A Little Pushy: When it’s time to leave the comfort zone
My 4-year-old daughter is enamored by her new little friend. This 18" beauty has dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin, just like her. She loves tea parties and reads the same books and builds castles with blocks, just like her. And they have identical outfits. To Charlotte, this is a perfect match.
In high school, we still want to hang with those who are like ourselves, as the world around us swirls with hormones and expectations and uncertainties. Finding others like us is a way to know, at best, that we are on the right track, and at least, that we aren’t totally weird.
By college though, the goals have shifted. A 19-year-old who is ready for college is also certainly ready for a little push outside of their comfort zone. But how much of a push? And in what areas? Do you want a little push academically but a big challenge socially? Do you want big exposures to life paradigms, or little nudges towards new hobbies? Are you ready for broad new vistas and a brand-new book, or small snapshots—more of a chapter in your novel? And how can you find that still all-important, comfortable tribe in the middle of all this pushing? Seeking the level of stimulation for each unique student is a voyage in introspection, transparency, and solid guidance.
The traditional qualities that families are told to consider when seeking a great college match such as size, location, financial aid, and academic environment, are great starting points to the conversation. If it is well known that cold weather is just miserable for Betty, it makes sense to rule out upstate New York or Minnesota. But sometimes the magical equation comes only through the insight of an intuitive family member, friend, or professional--someone who can glean and communicate back the environments that stimulate growth and well-being. Do you need personal space? Do you like spontaneity? Can you juggle the stress of many kids changing and double majoring?
Families who are exploring can do several things to facilitate painting your picture of your own great college match.
1) Buy the Fiske Guide to Colleges or other college guidebook. Browsing through these humongous books can initially make families aware of the vast differences between colleges, and ultimately help narrow down colleges that make the list.
2) Buy the book College Match by Steven Antonoff, or go to the website and download (and complete) his free worksheets. Find a friend, or trusted adult to discuss the results with.
3) Students should take academics and activities seriously! A competitive resume in high school often allows for wider options and more plentiful great fit possibilities when the time comes to apply.
4) Visit some campuses when school is in session. You can download campus visit tips here . Even if the college is not on the radar, visiting a variety of schools will provide first hand information and intuitive responses that will guide the search later.
5) Ask you friends and family the following questions: What 3 words would you use to describe me? What kind of college do you see me going to? Describe a challenge you think I am up for.
6) Have a realistic look at how ready you are for college. Consider what areas you may struggle with, for instance time management or eating healthily. Or consider a gap year that prepares you for taking on the challenges of college with confidence.
7) Hire an IEC. IEC's visit many colleges, and network with hundreds of others who have visited hundreds of colleges, taking the temperature and noting the nuances of each one.
If you have any questions about what your own personal push looks like, give me a call. I’d love to talk!