It is that time of year that high school students hear from the colleges to which they applied and 8th graders start thinking about the path ahead to college, trade school or the military.
And this is where my book HOW TO SUCCEED IN HIGH SCHOOL AND PREP FOR COLLEGE comes in — it is a guide to helping students and their mentors plan for the upcoming years.
Here is the beginning of chapter 1 of the book:
CHAPTER I: TAKING YOUR OWN PATH
Let’s answer some relevant questions right now before we explore the most important theme in this whole book.
OPTIONS AND CONTROL
Are you only reading this book because an adult insisted?
I know, I know. You are drowning in homework, learning a new vocabulary word every day for those far-off college admission standardized tests, playing goalie on your high school soccer team, still taking those piano lessons your parents insisted on way back in first grade, etc., etc., etc.
Do you really have to think about preparing for the rest of your life now? Because, honestly, even the thought of applying to college makes you nervous and, thank heavens, it is three years away. And your career path? Light years away!
Let me tell you why it is worth the time and effort to read this NOW:
- To help ensure you have options in your future life — whatever path you may take.
- To help give you some measure of control over your own path.
And, no, these two are not the same.
The first reason enables you to be exposed to different experiences than you might otherwise have undertaken plus learn some important life skills that will stand you in good stead in life.
The second reason will enable you to feel you have some control over the whole process rather than feeling a martyr to this trial-by-fire rite of passage.
What if you are reading this book even though your family wants you not to go away to college?
If your family is not supportive of your desire to go to college, or if your family is supportive but does not know how to help you, you must seek out people who can help you apply to colleges, help you apply for scholarships, and, perhaps most importantly, help convince your family that this path is right and best for you.
For example, you may want to go to college away from home while your family wants you to attend local college. Or you may encounter family discouragement if you want to drop out of college to follow a dream. In both these cases you will need to find people to help support your decision and to give you advice.
Seek out people who can encourage you on your chosen path.
PASSION — THE NUMBER ONE THEME OF THIS BOOK
What do we mean by passion?
Not a romance novel but something you love doing or learning about. And not necessarily a passion that will be yours happily ever after. More likely a passion you would like to explore now. This passion can be anything — it does not have to be career or job-directed at this point. Just something you love doing that is legal!
High school is a good time to start finding your passion.
And what if you change your mind about this passion? You can actually be fickle about passions, as long as you do not take up a new passion every week.
Let’s say, for example, you discover after two years of high school, during which you have focused on marine biology, that you realize marine biology is not your thing. Now you can explore a new passion!
And, yes, if we are talking college applications, the official wisdom may be that colleges like to see high school students who have stuck to something and not tried every new fad. Yet trying out two different passions can still demonstrate stick-to-it-ness.
Imagine a student who, for the first two years of high school, works as a volunteer with kids at a marine biology museum. Then at this point she realizes she does not like marine biology yet loves working with kids. The following two years of high school she volunteers in a variety of kid-centered activities to learn more about in what context she likes working with kids.
If this student writes an effective college application essay about what her first two years volunteering at a marine biology museum taught her about herself and her future direction, this could be an impressive example of a student going outside her school to explore her own potential passions and then developing career goals from what she learned about herself.
Your passion is not written in stone.
While it is important to explore a passion during high school, you do not have to make a decision in high school about your college major or field of study. Even if you have a passion that you consistently focus on during high school, you can still apply as an undecided major to college.
Nor must you do only activities in that passion. You can do clubs, volunteer, etc. in unrelated areas as long as you demonstrate some passion – one area in which you participate/study more intensely.
Social media tip: The activities you participate in for your passion are usually good ones to share on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. You can post, for example, about searching for sea urchins or volunteering as a child’s reading tutor.
NOTE FOR PARENTS, ADVISORS AND MENTORS — “MIDWIFE” PASSION
You have the up-close-and-personal opportunity of being a midwife to a teen’s passions at this age. If, for example, your fifteen-year-old says he/she wants to option a Young Adult novel as a possible movie project, do not say that the teen is too young to do this. If you know how to go about optioning a book, or know someone who can tell you, help your teen. Even if he/she is not able to option the book, your teen will have had a great learning experience (and one that can be written about for a college application essay or as blog posts or updates on Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites).
Another example: If your teen says he/she wants to be a playwright and wants to start seeing plays, yet the major theater venues in your city charge ticket prices that would break your recreation budget, look into small theaters and community theaters where the ticket prices are lower. Let your aspiring playwright read the reviews and then choose which of these plays to attend with you. (And perhaps your teen can even start writing online reviews of plays.)
A third example: A teenage kid who designs Medieval armor. Instead of complaining about the mess he/she makes with the full-size constructions, try to arrange a specific workshop area. And, for your teen’s future portfolio, take pictures of the completed constructions before they disintegrate in the attic or basement. You might even encourage your teen to share these photos online in appropriate social media venues.
The bottom line is that your teen’s currently expressed passion may not be a lifelong passion. Yet you want to encourage a teen’s search for a passion for two reasons, and only the second is for the college application process. The more important reason is that having a passion in life may lead to more happiness in life. The skills discussed in this book are to be used now and in the future.
Join the passion hunt. And, yes, it helps to take an interest in that passion. You might be amazed how a surly teen who will not talk to you about high school classes or what is happening with friends will be willing to discuss with you the groin protectors on suits of armor or the flying buttresses on Gothic churches. And during the teen years, any time you can have a non-shouting conversation is a good time.
In addition, if you are graduating from high school or college, there are two other books in the HOW TO SUCCEED series: HOW TO SUCCEED IN HIGH SCHOOL AND PREP FOR COLLEGE and HOW TO SUCCEED BEYOND COLLEGE. Get more info at www.howtosucceedebooks.com
P.S. Click here for individual Kindle and paperback copies of the book available on Amazon. Bulk orders of the paperback of HOW TO SUCCEED IN HIGH SCHOOL AND PREP FOR COLLEGE may be ordered from CreateSpace at www.createspace.com/3864976 and, if your school orders books, I would be happy to do a complimentary Skype talk with the students.
© 2015 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks, including HOW TO SUCCEED IN HIGH SCHOOL AND PREP FOR COLLEGE and the romantic suspense spy thriller CIA FALL GUY, as well as newly written books not yet published. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org