College advice is everywhere these days. From tables groaning under the weight of test prep guides at bookstores to online forums where everyone considers themselves to be an expert, there is a lot of information out there, much of it misleading.
As parents, we absolutely need to be attuned to the progression of our children’s academic and extracurricular profile. We must pay attention and make good choices as our kids don’t yet have the wisdom to always make the best selections. However, the options chosen by a family should be based on the uniqueness of each child, the values they hold dear, and the direction that child seems to be headed. This process is complex and is rarely made better by the opinionated views that are proliferating throughout the online world.
I often get questions such as these:
Is Activity A or Activity B more impressive to a college?
Should my child run for president of Organization C?
How many volunteer service hours does my child need?
How many summer camps should my child attend?
How many classes does my student need to take over the summer to stand out from the crowd?
It depends. But, it depends on your family, not what your friends or the forums are telling you. More important than the activity itself is what that particular activity is doing in your child’s life.
I want to see enough volunteer service in a concentrated area that will change a student’s heart, not just enough to fulfill requirements issued by their high school. The number of hours and the type of service will differ depending on the teen. It should be in an area they genuinely care about or in an area the parent thinks will be good for the development of their character.
Being president of an organization can be a terrific leadership opportunity. It can also be a waste of time. Often it is better for kids to create their own opportunities rather than to fit into the parameters of someone else’s organization.
Summer camps can help narrow career choices. They can also be expensive and keep your kids so busy they never really have time to be kids or get to know themselves. The same principle applies to continuous classes.
Keep in mind that college will only be a small part of the rest of your child’s life. Yes, we want them to be competitive at the schools of their choosing, but more importantly, we want them to grow into themselves and all the beautiful potential they have. My goal as a private consultant is always to first help the student develop holistically and then consider the college that will best meet their needs.
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