As most of you know, Thom and I are the very proud parents of three sons. Our oldest is a high school junior and our twins are in the 8th grade.
This past week, our twin sons registered for high school. As mentioned on our social media earlier this week, I was advised (by my better half) to focus on the excitement of our sons (rather than my frequent "but they just came home from the hospital yesterday" comments). Okay, that was 14 years ago.
With our business, we’ve met with a lot of families with 9th and 10th graders who worry about making the “right” choices now so they can get into the “right” college later.
We give the same advice to our sons that we give to our client families. (Our client families probably listen to us more, but that’s another story.)
It’s not about the college; it’s about the student. But there are choices the student can make now that can affect (and even maximize) future options.
Pursue activities and courses that interest you and that you’re passionate about. Don’t just join something because you think “it will look good on a resume.” Don’t look for the class that’s “easy,” but rather the class that challenges you and makes you think. Make sure to balance challenging classes with other courses in your schedule.
At our registration appointment, the guidance counselor met individually with each student (and their parents if available). Our sons’ appointments were back to back so she invited Patrick to hear some of the information she needed to share with both of them. I loved that each student was provided a gray file folder and was encouraged by their guidance counselor to keep information in the folder about high school awards, activities, and later information for applying for college.
Our sons have varied interests from math and history to engineering and science. Do they have to pick the exact career now? No.
Should they make sure to challenge themselves and take rigorous and challenging English, science, and math courses? Absolutely.
Should they explore and pursue other interests like music and art through electives? Definitely.
Our son James has decided to put the euphonium away that he has played for three years in middle school and indicated an interest in a piano class. Patrick is interested in engineering and criminal justice as electives.
One of our sons was trying to decide between an honors and an AP class. He had already selected three other honors classes. He was considering balancing scouts and soccer with a rigorous schedule. He made the decision to take honors world history and geography, rather than AP human geography. We supported that decision since he will be a freshman, will be adjusting to high school, and can consider AP World History and AP US History as a sophomore and junior.
Our twin sons were excited about being recommended for honors classes. I think it’s important to remind parents of a conversation we had with our oldest son (now a junior). When registering for high school (as an eighth grader in spring 2020 just before everything shut down for the pandemic), our son Andrew expressed concern that if he took an honors course he was worried he wouldn't get as strong of grades.
We encouraged him to think about it in a different way: instead of thinking what would look good to a college on paper, better to ask what would best prepare him to thrive at that college? Having to struggle and grow intellectually in a tougher course will better prepare him for the next level of his education. The GPA will take care of itself. Besides, every college out there will be looking at the courses taken when considering a GPA. Since then, Andrew has taken two or more honors classes each year and enjoyed the challenge and class discussions. His favorite class currently (in addition to animal science) is AP US History.
Some students need an additional nudge to challenge themselves and take an honors course; some students need a reminder not to stress themselves out with too many honors and AP courses. As their parent and advocate, remember that it’s about the student, not the college or even the high school. It’s their journey. Support them.
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