Coffee With The Counselor: Early College Awareness

Sorry I didn’t post this sooner, but with a week off I had lots of other things to do, play-dates for my children, refinishing furniture for my home, birthday parties, rock climbing, ice-skating, glow golf. . .the list goes on. . .
Anyway, back to School Counseling and Coffee With The Counselor.  The Friday before break, I had my second Coffee With The Counselor chat for parents.  We had a nice informal, yet personal conversation about what parents and students had to start thinking about in terms of getting ready for college.  Next week, I will start helping families pick classes for high school, so what better time to think even further ahead about what paths students want to take in life. 
It’s not too early to start thinking about different colleges.  There are thousands of them out there, and finding the right fit is important.  You need to think about the balance of rigor, strength of program, a student’s own academic abilities, the right activities, and of course the career path you want to follow.  Add to that list opportunities to volunteer, work, and have fun. 
I talked with parents about the importance of taking challenging classes, although recognizing what is too challenging.  If a student is getting a B or C in an accelerated class, then they are in the wrong level.  Living next to Cornell University, and having about 10% of our students attend each year, I know that competitive colleges will say, we want AP classes, and we want students to have an A in them.  High school is not only about helping students get into colleges, but more importantly about having them be successful there once they get in.  College is too expensive to “fail out.” 

Here are some helpful tips for helping parents with early college awareness:

  1. Have students work on a Interest Inventory.  Having an idea of what you would like to do is important in planning ahead.
  2. Have students keep a list of their talents and abilities.  You may want to be a doctor, but if the sight of blood makes you woozy, then you may want to rethink things a little.
  3. Have students start keeping a list of activities they participate in, honors/awards they have received, sports they play, and jobs and volunteer experiences they have had.
  4. Whenever you can, go on a college tour.  Take pictures, ask questions, look around, eat the food, talk with other students who are there.  Once you get used to the process, you will know what to do in your junior and senior year, when these visits become even more important and meaningful.  I always like kids to visit a college they are not interested in attending as their first tour.  It gives them a good baseline for what questions to ask and what to look for on colleges they are interested in, and on most first tours, students (and parents) don’t ask many questions and are not sure what they should be looking for.
  5. Get a portable file organizer.  Keep all your college things in one place.  Keep a list of all of your passwords and user names for all websites:  ACT, Collegeboard, FASTweb, Naviance, Guidance Direct, FAFSA, Common App, etc.  You will use these a lot, and they most likely will all be different.
  6. Use the internet.  Collegeboard has a great website for college searches.  The more you know, the better a decision you will one day make.
  7. Talk with your child’s school counselor about high school options.  He or she can be your best source of knowledge for classes and four year planning.
  8. Expect your child to change his/her mind.
  9. Visit colleges.  I know I already said this, but when colleges can potentially cost over $200,000 for four years, you should visit.  How many people would buy a car with taking it for a test drive?  Well, same thing, just more money.

If you have never had parents in to talk about any topics of concern or interest, then you should.  It’s a wonderful time to let people know what you do, what your specialities are, and promote your program. 

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