Most 15 and 16 year olds are thinking about their next game, their latest high school crush, surviving AP classes, or getting their driver’s license, not about their college plans for 2 -3 years down the road. It seems a bit unfair that they should have to think about such important things at a young age, but that is what the process has become and it is in their best interest to start early. Here are four resolutions for high school students considering college.
Spend time researching college and career options
By now, many students have had a broad discussion of college plans with their parents and/or high school counselor. What they probably haven't done is actually sit down and do some self reflecting and research. What are their potential career and course of study interests? What type of college do they envision for themselves? What are the requirements for admission to those colleges? They should make it a goal to spend time doing research now while they still have time to adjust their high school path, visit schools, prep for tests, and set up job shadowing and classes to help them with their admission and final decision. That small amount of time they spend over the next year has the potential to make a BIG difference.
Establish college application timeline and goals NOW
Students in their next to last year of high school should establish their timeline for college applications now! Although they may not have their 'list' narrowed down to the final few schools, it is not too early to establish personal deadlines for getting their applications done. The key is to set those deadlines early - take the potential college deadlines and move them back by 6-8 weeks! There can be a lot of unexpected delays, added requirements and other bumps along the college application road, and it is better to be done early than to risk an incomplete application. Students who stay organized and work ahead often forget to take into consideration the fact that there are pieces to the applications which are not in their hands. Recommendation letters, high school transcripts, and test scores are just a few examples of requirements which may not be sent directly by the student. Students need to give their counselors and recommenders plenty of time to complete their pieces.
Continue to put forth best effort in school and remember college decisions are NOT everything
By now many students at this stage in their high school careers have completed their applications, especially those for out-of-state colleges. Most of those even have their offers of admission already. The first of two resolutions for students at this time are to continue to put forth their best effort in school. There are plenty of other students willing to take their spot at their potential future college and there is little room for slacking and decline in grades. Colleges do pay attention to this and indeed have the power to revoke their admission offer if they feel the student is not meeting their academic standards.
The second resolution and unarguably the most important, is for students to remember that admissions decisions are not everything. Unfortunately colleges are unable to truly get to know each student before making an acceptance decision. Although a student may not have gotten into their dream school, their future is still very bright and they have plenty of opportunity to shape it the way they want it to be. Every college has something great to offer, students just have to take advantage of it. I do believe some colleges are better fits than others and strive to help students find the best matches, but ‘the perfect college’ does not exist. College is only the beginning of the journey. It can be a spectacular part of it, but it is not everything and it is certainly not the end.
For more new years advice for teens and their parents, check out the January issue of UnMazed Magazine.