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With just 2 and half years to go before Lexi graduates high school, college talk is becoming an even more discussed topic than usual. While I think that she is moving at a good pace towards college, I know that there are still things we need to work on. Keep in mind that the following tips are things we have been doing since she was about 8 or 9 and have even started with Gavin.
At 8 years old, Lexi announced that she wanted to be an architect when she grows up, and she has not changed her mind at all since. She also stated then that she wanted to attend Arizona State University, but after doing some research a few years ago, she changed her mind since their architecture program is almost nonexistent. After some more research, she decided on a Dual Degree Program with MIT and Wellesley College.
She knew all of this at the age of 13 and I could not be more proud of her for it. She also works incredibly hard to make sure that it does happen for her, and here is how we are doing it together:
Like I said, Lexi started talking about her career choice and prospective colleges as early as 8 years old, and we have sat down with her and discussed at length what it will take for her to achieve the goals she has made for herself. We have never pushed her to make these decisions, as we find it best that she comes to them on her own, but once she had them in mind, we guided her. We have bought her books, like Architectural Drawing Course: Tools and Techniques for 2D and 3D Representation, graph paper, a T-Square and some great drafting pencils to start with. But what really has helped her towards her dream is the drafting table she got for Christmas.
We are doing the same thing with Gavin. He has changed his mind about what he wants to be many times now, but one thing they all have in common is a science aspect. He has wanted to be an astronomer, an archeologist, a chemist, and now he wants to study paleontology and then become a teacher to show his students everything he has learned. Since he has obviously expressed an interest in science in general, we always make it a point to get him science kits like his favorite, the Ultimate Fossil Science Kit with real dinosaur fossils, and workbooks and other things that we know he loves, just like we have bought architecture books for Lexi over the years. Gavin then uses these kits and books to teach his imaginary class, all the time!
Other than 4th grade, Lexi has always gotten pretty good grades, not great but she is a solid student. However, in junior high, I noticed that she was getting really bored with the course work and that it was not in anyway challenging for her. I decided then that she needed a more rigorous curriculum, and she agreed. I looked into a local charter school with a private school education and with their focus more on the Socratic method of teaching as well as a more traditional curriculum than what is being offered by the public schools around here, I figured it was worth a shot. So I applied for both kids to get in and they were accepted last year.
While the coursework is much more difficult and she has struggled in both math and science, her weakest subjects, she has excelled everywhere else, and not just academically either. She has blossomed into an even more amazing young lady than she already was and I attribute it to the fact that she is happy where she is at and she is thriving too. Not only is she doing well with grades, which of course colleges like to see, the coursework itself is what will help her get into college and succeed while there. The base courses are honor or college level courses and the “electives” show that the students are well rounded and worldly. I use quotes on the electives because in other schools, students can choose, or elect to take them, however that is not the case at her school. All students are required to take learn foreign languages (Spanish from K-5th grade, Latin from 6-8th and then starting in 9th, they can choose to stay in Latin and then switch to Greek in 11th, or they can take Spanish again, French or German). Lexi has chosen German. They also must take Poetry and Music Theory in 9th and 10th and Studio Art and Drama during their Junior and Senior years. They also take Economics during their Junior year I think.
Extra and Cocurricular Activities
While academics are very important, colleges are looking for students who get more involved with their schools, from athletics to clubs. This year, Lexi has joined even more clubs than she has in previous years and it’s not because the colleges want to see them, but instead, she is truly passionate about them. The first one being Orchestra since she has been playing the violin now for 5 and a half years and plans on continuing on through college and beyond. She also has added Theater, Womens Choir, Yearbook, Swing Dance and Authors Club. She wasn’t sure about Yearbook because it wasn’t something she thought she would be interested but I did something I only do when I truly believe it’s the right thing to do, I made her join and it turned out that she loves it as much as I thought she would. She is grateful for me pushing her to do it and she is learning, finally, how to take a leadership roll!
While I don’t always interfere, like I did with Yearbook, I am always involved with her education and well pretty much everything with her life. She would be the first to tell anyone, that her and I talk about everything. Her friends are shocked and according to her, a little envious that we are so close. I know everything that she is learning and sit down and talk with her about how she is doing in her classes and when her grades come in, we sit down and discuss them as well as the narratives from each teacher.
Community Service is a requirement at her school, 10 hours per year, but even if it wasn’t required, she would do it anyways. Recently, she has been attending church activities with a few close friends and one of the things they do is visit a senior center and spend the day with their disabled residents. Just spending time with them, playing games, talking to them, even singing to them, it seems to make their day and the first time Lexi went, she came home beaming and crying at the same time, the emotions were overwhelming for her. While I encourage all students to do community service, I don’t feel the students should be forced to do one thing or another, they should find activities that speak to them. Helping people in general is perfect for Lexi, but it is not for all students.
Explore Career Goals
Since we already know what Lexi wants to be, we don’t need to discuss career options that align with her interests, however, finding courses to take and clubs participate in that help towards that goal is important. For example, for Lexi, she needs Physics and Calculus especially for Math and Science, and they are required classes at her school. She also should learn various aspects of art and photography. Art will be covered in her Junior and Senior years but photography is something she is teaching herself on her own and with the Yearbook club. Another thing we have learned is helpful for aspiring architects is working on set design for theater productions. In her theater club currently, all of the members are responsible for working behind the scenes and in the performances. The same will go for Drama in 11th and 12th grade. It is also recommended that students learn French or German because studying abroad is a great way to learn more about architecture.
Last but certainly not least, it is important to discuss finances with your student. Lexi knows that we do not have a college fund set up for her and we are grateful that she does have extracurriculars that she loves that can hopefully help her win a scholarship someday. We are already looking at various scholarship options, and weighing all of our other options as well. While we were on top of things with everything else as far as college is concerned, we dropped the ball with saving money for it. I recommend not being us in that aspect!
To help you get started with your teen, The National Honor Society (NHS) and the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) is encouraging high school and middle school students to “Honor Your Future Now”. Take action now to prepare for college, career and a lifetime of success through their new campaign. They are unveiling new resources for student members and empowering all students to build skills and experience within five proven pillars:
Go to HonorYourFutureNow.org today for new tools available for students such as:
- Preparing for College Checklist: A checklist for students navigating the college preparation process.
- Parent’s College Checklist: A checklist for parents as they help their students prepare for college and a lifetime of success.
- 10 Tips for Success: Tips by Hill Harper, a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, an award-winning actor, a best-selling author, a philanthropist, and a youth development activist.
- Community Service Idea Starters: Advice for students to help them find the right community service project for them.
- Letter of Advice: Letter from Director of the National Honor Societies Jonathan Mathis advising students about how they can be successful now and in the future.
Even if your student is not a member of the Honor Societies, they can head on over to HonorYourFutureNow.org now to access the new tools available for students and parents, like the Parents College Checklist, and stay up-to-date on the campaign as future resources are announced throughout the 2015-2016 academic year.
To help empower students, NHS is rolling out a number of new resources for student members during 2015/2016 academic year, such as a scholarship program and search tools, outstanding achievement awards, college admissions and financial aid planning support and state summits.
Don’t forget to join the #HonorYourFutureNow Twitter Party on December 9, 2015 at 2pm EST. You’ss find lots of ideas and information regarding college and career success. And of course there are prizes to be won! Go here to RSVP for the event.