One of the cornerstones of successful educational counseling is persuading young clients that small changes in their approach to learning can lead to enormous benefits in the long run. A middle schooler who has a well developed outside reading program, for example, has an advantage in the classroom over her peers who do not take the time to maintain such a useful habit. In middle school, though, work loads tend not to be burdensome, so the advantage is small.
Yet when that student reaches high school, outside reading becomes much more of an advantage in the face of increased school-assigned reading and the need for improved reading comprehension. If this student chooses to apply to competitive independent schools or to honors programs in the local high school, the small early reading advantage will be likely to pay additional dividends in the form of better grades in better courses, as well as higher test scores. The higher scores will almost certainly help to yield better college placement. Better college placement will probably lead to a more valuable degree, which, in turn, will be likely to result in stronger job placement.
With stronger job placement, starting salary will probably be higher. If the starting salary is higher than those of others, the reader’s once small advantage now assures that all salary increases in the future, as well as raises and promotions, will guarantee that others will never catch up. In fact, the gap will grow greater every year. Lifetime earnings will grow exponentially, leaving the former middle school reader further ahead of the non-reading competition than she could ever have imagined.
There are two lessons here. The first is that small improvements can certainly lead to enormous gains – advantages that will continue to multiply throughout one’s life. The second lesson, though, could be just as important, and it is this: The earlier a student chooses to make even small, positive improvements in scholastic or any other kind of performance, the greater the result.
Carter P. Reese
Director, Informed Educational Solutions