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  1. #1
    Myira is offline Platinum level (1000+ posts)
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    Default Preparing for high school and college

    My DD is in 7th grade but honestly I have the feeling that years are flying us by and it’s before I blink that we’d be making decisions about applying to college. I have the feeling we are going to find ourselves suddenly caught off guard. I see several posts these days regarding choices in high school and college admission on this board, and frankly I’m already overwhelmed.
    If you have been through this journey or are ahead on this path, I’d love to hear your experiences, advice, pitfalls or just what you think really helped your kiddo or what in hindsight you’d have done differently back then? I’m sure this can prove very helpful to posters like me with tweens or kids just starting high school.


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  2. #2
    daisyd is offline Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    Following. I feel the same way. DS1 is in 7th grade and its been hard with COVID. Our middle school pre-COVID didnt do a great job with academics. Now with COVID labs in particular and learning in general is just not happening. My motivated learner is demoralized. I'm trying to educate myself about our future options for high school and beyond.

  3. #3
    SnuggleBuggles is online now Black Diamond level (25,000+ posts)
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    Just going to write out some thoughts as they come to me...
    -Ds1 changed so, so much over the course of middle school and high school. No one that knew him in 8th grade would ever guess he'd have a lead role in the high school musical. He blossomed and changed. I credit the diverse activities he chose to be a part of. Sports, arts, National Honors Society, volunteering, mock trial, science...the list was endless and he was fortunate that his school is welcoming of all abilities onto their teams.

    -He always did best academically when he was busy. He managed his time better when there was less free time.

    -On the note of change, don't bother trying to figure out their path or interests for them. Let them explore and give them a chance to re-form their path. I would have told
    you mine was going to be a computer guy back at the beginning of high school. His love wound up being chemistry and theater.

    -This board is not an accurate representation of the population out there. In real life I am not around people that are making Ivy league or highly selective schools their goal and focus of high school. Try not to get sucked into the idea that there is only one good path. There are so, so many great schools in the country and every kid can find a good option for them.

    -If your kiddo is all in on wanting a highly selective school that's a different story. But, try and temper that because the odds just aren't in their favor. Again, there are amazing schools in all tiers throughout the country. Make sure they have a well rounded list of schools to look at vs an all or nothing.

    -High school shouldn't be about building a resume for college admission, imo. Why? Because the metrics change all the time with what schools are looking for. They want to hit marks that aren't always visible- race, income, geographic location... There is more money to be made from foreign students that can pay full price too so they are competing against students that they really can't beat.

    -Let them do the things they enjoy in high school. This is one of their last chances to just have fun and do things simply because they want to. The classes don't cost extra like they would in college. Through sampling different things they will more clarify their interests too.

    -Make sure they are involved at school though. As I said before, my ds1 did best academically when he was busy. He had a sport each season in addition to something in the arts then any number of other clubs and activities. If they can join something for the summer between 8th and 9th grade (marching band, sports, cheerleading...) that will give them a leg up socially.

    -If you get a chance to be involved, do it. It's nice to support the kids and their programs as well as being present to get to know their peers. Knowing the other parents also opened up more social opportunities for ds1.

    -Start touring schools sophomore year. My ds1 was so busy that we could barely fit in tours. He had obligations almost every weekend and during the week. It was so hard! We toured off season at too many and wish we had started sooner. On the flip side, odds are they really won't know what they like/don't like/ want...that early. But, setting feet on campus is always helpful. There were some that were instant no's simply because of where they were (too rural).

    -Follow the social media Grown and Flown. Lots of good advice there.

    -You can reach out to a professional college counselor. That wasn't a path we felt we needed to go down and I got overwhelmed when I started to. Dh's work had a partnership for free counseling so I browsed their website. It really seemed to be aimed at families with the single minded focus of those hard to reach schools. I felt way behind the 8 ball when I was reading. I also knew ds1 just wouldn't be interested. There weren't enough hours in the day to add more to his plate.

    -Be patient. This is such a cool time watching them develop and grow. I absolutely loved watching and being a part of his journey.

    And one last time- don't stress about college admissions! There are so many schools that they will wind up somewhere. Don't set the bar so high that you spend the next 4+ stressed for no good reason. College success isn't simply attached to the name of the school they attend but what they do once they are there. Same as high school- get involved!

  4. #4
    erosenst is online now Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    I echo a lot of what SnuggleBuggles says, but top of mind for me, and in no order (in case hearing it more than once helps!)

    * As background, DD is now a junior. She's always been pretty self-directed, and that influences a lot of the below. If your child is less so, I know a lot of people who have found a *lot* of value from a college counselor, although we didn't go that path. It's early for you now - but I'd listen to friends and start collecting names if you're interested. If nothing else, it takes you out of the center of the power struggle - and when the 'expert' says something it's way different than when you do. They also often bring up things you/your kid hadn't thought of.

    * Depending on the middle school/junior high, there may be a chance to take advance classes - DD could have been as much as three years ahead in math, and the 8th grade language was a high school credit. Know your kid - if they want to do it and are able to do so - great. But the kids whose parents pushed regret it - they struggle in high school, often take a class over, and their grades are lower.

    * This continues in high school, and depends a bit on the school and the kid. If your kid is a good student and heading towards selective colleges, they do look at strength of schedule and want to see 'rigor'. That doesn't mean every single AP or IB class available. DD really doesn't like history. She took AP World (found it hard) and AP Human Geography (found it easy but didn't like it). For junior year she already had 5 AP/full weight classes, and will have 15 AP/full weight classes when she graduates - so she took regular US history instead of AP US History. It was the right choice and we supported it.

    * There are two schools of thought on planning classes, and a LOT depends on your kid but nowhere near all. We were / are very uninvolved in her class selection unless she asks. I think because of this she has asked, and followed our advice, a couple times - but it's a conversation and not a power struggle. Friends have the latter and their kids have won more than not. The school should be insuring that minimum requirements are met and they are more or less 'slotted' in the right difficulty of classes. Decisions here included whether to take ASL, which she loves, or another AP CS class. Since she knows a lot and the first class is largely repetitive of that, and wants to major in CS, we suggested CS. I thought she had chosen ASL til really close to when school started! Convo for next year is about AP Physics. I suggested she check colleges, ask her guidance counselor, etc - but that I would lean towards yes so not having a 4th year of science doesn't disqualify her. She meets with her counselor this week but is a bit more prepared for the conversation now.

    * Similar thoughts on college planning - as mentioned above, if your kid isn't at self-motivated/doesn't have the skill set to do this, find a good college counselor - they are worth their weight in gold. There's a range in services and pricing - so if you hear it mentioned ask for details. Local mom's groups on FB are a good source too. People started asking DD where she wanted to go to college by freshman year. DH was getting stressed. I told him that DD would wake up one day with a list, it would be a good list, and we would just argue if we talked about it sooner. Fast forward to summer between soph and junior year and a long car trip. DD knew her criteria - big school, good football program as she loves to watch, good CS program, and in the north as she hates to be hot. Between my knowledge of school and some googling, she quickly got a short list. It's changed a bit since summer (one was too far south, a couple others added) but the top remains the same. Luckily the top 5 include one STRETCH, one 'target', two 'safety', and one 'hard target' where she doesn't want to go but where DH wants her to apply - a great spread. Again - it may change which is fine but apparently that was the time she was ready to talk about it.

    * Many start tours freshman or sophomore year. I think that's another 'kid specific'. DD is way more self-confident now than she was a year or two ago - it would have been too early for her then. Without a pandemic we would probably be touring now. Realistically we'll tour where she gets in, and she's fine with that. Some kids just can't focus til they see a few schools.

    * One that surprised me - helps a ton to take ACT/SAT first semester junior year, which means starting prep summer between soph and junior. And yes, most people do some form of prep whether free Kahn academy or via a program. Start listening to options and know that's coming. It's great to have it done, and it really helps solidify the list knowing what her scores are. She will also (hopefully) be gone all summer so really needs to be be ready to start the essays when she gets back, not worry about taking ACT/SAT.

    * Many kids apply "early action" by November 1st of senior year - part of what shortens the process. They don't have to commit, but do know early. Not all schools have it - one of DD's is not an early action school but she will still apply to all to start hearing.

    * On the extracurricular - yes, important (and I wish DD had more). They're looking both for involvement and leadership, not just involvement, at the more selective schools. Speaking of selective - yes, this board skews way more toward them than many. Having said that - I think less than DD's HS which is known for its rigorous academics and people move here because of that.

    * From a 'keeping your sanity' perspective - particularly at the selective schools, but even at others, it's a numbers game. On paper DD should be a total no brainer at one of our (granted, competitive) state schools. It's listed as 'safety' but still only 85% (I think) chance of acceptance. Don't get your hopes pegged on one or two schools. Also know that your kids friends will influence decisions - but what they SAY in 7th-9th grade they want and what they DO by senior year are often quite different. Good time to practice the active listening "Oh really? That's interesting" DH fell into the trap of "they are all going to Ivy League why isn't DD" when she was in middle school. While many actually could get in, they are pursuing other paths now - specific major, school size, distance from home - all the normal things are influencing this.

    * Most schools use the Common App - only 12 use the Coalition App (of course DD applying to five schools, and in that small list one only takes Coaltion and several only take Common). You can go to the Common App and Coaliton App websites now to see the kinds of information that they ask for. One big surprise for me - while everyone talks about the "essays" - they're short, but specific to each school. The long ones are 250ish words. The short may be 50ish. It's much more about focus and cranking through them than how long/hard each is.

    This was totally top of mind, and sorry it got long - happy to answer questions if I can. Good luck!

  5. #5
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    Snugglebuggles has some good advice.
    I second Grown and Flown and Grown and Flown Parents.

    I would say know your kid. Even my two were quite different in their interests and abilities and, therefore, needs and expectations. DS has sailed through high school with the most difficult curriculum in a cut throat high school and never gets stressed over academics. DD was strong academically but used to get stressed out and hated the cut throat atmosphere, to the point of developing school anxiety. She took six APs throughout high school, and that was the right amount for her, whereas DS will have 11 (And he would have liked to take more but it wasn’t allowed due to impacted courses) DD is not like that anymore as we looked for a rigorous yet collaborative environment in college- she has thrived there and gained so much confidence and continues to challenge herself and plans to pursue a doctorate.

    Things also vary regionally. Here APs are impacted so it can be a struggle to get into the classes they want, if that’s their goal. Our school allowed one AP in 10th. In 11th and 12th they had a lot more options. The colleges evaluate them based on what’s offered at their school. They can also take classes at a local community college or online, if they desire. This is not a must!

    Look at the math and science pathways in advance to make sure they will meet their goals according to their ability. Try not to compare to peers- again, know your kid.

    Neither of my kids was very interested in trying out a ton of stuff in high school, to my disappointment. I was always a joiner. By the time they got to high school they had found a couple of things they loved and pursued those in great depth and added a couple more. That’s a very personality driven thing and there’s no right or wrong. The main thing is they should do stuff they truly enjoy, not just for a college resume. I think the colleges can sense when the kids are doing it to check off a box versus genuine interest. It really comes through in their essays. Activities are a great way to meet like-minded friends and integrate into the school. Ds spends several hours a week with teammates and they have become friends. This has been a huge blessing through Covid because he gets the social interaction.

    Our school has a bridging program the summer before ninth, and some activities (sports, band) require summer practice. It’s a great way to get to know some kids before they start, especially important if they’re starting at a new school but even otherwise. I know Covid makes all this very difficult.

    I think the problem is maybe 30% of the people are trying for top colleges, when in reality maybe only the top 10% have a chance of getting in, if that… There are many, many options at different tiers and you have to figure out what makes sense for your kid. I will say things are particularly challenging in California due to the competition – I’m sure some other states, too.

    Some kids apply to relatively obscure colleges where they get excellent merit aid. Whereas, around here most people look at rankings. Do not look at USNWR school rankings too obsessively, because the rankings are based on things like reputation and alumni donations. Instead, you can look at things like most collaborative colleges or best teaching or whatever is important to your kid.
    IRT the college hunt, my kids changed a lot between ninth and 12th grade. Heck, dd even changed between submitting her applications and deciding where to go! Most kids end up where they are meant to be and when I look back I think she would have thrived at any of the places she got into, because we applied according to fit.

  6. #6
    ezcc is offline Gold level (500+ posts)
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    I haven't read the other responses yet, but will say that the most important thing is to let your kid lead the way, and to enjoy where you are. I see with my kids' friends sometimes a focus on college and the future has caused them to feel unnecessary stress. For example, many of his friends spent untold amounts of time and money on test prep- we did almost none of that, and ds hasn't submitted his frankly average test scores to any of the colleges he has applied to. He is still applying to the same top schools that his peers are, and is having good results with his college admissions so far. I think the deemphasis on test scores will last post-covid. The sports thing is another I see way overemphasized- if your kid loves a sport, great, but I also see tons of money and time poured in to private coaching and travel leagues that has had zero return in college admissions. As far as the college search process, that is another one we didn't put much time or money into- some of which was not by choice, we had a college visit trip scheduled for last March and now almost spring of senior year ds has had exactly zero true college visits. While I would have loved to have had that trip- I think it would have been fun to do with him and would have helped with his decision making I now see that it really is not necessary. High school should be a great time for kids, there is a chance to try new things, really enjoy the teamwork of sports, theater whatever. I would put the focus on that- trying to find the things that they really love and putting time and energy there. I have also seen with college admissions that there are a few schools that are nearly impossible to get into, no matter who you are and there are many, many wonderful schools that a reasonably accomplished kid should have no trouble getting accepted to- so it's really not worth trying to game that system.

  7. #7
    SnuggleBuggles is online now Black Diamond level (25,000+ posts)
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    I have no idea what impacted courses are.
    My ds1 took as many APs as he could. Our school is not cut throat at all. We really lucked into a unicorn of great academic and extracurricular options with none of the intensity I hear from other schools. I’ve said before that I’m sure hardly any parents on here would send their kids to the school because of how it ranks. It is very racially and economically diverse so it has an undeserved bad reputation. On the bright side, it is eligible for all sorts of services (including free college applications). The “good” school districts around me are pressure cookers with lots of tiger parents. I looked through their senior celebrations last year and their kids were all heading off to the same colleges as our high school. Each had 1-3 Ivy League students. Made me wonder what all the fuss is if the kids end up at the same schools in the end. (Sorry for the ramble!!)


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  8. #8
    mom2binsd is offline Diamond level (5000+ posts)
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    -This board is not an accurate representation of the population out there. In real life I am not around people that are making Ivy league or highly selective schools their goal and focus of high school. Try not to get sucked into the idea that there is only one good path. There are so, so many great schools in the country and every kid can find a good option for them.

    This from earlier upthread, if someone just came across this board without much back story they would feel like their kids were possibly falling behind. There are quite a few kids on here that honestly have such high grades/test scores that it is mind boggling. I have many friends who have kids in medical school/law school/engineering etc and they are Merit Scholars or near at the top of their classes but have still gone to great schools, state schools, started in Jr. College etc. Also AP classes are NOT necessary, and certainly not to the extent that some of the kids on this board takes them, DD is taking two in addition to some honors classes etc, but has still been accepted to plenty of excellent schools. Her SAT and ACT scores were not great, we couldn't afford any courses and she did some prep herself but with her ADHD (but no extra time allowed) she isn't a great test taker, luckily none of her schools required it this year.

    Do not get to hung up on what others are doing, know your kid and their interests. Yes, to plenty of extra curriculars, a job as well, they all show skills needed for college success. Let your child lead the way with you in the background, unless they completely lack any initiative. Also, not every kid has to go to college, electricians/plumbers/hair stylists/grocery store managers have all proven to be very important and successful, and NEEDED!

  9. #9
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    APs are impacted because there is too much demand, given the crowd, mostly kids of highly educated Silicon Valley professionals who have high aspirations for their kids lol and we have major budget issues in california so not enough sections are available.
    Not all the kids should be doing tons of APs so the school has also made it more difficult and (for fairness) some APs are reserved for kids who are only taking a couple of APs.

    DS wanted AP physics. They gave them lottery tickets to determine who would get in! He couldn’t even get into the huge auditorium/classroom to get a ticket as it was overflowing! So they gave them another chance but he decided to do it online on his own time. He prefers self study, though, and this way he could take both physics C courses.

    My DD would NEVER have done this

    And yeah, he is totally self driven, except when it came to actually applying for the darn colleges. It was a nightmare with many close calls, but it’s done!

    Most people around here hire counselors to avoid these situations.
    Last edited by Globetrotter; 4 Weeks Ago at 04:16 PM.

  10. #10
    SnuggleBuggles is online now Black Diamond level (25,000+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Globetrotter View Post
    APs are impacted because there is too much demand, given the crowd, mostly kids of highly educated Silicon Valley professionals who have high aspirations for their kids lol and we have major budget issues in california so not enough sections are available.
    Not all the kids should be doing tons of APs so the school has also made it more difficult and (for fairness) some APs are reserved for kids who are only taking a couple of APs.

    DS wanted AP physics. They gave them lottery tickets to determine who would get in! He couldn’t even get into the huge auditorium/classroom to get a ticket as it was overflowing! So they gave them another chance but he decided to do it online on his own time. He prefers self study, though, and this way he could take both physics C courses.

    My DD would NEVER have done this

    And yeah, he is totally self driven, except when it came to actually applying for the darn colleges. It was a nightmare with many close calls, but it’s done!

    Most people around here hire counselors to avoid these situations.
    Phew! That sounds challenging!
    I hear you on the applications. He actually messed up one- only part of it got to one school because he never hit the “submit” button on the Common App 🤣


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