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PTA Coffee Break: Tips for high school students' futures

November 08, 2012|By Kate Rogers

Last month, Coffee Break welcomed Cindy Muchnick, educational consultant, author and former college admissions counselor, to discuss how parents can support their kids through the high school years. Muchnick, a mother of four, brought a wonderful sense of practical can-do philosophies for parents as we wander the ever-changing landscape toward college, career and life.

Before the speaker, Laguna Beach High School Principal Joanne Culverhouse introduced Naviance, the new online college search service provided at the high school. Naviance is a comprehensive tool helping each student through the entire process of self and career exploration and searching among nearly 4,000 colleges in the U.S. Yet, as parents were sighing over Naviance, Muchnick launched into her own divergent philosophy: When in high school, stay focused on the business of high school.

Muchnick warned that the college search can become a "huge distraction." She emphasized that one's high school years are the hardest four but that college is the prize, where all the hard work is converted into personal freedom to pursue passions.

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Her entire approach is that high school is a student's job," and it is the student's responsibility to serve the interests of six to eight bosses, or teachers in the case of high school. Success should not be gauged by GPA as much as the more subjective goal of how one is doing at the job. Often parents who are competing through their children and pressing for the highest GPAs are adding unnecessary and unproductive stress to their kids' lives.

From the perspective of a college admissions counselor, Muchnick stated that the transcript is the single most important piece of paper in a college application. However, what is evaluated is far more nuanced than the GPA. First, the transcript is analyzed to see if the student really challenged himself or herself in areas of interest. Second the grade pattern from semester to semester is examined to see if students continue to work toward improving performance throughout the year, and finally the grade trend evaluates the trends through freshman to sophomore to junior year. Knowing this enables parents to frame conversations with their students in terms of trying to improve, whether in the year or from year to year.

Her specific recommendations for parental support:

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