Total Pageviews

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The Critical College Prep Question Almost No One is Asking


by Katherine O'Brien, Th.D. Candidate, Founder of Celtic College Consultants


I am endlessly amazed as I look around the college prep profession and see the complete omission of THE most important consideration from my colleagues’ awareness and efforts.


THE Critical college prep question:


Why go to college? 


Let me expand on that a bit: What’s the point? What are your goals? What do you seek by going to college? 


This question requires us to examine the end, the purpose, of the endeavor of going to college. Looking to the end requires no small effort, I will admit. However, this effort is essential for a successful journey. Rarely does a person begin a journey or a project without a destination or goal in mind. Let's explore this by considering an example.


If I prepare my workbench by bringing out a pile of lumber, nails, drills, sanders, hammers, and the like, but have no goal, all I have is a mess. At the same time, having a goal, while absolutely essential, is not enough. To continue with my example, if I have decided to build a table, that’s a good goal. However, I am not yet ready to begin my work, am I?


Once a goal has been set, it is important to take a bit of time to evaluate whether it is a good goal. Why do I want a table? Will I sell it? If I keep it, where will I put it? What sort of table do I want? Will it be an elegant dining table, or a tilt-able artist’s or drafting table, a simple table for beside my bed, or some other sort of table? Once I have decided what type of table to make, determining whether it is a worthwhile goal is essential. I'll need to ask questions like: If I want to keep it, do I have need of it and room for it? If I wish to sell it, are there interested buyers, can I at least break even on it, or even earn a little profit? Having gained clarity that the goal is worth pursuing and has outcomes which, as far as I can discern from my research, seem desirable, I must then consider the realism of the goal. Do I have the skills and tools necessary to craft such a table? Can I obtain the necessary materials and tools and workspace? Do I have the time needed for the project?


Having set and refined a goal, we can finally move on to the step of creating a plan to build the project. I will need blueprints; I might draft or obtain them from another source. From the blueprints, I can then derive a list of necessary materials and tools. I can also create a project plan, the steps and timeline for the project. Only at this point, am I ready to begin working on my project.


Please note how much effort has gone into the creation of a table before a single board is selected, furthermore measured and cut to the proper length. With this process in mind, let us turn our attention to the college preparation process.


Preparing for college takes just as much, if not more, preparation than preparing to build a table does. This is complicated by a few realities. Because human beings are involved, going to college is necessarily a multifaceted endeavor. Students are educated both by intellectual undertakings as well as by their life experiences on campus. Their character is shaped in significant ways, psychologically, spiritually, and socially by their college studies and experiences. Because of all of these factors, the definition of “college goals” is necessarily complex, involving intellectual and career preparation as well as personal development considerations.


College preparation includes a few additional complicating factors. First, the primary person involved, who must, necessarily, remain at the heart of the process, is an inexperienced, immature human being, a teenaged person who has very limited life experienced and who is not fully developmentally mature. This young person is at the heart of the process since it is his or her life that is being considered.. It is absolutely imperative that our young people have support and direction provided by caring adults. The nature of this period of development indicates that parents are not typically the best providers of this guidance. The youth is exploring his or her identity and interests and needs their parents support and guidance as well as the freedom to experiment. By the nature of the parent-child relationship, a weightiness exists. Parents want their children to do well; children want the esteem and affirmation of their parents. These are natural goods that God embedded in these precious relationships. The freedom to explore and experiment with possible future endeavors is often impeded, however, by the weightiness of these relationships. Young people relate to other adults differently than they do with their parents. Opportunities to evaluate freely the multitude of possible careers and academic fields of study exist with these extra-familial relationships.


From my first conversation with every student, I ask questions, prodding him or her to begin to consider these various facets of the question, "Why do I want to go to college?" Over the past twenty years, I have had the privilege of mentoring countless teens through this process of self-examination and discovery, exploration of the possibilities for their futures, and of crafting the goal, the blueprints, the steps and timeline, as well as coaching them as they take those steps toward their goal, while continuing to evaluate and refine the goal. Please ensure that your teen has the opportunity to receive such support and mentorship from middle school through high school and through their post-high school steps into adulthood, whether they include college or not.

To schedule a consultation for you and your teen to meet with Katherine, email and she will help you schedule your personal online meeting.