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Defining Success for the College Bound Student

Defining success, it’s all relative isn’t it? As parents we partner with our students in hopes of them getting the most out of their high school education. If you are a parent of a school senior you are watching them begin the next step of leaving high school and moving on, so, what is your role in this process? Will we measure their success by their grades they have a received, by the school that has accepted them, or is it their accomplishments outside of the classroom? Or, is it all of these?

As a college counselor I watch students and their parents move through this next phase with many questions and wonder what is next, and how do we define this path? But what I’d like to articulate in this article is the need for all of us to recognize that success for each of our students will vary depending on who they are and what they will choose to become in the future. It will always be about the process, and their commitment to themselves and who they are. This is ultimately their journey.

This time of year can be stressful. Choices abound, which school is the “best fit”, best “bang for the buck”, and how will you and your student define a successful choice? For example, your student may be accepted into two very different schools. The first being large university with international recognition, the other, a smaller private liberal arts college without the same recognition, but with a more regional focus. How do you and your student pick the “best” one? Remember to look beyond who they are now and see they’re potential. Will they learn “best” in a smaller learning environment, or are they okay with being in a large lecture hall? Your job as a parent is to encourage them to see what environment can offer them their greatest level of success.

Remember, college will be their home away from home. You as parents, as well as the colleges are hoping your child will complete their degree program and not dropout or move on to another school. Real success is matching your student to their college from both an academic and social perspective. Our society focuses on achievement as it relates to school, but it is much greater than that. Let’s measure success by more than academic achievement, but in addition, by what they can offer to their college community. In the end isn’t this a more accurate definition of success as it relates to the college experience? Life is about balance, and college offers students the time in their lives to connect, set and achieve their goals, while being a successful member of a larger community.

Steve Michaud, owner of Family Pathways College Counseling, is a practicing independent college counselor in Bozeman, MT. Steve has extensive experience with families from coast to coast helping them navigate post secondary options. Contact Steve: or call 406-570-1178.