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Parents' Guide to College Planning for Gifted Kids

I always thought that college planning would be easier for gifted students -- until my own gifted children started the process. I found out that, contrary to myths, planning for college is actually more difficult for the gifted:

Many gifted kids are good at everything and interested in everything. With more than 3,500 colleges and an infinite number of college majors, decision-making may seem overwhelming.

Most gifted kids are very sensitive to family expectations. When children grow up hearing stories about a particular college, they may pick up the underlying message that they'll simply go to that same school and don't need to plan alternatives.

Believing that there is lots of time while they're young, many gifted kids avoid the topic for as long as possible. The decisions made in last-minute planning are not likely to be based on self-exploration.

Every student needs an optimal match between his needs and a college's offerings. Your gifted student -- who's good at and likes everything -- needs more time to plan this match, not less. Beyond the SAT and before the acceptance letter, college planning means learning about strengths, discovering talents and interests, exploring careers, understanding what colleges offer, and deciding how to match this unique mix with a college experience.

Middle School, and Starting High School
Seventh and Eighth Grades
This is the time to explore new activities. Your child should look for summer programs or clubs that will allow her to explore her interests and try out new activities. If the program costs too much, find out if scholarships are available. Some state advocacy groups offer scholarships for summer programs. Gifted seventh- and eighth- graders need time to learn about themselves, their strengths, and their favorite subjects and activities.

This is also a crucial time to acquire good study and time-management skills. While some courses from these early years will appear on the high-school transcript, the grades earned now will be far less important to colleges than the grades earned by junior year.

Traps to Avoid for High School
Entering high school, your college-bound teen might be tempted to:

Focus on getting into college instead of on having the experiences she'll need to succeed once she's there. During high school, students are in the process of "becoming." Trying a variety of experiences and identifying interests and strengths is an important part of becoming an adult.

Join extracurricular activities only to impress colleges instead of participating in activities that will help him grow as a person. It's true that colleges look at extracurricular activities. However, they really want to know who the applicant is, what activities he enjoys, and how he'll contribute to campus life.

Avoid rigorous courses because she might not get an A. Colleges need to know if students can succeed in college-level work. They would rather see a lower grade in a rigorous course like calculus than an A in a course like consumer math.


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