“What is your daughter (or son) doing after she graduates?”
“How many campuses has she visited?”
“What is she using for SAT/ACT prep?”
“Has she applied for any scholarships?”
“Does she plan to live at home after graduation?”
“What are her top schools?”
“Is she doing an internship this summer?”
“How are the college applications going?”
If questions like these have become a routine part of your life, you must be in the guidance counselor phase of parenthood. This blog series is for you!
Over the next few weeks, our “Beyond High School” series will offer practical advice about preparing for life after high school. Topics include: SAT and ACT preparation, the advantages of community college, alternatives to college, tips for minimizing college debt, and more. But first, I want to encourage you: even if you feel like you’re trekking through unmapped territory, you have four tools that make you a better guidance counselor than you might realize:
You have a Ph.D. in your child.
You probably know your child’s personality, talents, limitations, and fears better than anyone. You’ve seen her areas of unusual strength, and weakness. Celebrate her natural abilities, and encourage her to cultivate them—to use, explore, and strengthen them. The insight you can offer her about herself is priceless. The better she knows herself, the easier it will be for her to make wise decisions about her future.
You have Google.
How many colleges should your child apply to? Can she get into her dream school with her SAT score? How much will her dream school cost? Google has the answers! If you have a few minutes and an internet connection, you can shrink a mountain of ignorance down to the size of an anthill. Here are a few examples of searches to inspire your own research:
– “Average GPA of students at UNC-Chapel Hill”
– “Do I have to take the SAT to go to community college?”
– “Best SAT online prep services”
– “Average SAT improvement”
– “Most affordable colleges in North Carolina”
– “Where can I go to college with a 20 ACT score?”
– “How many colleges should I apply to?”
By setting aside 15-30 minutes per day to research your college-related questions, you will quickly have a realistic picture of your child’s options.
You have a larger perspective about the future than your child has.
Your child needs assurance that life is more than test scores, GPA, admissions letters, or scholarships. She may believe that her SAT score quantifies her identity, or that the prestige of her college determines who she is. She may think that her chances of a successful life depend on attending her dream school.
Remind her often that her identity and future are more than scores and schools. Encourage her to enjoy her family and friends, serve others, and pursue her interests, even if they won’t bolster her resume.
You have a base of operations.
High school is a pressure-cooker of test scores, GPA’s, and college plans. Comparison and competition among classmates make it even harder. Often, home is no better than school. But your home doesn’t have to be a source of pressure. It can be a refuge from comparison, where acceptance has nothing to do with performance. It can also be a base of operations, where you and your child work side by side to move towards her next phase.
So put on your guidance counselor hat, pull up a chair next to your child, and start researching, strategizing, and dreaming together! I wish you and your child perseverance, wisdom, and success as you blaze a trail to her life beyond high school.
If you have a question you’d like us to answer in the “Beyond High School” series, we would love to hear from you! Email your questions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Bethany Bowen-Wefuan (Ph.D. in German Studies from Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill) is a teacher, writer, wife, and mom. She has taught German language and literature at Duke University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Wilmington, and the University of Missouri. As an educator, she loves helping students become more curious about words (German and English!) and the world.