We have bent over backwards to forge separate identifies and paths for our two children so they could pursue their different interests, take advantage of their unique skills and explore their passions. Taking advantage of the charter, magnet and other school options, both kids attended different elementary, middle and high schools. But the reality of sibling rivalry and jealousy is upon us with the college admissions process and the forthcoming comparisons of test scores, acceptances, etc. I’m afraid that our lives are morphing into a scenario where my daughter feels that every facet of her life -grades, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities and work experience -is being measured and compared to her brother.
The plight of the younger brother or sister of someone highly intelligent, popular or focused on their future is difficult enough, even if the second child is as bright or talented in different ways. But navigating the college selection process within the shadow of a successful sibling is making an already stressful time in our younger child’s life even harder. Our son, the eldest is finishing college next year, while our daughter, the youngest, will be running through the college application/acceptance hurdles as a high school senior.
The issue is that my son did great on the SAT and ACT; my daughter got middle of the road scores her first time out (her brother got an 800 on the math SAT portion his first try). She is already fretting that she will never get into colleges and that everyone thinks her brother is smarter. Never mind that her GPA is much higher than his was.
Unfortunately, this is statistically the case in many households. Study after study shows that most first-borns do receive higher test scores in math and verbal ability; later born children have better grade point averages, particularly in English and math. Well, we are in the norm on those results!
Studies on birth order have also looked at U.S. presidents, Nobel Laureates and NASA astronauts to see whether they are generally first-born children or later born children. They found that U.S. presidents and science Nobel Laureates were overwhelmingly first-borns, as were all but 2 of the first 23 NASA astronauts.
Maybe I am worrying too much. But, you hate to see your child go through something as painful as college rejections and admission tests. As a parent, I should take comfort in having successfully navigated our son through the rough waters of the college selection process. It is tempting to impart my lessons-learned to my daughter. However, I realize they will not help much. Yes, I know what the FAFSA and have filled it out for four years so I have learned something. But the application arena is different from year to year based on demographics, the economy, and each college’s number of applications.
Who knows, I could be worrying needlessly – I certainly hope so. And, I admit I may be because I was a younger sibling. But I hope the fact that they have different interests, participated in different school activities, and are seeking different degrees will calm my daughter’s fears of not measuring up. But, I am not looking forward to navigating the college admission waters next school year.
The Effects Of Sibling Competition – Sylvia Rimm
Birth Order Affects Child’s Intelligence and Personality – Live Science
Parent’s Guide to the Sibling Dynamic in College Admissions – IvyWise
College choice: Not a one-size-fits-family deal – Washington Post