5 things your child should be doing now for University admissions – prepare to be surprised!

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It’s never too early to start on university admissions, but not in the way that you think.

Already at the age of 11 your child comes home talking about a university faraway she wants to attend. Or, more often, perhaps you’re starting to talk to your child about attending university…and he’s a wee 12-year old…

I see first-hand how the admissions “race” has become just that. There is a common misconception that it’s better to start the process early. I’m here to tell you otherwise.

Here are 5 things that your child should be doing now for university admissions.

1. Focus on schoolwork

This is not going to come as a surprise, but read carefully. Of course grades are going to be of utmost importance. But, I’m here to tell you that knowing interest in schoolwork and particular subjects is critical. This is the right time for your child to start to see where her interests truly lie in terms of classes and coursework.

2. Explore interests

No one ever found a one-track mind interesting. Don’t worry about your child having to find “his passion”. I’m talking simply about interests that go beyond academics.

What interests your child? Try not to judge, as university admissions committees won’t.

Your son loves photography? Give him opportunities to embrace it. Your daughter loves to draw? Again, encourage her. Try to not to think about what this means vis-à-vis university admissions—it can all come into play but it’s too early now to be strategic and “plan”. So much can – and will -change.

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3. Accept being different

Try not to get on the bandwagon. It is usually full of incorrect information. Allow your child to embrace her uniqueness, to be different. This doesn’t mean discovering the next patent or water-purification system.

4. Try something new

Allow or encourage your child to try something new that she likes. You may be dying for your child to enroll in that new jazz dance programme… but does she want to? This is a bit different than exploring interests in the sense that this is encouraging your child to take a risk and to see if something becomes a true interest or not. Whether it does or not is not important; what is important is that he is trying new things, and those “new things” are things he has suggested.

5. Embrace that carefree mind

This is a tough one, but critical. I see an inverse relationship between the student who has drawn up her list at age 12 for the universities she wants to attend and the strength of her applications years later. People change. And, even more (and for the better!), children change.

Being “locked-in” at such a young age prevents the child from exploring options, seeing other opportunities and learning to listen to his inner self – What do I really want?

Some of my students who are applying right now to university still come to me with an uncertainty about their university “list”. I think it’s more than okay so long as at the core they know what they want and need in a university. Some students may have found a program that interests them at a university they had not previously considered. Some have been positively impacted by a university visit at their school and swayed their choice.

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There is no one thing on this list that one might say “directly” relates to university admissions. First of all, all five of these points do in fact relate directly. Second, it’s far too early to start with what appears to be more black-and-white.

This is a relief to some, but to others, this will be difficult advice to follow. From someone who sees it every year, case study after case study, I urge you to trust this advice.

My most successful students have spent those earlier years focusing hard on their studies, exploring interests, and developing passions. They try new things, fail at a few, and ultimately get to know themselves. They end up equipped to put their strongest foot forward when the time comes for really getting started with university applications.

This article is a contribution from Jennifer Ann Aquino. 

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