[Excerpt] In the eyes of American parents, college admissions officers control the single most important gate their children will ever pass through. Nearly all parents hope their child will go to college. Perceptions of what it takes to get into preferred colleges and universities profoundly affect the courses students take, the standards teachers set and the effort students put out. Evidence for this last statement comes from a 1998/99 survey of 36,000 secondary school students at 135 high schools conducted by the Educational Excellence Alliance (EEA). The students were asked “When you work really hard in school, which of the following reasons are most important for you?” The most frequently cited reasons were extrinsic and future oriented.