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Thinking About College

By John Raftrey And Lori McCormick

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About this blog: We are writing this blog to give practical advice to students and parents, to reflect on issues affecting college admissions, and to provide a platform for a robust community discussion on post-secondary choices. We occasionally f...  (More)

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When to start thinking about college when you aren?t thinking about college

Uploaded: Aug 7, 2014

(Written by Lori McCormick)

In my two previous posts, I wrote about the importance of preparing for college when students are in their last two years of high school. In this post, I will discuss when everyone else should start thinking about college.

My personal opinion is that this whole process is subjective and depends on the student, the family, and their environment. Having a definitive answer as to when you should start thinking about college is tough to answer. However, colleges will ask you to write some form of a personal statement, along with a variety of short essays, and attach it to your application. Your essays are an integral part of who you are and will help admissions officers answer why you would be a good fit on their campus. Thinking about the activities you are doing (or plan to do) are great contributions to your essays. The more you learn from your experiences, the more depth and personal insight you can build into your writing.

I also find this process subjective because not every student is going to choose the traditional four-year Bachelor's Degree. A student may opt for a skilled trade or a two-year Associate's Degree. Whichever path you choose, post-secondary education will help propel your future. Here are some suggestions to help you start thinking about what you can do today to prepare yourself for your college applications in the future:

1. Build skills and interests through extracurricular involvement. Languages, art, sports, music, literature, computers, painting, agriculture, scientific research, performing arts, to name a few, are all activities you as students can gain skills from.
2. Start early! I would even go so far as to say that children as young as preschool age can be exposed to extracurricular activities to instill curiosity. Visit museums, attend musicals or plays, watch sporting events, read books, go on nature walks, visit farms, etc. Expose these young minds to the possibilities that lie ahead. It could help spark an interest to pursue further.
3. Explore career paths by collecting information from family members, friends of family, teachers/mentors, or even through informational interviewing about what steps they took to lead them to their careers. You might find a path that is of interest and learn what you need academically to prepare you for a particular career.
4. Get hands-on experience. Find a job or volunteer opportunity that may interest you ? or at the very least, teach you skills you can transfer. Organizations such as Youth Community Service http://www.youthcommunityservice.org/ or Volunteer Match http://www.volunteermatch.org are ways to connect with volunteer opportunities in your community. If you are a student who is obligated to spend non-school hours providing assistance in your home, whether it be tending to a family member or helping with household chores, make this your work experience. It is as equally skill building as any job or internship.
5. Visit colleges either in person or virtually. This will help you build your college list gradually. And as you grow, your list may change. That is okay. This is the process of elimination that should happen before your final college list is determined.
6. Get creative about how you will think about college and beyond. Make family dinner a time to spark a conversation about college or careers. For example, family members choose a related topic or experience to research and share weekly at the table. Make it a fun, collaborative effort that fosters a lively discussion about college and career paths.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual to determine how much effort he or she will put into their post-secondary planning. As parents and guardians, we can help by exposing our children to various cultural and academic opportunities and to support them in developing them as interests. As students, you can communicate to your families your budding interests to help get the discovery process started. So while I don't have an exact time frame for when a student should start thinking about college, I do think that taking time to explore college and career options earlier rather than later is a healthy way to start the process.
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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy, a resident of College Terrace,
on Aug 11, 2014 at 7:42 am

Excellent article/write up.

Additionally, no need to stress out. There are plenty of colleges/universities and there is a second chance.

Mentally prepare yourself that you are capable of reaching higher limits than you think you are.

I have two daughters; one went to UC Berkeley-graduated with two majors and 5 years; another went to 3 schools before she graduated -took 6 years finally Concordia University; a son who went to University of Michigan - took 6 years with Chemical Engineering degree . They are fine young women 34, 32; fine young man, 26. I spent a lot of my income; and it is worth it.

For some, it takes awhile to know what you want. I suggest you start reading New York Times + SF Chronicle + SJM News+ Wall Street Journal business + education related articles. Just make a habit of seeking these papers as they have some of the best writers.

You will find your way!

If not, with good math, science, English reading and writing skills; you can get a job, work there and earn degree while working. Many companies have generous education programs.

You will be fine!


Posted by Leigh Metzler, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Aug 11, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Some small number of kids have an inkling of what they want to do from a very early age. There is something that they are passionate about and learn to build on their skills by practicing repeatedly. I know several adults who are very successful in their careers, that had an interest that they could not get enough of as a young child. I met a gentleman on a subway train in NYC this summer on vacation. He is the movie critic for ABC in Metro NYC. He and his best friend went around interviewing people with pencils when they were 9 years old. Today both of them work in broadcasting. If you have one of these kids that see their future, don't step on their dreams. They can come true.

I have 11 year old twins. One has no idea what he would like to do for a career. My daughter has been redesigning her clothes since she was a toddler. They actually looked better after her redesigns when she was 5 years old. We had to make a deal about cutting up her clothes. We agreed, she would ask me first.

She has been learning to sew, she is doing some kid modeling and her summer camps are all about fashion and design. Will she realize her dream, I have no idea. My guess is that the schools that others covet like Stanford and Harvard will not be her thing. The schools that we talk about are Parsons, FIT and The Savannah College of Art & Design.

For the kids who don't know their passion, no reason to fret. Just keep introducing them to opportunities. something will interest them one day. I just enjoy the trip. We have the youngest kids of my husbands college friends. They are at Stanford and PENN. I can't even hold out hope that will be the story for my kids. I just offer them opportunity and hope they find a path to a career they truly love.

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