I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a new student, a reserved and untrusting tenth grader who met me with questioning eyes and bored body language. Even before she could settle into her chair and express her unhappiness, I sensed the issue. It was a familiar scenario: the questioning gaze, the exasperated tone, the awkwardly draped limbs on the office chair – a scene I've encountered countless times before.
After brief introductions, I surprised her with a direct question, "Are you wondering why you are here?" To this, she responded triumphantly, locking eyes with her parents. I had struck a nerve, and I suspected this had been the subject of discussion during their short ride to my office.
In our practice, we engage with students in grades 9-12. Some eagerly embrace us as rising freshmen, while others drag their feet even into their senior year. We don't pass judgment, worry, or rush; instead, we wait and meet them where they are at. This was precisely what I conveyed to my new, somewhat prickly student during our initial meeting. Over the years, I've learned that the physical reactions I receive from students early on are often rooted in uncertainty, anxiety, and stress rather than the actual meeting itself.
As a middle school teacher and a mother of four young adults, I've come to understand the importance of meeting children where they are at. This seemingly small yet crucial decision allows us to initiate relationships with our students in a safe, less threatening environment. Prior to delving into the myriad tasks, discussions about extracurricular activities, and grades, I prioritize listening. I firmly believe that for students to produce their best work during our time together, they must feel safe, heard, and, most importantly, respected. Once these foundational elements are in place, students become remarkably receptive. They arrive at meetings with clearer eyes, diminished skepticism, and a sense of accomplishment. The transformation is almost magical, occurring at their own pace—some sooner than others, but they all eventually get there.
So, the next time your teenager storms out of the room, rolls their eyes, or doesn't respond to your text, remember the power of listening first and meeting them where they are at. The rewards, as I've experienced, are truly magnificent.
As Peak College Consulting embarks on another year of the college application process for our juniors, it's worth noting that this cycle brings new students and new parents into the fold. Guiding parents through this journey is as vital as assisting the students.
First and foremost, it's essential to recognize that the college application process is a stepping stone to college life. Students must employ skills like critical thinking, decision-making, organization, and planning throughout this journey. While parents can be a supportive presence, it's paramount to allow the students to take the lead. However, there are ways parents can assist without overshadowing their child's involvement.
Quality Time: The junior year can be a bittersweet period for parents, as it marks the last stretch before their children leave for college. Instead of lamenting the imminent "empty nest," consider how to make the most of this pivotal year by connecting with your teenager. College planning can provide invaluable bonding moments. College visits, heartfelt discussions about aspirations, and open conversations about desires are some of the benefits. As a parent, you'll likely be organizing and scheduling college tours, so strive to incorporate enjoyable activities into these trips to make them memorable. Remember, college visits can become repetitive and dull for students, so infuse some excitement into the process. Plan ahead to avoid stress – communicate the schedule with your child, ensure you're punctual for appointments, and make the experience as smooth as possible. Light-heartedness and flexibility can go a long way. Approach these campus visits with a sense of adventure, turning them into enjoyable experiences. Fun times with your teenager are precious.
Empathy: It's essential to understand your child's emotions during this time. Regardless of their academic standing, students often grapple with feelings of insecurity, uncertainty, and anxiety about their college prospects. If your child seems disengaged or disinterested, it may stem from anxiety about the unknown rather than a lack of enthusiasm. Overwhelming excitement on the part of parents can be off-putting for teenagers. Tune into your child's emotional state before expressing your own enthusiasm.
Realistic Expectations: While students understand the importance of maintaining their GPA, choosing courses, and achieving standardized test scores, they may not always have a realistic view of their competitiveness. Many students with good grades set their sights on elite schools without understanding their chances. Parents can play a valuable role here by reminding students that just because they fit into the averages of accepted students, there are no guarantees. This is often difficult for both students and parents to accept. As experts in the field, we have seen it all. Look at the percentages when creating a balanced list. Any acceptance with a 30% or lower is a lottery school. Use simple math. If a school has 20% acceptance, only 20 students out of 100 will get accepted. This number includes recruited athletes, musicians, and legacy students. We do not know the institutional priorities for each school, so prepare your child. While encouraging dreams is essential, it's equally crucial to be realistic about academic and financial constraints. Honesty and open communication can prevent disappointment and tension later on.
Stay Informed: Knowing your child's academic progress, strengths, weaknesses, learning preferences, and aspirations is essential. These insights will guide you and your student in creating a well-informed college list. Additionally, keeping track of the requirements for each college application and staying updated on trends in college admissions is indispensable.
Your role as a parent is pivotal during the college application process. As your child evolves into the adult they are destined to become, remember that they still need your guidance, support, and love more than ever. This is an exciting and challenging time, but with the right approach, parents and students can make the most of the experience.
Are you a high school senior gearing up for the college application process? If so, you've likely heard about Early Decision (ED) as a potential pathway to your dream school. It is critical that students and parents understand what options they have and create a strategy when it comes to those options. In recent years, we have seen an uptick in the number of Early Decision applications and acceptances, and data will show that it is a clear advantage to apply ED. However, it's essential to understand what applying ED means, the commitment you are making, and the differences between the ED options: Early Decision 1 (ED1) and Early Decision 2 (ED2). We will explore the options, benefits, and challenges associated with each to help you make an informed decision.
ED is a college application process that allows students to apply to their preferred institution early, typically by November 1st or 15th. If admitted under ED, students are bound to attend that college and must withdraw all other college applications. Because of this bound contract, students can only apply to one ED1 school.
Early Decision 1 (ED1) Benefits:
1. Increased Acceptance Rates: Many colleges admit a higher percentage of their incoming class through ED1 than through the regular decision process. This can be a strategic advantage. Some ED1 acceptance rates have admitted percentages twice as high as regular decision applications. The reason is because the school knows if the student is accepted, they have to attend, filling a spot in the upcoming class. There is no contract with RD, and students can choose among all the schools they were accepted to. It’s a numbers game!
2. Quick Admission Decision: ED1 applicants usually receive admission decisions in mid-December. This means you'll know your college fate before the holidays, allowing you to plan accordingly. All colleges will notify applicants of ED1 decisions by December 18th.
3. Demonstrated Interest: Applying ED1 signals to colleges that they are your top choice, which can positively influence their decision.
Early Decision 1 (ED1) Challenges:
1. Binding Commitment: The most significant drawback of ED1 is that it's binding. If you are admitted, you must attend that college, regardless of financial aid considerations. The only exception is if the school fails to meet the student's financial needs based on either the institutional or federal methodology (CSS Profile / FAFSA).
2. Limited Time for Improvement: You'll have less time to enhance your application if you apply ED1. If your senior year grades or standardized test scores improve significantly, you won't be able to factor them into your college choice.
So, where does ED2 come into play?
Picture this - you've poured your heart and soul into that early application, but the December notification wasn't the acceptance letter you hoped for. Instead, you might've been deferred or declined from your Early Decision 1 (ED1) choice. That's where ED2 comes into play. It's your opportunity for a fresh start and a new shot at securing a spot in your second-choice dream college. The ED2 deadline usually falls around January 1st.
Early Decision 2 (ED2) Benefits
1. Second Chance, Renewed Commitment: ED2 allows you to bounce back from an ED1 disappointment. It's a way to demonstrate your unwavering commitment to another top-choice college. You're telling them, "You're my new number one."
2. Increased Acceptance Rate: Like ED1, ED2 typically has a higher acceptance rate than RD and EA. Although schools realize they are second choice, they still know that you will attend their school and fill a seat due to the binding contract.
Early Decision 2 (ED2) Benefits
1. The Waiting Game: With ED2, you'll need some patience. You won't hear back until February or March, which can feel like an eternity when all you want to do is secure your college plans.
2. A Binding Commitment: It's crucial to remember that, just like ED1, ED2 is a binding commitment. If you're admitted, you must make your way to that college, no matter what. Financial aid considerations may come into play, but the commitment remains firm. The only exception is if the college/university fails to meet financial needs based on either the institutional or federal methodology (CSS Profile / FAFSA).
3. The Application Switch: If you originally applied Regular Decision (RD) and were declined or deferred from your ED1 choice, you'll have to change your application type to ED2 formally. The college requires this change and involves navigating their specific process. It might mean toggling within the college portal or emailing your admissions representative. Being aware of the December notification date for ED1, students should have all their ducks in a row to change from RD to ED2. This is especially important when considering the holiday break and school counselors possibly being unavailable to sign the contract they must sign for all their ED1 and ED2 students. Make sure to discuss with your counselor if this is a situation you could be in and make arrangements ahead of time.
In the world of college applications, ED2 is your comeback kid. It's your chance to rise above any initial disappointment, showcase your dedication, and hopefully secure a place in a college that aligns with your aspirations.
Remember, this decision is personal, and it's about finding the best fit for your academic and personal journey while also being responsible with the financial commitment. If you cannot afford the school and are relying on need and merit-based aid, there may be better options than ED1 and ED2. Research each college's specific policies, evaluate your financial situation, and consult with trusted advisors as you navigate the exciting yet challenging world of college applications.
You are weeks away from dropping your child off at college. For many, this is your first experience doing this. I understand how emotional and significant dropping off your child at college can be. As a parent myself, I've experienced the mixture of pride, excitement, and sadness during this transitional period.
I am sure you have read other blogs, poured over various social media posts, and talked to veteran parents about drop-off and the first few weeks your child will be at school. Here are a few tidbits we wanted to share with you on top of the more obvious ones usually discussed.
Resist the urge to control:
During the move-in process, I had to resist the urge to take control and let my children take charge of unpacking and arranging their belongings in the dorm room. It was challenging to balance my desire to help with their need for independence, but I knew giving them space to make their dorm room their own was crucial. There will be a multitude of times when you will want to control the situation; move in is just one of them.
As parents, stepping in and finding answers or solutions for our children when they encounter challenges or uncertainties can be tempting. However, resisting this urge and empowering them to figure things out independently is essential. Encourage your child to take the initiative and ask questions when they need assistance or information. Don’t go searching for answers for them. Don’t solve their problems! Letting them take the lead in navigating college life builds their problem-solving skills and confidence and fosters a sense of responsibility and self-reliance. It's okay for them to encounter obstacles along the way; these experiences will provide valuable lessons and opportunities for growth.
As parents, we can offer guidance and support by being a listening ear and providing encouragement. Remind your child that it's okay to seek help and advice from campus resources, professors, or peers. Encourage them to engage in campus activities and join clubs to meet new people and explore their interests. College is a time for self-discovery and personal growth; giving them the space to do so will be immensely beneficial.
While it's natural for parents to worry about their child's well-being, letting them fly means having confidence in the values and principles you've instilled in them throughout their upbringing. Trust that they have the tools to succeed and handle the responsibilities of this new phase of life. By stepping back and allowing your child to lead the way, you'll witness their transformation into independent, capable adults, ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities of college life. Seeing them grow and flourish on their own path is a beautiful and rewarding process.
Encourage Respectful Relationships
Respecting roommates and their space is crucial when dropping off your child at college. It's essential to remind your child about being considerate and inclusive as they share their living area with their new roommate. Encourage your child to communicate openly with their roommate about their preferences and boundaries for the shared living space. Establishing ground rules together is essential to ensure a harmonious living environment for both parties.
A critical point to emphasize is that your child should consult their roommate before arranging or rearranging the room or making significant changes to the shared space. While they might be eager to create a comfortable and organized space, it's crucial to respect the roommate's input and preferences. Emphasize the importance of compromise and open communication to avoid any potential conflicts. Encourage your child to be understanding of their roommate's needs and to find common ground when making decisions about the room's layout and organization. By being respectful and inclusive from the start, your child can set a positive tone for their relationship with their roommate and create a welcoming environment that fosters friendship and cooperation throughout their time in college.
So, when you move your child into their room, try and resist the urge to get the room all situated the way YOUR CHILD wants it, and instead encourage your child to wait until all roommates are there for input. This simple step is the very foundation of the start of a healthy and respectful relationship.
When the time comes for goodbyes, the motto should be, the quicker, the better. Move your child into their room, get any supplies they may have forgotten at the local Target, and then leave. Do not take them out to dinner. Do not spend the night and join them for breakfast, and do not LINGER. Rip the bandaid off and let them be alone with roommates and hallmates.
I tried my best to keep the atmosphere positive. I expressed my love and confidence in their ability to thrive in college. A quick and cheerful goodbye is what your child needs. There is plenty of time for tears in the car.
Staying connected was essential for both of us. We agreed on a communication plan that included regular phone calls, texts, and FaceTime. This helped us bridge the physical distance and made them feel closer to home. In the days following drop-offs, I experienced a mix of emotions. It was hard to see my children starting this new chapter without me by their side, but I knew it was a necessary part of their growth. Seeing them homesick, lonely, and a bit lost was also difficult, but I knew it was all part of the process. Giving them time to settle in and adjust to college life was crucial, and I had to trust that they would find their way.
As time passed, I saw my children grow and mature, and their college experiences became an exciting journey filled with personal and academic growth. While it wasn't always easy, dropping off my children at college was a significant milestone for both of us, strengthening our bond and teaching us valuable lessons about independence and resilience.
Just remember, Parent's weekend is right around the corner!
Good luck! I believe in you!
As a high school student preparing for college, one of the bigger decisions you will make is which standardized test to take: the ACT or SAT. Colleges and universities widely accept both tests, but depending on where you live, this may not be a popular opinion. In the Northeast, if you ask 100 adults born in the 1960s, I would guess 99% of them will lead you to believe that the SAT is the superior test, as that was the ONLY test students in that part of the country were offered. If you asked the same number of students, the same age, who lived on the West Coast, the ACT was the superior test as it was offered to them during that time.
Things have changed, and what was considered a western test has moved across the country and vice versa with the eastern test. The unfortunate part of this is that school districts and parents are often stuck in the “olden time” and think that their test is the best. This is seen in many high schools that only provide guidance in the test of their original region. I often get frustrated that students don’t know that they get to pick which test is best for them and often get pushed into the old “regional test.” Part of our job is to speak to admissions officers about applications, admissions, and the education that their school offers. Across the board, with no exceptions, admissions officers all say they evaluate these two standardized tests equally.
Today we will explore the differences between these two tests to help you make an informed decision about which test to take.
One of the significant differences between the ACT and the SAT is their format. The ACT consists of four multiple-choice sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. The SAT, on the other hand, consists of two areas: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math. The ACT still has an optional essay section; however, the SAT removed it from the test a few years ago. Very few schools will expect or want the ACT essay section, so we will not focus on that.
Another critical difference between the two tests is the time allotted for each section. The SAT reading section is 65 minutes long, the language section is 35 minutes long, and the math section is 80 minutes long. The ACT gives students 45 minutes for the English section, 60 minutes for the math section, and 35 minutes for the reading and science sections.
The content of the ACT and SAT also differ. The ACT has a science section that tests students' ability to read and interpret data, graphs, and charts. The SAT does not have a science section, but it does test students' ability to analyze data and use it to solve problems in the math section. The math sections of both tests cover similar topics, including algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. It should be noted that with the ACT, students can use their calculator during the entire math section compared to the SAT, which has a calculator section and a non-calculator section.
The score for the ACT is out of 36, and the score for the SAT is out of 1600. This is one of the most confusing things for students to understand because the scoring is wildly different. If a student wants to compare their scores,
check out this site: https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/act-to-sat-conversion.
Which test should you take?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question, as colleges and universities nationwide accept both tests. However, there are some factors to consider when deciding which test to take.
If you are good at science and are interested in majoring in any stem field, the ACT may be a good fit to showcase your ability to analyze data. If you prefer more straightforward questions, the ACT may be preferred. Timing is also another significant factor. There are more questions to answer on the ACT, in a shorter time period. If you are a person who processes slower and needs more time per question, the SAT may be a better choice.
Ultimately, the best way to decide which test to take is to take practice tests for both the SAT and the ACT to see which test you feel more comfortable and successful with. We think it is not helpful to have students study for both tests; instead, we want them to focus on which is the better fit for them and concentrate all studying on that one test. At Peak, we require all of our rising juniors to do this during the summer so we can look at their practice scores and decide together what the testing plan should be.
It should be mentioned that as of spring 2024, the SAT will ONLY be available to students digitally. This is an enormous change for the testing industry, and we will all feel growing pains. The scoring will change tremendously, as will the format of the test. As we learn more, we will educate not only our clients but all of our loyal followers who are in need of information about the ever-changing landscape of higher education.
Another important topic when discussing testing is the trend towards test-optional in the last few admission cycles. Due to COVID, most (but not all) institutions changed to a test-optional policy. The lack of SAT and ACT testing sites across the country made securing a spot to take either of these tests almost impossible throughout 2020 and 2021. This has changed, however, now that things have opened up. Many schools that instituted these test-optional policies have kept the policy and remain either test-optional or test-blind. However, some schools have returned to requiring testing for the class of 2023 and beyond. As schools continue to navigate these last few admissions cycles, some are changing their minds. Some students are convinced that they do not have to take these standardized tests, aren’t studying, and haven’t registered with either College Board or ACT. This is a mistake! It would be a tough pill to swallow to fall in love with a school only to realize you can’t apply because you did not take any standardized test. PLEASE make sure that you find the appropriate test for you, register, and STUDY!
High school students often face the challenge of selecting the appropriate classes to prepare them for college and impress college admissions officers. With so many available options, students may struggle to choose the courses that best serve their academic and career goals. This can lead to missed opportunities, lower grades, and a less competitive college application.
Taking more challenging classes demonstrates academic preparedness, intellectual curiosity, and ambition. Colleges want to see students ready for the academic rigor of college and who can handle the challenges of college-level work. Advanced Placement (AP) and IB courses are designed to be college-level courses. Students taking AP and IB courses show they are ready for college-level work and have the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in challenging academic environments.
Not every student is ready to take the more rigorous courses that AP and IB offer, but they should still set the bar high and think about what class level they could push themselves to and still succeed. If a student is in a CP-level course and maintains a strong A or B grade, the following year, they should push themselves to take that class at an honors level. A student can move from one level to another without a straight A. Each high school will have its own rules about leveling up. Understanding the rules and what parents and students can do to advocate for such a move is essential.
After countless meetings with admissions officers, it is the consensus that colleges and universities value rigor over grades. This is especially true for smaller colleges with a more holistic approach to the admissions process. Larger universities that receive thousands of applications may need to first look at overall GPAs to weed out the vast numbers of applications they receive. However, ultimately, they are also looking for rigor over grades.
Not all high schools offer the same selection of classes, so students should work with their guidance counselors, teachers, and college advisors to find the most challenging courses available to them that they can be successful in. Students interested in attending the most highly selective (or rejective) colleges and universities must maximize their AP/ IB courses each year of high school. Knowing this early on can help prepare for the most rigorous transcript possible.
Those students who know what they want to major in have the advantage of exploring classes in high school that align with their interests. This fit to major is an essential aspect of the admissions process. Being mindful of a student's interests and finding courses that are available to support that interest is key in the class selection process. We tell our students to make sure their electives are meaningful to them. One reason this is important is to show the colleges you are applying to that you are well informed and educated on a particular topic and, therefore, will be more likely to stay with the major you applied to. Another reason that electives are essential is that they can help students identify genuine interest in a specific topic or not. This can be an equally as important step to finding true passion.
Dual enrollment classes have become popular throughout the nation's high schools in recent years. These classes are usually taught at a community college or by high school teachers. They are often less rigorous but weighted as much as an AP class, which makes them very popular. Parents, students, and teachers need to know that most colleges and universities do not see DE classes as equal to AP or IB courses. From a college admissions standpoint, dual enrollment isn’t considered as rigorous as IB or AP programs. However, it is still an excellent option for earning credit and exploring niche areas of interest if the AP level is too difficult. Dual enrollment allows students to earn credits for high school and college. However, not every university will accept the credits earned because these DE classes are not standardized.
Senior year is not the time to take the gas off the pedal. We always suggest that our clients continue taking at least five core subject classes, including science and foreign language. If a student wants to skip a fourth-year language or an additional science class, we suggest doubling up in math and English. Each student's transcript is unique to them; however, taking a break your senior year and filling it with less rigorous electives can be detrimental when it comes to acceptance into college.
Although it varies from college to college, most institutions want to see at least the following:
Artificial intelligence (AI) has penetrated our children's lives and their education. Technology is essential to human progress and has allowed us to become more advanced. However, artificial intelligence has been the focus of many debates between the tech world and educators as companies become more technically advanced and students savvier. As an educator, businesswoman, educational consultant, and mother, I can see the benefits and drawbacks of AI as it pertains to our high school and college students. At Peak, we have tried to stay ahead of the curve to educate ourselves and our clients about these pros and cons. In this blog, we will focus mainly on the hot topic of essay writing or writing of any kind.
AI-based writing tools like ChatGPT, Jasper, and Writer have recently been in the news because higher educational institutions like Cal Tech and the University of California school system have seen an increase in Bot generated essays during their application season. 2022 is not the first year these AI companies have been offering this service. Still, as time goes on, we are seeing the ramifications for those students who decided to take a shortcut to get a final draft of their personal essay that most colleges and universities require. As companies like ChatGPT are assisting students in writing these should be very personal essays, other companies are sprouting up to detect when AI was used to generate such essays.
Students can simply go onto one of the AI chatbot websites, plug in a few facts, and an essay can be generated. However, many of us in the educational world fear that these models will be used to substitute critical thinking and students’ writing.
Don’t get me wrong; I am more than happy to use AI technology! It is safe to say I use it every day between search engines, GPS, and my favorite new car, the Kia Telluride, which essentially drives itself. I can also see why educators use this technology to enhance their teaching and learning. I feel for our teachers, who have to keep up with the latest technology and then shift and reassess their teaching models. This is the struggle now, not just for teachers in high school but the trickle down to middle and elementary schools. AI technology is here to stay, so how do educators use these new AI-based writing tools to keep up with their student's savviness while still teaching critical thinking and writing skills?
In the spring, Peak will begin the writing process with our juniors. We spend a lot of time helping students generate ideas for their personal essays. Here I see how AI can be a positive tool, especially for those struggling with writer's block or unsure what to write about. Our students are lucky enough to have professionals assist with the process; however, we know only some students have that luxury. For this reason, these AI-based writing tools can level the playing field. However, generating ideas or potential topic sentences is much different than having a bot write a final draft college essay that a student then submits as their own. As advanced as our technology has become, no bot can make a personal essay personal. What colleges and universities are looking for are essays that are insightful and authentic, which bot essays, to my knowledge, are not. The Brookings Institution reported that several educators believe that while the bot can aggregate knowledge, it can not actually synthesize a unique theory or idea.
Many higher education institutions have stringent policies around plagiarism, including AI-generated content. Hence why, new software technology was created to detect AI-bot-generated writing. Colleges and universities around the country can probably appreciate how this latest technology has the potential to assist in the writing of the college essay, but want students to know it should not be used to substitute students' critical thinking and writing skills. At Peak, it is our responsibility to educate our clients and all high school students about the ethical implications of any content not generated by themselves. This can be seen in the latest message the UC schools sent out to some applicants this year. They were told that their essay must be verified for authenticity due to being flagged as potential plagiarism via an AI-based writing tool. If students cannot verify that they wrote these essays themselves, their applications will be withdrawn. This is a wake-up call for us all.
As I begin my latest Zoom meeting on this dreary April afternoon, I pause and take a breath. I am feeling the angst of another conversation with a senior who is disappointed in the application decisions she has received. To be clear, I am not dreading spending time with my student or discussing the fantastic opportunities she has; I am dreading hearing another young person question their self-worth.
As college decisions role in, educational consultants, school counselors, and those in higher education are witnessing historically low acceptance rates, and it is now our job to pick up the pieces. With dozens of colleges and universities reporting single-digit acceptance rates, we are left with students reeling from reality.
So, as your children start hearing back from their dream schools, waiting patiently to get off of the waitlist, and question why they were not enough, be patient and ensure them that they did all they could do, and the declines and waitlists are more about the school than about them.
Why is it so challenging to predict acceptances into college, and why is admissions so volatile? There are many factors to consider.
This is just a sampling of the various priorities that colleges and universities are looking at when creating a class. Many of these things your student does not have control over. So, we need to encourage our children to do the best they can, work hard, nurture their interests, enjoy their experiences, and let the chips fall. More importantly, reassure them, that they are enough, just the way they are!
As college decisions roll in, many families are reacting to the news with mixed emotions. For some, the acceptance into their desired school was all that stood in their way of fulfilling their dream. For others, the reality that an admission acceptance was not their only barrier, struggle with a dilemma that they had not prepared themselves for…affordability!
As parents, we try to protect our children in many ways by avoiding anything that may be uncomfortable or troubling. I am guilty of doing this as well, even as my four “children” navigate through their 20’s. But what I found throughout their teenage years is that what we are protecting them from usually cannot be ignored. Whether it be a health scare or financial insecurity, teens should not be left in the dark. This is never truer for those parents of high school juniors who are starting the college admissions process.
At Peak, we discuss with parents all the time the importance of transparency regarding their family's financial health. First, we encourage parents to complete the NetPrice calculators on each college website. Second, we suggest completing the Federal government's Expected Family Contribution calculator. Third, and most importantly, each family should discuss with their student how much they will feasibly be able to contribute to the yearly tuition bill. Most high school students are not looking at the cost of schools when reading about desired majors or the exciting social scene, especially if their parents have not discussed college affordability at all.
Unless you can pay 100% of your child’s tuition bill, discussing your family's financial health is essential. Merit aid, scholarships, and loans are not guaranteed and should not be “the plan” for financing your child's education. By not sharing our financial abilities to pay for college, we may be setting our children up for some disappointment, frustration, and even anger. Nothing is worse than witnessing a student being accepted into their dream school and being told they cannot attend due to affordability. It is a much easier pill to swallow for our children, to be told ahead of time what the financial situation is and what limits your child has, before falling in love with a school and working hard to get admitted. I have seen it with my own eyes! It is heartbreaking and confusing and often takes the joy and excitement out of the acceptance.
When looking at schools with your child, please don’t focus on the school's name, how others rank it, or the acceptance rate. Most importantly, is the school a good fit for your child? Second, can you afford it? It is not the name of the school that will define your child’s success; it is what they do with their education and the opportunities provided to them. But don’t get me started about that…to be continued.
Some students have lofty goals and unreasonable expectations; however, it is our job as their parents to manage those as best we can. Be honest and explain to your child there is not just one school out there that is a great fit and to keep options open. It is ok to disappoint them, but ripping the bandaid off as early as possible gives your child time to heal before the wound gets too deep.
Due to the recent college admissions scandal, I, like other ethical, educated college counselors, feel the need to speak up about the admission trends. I won’t spend my time worrying about those who starred in this scandal, there has been enough written about them and their unethical actions. However, I would like to address a major issue that is plaguing our young people, and that is pressure. It is not only the wealthy that are taking desperate measures to try and guarantee admission into college, our children are doing it every day. Students are participating in after school clubs that they have no interest in at all. They are running for school elections but want no responsibility and have no passion for leadership. Students are taking AP classes who struggled while in college prep and honors classes because they feel they are falling behind. The pressure they are feeling is real and understandable but unfortunate. Students are struggling to find out how they can stand out within a group of standouts. What will make them shine and get those coveted spots the admission counselors are filling?