Editor’s note: This article was first published on Fahad Hassan’s personal blog.
Here’s a radical idea – What if we had every 9th grader in America fill out a college application before they start high school? These applications are exactly what they’d see as juniors and seniors with one exception – they don’t actually get sent to the schools.
Sometimes we get caught up in all the numbers and statistics only to forget that life has a lot of simple answers waiting for us. My proposition for having every 9th grader fill out a college application started from a simple thought I myself had about high school: “If I only knew then, what I know now.” Haven’t you had this thought in your life at some point? Well, as adults we know the value of a higher education. We know that kids have extraordinary potential; now more than ever with all the tools and technology available for them; and we also know that most 14 year olds – no matter how polished or educated until that age – have no idea what the college process is really like. So why not give it to them? The application won’t obviously go out – but will simply be a “practice run” on what they’ll actually need to do towards the end of high school. An early guide, kick in the face – whatever you want to call it for every student entering high school with one objective in mind: continue your education in college with a mastery and understanding of this application process being your “golden ticket” out.
I’ve spent the past four years of my life working at an education company in Washington DC selling software to college admissions offices, so I’ve picked up a few tidbits about the college application process over the years. I’ve talked to and met with schools in places I didn’t even know had schools. Did you know there are over 4,000 Colleges and Universities in America and 20,000+ programs? I don’t believe for a second that there isn’t an option for every kid out there who truly wants to get a degree of higher learning in something; Heck a lot of schools now even allow you to “create” your own major!
If every high school freshman filled out a “practice” college application, I believe it will do the following:
1) Show them first hand what schools will ask of them throughout their high school career outside of the classroom (extra-curricular activities, sports, clubs, etc). I think this alone will help boost engagement and teach kids the value of a rounded experience in high school and that simply getting good grades isn’t everything or enough.
2) It will give them a better idea of what kind of grades their favorite schools tend to look for. I believe this will better motivate kids to achieve in the classroom because for the first time, they’ll have an exact goal to aim for. They’ll learn that not everyone can or needs to be a valedictorian or that every school requires a 4.0 to get accepted. I think most kids have a fear their grades aren’t good enough for college when most of them consistently show extraordinary capacity for academic success.
3) For the first time in their lives, it will give students a direct correlation between education and money. Yes money – not just a “job”. Most of us grew up being told, “Go to College and you’ll make more money”. Okay – but like most things teenagers hear, I think that goes in one ear and out the other. What if a freshman in high school could understand that a career in anthropology, technology, music, arts, dance, advertising, media, etc – all have a better start with a foundation in higher education. I bet most kids in high school have no clue how broad college is in terms of what it can offer.
I haven’t been able to find any statistical data or analysis on giving freshman a “college application” experience and then tracking that against a control group to see if their:
a) Performance academically over four years increases.
b) Their desire to attend and actually apply to college increases.
c) Their retention rates in college are higher because of the early path they started on.
d) They are less likely to commit crimes or go to prison.
e) They are more likely to have a social impact on society.
I’m willing to bet – a whole heck of a lot that if we continue to push students at a younger age with more information about their future – in lectures, charts – numbers – and statistics, it will only move the needle so far.
We need to let students discover all of this for themselves. They need to feel the impact of their future, before the future gets to them. Our job as education advocates, teachers, and “adults” is to use information and data to create better systems for students to adopt, try, and develop. Our job is not simply to feed kids data and information about their future and expect them to “understand” how they need to live their lives for success.
Let’s hand them the future – literally.