For many students in the Dallas schools, the start of their sophomore year means looking at their future plans. The Highland Park High School within the Dallas schools system, for example, began mandatory counseling sessions for all sophomores this year. Though only a few students within the Dallas schools are required to attend such guidance sessions, University High School in Irvine has had these mandatory sessions for nearly 30 years. Many school districts in California require college guidance counseling for high school sophomores, while some districts in Wisconsin require sessions during the freshmen year.
Today, college admissions are highly competitive. They look at everything from the applicants’ freshmen through senior years, believing that everything an applicant has become and has the potential to be is built upon their enculturation during these years. It is all foundational. With such fierce competition for college entrance, today’s high school student cannot rely upon chance but must be prepared by the time they graduate from the Dallas schools. Students must have done things during high school one step better than the other college applicants, if they wish to be admitted.
Most guidance counselors agree that the sophomore year is the best time to begin planning for college. During the freshmen year, Dallas schools students are just getting acclimated to the high school environment. By the junior year, there is not enough time left to make any substantial changes. The sophomore year is the perfect time to discuss the students’ dreams and ambitions. This is the year for them to begin thinking about what they are going to do after high school.
The Dallas schools’ Highland Park High, the guidance counselors made the decision to hold the mandatory counseling sessions for sophomores, since this also is the year students decide whether to take Advanced Placement (AP) coursework that gives college credit upon completion.
The Dallas schools students construct and review their personal resumes and portfolios with their guidance counselors, as well as their four-year high school plans and coursework. They are counseled on what they need to do to show future admissions officials that they are serious about a college education and their futures. They discuss how to get an “edge” over their future competition by taking challenging courses — both in high school and college — and participating in community service, as well as activities that develop and showcase their leadership skills. The Dallas schools’ counselors also show students how to integrate their high school experience into their college plans, motivating them to boost their grade point average (GPA).
Though you may believe this would add undo pressure to students, many educators believe the mandatory sessions for the Dallas schools students actually decreases or even eliminates the pressure. Though they do not advocate college campus visitations during this timeframe, good preparation and a proper plan means these Dallas schools students are ready for college when the time comes. They have prepared the best way possible by doing things now that will only help them later, proving they are serious about their futures.