Conversations about college admissions are almost always focused on one thing: getting into college. And while that is a vital component of the process, our team here at Signet sees college admissions as part of something much bigger: setting students up for success in college, career, and life.
We take a holistic approach to helping students find meaning, success, and joy—however they define those ideals. Because the fact is that each individual’s interpretation is unique, and so too is the path they take to seeking fulfillment in their lives.
Unfortunately, the modern educational system tends to stifle that process. Students are put on a conveyor belt: K12→college→career→family. But they aren’t encouraged to think critically about why they are moving from one stage to the next and how to navigate each progression.
The Jigsaw Puzzle Metaphor
When explaining to parents how school doesn’t teach students to reflect on what’s meaningful to them, we like to use a jigsaw puzzle metaphor.
Imagine your child has never seen a jigsaw puzzle. School gives them handfuls of puzzle pieces but no box and no picture to create. The students don’t know what to do with those pieces. More importantly, they don’t even realize they can create a picture with all those pieces.
Here’s the thing: this puzzle is their life. They have to imagine the picture for themselves and then put the pieces together, which is no easy task.
In an earnest attempt to help, parents may step in to force the pieces together and create the puzzle for their child. But this “solution” does more harm than good, robbing children of opportunities to think for themselves, tap into their creativity, and grow into thriving young adults. In the worst-case scenario, a child ends up stuck trying to be someone they’re not.
At Signet, we encourage parents not to force it. In fact, our signature Pathfinder approach involves walking alongside students as they put together the puzzle pieces of their lives.
Our Secret Sauce: The Pathfinder Approach
For years, Signet has guided students through academic challenges and journeys with an eye toward college admissions. Recently, we thought, “What if we bring all our resources together and create a solution greater than the sum of its parts?” Enter. . . Pathfinder.
Here’s an overview of what Pathfinder entails:
- Integrated test planning and preparation
- Social and emotional guidance
- Personal vision and goal mentorship
- Long-term academic planning
- Fully coordinated academic support
- Life coaching
- Individualized study skill coaching
- College application completion
We’re proud to be a one-stop solution for academic support. But we certainly don’t want to put students on a conveyor belt, mindlessly taking one step after another. So our approach has two fundamental guiding principles:
1. We situate students as the leaders of the process—and their own lives
Putting students in the driver’s seat gives them a feeling of empowerment and control that they may not experience in other parts of their lives.
Our academic coaches help students develop their independence by affording them agency, teaching them how to reflect, and creating a safe space to learn about themselves while guiding them gently toward key milestones along the college admission path.
The most successful Pathfinder students are those who can set their own goals, understand the steps to get there, and adapt to challenges and failures.
2. We teach reflection as a skill
Reflection is a muscle, and mastering it takes practice. Students have the confidence to lead in the Pathfinder program because we help them build the skills to reflect. This ability enables them to begin living actively and deliberately.
We have found that it’s important to lay the foundation for reflection early in a student’s life (i.e., freshman and sophomore years) so that there’s a chance to practice while the stakes are still relatively low. By the time junior and senior years come around and college admissions are upon them, students are equipped to handle the higher-stakes environment.
More on the Pathfinder Approach
Now that you understand the inspiration behind Pathfinder and some of the basics of our approach, we invite you to learn more about it.
Check out this Signet webinar, where we review the three phases of the college process and how students can use their vision and values as a guide.
If you’d like to discuss how Pathfinder can help your child, connect with us to start a conversation.