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Joe Guzzardi: Want your child to go to college? Enroll them in extracurriculars early

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Posted: Friday, April 18, 2014 11:16 pm

For parents of Lodi’s middle school children, I offer this advice: If your child aspires to college, get him pointed in that direction this summer. By the time a student reaches his third or junior year of high school, the die is cast. By then, it’s too late to add anything to his college application that would significantly upgrade his chances.

A recent U.S. News story told about a Colorado high school senior who was at NASA in Houston conducting an experiment with other honors students on a new plant growth chamber that she’d helped develop. During her NASA internship, she received rejections from Brown, Tufts and Amherst. Plant science wasn’t the young student’s only outstanding qualification. She’d maintained a 3.6 unweighted GPA in the International Baccalaureate program and an ACT score of 33. Her extracurricular activities included playing French horn in the All-Colorado Honor Band and mellophone in the marching band; she had also volunteered with a teen suicide prevention organization and a nonprofit that helps rescue child soldiers in Uganda.

For the ultra-exclusive Ivy League colleges, competition is even more cutthroat. Of the 26,664 students who applied to Princeton University for fall 2012, 10,225 had a 4.0 GPA, and 13,945 scored 2100 or higher on the SAT. Admissions officers admit that rejected students’ qualifications are often indistinguishable from those accepted.

The Northwestern University School of Education recommends that, as hard to believe as it may be, college preparation should begin as early as the sixth grade because there so many objectives to reach and information to collect. Northwestern stresses developing talents, examining personal traits and engaging in character-building experiences that will develop a solid undergraduate candidate. An example for junior high kids might be to volunteer at a local senior center to interact with the aging population.

Northwestern offers several other useful and easy-to-carry-out suggestions. Whether a young student’s interest is singing, dancing, art, computers, martial arts, writing or community outreach, he should set high goals and demonstrate stick-to-itiveness that will impress the admissions department. Participating in off-campus activities during summer months helps build relationships that may give the prospective college-bound youngster more commendations from a wider source of supporters.

Beyond Northwestern’s tip sheet, it also recommends its Midwest Academic Talent Search test, designed for students between third and ninth grade. The increasingly popular test, which costs about $70, determines how their child’s academic performance will compare to his peers and pinpoints specific subjects that need extra study.

By preparing early, students will have a greater chance of being accepted at the college of their choice. Both parents and child have to put forth a lot of hard work in preparing for and submitting applications. But without a coveted college diploma, job prospects will be slim.

While many analysts debate whether a college education is worth its cost in this depressed employment market, one thing is certain: Without a four-year degree, the job search for a position other than one in the minimum-wage range will be tough.

On the other hand, employment prospects for college grads are looking up. Earlier this year, a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that corporations expect to hire 9 percent more graduates from the class of 2014 than it did last year.

Look at it this way: Preparing your child early can’t hurt. But in the increasing and almost impossibly competitive world of college admissions, being safe is better than being sorry.

Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District after a 23-year teaching career. Contact him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

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1 comment:

  • joel naatus posted at 7:37 pm on Sat, Apr 19, 2014.

    joel naatus Posts: 7

    Mr. Guzzardi, I actually agree with you on something. I am a Middle School teacher from Lodi and a large part of my free time is spent making sure students in my school in Jersey City, NJ have extra-curricular activities that will lead to something. We create teams of budding scientists that compete in national science competitions. Over 90 percent are 1st generation immigrants and we often compete against many teams hailing from expensive prep schools will the advantages in life. We have won national competitions and this year we were finalist in the Lexus Eco-Challenge with a small team focusing on re-designing sandbags and last year we were 2nd in the Siemens We Can Change the World, Regional finalist in Ecybermission, and national finalists in the Lexus Eco-Challenge and the year before we won the Disney Planet Challenge. Check out our website to see what teachers can do and are doing. www.projectreservoir.weebly.com and if you scroll down you can see what some of this years teams are doing. What I look at it is as if they are part of a sports team (I look at it like that because you need to create something that gets time devoted to it and brings them some pride), but they are design/environmental/engineering/community engagement teams competing at a national level for STEM related competitions in middle school. Look teachers can and do make a difference, but it also requires the hunger to win and I know my teams make sacrifices that other teams don't and we do well on an even playing field with blind scoring. The student teams I help coach hail from many ethnic backgrounds (Egypt, Phillipines, Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Dominican Republic, American, and Puerto Rico, but they are all Americans) and most of my students come from low income family backgrounds, but they are willing to put in the hours and I know this because I see email messages at 3 am. What I really think people need to understand is we need to be able to compete to gain the skills to be productive workers, but more importantly to have citizens who are confident enough to solve problems in their lives, their neighborhoods, and in our world.


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