Parents, do you remember applying for college? It was so easy! You likely had a paper application that asked a handful of questions, took the SAT once or twice and sent in your scores, and then your parents signed a check for $25. You may have been accepted to the three schools you applied to and chose the one that was close enough to home, but just far enough that your parents couldn’t surprise you without a phone call first. You may not have paid much attention to the ranking of the school’s degrees, if there was a football team, or the freshman retention rate. You and your parents decided you were going to college, picked one, and went for it. How times have changed!
THE STAKES ARE RAISED
It’s easier to refinance your house than to apply to college. Now, it isn’t just the student choosing the school — the school is choosing the student. The stakes have been raised to near perfection, simply because of the increased number and quality of applicants applying to schools today. Students feel the pressure to make the best grades, join every club, and play every sport. Parents proudly wear a badge of honor if their child has been chosen into the “elite” school.
Here is what we are forgetting:
God has the best, most perfect plan laid out for each of our students. Our job is to listen to God and to follow his will. It’s about heaven, not Harvard. Although going to an elite school may be a parent’s dream for their child, our first priority should be that we are setting up our children for their eternal future, not just the next four years. There is a college out there for everyone. In fact, college may not be where your student needs to be, and that’s okay too!
THE TRUTH ABOUT COLLEGE ADMISSION
If you’re nervous about the college-planning process, Rick Clark, Director of Admissions for Georgia Tech, and his friend Brennan Barnard, Director of College Counseling at The Derryfield School, wrote an excellent guide to college admissions, The Truth About College Admission: A Family Guide to Getting in and Staying Together. Without giving away the entire premise, Mr. Clark and Mr. Barnard guide readers through five key parts of the admissions process, from the reason why we are going to college, to creating a college list, and finally to making your final choice. (If you ever have the opportunity to listen to Rick Clark speak, please go! He presents the college-planning process in a calm and logical way.) What the authors write about is what Dr. Trici Holmes, the Mount Paran Christian School Director of College Counseling, preaches: best fit.
TIPS TO PREPARE
For a quick and easy checklist to help prepare your student for college, here are three things to focus on:
1. The higher your GPA, the more doors will be opened.
As a counseling department, we get this question all the time: “Is it more important to take a core/honors class and earn an A in it or take AP classes and earn a B?” The answer is, it depends on the college. The truth is, the colleges that want the high GPA and Advanced Placement classes are also expecting that you make great grades in those courses. So, before you start to get overloaded with extremely rigorous courses, check to see if your top three colleges choices even require rigor.
2. Clubs are cool, but what does your child really like to do?
Sometimes parents get so caught up in their kids “checking the boxes” that their child is not able to participate in anything they love. Belonging to a club is great, but leadership in the club looks better. Realistically, there are only a handful of leadership opportunities that students can be involved in at school, so looking for opportunities to be involved in leadership through church or through outside sports or service counts as well. If your child loves to dance, don’t be frustrated that they dance. In fact, they likely don’t have extra time to do anything else. Instead, allow your student to explore things they genuinely want to be a part of, whether it’s starting a club at your school or trying out mountain biking and joining a mountain biking organization.
3. Go visit colleges.
No one really knows what school they want to attend until they visit the school. Make this fun! If you’re going somewhere on vacation, see what colleges are around. You never know when a college might surprise you and have something that fits perfectly for your student and your family.
Of course, college planning is much more involved than these takeaways, but it’s a great starting point that you can easily implement immediately, even if your student is not yet in high school.
Viola Lussier serves as a the High School Guidance Counselor and Director of the Counseling Department for MPCS, providing personal academic-planning support for students at Mount Paran Christian School.
Special thanks to Director of Admissions at Georgia Tech, Rick Clark, who spoke to MPCS high school families as part of the school's ParentEd. series providing expert advice on college admissions, and set the basis for this post.
Just starting your high school academic career? A full-scale College Planner notebook is given to all freshmen enrolled at MPCS and gives in-depth checklists, websites, scholarships, and resumé-building information to guide parents and students every step of the way in the college-planning process. Click here for information on the MPCS high school program.