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I have a confession to make. I am a dentophobe. I had a couple of bad experiences with fillings as a child and have dreaded dental check-ups ever since. Consequently, I haven’t always reported for them at the recommended six month intervals. Some of my previous dentists have scolded me or threatened dire consequences for my negligence – ranging from receding gums to rotting teeth. Regrettably, these tactics only had the effect of prolonging the intervals between dental visits even further.

My current dentist is a wiser man. He highly recommends that I floss after every meal and come in for professional cleaning every six months, but knows that I probably won’t and doesn’t judge me. I rely on him to advise me thoroughly about what I should be doing, but to refrain from making doomsday prophecies unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Perhaps some of you have had bad experiences with school, or your teenager is not cut out to be a scholar, but still wants a college degree. I promise to treat you as gently as my dentist has treated me. So I’ll give you a lot of advice on how to help your son or daughter prepare for college, include a few warnings that I think you really need to hear, and try to maintain an upbeat, non-judgmental tone. Raising a teenager these days is hard, and I trust that you’re doing your best.

Some of you, on the other hand, are academic superachievers with kids who are chips off the old block. I’ve tried to meet your needs as well, addressing the unique challenges faced by outstanding students who are aspiring to America’s top colleges. In particular, be sure to read the article in this section on Ultracompetitive Colleges after you’ve read the introductory piece on What Colleges Are Looking For.
There’s one other thing I’d like you to keep in mind as you read this guide. In my view, too much college planning advice focuses narrowly on preparing high school students to gain admission to college. At least as important, and far more challenging, is preparing to succeed in college and graduate in a timely fashion, so be sure to read Academic Strategies to Cut College Costs as well.

So much for the prelude.

Next article:  The Parent Role


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