Managing Brilliance: Prepping a Gifted Child for College Admissions

Written by Jason Lum, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***)

When reading what this author has to offer, plese remember that MANY of these things can be incorporated/accomplished right here in our Clonlara programs.  Our ability to individualize each student’s program allows us to support gifted learner’s needs and create a program that embraces their differences and their specialized needs.  We can do this inside the classroom, grant credit for ‘credit worthy work’ outside the classroom and summer programs, and even incorporate the work your student would do with a college consultant for a credit earning opportunity.  Please read on……..

As someone who has worked with gifted children for over 12 years, I can say without reservation that parenting a gifted child is a challenge in the best possible way. You have a young man or young woman bursting with intelligence and creativity, and the challenge now becomes how to harness that energy into a way that gets that talented child into a top college.

One thing to keep in mind is that unlike 10 years ago, a gifted child with exceptionally strong grades and standardized test scores is no longer a shoo-in for places like Stanford, Harvard, and Yale. Stanford and Harvard Universities, for example, routinely accept less than 5% of all applicants. Therefore, being a gifted kid will almost certainly get that child into 98% of the colleges in the United States, but in my experience those are the kind of students that are desperately trying to get into the top 2% of colleges and universities. That means Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and others.

Here are some steps that parents and students can take to help increase their chances of getting into a top-notch college.

Lesson One: accept the fast track. From a very early age your child is likely to be separated from lesser-achieving students. Some parents see this as a problem because they feel as though their child is being segregated from the general student population. My feeling is whether or not a parent likes it, it is a fact of life. Your student is going to be surrounded by people who are nearly as intelligent as they are, and soon your child will be taking almost all AP classes or IB courses. In fact, by the time they are juniors or seniors they may be totally off-campus taking courses at the local college through PSEO. From the moment you realize your child is a gifted student, they will no longer be just an average person at the high school. In fact, if your child were in classes with average students, both your child and his or her classmates would suffer (your kid will be bored by the slow progression, and the other kids won’t have a chance to compete with your gifted child).

Lesson Two: create a dream team. Most of the high-caliber students I work with have literally created a team of professionals that help them in all areas from academic development to college preparation. They will invariably take Kumon classes, do Suzuki music instruction, will have personal coaches in sports, music, or the arts, and of course the family will hire an independent education consultant like myself to work with them as early as grade 7 to help prepare their course selections, summer planning, and extracurricular activities.

This is obviously not cheap, however the parents I work with that invest in these “dream teams” see it as an investment in their children’s future. As a parent, I agree with this approach. The fact of the matter is that most high schools are woefully underequipped to work with gifted children, and have neither the resources nor the money to invest in extremely intelligent kids regarding getting into top-notch colleges.

Lesson Three: pinpoint opportunities. There are some incredibly important markers that high-achieving students should be looking at very early on. The Intel Science Competition is very important, as is the National Merit Scholarship Program. The Coca-Cola Scholarship Program is also a marker of high distinction, as well as things that are common but still are signals to college committees that the student has achieved something. The National Honor Society, for example, is an organization that in many high schools is a formality and is given to students who achieve a certain GPA. However, in my years of experience there are some high schools that treat membership in NHS as a highly political game, so it’s important for parents to understand how that game operates to ensure that the gifted child does what is necessary to make a positive impact upon people who have the ability to make decisions for admission to NHS.

Finally, Lesson Four: summers are critical. You can forget about summers being wasted with your son or daughter doing nothing except reading comics and playing video games. The students I’m working with currently are not only spending their summers strategically but are also doing internships, traveling to interesting countries, or doing incredible volunteer work, AND they’re also splitting their summers. It’s not uncommon for my students to spend 2 to 4 weeks at an intensive summer program at a place like Northwestern or Harvard, and to come back to their hometown and do intensive volunteer work or perhaps intern at a local hospital. Summers should be seen as an opportunity to fill in the blanks, and to address any weak points in your application. These also terrific ways to expose gifted students to the many opportunities of thriving in a college setting.

If you’re the parent of a gifted student, you are a truly lucky individual. You have a student who has the intellectual firepower to make an incredible difference in the world around us. By just having a short and long-term strategy, you can maximize your son or daughter’s opportunities to get your child into one of this nation’s top universities, and to launch a career that is worthy of your child’s intelligence.

About The AuthorJason Lum is the founder and college consultant at ScholarEdge.  Jason has won over $250,000 scholarships and graduated debt free.  Jason has helped students gain admission to some of the top universities in the country including Harvard, Yale and Stanford.  Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.


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