Rhodes, F.H. (1987, October 26). Let the student decide. U.S. News & World Report, pp. 72-74.
The president of Cornell University, Dr. Frank H. Rhodes, offers suggestions for helping high school students choose a college. Dr. Rhodes prefaces his remarks by saying, "Parents must be aware that it’s their children and not them who ultimately must decide where—and whether—to attend school."
"Your teenager may be better served by going to a vocational- or apprentice-type school."
"Parents must realize," he continues, "that a college degree is not a prerequisite for a life of meaning, satisfaction and dignity." Nevertheless, high school students should not make a quick decision against college. Students, he says, should take the most rigorous high school program (academic and cocurricular) they can handle, regardless of their future plans, for a good, well-balanced background "will stand you in good stead no matter what path you choose."
To determine which of the 3,000 post-secondary schools the student should consider, Rhodes recommends a three-step decision process:
- Students should evaluate their likes and dislikes with the aid of parents, teachers, and counselors. Considerations include career and personal goals; academic strengths and weaknesses; and goals and ability. Without this realistic assessment, a student may be aspiring for a career he is incapable of doing. For example, "If a student would love to be an astronomer, and yet consistently receives D-minuses in math, he probably should rethink his career goals."
- Determine which of those 3,000 schools will meet their needs. To help narrow down the choices, Rhodes offers the following considerations to students:
- Obtain advice from school guidance counselors and parents about the schools that interest you. Try to visit those colleges and talk to their students. Many school counselors now have a computer program to match your interests with a college program.
- "Collect college catalogs and read them critically. Look through the college directories and the more anecdotal college guides to find schools you may have overlooked."
- All good schools will stress development in reading, writing, mathematics, culture, and history regardless of your major. Check the school’s general educational requirements (core curriculum) to see if it stresses these areas. Remember, however, that the number of Ph.D.s, library books, and courses in your area of interest are not the sole measures of a quality education.
- Do not let the school’s price deter you from applying. Every college has financial aid directors who are willing to help you pay for your education. Rhodes does suggest that if finances are a concern you could apply to one "safety" from a financial standpoint as well as from an academic.
- After academic considerations have reduced your prospective choices, look at each school’s secondary offerings, such as counseling centers, cooperative education, leadership opportunities, and varsity sports, to see if the school provides an environment for personal, social, and intellectual growth.
- Apply to several of the institutions that interest you, even those that may not accept you. Remember that about 75% of all students who apply to college are admitted to the school of their choice.
- Being aware of the pressures these decisions exert on teenagers can open new avenues for youth-to-leader and leader-to-parent communications.
- Self-image, acceptance, and personal value often rest on being accepted by one’s first choice. Be ready to help support students even if they do not get their first choice.
- The youth leader plays an important role in transitioning young people from high school to college or full employment. Helping them to prepare for these exciting, illuminating, challenging, and even frustrating experiences is one of the most important things a youth worker can do.
Stephen Vantassel cCYS