The transition from high school to college has become a rite of passage laden with expectations – chief among them is the assumption that admission to a prestigious college is the golden ticket to future success. However, Ana Homayoun, an academic advisor and early career development expert, challenges the belief that taking all AP classes, starting on the varsity team and being first string in orchestra guarantees the skills a student needs to thrive in college and beyond. “We all play a role in supporting students beyond grades, test scores and college admission,” she said. “I started to think about what are the key skills that are not just crucial for our livelihood but also for social and economic mobility.” In her book Erasing the Finish Line: The New Blueprint for Success Beyond Grades and College Admission, Homayoun draws from over two decades of working with students to show how the narrow focus on competitive college admissions has inadvertently sidelined necessary skills like organization, planning, prioritization and non-transactional relationship building. These assets, she added, are essential for success not only in college but also in career paths and personal relationships.
While there have always been students who were not ready for college, Homayoun noted that the pandemic has made this more common. “Particularly after the last few years, I will say that students’ skill sets aren’t as developed as they were in the past,” she said. Today’s students may struggle with managing their time effectively, building meaningful connections, and adapting to the challenges of a dynamic post-high school environment. Homayoun helps families establish a new approach to academic success and overall well-being that will sustain children in their journeys after K-12 education. She advises moving away from the relentless pursuit of accolades and places a renewed emphasis on social well-being and emotional development.
Given that there’s no one-size-fits-all path to success for any student, parents can support their child in building strong habits and refining skills that have a lasting impact on long-term success. According to Homayoun, paying attention to kids’ energy levels, honing extracurricular commitments, and improving conversation skills yields benefits that extend far beyond gaining acceptance into college.
Pay attention to energy levels
It’s common for parents to get caught up in a culture of comparison and wonder if their child is involved in enough activities for the college admissions process, especially during the transition from middle to high school, Homayoun pointed out. She urges parents to shift their perspective from time management, often driven by an unending to-do list, to energy management. Being attuned to a child’s energy levels empowers parents to understand their behavior patterns and support them in recharging when necessary. Homayoun said it can be as simple as asking three key questions: “What energizes you? What drains you? And how do you recharge?”
Parents can monitor their child’s energy levels by assessing the activities they participate in and ensuring there is a healthy balance between activity and rest. For instance, a child might require more transition time when moving between activities or need solo time during the weekend to recover from a demanding week. A child’s energy profile may evolve over time. Circumstances such as an injury, breakup, or mental health concerns can also have an impact on a child’s energy profile, whether temporarily or more permanently. Homayoun suggested that parents stay flexible and shift priorities accordingly.