As much as I'm divided about prep schools--especially how they condition young people to be elitist--they do a lot right in helping a kid plan for his or her college choice and career. But if your son or daughter goes to public high school, he or she is probably left to procrastinate in a world where that no longer works. It's not the way it was when we were kids.
I'm a writer, and as a writer, I'm penning a YA novel to help young women understand how difficult the transition to college is no matter what your race, gender, or socioeconomic status. But lately, I've realized that writing the novel is not enough, and I've started a new College Prep and Counseling Practice to help students find their way holistically.
How does this work?
First, I care about my student clients. That's huge. I care about their health. I know firsthand what striving to over-achieve can do to a young person, and what comparing oneself to others who achieve more than you do can destroy self-esteem and lead to some pretty abysmal choices.
As a Test Prep Tutor and a College Counselor, I've seen it all. The kids who are pressured by their parents to do well, the kids who are scared by their so-called "mediocre" testing skills, the kids who are so perfectionist nothing less than 700s in every subject will satisfy them, the kids who are pushing for 800s and won't rest until they're there. Kids who have no idea what to write on personal essays because they've never been encouraged to think about who they want to be when they grow up--aka, themselves. Kids who put in hundreds of community service hours without thinking about where this kind of useful commitment can be enriching and dovetail with their interests. Kids who arrive as first-years unable to think critically or write a decent essay.
First, parents, please remember how vulnerable kids are at high school age. Please?
Second, help your son or daughter start a cross-curriculum reading and writing habit early--preferably in ninth grade. Students who do this will reach SAT and ACT time with strong reading skills and vocabularies. They will just know more.
Third, help your son or daughter find his or her passion. Not a lifelong one--they don't know that yet. But something that inspires them now. By finding their passions and following them, they won't waste time participating in every sport, club, or extracurricular "guaranteed" to pad a resume and impress college admissions officers.
Fourth, help your son or daughter develop healthy life habits--healthy eating, exercise that's not necessarily competitive or achievement oriented, down time, zen. By practicing healthy habits, they'll avoid pitfalls that can derail them when crunch time comes.
Fifth, and it's an important fifth, model the above.
I wasn't the healthiest teen, twenty-something, or mom, but because I held on tightly to some ideals and tough lessons I learned, I was able to help my kids make it through those hideously difficult years called adolescence. All three are now graduates of (I say with a brag) prestigious colleges that were the right fits for them. All three are doing swimmingly. But most of all, all three knew that I'd be there for them no matter what their scores, grades, successes, failures, and admissions/rejections. We're super close today, even though they're geographically scattered.
One huge reason we continue to grow together? They share with me a love of learning. That's what you want your kids to have. That's the best thing I've helped them find.
This blog is not an ad, even if it does read as shamelessly proud of myself.* It's a kickoff to a series of columns I want out there so I can share what I've learned with other parents of teens--the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Get started on preparing your son or daughter from transitioning from high school kid to college first year. But don't freak out. I repeat: It's learning you want them to love, not academic success. It's a lifelong love of learning that, once inspired, once fostered, once achieved, will give you and your kids amazing, long lasting rewards.
A great reading list for parents who are wondering how to get their kids reading quality materials on their own or with a tutor in ninth grade appears in the Ivy Global New SAT Test Prep Book. Check it out. The book will be helpful later, too! And if you don't have time to read or re-read the books on the list, find someone who will. There are plenty of tutors and starving English teachers out there (and I'm one, see footnote, wink wink, but I can't travel to Kansas).
*If you want to talk to me about helping your high school age son or daughter, and you live in the Greater Boston area, I'm here. I mean, a blogger and a writer isn't exactly swimming in cash, and I do offer something valuable ... Here's my website.