Sometimes the pathway to college feels like the menu at In-N-Out Burger. There are only 3 choices of combos and if you don’t pick one of those, you can’t eat there.
For those of you who aren’t fortunate enough to live in a state with In-N-Out, let me explain. As you drive through or walk inside, you are greeted with 3 choices: Hamburger, Cheeseburger and Double-Double. You can get fries with that, and ONLY fries, and a choice of soft drink or one of their delicious shakes. That’s it!
When you look at the college admissions requirements, it can seem just as limited and restrictive:
You MUST take 4 years of language. You MUST take as many AP’s as possible. You MUST take the SAT or ACT. Oh, and you can vary your activities (beverage) but a leadership role (fries) are really your only choice.
One might wonder why anyone would eat at a place with such a limited menu. WHY is it so popular? Well, guess what? It's NOT! There’s a “secret” menu with WAY more choices. You just have to know about it and ask for it.
Happily, for colleges, you don’t have to dig too deep to find alternatives to the “regular menu” and there are WAY more choices. Beyond the U.S News & World Report lists are thousands of colleges with options that appeal to a wide variety of students!
It is easier than one might imagine to actually order “off the menu”. To find colleges with requirements that allow students to focus on the subjects and activities in high school that a student likes and excels at vs. taking classes over and over in subjects that focus on areas they are weak in or strongly dislike. Want to take less language classes, check out the requirements at Colorado State. Standardized testing not your thing? Visit fairtest.org to find colleges that are test-optional.
Plus, BOTH focusing on strengths AND avoiding areas of weakness can help the student discover a new pathway and opportunity they might not have otherwise found!
There’s the student who switched from calculus to business math in high school only to discover his love of accounting.
Or the student who opted to apply to colleges that were test-optional, and focused that time to strengthen her art portfolio. She not only deepened her love of art, she sold some of her work!
Focusing on areas of interest and strength can continue in college as well.
Take the student who entered college with an interest in psychology and a desire to want to help others. This continued to strengthen until she hit a "weakness roadblock" 3rd quarter of her sophomore year, where she realized she had to take physics. The thought of a quarter of physics was too much to bear, and the only major available with all the classes accumulated thus far was communications studies. She course-corrected based on the goal of avoiding physics and graduating in 4 years which introduced an entirely new major and led to a 25 year career in broadcasting.
One might call that decision immature and short-sighted. That it was a short term choice (NO Physics) vs. a long term sacrifice (suck it up and take the class and complete the psychology major).
And I would tend to agree. But if I had to do it all over again, I’d do the same. (insert wink and a smile!)
Each choice we make helps us evaluate our values, honor our skills and strengths and use that information to course correct along the way. Communication studies helped me rekindle my love of radio and music from my childhood and integrate what I loved about psychology into my career. Not a day went by that I didn’t “counsel” and “coach” my sales teams and I am using my love of coaching and counseling every day in my current career as a college coach!
And physics? Not so much.