These are dark days. Not only because we just passed the shortest day of the year, but also for our seniors applying to college. Finals are approaching, or just finished. The holidays are over, but it inexplicably continues to snow. Many early and rolling admissions decisions have come in. The kids may have received the results they wanted, or may not have. If not, we could have some struggling seniors on our hands.
Rejection is a college application process fact of life and yet it’s hard not to take a denial of admission personally. After all, they’ve put their whole self into the application. They’ve talked about their passions, shown the schools what a great asset they will be in class discussions, what a great roommate they will be. And the school says, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Or the school says yes and the major, program or Honors College says no. That’s hard to hear as students, and as a parent it’s hard to hear that your child will not get something they’ve worked so long and hard to achieve.
There are lots of reasons one student may be offered admission over another. Given that all students who apply are capable of doing the work, the decision has to come down to other factors. We have no control over how our students fit into the institutional goals of the colleges to which they are applying. So we wait on pins and needles, while they wait on beds of nails, to find out if that school “likes me likes me” or just wants to be friends.
Seniors need to know it’s not personal, and that they are not the only ones feeling this way. Every 12th grader in the country is in agony right now. It’s normal. Tell your student how you felt when you were applying to college. Admit that you spent your entire senior year feeling like you wanted to go out into the backyard and scream, how scared you were that you’d never find a place, how your mother had to lock you in your room until you wrote your application essay. (That can’t have been just me, right? Right?)
They should know they’ll stress plenty in college, so there’s no need to get a head start ~Sam, Winona State, Class of 2018
Tell them that application decisions are mysterious things, because it ultimately comes down to “fit,” and no one can define what “fit” is. This is especially true at those highly-selective colleges, where there’s often no way to know, even in hindsight, why a decision came down the way it did. Remind them that if they are accepted to more than one college--and most will be—they will be in the same position the admissions committees are in now. They’ll have to decide which invitation they’ll accept and it will probably be a number of factors that help them make the decision, not the least of which was “It just felt right.”
So while you may feel it’s unfair that your student didn’t get their first choice school, trust the process. Surveys have shown repeatedly that most college freshman are happy where they end up, even at their third, fourth or fifth choice school. Show your child that you’re disappointed with them and for them, but not in them, because it’s not the end of the world. As Frank Bruni puts it in his column "How to Survive the College Admissions Madness," “Rejection is fleeting, … and survivable.”
That’s our job as parents now: teach them how to survive. Teach them how to take the punch, get up and pivot. How to make a backup plan even though you hope you won’t need it. How to believe in yourself because this, too, shall pass. This is where their intelligence turns into wisdom.
Five years from now, on graduation day, the child sobbing on your shoulder will be unrecognizable: an adult who has faced darkness and prevailed, who has blossomed in ways neither of you can predict. And that is true no matter which college they choose.
The Congressional Award program is a terrific way for students to beef up their college applications while learning those soft skills that employers want and turn an ordinary service-learning resume into something extraordinary. This program, set up by the US Congress, teaches kids between the ages of 14-24 those valuable “soft skills” like goal-setting, organization, time management and perseverance, and can be earned in conjunction with extracurricular activities you are already doing. Although the Program has been in place since 1979, it is still relatively unknown, so having such an award on your resume will help you stand out. I encourage every student to look into the Congressional Award as a way to beef up your college applications.
Goals for the awards are set in four areas: volunteering/public service, personal development, physical fitness and exploration/expedition. Students set goals in each of these four areas and work with their advisor and validators to accomplish them. Goals might include:
And you’re not in this alone. Much like the Eagle Scout and Girl Scouts Gold Award programs, the Congressional Award Program requires students to have an advisor, an adult who works closely with the student to oversee the entire program to keep him or her on track. Advisors can be any adult not related to the student by blood or by marriage, and can be anyone from a teacher, scout leader or guidance counselor to a family friend. Students also need validators--coaches, guides, service work supervisors, tutors or others--who help the student create measurable goals and then achieve them. Both the validators and advisor have to sign off on the students Record Book pages, the required method of documenting the work that has been done. The very first thing students learn is how to approach adults to request their help with the Program.
need to be consecutive, so your 24 months for the gold award can be spread out across your entire high school (and even college) career to lessen your stress. Hours accumulate across all the levels, so the Gold Award is only 12 months longer than the Silver Award.
Students who are interested in earning a Congressional Award should obtain the official Congressional Award Program Book to learn about the requirements. You can register for the program at the Congressional Award website or by snail mail. Only hours completed after you are registered for the Program count toward your Congressional Award. Every student should consider the Congressional Award as a way to beef up your college applications. Given its prestige and relative obscurity, having such a Congressional Award on your resume will help you stand out.
10/3/2015 0 Comments
““Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Just how do you begin the college admissions process? By developing a good college list, full of schools that fit you perfectly! College Match: A Blueprint for Choosing the Best School for You is essentially a college-counseling program between two covers. Author Dr. Steven R. Antonoff, a former Dean of Admissions at the University of Denver, has packed his book with quizzes and worksheets that allow high school juniors and seniors to examine their values and self-knowledge to reflect on exactly what they want in a school, narrow their criteria and then compare and contrast schools to add to their college list.
This is a classic. We have based the college-counseling curriculum at our school around Antonoff's College Match.
9/26/2015 0 Comments
I was speaking with a parent today who was concerned about her children getting into a “good” college. Turns out by good, she meant Ivy. Obviously, the Ivy League schools (plus Stanford) are the Trump Towers of higher education—the biggest brand names—but like Trump Towers, they’re very expensive, difficult to get into and not the best fit for everyone.
This idea was really brought home for me in a couple of fascinating books: Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz and Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be by Frank Bruni. Both books attempt to calm the mania surrounding the top-ranked schools in the country, but they come at it from different directions.
Hampshire is unique is that their students do not receive traditional letter grades. Instead students receive detailed narrative assessments from their professors (like students at Reed College, St, John's College and Evergreen State College). Instead of choosing a traditional major, Hampshire students design their own rigorous, personalized course of study, culminating in a year-long senior project. In light of this commitment to "authentic assessment," it's not so surprising that Hampshire has been test-optional since the college was founded. Since 1970, their Admissions officers will look at standardized test scores if students choose to submit them, but do not require such scores.
of civic engagement, their letters of recommendation from mentors, and their ability to represent themselves through their essays trump anything the SAT could tell us."
Hampshire took a big risk in deciding to go test-blind. U.S. News and World Report, publisher of the most influential college rankings, refused to include Hampshire in its rankings, because they use standardized test scores as part of their methodology. As I've mentioned in my parent presentations, the college rankings are big business to colleges; moving up in the rankings means an increase in applications in the following year as well as an increase in alumni donations. Sarah Lawrence College was test-blind for many years, but returned to being test-optional in 2012 so they could continue to be ranked. After dropping out of the rankings, Hampshire could well have seen a drastic reduction in both for the 2014-2015 school year.
But they didn't. Inside Higher Ed reports that although they did see a dramatic drop in the number of applications, they admitted the most diverse class in the school's history, including:
9/19/2015 0 Comments
In the world of acronyms, the PSAT/NMSQT is the biggest mouthful. But what does it all mean?
The PSAT evolved as a practice version of the SAT, but now is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Only juniors can take the NMSQT, so if you took the PSAT for practice as a sophomore, your scores were not forwarded to National Merit Scholarship Corp. even if you got a perfect score. You also cannot retake the PSAT/NMSQT, as it is only offered once a year. There are other versions of the PSAT: the PSAT 8/9 and the PSAT 10. They all test the same skills, but "in ways that are appropriate for your grade level," which means the questions are likely easier, and the high scores are not as high. These tests are also offered at different times through the school year. Learn more about these other versions of the PSAT in the table below or by clicking the links.
9/12/2015 0 Comments
I love to learn for the sake of learning and not because I'm aiming for any star-studded diplomas or accreditations, but because there is so much to learn. Your book not only allowed me to see that there were other "Lost Kids" (that's what my guidance counselor called me) but further that there were places trying to find us because we aren't as lost as some of our superiors like to think.
Cool Colleges highlights schools where you run a ranch or a nuclear reactor, study the great books, don't receive grades, take one class at a time, attend after 8th grade or even attend for free! The second edition has added information on eco schools (including my favorite: the Fighting Geoducks of Evergreen State) and still has the traditional complement of ivies, near-ivies and other schools just waiting for the perfect students to find them. Intrigued? This book should be on your shelf.
The layout of the book can be challenging. It's quirky, like its subject matter, and can be difficult to follow. Do not buy the Kindle version: the hyperactive layout makes it virtually impossible to read in that format. That is the only drawback for an otherwise terrific book!
Have you read Cool Colleges? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!
9/7/2015 0 Comments
This week, we welcome guest bloggers Jacqueline Myers from Nitty-Gritty English!
Heading to college is scary. Heading to college as an adult can be terrifying! I know. I’ve been there! Regardless of why you are heading back to the classroom, most likely you will be taking at least some online college courses to round out your degree. When considering online courses, adult students are typically apprehensive about:
First of all, you may be worried that you won’t understand the types of technology that are required when taking online college courses. But as an online educator, I can tell you that if you can upload an attachment in an email, private message friends on Facebook and use basic word-processing programs like Microsoft Word, you have the beginnings of a successful online college career! Online college course platforms are created to be user-friendly. Asking your professor a question about an assignment is just like typing an email or private messaging a friend on Facebook. Typing up the assignment is like typing in any word-processing program you have used. And, uploading that assignment is very similar to uploading a document in an email.
Quick-start tip: Log into your class the first day it’s available and take the time to explore where everything is. Once you figure out how the class is set up, you will feel much more confident about completing the course successfully! Log in often to make sure you are keeping on top of work and so that you don’t miss any important announcements or emails.
So what's in the book? Everything! Beginning with "The Big Picture" for 9th graders and ending with walking the seniors right onto campus, College Is Yours 2.0 is a collection of 60 short (600 word) essays on every college admissions topic your student will be wondering about, written in a humorous and conversational style. He covers creating a college list, standardized testing, campus tours, financial aid and paying for college (which are not the same thing), working with your counselor, and how to make your final choice. There's even an illuminating chapter for parents that I wish I could just type in here, but I'm going to leave you to read it for yourselves.
Since we're in this together, I've limited my chapters to 600 words--just like some of your college essays.
College Is Yours 2.0 is like a guidance counselor in your pocket, a book you can refer to late at night when you're having trouble sleeping and need reassurance. I'm not certain my boys would have actually read it if I had had it to casually prop up against the Xbox, but it would have been reassuring to me as a college admissions mom. I highly recommend it to every 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grader who is thinking about planning to apply to college.
Have you read College Is Yours 2.0? What did you think?
Lessa Scherrer is an college admissions consultant who has worked with college-bound students for many years. She is a member of NACAC and WACAC and also teaches ACT Prep, speed-reading, college study skills and college-level writing.
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