Work and Family Mailbox

The Wall Street Journal
August 5, 2009

By Sue Shellenbarger

Q: My son is entering high school and I’d like to encourage him to prepare for college. What advice or references can you provide?

— B.P.

A: Preparing a child well for college is essentially the same as good parenting-encouraging your son to develop his individuality, strengths and perspective. Many college admissions officers look in applications for evidence of the same qualities that make a successful adult: Well-roundedness, a willingness to take on challenges, a record of giving back to the community, and an awareness of one’s own individuality and strengths.

To foster your son’s development, help him discover hobbies, arts, activities, sports or service groups that strongly interest him. Encourage him to use his summers well by exploring paid work, travel, camp or service opportunities. This self-knowledge will help him select a college that is truly a good fit when the time comes.

In academic planning, your son should meet with a guidance counselor early to map out his next four years, to make sure courses required by colleges are taken in sequence. If he is interested, visit a few campuses during his sophomore year. A planning timeline can be found at, by clicking on “Colleges and Universities” for the parent edition of “planning timelines.” One book that may help: “College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family,” by Steven Roy Goodman and Andrea Leiman.

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