It’s been a long, hard year for those of us with high school seniors. I don’t want to pretend our journey can be compared to that of our forefathers arriving in America in steerage – but in many ways it’s felt like that. The emotions have been tumultuous and now that it’s almost over, I’ve developed a handy list of lessons culled primarily from my daughter’s college search. These are my observations and I welcome any comments and input from yours as well.
- ‘Dream’ School
A school is an institution that can help your child reach his/her dreams. Remind your child that they are steering the way and they are the only ones that can make their dreams come true. Though some schools may open a few more doors, perseverance, grit, determination and hard work will be the final barometers for success. So eliminate this term from your college vernacular, if your child does not get into their “dream” school, their dreams can be realized somewhere else.
- Brand Name
Ever since I vied for those Jordache jeans (I know I’m dating myself here), I’ve been acutely aware of the allure of the “brand name.” I’m also aware that those jeans never really fit and well I felt like I was walking in a straight jacket. An education should not be reduced to the shallow allusion of a “brand.” I’m sure many Admissions Officers are mortified by the tactics they are forced to use today to promote and build applications. Today college is a big business, so shop wisely and don’t shell out your hard earned money for a “name.” A “name” that may not offer your child the major they choose or best opportunities or options for them. Look, if Harvard comes knocking that’s fine but at an acceptance rate hovering at 5%, the majority of us wont’ be stocking up on Harvard sweatshirts.
- Major is not a Minor Matter
Even though your child may have no idea what they want to major in, you should still talk about it. At this stage of the game, you know if your son or daughter will be heading off to major in Marine Biology. Students need to think about what courses they’ve enjoyed and been successful at. Seriously, there are so many resources such and career aptitude tests out there that can help chart a course. This could save tons of angst when your child discovers they want to be a Marine Biologist and guess what there is no program at his/her school. Students don’t have to pin down exactly what they want to do but just knowing that your child wants to keep their options open can provide insight into the type of institution they attend.
Guess what seniors? College is school! I’m only stating the obvious because of all the inane comments I’ve ever heard this year – some buoyed by “senioritis.” I forced my daughter to review exactly what courses she would take at the four schools she’s still pondering. Then I had her look at the electives. Since she is considering art schools versus art majors within colleges, I felt strongly this is important. Yet, I can’t emphasize enough that this is important no matter what major your child decides to pursue. Many colleges have core curriculums; please make sure you consider that before signing up!
- Following The Crowd
We’ve heard this before, “If everyone jumps off the bridge, will you follow?” I know it’s enticing but if you really have to – please make backup plans. What I mean here is try not to be sucked into the vortex of applying to the “It” school in your town. That is the school everyone wants to go to, even if all of your stats are stacked up in your favor. Schools are only going to accept a certain percentage of students from your high school. Many of my daughters’ peers were disappointed by rejections or waitlist status at these schools. It’s fine if the school is a good fit, but cast a wider net just in case.
I’d like to end this with a little advice to students. College is just a start. It’s just the beginning of plenty of hard work ahead. You are going to change, the world will change. Your decision may be spot on or you may transfer. What won’t change is your drive and ambition. Don’t be shy; seek out the best opportunities for “you!” Chase your dreams; look for a career you are passionate about. Don’t sell your soul for money. The way the world is operating today, there’s no such thing as a sure thing - so find something you truly love and go after it with gusto.