The Road to College – First in a Series

We have more information than ever at our fingertips and understand so much about this world, and yet being a successful student is still challenging and puzzling. For middle school and high school students, parents, and educators, this column will provide you with answers and clarity on what it means to be a successful student today as you navigate The Road to College. 

As parents, we want the best for our children and often equate academic success with setting the foundation for our child’s potential to build toward a successful and fulfilling career. However, many parents may not realize the college-related choices a high school senior has extend far back – sometimes to decisions made many years prior (7th grade!) – ranging from how they study to the rigor of their coursework and the career track they are potentially pursuing. 

The goal of The Road to College column is to supplement what the school, community, and family already teach and value, and to help readers gain perspectives, information, and knowledge to help students plan the year, the quarter, and the day. With current industry knowledge and research, readers will have the ability to help students get or stay on a path toward better grades (study skills and course selection), increased test scores (which to take, when to take, and ways to prepare), and preparation for identifying and applying to best-fitting colleges (with a holistic approach considering the whole student). That is, to consider all the factors that matter, from emotional and physical health to trends in admissions or changes in testing, as well as what colleges want and how to channel hard to work to get the best results. 

We know from research that early college planning, when done right, has very powerful and positive results for students. Initially, some students may feel that the thought of college triggers stress, and often the desire is to push starting the process to the spring of junior year. Frequently, adults in students’ lives follow suit. By junior year, however, there is little time for a true exploration of what one may wish to consider as a career path, let alone obtain enough information to choose a major. This could lead to a critical misstep that could adversely affect the prospective college list or later increase the chance of changing majors or transferring schools. Studies conducted by American Institute of Research, a leading education research organization, as well as NYU Steinhardt School of Education, have found early engagement in the college planning process leads to a very positive outcome for most students. Plus, with the high cost of college and importance of graduating in four years, considering a holistic approach to planning can help students connect interests, talents, and skills to the consideration of career paths as a way of identifying the right major and college list. This type of preparation often leads to students changing their major in college at a lower rate than the national average of 30%.  

The Road to College can be fun and empowering to students and families, and can cultivate character when done right. This column aims to support that spirit along the way, embracing the path toward the destination as a teachable experience of growth. 

Tony Di Giacomo, Ph.D. is an educator and founder of Novella Prep. He has nearly 20 years of experience working in admissions, development, teaching, and research at various universities. Prior to launching Novella Prep, Tony worked at the College Board, where he led and managed research on the SAT, PSAT, AP, and other programs. You can reach him 

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About the Author: Tony Di Giacomo, Ph.D.