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ParentEd.: Rethinking Your College Outlook

As Christians we are taught to trust in God completely for the future. The Lord states in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We hear this, we repeat it into memory, and we post it as a meme on our social media platforms, but when it comes to our children and their dreams do we really say “Your will, not mine (or theirs) Lord”? The truth is, it’s tough. Children have big dreams, and parents want them to check every possible box off their dream list that they can. 

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Changes in the College Landscape

The truth is that getting into college as well as the entire college landscape and experience is vastly different from what parents experienced when they were going off to college. This makes the process increasingly difficult to navigate. 

Edited-1223One significant difference in the college selection and application process is that it starts much earlier than it used to. Parents with children as young as middle school are already asking questions and making decisions based on collegiate goals. Fortunately, the counseling staff at Mount Paran Christian School, as well as at a lot of high schools across the country, are a huge resource to students as they go through the college planning and selection process. In addition to knowing each student and their aspirations well, counselors are also privy to a lot of industry knowledge about colleges that the student or parents may not even know about. 

Thinking Outside the SEC

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It is also important to be open to thinking outside of the box when it comes to selecting colleges. Many students pursue ACC or SEC schools due to their own sphere of influence with parents, friends, and ESPN. But there are a lot of opportunities for colleges out there. With even minimal research, there are so many more incredible opportunities and offerings by other colleges and universities — and many of those may not come up on a sports channel on Saturdays.

With that in mind, it is important to pay close attention to any kind of college-preparation material and resources that counselors make available so that parents and students can take advantage of the wealth of knowledge provided by the college counseling office.

To AP or Not to AP?

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The big question for so many parents is how to help their child navigate whether or not to pursue an AP class, or go for the higher grade in an honors class to reach that high GPA. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a straightforward yes or no – it depends on the student, and the colleges on the student’s list that they hope to attend. Those “target” schools that the student is shooting for should be researched to see what they require from students, and whether those schools focus more on grade point average (GPA) or number of AP classes. However, highly selective schools will require a certain number of AP classes and a corresponding high grade within those AP classes. For a high school like Mount Paran Christian School that offers 57 AP/honors courses, there are multiple options to diversify a student’s transcript and rigor, while still allowing for them to focus in those certain areas where they excel or have a deep interest. They may still take honors or on-level classes in the subjects where they might need more support and reach their goals. The whole coursework decision process is truly dependent on how much a student wants to be challenged, where your student is looking at going to college, and/or what they are hoping to do after graduation. 

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Recipe for the Best Possible Outcome

The weight of the decision-making process can feel a little overwhelming when you have an eighth-grader who is still trying to figure out who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are. However, counselors stress the importance of taking it step-by-step and finding the best fit for your child. Counselors advise focusing on what each student needs to keep them safe, keep them healthy (both mentally and physically), keep them motivated, and keep them challenged. Ensuring these factors stay in check is a delicate balance, but one that is integral to students finishing strong with a college application that checks the boxes for each particular student’s picture of success. Finding the best fit for your child overall and trusting God in the path that He has chosen for them is the ultimate goal.

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Dr. Trici Holmes serves as the Director of College Counseling in the high school, Viola Lussier serves as a High School Counselor and Director of Counseling Services, and Amy Schwan is the Associate Director of College Counseling at Mount Paran Christian School. 

Click here to find out more about the counseling services at Mount Paran Christian School.

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