Guest Author - Lorel Shea
College Planning For Gifted Students has a lot of great information for parents and students. Author Sandra Berger presents sensible advice on preparing for college applications, investigating careers, selecting a college, and more. She states, “The college planning process is part of a life development process in which there are no right answers. The process is different for every person because the goal is to make a match between your child's strengths and interests and college offerings. The college that is perfect for someone you know may be totally wrong for your child. Let your student make his or her final decisions and own the process.” I find this very refreshing, in a time when many parents seem to be focused on “getting Johnny into Harvard” or some other famous name institution. Harvard does indeed have a lot to offer gifted students, but there are many other schools that would also provide true intellectual peers and a top notch education.
Berger addresses the parents throughout most of the book, but at times speaks directly to the student. Much of the information presented is applicable to any college bound student, and not just those who are gifted. There is a short section on twice exceptional students and another on homeschooled students. The majority of the book, however, is aimed at the bright or moderately to highly gifted student who does not have the complication of radical acceleration or application to college before completion of a high school curriculum. Radical acceleration is mentioned in passing, but there is not a lot of space in the guidebook devoted to students in this unique situation. Parents who are struggling with the question of whether their preteen should matriculate at a local college or wait until she is older in order to get the 'elite college' experience will not find this sort of answer here. Those who adhere to a fairly typical timetable will find this book to be invaluable. The author includes schedules, comparison tables, and other charts to help with planning. Disorganized people like myself will be glad to have all the dates and procedures in one handy place, so as not to miss test registration deadlines and so forth.
Readers will learn about the seven steps of the college planning process, from gathering information to making acceptance decisions. Berger encourages kids to consider all the aspects of college life and not just the academic program of each institution. Location is important, as is availability of special food for dietary restrictions, extracurricular activities, interaction with professors, etc. Common pitfalls to be avoided are also discussed. These include, “There's only one college that's right for me” as well as, “I'm applying to college X because all my friends are/are not going there.” I particularly like Berger's time management charts, which break down tasks and free time activities including sleeping, so that kids can get a feel for where their time really goes, and how to organize their days.
The appendices in the back of the book are not to be overlooked. Appendix A is a list of over 12 early college entrance programs. Appendix B contains web resources such as an online career development manual, college profiles, and a scholarship search site. There are useful hints and links in appendices C through E as well.
It's best to buy this book when your child is in middle school, to take full advantage of the information offered, but it can still be a great asset for those with students in high school.