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Support and Advice from TNPC's Parenting Experts

Competition for admission to top colleges has spawned whole new industries-from individuals who will coach a student and his family through the entire admissions process to firms that prepare students for standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. Some community centers, high schools and community colleges are getting in on the act by offering their own classes in test-taking and other skills useful in the college admissions process.

How helpful are these options?

Much depends on the individual student’s needs. For the teen who freezes during tests and has never done well on standardized testing despite obvious intelligence and excellent grades, some preparation for the SAT test may be a good investment. However, this can take several forms, including getting a test taking guide from the library or buying one at the local bookstore, taking advantage of some of the home computer SAT review programs, participating in low or no cost classes at the high school or local community college or, if student and parents feel the expense is warranted, attending a commercial SAT preparation class. It can also be helpful to take the SAT exam more than once, since most colleges will record only the highest scores received.

If your teen attends a school with no college counselor or a counselor who has too heavy a caseload to sit down and discuss college plans and choices, it may make sense to hire a professional college consultant to perform this function. However, if your teen is still a few years away from college, you and your child can do much of the research on your own by reading college guidebooks and writing for literature, If time is short, a professional may help. Ask your school counselor or a local college admissions official for a referral to a reputable counselor.

Can coaching ever hurt?

yes! Beware of the counselor who tries to package your child for maximum impact–producing videos, suggesting sending gifts to admissions officials, rehearsing admissions interviews or writing the student’s essay portion of the application. College admissions officials will usually send back videos or gifts untouched. A student coached to glibness for an admissions interview will be at a distinct disadvantage compared to the genuine and sincere, though possible nervous, uncoached candidate. Likewise, application essays are judged, not for their polish, but for a ring of truth, for the clues they offer to the insights, hopes and dreams of the applicant. Your college-bound teen will do best by expressing his own thoughts and feelings in his own unique way.

An expert in the field of adolescent behavior, Ms. McCoy has authored eleven books on the subject including the best selling “The Teenage Body Book”. Additionally she has written hundreds of articles for major national magazines. Coordinator of the Clinical Ph.D. Program at California School of Professional Psychology and Staff Counselor at the Center for Individual and Family Counseling in North Hollywood, California.

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