A new member of my Parents of College Bound Kids Facebook group recently asked about how to prepare her rising freshman daughter to make the most of her high school experience and set herself up for success in college. I thought this excellent question was likely one that many have asked or will ask as they approach the high school years with their child(ren).
Here were my responses:
1. Ensure she has solid executive functioning skills going into high school (organization, note-taking, study skills, time management). I see too many students in my business who have great grades sophomore through junior year, but their freshman grades were low or very low because they didn’t have the skills to make the transition to a much more rigorous workload in high school. Thus, their overall GPA can hamper them if they are considering selective or very selective colleges.
2. Be true to herself and pursue an APPROPRIATE level of academic challenge. I also see too many students who are knocking themselves out to take as many AP classes as possible each year and sleeping four hours a night. Encourage her to discover her favorite subjects and those in which she naturally excels and then pursue the most challenging courses in those areas. College prep or honors are fine for subjects in which the extra challenge would be too difficult/overwhelming.
3. Try new things early in high school and find some things that she truly loves. Pursue leadership opportunities - whether they be formal roles or informal mentoring opportunities. Not everyone has to be the club president or team captain to make an impact. After she identifies some areas of interest - encourage her to expand upon them in other areas of her life as well - think “outside the box.” For example, if she loves a sport, perhaps as she progresses through high school, she can not only play that sport but also volunteer to teach younger kids at a Boys and Girls Club or befriend a peer through Best Buddies and help that student play in a club league or learn to enjoy cheering on the school team. Similarly, If she loves music, cooking, working with animals, computer programming, etc. - encourage her to extend those passions beyond the expected and find ways to enrich others’ lives along the way.
4. Be a kid - build friendships, try new things, take some downtime to refresh sometimes, and while it’s important to stay on task, it’s also important to get adequate sleep and enjoy this time in her life.
5. There is not “one” school that will far and away be the best or only college for her. There are many colleges that will be an excellent fit for her academic and personal interests. Try to encourage her to enjoy high school, commit to giving her best effort to her classes and the extracurricular activities she chooses, and then build a diversified list of target colleges. Encourage her to follow her own heart - not the opinions of her peers.
As always, feel free to post or PM me with questions or thoughts!
Best of luck to you all wherever you are on this journey!