The holiday season is such a wonderful season – there are so many little things that come around this time of year that bring me joy. The anticipation is invigorating. As of this morning, I’m adding something new to my list of little joys: the sound of students talking about what’s needed to get into the college of their choice.

As First To The Top legislation is helping change conversations about how to best prepare our students for adulthood across our state, our students’ conversations are changing, as well. Over the past couple of years, students have become acutely aware of what it takes to successfully apply to, be accepted by, enroll in, and ultimately succeed in college. Simply knowing what it takes might seem minor compared to doing what it takes, but those of us in education know this is a precursor to college success.

I can remember when I first started teaching. Students certainly wanted to go to college, but they didn’t know what it would take to get there. Wanting to “go to college,” conjured up an action plan about as clear as that for wanting to “go to Venus.” Now, with the college admissions process substantially demystified–simply by the abundance of news coverage and dinner table conversations about education now coursing through Tennessee–students are invested in their own education and are empowered to pursue it.

On a daily basis, students speak with ease about the ins and outs of the college admissions process. A senior asks if I can give her references for two separate colleges; one of my junior girls is researching CBU’s admissions requirements; and 9th graders fret about how to keep up their “still perfect” GPAs. In my classroom, ACT review questions that used to produce groans are now welcomed and requested.

First To The Top has already changed conversations and attitudes in our state. What’s next?

The anticipation is invigorating!