This article is authored by a premiere college advisor who specializes in helping young men and women figure out what “makes them tick” and using that to create educational pathways that win with college admissions. So share this with your child, and start planning now!
Attention: All incoming high-school freshmen, it’s time to start planning for college. Don’t worry about where you want to go just yet; focus on getting to know yourself instead. How do you choose to spend your time, both in and out of the classroom? This is ultimately what determines your collegiate future, so be smart, strategic, and proactive. Ask yourself the big, important questions now, and you’ll be forever ahead of the game. The college application process isn’t something reserved exclusively for the first semester of your senior year; it’s what you do today that counts.
Now is the time to reflect on who and what you are. Think of yourself as a science experiment. Study yourself as if your life depended on it. The sooner you challenge yourself to uncover what makes you uniquely you, the better off you’ll be. Ask yourself what makes your DNA different than anyone else’s. Pay attention to your strengths, weaknesses, and talents. What do you do that brings you genuine satisfaction? What makes you exceptionally happy? What are some things you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t gotten around to doing? And if you could do anything you wanted, for 24 straight hours, what would it be and why?
These may sound like college interview questions because they are. They are intended to make you think about how you want to spend the next four years. What will you pursue, and why? Which courses will you take? How will you spend your summers? Every decision you
make, and every action you take should be deliberate. Start filling in the blanks, and you’ll be infinitely wiser for having done so. Your motivation and focus will go “through the roof” and you’ll be light years ahead in the college admissions game.
Why is self-reflection so important? Because it helps prioritize what’s important, and dictates how you spend your time. If you’ve been studying French for seven years but hate it, choose another elective that’s more in line with who you are, and what you enjoy learning. Are you stuck in European lit, but would rather be designing a robotics program for your school’s engineering club? Are you passionate about astrology but playing soccer instead? Obsessed with organic gardening but volunteering at a local hospice? Bottom line: do what you love, and the rest will follow. Think about what lights you up, and start chasing whatever that is with ferocity.
It doesn’t matter what your particular interests or talents may be. No one is judging you. Who cares if you want to be the next Superman? Dreams and aspirations are yours and yours alone, however ridiculous or absurd they may be. Don’t wait until senior year to figure it out. You have four years to pursue each one of your strengths, but you can only do that if you know where to begin. Aim to synchronize everything you do so that it thoroughly reflects who are you and in four year’s time, you’ll have a stack of college acceptance letters waiting for you at your doorstep.
Erin P. Timmerman is the founder of LifeLab, a full-service college consulting company.
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