(This essay first appeared on The PediaBlog on August 9, 2016.)
Attention high school students — this PediaBlog is for you!
Whether you are a rising high school freshman or a rising senior, dominating the process of college admission should be in the front of your mind. And it is a process that requires your attention, your parents’ support, and your time.
Rising Sophomores: Congratulations! You made it through one of the most difficult and transformative years of your life. I don’t want you to think the rest is easy, but at least you’ve gotten the freaky-deaky early teenage years out of the way. Practically all of you have been managing the physical changes of puberty and the cognitive and emotional aspects of adolescence. (If you are struggling with any of these things, please come see us, your pediatricians, who understand a thing or two and care a lot about you.)
As you prepare for your second year of high school, you should know the answer to the question: “Do I want to go to college after high school?” If you are still not sure (or you have no clue) then I’d suggest you go back and read yesterday’s PediaBlog.
Regardless of what you decide — “yes, I want to go to college”; “no, not college but I want to pursue further job training at a vocational or technical school, or in the military”; or “no, I’m not interested in any of those options” (you’re really taking your chances on this risky answer) — it would be a good idea to meet with your guidance counselor early in the school year to begin planning ahead.
This year you will take the PSAT — a standardized test of your knowledge that will prepare you for next year’s standardized tests, the SAT and ACT. The PSAT helps reveal a student’s academic strengths and weaknesses and can be used as a guide for students who are college-bound to begin thinking about a new set of questions: Where do I want to go to college, and, what might I want to study there?
Please talk to your parents early and often about your college aspirations. Parents need to be realistic — they know you better than anyone and, besides, they’re paying for it. Maybe you’re dreaming of going to the University of Hawaii. Prepare for the possibility that your parents might say “NO!” Also, college can be very expensive, so make sure your parents make it clear to you which options are affordable and which are not. There’s no point in considering a small, prestigious private college offering few opportunities for scholarships if that will put your parents deep in debt. Some families have realized that beginning post-graduate education at a local community college before transferring credits for a more traditional (and more expensive) college or university experience is a great way for their children to further their education and save money.
10th graders need to have this conversation with their parents sooner rather than later because this is also the year to begin making a list of colleges and universities you might want to visit next year. Go to university websites to list and bookmark the schools that interest you. If you have a few minutes, take their short virtual (video) tours of the school. Your parents might have some suggestions, as might your guidance counselor and teachers. Maybe you have a friend that is talking about a school they are interested in. Make a big list now — you will cut it down to a reasonable size the summer before your senior year. Feel free to add to that list over the next 2 years.
Resume-building is also a very important part of the college application process because colleges and universities want to bring interesting students to their campuses — young men and women who have had different experiences and have developed different talents throughout their high school careers. So here are a few things you can and should do if you haven’t done so yet:
- Join a club (or four).
- Play sports on a school team or participate in a school activity like theater, music, art, or student government.
- Get an after-school/weekend job.
- Volunteer in your community.
- Pursue an old hobby or find a new one (or four).
- Shadow a professional in an occupation you might be interested in.
The purpose of resume-building isn’t to show that you’ve been busy in high school. Rather, it is to show that you are an interesting person with curiosity and passion. These activities will demonstrate your maturity, your interest to keep learning, and your desire to bring these qualities to the college community you are hoping to join.
So be interesting. Become more curious. Ask for help in the classroom if you need it and make sure you are getting good advice by meeting with your guidance counselor. Stay healthy by remaining physically and nutritionally fit. (You will be getting some shots at your 16-year checkup, by the way, and we will sign your driver’s permit at that time also if you so desire.) This time in 10th grade is short, indeed. Before long you will be a junior!