“The Six Opinions That Actually MATTER While Your Child
Prepares For The College Years”
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 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.
Notice how we steered clear of what we call the ‘peanut gallery’? That’s because, you can probably name a few right off the bat from the neighbor who means well to the know-it-all at the gym. As you move through the college planning process, you’ll soon develop an ear for the experts and the rest.