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How to Craft a Winning College Admissions Plan

College preparation, for most parents and students, calls to mind the academic preparation that takes place when a student is in high school, and preparing to apply for college. This includes studying for important college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT, many meetings with guidance counselors to line up the classes that will best fit your college plans, taking on challenging Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes to improve your application profile, and just generally working hard to maximize your classroom grades. And preparing our kids for college involves more than just the academic aspect of preparation; we have to ensure that our kids are also prepared for the emotional and mental impact of this transition. How can parents be sure their students are crafting a winning admissions plan, which covers the student’s academic, social and emotional well-being?

Students May be More Unprepared for College than We Think

As this recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education explains, many students are woefully unprepared for the rigors of college coursework, regardless of their efforts during high school. The transition from high school to college, for many, is complicated and overwhelming. Most students are facing their first real unsupervised educational environment – without the oversight of their parents, and the hand-holding from their teachers, it can be easy for students who performed well in high school to start seeing slipping grades, or struggle to keep up with the course load.

Can High School Students Really Know What Career They Want to Pursue?

A student preparing for college must also try to determine what type of career to pursue, as many colleges require students to declare a major, or apply to a specific area of study within the university when they submit the college application. But when you consider that this December 2017 report from Data Point shows that nearly 30% of students change their college major within 3 years of admission, it suggests that part of student preparedness for college should be exposure to different career paths and considerations.

What Can Parents Do Now?

With the sometimes overwhelming pressure for college-bound students to pursue Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and even dual-enrollment courses to better prepare for college, it can leave us parents and educators scratching our heads wondering, is it really preparing students for college, or is it adding more pressure and stress to our young people?

How well a student adjusts to college, and performs on college-level coursework, relies largely on the individual student. Preparing students for college should follow a broad approach, including selecting appropriate, challenging coursework, visiting college campuses to get a feel for campus life, job-shadowing in various career paths the student is considering pursuing in college, and even a review of the college course catalog for incoming freshmen at the colleges your student is considering attending.

It can be overwhelming for parents of college freshmen to strike a healthy balance between adequately preparing our children for college, and helicopter parenting. In this September 12, 2017 article published on Quartz.com titled, Helicopter parenting is bad for college kids – but a little hovering is just right, author and Licensed Clinical Social Worker F. Diane Barth offers these suggestions for healthy, positive parental involvement that doesn’t overstep into helicopter territory:

  • Guide your student, but don’t pressure them. Respect their point of view and their need to exercise their newfound independence. Listen more than you talk.
  • Ask open-ended questions, such as “What are you learning?” rather than closed ones about test scores or grades.
  • Actively express your interest in what they tell you by asking follow-up questions.
  • Share some of what is happening in your own life. Shifting to a more balanced, egalitarian model of conversation sharing is part of the transition to a more adult, mutual relationship.
  • Initiate conversation about your expectations for this new relationship. Be direct about your own thoughts about finances, contact, roommate arrangements, and drug and alcohol use. But listen to your child’s point of view on this matter, too. If you’re going to be honest, you have to expect them to be, too.
  • Allow for mistakes while encouraging them to recognize and respond appropriately to dangerous situations. Be available (and make it clear that you are available) when they need help rectifying a slip-up. You and they will both learn from these experiences.
  • Remind them that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. And if they need more than you have to offer, help them find and make use of mental-health services on or off campus.
  • Use college resources for yourself. Go to parents’ orientation sessions when you bring your student to college and attend some of the workshops specifically prepared for you on parents’ weekend.

How Can We Start Preparing Our Kids for College Now?

It’s never too early to start preparing our kids for college. Trust your instincts about when your children are mature enough to handle increasing levels of responsibility, and give them opportunities to exercise some independence, all the while knowing that you are there to help if and when they need it. If your children need help with the college planning and application process, consider enlisting the help of a professional college admissions consultant. A professional college admissions advisor, such as the ones used by Club Z! Tutoring, can help you and your family craft a winning college admissions plan. The more time a student has to begin mentally and emotionally preparing for the transition to college, the better!

Need Help with Preparing Your Student for College?

If your student needs help increasing scores on the SAT or ACT college entrance exam, or help from an experienced AP or IB tutor, call Club Z! at 800-434-2582 to find an office nearest you. Club Z! also offers a wide variety of support, from acing the SAT and ACT tests, to maximizing your GPA in high school, and even support with college admissions and counseling services to help you craft a winning college admissions plan. Services include help with selecting colleges, college majors, completing the college application, and much more! Start early to ensure a positive and healthy transition into college.

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