Academia may seem like a fancy word reserved for educators, but it doesn’t have to be daunting or mysterious. For parents interested in learning more about the college selection process, there are plenty of programs willing to helping. The problem is, many of these programs can cost you thousands of dollars.
If breaking the piggy bank does not interest you, here are some practical suggestions.
Read to Your Children
Educators and child psychologists agree that reading to children is one of the best things you can do for developing brains. When children are presented with words and stories from an early age, it has a way of stimulating neurological functions and developing connections. Our brains are incredibly malleable from the get go. This is why learning more than one language is easiest from birth.
Broaden Their Horizons
Children who grow up participating in a variety of activities, visiting new places, and experiencing a diverse series of relationships gain invaluable life lessons.
And, despite what you may think, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Paris does not have the market cornered on cultural enrichment. Everyone has places within driving distance that can be discovered for the fist time.
Activities don’t have to come in the form of hundreds of dollars in registration fees. Take advantage of your local library’s programming, see what your parks and recreation department has to offer, and try out something new like flying a kite, putting together a puzzle, or Geocaching.
Emphasize Education from an Early Age
Now, to be clear, emphasizing education does not mean you must hound, nag, demand, or browbeat. These methods have been tried, and have a poor track record. Placing a healthy emphasis on education means your child knows you care and expect them to put forth their best effort in their studies.
This is a character trait best developed from an early age. Maintaining a balance that allows students to foster of sense of independence and ownership of their studies with appropriate levels of parental accountability is crucial.
When Grades (Really) Matter
Let’s be honest, a report card with straight ‘A’s’ makes everyone’s heart warm. It’s important to remember that, through middle school, students are learning how to learn, creating good habits, developing study skills, and understanding what teachers expect. When students enter high school, the stakes change. Colleges evaluate student transcripts beginning in 9th grade, which is when GPA’s (grade point averages) are calculated.
Parents do well by grooming students along the way, rather than placing unrealistic expectations upon the shoulders of their child on day one of high school. If children are first asked to perform academically in 9th grade, the opportunity to learn lessons without fear of repercussion is gone.
From an academic perspective, colleges evaluate a student’s grades and college placement exams for the purposes of admission decisions. If your student aims to attend a top tier school, they should demonstrate a strong GPA along with supporting ACT/SAT test score. Consistency between GPA and ACT/SAT scores demonstrates a student’s work ethic and natural aptitude – something colleges like to see.
Additionally, admission counselors also evaluate what a student does outside of the classroom. While many choose to try to do “a little bit of everything,” it is suggested that students demonstrate ongoing levels of growth and increasing levels of improvement with more of a singular focus.
Trying to do everything well is an unrealistic challenge for most students. For a student interested in veterinary science, working several years for a local veterinarian and showing increasing levels of responsibility tell a powerful story. A strong recommendation is very helpful as well.
Parents should remember that schools like Princeton, Harvard, and Yale turn down many valedictorians every year. There are plenty of wonderful, rigorous college environments out there. Students should do their research and select a handful to visit in person. Comfort level and fit are incredibly important factors when selecting a college.
And remember, a wise college counselor once said – College is not a race to be won, but a match to be made.