Teacher Columnist: 3 Things I Wish Parents Knew About College Admissions

By Daniel Lieu

Hi! I’m Daniel, a high school science and Project Lead the Way teacher in Los Angeles, CA.  As a kid, I knew that I wanted to be a profession related to science and involved people.  Naturally, the intersection of the two led me towards medicine, however in the midst of earning my Bachelor of Science in Biology from UC Irvine, I realized that there were so many other career paths where the two would intersect.

I ended up enrolling in CalTeach, a combined Bachelors and teaching credential program, that allowed me to earn the qualifications needed to begin teaching.  It was intended to be a pathway that would allow me to have a job during the gap year for medical school as I studied for the MCAT. However, as I started teaching, I realized that this wasn’t just a gap year, but a profession that was rich in value and purpose.  The students that I work with ultimately changed the trajectory of my life, and I’m extremely thankful that they did.  As a teacher, I hope that they leave my class with the skills, knowledge, and tools to be successful scientists, musicians, physicians, artists, and future professionals that I know they can be.

Students don’t often reflect on the fact that their skills, experiences, knowledge, and tools that they’re learning in high school are to prepare them to be successful professionals until they’re getting ready to choose a college.  The application process marks the end of their high school education and the beginning of their college journey.  It’s a huge transition for the students and if we’re looking at the whole picture here, it’s an even bigger transition for parents and guardians.  It’s not just a shift in their educational journey, but also a sigh of relief that after 18 years, their child is moving on.  (Don’t worry, they’ll probably be back…).  For a parent, this phase is also met with a lot of anxiety, uncertainty, and stress.

My experience on the student side and the teacher side gives me a unique perspective.

Here are the 3 things I wish parents knew about college admissions:

1. A high GPA does not guarantee admissions into a college or university.

It is impossible to predict whether your child will be accepted into a college.  There are definitely things that you can do to put your child into the best trajectory to be accepted into a specific college, but it does not guarantee admissions.  Beyond GPA are test scores, extracurricular activities, supplemental essays, teacher recommendations, unique socioeconomic or emotional hardships, and more that are all factors in being accepted to a college.  The best thing that you can do for your child is support them in what they need to succeed and ensure that grades are not the only thing that are being focused on.  Encourage them to be well-rounded by providing them the opportunities to explore their interests and capitalize on those.

2. A community college is an excellent choice for many students.

I find that many parents pressure their child into only aiming for 4-year colleges, however for some students, 4-year colleges are not the best fit.  A community college is typically two years and then involves a transfer to a university for the remaining two years. 

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Daniel Lieu
Daniel is a high school science and Project Lead the Way teacher in Los Angeles, CA. He earned his BS in Biology from UCI, MS in Educational technology from California State University, Fullerton, and is currently working on his PhD in Education. Outside of teaching, he loves hiking, fishing, and exploring new food places with his fiancée.