Here are 5 common mistakes high schoolers and their parents make during the critical periods of school when college prep really begins. Is that Grades 11 and 12? No. I refer to the years in Grade 8 and above. Have a read and tell me what you think!
1. Participating in too many extracurriculars
Yes, extracurriculars are important for the college application. But there is such a thing as ‘too much’. I see many high schoolers engaged in learning a new language, an instrument, playing a sport competitively in addition to all the other things involved in building a CV for college. In my opinion, this will get you a rich CV, but one that doesn’t speak a story. YOUR story. Who are you? What do you like doing? Show me how you’ve done that. What is your #1 passion in life? What have you done to pursue it? These are your questions. These should be the driving factor in your extracurricular journey between Grades 9-12.
2. Not starting out early for extracurriculars
Start early. Expose your child to a variety of extracurricular interests. Even if they pursue some and abandon them, at least you know they’ve eliminated options till they find the ONE thing they do love to do. Starting early gives you the time to experiment.
One of my sons swam, played cricket, learned martial arts, debated, was an MUN-er, attended robotics and drama workshops and several other extracurriculars in school. In the 9th grade, he decided he absolutely could not live without debating and that is what he relentlessly pursued till he was winning Best Speaker prizes in high school – at first inter-school level, then National level, then competing with 22 year olds in college. This was his unique passion and that is where he focused all his energies. Find yours!
3. Not Challenging Yourself
Aside from your school work, try to sign up for online lessons in the areas that interest you. For example, if you like history, look for online lessons that take you deeper into the subject and challenge you. There are many platforms nowadays where you can actually pursue your interests for free. Explore Udemy and Coursera for one. Colleges like to see that you’ve challenged yourself academically.
4. Ignore your child’s teachers
In high school, some teens develop a dismissive attitude towards their teachers. Parents do not engage enough with teachers. Your child’s teacher can be your biggest resource. If they see your child as a hardworking respectful student, they will handpick your child for prized competitions, events, where you need to represent your school. And believe me, the #1 way to stay in their good books is not a gift voucher from Nordstrom or Starbucks.Teachers will always pick students with whom they have a rapport. In the end, you will also need them for letters of recommendation for college. There’s no way you can get a stellar recommendation from short-term flattery. Teachers see right through that.
5. Ignoring your child’s mental health
To keep grades up over the four important years 9-12 alongside devoting time to pursue other activities is a stressful effort. Don’t let your teenager sideline their hobbies and downtime in favour of academics. Loading your child with extra subject tutoring with no free time is not going to help with grades. This is a surefire way to ensure your child is stressed out and depressed. Children need their friends, teachers, guidance counsellors and coaches. Most importantly, they need you. Be there for them. Listen to them. Advocate for them. If they have trouble dealing with something, get them help.
So those were the 5 common mistakes high school students make while preparing for college. If you have a story to share or have a question to ask, drop a line in the Comments box below.