When should the college process begin? Most of us would like to live in the fantasy that it doesn’t have to begin until your child is ready to take the SAT/ACT and discuss possible colleges he/she may be interested in. But let’s be real – the college process should really start on the first day of high school and it should start for parents in the last year of middle school.
WHY? Because parents need to educate themselves beforehand so they can guide their child with what is and isn’t important. Unfortunately, this can’t be left to the schools and guidance departments. As was the case with my child, we never heard from the guidance department till the winter of 11th grade. During that winter I was told (for the first time) how much emphasis colleges place on a student’s GPA. Let’s think – the GPA that is sent to colleges in the fall of senior year is made up from 9th, 10th, 11th grade. So having the guidance department talk to parents about the importance of your student’s GPA in the winter of 11th grade is just TOO LATE.
Let Susan McCarter, Director of College Guidance at Girls Preparatory School tell you her perspective:
For years I have resisted talking about college with freshmen and sophomores, not to mention middle-school students. I thought – and still do – that ninth and tenth graders should simply concentrate on being the best fifteen or sixteen year old they can be. I have given in a little over the years, meeting with freshmen to discuss the importance of getting involved in the extracurricular life of the school and having lunch with sophomores to do an abbreviated college case study; otherwise, our contact is limited, and I’ve wanted to keep it that way. Lately, though, I’ve been wondering if I’m giving my students short shrift, because the reality is, the college process really begins on their first day of high school.
Being a prepared parent, educated on the college process does not make you a member of the helicopter parenting club. It does make you a responsible parent, being proactive to learn the ins and outs of a complicated process so you can better guide your own child to a successful finish.