We are all a work in progress. I know more today than I did ten years ago, as do you. Each year, each experience, each heartbreak teaches us more and more about the way the world works and about ourselves. If we are wise, we learn from our mistakes and move on, better people because of the growth in perspective. Since this is true for those of us in maturity, how much more so it is for inexperienced teens.
However, this process can cause anxiety in parents. Many have the misguided opinion that selective colleges will view high school as if it is a singular event, a four-year static stretch where everything is evaluated on the same footing. But schools know that students are immature in the younger years, that they will stub their toe, adjust, and hopefully be smarter the next time.
An early “B” on the transcript is not necessarily a deal breaker. If academic performance shows an upward momentum throughout high school, colleges are pleased. In fact, they would rather see that students challenge themselves with tough classes that might result in lower grades than kids playing it safe and signing up for the easy “A.”
Colleges expect to see younger students experimenting with various activities, but they want to see increasing involvement, originality, and leadership for a few special extracurriculars by the end of high school.
The lesson to be learned is twofold. First, relax about early blunders. Our kids are, well . . kids. They aren’t adults. There will be mistakes. In fact, I set the bar high enough for my children that I knew disappointment was a possibility on many occasions. I wanted those flops to happen while I was there to debrief and help them learn from their mistakes. That is also the second lesson. Growth is expected by colleges, so we need to give our students the opportunity to do that growing. We need to embrace risk and understand that our kids blossom more often through failure than through success. I would rather send a wise student off to college than a book-smart one with a perfect transcript.
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