You will often hear us say “Foresight is the BEST Sight” when discussing college with our families. Like so many factors in the college search process, that ‘sight’ is dependent on the individual student more than any formula. What we encourage first is exposure to college and that can begin at any age – a quick side trip or a campus drive through on a family vacation can offer a nice little preview to what is to come before actually diving into the process.
There are some questions that begin as early as middle school. An increasing number of middle schools are offering high school courses so it is a good idea for families to look into these classes to see if they might be a good fit for your student. However, be careful not to fall into the trap of pushing your student when they are not developmentally ready and take into consideration the interests as well. It may be better to expose your child to an extracurricular arts program to boost self-esteem at this age than pushing high level math!
Ideally, we like for students to come to us in their freshman year as it is far easier to build on a solid foundation than to “re-group” after falling off the wagon. Taking a long term look at course selection can set a strong foundation for what lies ahead along with helping to provide a balanced approach to academics. Unfortunately, when students come to us during their junior year, we cannot rewind the courses they have taken for the first two years of high school, which ultimately affects not only can impact their overall cumulative GPA, but core courses are sometimes overlooked. And, if the more selective schools are on your radar, it is important to take this into account and start strong and work to your potential starting in 9th grade.
In addition, we encourage students to participate in extracurriculars that interest them, so that they will stick with them. It is important to not only be a member of a club but to dig deeper and take that involvement to the next level throughout your high school career. Being a member of the Latin club is great, but working through the ropes to become the President of the Latin Club is even better! Beyond clubs and activities offered through school it is helpful to also explore community-based activities as well, or design an internship to explore a career interest.
So – what can a student do to set themselves up for success? Take the time to plan, explore and be true to yourself, be authentic. Take courses that interest you, at the level you think you can succeed at without too much extra help and/or stress. Prepare to your best ability for standardized tests to obtain your best score. Participate in extracurriculars that you enjoy, spend time with friends and family and try to enjoy your high school experience. Yes, colleges look at your academic profile, but they also want to see that you are a well-rounded individual that participates in your community. You WILL find a college that is the best fit for you, a school at which you will continue to flourish and thrive, starting early may just be the key to take a little stress out of the process.