By Jodi Foxx, Charlotte Christian Director of College Counseling
One of our goals at Charlotte Christian is to graduate students who find their identity in Christ and are prepared academically, spiritually, physically and emotionally for success in college. This is accomplished in many ways, both inside and outside the classroom, and involves developing a variety of skills in our students.
In my 20 years at Charlotte Christian, I have observed one particular factor that seems to be a game-changer for many students. Those who embrace this are often more prepared for the adjustment to college life than those who don’t, although that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. What factor is this?
The willingness to try new things.
This looks different for each student, of course. But the students who are willing to try something new – perhaps participate in the school musical or go out for a sport they’ve never tried before or join the robotics team or take on a summer job or join a Bible study at church or shadow someone who works in a career of interest or do a summer program at a college – these are the students who develop skills that will serve them well throughout their adjustment to college and beyond.
When a student tries something new, the following things happen:
– the student develops the ability to take on a challenge and overcome fear
– the student grows in self-confidence
– the student learns more about their unique design and sometimes discovers new talents
– the student meets new people and expands their friend group, learning to relate to a variety of people and personalities
Knowing that students benefit so much from trying new things, we’ve developed our program to require this in a few key ways. Our graduation requirements include fine arts, speech and P.E. classes that sometimes stretch our students to try something new. J-Term offers a host of ways in which students can try new things. And our senior trip, taken as they are on the cusp of leaving for college, introduces many to adventures they’ve never done before like skiing in the Rocky Mountains, snowmobiling or simply preparing dinner in your condo for friends. We see students work through their nerves about whatever new thing is before them, offer instruction and encouragement as needed, and sit back to watch them learn and grow.
How is the student in your life doing with trying new things? Some naturally love the adventure of trying something new but others need a nudge…or a strong push…or a requirement.
If your student is one who relishes the opportunity to try new things, be intentional about helping them process the lessons learned from those experiences. Help them connect the dots of what they’ve learned about themselves and reflect back to them how they’ve grown as a result.
If your student is one who needs that nudge, push or requirement, have a conversation to brainstorm what new things might be a good next step. A word of advice – while you may require your child to take on something new, this will yield more benefits if you provide options and allow your child to choose. Having buy-in from your student will always make the experience more beneficial.
Of course, the reason why people sometimes resist trying new things is that it might result in a failure. But honestly, there’s lots of benefit in that too. We all experience failures at each stage of our lives and knowing how to rebound from a failure is a key skill that everyone needs to have. Reflect back on your own adolescence – if you’re anything like me, you’ll recall that some of the best lessons you learned came on the heels of a swing-and-a-miss.
“The hallmark of successful people is that they are always stretching themselves to learn new things.” Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
There are several factors that make a student ready for the adjustment to college, not the least of which is their academic preparation, but the soft skills gained from trying new things are also at the top of the list. Because trying new things really is a game-changer.
About the author
Jodi Foxx has been a school counselor at Charlotte Christian since 1999. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from SUNY Geneseo and a master’s degree in counselor education from SUNY Brockport. She is married to Todd and has two adult stepchildren; in her free time, she enjoys hiking and traveling to our country’s national parks. She enjoys working at Charlotte Christian because she has the opportunity to point students to how God works in their lives through the college application process. Jodi writes a monthly blog entitled Countdown to College designed to help upper school families stay focused on approaching each step of the college selection process with a God-centered perspective. Click here to read her previous posts.