August 9, 2011
As your child heads back to high school this fall, it’s never too early to start thinking about the next step in their education – identifying, applying to, and being accepted at his or her college of choice.
“When you’re helping your high school student through the college selection process, remember that this next step is not just about classes, majors, and future careers – it’s also about finding a good fit for your child’s personality, interests, and outside activities,” says Patty Saddle, Licensed School Counselor and Owner of The College Planning Center (www.mycpcsite.com). “As a parent, you want them to feel comfortable at their chosen school.”
Ms. Saddle continues, “A recent study found that the average college student attends class 17 hours a week. That means over 90% of your child’s time will be spent outside the classroom. While the obvious goal of a college education is to gain knowledge about a specific field of study in order to choose a career path, it is also critical to ensure the chosen school offers an atmosphere and set of extracurricular activities that best suit your student.”
What if your child isn’t ready to choose a major? “That’s perfectly normal,” says Saddle. “While parents often wish their student knew where they want to focus their studies, the most common choice of major for incoming college freshmen is ‘Undecided’. At eighteen years of age, that’s to be expected.”
As part of the college selection process, Saddle works with high school students who are interested in exploring possible areas of study and potential future career paths. “I help them find opportunities for job shadowing and informational interviewing, and complete career assessments, to assist students with narrowing down the infinite choices in front of them.”
Saddle tells the story of a high school student who said she wanted to become a nurse. “When I asked why she thought this was the career for her, she indicated that she wanted to help people. My next questions were ‘Have you every volunteered in a hospital?’ and ‘Have you ever interviewed a nurse to see what their work day is like?’ Both answers were ‘No’.
At my suggestion, this student is currently volunteering at a hospital a few hours a week and has met with two local nurses to gain a better understanding of what their career entails. She may or may not ultimately pursue a nursing career, but she will ultimately select a few key areas of interest to explore during her first year of college. Those areas of interest will also help guide her decisions about which colleges might be a good fit for her.”
So, while you’re talking with your student about class schedules and math tutors, don’t forget to start – or continue – the college discussion. While it might seem like college is far off, a solid school choice takes time and effort. Starting the search now will help you make an informed decision, while reducing your anxiety during this often stressful time.