I’ve been receiving many emails and phone calls from high school families asking this question. Some students begin taking “hard” classes to show admissions committees intellectual curiosity freshman year. Many are juniors before they plant the seeds for leadership positions in activities and clubs. Others are rising seniors when they begin test prep and register for their first SAT sitting.
Just as no one student is the same, no one college application journey is the same; however, here are some tips that have a “one size fits all” flexibility:
Some students find comfort in organizational apps while others say that too many Google Sheets, Docs and Calendar Events heighten their anxiety. I listen to the student and the family, often suggesting different tactics for each: Mom and Dad may like the Excel/iCalendar route whereas the student may prefer to have me paint the big picture and then gently poke when a pressing deadline looms. My opinion? Either strategy works as does pivoting when necessary!
My recommendation is to develop a “slow build” approach to the college application process. For example, maybe freshman year biology was exciting and now, as a junior or senior, a student wants to try AP Biology. They wouldn’t have known they liked this branch of science if they hadn’t had time to take other classes and then assess their STEM proclivity. When evaluating what rigorous courses to take in the last two years of high school, students should consider building on the past and stoke those intellectual flames in the final years of high school. In other words, stuffing a schedule full of random challenging classes out of “competitive panic” is unnecessary and a waste of valuable student energy.
There’s Always Tomorrow
This is my favorite saying for juniors and seniors. When they’re feeling overwhelmed with teachers demanding yearend projects and papers, coaches asking for additional practices, musicals needing “one more rehearsal,” and parents wondering how test prep is going, students often say to me, “I just wish I had more time.” They do. At crisis moments is when I don my super-coach cape and swoop in to save the day! Well, if not the day, then the small moment when a student is having difficulty navigating the stressors in their life. I reassure them that the key to time-management and executive functioning is to first identify impediments and then devise options for surmounting them; there’s always a metaphorical if not literal tomorrow.