Most colleges and universities consider the high school transcript the single most important factor in student applications.

by Dr. Gladys I. Cruz

Over the next several weeks, students in grades 8-11 will meet individually or collectively with their school counselors to look at course selections for next year. This is an important time for students to think about what they wish to do in their future. It is a time to think about colleges and universities, trade school and the military as they envision the career area they wish to pursue after high school.

Today, a high school diploma is one of the first educational milestones needed for success in the future and is the foundation for lifelong learning. Most colleges and universities consider the high school transcript the single most important factor in student applications.

While college admission standards vary from state to state and school to school, it is important for students to challenge themselves and do well in high school courses, regardless of their future plans. Colleges and universities will look at the full record of a student’s high school career and whether there is a high level of rigor and success in the courses taken. Likewise, the military and trade schools will also look at a student’s record of accomplishments.

While there are minimum requirements for high school graduation in New York State or admission to a preferred school, many colleges are now recommending four years of math and science. This is important to consider when applying out-of-state, where students may be competing against others from states that require four years of math and science. It is also important when understanding the needs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields locally and across the country.

Preparing for college and life is more than just getting good grades and test scores. Students should also look at their extracurricular activities, including sports, music, volunteerism or employment. These experiences, which can be life changing, are a great way to promote independence and time management.

Students should engage their teachers, counselors and parents in deep conversations about their interests and pathways. Below are some questions to consider:

  • Am I taking a balanced program of study that will provide me with a good foundation for my future plans?
  • Are my current courses challenging me?
  • Am I preparing myself for college-level writing and math?
  • What are my interests? What potential careers or college majors can I explore through available electives? Am I seeking opportunities for creativity and entrepreneurship? Am I learning lifelong skills that can be applied in future jobs, including those that may not yet exist?
  • Are there Advanced Placement (AP), honors, early college high school, career and technical education (CTE), distance/online learning or independent study options that fit my needs?

As the students begin to plan, there will inevitably be anxiety and uncertainty about the future. While high school is a steppingstone to a better future, it is important for students not to get overwhelmed and to seek guidance and support as needed. They should look for what interests them and pursue it with passion and confidence. In the end, our students will make lasting memories and friendships while gaining the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to be successful in whatever path they choose

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