College Prep…a 17 year, 337 day process

By Alan Catlett

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Dads, do you remember the day everything changed? I mean REALLY changed? Mine was 17 years and 337 days ago at 11:50 pm — when our first child was born. Since that night, she has been joined by a brother, 11 chickens, four dogs, a cat and an ungodly number of hamsters and fish. And, later this summer, she’ll be packing her bags for college.

Every family is different, but in our house, I ended up with three key responsibilities:

  • Education, from the earliest math homework to preparing for the SAT and college admissions
  • Sports instruction, from first soccer ball to baseball glove, to numerous field hockey (and lacrosse) sticks
  • Vehicular instruction, from the first stroller to full driver’s license

The college preparation process didn’t just start with SAT prep; it began in middle school. Staying on top of grades, chasing down missing assignments and making sure she persevered and was working toward independence. Most teenagers have trouble staying organized, and a little disorganization can lead to missing assignments and lower grades. Lower grades, in turn, can eventually result in rejection from an Honors class, or an AP class in high school—all of which, can later impact college admission. Understanding this relationship early helps students recognize the importance of the little things before they evolve into big things.

Most students understand that preparing for college admissions tests is important, but they don’t necessarily appreciate how to prepare. It’s not like you can just read the chapter about the SAT No-Calculator Math section and be ready the next morning. The SAT and ACT assess a wide range of skills, which are learned and mastered over the many years a student spends in school. Prep classes can provide an overview of the skills covered, exposure to the types of questions, and a general overview of what to expect on test day. Prep classes and practice tests help a student to identify their areas of weakness. And, once you’ve identified the gaps, you can fill them given enough time and effort. But remember that the best bet is to ensure that your student remains focused and builds skills over time, not just at the last minute.

This Father’s Day, you may receive new socks, or be asked to grill or drive to Grandma’s house. Or, you may be like me and driving to freshman orientation — from high school freshman year to freshman year at college in four short years. Start early Dads, and you’ll be just fine.

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