Why B Students Make Great Leaders

Why B Students Make Great Leaders

As a solid B student myself in high school, I love articles that normalize B’s. As a college counselor, of course I have to be transparent about the A expectation of top colleges and universities. However, many of my B students have gone on to do great things in college and in life—no Ivy-league or top-30 school required.

Two of my favorite takeaways from this old-ish article that I have seen be true for some of my favorite B students:

  • Leading rarely has anything to do with pure intellect alone.
  • B students flourish by using a combination of good-enough mental horsepower with a kind of emotional intelligence that gives them the ability to relate to people.

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Dear Struggling Parents, It’s Not Just You.

Dear Struggling Parents, It’s Not Just You.

TIME’s It’s Not Just You newsletter is a good one. This past week it was a letter to parents of teens, many of whom are struggling right now, plus a selection of expert pandemic parenting advice.

Parenting teenagers in the middle of a once-in-100-years pandemic is hard, doing so while they are applying to college in a year when the whole college process has blown up, and it’s even harder.

Check out the newsletter or signup here.

 

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Rejection and Lack of Fit

Rejection and Lack of Fit

With the amount I post on how to deal with failure, rejection, and disappointment, you’d think all of your students rack up a long list of denials! That’s not the case, and since this blog is widely read outside of our client base, I post what’s on my mind around this process broadly. I know this time of year is tough on families with high hopes in this process, so I post about the tough parts.

A want to share a wonderful article by Adam Grant.  As someone who has been rejected an appropriate amount, How to Bounce Back From Rejection is something I believe I know well. However, it is not something you can really teach or prepare a student for when it comes to the college process. There will be some disappointment and it hurts. Sometimes it comes before you submit apps, for example, hearing that you don’t have a competitive profile for a certain school. But often it comes later, once that sentiment is cemented by a deferral or rejection.

What Grants points out that I hope all students can keep in mind is rejection often happens because of a lack of fit. In college admissions, you don’t control what a school decides is the fit they need at any given moment in the process. It is not entirely personal or a reflection of your whole self as a student, person, friend, classmate, son, daughter, etc. Students, please remember:

We are more than the bullet points on our resumes. We are better than the sentences we string together into a word salad under the magnifying glass of an interview. No one is rejecting us. They are rejecting a sample of our work, sometimes only after seeing it through a foggy lens.

And I hope parents also do not take a college rejection personally. I know many of you who were/are deep in the process; where your student goes to college has nothing to do with and says nothing about your success as a parent.

“When someone rejects you, it helps to remember that there’s another you.” Hang in there!

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Don’t Worry So Much About Where

Don’t Worry So Much About Where

Like the author of the article I am sharing below — and that I share every year around this time — I was not a perfect student in high school. I similarly credit my “failure” in high school, and rejection by my “dream” college, with leading me to a school that was the best place for me to develop into the student I had the ability to be but couldn’t be as a rebellious teen. Luckily, my parents let me lead in my college admissions process and that also meant accepting the “consequences” of my GPA. I can’t possibly think about where I would be today if it had happened any other way. I never would have learned, what I thought then was the hard way, about what really matters in creating a life (and finding work) with meaning, and becoming an energized and self-directed learner.

Anyway, William Stixrud is the co-author of The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives, with Ned Johnson. Below is an old-ish article in Time that I will never stop posting. I hope you give it a read.

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When my daughter Jora was in high school, she went to a talk I gave on the adolescent brain, during which I pointed out that high school grades don’t predict success very well. On the way home, she said, “Great talk, Dad, but I bet you don’t really believe that bit about grades.” I assured her that I did. To prove it, I offered to pay her $100 if she got a ‘C’ on her next report card — in any subject.

We’ve all heard the familiar anxiety-inducing nostrums: That a screw-up in high school will follow you for the rest of your life. That if you don’t get into Harvard or Yale, you’ll never reach the c-suite. That the path to success is narrow and you’d better not take one false step. I have come to think of this unfounded belief system as what we psychologists call a “shared delusion.”

So why don’t we tell our kids the truth about success? We could start with the fact that only a third of adults hold degrees from four-year colleges. Or that you’ll do equally well in terms of income, job satisfaction and life satisfaction whether you go to an elite private college or a less-selective state university. Or that there are many occupations through which Americans make a living, many of which do not require a college degree.

I am not against being a good student, and there are clear advantages to doing well in school. But you don’t need to be a top student or go to a highly selective college to have a successful and fulfilling life. The path to success is not nearly so narrow as we think. We’ve all heard the stories of the college dropout who went on to found a wildly successful company. I myself was a C+ student in high school who flunked out of graduate school. At one point I went for 20 weeks without turning in a single assignment. (I often tell the underachievers I see in my practice: “Top that!”) Long story short, I managed to do pretty well in life, and I credit my failure in graduate school with leading me to a career more in line with my skill set.

The problem with the stories we’re telling our kids is that they foster fear and competition. This false paradigm affects high-achieving kids, for whom a rigid view of the path to success creates unnecessary anxiety, and low-achieving kids, many of whom conclude at a young age that they will never be successful, and adopt a “why try at all?” attitude. Many of these young people engage in one of the most debilitating forms of self-talk, telling themselves either, “I have to, but I can’t,” or “I have to, but I hate it.”

Why do we encourage our children to embrace this delusional view of what it takes to be successful?

I’ve asked various school administrators why they don’t just tell kids the truth about college — that where you go makes very little difference later in life.

They’ll shrug and say, “Even if we did, no one would believe it.” One confided to me, “We would get angry calls and letters from parents who believe that, if their children understood the truth, they would not work hard in school and would have second-class lives.”

Many adults worry that if their kids knew that grades in school aren’t highly predictive of success in life, they’d lose their motivation to apply themselves and aim high. In fact, the opposite is true. In my 32 years of working with kids as a psychologist, I’ve seen that simply telling kids the truth — giving them an accurate model of reality, including the advantages of being a good student — increases their flexibility and drive. It motivates kids with high aspirations to shift their emphasis from achieving for its own sake to educating themselves so that they can make an important contribution. An accurate model of reality also encourages less-motivated students to think more broadly about their options and energizes them to pursue education and self-development even if they aren’t top achievers.

Children are much more energized when they envision a future that is in line with their own values than when they dutifully do whatever they believe they have to do to live up to their parents’ or teachers’ or college admissions boards’ expectations. We don’t inspire our kids through fear. We inspire them by helping them to focus on getting better at something, rather than being the best, and by encouraging them to immerse themselves in something they love.

So if you want your kids to succeed in life, don’t perpetuate a fear-based understanding of success. Start with the assumption that your children want their lives to work. Then tell them the truth: That we become successful by working hard at something that engages us, and by pulling ourselves up when we stumble.

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The College Conversation

The College Conversation

There’s a new-ish college book that I actually like! It just so happens to be authored by Penn’s Eric Furda and longtime higher ed writer, Jacques Steinberg (if you studied high ed you’ve read his stuff; excellent!). 

After a College Applicant Hits ‘Send’

After a College Applicant Hits ‘Send’

“Something beautiful is being formed in the dumpster fire that is senior fall.” 

Kelly Corrigan’s 2019 New York Times article, After a College Applicant Hits ‘Send’, has tons of these great tidbits. You’ll laugh, and cringe, and hopefully think about how small this moment is in the grand scheme of things. But in all seriousness, it’s an article about the growth that can come from just surviving the process that is applying to college today (it was SO much easier way back when). It can be about something more than — or other than — where a student gets in. 

With decisions from some of our nation’s most selective colleges and universities coming out, I like to post some articles on the process that provide a little bit of perspective. My guess is, for the most part, parents will be reading them (but we hope students do, too!). Parents of seniors: you’ve got this! Congratulate your student for making it through what has been an insane year to apply to college. 

Parents of juniors: you’re up next! So here’s something important for that group to consider:

Deciding where you belong in the process has a lot to do with how you answer these questions: What will happen if you let them lead, and what will happen if you don’t? Another worthwhile thought experiment goes like this: If we decide they’ll find their way one way or another, if we agree that any one acceptance letter is not the prize, what could the reward be? Developing comfort with uncertainty? Expanding self-knowledge? Building new capacities and a sense of agency? Because that kind of personal growth is not too much to ask of this process. And what a grand outcome that would be.

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Support with Financial Aid/FAFSA/CSS

Support with Financial Aid/FAFSA/CSS

I wanted to share a recent note from my colleague Blaine Blontz, a wonderful resource on all things financial aid. Reach out to him for all your FAFSA/CSS needs, and plan ahead. It is not too early for parents of underclassmen to start thinking about the FA process.

Early financial aid deadlines approach

At this point, November 15 is a common FAFSA and CSS Profile deadline for early decision and early action applicants. If you haven’t completed the forms and need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Next month, we’ll look into opportunities to maximize the financial aid families receive through processes of appeal and negotiation. We offer services that will navigate families through these processes.

For families with juniors in high school and younger, a common question I receive this time of year is how to prepare for the college financial aid process. I recently published an article on this topic. In addition, we have services that can help families determine what they can expect in terms of financial aid and how to best position themselves for maximum eligibility. Let us know if you’re interested in learning more.

Reach out to Blaine here!

 

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Reminder! Online Event for Parents Tomorrow, 6/30

Reminder! Online Event for Parents Tomorrow, 6/30

Join us Tuesday, June 30 at 8 pm EST for an interactive discussion on how you can support your student throughout high school as they work toward applying to college. Our discussion will focus on grades, testing, and supporting student’s academic and other extracurricular interests.

We will be taking questions from attendees, and you can submit 1-2 via email ahead of time when you RSVP.

Please RSVP by 6/27 to hello@brittany.consulting. Once you RSVP you will be sent the link for the Zoom session. Share with friends — we hope to see you there!

 

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Online Summer Enrichment With Elevation Tutoring

Online Summer Enrichment With Elevation Tutoring

My friends at Elevation are offering an outstanding online summer experience for students in 1st through 12th grade. 
 
  • Engaging learning opportunities customized to you
  • Flexible hours and scheduling options (1:1 or with friends!)
  • Join them for a week, a month or the entire summer

Some offerings include:

CHESS: Learn exceptional strategy with an instructor who placed top 10 nationally.

CODING: Advance your computer abilities in an interesting and practical way.

INTRO TO ACTING: Build your performance skills through creative games and exercises.

CREATIVE WRITING: Learn how to better express yourself and build strong writing skills.

INTRO TO SHAKESPEARE: Explore the plays, characters, style, and film adaptations of William Shakespeare.

LINEAR ALGEBRA: Challenge yourself to solve systems and apply them to computer science and data.

And of course, if you are a 10th grader, they have an amazing group of ACT/SAT tutors that I can highly recommend. Head to https://elevationtutoring.com/elevate-your-summer/ to learn more! 

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June Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

June Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

What a month! We took a break on the blog from June 1-8, and we are now back with our regularly scheduled programming. Please find the June MAP below, and be sure to reach out to us via the contact form is you have specific questions about what you or your student can be working on this month.

Seniors

  • Congrats, grads! If you love graduation speeches as much as me, check out a few of my favorites as you celebrate this amazing accomplishment:
        • George Saunders, Syracuse (takeaway: regretting failures of kindness – be kind)
        • Steve Jobs, Stanford (takeaway: stay hungry, stay foolish, listen to and follow your heart)

Juniors

  • Obtain and review your final transcript (all grades from 9, 10, 11) ASAP after grades post. This is important so you can have your school correct any errors, and so you know exactly what colleges will see when they get your transcript.
  • Now is an excellent time to start thinking about your application strategy. Even if you are not finished with testing, you’ll want to complete applications this summer.
  • It might seem like a silly piece of advice, but many students are not aware that every college has a set of application instructions that are not located on the online application. Locate and read them for every school on your list before tackling the application process. 
  • Colleges may not open for tours before you submit early applications (in October or earlier). Spend time taking virtual tours and connecting with and learning about colleges in other ways (reaching out to current students and alumni is just one example!).
  • As you begin writing essays this month, open a Common App account and begin filling out the base data (Profile, Family, Education, Testing, Activities).
  • Many colleges don’t proactively ask for online resources, but you may have an interest in creating a digital portfolio (LinkedIn, SoundCloud, GitHub, YouTube channel, personal website, and/or blog) to supplement your other application materials. 

Sophomores & Freshmen

    • Work on a purpose project this summer!
    • A purpose project is one that you design and implement (with our help if you’d like!), which taps into your interests and talents (the things you love, that bring you joy, that you want to study in college, or that you feel could best help your school, community, or the world); it is connected to a deeper purpose and has tangible outcomes that you set.
    • Past projects from students include writing a children’s book, completing a literature review or book challenge, creating a trailer for a documentary (and founding a non-profit, a school club, an app), spearheading an innovative volunteer event, fundraising for an organization in a creative way (selling artwork, an Etsy shop, etc.), and hosting a yearly beach clean-up. The possibilities are endless, and colleges love seeing students take part in meaningful, self-directed work.   

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