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From a College Counselor, Resolutions for a Happy New Year

HNYE! HNY!  How often have we seen these abbreviations while scanning our email and social media? But when it comes to the college process, we have to remind ourselves that there are no shortcuts.

As 2016 unfolds, I wonder how students will adapt to new to standardized tests, research colleges and manage their applications. Which juniors and parents will I get to know the best? What challenges will they face, and how much support will they require?  Will students soar with the new tests, or will new tests lead to more test-optional colleges? With those questions in mind, here are some suggested resolutions for three audiences to which I am particularly close: parents, students, and college counselors.

Parent Resolutions

I will respect my child’s decisions and preferences during the college process. To meet this resolution, acknowledge that the process is not about you; rather, it’s about your child. You never want your son or daughter to look back and wonder what would have happened had they pursued a choice that was not their own (barring financial circumstances of course).

I will not sign my student up for standardized tests to “get them over with.” Every year, I greet students who have taken SATs and ACTs prematurely. Students get stronger as they move through the junior year, and with a new SAT design, I am encouraging students to put off their first SAT until May.

I will not write my student’s college essays. As a college counselor, I know all too well when an essay is not the student’s. Admissions officers can likely tell as well. Help your student only if he or she asks; provide encouragement and possibly proofreading support. But that’s it.

Other than to schedule appointments, I will not communicate with the Admissions Office. It is not your responsibility to chase after missing recommendations, check on outstanding issues, and ask about policies. When your student goes to college, he or she should do so knowing how to fend for himself or herself.

I will not say aloud, “What happens if he doesn’t get in anywhere?” Such uncertainty filters down to your student and creates an unhealthy vibe around the house. Don’t go there! Your student will always have choices and educational alternatives.

Student Resolutions

When I get an essay assignment, I will read the prompt. In the new year, teachers will ask you to conduct research, write position papers, and answer document-based questions. They are preparing you for what lies ahead. And what lies between high school and college is the college applications process. There is nothing worse than not answering the question.

I will continue to work on my proofreading and editing skills. Pay attention to your English teacher’s comments. Go back to basics; read papers aloud; use checklists; or turn to a trusted reader. The less time your teachers and counselors have to spend on editing, the more time they have on constructive suggestions.

I will not fixate on the college essay (i.e., Common App Personal Essay) at the expense of individual college supplements. I encourage students to visit a college and draft the supplement when the trip is still fresh. Students should never put all their emphasis on the Personal Essay at the expense of the all-important supplements.

Counselor Resolutions

I will exercise patience with my students, knowing that some have to grow more than others. Students don’t come equipped with years of experience to help them readily identify strengths, strengthen weaknesses and weed out choices.

I will regularly interact with faculty to ensure that students get the skills they need to succeed in the college process. At The Hudson School where I consult two days a week, the faculty and I talk about student writing and the integration of essay writing and interviewing skills in classes. We regularly exchange ideas for future curriculum.

I will “give back,” by helping in some way with students who don’t receive or absorb important guidance. It’s really the least I can do.

As I write this, I look out at the winter sky and am reminded of the many students that are enjoying time with friends and family before heading back to school. I glance up at holiday greetings from families, including pictures of 2015 graduates and photos of students who will go through some major transitions in 2016. It’s an emotional time! But by not taking shortcuts, our students will enjoy a far better outcome. Happy New Year!


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