August Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

The school year is almost here! Enjoy the final few weeks of summer. And, if you are a rising senior and want to make the most of August (this means completing applications!) contact us! We can help you head back to school with a long list of college application items checked off your to-do list.

Here’s what should be on your radar this month:

Seniors

  • The Common App refresh is complete. If you have not done so already, register for the Common App (www.commonapp.org) and other school-specific applications as per your list (for example, the University of California), and fill them out.
  • Continue to complete essays!!! Senior year fall grades count. The more you complete before you go back to school, the more time you should have for your coursework.
  • Continue to visit colleges and connect with students, faculty, and staff. Remember to interview where applicable and take lots of notes. The information you gather is often perfect material for supplemental “Why School” essays and interest letters after you apply!
  • Begin to finalize your college list. It’s important to know which colleges you’ll be applying to so you can a) work on essays and b) finalize application strategy (when you will apply and where). Will you be applying early action? Early decision? Do you have an ED II school in the mix (you should instead of relying on RD)? If you still have tests to take in August, September, or October, confirm your EA schools and work on those apps.
  • Touch base with the teachers writing your letters of recommendation. They will be very busy once school starts; be proactive and drop them a note now reiterating your thanks, as well as letting them know when you plan to submit your first apps (this can be far in advance of actual deadlines, for example, in September if testing is complete). 

Juniors

  • If you haven’t done so already, schedule a meeting to discuss your 11th-grade game plan with your guidance counselor. Your counselor will write you a letter of recommendation for college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.
  • This year, try to get more involved with 1-2 main extracurricular activities (bonus if these support your academic interest). Look for leadership opportunities, but also keep in mind demonstrating leadership goes beyond leading a club or team. Consider activities outside of school as well.
  • Now is the time to plan the rest of junior year in terms of testing. When will you take the ACT or SAT? Will you need SAT Subject Tests? How many and which ones? When might you take them? Have you started formal test prep? Please contact us if you would like suggestions for tutors and other prep resources. Now is the time to start test prep!
  • Once you have some test scores, come up with a preliminary college list, so you can…
  • Begin to visit the websites of the schools you are interested in. Explore the admissions and academics pages. Start to think about your major of interest and how the activities you are involved in support it. You 100% should be exploring your academic interests outside of your coursework.
  • Fall is a great time to visit colleges and engage in extended research and outreach. Over the years, I have found that students who take these “extra steps” consistently get into their top schools…and many more.

Sophomores & Freshmen

  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor for the majority of colleges. A rigorous course schedule that is in line with your strengths can help demonstrate intellectual curiosity, a willingness to challenge yourself, and that you are comfortable with hard work. Your number one priority this year should be your grades!
  • If you haven’t done so already, get involved in activities inside and outside of school. Seek out opportunities to develop leadership roles. Depth, not breadth of experience, is key. Most colleges prefer to see fewer activities, but ones that really interest you, where you are involved in a significant way. Evidence of leadership, initiative, commitment, and meaningful engagement is important. You may also want to consider an internship, research position, job shadowing opportunity or part-time employment in an area that interests you. Starting your own club, website, or community service project are also lovely options, but keep in mind you don’t need to do it all.
  • Schedule a meeting to discuss your high school game plan with your counselor. Your counselor will write you a letter of recommendation when it comes time to apply to college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.
  • One of the most significant factors in a strong performance on the verbal portions of the SAT and the ACT is independent reading. Enhancing your skills during high school will not only help you perform better on college entrance exams, but it will also prepare you for success in college and beyond. Regular reading of articles and editorials (e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist) in addition to studying vocabulary lists and signing up for “Word/Article/SAT Question of the Day” can have a significant positive impact.
  • Many schools allow 10th graders to take a practice PSAT.  The experience of taking the PSAT as a sophomore will give you a sense of what to expect on future exams. However, don’t feel like you need to study for this test. It is just practice!
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The One Prize That Matters Most

Life is not a contest, and the world is not an arena. Just by being here, unique among all others, offering contributions that no one else can give, you have already won the one prize that matters most.

I read an interesting Opinion piece in the Times the other day, that ended with the quote above. The title, “Let’s Hear It for the Average Child” confused me a bit, because there is nothing presented that shouts “average” to me, and I don’t see how being a student “whose talents lie outside the arena” makes one at all “average,” however average is defined (which is not clear in this piece).

But I “get it” and love the overarching message: you don’t need to be an award-winning, straight-A-getter, popular, all-subjects-enjoying, all-star athlete. Often, student’s whose gifts don’t translate to how society rewards them are the biggest “winners” of all.

It’s too bad we don’t more often—and outwardly—award students who are kind, compassionate, empathetic, self-aware, reflective and who have developed an understanding of how the world works on a deeper level. The students who get that it’s not all about their grades, or their resume, or where they go to college. In fact, it’s not even all about them.

I can’t wait for the day that colleges seek to measure and reward Margaret Renkl‘s “average” student. Until then, I’ll keep encouraging students to do the best they can in school but also to actively pursue their genuine interests, whatever they are, and engage with their communities (home, school, online, wherever they find and develop them!) in a positive and meaningful way. School is a central, significant part of your life in your teens and twenties, but it is not who you are, and it does not define you. 

 

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Deadline Day! Time to Celebrate!

Happy November 1!

Congrats to everyone who submitted early apps that were due today (and earlier)! Take a breather, but don’t forget to keep working on regular decision applications—you don’t want to rush these last minute. By the time the holidays roll around, you’ll have much better things to do. Complete RD apps now!

Hopefully, your applications are in, and you did not wait until the last minute to apply. Why?

The Common App (CA) often has some glitches around this first big deadline. The New York Times reported on the most recent outage today, but the CA was not the only app with issues this fall. I heard the Coalition App was also having login issues this past weekend—in addition to all of the issues users have actually filling the thing out. The consensus is, it’s not a great app/interface.

Also, don’t forget:

It’s always a good idea to submit apps two to four weeks ahead of RD deadlines as some schools have early RD deadlines for scholarship or interview consideration (for example, USC should be submitted by 12/1 for scholarship consideration, and Duke should be submitted by 12/20 for interview consideration).

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Getting in to college is not the same as good to go to college

Lisa Damour’s NYT’s article “Getting In to College Doesn’t Mean Students Are Ready to Go” is a must read for parents of high school students. It points out some sad and scary truths about high school and college students today, but I see it more positively as a call to action.

I love that most of the students I work with are well-prepared for college life—academic and otherwise—but there are always a few that I fear for as they start freshmen year. They are the ones that end up contacting me near the end of their first semester.  Some of them need more academic support, which is easy to provide. Others are just unable to find their way socially and settle into living on their own for the first time. This second bunch also often thinks this means the college or university they attend is not the best fit; I tend to disagree. Although there are some students who for one reason or another are strong candidates for transfer, the problem is usually not the school—it’s them. Issues lingering beneath the surface throughout high school emerge and often result, sadly, in situations like Damour explains in her article.

What Damour describes is just one of the reasons I am a huge fan of gap years, but as she notes, and I have seen in my work with college applicants, getting students to think about delaying the start of college is not easy:

“Of course, the biggest barrier may well be the teenager’s own resistance to delaying enrollment. High school seniors who have secured and celebrated college admission are rarely eager to push the pause button. The drive for autonomy practically defines adolescence and it’s no small feat to bar that door.”

For the reluctant student (and often parents, too), I do see some alternatives to delaying the start of college. Recently, I have been working alongside mental health professionals and mindfulness educators on how best to get information out to students and parents on the importance of pre-college counseling, post-admission. Typically, once a student has decided where they are going to college, I do not hear much from them, except around early summer, when I (hopefully, because I love cards!) get a graduation announcement or thank you note in the mail. Today, I know that needs to change. The benefit of continuing the counseling relationship and providing services up until students leave for college, and even into the start of their freshmen year, is just too important to overlook.

I see pre-college counseling in the form of mindfulness and resilience training as a vital step in ensuring students about to head off to college are equipped with the tools they need to successfully navigate the transition to and thrive in college. And, if a student is really not ready to leave home in the fall, it is often uncovered or made very clear during targeted pre-college counseling activities (if not already brought to light through the college application process). Taking steps to gear up for college post-admission may reveal a student is not good to go. Those that are will only be better prepared to face the challenges that come with the high school-college transition, armed with the tools and mindset they need to thrive during the next phase of their educational journey.

My Weekly Reads: Top 5

 

Awkward teens (and 20- and 30-somethings) rejoice. Study finds that it might take 63 years, but you will, eventually, shed all traces of your awkward middle-school self. (Fast Company)

Adderall usage by individuals without attention deficit is out of control. Fast Company reminds us we have the power to control our brains, sans meds. (Fast Company)

Diverse Hollywood, in NYC? Steiner Studio lot at the Brooklyn Navy Yard is surprisingly under the radar. It costs a third of most other film schools—$18,400 a year—and part of its mission is to admit women and minorities whose stories aren’t usually told. (New York Times)

And the award for the most unsatisfying industry to work in post-college goes to anything in finance (kind of). Meanwhile, in self-reported data from more than 13,000 recently graduated college students, such industries as technology, biotechnology, consulting, and arts, media, and entertainment top a list of “job satisfaction” ratings. Consulting -> we agree! (Poets & Quants)

Depression strikes today’s teen girls especially hard, and I see this firsthand in my work with high school students as they prepare and apply to college. Brains constantly “on-tech,” and in particular social media, may not be helping, but talking about it and identifying symptoms of depression early on can help teens get back on the right track. (NPR)

Michael Bloomberg on How to Succeed in Business (and Life?)

This is a fun, honest read. Particularly relevant to this blog is the first section, Choosing a College, in which he says:

Nobody remembers where you went to school. The first job they may ask, by the third job they won’t remember to. People put too much emphasis on that. It’s much more important that you go to a place where you fit in and which has decent academics. People say they can’t afford a college? My parents took out a mortgage, I had a job every summer working in a faculty parking lot. Then I got lucky, Sputnik was launched and the government created national defense loans.

Given the article’s emphasis on education, Bloomberg even goes on to comment on the MBA, and that it matters, but….:

The part that’s most important in an education is how to deal with people. There’s no job I know that you do by yourself, and I learned as much from the two guys I worked for at Salomon Brothers, Billy Salomon and John Gutfreund, as I’d learned at Harvard. In the end, it’s people skills that you need. Whether you remember that Columbus arrived in 1492 or not — a lot of the facts you memorize are immaterial.

Read the full article online!

What Do Teenagers Want? Potted Plant Parents

 

Many parents feel that their adolescents hardly need them anymore. Teenagers often come and go on their own schedules, sometimes rebuff our friendly questions about their days, and can give the impression that interacting with the family is an imposition that comes at the cost of connecting, digitally or otherwise, with friends.

So here’s a complaint one might not expect to hear from teenagers: They wish their parents were around more often.

Interesting read on the importance of a parent’s physical presence on adolescent health. Check it out here!

Text to Text: John Milton’s ‘When I Consider How My Light Is Spent’ and ‘Today’s Exhausted Superkids’

 

Right now, many students are entering the final college-application sprint. They’re wondering Are they enough? about their lists of accomplishments. Some may even be wondering Is it worth it? about college at all.

Centuries ago, the poet John Milton wondered how best to live his life as he went blind. In his sonnet “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent,” he contemplates his condition. While for him, the “light” he spends is literal — he was completely blind by age 42 — he uses it metaphorically to meditate on what it means to really live.

In this Text-to-Text they pair Milton’s poem with Frank Bruni’s Op-Ed “Today’s Exhausted Superkids,” which discusses the high costs of following the narrowly defined and proscribed path to an elite college.

This a thoughtful read for parents and students alike, or really, anyone working with adolescents today. Check it out here!!!

NYT Student Contest – Write a Rap About the News of 2016

For the sixth year in a row, 13 to 19 years old anywhere in the world are invited to write a rap about the news that mattered most to them this year.

So whether you choose international or national news, politics or education, sports, science or technology, the arts or fashion,  post your entry by 7 a.m. Eastern on Jan. 10, 2017. Then, the educational hip-hop experts at Flocabulary, our annual partner for this contest, will choose their favorite rhymes to publish both here and on their site.

Read more here!

Second Language Acquisition Can Improve How You Think

bilingualism

An oldie but goodie re-posted on the New York Times SundayReview on the advantages of bilingualism. Worth a read and just in time for the new year, when learning a second, third or fourth language could be on your to-do list!

Speaking two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

Read the article here!