A:     What you see on your child’s transcript is not necessarily how colleges will see that transcript. Colleges use their own proprietary weighting system for academic grades. These probably do not coincide with your child’s previous university system. The most common way colleges approach this is by recalculating a student’s GPA from all academic years or semesters based solely on his main and relevant academic subjects. Most universities use a three-year cumulative average and then let the senior year stand alone as a final factor. To compare students regardless of grading systems, admissions officers will most likely recalculate the core subjects using a four-point, un-weighted scale. In such a scale, an A = 4, a B = 3, and so on. (An “un-weighted” GPA is calculated based on the actual grade in each class, regardless of the level of the class. A “weighted” GPA takes into consideration both the class level and the student’s grade.) Here is a chart to help you calculate your child’s unweighted GPA.

Subject Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4Final Grade Average
Subject 1
Subject 2
Subject 3
Subject 4
Subject 5
“Un-weighted” Core Subject GPA =

What happens after an admissions officer calculates an un-weighted GPA? He then goes course by course and gives his own weighting to the courses based on the difficulty level of each. Sometimes this is done in his head and sometimes in writing based on a university’s very specific point system. Unfortunately, there is no way to know how each university approaches this process, but it’s important to know that they do not take your child’s college transcript at face value.

The Under Graduate College Transcript

Have you ever seen your child’s under-graduate transcript—not the report card, but the official transcript? If you are like most parents, the answer is probably no. I am often surprised to learn that many families have never seen this important document, yet they eagerly instruct guidance counselors to send it directly to colleges! Often, families, and even the students themselves, don’t know what the transcript looks like or what information appears on it. It is important to request, study, and carefully proofread your child’s college transcript prior to sending it to an admissions office at any college or university. The more you know about your child’s transcript, the better you will understand what admissions officers will see when getting to know your child and his performance. Here are some questions to answer about the transcript:

Does the transcript show absences and tardies?

Are state or national tests reported?

Are final exam grades reported?

Are every semester’s grades reported or just final grades?

Is there a grade distribution or class rank printed right on the transcript?

How is the grade point average calculated?

Knowledge is power when it comes to the contents of your child’s transcript. If you feel that the appearance of any of the above information could negatively impact your child’s application, then you can do something about it sooner rather than later. For instance, a large number of absences and tardies can cause an admissions officer to question a child’s motivation. If your son has a lot of absences in his sophomore year, you may want to address the reasons for the absences elsewhere in the application, such as in a note from a guidance counselor or a mention in a teacher recommendation. If he was absent because of an illness like mono, colleges should know he wasn’t just slacking off.

Factual Errors in Transcript – Also be aware that you might even find a factual error, either in a grade reported or even an actual class listed. This is another good reason to review your child’s transcript before it gets into the hands of an admissions officer. If you do discover an error, report it to your school’s guidance office and ask how to follow the procedure to fix it. If an actual grade is incorrect, be as relentless as you need to be to make sure the transcript is accurate. Some under-grad colleges do not like to make changes, but it is crucial that any inaccuracies are corrected before the transcript is distributed.

Why is it so important to have an accurate under-grad transcript? At a selective school, there is no single piece of the application that admissions officers spend more time with than the under-grad transcript. They read it, analyze it, and study it, which means that you should too. This is often the first document an admissions officer reviews, and it influences how she sees everything else in a student’s file. We have found that many college applicants spend hours proofreading and agonizing over every other element of their application, yet have never studied the transcript to ensure that it is accurate. Don’t make this mistake.

Admissions officers look at the transcript to assess a student’s overall performance, grade level performance, individual subject performance, and to examine the rigor of a student’s elected courses. These elements are each evaluated within the context of what a particular high school offers.

WARNING! When it comes to any questionable aspect of your child’s under-grad record—or any other problematic issue on his MS applications—it’s best to have a guidance counselor or teacher address it, rather than the parent or applicant. When parents and students try to make excuses for something negative on a child’s application, admissions officers are pretty skeptical and rarely believe the complaint is unbiased. A third-party explanation is much more credible, so talk to your child’s guidance counselor if you feel any information needs to be explained.

Let’s go inside the mind of the admissions officer to learn how he/she reads your child’s transcript. By understanding the ways an admissions officer evaluates a transcript, you can perform the same critical assessment.

  1. What is the student’s personal academic track record?

In other words, is this student’s stock on the rise or the decline? In my experience, a weak freshman year is generally forgiven (it’s the tail end of puberty, after all), while a poor junior or senior year isn’t. Obviously admissions officers favor consistently strong students, but next best are students who steadily improved their performance and pursued increasingly tougher classes throughout college. However, as discussed above, a challenging course load should not be undertaken at the expense of good grades.


Some of us may remember slacking off during our own senior years, but Final Year performance has become increasingly important. This is because applicant pools have grown larger and more competitive. Strong grades during the first half of senior year are critical in supporting your child’s MS applications. Admissions officers at universities of all levels believe that senior year is a good predictor of college academic performance. Few admissions officers reach a conclusion without these marks, and they almost always evaluate the Final Year marks before admitting a regular decision candidate.


What can you do if your child does not have stellar grades across the board or has not improved over time? If this is the case in your family, here are four potential strategies:

If you believe your son really is a good student, but just hasn’t “applied himself,” you can think especially carefully about teachers who will help portray your child as a good student in a letter of recommendation.

If your daughter had poor grades in one subject but has positive academic attributes and a decent or better rela­tionship with the teacher, you can ask that particular teacher to write a recommendation about your daughter’s positive attitude, participation in class, tenacity, or desire to challenge herself.

Ask your recommenders to directly address the academic record in his letter and work on a story in which the academic record is portrayed in the context of other, more positive achievements.

Emphasize other achievements in the application, to the extent that they overshadow the poor grades. For example, demonstrate incredible achievement in an extracurricular activity through short-answer essays or the personal state­ment. This is not easy to pull off, but it is possible.

In all of the above strategies, make sure your student does not overtly attempt to “excuse away” poor grades in the personal statement or a separate letter. This almost always sounds like a whiny excuse to admissions officers and does not help your child’s cause.


Analyze and then build upon your child’s personal qualities and interests to create a powerful extracurricular profile.

It’s rare for a student to be accepted to a highly selective university on brainpower alone. A strong extracurricular profile is also impor­tant. It aids students, parents, administrators, and university admissions officers alike in understanding a child as a whole person. Here are some specific benefits related to extracurricular activities: might forge a bond with faculty members, discover something he’s good at, or learn how to handle responsibility. All of these benefits will also help during the university application process when it comes to letters of recommendation, essay topics, and in­terview discussions.

Parents get assurance that their children are productive after school and learning life skills during their youth. Understand­ing your child’s natural interests also helps you guide him through the university selection and application process.

School administrators benefit from an involved and engaged student body. They are also better able to advise students on their future pursuits based on knowledge of their nonacademic interests.

Admissions officers can forecast how the applicant may partici­pate on campus to help make the university a more interesting place.

Students can also showcase certain strengths or interests with ex­tracurricular activities. For example, a student might build upon an interest in writing by editing the school newspaper. A girl might demonstrate real scientific ingenuity with a powerful research project. A boy could showcase his athletic abilities through partic­ipation in junior varsity and varsity athletics. You will find multiple examples of various students’ extracurricular profiles on the fol­lowing pages. As you read through, keep in mind the concept of your child’s “theme,”. The application theme is a clear and consistent description of a student that is demonstrated and reiterated through the applica­tion, including the extracurricular profile. The theme, which is unique to each child, helps focus the admissions officer on the key points about your child that will help him get accepted.

Each child’s extracurricular profile is unique, but there are many tactics you can use to make sure your child’s extracurricular story fits with his overall theme and helps build a strong university application. To begin, here is an overall, year-by-year guide to helping your child choose college-related extracurricular activities based on what a university admissions officer will be looking for.

Year-by-Year Extracurricular Planning Guide
Year 1 Explore a variety of interests, with the goal of selecting a few to pursue longer-term.
Year 2 Build skills and experience in a few activities; take on increased responsibility (e.g., join committees or run for a higher student council position); build relationships with faculty leaders of clubs or coaches of sports teams for future recommendations.
Year 3 Look for leadership opportunities in clubs, sports teams, music groups, et cetera. Seek out-of-college opportunities to expand on interests and pursue unique angles on skills.
Final Year Remain involved in activities and solidify leadership roles, relationships with adult leaders, and related out-of-school pursuits.


Being “well-rounded” is no longer a ticket to Harvard. While admissions officers are looking to create a well-rounded stu­dent body overall, they are less and less impressed by kids who are interested in many diverse areas. When all else is equal, a child with a deep interest and talent in one area will get in before a well-rounded candidate.

Don’t get me wrong; well-roundedness isn’t bad. If your child is an athlete, scholar, musician, and volunteer, then he will do well in the university admissions process. But if a child shows a discernible weakness—for example, he is a stellar athlete and musician who gets poor grades in several sub­jects—then his “well-roundedness” loses its luster. Well-rounded students need something extra to stand out, such as a strong leadership position or award in one area.

This is where extracurricular activities take on additional importance. If your daughter is strong in Veterinarian  and wants to be a super specialist someday, then her application will be even stronger if she spends her summers working in a lab or volunteers at an animal shelter.

Using Your Community to Find Unique Activities

When most parents think about extracurriculars, they focus on activities offered by their child’s college. Think beyond that world. One of the best things you can do to help your child de­velop a unique extracurricular profile is to start thinking cre­atively and doing research to find activities outside of the college system to match your child’s interests. Your community no doubt has hundreds of opportunities waiting to be discovered. One common technique career counselors use to help job seekers find networking opportunities is to create a list of every single person they know and the activities they are involved with. You can use this same technique when trying to find challenging after-college and summer experiences for your child.

The goal of pursuing activities outside of the school environ­ment is to help your child challenge himself and go beyond the norm of high school-related extracurriculars. While thousands of kids’ applications will include activities like football, student council, debate team, and other school-sponsored clubs, your child can stand out by doing something different. This is a par­ticularly important tactic for students who may not have a suc­cessful track record in academics or college activities and need to compensate.

Opportunities are truly everywhere. When I think about my personal resources, I realize that I know a contractor who might offer a college student summer work. I know a physician who might allow a student to work in his office. I know local business-people in real estate, catering, publishing, and computer systems who might welcome a young person in their workplaces. I know the president of the civic association, who may enjoy having a young person chair a committee or organize an event. There’s also the local newspaper, radio station, library, humane society, soup kitchen, volunteer network, and halfway house—all places that often have interesting opportunities for high school students.

Summers are a great time to pursue non-classroom activities, especially if a student is involved with high school commitments during the year. Many families feel that expensive leadership, community service, or precollege programs are the most valuable, but there are many other, less expensive ways for students to have a meaningful, enjoyable summer experience that can also help their MS applications. For students who need to make money over the summer, there are many paid opportunities as well.

For instance, I worked with a student, Emily, whose father volunteered at an assisted-living facility. The father noticed the evening social hour lacked spirit and suggested that Angelina accom­pany him and bring along her clarinet. She played music for an hour, much to the delight of the residents. Soon after, Angelina placed an ad in the local newspaper and made announcements at her college asking other musicians to participate in monthly concerts at the center. The seniors loved the music, Emily demonstrated her leadership skills, and to top it off, the total cost was limited to a newspaper ad.

What are some other out-of-school activities that have im­pressed me? I’ve admitted students who have rallied in political protests, designed and created their own clothes, or started their own businesses. While some activities require a great deal of initia­tive to get started, others take only a simple phone call to investi­gate established programs, yet all these pursuits are beneficial. A college admissions officer will consider a student to be an involved, creative self-starter when he sees the world beyond his high school.


While I cannot overemphasize the positive value of commu­nity activities to a student’s extracurricular profile, your child should not completely disregard school-related programs. Colleges want to see students who take initiative outside of school, but they also want to accept students who will ac­tively participate in the campus community. Be sure to en­courage a balance.

Building a Strong Extracurricular Profile

What is the right balance of extracurricular activities for a student to present to a college? A strong extracurricular profile isn’t easy to define but an admissions officer, she knows it when she sees it. Colleges look for sustained commitment, increased responsibility over time, creativity, a demonstration of the student’s strengths, and a genuine enthusiasm for the activities that appear on the list. As discussed above, the best profiles involve both in-school and out-of-school activities and create the overall sense of a theme for the student.

Let’s get more specific. When I talk about a demonstration of the student’s strengths, I mean that the student is selecting activities in which he demonstrates some natural ability. Typically, this means that his activities mirror his academic strengths in some way, which contributes to a strong application theme. For instance, a student who loves to write and has good grades in English might read a lot, write for the school literary magazine, or spend a sum­mer working at a library or bookstore. An excellent science student who is shy and not a natural leader might volunteer as a tutor for young children or run on the cross-country team rather than pur­sue a more team-oriented sport. Admissions officers understand that kids have a variety of personalities; they don’t expect everyone to be football captain or first-chair violinist!

How do admissions officers gauge a student’s genuine enthu­siasm? They aren’t mind readers, but they use common sense.

Enthusiasm is usually assumed when a student participates in a cluster of activities that seem to fit together, such as a lot of community service, school spirit activities, or political participa­tion. Remember that your child will have more than one oppor­tunity to demonstrate an interest in extracurricular pursuits. As you will learn in future chapters, extracurriculars are often a key component of college essays, short-answer questions, letters of recommendation, and interviews. Your child’s enthusiasm for a particular pursuit or group of activities can shine through in these other areas. So, beyond helping your child choose which activities to pursue, it’s also important to discuss what the activ­ity means to him, since he will have to articulate this in these various components of the college application process. He should be able to articulate what he’s learned from participating in each activity, what it has taught him about himself in his life now and related to his future goals, and whether or not he enjoyed the ex­perience and why.

Here are several examples of successful extracurricular choices made by students, with an emphasis on the “profile” or “story” portrayed in each, and how each student’s genuine interests and enthusiasm shined through:

Example 1: The Successfully “Themed” Well-Rounded Student

Dylan was a starter and captain of three varsity sports, even though he wasn’t quite good enough to play any of them in college. Addi­tionally, he volunteered to mentor a middle-school student, wrote columns for the college paper, and participated in meaningful so­cial science research for four years. He has also participated in Model Congress and was active in his temple youth group during ninth and tenth grades.

The main themes I see in Dylan’s diverse extracurricular pro­file are leadership and civic responsibility. He’s a significant leader in his college community, has been selected as a role model in two venues (sports captain and volunteer mentor), and, even with a full course schedule, he participated in both in-college and out-of-college activities. To round out Dylan’s profile, he listed his future ambition as a desire to study journalism and con­tinue to hone his leadership and mentoring skills. In my mind, this all fits and makes Dylan an excellent candidate for admission, assuming his academic record is also strong.


Sometimes, although it is rare, an exceptional academic record will help to compensate for a lack of extracurricular activities, but not at the most selective schools, where admissions offi­cers want the complete package. Kids really do need to be in­volved if they want to get into college. Even if this means that your child joins a club or starts volunteering at the beginning of his senior year, that is better than having no activities at all.

If you are already involved in the application process and it is too late for your child to add more extracurriculars to his profile, you will have to work extra hard to create an overall image that a college will look upon favorably. For instance, I know a young woman who has very good grades at a top college and strong test scores. However, she has par­ticipated in only one or two activities throughout college. While her lack of activities meant that she could not apply to the highest-tier universities in the country, she found ways to improve her chances at very good universities. For instance, she included hobbies, travel, and family activities on her applica­tion activities list. She also worked very hard to create stellar essays that reflect her spunk and personality, and used her essays to say that she has learned she could be a more com­plete person by stretching herself to be involved in pursuits outside her comfort zone. Part of her theme is to convince colleges that she is eager to be more involved on campus than she has been in college.

Example 2: The Committed Leader

Lily attended an international college and served as a student council representative in year one, treasurer in year three, and class president in final year. She was a junior reporter in year one, features editor in year two and three, and then coeditor in chief of the school newspaper final year. She was also a four-year member of the basketball team, an avid photographer, and a devoted community servant (her family runs an annual benefit for a homeless shelter).

Like Dylan, Lily had a depth of commitment that shone through, with four years of involvement in each pursuit and a steady path of increasing responsibility and leadership. When eval­uating Lily’s overall profile it was clear that she was a natural leader who was committed to contributing as deeply as possible to each of her pursuits. Was she captain of the basketball team? No, but she stuck with it for four years. Did she win any awards for her photog­raphy? No, but she pursued a passion and also remained interested in it even with other time-consuming activities on her plate.


Leadership is the icing on the extracurricular cake. Students are rewarded for constancy and depth of interest, but leaders have a definite edge, particularly at the most selective schools where most applicants have leadership experience. It is okay for your child not to be a leader in everything. If your child has no leadership positions at all, he should look for opportunities that require initiative in his other extracurricular pursuits. For instance, he could start a new committee in an existing organ­ization or submit stories to the local newspaper.

While some leadership is important and highly encouraged, admissions officers also appreciate a stick-to-it attitude and consistent participation. Remember, they value a genuine passion, such as Lily’s pursuit of photography. A child shouldn’t join the five-person juggling team that he has no interest in, just so he can be president. Most colleges would rather see a depth of long-term interest that did not result in a leadership position than a “quick hit” of leadership that smacks of artificiality.

Example 3: The Passionately Focused Young Adult

Sam was a highly accomplished thespian. He participated in his school’s extensive theater program both on stage and behind the scenes. He participated in stand-up comedy nights at school, as well as the annual talent shows. On weekends he took acting classes in a nearby city, and during the summers, he participated in summer stock community theater. His passion was evident, and he continuously looked for ways to further develop it, expand upon it, and continue to chal­lenge himself.

The above example could apply to a student who is equally passionate about computers, Chinese history, or virtually any other topic. The key factor is commitment. Don’t be afraid to show that your child has a deep interest in one area. Remember, colleges are looking for a well-rounded student body, which in­cludes room for students with singular but deeply felt interests.


If your child really isn’t sure what college major or career he aspires to, and he has tried multiple electives, after-college activities, and summer programs, then look for themes and talents in his diverse résumé and build on those with course selection and additional extracurriculars. For instance, if he has worked on the school paper, excels in history, interned at a law firm, and cheers on the pep squad, instead of positioning him as well-rounded to colleges, you could tell a story of a boy with excellent communications talent. This pulls to­gether the themes of written and oral communication and paints a more cohesive picture. If this child is in first or second year, you might encourage him to seek a leadership posi­tion on the school newspaper and try a public speaking class on the weekends to improve his overall extracurricular profile.

The examples above demonstrate commitment, energy, re­sponsibility, leadership, and pursuit of natural interests. There is no perfect combination for success, no “right” number of activi­ties, and no guarantees for admission. But each student benefited in the college admissions process from extracurricular pursuits. The students pursued natural interests, had a sense of what they believed in, and knew a bit about their future intentions. And they surely had almost no trouble identifying several topics for their college essays.

These profiles, though above average, are not unattainable and would be quite common among applicants to selective MS programs. Some parents worry that the only students who get into college have done something completely extraordinary, like de­veloping a cure for a rare disease, learning to speak Greek, or star­ring in a play on Broadway. But as you can see, Dylan, Lily, and Sam each participated in college-based activities and supple­mented those experiences with out-of-college pursuits that can be found in most communities.

And in each situation, adults at school and in the community became familiar with the strength and reputation of the student. This can be an enormous asset when it comes time to select fac­ulty members for letters of recommendation. When a teacher or counselor can speak not just of the student’s contributions to the classroom, but also to the school and community as a whole, it creates a more interesting picture, which, in turn provides a greater impact on the university admissions evaluation process.


Students should work to develop a positive reputation in college, to supplement their academic and extracurricular record and profile. Your child’s reputation at college, particularly among adults, is the final piece of the college picture an admissions officer will as­sess. Students who develop healthy relationships with their peer group and positive relationships with other adults have the most rewarding and satisfying college career—and a better chance of getting into their MS programs of choice. Kids without worthwhile connections are frequently unhappy, less involved in meaningful activities, disconnected from their community, and often do not achieve academic potential. As a parent, there is much you can do to help your child earn respect and admiration throughout college.

Helping Your Child Become a College Citizen

For an admissions officer at a selective department, one of the main ob­jectives is to create a picture of the applicant as a college citizen. In other words: What type of kid is this? Would this boy be a good roommate, lab partner, community leader? Will this girl be in­volved in a sorority, community service, athletics, or peer tutoring?

Remember that, in addition to selecting students to attend their school, admissions officers are creating a community of people. The extracurricular profile and essay will supply some of this infor­mation, but the most powerful statements about this involvement will probably come from a teacher, coach, or adviser in the form of a recommendation. Therefore, to maximize the high school expe­rience and prepare for the college application process, students should develop a few substantial relationships with teachers or other adults at the college. This is particularly important if your child is currently a freshman, sophomore, or junior.

Almost all parents I’ve worked with have a sense of their child’s reputation at college, from report card comments, and intuition. If you have any doubts, contact your child’s guidance counselor to discuss this important issue. If, after assessing your child’s reputation, you think it needs some work, here are some actions you can suggest to your child to improve re­lationships at college:

  • Be polite to all students and adults
  • Obey the rules during college hours and after- college events.
  • Attend college events, such as sports tournaments, college dances, and pep rallies.
  • Act like a role model to younger kids, perhaps through tutor­ing, interaction on sports teams, or socially by having friends in all grades.
  • Some other, less obvious, suggestions include:
    • Volunteer on an existing college committee.
    • Create a new extracurricular activity.
    • Help plan an event, such as an art show, a college -wide fund­raiser, or new student orientation.

As a former college administrator primarily responsible for student activities and student life, I saw kids distinguish them­selves in positive and negative ways. I noticed who said hello to other kids in the hallway, who held the doors for the people be­hind them, who handed in permission slips on time. I knew who would be helpful during homecoming or if I needed a quick favor. I wasn’t the only one who noticed; other faculty members did too. We talked over lunch, sharing stories about students who stood out in both good and bad ways. It’s important to understand that throughout college, students are building a reputation with the adults they see daily. Students should be genuine but also aware that teachers and administrators are watching, talking, and remembering.

Note that any of the recommendations mentioned in this sec­tion can have a positive impact during all four years of college —even first semester senior year before MS applications are due. If your child’s attempt to improve a poor reputation is genuine and earnest, it is never too late to become a respected college citizen.


Now that I have explored the three key components of your child’s college experience—academics, extracurricular activi­ties, and reputation—it is time to work with your child to put a detailed plan into action. This section offers the tangible tools and support you will need to help your child apply all of the information presented so far. There are many conversations you can have and exercises you can complete to help your child survive and thrive throughout college and during the MS admissions process. It’s all about communica­tion, honesty, and strategy.

I know that talking to a teenager about college and the future isn’t always easy. Some kids are excited about the MS admis­sions process, and others are scared to death by the fierce compe­tition, the endless choices, and a natural fear of growing up. As a parent, it’s your job to open the lines of communication. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

The “let’s talk about college ” conversation shouldn’t come out of left field. If you aren’t in the habit of regularly speaking to your child about important issues (other than negotiating cur­few), it’s a good idea to ease into the process by talking about other things first. You may ask your son what he thinks about a particular world event in the news or suggest that he tell you about some interesting things he’s been learning in history class. Solicit your child’s opinions, so he will know that it’s okay to share honest thoughts and dreams about the future.

Share some fun activities with your child to build trust and communication, especially if you haven’t “hung out” together in a while. Ask your daughter what she wants to do with you, such as attending a soccer match or getting a manicure. These fun times can serve as a good chance to casually introduce the topic of college and goal setting for the future. Take cues from your child on where and when to talk. Some teens and young adults will open up on a quiet walk, while others prefer to talk over a burger and fries.

Whenever you are having a conversation with your child, par­ticularly about universities and the future, listen more than you talk. Don’t belittle his ideas, roll your eyes, or take a phone call while you’re talking. The more a parent listens honestly and without judgment, the more a child is likely to share.


In college, it is important for students to think about setting goals, since clear goals can influence the choices they make. For example, I am currently working with a first year student, Steve, who is working toward three goals: all-league in his sport, achieving grades of B+ or better, and adding one additional extracurricular activity to his busy schedule. If he achieves these goals, he will be on track for his selected universities.

Steve could play a Division III sport if he continues to improve and works diligently in the off-season. He also knows that as a re­cruited athlete, he might have a slight edge in the admissions process. As a result, this year he chose to take slightly less rigorous courses and will do the same next year. His goal is to maintain high grades and still manage his athletic commitments. Instead of tak­ing a heavy course load, he maintained a challenging all-honors cur­riculum, a manageable and not overwhelming schedule. Looking at his athletic and academic results so far this year, he seems to have made the right choice. Goal setting also provides a sense of satisfaction and confidence. Steve can focus on the activities that are productive and make him happy, while helping him realize what he wants to accomplish for the remainder of college.

Goal setting is important, because it will help your child un­derstand himself better. Your child should think about his current activities and where he wants to spend his time. As an involved parent, you can help your child brainstorm (preferably starting in first or second year) about higher education and future goals. With concrete goals in mind—such as maintaining a strong GPA and achieving extracurricular milestones like an athletic honor or a place in a prestigious art exhibit—your child’s decisions surrounding the college experience become easier because he is narrowing his choices to those that interest him and fit with his profile as a stu­dent committed to certain activities or skills.

Here are some general guidelines to suggest to your child when beginning the process of goal setting.

  • Write down your goals so you have a record of your thoughts.
  • Share your goals with someone, preferably an expert, to deter­mine if they are challenging enough or perhaps too challenging.
  • Check in with your goals periodically, perhaps once a month or once a semester, to assess on your progress.
  • Adjust if necessary; nothing is set in stone.
  • Be realistic.
  • Have your goals reflect what really makes you happy.
  • Be creative—try new things.
  • Don’t focus on grades alone.
  • Be specific, concrete, and positive.

Once you’ve set up these basic guidelines, you can begin to help your child get more specific. The following questions can help define your child’s goal setting through the first three years of college.

  1. What are three goals I want to accomplish by the end of the first semester this year? Considering my goals, what are the three specific steps I can take to make each a reality?
  2. What are three goals I want to accomplish by the end of this college year? What specific steps, in addition to the steps above, can I take to make this happen?
  3. What are my longer-term goals? What would I like to ac­complish by college graduation? What specific steps do I need to take in order to achieve each goal by the end of college?


If your child is a senior, it is too late to spend time setting goals about extracurriculars, courses, and leadership positions. But it is not too late to do the introspective thinking and writing that accompany goal setting. Here are two suggestions.

  1. Rather than trying to set college-related goals at this late stage, it’s better to spend time developing a theme out of your child’s existing college experience. This process will help your child develop self-awareness as well as an application strategy that will benefit him throughout the university selection process, essays, and interviews.
  2. Because the practice of goal setting is important to learn and will benefit your child once he arrives at for his MS program, you might also take some time to help your child set post-college goals—for the summer after graduation. Again, this helps your child develop self-awareness and will also come in handy when he is asked the inevitable interview question, “What are your future plans?”

Congratulations on surviving the high school experience! If you are the parent of an underclassman, I encourage you to refer back to this chapter when you face curriculum-and activity-related decisions over the next few years. If you are the parent of a senior, then you can breathe a sigh of relief that this stage of the process is nearly complete.

Overview of Study Abroad Scenario

India has 569 universities but still around July every year, students and parents begin to throng airport terminals. As the eyes get misty and hugs get longer and goodbyes are finally waved, parents wonder what awaits their children, whether they would cope well and when they would see them again.

Students and parents heave a sigh of relief on getting an admission confirmation from a good foreign university. But this is a long drawn affair. The initial steps of this journey are taken up to 18 to 20 months ago. About one and a half year of researching universities, colleges and programs, making trips to coaching institutes, kids working hard on GRE scores and SOPs with parents keeping everything synchronized while arranging funds by various painful ways – breaking FDs, clearing ancestral land issues and selling or mortgaging at times.

We will start with

“Why some students need to study abroad”

“What are the best destinations (countries) for studying abroad”

“What are the requirements for studying abroad- Tests to be taken, Application Process, Visa and Immigration issues”

“Financial implications of studying abroad”

“How are the foreign college programs different”

“Planning and Synchronizing it all”

We will request you to read these articles in this given order to develop a clearer perspective of Studying Abroad.

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