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Courses for College: What Kids Need (page 2)

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Updated on Jan 22, 2008

History: Three or four years, including both American and European history.

Foreign Language: Three or four years of one language.

Sound rough? It can be. It’s easier if your child’s school offers excellent programs in all subjects and at all levels. If not, courses can sometimes be arranged through local community colleges, and universities will appreciate the student's sense of drive in seeking them out. But even if these options are easily available, kids do need to be careful. Remember: a degree is only a package, it’s what’s inside that counts. Both high school and college should be times of rich self-discovery, not endless stress. Even the toughest Ivies make it a practice to review every case individually, and will make allowance for cases when a school couldn't offer certain courses, or when a student was developing a big talent in one certain area.   And, of course, there are many outstanding non-Ivy schools which do not hold such stiff criteria for entry.

While respecting real-life realities, then, it's crucial to remember how many different pathways really can lead to success. As Nesbitt says, “The college process should be about finding the right fit, not just the most prestige.” And Stanford agrees, telling students: “This is a time to think carefully about who you are, and to believe in yourself….We do not want your high school years to be full of drudgery…The students who will thrive at Stanford are those who are genuinely excited about learning, not necessarily those who take every single AP or Honors or Accelerated class just because it has that name.”

The bottom line? Push your kids to think early about what they want-- whether it's an "in" at a nearby state school, or admission to a seemingly out of reach university far away. Then help them lay out the steps and courses they'll need to get there.  College may seem like a long way away, but it creeps up quicker than you'd think.

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