There's Still Time to Shine (Even for High School Seniors)

This week, I am bracing myself for three parent-teacher conferences. Don't get me wrong, my kids are doing fine. They are happy kids most days, and healthy too. They aren't perfect students, though. Neither was I.

My oldest daughter, who is only 12, already talks about college constantly. My son asks if he can attend the local college, only blocks from us. And my youngest daughter announces on a daily basis that she's not going to college. It's quite an eclectic bunch.

As I think about the number of students submitting Early Decision and Early Action applications in the coming days and weeks, I am reminded that we all take different paths to college and careers. Some students are feeling like they just don't measure up right now. But I often tell my kids, especially my almost 13-year old daughter, that it's important to peak at the right time. 

Peaking in high school is not ideal. Ask anyone who has been through it.
Most of us grow into our talents and skills later on—college, first job, and sometimes even our last job. 
 
This is the time of year to wear the proverbial ear plugs to block out the noise, things, and people that don't involve you. We all know those classmates who brag about how many essays they've written, how many applications they've submitted, and how high their standardized test scores are. It doesn't matter even if they're applying to the same colleges as you are.

Here are a few tips to keep you focused on what matters for you:

1. There's still time to submit Early Decision and Early Action applications. 
Most deadlines are around November 1st. And some colleges even have Early Decision 2 programs with deadlines after the first of the year. With a few exceptions, applying early can give students an edge in the process.
 
2. If your test scores aren't as high as you would like, your life is not over.
In fact, it's just getting started. With nearly a thousand colleges now offering test optional policies, there is no need to lose anymore sleep about your test scores. You don't need to explain to colleges why they are low. Instead, put the time into your essays, interview, classes, and sometimes even a non-traditional requirement like a video submission. 
 
3. Be open to alternative paths to get you where you want to be.
More and more colleges are offering up admission to students if they begin in the summer, start in the spring, or even wait a year. If your transcript is not as strong, consider checking off these boxes if asked on the college's application or supplement. They often can increase a student's chances of admission even if their grades and scores fall below the averages.

"If your transcript is not as strong as you'd like, consider alternative paths like summer or spring admissions." TWEET THIS   

4. Take a break from social media, if need be.
Your classmates will be posting a lot as they begin to hear about admissions decisions. Scrolling through the posts can be difficult, especially if you didn't get admitted to a top choice. Just remember, it's not where you start in life. It's about where you end up and who you end up becoming.
 
5. I say this a lot, but it's true—being different in high school (and thus typically not popular) pays off.
Following the crowd not only socially but academically, makes a student disappear. When they celebrate their distinctiveness, colleges, employers, and influencers will be much more intrigued. The handful of people I grew up with who did something truly different and had the confidence to follow their dreams are hugely successful. 

I won't be hanging out with the other moms this week. I have a feeling I'll need to process what my kids' teachers say about them—the good and the not-so-good. I plan to use some ear plugs or whatever the new technology is that I don't know the name of. I don't want to measure other kids' successes against my own kids. Not now. Not ever. My kids still have time to shine. I need to remember that they have plenty of years in front of them to peak, and so do you.