• Dr. Thom

What Matters on a Snow Day

Updated: Jan 8


Photo credit: Cloris Ying on Unsplash

Snow days are relatively rare in Middle Tennessee and the inhabitants of the Golden household can get a little . . . squirrelly. I’ve written before about the magical opportunities that are created by snow days if we take the time to enjoy them. Sure, there’s sledding, snow fights, fires in the fireplace, and hot chocolate - the usual and amazing. But the conversations between all of these are just as wonderful.


Topics covered these past two snow days:


  • Do people really like the little freeze dried marshmallows in the Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa mix? They’re just so . . . off.

  • Is it ok to store Heinz ketchup upside down if the label is right side up? Note: this is an on-going debate in our household between two of my sons. On this particular evening, the debate got into the nature of ketchup bottle design, which, of course, I took advantage of to introduce the boys to the world of human-centered design and "Norman doors."

  • What is the proper snow composition for ideal sledding and is it different from snowball making?

  • How eating raw cookie dough is bad for you, but that people still do it - and other aspects of quasi-acceptable rule breaking.


But then, in the middle of all of the silliness, debating, and laughter, my oldest son, who is a sophomore in high school, drops a biggie into the conversation. He asks: “Dad, people I go to school with want to know what really matters for college and what doesn’t.”


Ok, son. I got you. Here’s what matters and here’s what doesn’t.


What matters for college



  • Your grades in those courses: Sure, this is an obvious one I know . . . BUT it is important to remember that colleges do NOT expect you to have perfect grades. Do the best you can, work hard, do good work, and learn from your mistakes when you fall short of your goals. Trust that colleges will reward you for it.


  • Finding mentors: You have, right now, people at your school who believe in you and are supporting you on your path to college. Identify that teacher, coach, counselor, or administrator, and tell them your college goals (as you know them today). They will help you because you (and your fellow students) are the reason they got into education in the first place. They will write letters of recommendation, help you with that class in which you are currently struggling, and root you on when you win. Colleges care about how you interact with educators like them because you will need to engage with professors and educators just like those at your high school when you are a university student.


What doesn’t matter for college


  • Obnoxiously long lists of activities: Being involved in activities you enjoy is definitely important because admissions officers want students who will avail themselves to all the amazing opportunities for engagement afforded in college. But, the goal isn’t to treat the full list of activities at your high school like a to-do list. Follow our guidelines for striking the right balance with your extracurriculars.


  • Who you know: Sometimes we get asked whether it is important to start to cultivate relationships with alumni from various colleges in the off-chance they might be able to write a letter of recommendation. It can be helpful for you to have a network of people who can help you learn more about various colleges, but those people putting “putting in a good word” for you isn’t really a thing. I’ve read letters of recommendations from senators and from high school teachers. I treat the high school teacher's letter with more weight, as they really know the student and the official often sends a form letter.


  • Whether you can afford college: Most colleges and universities are what’s called “need-blind” which means that when they are considering you for admission, how much financial aid you might need isn’t a factor.


It’s important to students to focus on the things that matter and to let go of myths. Across the board perfection and what I would call “omnicompetence” is not expected, nor preferred by 99.5% of colleges (and we don’t give a hoot about that 0.5% anyhow). Take time to chat with your high school student about “controlling the controllables,” and make sure they have permission to let the rest go. Not working with us yet? Feeling stressed by the college search process? Let's chat.


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