A Broken Model
After years of engaging with hundreds of high school students, parents, and guidance counselors from around the country, I've witnessed an unfortunate pattern.
These individuals continue to operate under the assumption that "college preparation" should begin in junior year.
I strongly disagree.
In fact, before stepping one foot into junior year, students should have a firm understanding of the expectations, milestones, and context for what lies ahead. [More on exactly what these factors are in a subesquent post].
Otherwise, students (and parents) risk feeling overwhelmed, paralyzed, and ill-prepared to manage the onslaught of information dumped in their laps. Once a student enters junior year, there are no do-overs.
In my private counseling practice, I find that a student's freshman and sophomore years (The Golden Years) have disproportionate impact on their readiness for the college admissions process, college selection, and life itself.
They are - as an economist would say - reliable leading indicators.
Unfortunately, these early years are largely ignored in today's system.
This model is broken. And I aim to fix it.
But, No One Told Us...
Unfortunately, when I speak to parents of juniors for the first time, this is what I hear:
And, to make matters worse, when parents realize that their child has some "catching up" to do - it's often too late.
When they try to start a conversation about "college admissions" - they hear the universal go-to refrain - "I can't deal with that now. It's junior year. I'm too busy. Leave me alone."
Why Are the Golden Years So Powerful?
As you can see, a high percentage of a high school student's grades, habits, experiences, and education have been established prior to junior year:
Yes, with the right plan in place, 70% of a student's college preparation readiness should be accomplished by the time they begin junior year.
What Does My Child Do Junior Year?
That's a great question. Instead of stressing-out trying to manage EVERYTHING in junior year, students should focus on what matters most.
In all of my interactions with high school students and parents, I have found that freshman and sophomore years are the most underappreciated and underutilized years in a student's high school career.
To me, they represent a "Golden Age" when students can learn the habits, routines, and milestones that will set them up for ultimate success in junior year and beyond.
Unfortunately, these years are often overlooked. There is so much hype surrounding the "crazy and stressful" junior year, that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It does not have to be that way.
My goal is to mentor my freshman and sophomore PrepWellers (including my own freshman twins) by providing a carefully designed roadmap that helps them build the skills, perspectives, and habits of a high-performer.
I want them to enter junior year with a mental map of what to expect along with an ability to place new information into context.
The transition from sophomore to junior year is a significant one for parents. Once a teen can drive themselves to and fro, the physical and emotional separation becomes even more apparent.
This is the perfect time to let your high-schooler go. With proper planning, they should be more than ready.
Start early. Don't wait to explore the ins-and-outs of college admissions until junior year. It will be too late to maximize your child's options.
Of course, this type of early teen development and mentoring is the premise behind PrepWell Academy.
Please share this blog with others who may have middle school and high schoolers coming up the ranks.
Author: PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneur, Shark Tank, etc.
PrepWell Academy is an online mentoring program that immerses teens in a variety of experiences and opportunities. In doing so, it helps them find and pursue their passions in a way that will not only make them extremely compelling college applicants, but also young adults who are well equipped to face life's future challenges.