Sophomores and Juniors: Independent Study

Sophomores and Juniors: Independent Study

COVID is still hindering in-person learning, forcing clubs to meet online (if not canceling them outright), and may even throw a wrench in in-person educational and extracurricular planning for the spring and summer. A primary focus of our work with 10th and 11th graders is extracurricular planning, and there’s one that is almost never dependent on needing to be anywhere in person: the independent study. 

Independent studies (IS) can be done anywhere and work with almost any area of interest, which is why in such uncertain times, they are our go-to EC. Like the “purpose” or “passion” projects many of our students undertake, the IS is a create your own educational opportunity, so there’s no one size fits all model to follow or template you can use to just plug and play. Below are some of the details we suggest thinking through if you are interested in conceptualizing an IS.

Who

The IS requires the student to have an area of interest that they want to explore (or explore more), as well as the time, energy, and foresight to plan it on their own. However, students may want to seek out support from a teacher at their high school or a mentor from outside of school if they desire to formalize it or have some guidance or check-ins along the way. 

What

Anything goes! But we suggest an area of academic interest related to what you may pursue in college. It might be a new topic, or it might be an extension of a topic you have already researched. The bottom line is, it should 1) be a topic/area you choose because you will need to be into it to make the work happen on your own and 2) if possible, it should work with your academic narrative (the academic story that unfolds in your college apps). 

Where

Planning the IS as a remote activity is a good call given the uncertainties around COVID. Doing so also provides the flexibility to add on other activities/formal programming or have time for a job if that suits you while still working on the IS, as well as plan something like travel (college visits?) if that becomes reality again! 

When

Winter break or early in the new year is the perfect time for students to start planning their independent study. As for an ideal start time? Many juniors are busy with testing so we suggest it as a summer activity, although students who may not have AP testing in May or who have finished or not yet started ACT/SAT testing could realistically start in the spring if their courseload allowed. The classes that appear on your transcript will always be the most important to colleges, so you don’t want your IS to get in the way of excelling in those courses. 

Why

Beyond how the restrictions that might be in place around COVID make it an ideal activity, an independent study helps demonstrate to colleges your commitment to learning, your intellectual focus and curiosity, and that you are a self-directed learner interested in charting your own course and not limiting yourself to what you can take in school (or afford to take outside of it). 

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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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Resume/Activity Sheets: Where Less Is Always More

Resume/Activity Sheets: Where Less Is Always More

The resumes we see tend to take two forms: the students who does it all, but nothing very deeply or well, and the students who does very little (to varying degrees of depth and rigor). 

You don’t need to do it all, but you do need to do something, or a few things, really well or to an extent that goes beyond that of your peers. And if you can’t help but spread yourself a bit thin, you can still craft a narrow application (ask us how!). 

Colleges look for students with something unique, a specific talent, skill, or interest to add to their next class. Students who drill down on an interest or two early on in high school will be better positioned to tell a clear, focused story in their applications. By doing so, they hand the reader of their file exactly what they are looking for—they make it easy to see the value you will add on campus.

This might mean doing a lot of exploration early in high school and this is okay. However, don’t be afraid to find something you like, drill down on it, and not do too much else extracurricularly. You don’t want a resume that reads like a laundry list anyway.

Here’s what a few top colleges have to say on the subject via Niche:

  • “You [should] demonstrate a deep commitment to and genuine appreciation for what you spend your time doing. The joy you take in the pursuits that really matter to you – rather than a resume padded with a long list of activities – will strengthen your candidacy.” –Yale’s advice on Activities
  • “When we evaluate an applicant’s activity list, we’re not looking for a specific number of involvements or even specific types.  We are much more interested in seeing an applicant follow their passions and show dedication over time to a few specific involvements rather than spreading themselves too thin.” –USC Admissions Blog
  • “We are looking for students who will contribute their talents, interests, perspectives, and distinct voices to our community… We are more interested in your focus on a few activities over time (such as work, care for parents and siblings, service, or athletics), rather than membership in a long list of clubs—although we understand that some students can balance an assortment of activities.” –Swarthmore College, “What We Look for in a Swattie”
  • “You’re joining a team. And because we’re recruiting a team of people who will work together, we want a variety of strengths and talents that, together, will form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. So, not every talented student needs to be talented in the same way.” – UNC-Chapel Hill, “Who We Want”

The question I ask a lot when thinking about activities: How much can you meaningfully contribute to more than a few activities? Narrowing down your interests and corresponding activities can provide the time and space needed to engage more meaningfully and at a higher level in the one or two things you love the most. It’s a bonus if these activities relate to your potential college major, or support it in some way!

Remember, colleges seek to build a well-rounded class comprised of students with unique talents and skills, not a class full of generalists.

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Coming of Age in 2020: A Special Multimedia Contest for Teenagers in the U.S.

Coming of Age in 2020: A Special Multimedia Contest for Teenagers in the U.S.

This tumultuous year has changed us all, but perhaps no generation has been more affected than yours. Teenagers are experiencing their formative years trapped inside and missing — or reinventing — milestones while a pandemic rages, an economic collapse threatens, the 2020 election looms, school as you once knew it has ceased to exist, and civics lessons in books have shifted to “civics lessons in the streets” as young people participate in what may be the largest protest movement in U.S. history.

The NYT’s want to hear about your experiences, in whatever way you want to tell them — whether in words or images, audio or video. This is their first-ever multimedia contest, essentially a challenge to document what you’re living through, and express yourself creatively on any aspect, large or small, that you think is important or interesting. For instance:

  • Maybe you already have images on your camera roll that say something meaningful or poignant or funny or profound about your life this year.

  • Maybe you’ve kept a diary or sketchbook — or texts, emails or handwritten letters — that can show what you’ve experienced.

  • Or, maybe you’d like to make something new, whether an essay, poem, song, cartoon, illustration, graph, video or podcast. We’ll accept nearly anything you can upload digitally.

No matter what format you choose, trust us: Even if you don’t think you have something to say, you do. There are stories only you can tell.

Here’s what you need to know:

 

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The Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Entrepreneurship

The Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Entrepreneurship

We have broken out entrepreneurship programs into a new post because of the popularity of exploration in this field. And yes, we know many summer programs will not run this summer, but we are going to share anyway for anyone looking ahead to next summer 🙂

Find some of our favorites below!

LaunchX

Join a highly-curated group of promising young entrepreneurs from around the globe for four intense weeks. You’ll learn from industry experts and work in a group of peer co-founders to build real products and solve business challenges in viable ways. LaunchX isn’t a business plan competition – students start real companies. These startups are driven by using the design thinking process to discover innovative opportunities, backed by extensive market research, multiple iterations of prototypes and user testing, and gaining traction through getting real customers and partnerships. Learn more here.

Cornell University, Social Entrepreneurship: Transforming Lives, Resolving Problems

This highly interactive, award-winning program tackles nothing less than helping you identify your hopes, dreams, and plans for transforming yourself and the world. The course is fast-paced and largely discussion-based. Under the leadership of Dr. Anke Wessels, you’ll learn the fundamental principles for solving problems, fostering innovation, and creating change—and you’ll then apply this knowledge to your own social venture. Learn more here.

Babson College, Introduction to the Entrepreneurial Experience

Introduction to the Entrepreneurial Experience allows you to develop your problem-solving and teamwork skills that you can apply in limitless settings, including business, nonprofit, government, and your career. In this course, we “learn by doing” and explore social, economic, and environmental problems through an entrepreneurial lens. You’ll gain exposure to key concepts in entrepreneurship, management, marketing, finance, business communication, and other disciplines. Learn more here.

The University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley Business Academy for Youth

Great ideas are everywhere. Yet, great businesses built on top of great ideas are far more rare. B-BAY, a proven business program for youth, lets you experience the powerful combination of great ideas and great business sense by developing a business idea and creating your team’s business plan—all in just two weeks. Learn more here.

Non-“Program” Ideas We Love

Khan Academy Modules

Free Online Classes from Top Colleges & Universities

Books

  • Outliers
  • Lost and Founder
  • The Lean Startup
  • Good to Great
  • Zero to One

Internships/Job Shadow/Volunteer

  • Ask us about this one via contact form here!

 

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Call for Applications: Experimental Study Program for Teens

Call for Applications: Experimental Study Program for Teens

Cool program alert!

Experimental Study Program
Spring 2020 Season
February 26–April 29
Applications due February 9

This spring, the New Museum offers its free semester-long program for young people aged fifteen to nineteen. Participants will meet from 4 to 6 p.m. every Wednesday from February 26 to April 29 (excluding April 15). Now in its fourteenth season, this program provides youth the chance to learn about contemporary art and engage in intimate, critical discussions about culture.

Through a series of workshops, young people will have the opportunity to collaborate meaningfully with peers and guest artists. This season, the Experimental Study Program (ESP) will explore contemporary portraiture and figuration. The program will take as its starting point the work of Jordan Casteel, whose exhibition “Within Reach” includes large-scale paintings of people she encounters in various settings, including individuals from her neighborhood of Harlem and, more recently, her students at Rutgers University-Newark. Participants will meet Casteel and discuss ideas and approaches to portraiture with her. Throughout the remainder of the season, we will consider the variety of ways that she and other artists use the figure—from expressive and intimate to wildly satirical, abstract, and surreal depictions of the human form—experiment with their own, and reflect on how these choices intersect with identity, representation, social histories, and imaginations.

The Museum seeks applications from people between ages fifteen and nineteen who are curious about contemporary art and enthusiastic about connecting with their peers.

The Experimental Study Program is free.How to Apply:

  • Click here to apply
  • Fill out the application and respond to the prompts
  • Include the contact information of a teacher, counselor, or supervisor who can provide a reference
  • Submit the completed application by February 9, 2020

 

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Know A Girl Who Wants To Change The World?

Know A Girl Who Wants To Change The World?

The HERlead Fellowship is designed to equip young women with the leadership skills they need to effect global progress, invest in their communities – to date, more than 246 social impact projects received funding through HERlead Fellowship Grants – and continue their journeys as the next generation of leaders.  Here’s how it works:

WHAT IT IS:
A fellowship to provide leadership training to young women, empowering them to become the next generation of global trailblazers.

WHY PARTICIPATE:
Learn from inspiring women leaders from around the world and participate in Vital Voices’ signature leadership model training program. Attend the HERlead Leadership Forum and become eligible to win a HERlead Grant to put your ideas into action.

WHO SHOULD APPLY:
Girls in the 10th or 11th grade at a high school in the United States, Puerto Rico or Canada.

DATES & DEADLINES:
The HERlead Fellowship Application is now open and will close Wednesday, February 5th, 2020. The 2020 Leadership Forum will take place on June 22-25, 2020 in New York City.

DETAILS:
We are searching the country for young women leaders who are committed to reshaping the world and making positive and sustainable change. We will select 30 applicants to be the 2020 Fellows. If you are selected, you will join an elite group of rising stars, where you will be given the skills, tools and training needed to realize your full leadership potential. All costs to attend the HERlead Leadership Forum are covered by the fellowship (including transportation, accommodation, and meals) so there are no costs to the Fellow.

AS A HERLEAD FELLOW, YOU WILL:
• Participate in the HERlead Leadership Forum, a four-day leadership training program in New York City, from June 22-25, 2020.
• Obtain skills and networks to take on leadership roles in your schools and companies.
• Be mentored by global women leaders who are part of the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network, as well as AnnTaylor Retail Inc. Representatives.

For more information, an Overview of the Program, a Sample Application, Grant Information and HERlead Social Media Tips, see the HERlead TOOL KIT.

After completing the leadership training program, you will return to your community and have the opportunity to use what you learned at the Forum to create a project that will effect change. You are also eligible to receive a HERlead Grant that will further help you turn your ideas into action.

To be considered, you must demonstrate a strong commitment to leadership and potential for creating innovative solutions to problems in your community. You must have a proven track record in your academic work and interest in extracurricular activities. Are you up for the challenge?

For questions about the application, please see APPLICATION FAQS

Choosing Classes in High School

UVA’s Dean J always has it right. 9-11th graders listen up! This advice applies beyond UVA.

1. All of your core classes are important.

A lot of people focus on the core areas that correspond to their current academic interest. I’ve even had people wave off certain subjects because they aren’t interested in them or they don’t come “naturally” to them. I wish they’d stop this. High school is the time to get a broad foundation in several areas and college is the time to specialize. We are most concerned with a student’s work in five core areas (in alpha order, not order of importance): English, Math, Science, Social Science, and World Language.

2. The number of APs or the IB Diploma don’t drive a decision.

Plenty of people want to know how many AP courses a student should take to be competitive in our process. We don’t approach applications this way. First of all, not everyone goes to a school with APs as an option. Second, some schools limit how many AP courses a student may take. Third, with the number of AP courses offered these days, you can rack up a lot of APs in just one subject. There could be students with big AP numbers who also haven’t take an advanced course in other core areas.
Similarly, students sometimes assume that full diploma candidates at IB schools (which are pretty common in Virginia) get in and everyone else is denied. If you are working on the full IB diploma, that’s fantastic. We will also be very interested in your grades and review which subjects you opted to take as your HLs. The full diploma isn’t the only route to an offer, though. There are students who weren’t able to get the full diploma done while still having some impressive HL work to show. We can admit them, too!

3. Doubling up in one subject at the expense of the core doesn’t “look good.”

There are some students who are so excited about a certain subject that they want to double or even triple up on courses in that area. I don’t think it’s smart to drop core subjects to load up classes in one area. Cover the core and use your electives to explore your interests.

Source.

 

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How to Play The Long Game

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

I am once again reposting this blog from Senior Assistant Director of Admission at Georgia Tech, Katie Mattli. If you think GT might be on your list, or even if it is not, this is a fun blog to read, and more important than it being fun (and often funny), they keep it very real. Real is something many college applicants—and their parents—lose sight of during this process. If you ever feel yourself veering off the path of real, head the Georgia Tech admissions blog.

Read the original post here, or below:

I like quirky historical novelties and the Livermore Light Bulb, or known to its friends as the Centennial Bulb, is one of my favorites.  Never heard of it?  Let me explain.  Yes, there is indeed a light bulb in Livermore, California so famous it has a name and actual caretakers.  Why? Because the Livermore Light Bulb has been softly glowing in the Pleasanton Fire Department for 117 years! In fact, it just had a birthday in June. The Centennial Bulb has a website, a festival, a children’s book, and –this is my favorite part – its own Bulb Cam. You can literally watch a light bulb glow in real-time, which I find humorously whimsical.

What does a light bulb have to do with college admission?  A few things actually.

Don’t second guess your interests. 

I mean it.  Live them loud and proud.  I’m writing about a light bulb I like and you are still here, so that proves authenticity is interesting.  The applicants who get my attention in the admission process are those who, for lack of a better phrase, really like stuff.  All kinds of stuff.  They hear about a cause, read about a historical event, or learn about a theory and they dive in for the pure pleasure of learning more about it.  You can sense joy in their application—joy in sharing something that really engages them. Students always ask, “How can I make my application stand out?” Follow your true-North passions and your application will naturally have a strong voice in the crowd.

Care Instructions

The Centennial has been glowing for so long because no one remembered to turn it off – for a long time. It turns out that switching lights on and off all the time actually reduces their shelf life.  It makes me wonder how often we, students and adults alike, take stock of what is healthy for us. We don’t have care instructions attached to our lives, but if asked we could probably name the basics.  We are the opposite of lightbulbs.  We can, and should, turn off to recharge. You should sleep.  You should eat.  You should spend time with friends.  Do you live by your calendar? Then put your self-care appointments on the docket with reminders such as “lunch,” “snack,” “aspirational bedtime,” and “breathing room/free time.”  A healthy student will thrive in high school and in college. I haven’t made any clichéd references to lightbulbs and burn out here, but you get the picture. Don’t get so caught up in the everyday noise that you forget to be healthy.

Who is on your maintenance team?

The Centennial Lightbulb has three different organizations devoted to keeping that little four-watt light bulb softly glowing.  Before you start the college admission process, take stock of who is in your corner.  Who are the folks in your inner circle?  Choose carefully.  Do they see your value? Do they give you honest feedback?  Do they encourage you? Do they keep you anchored? The vast majority of students headed to college had help along the way.  Family members are not the only people who hopefully have your back. Don’t forget you can create a supportive network staring with a favorite teacher, a retired neighbor, a high school guidance counselor, your coach, a friend who graduated last year.  Reach out, ask for some time, make an appointment, start a conversation. It takes a village.

Keep your eye on the long game.

Physicists have studied the Centennial and have discovered its filament is thicker than today’s commercial lightbulbs.  It is made of sterner stuff. The college admission process can rattle highschool students. I think students believe they are focusing on their future (hence the anxiety), but I think they have lost sight of the long game.  After years of watching students and their families navigate applying to college, here are my thoughts on the admission long game and students who are made of “sterner stuff”:

  • Finding a good fit is the ultimate goal.  Your best-fit school may not be your best friend’s best-fit school.  Get comfortable with that. Put institutions on your list where you will thrive. That is the long game.
  • Ignore the myth of “the one.” college will not be the making of you but your decisions in college will. That is the long game.
  • Be happy for others.  Time will prove to you that what feels like a competition now dissipates with age.  If your buddy gets that coveted acceptance or the Val or Sal spot, cheer for them. It shows character and you will be happier for it. That is the long game.
  • Enjoy senior year.  This is your last homecoming, last high school debate competition, last playoff, senior night… Enjoy them!  That is the long game.

 

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Putting Your Best Foot Forward: The Short List

Photo by Matese Fields on Unsplash

I am going to keep this one short and sweet and welcome anyone who wants more info or wants to understand “how” to reach out to me directly.

Here’s how you put your best foot forward in college admissions:

-Grades that meet or exceed the standards of the schools to which you are applying

-Test scores that meet or exceed the standards of the schools to which you are applying (if the school’s you are applying to require them)

-Authentic and long-term community engagement

-Values that match the school’s

When one of these factors does not meet the standards of the school to which you are applying, your likelihood of admission decreases.

I hope to hear from you all!

 

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