“What are you going to do next year?” is a question most high school seniors have heard for months. Many give the same response: college. But while they might know what they want to do, are they prepared?
Darnell Heywood, the director of college counseling at Columbus Academy in Gahanna said early preparation is key to college success.
“During middle and high school, it is very important for students to develop strong study skills and time management,” she said. “In college (and in life), there are multiple and competing demands on time. If students learn to figure out what they need to do, when it needs to be done, and can create and stick to a schedule, they will be far ahead of many of their classmates.”
Heywood cautions students about being too “laser-focused” when choosing high school classes.
“It is wise not to specialize in high school, but to keep taking courses in a wide range of subjects,” she said. “Some students think it is best to focus on strengths and only take courses in areas that they excel in. But this is not advisable in most cases.
“Students should explore areas of interest, but these should be balanced with core classes.”
Heywood said the fine and performing arts, computer science, psychology, philosophy and economics are favorites of many students at Columbus Academy.
John Naughton, vice president of enrollment and student success at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus said when looking at potential students, everyone focuses on academics, which is important, but “at a liberal arts university like ours, we’re also looking at what students have done outside of school.”
“It’s important that students get outside of their shell,” Naughton said. “We want to see students active in their local and school community, so that we know that when they get here, they’ll be an active part of our community.”
While it’s never too early to start thinking about college, all decisions don’t have to happen at once.
“From a financial perspective, you want to start talking about college early,” Naughton said.
He also suggested students should wait until high school to plan campus visits.
“Those middle school years are important, formative years in a child’s life, so they should focus on that time while they can,” Naughton explained.
“One thing that’s really important in the process is the college visit. You don’t even have to talk to anyone, just going to the campus, getting out of the car and getting a feel for the place. Before any other decision is made, they have to feel comfortable with the school.”
Heywood said, “There is no set timeline that applies to every student, but with so many early-action application deadlines at colleges and universities, most students and their families should go into September of their senior year with a plan.”
Heywood added a basic secret to college success is preparation.
Noell Wolfgram Evans writes for the Columbus Jewish News from Columbus.