Sound Off: Beyond WASL, life is great

Yes, for high school students there is life after the WASL, and it can be a pretty good one. The first week of April signals the day of decision for high school seniors applying to the nation’s most selective colleges. Years of striving for good grades, high test scores, and perfect personal essays will culminate in receiving the big envelope (acceptance) or the small envelope (rejection).

In the past 10 years or so, I have been privileged to serve as an admissions volunteer for Stanford University, one of these selective colleges. I have had a first hand opportunity to meet with dozens of successful high school students headed to Yale, Dartmouth, Williams, as well as Stanford. To these post-WASL students, years of educational excitement and opportunity lie ahead of them. Life after taking all those nerve-racking tests has paid off.

But there is life before the WASL, as well. In my discussions with these successful students I have tried to understand what contributed to their success, because parents in my psychology practice will ask me those kind of questions. Here are three experiences these successful students all had in common:

First, they all could read and write very well. These students had parents who read to them each night from an early age and encouraged them to read to their parents. They built a strong vocabulary and developed the ability to fully understand the story.

Second, these students displayed confidence. They took risks by succeeding in their schools’ most rigorous courses. At times they even supplemented their high school curriculum with summer college courses. Here too they tended to have the continuing support of a parent who would go out of his or her way to secure these opportunities.

Third, they excelled in some activity which developed their personal qualities. They showed a passion for an activity which characterized them as unique to admissions officers. Examples have included Irish dancing, computer programming, published poetry, a cappella choir, projects like Habitat for Humanity, and various sporting achievements. Once again, these students had parents who were willing to extend themselves to do the driving, coordination, rehearsals, and provide other kinds of support. Parents were there to cheer their students’ moments of triumph and to support them in moments of defeat.

Yes, WASL testing is hard, but if it can be seen in the context of continuing achievement, it can contribute to a wonderful future.

Dave Celio, Ph.D., is a psychologist practicing in Oak Harbor.

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