Guest Post: Positive Emotions

Guest post by Dr. Delvina Miremadi-Baldino

Positivity is something we could all use more of these days. With the daily exposure to stress, disease, violence, conflict, and divide we often find ourselves battling against negativity trying to prevent it from taking hold of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Countless times over the last few months I have found myself in inner turmoil over what I have seen in the media and on social media, reminding myself to shut if off, disconnect and regroup.  But here’s the thing, limiting the negative is only half the battle. Yes, it is important to know our own boundaries and know when the negativity is too much. But beyond that, we must also go one step further and intentionally insert more positivity to help balance out our experience.

According to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, experiencing positive emotions (i.e. awe, interest, gratitude, amusement, etc.) broadens our minds and builds our resourcefulness enabling us to become more resilient in the face of adversity. Based on years of research, Dr. Fredrikson has found that if we want more positivity in our lives we must understand and act on our 3:1 positivity ratio. In fact, to maximize our potential and truly flourish in this life we don’t need to eliminate negative emotions. Instead, we need to experience positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative emotions to help balance out our experiences. Pretty cool, right?

Check out your positivity ratio.

Do you need to boost your positive emotion ratio?  Try this:

1.Keep track of your current positive ratio and record it for a week.  Each day, reflect on the events of that day and how it might have affected your ratio.

2.Make a list of positive emotions that are meaningful to you (i.e. inspiration, pride, interest, joy…).

3. Now, for each positive emotion, write down ways in which you have experienced this emotion. Be as detailed as possible.

4. It’s time for action!  Pick one positive emotion and intentionally incorporate ways to elicit that emotion for a week. What have you done in the past to create this emotion? What are some other things you can do to make you feel this way? Each week, pick a new emotion and do the same.


Website: Positivity Ratio.Discover the power of the 3-to-1 Ratio with Dr. Barbara Fredrickson

Website: Action for Happiness. Boost Your Positivity Ratio

Book: Positivity. Discover the Groundbreaking Science to Release Your Inner Optimist and Thrive

Please visit my website Realize Your Resilience, or connect with me here to set up a free call to discuss your needs and how I might best support you and your family. 

Reflections on taking a gap year

New York Times readers who’ve taken a year off from their education, what many now call a gap year, were asked what they learned and what tips they have for those who are considering the same. Some of the responses included in this rEducation Life article were edited for length and clarity, and I’m posting some below. I do not think a gap year is right for everyone, but students who it is right for know how to conceptualize the time, outline their goals for it, plan it (for the most part) themselves, and have indicated a way to measure their success. Gap years are not years off. In fact, they are very much the opposite. Here’s what some gap-year-takers had to say about it:

By taking a gap year, you are making the brave decision to slow down. I deferred my admission to Claremont McKenna College for a year. I made a few plans, but ultimately left my gap year full of gaps. I worked as a salesperson. I took a class at a community college. I road-tripped with my best friend. The one thing I scheduled was a three-month-long trip to the South Pacific, a gift from my parents that I combined with some of the money I made in the fall.

For my gap year I lived with my parents and siblings. I worked a variety of jobs: for a land surveyor, nights at a convenience store and as an inventory checker. I hated them all, but they got me out of the house and put some money in my pocket. I felt lost. My friends were gone and I didn’t fit in with my family dynamic. The highlights of my months were my military service weekends. I made close connections with my fellow soldiers and looked forward to the challenges and camaraderie of our training time. Recognize that the gap year is a time of transition. When you feel alone and like your life is stuck while your friends are away on their own adventures, remember you are experiencing a challenge few accept. You will learn more about yourself during your gap year than most of your friends will learn during their first year of college. In addition, you’ll develop skills that will serve you in life: resilience, self-reliance, courage and patience. Your gap year will be the furnace that will temper your steely resolve to achieve when you arrive at college.

I decided a gap year would be the best choice for me because I felt exhausted after going through high school. Even though I come from a low-income family, there are programs like Global Citizen Year that provide scholarships for students of all backgrounds. (I paid $5,000 through outside scholarships and my own fund-raising.) Though there are many struggles at times with limited resources to take care of mental and physical health, the experience over all has been very meaningful. I am learning three languages here: French, Pulaar and Malinke. I even decided on what I want to study in college: linguistics. For work, I teach English at the local high school two days a week, and on the other days I work at my host family’s community garden. Since my host father works for the Peace Corps and Trees for the Future, I get to learn a lot about sustainability and foreign aid. Mostly, the trip is worthwhile because I got to meet my host family, who have guided me through Senegalese life as a Vietnamese kid who doesn’t know a lot about what he’s doing.

My experience with a gap year was not without its challenges. I went to northern Thailand, taught in a rural school and did community work with a monastery. The school, community and people were amazing. It was the other students in the gap year program that made it especially challenging. The majority of the people I was with picked Thailand so they could party. My weekends became party central, which was not what I signed up for. But all in all, I learned much more than I would in first-year university, about myself, rural education, public health and other cultures. I was forced out of my comfort zone on multiple occasions, and it served me well in the long run. I recommend doing your research. I fell for the company with the great promotional videos and website, and I paid for that, and my experience wasn’t as great, as far as gap years go.

If you are considering a gap year, we can help walk you through planning considerations. Feel free to reach out to us!

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Class of 2021 Waitlist Admit Rates & Notification Dates

More on the waitlist, this time admit rates and notification dates, from the best college admissions data source out there, College Kickstart. The landscape doesn’t look that much different than last year. How the waitlist plays out always depends a lot on yield, so how many students a school said yes to actually put down a deposit and say they are going to show up in the fall. Some schools do a much better job of this than others. These schools have a high yield, and will not go very deep if onto the waitlist at all. The schools that have not done a good job at predicting yield will head to the waitlist to fill seats as needed. Unfortunately, students can hang out on the waitlist well into the summer, which drags out a process that for most should be finished on or around May 1. For all the waitlisted students out there, we feel your pain, but there are some things you can do to keep yourself busy. Check out our post on what to do if you are waitlisted.

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Key Innovations for 2017-2018 Common Application

There are some changes on the horizon for the Common App! Many of the changes for next year’s application stem from feedback the CA received from admissions offices, high schools, and CBO counselors.

This release was a bit light on information regarding how the changes will be rolled out, for example, what is a limited release? Word on the street is some colleges will be using the courses and grades feature on a trial basis, but those schools are unknown at this time. I am very curious what schools will integrate these changes or integrate them on a trial basis, when some of the changes will take place, etc. Seems like it could be confusing for students, parents, counselors, and others who helps students with their apps. I will be updating this post and re-posting once more information is released, quite possbily in May and June.

Google Drive Integration: Students will now be able to easily access and upload documents, resumes, and school assignments while completing the Common App, and the college-specific sections of the application. We know that many school districts have adopted Google Docs and Google Drive to enable their students and teachers to create, collaborate, and access shared documents from any internet connected device. We also recognize that some students do not always have personal computers at home but use Google Drive on school or library computers to store their documents. We want to meet students where they are. By using the systems that they are already using, we are making the process more accessible for students.

CBO, Advising, and Recommender Enhancements: Students receiving support from advising and community-based organizations will be able to work with those counselors just as they work with their school-based counselors and teachers within the application. These individuals will then be able to manage their caseloads and view student progress within the Common App system. Also, any student who wishes to do so will be able to share a view of their in-progress application with their school counselor, CBO counselor, or other advisors.

Courses & Grades: Many students are required to submit self-reported high school academic records when applying to some colleges and universities. With Courses & Grades, students will be able to fill out their self-reported transcript information as part of their Common Application. By integrating the Courses & Grades section into the Common App, those students who are already sending this information will be able to complete and submit it with their Common App, making the process of self-reporting transcripts more standardized and streamlined for students, counselors, and colleges.

Courses & Grades was developed from the feedback of member institutions, high school students, and counselors. The Common Application hosted a series of student and counselor focus groups with beta testing to determine how to make the self-reported transcript process accessible and efficient. Courses & Grades will launch in limited release on August 1, 2017.

Sorry for the blurry pic, but this is the one that was provided on the CA site:

Spanish Language Resources: Key information for using the Common App will be translated so that students, parents and other family members who speak Spanish as their first language can better understand the college admission process, including applying for financial aid and receiving virtual mentoring. This new tool will also benefit counselors who will be working with these families and will need Common App materials in Spanish.

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Ivy League Admit Rates Are Insane. Look Elsewhere

Early applications increase across Ivy League

Class of 2021 Shattering Ivy League admissions records….

Headlines like these are frequent as of late following what have been increasingly low admit rates the past few years.

This year was tough, and sadly, I do not see the admit rates for the top 10-15, even 20 or so colleges and universities in the US getting any higher. The Common App has made it too easy to apply to 20 schools (I love you Common App, but…it’s true), and too many students make misinformed decisions when developing their application strategy (this is where I come in and try to help). There are lots of other problems with the system, too; it is definitely broken.

I do not have a catch-all solution. Less legacy and other preferential admissions policies, and more transparency by colleges and universities could be a start, but this seems unlikely short-term. One thing I do feel strongly about that I think students and parents have control over is their laser focus on the Ivy League and other uber selective schools (schools with admit rates under 20%). It is time to start looking at the many other colleges and universities that offer similar experiences. It is time to get over whatever it is that makes these select few schools so appealing (brand, prestige, etc.) and see them for what they really are: schools that are like many others.

This process ends up being demoralizing for many students—but it doesn’t have to be.

Students and families can start by being realistic about this process early on. Look at the admit rates and internalize what these numbers mean. Be honest about your odds of admission to these schools if they are on your initial list. Even with perfect grades and a tight narrative, any school with an admit rate under 20% is very hard to get into. Any school with an admit rate under 10% is nearly impossible to get into.

Think deeply about why you want to go to college and what you want from your college experience. Is what you want only available at the top 10, 20, or even 50 schools in the country according to US News? I highly doubt it. If you are stuck on brand, image, and prestige, call yourself out and move on! It matters far more what you do in college and the type of person you become than where you go.


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Why High School Students Should Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is getting pretty buzzy lately, and I have to admit, I like it. Since I’ve been practicing it for many years, I’ve enjoyed reading more about it everywhere from psychology journals to the trendy wellness and lifestyle blogs I follow. If I can do it, I am certain anyone can, and it seems that everyone is.

What’s mindfulness? There are lots of variations of the definition, but I’ll use this one from UC Berkeley’s Great Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life website:

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.

What I think is so great about mindfulness is that it can literally change your brain. Research has found that it increases the density of gray matter in the brain that is linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy. Give this a listen:

Decreased stressed.

Less likely to respond to one’s own negative thinking.

Reduces risk of depression and anxiety.

Mindfulness is important because students today often feel all of these emotions and more—but especially stress, negative thinking, anxiety and sometimes even depression—during the college search and application process. It’s the ability to regulate these emotions, just to name one important benefit, which mindfulness supports. Mindfulness helps students not feel overwhelmed by difficult emotions and allows them to create space between emotions and responses so they can think first and then react. Over time students become better listeners, feel more present and less distracted.

Research shows that being less distracted increases happiness. Happiness is always a goal I have for my students.

Students can’t change everything that happens to them—from losing the big game to not doing well on an important test, and especially where they end up getting admitted or not getting admitted for college—but they can change the way they experience these things. Contact us to talk about how mindfulness can help!

Colleges That Change Lives Info Sessions & College Fairs

The CTCL college fair announcement was recently posted online (see below). Please visit their site for more information. I strongly suggest checking out this event if it comes to a city near you, and learning about the amazing institutions that are the CTCL colleges! You may not know them all by name, but you should!

Since 1998, CTCL has offered a national series of information sessions and college fairs for students, parents, and college counselors. Each session begins with a 30-minute presentation on the college search process, followed by a college fair that lasts for approximately 1.5 hours.

During the college fair, students and families are invited to collect information from and speak directly with admission representatives from the colleges and universities that inspired the book Colleges That Change Lives.

All CTCL events are free to the public, and pre-registration is not required.

The 2017 national tour includes 24 events between May and August.

Time to Prep for AP Exams

I am not a huge fan of AP exams or any standardized exams for that matter, but until colleges stop using them as part of the admissions process, it seems they are here to stay. What I am a huge fan of is free online learning.

For many years, I’ve been using (and plugging on this blog and social) Khan Academy and edX. I think they are both awesome places for high school students to explore possible majors of interest. They also have free modules for test prep, including AP tests. Check out Khan Academy’s offerings, and the specially designed courses to help students prepare for Advanced Placement (AP®) Exams from edX. This is not a paid advertisement (although I plug them both a lot); I just really like the quality of the material they put out and that it is free.

The College Board also offers some free prep materials that you can access on their website.

If you are looking for 1:1 tutoring we can help—please contact us to discuss options.


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Why You Should Consider Working with a College Counselor

According to the Princeton Review, a college counselor should be a strategy consultant, coach, and cheerleader all rolled into one. We couldn’t agree more! Here are a few of their thoughts on why you need a college counselor and how your counselor fits into your overall application timeline.

They help keep stress levels down

Applications are stressful. 73% of respondents to the 2015 College Hopes & Worries survey gauged their stress levels as “high” or “very high.”  Knowing that there are supportive experts in your corner can make a big difference.

They help you determine what you’re looking for in a college and find colleges that meet your needs

Talking with a college counselor about your dreams and goals can help you figure out what you really want out of college. Does your best-fit college run a popular co-op program? Are you looking for a politically active student body? Conversations with your counselor about what’s important to you in terms of academics, campus culture, and financial aid will help guide your overall college search.

There are hundreds of colleges out there, and the right school for your unique personality and goals may be a top-tier school or it might be a school you haven’t heard of (yet!). College counselors are pros at helping you research schools and then narrowing your list to the colleges you should focus on. Maybe college is not the next best step for you and a gap year is what you are looking for? They can help with figuring out that, too.

They will help you stand out from the crowd and tell your story

In a competitive applicant pool, a stellar college application is about more than just grades and SAT/ACT scores. Your college counselor will help you tell your story. Counselors also know how to make good use of supplementary materials and appropriately demonstrate interest.

Contact us to learn more about our college counseling services, how we can work together and support you in the college admissions process.


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What to do if you’ve been waitlisted

Getting into college off the waitlist is not easy, but it can be done. The first step is staying positive. It is beyond frustrating to be placed on the waitlist and have the college admissions process drag out for a few more months, but waitlisted applicants need to keep in mind there are worse alternatives, like not having a shot at attending the school they were waitlisted by at all. Some colleges and universities just can’t admit all the students they’d like to in regular decision.

The second step is to get excited about the schools you were admitted to and begin to take advantage of admitted student days and other events to connect you with your potential future classmates. Most students get into a number of schools—get excited about these schools! The third step is to “work” the waitlist. These are our tips for waitlisted applicants:

  1. Write a waitlist letter. This letter should contain information updating the school on what you’ve been up to both inside and outside of the classroom since the time you applied. Consider including:
    1. A paragraph or two of “academic” updates. Spend some time talking about coursework and school projects, and make connections to future courses of study. You can even drop in related courses you’d like to take from the college/university you are writing to, like those you’d include in a Why School essay.
    2. A paragraph or two of “extracurricular” updates. This would include school and non-school clubs, service commitments, and/or other leadership experiences you can highlight. Like the academic paragraphs, making connections to similar opportunities you plan to undertake at the college/university you are writing to would be nice additions. For example, if you talk about a new project you spearheaded as VP of your school’s Interact Club, you may want to include that you hope to lead a similar project within a specific club or group at said college/university. Being very specific and naming the clubs or groups by name is important.
    3. A paragraph that talks about the additional ways you have connected with and continued to get to know the college/university since you applied. This could include visiting (even if you’ve already visited campus), meeting with someone in admissions on campus or regionally, setting up an informational interview with a local alum, reaching out to your local regional alumni group (more on this below), or continuing to connect with your regional rep via email.
    4. A paragraph that reiterates your interest in the school, and that if admitted, you will attend. *If you are not 100% committed to attending, do not say so in the letter.
  2. Send your waitlist letter to your regional rep. Ask them if they have any advice for you as a waitlisted candidate. Keep this line of communication open; do not email them every week, but stay in touch to continue to demonstrate interest.
  3. Have your guidance counselor call the admissions office and advocate for you, as well as provide any additional information they may have that will support your candidacy. Ask them to back up what they say on the phone in an email.
  4. Make sure updated grades/transcript are sent promptly. Your grades should have remained the same or gotten better, not dipped. If your grades have gone down, this will not work in your favor.
  5. Check if the college/university has a local alumni group (Google search) and if so, reach out to them and ask if there is anyone willing to meet with you for an informal informational interview. Use this meeting as an opportunity to learn more about the school, and demonstrate your interest in attending.
  6. Consider one or more of the following:
    1. Visit the school and swing by admissions to reiterate interest. Sit in on a class, stay overnight, take advantage of any admissions events/programming you may not have taken advantage of the first time around.
    2. Obtain and have an extra letter of recommendation sent, but only if the school welcomes extra LORs (some schools explicitly state on their WL docs they do not welcome or want extra LORs). This letter could be from a teacher, coach, or someone else close to you who can speak to your potential contributions to the university. *Side note on alumni letters­ and letters from well-known and or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is no unless the person really knows you or they are a very high-level donor with solid connections to admissions. If you think that a big name vouching for you will help, it generally doesn’t as a stand-alone factor, and officers can see through these often brief and less than meaningful notes.
    3. Use social media to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to follow your WL school on FB, Instagram, Snap or other social channels, or Tweet to them your desire to attend.

Every year we help students get admitted off the waitlist, and it takes work! Contact us if you want advice specific to your WL situation.

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