay a bill.

Another thing Bryce learned during his time with the Fifth Avenue kids was that kids can be completely different on the outside than they are on the inside. Not all children have anxiety written all over their faces.

Just like her student, Julia, this girl who seems to love life and has a good sense of humor, was sent to California by her parents to recover from drug addiction when she was in high school. She struggled with impulsivity, depression, and a seeming inability to please her parents.

When education becomes an arms race to perpetuate class advantage, all rationality has been thrown out the window. Continuing the family tradition of attending an Ivy League school has become a crazy belief.

Bryce’s student Trevor is a boy with little enthusiasm for learning and suffers from learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder. His dream is to go west and live a life without any expectations.

Trevor’s father insisted on sending him to the Ivy League school where he graduated, and filled out a costly check in the school’s development office.

As for whether his son could withstand the studies and life in an Ivy League school, as well as the ridicule from other students behind his back, the father never asked his son what he thought, “If I can get through it, so can he.”

This may also be the mentality of many wealthy parents – on the road to success and wealth, there is no such thing as doing whatever you want, it is just patience and suffering that is different from ordinary people.

Undoubtedly, the upper class’s views on education and life are difficult for the author Bryce, a tutor from rural Massachusetts with an ordinary background, to understand and empathize with.

After graduating from Harvard, she gave up her high-paying financial job and studied for a PhD in psychology, which she was interested in. Because in her opinion, using psychology to solve the mysteries of the human mind is far more important than getting a six- or seven-figure income.

But no matter what, she still sincerely hopes that the students she has tutored can have more free thoughts. “At least those students with beautiful writing skills will not all go to Wall Street.”

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