Your Children Are Not Their Numbers

I got an e-mail in December from a parent who was upset – she had just gotten a look at her junior daughter’s PSAT scores. They were not great and she was understandably discouraged. She wrote, “I guess she is just not college material.” That’s where I had to jump in and disagree.

I am always on the look out to make sure that each student I advise is suited to attend a 4-year college. The first question is, do they want to?

Second, are they academically, socially and financially ready for that plan immediately after high school?

Depending on the answers to these and other questions, it may make more sense for a student to take a GAP year, attend community college, enroll in a certificate program, enter the work force, or do something else entirely.

For those who do plan to attend college, however, numbers are very important in the admissions process. Let’s see – how many years in high school did they take a lab science? A foreign language? What level of academic rigor were those courses?  What is their GPA? And of course, what are their SAT and/or ACT scores?

There is no denying that all these numbers are important for admission, even more so with selective colleges.

But, they should never be the whole story!

First of all, your child is way more intriguing than a set of numbers could ever show.There are things that make each of our kids unique and noteworthy and if those do not spring to mind, then it’s time to help them develop some interests/skills that they can feel good about and share with others.

Exploration of interests and the trying of new things should be a focus during the high school years. The confidence boost and increase in independence is a typical side benefit as they figure out which areas they may want to pursue. Just as important, they may learn about things they do not want to pursue – now, or ever!

Maybe they aren’t interested in trying out for the school play, but find a home as part of the stage crew. Or they may develop an interest in graphic design after helping with the yearbook. Community/volunteer activities or a job can also expose your child to new experiences and leave him/her feeling good about contributing to the real world.

Whatever it is, encourage your child to branch out and try something new!

And those numbers that you may not be so happy to share with others? Remember, there is an opportunity to improve them!

Kids (and adults) can get better at test taking, essay writing, public speaking and much more, with practice. For some, it takes way more practice than others, but most everyone can make improvements if they make that a goal.

Your child may need encouragement to help them believe that they have what it takes to get to a higher level.

I’m reading a great book, in fact, that talks about the “fixed mindset” (the idea that we are born and stuck with our intellect and abilities) Vs.  the “growth mindset” (the belief that we can change/grow  as we challenge ourselves with new learning).  Check it out: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential.

However it happens, it is extremely important – for academic success and beyond – for your child to believe in his or her ability to improve in whatever area they choose to apply themselves.

Keep in mind as well that there are plenty of very intelligent, creative and memorable students who do not perform as well on tests, even with extra preparation. Luckily, there are more than 850 schools in the US that recognize this and, as a result, make the submission of SAT/ACT scores optional for admission. 

Your child is unique and will need to demonstrate that uniqueness when the time comes to apply for college. Time spent now helping them explore their interests, develop talents and get out in the world will allow them to shine, whether or not their numbers are impressive.

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