It’s been 3 weeks since I navigated the high school carpool line for the first time. I drove away wondering – how did that happen? How is that sweet 5-year-old in this picture now a freshman in high school? Like so many other parents, I shake my head – where has the time gone? And how can it be only four more years until she’s off to college?
In that moment, I realized – now it’s our turn. I’ve spent the last several years counseling families on the college search and application process. All the information that I’ve been sharing with others, I will now be applying to my own family. While we do have four more years with her at home, I know that it will go by quickly and there are things that we need to be thinking about freshman year to set her up for success in the years to come. Here’s a peek at what we’ve been talking about at our house:
- GPA: Obviously, we talked about grades when she was in middle school, but reality set in when I told her that the grade that she gets on day one of high school factors into the GPA she will have when applying to college in 3 years. We have not had a deep dive conversation into college fit yet, but she does love the mountains and always seems to be wearing App State gear. Using App State as an example, we talked about the profile of the freshman class, pulled directly from the school website. Knowing that the middle 50% of first year admitted students have a weighted GPA of 3.94-4.48 will help her keep her eye on the prize and serve as a measuring stick over the next few years. Should her grades fall below or rise above that, we can not only course correct but also identify other mountain schools that could be a good fit (or maybe she’ll change her mind completely and want to head to the city or the beach).
- Course Selection: We’ve also talked about how course selection impacts GPA as well as the difference between weighted & unweighted GPAs. At her school, an “A” in a standard course is worth 4 while it’s worth 4.5 in an honors course and a 5 in an AP course. There’s no pressure to take APs now but it’s important to understand what it all means. In addition, it was part of the conversation when we moved her from a non-challenging standard Freshman English class to Honors English during the first week of school.
- Requirements: High school requirements and college admissions requirements are not necessarily the same thing. For example, my daughter is not required to take a foreign language in order to graduate from high school but in order to attend App, she must have taken two consecutive units of a language other than English.
- Activities: My daughter dances, a lot. A lot, a lot. She loves it and it keeps her active, but it’s all done outside of school. While I’m definitely not encouraging her to join every activity offered at her high school, I am encouraging her to explore and freshman year is a great time to do that.
- Planning: While school has just started, it won’t be long before we will be talking about summer plans and course selection for sophomore year. What classes are most interesting? What does she want to take more of? How does she balance taking a challenging course load with maintaining a life (and time to dance) and keeping her grades up? Outside of dance, how does she want to get more involved in her high school?
While she’s a few years away from finalizing her college list, writing essays, and asking teachers for recommendations, I want the idea of college to be in her mind and for her to understand what it takes to get there. If I have learned anything from a career in partnering with students and families, it’s that putting your student in the best possible position for the college admissions process is not something that begins junior or senior year.