As I’ve mentioned here and in the CFO newsletter, my current obsession is helping my kids get into and paying for college. I’ve been reading lots of material both on and off line, and earlier this year, I read two books by Elizabeth Wissner-Gross - What High Schools Don’t Tell You (And Other Parents Don't Want You to Know): Create a Long-Term Plan for Your 7th to 10th Grader for Getting into the Top Colleges and What Colleges Don’t Tell You (And Other Parents Don't Want You to Know): 272 Secrets for Getting Your Kid into the Top Schools.
I apparently read them out of order, since What Colleges Don’t Tell You was published first. It just seemed natural to read What High Schools Don’t Tell You first, since my oldest is starting high school. It really doesn’t matter what order you read them in, but I would recommend reading What High Schools Don’t Tell You as early as elementary school, since some of the info applies to kids before they enter middle school.
The one thing you need to know about these books even before you start reading is that they can be overwhelming. Not only is there a lot of information, including "to do" activities, but if you’re like me, you're reading and thinking, "that is just so beyond my child." That was me, reading What High Schools Don’t Tell You.
Then I read the intro to What Colleges Don’t Tell You and it all made sense. The author's kids are those special, amazing, genius-level kids who do all kinds of impressive activities and are super smart. Her boys sang professional opera when they were young, and one won the biggest national science prize for high school students. No wonder she makes it sound like it's all possible.
The friend who turned me onto these books said she couldn't get through High Schools because it was stressing her out too much. She cited the part of the book that said being a camp counselor is a waste of time, and said that she talked with a private college counselor who thought it was a great idea, and so that’s what her son is doing this summer.
And I think it’s great if that’s what works for them. But it wasn't my takeaway from the books.
What I learned is to think outside the box, and to look for ways for my children to stand out. For instance, each summer should involve learning, experiencing, and doing things that are new. That means not repeating the same camps or programs. And it means reaching, even if you fall short. Did you know that high school students can conduct research at a university? They can also start a business or non-profit, create an art portfolio, or publish a blog that showcases their interest, knowledge, and/or skills.
The book illustrates the importance of being creative in helping your child build college credentials. I like the example about the student who asked a bank to let him display his photographs, and he was able to honestly say on his college application that he had a public exhibition of his work.
If you're planning to send your child(ren) to college, and you want them to get into a top school and/or be a standout applicant at any school, definitely give What Colleges Don't Tell You and What High Schools Don't Tell You a read. They just might change the way you approach your child's high school years.
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