Too often students in high school get caught up in the grade and the test game. Most students I talk to are super worried about getting into the college they want (or their parents want) and think raising grades are the only way to get in. Grades are important, and to some degree, so is the SAT or ACT. There is more to the picture though. Do these 3 things while in high school. They should improve your chances not only to get into a college, but possibly give you a nudge earlier in a great career.
1. Get a Mentor
In high school, there are teachers. Those teachers can become mentors if you reach out to them! Ask your favorite teacher advice on items outside of class. Ask things like how they would conduct a job search or what college they went to. Learn about them and ask for help in guiding your learning journey.
The school I work at is lucky to have the INCubatoredu program where student groups create a business. That group is assigned a mentor. Some of the mentors are leaders in the community. We have a VP of a bank, we have entrepreneurs, we even have a CEO of a company and some HR directors. This is a perfect opportunity to connect with a mentor.
Guest speakers can be mentors as well. Ask for business cards when they come into the room. Follow up with them with an email talking about what you learned from them. Follow up with another question about your learning journey. I have seen a few students in my career work with a guest speaker turning it into a mentor / mentee relationship. One student even started a business with his mentor in his post-college days.
I myself am a teacher mentored so many students. I love connecting them to others in fields they may be interested in. There is so much out there for our youth to learn and experience with mentors. So many doors can be opened with one. Every high school student should get a mentor early in their four year tenure.
2. Document Your Learning Journey
With all the technology out there today, it is essential that high school students document their learning journeys. How do you document? It’s pretty easy. You have a powerful piece of technology in your hand called a cell phone. You can start a podcast, create a video, set up a free website that shows something you are interested in and an explanation of how you did it. I like to use my son’s video of how he learned how to 3D print in middle school as an example for high school students. Watch that video here. I shot that video on an iPhone 5 , edited on iMovie and posted it on my YouTube channel. You can blog your experiences. As a high school student, you are already “showing off” on Instagram, Twitch, SnapChat, and Tik Tok. It’s just the wrong stuff. You are socially interacting. Guess what... you can create a professional account on any of these platforms to create a place to show your learning journey.
Documenting your journey on something you are interested in will be helpful beyond high school in many ways. I personally would have loved to revisit my process in high school. As a teacher, it would have helped me better my craft understanding my own thought processes I could have shared with my current students. It will also show colleges and universities that you can actually prove out your learning. Showing your journey will be an asset for possible employment opportunities as well!
3. Get a Job - A real one
I have a current student that just picked up a job at the local McDonald's. He looked at me sheepishly, almost embarrassed, when he told me. I celebrated this to his surprise. Young people somehow have this negative look at fast food jobs. They couldn’t be more wrong. A fast food job has so any benefits to someone who knows what to look for in them. Getting any real job will give a young person an inside look on that industry. Take McDonald's for example. What better way to give yourself a deep look into the fast food industry… the $570 BILLION fast food industry that is. As a worker, you can observe the functions of everyone on the team. You can work with managers to learn the numbers game behind their products. You can understand the logistics and transportation of food coming into the store. You can find out high and low times of customer purchases. Just observe and learn while working! Yes..you can get paid to learn!
I had a job as a car porter at my local small town auto dealership in Indiana while in high school. I learned the entire auto sales industry from trade ins to the service shop. I talked to the sales people, managers, technicians and the receptionist to learn as much as I could about the industry. Sure, I was making minimum wage being treated somewhat as a “go get anything” boy but I made a point to learn from them so I could benefit from the experience. Sure they were paying me small amounts, and I was learning while getting paid.
I also understood what avenue of work I may or may not like before I stepped into college. I had some sort of idea that I wanted to do business because I got a job. One of my first jobs out of college was in sales. I sold advertising to ... you guessed it... car dealerships! I got the job not really because of my college degree. I got the job because my experience and knowledge of working at an auto dealership. Yes… that high school minimum wage job opened doors for me. They can for you as well.
The biggest blocker for high school students is that they don’t want to stand out around their peers. Many students have let me know that they feel silly being a “go getter” in front of their friends. I will tell you that there is nothing more ignorant than that statement. Students who go out of their way and become a little uncomfortable and show their successes usually become fulfilled in life because they don’t care about the haters. They grow their confidence and take more calculated risks earlier in life and ultimately learn more.
Let’s face it, students need something outside of grades and test scores to make them marketable to colleges and universities and business in general. Students with high GPAs and SAT scores are becoming a dime a dozen. If you have experiences and a portfolio showing their skills, it will show people that the you took initiative. It will show you didn’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do. You didn’t wait for someone to open the door for them. You opened it for yourself.
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