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Harness The Power!

By Robert A.G. LeVine and Debra Karstadt

By Robert LeVine

Dear young people:

The adults around you – parents, teachers, counselors, consultants, coaches, sponsors, even principals – want the best for you. We are your friends, not your enemies.

What parents want most is your happiness.

What high schools want most is for you to get a fine education, both in high school and beyond. That’s why they commit their adult lives to children. Obviously, they don’t enter the education industry to make huge amounts of money.

Yet teenagers tend to resist these adults. It’s easy to understand why: we have always treated you like children. That’s because you were children. Now you are adolescents. Soon you will become young adults.

If adults want young people to act like adults, we should treat you like adults. However, to do that confidently, adults need young people to act like adults.

This starts with communication. The hallmark of any good relationship is quality communication. When students run from parents, communication suffers. Plus, because parents are still legally responsible for you, they have to hunt you down to be sure that you’re safe and sound.

Instead of resisting your parents, communicate with them. Be proactive. Go toward them and tell them what is happening. If you have a meeting with a counselor or consultant, let them know about the discussion. If things happen at school, tell them. When things are changing in your social circles, let them know. We don’t necessarily need to know every detail, but when young people approach, adults don’t have to chase.

But don’t limit that to just your parents.

Your high school wants the best for you. Teachers want you to learn, and counselors and principals want great results in college admissions for their students. In fact, great results in college admissions is an important part of their successful business model, especially for private schools.

When it comes to teachers, please remember that many colleges require letters of recommendations from teachers (usually two) as part of your application. The best letters are always the most personal and specific. If they don’t know you, they cannot write well about you. In the final analysis, what matters is the quality of the recommendation letter, not the caliber of the recommendation writer.

If they don’t know you, they cannot help you very much.

Students in grade 11: you should be conversing with your teachers, and not just in class. Get to know them, and let them get to know you. Ask how their subject translates into career areas and specifically into your life plans. Ask why they decided to teach what they teach. Talk about current events or favorite things. It doesn’t really matter what you discuss. Just chat!

You should also be talking with your high school counselors about your college future … Now! During January of grade 11, your counselor will schedule a get-to-know-you meeting. They will discuss your school’s processes and will provide a timeline for the next year. But absent your initiative, they won’t know much about you until the meeting.

Why are you waiting?

Sometime before the holiday break in December, communicate with your counselor. Let them know possible career plans, or potential majors you are considering, perhaps some colleges on your radar, and where you stand in terms of grades and SAT. Send them an email providing as much information as possible and letting them know that you look forward to meeting them. Most importantly, let them know that you will want and need their advice.

In this way, you can help them to help you!

If you have coaches or club sponsors or other adults who are helping you or supporting your efforts, consider doing the same with them. Adults have lots of resources. Harness the power!

This can and often should include your principal. They may not seem approachable or even relevant, but they are the top of the high school pyramid. Knock on their door. Set up an appointment. Don’t be a stranger. You may be surprised at how devoted they are to their students. You may be surprised at how honest and helpful they can be.

Adults are people too. Some are even pretty cool.

(One final note to the adults: Be Cool. Help the “kids.”)

Robert LeVine is the founder and CEO of University Consultants of America, an independent educational consultancy assisting students around the world with applications to colleges, universities and graduate schools. For more information, call University Consultants of America, Inc. at 1-800-465-5890 or visit www.universitycoa.com

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