Rami Haddad, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor in electrical engineering at Georgia Southern, looked into my grandson, Rodricks, eyes and said, The next four years are the most important years of your life. We were on campus, along with 1,300 prospective students and 3,500 family and other guests during open house held Saturday, Feb. 2.
When Dr. Haddad spoke about focus and hard work, I saw a light come on in my grandsons eyes. Not a light of excitement over the prospects of entering a career field thats clearly lucrative, but a light of realization that he shouldve been more focused during the prior four years. It was a reality moment.
My grandson wasnt the only student having a reality moment. I could see the deer-in-the-headlights look all over the GSU RAC (Recreational Activity Center). It was the realization that getting into college isnt a game. I couldnt count the conversations I overheard that had something to do with grade point averages and SAT or ACT scores and I didnt know responses.
One of the first people we talked to worked in the admissions office at GSU and she was playfully upset that my grandson, who is a senior, hadnt taken his SAT or ACT test yet. Its a matter of timing. GSU had already ended, as have most schools, its early admission period. The next deadline is April 1. There is a lot of work to a college application and one of the critical elements is the SAT or ACT score. Will the scores return in time to complete the application? Think, The early bird gets the worm. In higher education, he, or she, who is in line first, has choices of scholarship money, housing and class schedules. Those in line last get the scraps.
Every high school student, and their parents, should have a reality moment, certainly starting before the 9th-grade, but particularly as they enter their freshman year in high school. Thats when it starts counting. Grade point averages do matter. It only takes a couple of bad grades to make a GPA drop unrecoverable. Oh, a C average in high school cannot be considered successful.
My advice for students is to take the hardest courses available. As students matriculate from middle school to high school, parents should find out how many Advanced Placement courses are offered. Look for a school that offers the International Baccalaureate program. Ill be honest, there is a trade off. While not unheard of, most students in an IB program dont play football or any other sport. They dont have time.
Hard work in high school sets up the next four years of college that realistically can save parents, depending on the school, hundred of thousand of dollars over a four year period.
There will be reality moments all through high school. Students need to stay on track. Taking the ACT or the SAT for the first time should happen no later than a students junior year.
The hardest part to get through a young persons mind is that time waits for no one. If they slack off too much in high school, the college of their choice may be out of reach. They will need a Plan B. However, there are some issues you cannot escape.
Dont think its a breeze to get into Middle Georgia State College (Formerly Macon State College). You still need SAT scores in math and critical reading of 350 each, or a 14 on the ACT. At GSU, the minimum for regular admissions is combined math and critical reading score on the SAT of 1010 and 21 on the ACT.
All colleges lay out, in pretty straightforward fashion, what their admission requirements are and what high school courses are required. Parents should get with their childs counselor early in their high school career to map out a successful course of study.
The last rude awakening Ill share. Some students believe their Plan B is the military. The services dont take just anyone. Tests are required there, too. And students, think again about that tattoo, having one or more could close the military option for you.
Next week: What to do if your reality moment is a nightmare.
Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraphs editorial page editor. He can be reached at (478)744-4342 or via e-mail at email@example.com.