Anything worth dreaming about is worth pursuing, at least that is what I believe and what I have coached my students to believe in my capacity as counselor, tutor, author, and business owner for more than three decades. Yet, for many families the college admission process can become a nightmare. There are lots of twisting, winding roads and avenues to navigate, and without an appropriate GPS it is quite easy to get lost. Since very few parents have experience in college admission when they begin the process with their oldest child, they reach out to the comfort of advice from friends, college coaching agencies, and data aggregating websites such as US News and World Report, Forbes, and others. Now don’t get me wrong; I believe that these websites, friends, and other resources that provide information about colleges are excellent tools of the trade. What I do not believe in is choosing to apply to colleges simply because they have high rankings. There is very little doubt that colleges found at the top of ranking engines are excellent colleges. My only point is to say that there is much more to the process of choosing appropriate college for child then seeing where it ranks on U.S. News & World Report.
In fact, there are so many important factors that go into making a right choice, or a series of right choices, with respect to which colleges to consider, The overarching consideration that takes into account all of these factors is finding a school that will provide each student with the nourishment he or she needs to blossom like a flower into adulthood. After all, this is what college is really about. It is not about grades and test scores. It is not about jobs or careers. It is about providing the sand and soil and nutrients needed to nurture each child so that he or she may cross the remarkably delicate bridge that leads from childhood to adulthood.
There are many who say that college is a steppingstone to a career, and it would certainly be difficult to argue against that point of view since virtually all college graduates go on to a career of one sort or another. But I believe a college is far more important than that. I believe that college is where ideas and passions are fueled and that it is those ideas and passions, not the college itself, that are the steppingstones to a student’s future. That is why believe that finding the right college is so important. After all, if you put a palm tree in the Arctic, it will wither. However, if you put that same palm tree in the tropics, it will flourish.
There is absolutely no doubt that matriculating to the right college is a critically important process, but it would be a mistake to believe that that process begins in the summer before a student’s 12th year of school. Indeed, the process done right begins many years earlier with nurturing, upbringing, exposure to a variety of activities and opportunities, and parental support. You never know which seed will find its way into the soil, so it makes perfect sense to provide your child with a rich assortment of activities, to identify interests and exceptional abilities early on, and to foster an environment in which each child is encouraged to reach higher and to strive for excellence within a field that he naturally gravitates toward.
By Neil Chyten