This post was written by College Matchpoint
If your student is already talking about wanting to attend colleges like Stanford, where admissions rates are in the single digits, here’s how you can support them in their quest. Encourage them to:
Students should not only be active participants in their learning at school – taking the most rigorous coursework and aiming for As- but also dive into topics of interest more deeply outside of school. Let your student’s curiosity lead the way. If your teen has an interest in biology, perhaps pursuing an internship in a lab might help her further understand the applications of that research to a future career. If your student is really enjoying a history course, encourage them to do some independent research and explore a history topic that intrigues them. The key is for students to develop and show their intellectual curiosity, the burning desire to understand everything about a particular subject.
Over their high school career, students aiming for highly selective schools should take the initiative to complete projects, enter competitions, or apply for career opportunities, and join teams that relate to their interests. Here are some examples:
- Researching, writing, publishing, and promoting a book on a topic of interest
- Developing a college-level course on a specific subject as an independent project and presenting research to the faculty at a local college
- Writing and producing a play that’s performed at school
- Producing and marketing an album of their music
- Creating a blog where they post regularly about a specific subject
- Starting a business
- Entering their photography, art, or writing in national awards
- Landing a prestigious internship at a major cancer center
- Joining the robotics team to explore engineering concepts and compete against other schools
Focus on Community Impact
Determining and exploring what your student cares about in the larger world will help her find ways to engage in your community and beyond through volunteering, advocacy, or other involvement. In 9th and 10th grades, students can start small – in the community around them. For example, if your student has an interest in languages, she could practice her speaking skills by volunteering at a local community organization that needs people to communicate in that language. As they get into upper grades, it will be important to take more initiative so they can have a greater impact. For example, your student interested in languages might work with an organization to start a program (and recruit volunteers) to teach ESL to newly arrived refugee children. The key here is to scale up their initiative and impact over the course of their high school career.
Here are some other examples of ways a student could show initiative and have a positive impact on their community – or even on a larger scale – depending on their interests.
- Creating a new service club at school and recruiting dozens of members who complete needed projects in the community
- Starting a summer camp for children to learn coding, or art, or writing – whatever the student is passionate about
- Organizing a cheek swabbing event for the local organ donation charity
- Leading their school’s involvement in a city, state, or national protest
- Starting a tutoring business that helps local children, and even other children virtually
Develop Life Skills
To prepare for Stanford or any other highly selective school, you must demonstrate a willingness to go the extra mile. This includes some of the more mundane but necessary skills that every successful student needs. Your top life skill is time management. From academics to curiosity to community building, time is always limited, for students and professionals alike.
In addition, you will need to learn things like public speaking, debate, listening, self-advocacy, speed reading, and more. Maybe you will only need to pick up two or three of these skills, but successful candidates have certainly mastered a few of them. Pick some of these so-called “soft skills” that may help you in your future, and think about how you can cultivate them for college success.
So, are you feeling ready and pumped? Perhaps you feel a little intimidated by the task at hand? Just know that even a small step is a step in the right direction. Whether you end up at Stanford or not, any work you do to become a stronger applicant is great preparation for any selective college or university. If your plans change, or if you later discover a new dream school, rest assured that our three tips will help you be ready for success in college and beyond.