Today's college admission competition is not your daddy's Buick. What used to pass for great High school GPA's and standardized test scores pales in comparison to what today's high school senior needs to have to have a chance at admission to many state colleges and universities. Notice I said state colleges and universities and not flagship schools or the most selective schools.
The rising number of parents who encourage their children to apply to the state universities in their state to save on tuition and transportation has caused competition to increase. Faced with more competition for seats, colleges have a higher level of GPA and test scores to choose from. So a college that 10 years ago accepted students with a 3.2 gpa, might now only accept students with a 3.7 gpa.
Parents often still think of their state U as accepting the gpa's of a decade ago. So they may have encouraged their children to achieve that benchmark only to find out too late that it is not good enough. Most ninth and tenth graders and their parents I talk to are unaware of the challenge that lies ahead.
The best defense against rising competition for college is to start early preparing children to do their best and to participate in programs that are available to them to increase their skills. When the benchmark for kids is their best as opposed to an artificial achievement ceiling, they are less likely to have regrets later because they have done their best.