A few years ago, I read The One Thing. Its premise: we should focus on our energy on the one thing that can change our lives. Scattered attention on half a dozen things often leads to mediocrity. I thought of this in relation to many of our college counseling clients throughout Shoreline, Connecticut.
When we meet for college counseling, the students are typically in the second half of junior year. Our meetings often occur after Connecticut high schools release PSAT scores which typically is in mid-December. The generic college admissions portfolio: grades, test scores and activities. The one thing that students can change dramatically: test scores. Through the years of working with students throughout Connecticut, we know these shifts can radically change one’s entire college prospects.
I realize that activities – if authentic and passion-based – matter for emotional well-being. But sometimes students are pursuing advancement in activities for the sake of “building their college resume”. Students should have at least one developed activity and a couple more activities. But, for example, unless the student is a recruited athlete, those weekend long sports tournaments will not help one bit when gaining admission to college.
Grades matter. But grade inflation and idiosyncratic grading at different schools makes grade differentiation at the higher levels matter not as much as parents think. Students with 3.7s at Madison need not suffer that students with 3.75s from Guilford or Branford are competing for the same spot.
More to the point, second semester juniors usually cannot dramatically affect either grades or test scores.
But test scores can dramatically improve and are the one thing that can make all the difference.