Building a High School Resume
Contributed by Ronald F. Bernard
We as counselors are frequently asked by both students and their parents to help them plan their high school careers.
These folks want to make certain that the college to which the student intends to apply will not only admit her (sometimes the only goal), but also grant the student a financial arrangement that will make attendance fall somewhere in the vicinity of financial reason.
In the counseling business, this process is called "packaging" a student.
Although it is not possible in this space to go into great detail regarding the step by step procedures used to package a student for entrance into a popular college, we'll call it "Prestigious Ivy," let's at least draw a picture with large brush strokes to give you a general idea of the kinds of recommendations our clients might hear.
Any college in my view that is so selective that a high school student must forego the normal developmental process while in those formative years is NOT worth attending. I could say that again for emphasis, but I think you've got the point.
Some of the most selective colleges and universities in the United States have become so popular (notice I did not say excellent), so prestigious, that they have been forced year by year to raise the bar in terms of high school student requirements in order for that student to be admitted to the institution, that is, granted the opportunity to sometimes trample the campus flower beds in the wee hours.
Unfortunately, many of the "Prestigious Ivies" are finding, because of these escalating and prohibitive admissions requirements, that a large number of incoming freshman (especially the boys) are what are termed 'damaged goods,' meaning that the exhaustive schedules maintained in high school have not allowed these students to mature normally or maintain health habits consistent with what can be even loosely termed reasonable.
Luckily and happily, there are still plenty of quality colleges in the United States with first-rate programs that haven't run amok in this way. The only things missing at these publicly labeled "second tier" campuses are a smidgeon of stardust, and oh so many gastrointestinal problems.
That is not to say that rooming with the future President of Botswana at "Prestigious Ivy" doesn't have its perks. However, there are only so many future presidents of Botswana you see, so the dream and the reality of attendance at PI are usually two very different things.
All that being said, what ARE the general guidelines counselors might offer a high school student to excel at the business of being, well, a high school student?
When asked, the following are always my initial recommendations:
1) A high school student should get at least nine hours of sleep per night. That is a nonnegotiable requirement of the teenage body. In some cases, more is needed. If the student is sleepy in the morning, that is, not fully alert, he will not perform his best at school. In addition, with so many changes taking place both physically and emotionally during these formative years, lack of sufficient sleep will make it much more difficult for the young student to maintain equilibrium.
2) After school paid employment should be limited to ten hours per week. None is preferable.
3) The student should follow her heart in terms of extracurricular activities. The general rule: Never participate in an activity in high school exclusively to add to a resume. (Ideally, the activity should result in a definite skill that the student can present to a college. Remember, the best colleges are attempting to build places that are alive and congruent with their missions, and they tend to be attracted to students who can do more than skillfully sit in the library.)
4) Whatever extracurricular activities the student chooses, he should persist in them for as long as possible while in high school. That is, an activity of three years is better than an activity of one.
5) The number of Advanced Placement classes should be drastically limited. Too many of these require study time of high school students beyond their biological requirements for sleep. No college worthy (the operative word) of a student will reject that student because of a lack of an AP course on his high school resume. (In addition, the best colleges are now severely limiting the number of AP courses that can be applied for college credit.)
6) The high school student should participate in social events in order to develop interpersonally. Yes, the dance is fine. And, the skating party is wonderful.
That, briefly, is my list.
We counselors know that if these general recommendations are followed, a student will have a much better time of it in high school, and the result will be far superior.
It is amazing to many counselors the "crush" that some families have on particular college campuses, and how hard they will push in order to ensure that their students will reach them.
Good counselors offer a more balanced view....Takers anyone??