“The Six Opinions That Actually MATTER While Your Child
Prepares For The College Years”
Happy New Year!
We hope that you and your family have enjoyed a wonderful holiday season, and that the transition back into school and work for the New Year is progressing smoothly. This marks the mental mid-point of the academic year for many people, even if the actual chronological mid-point comes a little later, so it is definitely a good chance to take stock of how things have gone so far in the 2016/2017 year.
When taking stock of the year – and also when making plans for the academic future of your college bound high school student – there is an inherent danger that we would like to discuss in this month’s newsletter. It is important because we see, time and time again, how many students and families are affected by it, and there is no doubt that it is rampant in nearly every high school in America…
Preparing for college or university studies is a competitive process, in many ways. The simple fact is that the admissions process for better institutions and programs is a competitive one, because there are almost always more applicants than available positions for desirable schools. Because of this, we find that the preparation and application process can often take on a sometimes-unpleasant “edge” that really need not be there. Of course, the simple fact that we don’t like the tone of the process does not mean that it will go away, but it also means that there is no shortage of opinions, judgments, and comments (some quite valuable, some snarky and mean-spirited, some essentially worthless, and some well-intended but downright harmful) surrounding the lengthy and involved process of preparing for and applying to colleges and universities.
Because there is no shortage of opinions and input, one of the most important things that parents and college-bound students can do is to determine exactly whose opinions and input matter the most… and focus their attention and efforts exclusively on those. If a family can hone in on the voices that will truly help them to find and access the best higher education options for their situation, and essentially ignore the cacophony
For this month’s newsletter, we are focusing these pages on the “short list” of people and groups whose thoughts on the college application process actually matter, to some degree or other. Yes, and individual student might have an additional couple of people whose opinions matter to them, and that is as it should be, but let us assure you – there is no need to take advice from the peanut gallery. As always (and as will be discussed below), if you are interested in some more personalized suggestions, please do feel free to give us a call. Because we are college funding professionals – and quite literally college application experts – we are uniquely qualified to assist with planning, and can provide the most pertinent information for your family’s college preparation efforts.
Probably the most important advice for parents from the outset is first of all, to use common sense, and secondly, to ignore the aforementioned “peanut gallery.” While the outcomes may be rather public, the college application process is a personal one, and it is important to realize that the opinions of other parents or students will be of negligible value in the long run. Always remember to focus on that long run, and not on trying to impress the people whose opinions ultimately do not matter! Some of the people whose opinions will matter, to some degree or other, include:
1) The Teachers
This can be, of course, a double-edged sword, depending on the teacher. High school teachers are in charge of the grades that determine grade point average, of course, so their opinions need to be taken into consideration. College application recommendations also tend, at least in part, to come from high school teachers. Excellent teachers, providing excellent and purposeful letters of recommendation, are an absolute godsend to any college-bound student’s applications. On the other hand, unprofessional teachers can tend to make the process significantly more challenging than it needs to be.
Regardless, the best advice for students who are preparing for higher education is to seek out the best teachers during their high school years… and to maintain cordial, appropriate relationships in all of their classes, no matter who the teacher might be. Students who can manage this will generally be able to tell which teachers have their best interests at heart, and seek out appropriate advice from them.
2) The Advisors
You will find a number of different people during the high school years that function as advisors in some capacity. There are guidance counselors and academic advisors on the classroom side of things, and then club advisors, sports coaches, artistic directors, and others involved with extracurricular activities. And of course, that partial list ignores a host of other potential advisors through such organizations as service clubs, scouting troops, church groups, and other activities that are based outside of the high school umbrella.
It is usually best to select just a couple of particular advisors to assist with the actual college admissions process itself – many schools will have the guidance counselor automatically involved in the process, but a few advisors from extracurricular activities can be helpful in offering input and support along the pathway to the college years.
3) The Student (!)
The interests, goals, and overall desires of the student him/herself are sometimes, sadly, completely overlooked in parental enthusiasm for the college application process. It is important to remember that a student will have the best opportunities to succeed if s/he is in a situation where s/he is excited and motivated to study.
While input from the parents is key, and certainly important, the opinions of the student need to be respected. The application process is usually a team effort, to be sure, but over the long-term the student will be the one studying and working towards his/her long-term goals. We urge parents to always keep this fact in mind.
4) The Mentor(s)
It sometimes does not seem very easy for students to find mentors in the field(s) that are of major interest – especially if they are in an area that might not dovetail with the professional work of a parent or relative. However, it is our experience that students who are willing to put their best foot forward, and perhaps even do some volunteer or internship work in some capacity, will often be able to find supportive mentors for their academic and career goals.
These opportunities might be listed online, in newspapers, or through school offices and clubs… but sometimes it is as simple as calling or emailing a business, hospital, or other institutions and asking. Many young people have been able to meet and work with influential mentors in all sorts of fields by having the gumption to ask.
5) The Admissions Officials
When it comes right down to it, the people who have the most pull in the college and university admissions process are the admissions officials at each school. They are the ones whose opinions of an application will matter the most. Take their published and posted information (areas of emphasis, deadlines, rules) seriously. Understand that different colleges have different admissions officials with different requirements or areas of focus. And certainly, should you ever interact with them, treat them with friendliness and respect – which is pretty good advice for most personal interactions, actually!
6) The College Funding/Admissions Advisors
Naturally, we cannot allow a list like this one to head off to the parents of college-bound high school students without reminding you about what we do, and how we can help in this process. The families and students we work with in the college funding and admissions processes certainly find themselves in a very enviable situation, because we are wholly invested in their success. We are professionals and we have nothing else in mind aside from helping students gain admission to the best college or university for their future interests, and helping parents to manage the financial aspects of making that a reality.
The beauty of this is that we have no interest in spreading misinformation (we are the experts in knowing exactly what needs to be done, and when – no guesswork!), no interest in making any student feel “less than” when compared to another student (we maintain confidentiality and truly help our students succeed, and we work with the facts as they are), and no interest in undermining his/her best efforts (on the contrary, we provide assistance on the pathway to achieving academic goals). We are, quite simply, here to assist students and parents in creating the best academic and professional future possible. If we can be of any help in that regard, please do not hesitate to give us a call.
Now, in this newsletter we rather diplomatically avoided a description of which people are part of the “peanut gallery” – but with time it becomes fairly obvious that MOST people are! If a neighbor (or relative, or acquaintance, or other parent) looks down his or her nose at a kid for attending College X instead of College Y, but the kid goes on to excel in a happy and successful career in his or her field of choice, then honestly… who was in the wrong? The peanut gallery was, of course. By the same token, if someone gives application or financial information that is incorrect, whether purposefully or as an honest mistake… who pays the price? The student and his/her family does. Let us be clear – we always aim to help our students find the best pathway to happiness and success in their higher education, and hope that we can encourage both parents and their children to keep their focus on the opinions of the small group of people who really matter in that regard.
One of the ways that we directly help parents of college-bound students to learn more about the financial side of college education is through our live College Funding Workshops, which are presented by the best college funding professionals in the area. These presentations provide a tremendous service to those parents who are interested in managing the financial side of their student’s future at the college or university level.
We charge no admission fees for these workshops, but because of space limitations and our insistence on maintaining an optimal learning environment, we have found that we must require an advance reservation for attendance. For more information about College Funding Workshops coming up in your area, please call our workshop team at 614-934-1515. They are pleased to assist with any questions regarding scheduling, locations, and other workshop-related details. They can also help you make a reservation, if you would like to attend.
We also have published an informational report that will interest parents who want more information about the management of increasing college expenses. We created this report particularly with the parents of college-bound students in mind, and it is called “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College.” Like the workshops, it is also offered without any cost or obligation. For your own copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” call our team at 614-934-1515 and we will email one to you right away. Happy New Year!