The Three Pillars of College Preparation

The path to college takes years of preparation. There are many things that students focus on, and many of them are unimportant. In general, our college consulting team focuses on three main items for college development. We find that these three aspects of a student’s profile are the most important items to concentrate on throughout high school years. Regardless of the type of college a student chooses, emphasizing excellence in these three categories will always ensure the best possible outcome for the student and his or her chances at attending the school of their dreams.

  1. Academics: We’ll start here because it’s the most obvious. Students spend the majority of their time in school, so they should strive for relative academic excellence. I say relative, because academic excellence is relative to each student’s ability level and long term goals. For some students, a 3.5+ GPA is sufficient for their dream school. For others, taking every offered AP course and scoring a 5 on the AP exam is what they need to do to optimize their chances to attend an elite university. Academic excellence involves choosing challenging courses, doing the best you possibly can in those courses, and continuing to develop academic skills in subject areas that are both intriguing and rigorous. Students should carefully consider which courses are offered at their high school as soon as freshman year. Knowing your high school’s relative prerequisites for competitive classes later on will ensure that you’re on track for completing pre-reqs, so you have ample opportunities for more competitive courses during junior & senior year. If you’re in high school, you spend the majority of your week in school. Do well, challenge yourself, and when possible, hold yourself to a standard ABOVE what will be expected for the college of your dreams to maximize your potential.

  2. Community Involvement: Everyone has heard how important volunteer hours are for college, yet most students still fail to start on volunteerism early enough. Compounding that issue, most students choose convenient opportunities to volunteer, failing to find a need that they’re passionate about, and it shows through on their college applications. We have found that involvement in an organization that truly resonates with the student is far more valuable. Those students are able to write more authentic essays about their experiences, and the time they spend rarely feels taxing, so they’re able to accrue far more volunteer hours than their peers who find their time spent volunteering unenjoyable. Identify an area of need in your local community early on in high school. Spend time researching that need to see if organizations already exist that are centered on fixing the issue in question. If no organizations exist, or if you feel there are better ways to solve that issue, make a plan to help out. From there, the rest is easy. Spend actual time on the ground helping solve the issue you’ve identified and researched. Track your hours spent identifying, researching, and fixing the issue. You’ll be surprised how quickly the process goes, and how much less painless it is to dedicate weekends to something that you truly care about.

  3. Professional Development: I’ve written several blogs about the issue with students starting college without any idea of what they want to study. It’s also common to hear that the average bachelors degree in America takes 6 years to complete. While that’s not exactly true (more students complete their degree in 4 years than in 6, but the average is still 6 years due to some students taking far longer (10+ years) on their degree), it’s still scary for parents to hear that they could easily spend 50% more than necessary on college tuition. Finding general paths of study while in high school is the solution to this problem. Switching majors multiple times happens when students don’t understand the nuts and bolts of what they’ve chosen to study. It’s actually worse than that though; many college grads end up with jobs they don’t enjoy and careers they have. Our team allows our high school students to explore different career paths first-hand. Through internships/externships and job shadowing, our students get to see how the jobs they’re interested in pursuing actually operate day-to-day. We’re often surprised by how little of an understanding high school students have of what their dream job actually looks like from a 9 to 5 perspective. Getting to witness what those holding your dream job do during their work day is a great way to decide if it’s worth pursuing or if you’d rather study something else. This has helped our students end up with degrees they value, jobs they enjoy, and careers they feel are worth while.

If you’re a parent or student struggling with planning the complex path to college, connect with our team of college consultants today for a personalized approach to college. We work directly with our students to help them pave their path and end up with degrees they value, at a fraction of the cost of traditional students, while feeling they’ve made the right choice in their academic journey.

-Mark Wilson, Director of Curriculum Development & Design

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