As I walked away, I realized how much this woman’s Thanksgiving advice resembled my own advice to my students. I’ve written before about the benefits of starting early, but it feels particularly relevant at this time of year when I’m wrapping things up with my seniors and getting things going with my juniors and sophomores. I’m also meeting a lot of new families at various stages of the process, and the thing I keep hearing from students and parents is how they just want to keep their options open.
The defining quality I see in many of my students as they go through the application process is uncertainty – but I don’t mean that in a negative way. They are uncertain about whether they want to major in marine biology or computer science, but they’re enthusiastic about both. They’re uncertain about whether they want to get recruited for rowing or if they want it to be more of a hobby in college. They’re uncertain about whether they want the spirit of a huge public school with a football team and a marching band and a quirky mascot or if they want the tight-knit community of a small liberal arts school with 150-year-old campus traditions. Either way, they’re excited, as much for the process as for the results.
And the best way to give yourself options is to start early. Starting early means getting to decide when it makes the most sense for you to study for and take your standardized tests. Starting early means getting to explore summer programs and apply for internships and part-time jobs. Starting early means getting to sit down for informational interviews with people who work in careers you’re interested in. Starting early really means giving yourself time to try different things, a necessary step in the process of figuring out what you care about. So whether it’s Thanksgiving dinner or applying to college, do yourself a favor and start a little bit early.