Monday, August 19, 2013

3 Things I Learned as a Mom & Administrator on a College Visit

For the past eight years, I have worked in high school administration. My daughter was in third grade when I turned the page on this stage of my career. Now, she is a senior and I have just started a new chapter in central office administration. There have been many lessons learned over the years, but some of the best professional learning for me came this summer on an official college visit to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Here are three things I think all educators and parents need to know and understand about high school preparation for college and careers.

1. Grade point average is practically meaningless in the determination for college acceptance. With student applications from all over the world, the methods for calculating grades are infinite and uncertain at best. As educators, we have to realize that our version of excellence, above average, average, and so forth are vastly different than others around the world. Without close examination of the course content that makes up a grade, the grade itself has virtually no implication for determining a student's academic standing or ability to be successful in college. Let's be honest, how many "straight A" students have we known that end up living in mom and dad's basement after the first semester as a freshman? Grades are NOT an indicator!

2. The rigor and challenge of courses taken are given the highest consideration. In other words, a B in an Advanced Placement course says a lot more about a kid than an A in a less challenging course. This is hard for kids and parents to understand and accept. We're too busy playing the weighted course and class rankings game. And, for goodness sakes, we can't show weakness or any indication of a struggle. WRONG. Admissions reps are looking for students who push and challenge as well as grow as learners over time. Not "4.0s". Students with a 4.0 are a dime a dozen. 

3. We (educators and parents) must raise the ceiling. We can't tolerate a "fun senior year" schedule of courses any longer. We can't accept or embrace students looking for the easy "A". We have to constantly challenge students to push past their comfort level and understand that overcoming failure is a natural part of learning and personal growth. It's hard as a parent to hold back from trying to make those after-the-deadline schedule change requests for an easier choice. But, all of us are doing a disservice if we don't hold fast to supporting our kids through the process of enduring and overcoming challenging courses in high school.

After 20 years of being in secondary education, I still have to resist the urge to make the path easier for my daughter. Lucky for me, she pushes herself harder than I do at times. As I finish this post, she is working on AP Calculus! Who would have thought?

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