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Ready Set Go: 2018 College Application Season

ready set go, college applications, college planning, university, college prep, education, academics, tutoring, college counseling,, test prep

Ready Set Go

Once upon a time, American high school juniors had a genuine summer break. But frolicking in the sand at the local beach or working a summer job as a barista were the revels of many high school scholars of the past.

What the heck? Why?

University competition, and a lot of it.

So, what better time is there to begin the long procession of the college application season than midummer when our weary students are free of their pesky school schedule?

Since college app deadlines arrive as early as November 1st, successful college hopefuls begin their perilous odyssey toward college acceptance… right about now.

 

Ready Set Go: 3 Quick Tips

Before launching headfirst into the shallow end of the unknown, parents and students would do best to wade in cautiously, but expeditiously.

Students certainly have to hit the ground running to meet deadlines, but first, consider a few preliminary planning tools to map out an effective college planning trajectory.

1. The ChecklistThe Research Phase

Freshman Profile– Do the numbers stack up? Test scores, GPA, etc?

Campus environment– Clubs, sports, culture, weather, location, large/ small

Room and Board– On campus or off campus?

Meal Plans– College meal plan or do it yourself?

Programs or Majors of Study- Biology or Pre-Veterinary Studies?

Total Expense– Tuition, books, room and board, meals, medical, loans/ interest etc.

Transportation– Car, bike, or public?

 

2. The SpreadsheetThe Action Phase

Application Deadlines– Early or Regular Decision?

Application Fees– $75 or $90?

Important Documents– Letters of Rec, Test Scores, Tax Returns, ID, Transcripts

Application Essays Required– None or 5?

Interviews– Private schools only 

Scholarships Available– How many? For what amount?

Applications Submitted/ Not Submitted– Earlier is better to avoid any electronic hiccups.

 

3. The Backup Plan

Don’t get stuck on just one or two schools. Cast a wide net of prospective universities. We all have our dreams, but students must be adaptable.  If a student doesn’t gain admission to his or her first choice, the smart planner will have lined up a gamut of suitable alternatives. Ensure you have choices and many of them.

The “worst” worst case scenario is applying to 2 or 3 schools and ending up with 3 “unfortunately, we are unable to move forward with your candidacy at this time” letters.

The “best” worst case scenario is that a student must select the best college out of 10. Be in this group; its a solid place to be.

 

Ready Set Go: The Take Away

Selecting universities and getting the details right are key, so take your time. Get organized, set up a methodical plan and work it. Parents and students may choose to involve teachers, school counselors, or private college planners to seek professional guidance and calm the overactive nerves of students and families as they confront high stakes and monumental stress. 

Half the battle is preparation and organization; checklists and spreadsheets are your friends, so lean on them and often.

The time to gear up and get planning is just around the corner. Happy college application season!

Ready, set, go!

The Facts of Education Level: College Graduation’s True Value

Facts: Education Level

In an era in which facts are advertised as obsolete, students and parents may be tempted to dismiss the merits of a college education. Nonetheless, when analyzing the relationship between higher education and real world wages and earnings, the hard evidence- the numbers- have withstood the test of time. While some argue a college education is overrated, a mere “piece of paper,” or worth less than its initial expense, the data resoundingly contradicts this assumption.

College graduates, on average, earned 56% more than high school grads in 2015, according to data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute.”- USA Today

Facts: Value

The value of a university degree is not a trend that will subside any time soon despite the current wave of rhetoric that seeks to undermine the facts of that “piece of paper.” University admissions is an increasingly difficult process and that “piece of paper-” exponentially more valuable. In fact, the wage gap, specifically between white males with a college degree and those without, is accelerating.

Of course, there are exceptions: some individuals are born into wealth or inherit it, engage in surreptitious, “under the table,” or unethical if not illegal ventures, or possess connections to willing investors or a talent that will catapult them into stardom and financial bliss.

However, for most of us, the stars don’t align so serendipitously.

Facts: Job Recruiting

Anyone who’s earned a college degree at a reputable university where grades are earned, not given, is all too familiar with the challenges that come with juggling a full time rigorous course load and working two jobs to offset the cost of campus life. Employers are keen to this competitive reality; consequently, they typically recruit successful up and coming college grads, especially Science Technology Math and Engineering (STEM) graduates, for higher paying positions right out of the gates.

According to NACE’s Winter 2018 Salary Survey report, engineering majors are projected to average $66,521, while computer science graduates are expected to average $66,005.”- The Connecticut Business and Industry Association

Since most of us will not likely be the next Beyonce, let’s apply the law of averages: “the principle that, in the long run, probability will operate and influence any one occurrence.” In layman’s terms, the odds are, even those who perform or achieve above average results still need to root themselves in the hard work of reality to get ahead. A college degree can’t hurt.

Facts: The Boring Yet True Law of Averages

Averages are certainly not as appealing as the one in a million odds of reality television notoriety, overnight billionaire status or superhuman athletic achievement, but they clearly indicate where most of us fall on the spectrum of education, professional success and commensurate income.

The typical bachelor’s degree recipient can expect to earn about 66% more during a 40-year working life than the typical high school graduate earns over the same period.”- Trends in Education; Lifetime Earnings By Education Level/ Collegeboard, 2009

Furthermore, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey of 2,002 adults supplemented by a Pew Research analysis of economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau, college educated Millennials earn more than Millennials who aren’t.

The economic analysis finds that Millennial college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working full time earn more annually—about $17,500 more—than employed young adults holding only a high school diploma.”

Smart Asset’s 2017 analysis of average salaries according to education level highlights the following average annual salaries according to high school and higher education status:

  • No High School Diploma= $25, 636
  • High School Diploma= $35,356
  • Some College= $41, 496
  • College Degree= $59,124
  • Master’s Degree= $69,732
  • Doctoral Degree= $84,396
  • Professional Degree= $89,000 plus

While considering independent and corporate research, large swaths of government stats exist as well.

The Social Security Administration collects data on lifetime earnings as a result of education and gender, facts that clearly indicate the benefits of college attendance and graduation.

Men with bachelor’s degrees earn approximately $900,000 more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with bachelor’s degrees earn $630,000 more. Men with graduate degrees earn $1.5 million more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with graduate degrees earn $1.1 million more.”

The evidence is irrefutable; college counts. Even if every class’s content isn’t earth shattering and state of the art, university experience advances social development, time management skills, networking benefits and post college professional opportunities.

For “the average” individual, a four year degree is worth the price tag.

Stay tuned for my next article about smart financial planning, grants and scholarships to get most of that coveted degree paid for!

The College Waitlist- How to Survive Purgatory

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The College Waitlist

“Waitlisted.” You’ve already waited for months! You’ve chewed your every nail down to the nub, endured restless nights and promised the “Great Spirit in the Sky” you’ll do better, be better, if you only get into that one school. Finally, the March college acceptance letters roll out. Teary eyed and sweaty palmed, you claw open the letter, and…in bold, the only phrase that screams out is “wait listed!”

What the heck?

If you’ve been placed on a waitlist, it means that the admission folks are done reviewing your file and that you are on their radar, but not their first option.”- Peterson’s

 

Multiple factors can be attributed to the waitlist purgatory, but two are often assumed to be the culprits:

  1. You’re overqualified for the particular school.
  2. You’re under qualified for your dream school.

While this analysis is an oversimplification, let’s examine the two candidates.

The Overqualified Waitlist Candidate

The student who has achieved more than the university’s freshman profile indicates- her test scores are higher, her GPA’s above and beyond, her laundry list of extracurricular successes exceed those of Ghandi- she may have applied to said university as a “backup” or “safety” school.

According to PrepScholar, “A safety school is a college that you’re almost guaranteed to get into. Your GPA should be well above the average student’s at that school and your SAT or ACT score should be above the 75th percentile for that school.”

While applying to safety schools is a must, don’t put all your eggs in the safety basket. These admissions offices are privy to your strategy; if all else fails, “I guess I’ll go here.” Universities predict you will choose higher ranking school if the opportunity arises.

These schools may not be quite so “safe” after all; they may “waitlist,” defer or reject your application outright. Why? Yield.

Schools stock wait lists with all kinds of applicants — A-plus students, athletes, candidates who can pay full tuition…wait-listing students is like choosing back-ups for a sports team. You want one for every position.”- Marketplace

Universities need to ensure that they acquire enough of the “right kind” of student. Admissions offices certainly do not want to count on your intent to enroll if you’re accepted into a higher ranking “dream school.” So, colleges accumulate a varied waitlist just in case they don’t receive enough applicants that “match” their criteria.

Although obvious, an underlying motivation for waitlisting is financial solvency or in simple terms, money; colleges require students because students provide funding through family money, private loans and scholarships, or public grants, which keeps the school alive and thriving.

If you choose not to attend a university that ranks below your standard at the last minute, that safety school is left “holding the bag.” Colleges count on it, so they might waitlist you and accept overly qualified students only when necessary.

The Under Qualified Waitlist Candidate

These scholars have targeted their “reach” or even “dream” schools, but have performed below or even well below the academic markers of qualified university candidates.

Indeed, some of these students are waitlisted, in all likelihood because they have a strikingly distinct resume of accomplishments. While these candidates may not possess the standard hard numbers, they offer other means of proof that they will succeed in a suitable university setting. See “soft skills” below.

The waitlist functions here to retain “desperate” students who seek admission into this school first and foremost.

The University’s Desired Student Body

In truth, many four year institutions of higher learning select students according to a more nuanced rubric than calculating the simple face value of a student’s hard data, such as GPA and Standardized Test Scores. Colleges frequently seek a diversified student body, including students who offer “soft skills,” which have been developed through:

  • Internships
  • Community Service
  • Nonprofit or For-profit Business Ownership As a Minor
  • Club, Student Body, or Athletic Leadership
  • Artistic Merit- Gallery Openings, Musical Competitions, Published Poetry, Drama/ Theater Experience, etc

Because universities themselves offer an abundance of culturally enriching extracurricular opportunities, such as student-led clubs from animal welfare and sports to hip hop and computer science, they seek to cultivate a new crop of political and professional leaders who have more to show than a 4.0 GPA at the end of their college tenure.

Best Waitlist Advice

  • Apply to a range safety, match, and “dream” universities.
  • Write a letter of appeal to Admissions Offices. Why is the campus the right fit for you and why are you the right fit for this campus’s school culture?
  • Be patient, to a point. The intent to enroll deadline for most universities is May 1st, so kindly urge the university to decide beforehand.
  • Broaden your horizons during the college application process

Even if you are waitlisted or not accepted by one college, as long as you’ve applied to a range of universities, you will land exactly where you belong for your next four years.

College Preparation: Nature, Nurture or Somewhere In Between

Development, Brain Growth, Nature vs Nurture, education, tutoring, teaching, parenting, college readiness, test prep, cognitition

Nature vs Nurture

Is it nature or is it nurture? Every so often we meet a student who appears to have it all. She seems naturally gifted in every sense: the captain of the varsity tennis team, a Calculus BC mathlete not to mention her high school’s poet laureate, and the first chair violinist. Most would assume she is innately adept at everything, a person who will succeed in any endeavor regardless of circumstance.

Why? Because she was “born with it.” Nature, right?

Not so fast.

MedicineNet, an online publication that features doctors, psychologists and other healthcare providers, suggests an alternative understanding. According to its recent article,  “Nature vs Nurture: Is It In Our Genes Or In Our Environment,

In the context of the nature vs. nurture debate, ‘nature’ refers to biological/genetic predispositions’ impact on human traits, and nurture describes the influence of learning and other influences from one’s environment.

Nurture or one’s environment refines and molds the human brain as a student matures from gestation through adolescence. Whether a student is “born with” higher or lower levels of cognition, environment plays a crucial role in influencing cerebral development during an individual’s formative years.

Historically, nature and nurture in the context of human intelligence and growth have been ceaselessly pitted against one another as incompatible adversaries. For decades, scientists and psychologists insisted that those who are “gifted and talented” have been gifted and talented from day one; those students who fail to show signs of youthful genius never will.

For example, The Time’s of Higher Education’s 1997 essay, “Nature’s Defeat of Nurture,” contends that nature or genes dominate an individual’s growth, aptitude and behavior based on twin studies. Several twins, two children born at the same birth, raised in similar if not the same environment, formed disparate personalities and exhibited differing traits throughout their lives. Therefore, the foremost psychologists in this article argued, “…the common shared environment – the family, the neighborhood, the parents’ income and education, their way of raising children – has no effect on the development of personality.” However, in light of recent analyses, this interpretation has largely been proven inconclusive.

Subsequent studies have since revealed that environment is indeed a powerful player in the brain growth game, even when individuals are raised in parallel environments. According to a 2013 NCBI study of human behavior, researchers  deduced the following:

There was general agreement that everybody’s behavior is influenced to varying degrees by both genetic and environmental factors but deterministic accounts of causation, except in exceptional circumstances, were rejected.- National Center for Biotechnology Information

In short, genetic fixity or rudimentary determinism is not the sole or even primary contributor to a one’s intellectual, personal or creative makeup.

Nature and Nurture

Today, psychologists and educators have discovered “nature’s partner is nurture.” Nature is not nurture’s bullish foe, but rather, nurture is nature’s encouraging mentor. Thus, nurture plays a significant role in any student’s intellectual, social-emotional and creative development. Our superstar tennis champion, mathlete-poet, and violinist has most certainly experienced a supportive learning environment both at home and in school, which has expeditiously nurtured her innate talents and skills.

So, how do hereditary (nature) and cultivated (nurture) traits engineer the academic success and college achievement of diverse students?

We are all born with our initial cognitive potential and family/ community resources; our students are born of their parents genes and into their family’s socioeconomic status. Consequently, some will have a head start due to the circumstances of their privilege; others will experience far fewer advantages as they leap from life’s “starting blocks.”

Nonetheless, nature and nurture coexist. As such, there are abundant ‘free of charge” resources available to all students who range in age, learning style, and inherent ability. Therefore, educators and families should foster “nurturing” environments that will support any student’s university preparation at little to no monetary cost.

Pre-K to 5th Grade- Start Em’ Young!

  1. READ, READ, READ (Nurture, Nurture, Nurture)

*Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library  offers free books to low income students around the world. Check your local area for availability

*The local library is your friend. If your branch doesn’t have your book, they can order it from another location at no cost to patrons

  1. Additional Free Help for Parents
  • Boys and Girls Clubs provide educational, social and other developmental skills coaching
  • Khan Academy (all ages) is a free online resource that hosts numerous learning programs from English and math instruction to SAT help
  • Friends, family and trusted neighbors can also create the nurturing community young students need. If parents struggle with Common Core math, maybe an older sibling who’s already successfully completed the course can jump in!

Middle School- Get Ready!

  1. Enter Enhanced Digital Learning
  • Quill.org is an excellent free online resource for grades 1-9 writing and grammar coaching, lessons and projects
  • iCivics by Common Sense Education, appropriate for grades 6-12, assists teachers, students and parents as they investigate local, state and federal laws, rights, responsibilities and government functions through online interactive games, projects and puzzles
  • Get-the-Math,  another free online opportunity, introduces middle school learners to real life math scenarios, which encourage students to think beyond the textbook and appreciate the ways in which math applies to music, architecture, video game creation and civil engineering
  1. Rapid Brain Development
  • While mood swings and difficult behavior are afoot in the lives of  middle school youth who have been stricken by the onset of puberty, changes in behavior and personality have recently been attributed more to rapid brain development rather than pure hormonal mutiny (Nature)
  • In school and at home methods that sustain students in this challenging developmental stage in healthy ways include:

*Positive Reinforcement– Clearly state what a student is doing well in the moment (it remains ill advised to toss a piece a candy in a kid’s direction every time he does his homework)

*Confidence and Team Building Activities– Rock climbing, hiking, trust falls, scavenger hunts, setting small goals and accomplishing them, arts and crafts, or simply carving out time to listen and suspend judgment are just some activities that promote self-esteem and reduce angst

*A little TLC  or “tender loving care” goes a long way. A “Tween” is on her path to self-discovery while her brain’s prefrontal cortex, the logical command center, battles its amygdala, the emotional vortex of the “lizard brain,” the brain’s most primitive part. Let the girl wear her earbuds and have some down time. We’ll all need it once “teenagedom” is in full swing.

High School and the Road to University

Stay tuned for my next installment about “nurturing” college bound high school students as they prepare for a competitive future through journaling, test preparation, nutrition, internships, and time management, among other techniques.

In truth, not every student will become a hybrid of Einstein meets tennis champion, but educators and families can all work together to build a safe academic space for all students where they will “grow into” their gifts and talents as they mature into professional adults.

The Admissions Mystique: What Do Colleges Expect?

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What do colleges expect?

The good news about college acceptance? Even “the experts” don’t possess the “silver bullet.”

The bad news? No one does.

College acceptance rates and their corresponding criteria vary from year to year based on a range of metrics including, but not limited to:

  • The pool of applicants and its characteristics
  • A college’s diversity and financial quotas
  • The allowable occupancy of specialized programs such as computer science, engineering and nursing

Nonetheless, there are some readily apparent trends that university data reveals.

According to the New York Times, “What Colleges Want In an Applicant (Everything),”  GPA or grade point average and ACT/SAT scores still function as the gatekeepers of most reputable four year universities.

“U.S. News Data: Admissions Trends at Top Public Colleges” has recently confirmed that student SAT scores are rising, therefore raising the bar for the average student. In layman’s terms, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to compete.

College Acceptance Criteria

Other nuanced factors bear influence on a college applicant’s acceptance:

  • Ability to pay whether through loans, scholarships or family money
  • Family alumni connections
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Socioeconomic status
  • High school class rank
  • A student’s high school state ranking
  • Student educational opportunities and resources

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “What You Need to Know About Race-Conscious Admissions in 2017” asserts that the most contentious criteria are likely policies of “Race Consciousness,” which proponents argue increases diversity and opportunity for underrepresented youth by ”privileging black, Hispanic, Native American, and other disadvantaged groups.” Opponents claim that such policies discriminate against more qualified white and Asian applicants based on GPA and standardized test scores.

Whether we defend or criticize these policies, “affirmative action” policies exist in higher education, the expectation being that if a student has more, he or she can achieve more. Therefore, these policies have not been deemed unconstitutional as educational opportunities remain inequitable and disproportionately allotted to more affluent students.

Regardless of socioeconomic status or ethnicity, every student, with the support of his or her educational “village” of parents, teachers, counselors, mentors and tutors, must work to “make the grade.”

General “Rules of Thumb”

Consider the following models to identify safety, match and reach colleges:

Affluent Students are expected to exceed expectations in school, 3.8- 4.2+, and on standardized tests, 1350-1550 SAT score.

  • Most colleges require parents who claim their students as a dependent to report their financial information via their previous year’s tax return
  • In certain cases, these families also have alumni connections, which aid a student’s acceptance prospects
  • Depending on the university, ethnicity, race and/or religious affiliation may sway admission’s departments to meet a diversity quota; albeit, not all colleges have specified “diversity quotas”

Lower Income Students are expected to meet expectations in high school, 3.0-3.7, and on entrance exams, 1100-1300 SAT score. These students will likely need to secure funding through:

  • Public or government grants
  • Military funding or the GI bill
  • Private “need-based” scholarships
  • A student’s ability to pay tends to be more significant here

Students Living at or Below the Poverty Line are expected to “survive.” These students have a larger margin of grace, particularly for state and certain private colleges. Earning a 1000 SAT and a GPA of 2.5+ is a start:

  • Grants and scholarships abound, particularly if a student belongs to a marginalized group
  • A student’s ability to pay is less significant
  • Colleges analyze “growth” on high school report cards; if these students show progress between 9th and 11th grades, universities often wager these students will continue to show promise, grit and determination

Students Who Do Not Meet the Expectations of their peers may have other options:

  • Family alumni and connections
  • Wealth
  • Athletic talent
  • Severely adverse or difficult childhood experiences, trauma or disabilities
  • Strong resume of sports, art, community service, internships, etc
  • Safety schools with high acceptance rates

                     -Texas A&M, 67%

                     -Wofford College, 72% 

                     -University of Denver, 73% 

  • Community College

Most troubling, recruiting students of color from lower-class and impoverished inner city communities is far from equitable; these students often lack fundamentals from basic necessities such as food security and a safe space to study to adequate educational opportunities such as quality teachers, tutors, and test preparation. Although racially diverse underprivileged students are expected to pass their classes and “survive” standardized testing as prospective candidates of safety schools, the vast majority will not qualify for admission at ranking universities unless they possess:

  • Requisite athletic skills to play college sports
  • Intellectual prowess to perform well without extra support
  • Notable artistic aptitude in art, music or the performing arts

While numerous scholarships and public grants are available once students are accepted, poor minority students confront the steepest upward climb toward university admission’s success.

On the other hand, no matter who a student is categorically speaking, college acceptance remains a “cloak and dagger” enigma.

However, students and parents can prepare.

Start with a simple checklist:

  • Maintain 3.5+ GPA
  • Strive to perform on college entrance exams
  • Rise to meet college admission standards
  • Secure college funding (FASFA first)
  • Analyze college freshman profiles (GPA, test score and demographic data)
  • Identify safety, match and reach schools- There’s no shame in attending community college first
  • Seek sound college counseling advice and often

University entrance is an uphill trudge no matter who you are, but colleges are well within reach if students and parents know where they stand, have a plan and stick to it.

Stay tuned for my next article regarding college admissions and the “nature vs nurture’s” impact on university candidates.

The Holidays: 4 Tips for a Family Fun Education

holidays, K-12, students, Comics, Avengers, DC Comics, education, parents, museums, zoos, higher order thinking, critical thinking

Holidays or “Holidaze?”

Many of the families I serve wrack their brains, “What can I do with my kids over holidays like Veterans Day, Thanksgiving break, Winter break, President’s’ Day,  Ski Week (especially if they don’t ski), Spring break and the whopper of them all, Summer Break?”

The list of weeklong or “weeks’ long” vacations seems to multiply and drag on each year, so parents more often than not scramble to find adequate child care and carve out quality family time that has some academic merit. Why are they so anxious? What’s the big deal?

Their primary concern- “I just can’t let my student fall behind”- literally keeps some parents up at night. Inevitably, K-12 students will return to school, readjusting to an early start, rigorous long days and considerable homework all over again. Yet, parents and educators legitimately don’t want students to suffer from “severe brain death” over extended vacations. So how can parents and caregivers prevent their youth from the proverbial “mental break” on break?

Step 1: Do not be alarmed. The Holidays are A-okay.

The youthful brain is undergoing explosive development, hormonal overdoses during puberty and what I often refer to as “attitude dysfunction.” It may not feel like it, but this is normal. All phases will pass, even “the terrible two’s and three’s” and teenagedom.

 

Step 2: Be Proactive. Get Offline and Maximize Holiday Hands On Time.

The proactive parent or caretaker has to be creative to rescue their adolescent’s education and secure active engagement other than the gaming abyss of “World of Warcraft” or “Resident Evil 7.” Supervised online activity is fine some of the time, but offline activities are fundamental for bonding, creativity and simple experience in the world.

If your student is not the prodigious journalism major or avid novel reader, try tossing some graphic novels or comic books their way. Kids of all ages love Marvel’s Avengers or DC ComicsBatman, so why not provide them with some movie context and borrow the comic book backstories at the library? Star Wars has has graphic novels, puzzles, coloring books, and legos! Explore the story of Han Solo, piece together or color a signature scene from the Empire Strikes Back, and create your own Lego Death Star as a family.

 

Step 3: Fun Holiday Outdoor Family Time Is Worth the Effort.

Plan adventures with a clandestine educational twist; your kids don’t have to know they’re “learning” and enjoying at the same time. Outings to zoos and museums or scoping out local hiking trails, rock climbing gyms and botanical gardens are host to optimal experiences and reflections. As a family, you can describe the numerous features, evaluate what you liked most and reflect on new information from the name of plant species to climbing gear. Usually around the holidays, community events pop up all over town like Christmas tree lightings, Jewish Heritage Events, and Kwanza Cultural Celebrations, which also host a plethora of critical thinking and historical knowledge. Most are generally low cost, but rich in academic content. In fact, every year, San Diego’s free two day December Nights event celebrates the Christmas tradition in addition to the international fare, customs and faiths with various musical performances, food booths and carnival rides.

 

Step 4: Ask and You Shall Receive Holiday Higher Order Thinking.

Regardless of which activity you choose, the proactive parent constantly sparks dialogue and asks questions during and after a family escapade.

During an event, parents can initiate basic comprehension and higher order thinking skills, such as application, synthesis and evaluation of experiences and information, by asking the following questions:

  1. Describe what you see, smell, taste, feel, and hear?
  2. What’s happening or has happened so far?
  3. Can you describe the procedure you’re using and/or the sequence of events? (from building a Lego planet to the events unfolding in a comic)
  4. What is this character or individual doing and why is he or she doing it?
  5. What is the objective or goal of the character, your project or the celebration? Explain its importance.

 

After an event, the time for reflection not only activates critical thinking, but long-term recall and memory:

  1. Summarize what happened.
  2. What was the most enjoyable aspect or part?
  3. What went well?
  4. What would you improve?
  5. Evaluate or rate the experience. What were the finer points and which would you change? Why?

 

Even the slightest flicker of creativity, enthusiasm and adventure can ignite memorable experiences and educational stimuli. Explore, attend free or low cost excursions and consistently ask questions; parents might be surprised what they learn from their students!

 

For-Profit College: Worth It or Not Quite?

for-profit, nonprofit, university, community college, college planning, tuition, cost, employment, accreditation, academics, public university

For-Profit and the Rest

For-profit or nonprofit, public or private, community college or four year college? So many choices confuse the college planning process for our youth and working adult students. Regardless of which option students choose, they all have to pay; tuition, housing, food, medical, transportation, facility fees, and on and on. No matter how students slice it, university life is costly. Whether they’re applying for scholarships, borrowing federal loans or using their GI Bill, selecting the right college track is paramount. While federal and state policies continuously change to a greater or lesser degree, students are generally better off steering clear of for-profit higher education altogether regardless of the sales pitch.

What For-Profits Sell

In the sales world, for-profit institutions boast of greater inclusion and an easier application process. Many of their classes are online, so a typical catch phrase is “flexibility for the working adult.” Counselors often plan everything from course schedules to ordering student books. The seeming ease with which everything is taken care of is tempting; nominal, if any, student self-navigation is required. There are no entrance exams and high school grades are rarely if ever relevant. As a result, for-profits present a shoo-in for all college hopefuls who simply want to “get it done” or believe they can’t make the grade at a credible public or nonprofit private university. In many cases, if prospective students, particularly young adults returning to school after a gap year or extended hiatus, are willing to forfeit colossal sums of money, often without realizing the true cost including cost of living, they select a for-profit because it’s the “easier” route.

Yet the dangers of For-Profit education are evident:

  1. A for-profit degree or credential costs 20-40% more than it would at a public university, schools that far exceed any for-profit’s reputation and quality.

    For example, SDSU’s annual tuition for the 2017/2018 school year is $11,800 whereas the 2015/2016 tuition at DeVry University in Pomona, CA was $16,000. A degree at DeVry is 26% more expensive and far less valuable in the job market.

  2.  Because for-profits accept anyone, students who earn their degrees at these institutions are less likely to gain employment upon graduation.

Applicants with business bachelor’s degrees from large online for-profit institutions are about 22 percent less likely to hear back from employers than applicants with similar degrees from non-selective public schools, says the study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.US News

A for-profit degree simply isn’t as impressive to potential employers, which compounds the difficulty of finding a decent paying job to start paying off that hefty student debt.

  1. Students often drop out before earning a for-profit degree once they realize the sub-par, but expensive education they’ve been sold, which

  • Burdens them with insurmountable debt
  • Increases the likelihood of defaulting on student loans
  • Increases their risk of overall poverty
  1. The consequences of defaulting or failing to repay student loans extend far beyond campus life as students risk:

  • a lawsuit by lenders
  • poor credit and potential bankruptcy
  • qualifying for future education loans and grants
  1. Should students attempt to transfer to a community college or public university, previous credits earned at a for-profit school are rarely transferable.

It will be particularly tough to transfer credits because of the way for-profit colleges are accredited. While most public and nonprofit colleges are regionally accredited, for-profit colleges tend to be nationally accredited. The difference, according to an article in Academe magazine, is that national agencies “use quantitative criteria like completion and job-placement rates,” while regional agencies “consider factors like shared governance and academic freedom.”- Business Insider

In other words, students have to begin all over again, which requires more time, money and commitment.

The For-Profit Bottom Line

In sum, completing a Bachelor’s Degree or higher degree is a holistic commitment to the institution’s social environment, academic curriculum and one’s personal financial responsibility. Since for-profits are often considered “predatory” institutions because their primary responsibility is to their “bottom line” and their shareholders, they prey on the uninformed or ill-informed. Just because something is easy doesn’t make it worth it. Students must free their minds of the for-profit sales pitch, “an effortless fast-track to financial success.” Only then can students pursue quality, cost-effective higher education.

An Optimal Route

The most affordable and credible workaround is your local community college. For an annual $1104 at San Diego City College, this “budget” tuition covers student health services, a full course load of 12 units or four classes and a high-caliber curriculum delivered by respected and talented professors. Many community colleges, whose tuition ranges from $1000-$4000 annually, also offer many courses online to suit working adults’ needs and diverse classroom environments for recent high school grads. Most importantly, almost all units are readily transferable to a reputable public or nonprofit private 4-year college that will yield a higher success rate and more advantageous employment opportunities for a bargain price.

I Have Less; Can I Achieve My Best Test?

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How do I ace a test, the SAT, or any standardized test? How can they expect me to know everything? What if I don’t have the skills or the advantages?

They, whether a teacher, professor, ETS (Educational Testing Service), or the College Board, absolutely do not expect you to know everything that could potentially arise on an exam. In fact, that is precisely what they don’t want.

However, an increasingly globalized international climate has advanced educational accessibility for students with disabilities. Additionally, educators and public schools are painfully aware of the educational inequities among subgroups and have enacted policies in the United states to lessen the Achievement Gap, the persistent disparity in educational opportunities due to ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, etc. Many public schools and districts have pursued feasible and affordable reforms, which include picking students up at their homes, extending campus hours to accommodate economically disadvantaged students so they have a place to study and use computers, or facilitating after school peer tutoring.

Nevertheless, there is so much more to do. According to Marina Bolotinikova, author of Harvard Magazine’s article, “FAS’s Inequality in America Initiative,” educational imbalances continue to exist even now in 2017 at even some of the most elite universities, including Harvard itself.

We have people who are looking at inequality across race, gender, and class, but also thinking about the different domains of inequality–education, health, the labor market. We have all this on campus, but they’re not always in conversation…The idea here is to pursue a strategy that’s focused on greater collaboration, some new investment, and more dialogue.

On the other hand, prior to Harvard’s initiative, 21st century educators have supported progress along many avenues to “even the playing field” with the advent of student chromebooks, better cheap wifi, enhancing school libraries with used or donated books, and offering online courses and school approved websites. To be sure, students around the globe and across the country are better equipped “to know” and learn more than in previous eras. And yet, educational inequality persists. Not all students have access to private tutors, good schools, educated parents and technology in the home.

So, how do students with less, born and raised in neighborhoods that are so violent, sometimes they avoid school to avoid getting jumped? How do food insecure, homeless, and/or minority youth do well enough on tests to “pass go” and level up? How do young girls who are prescribed as homemakers, not college students,  transcend barriers? What about the SAT, a test so daunting, even students with every resource at their disposal struggle to hit their target score?

In many cases, the best source for success is you, the high school student.

So, let’s ask some fundamental questions and brainstorm some real-word solutions.

What can I do to build skills in reading comprehension and math?

  1. Read more outside of school assignments. Read a variety of materials: newspapers, novels, graphic novels, biographies.
  • Most library cards are free
  • Schools often have materials on hand in their libraries
  • Print out online publications at school; it’s cost free to you.
  • Visit the College Board for free test taking tips and practice tests
  1. Annotate what you read.
  • Underline main ideas
  • Circle and define new vocabulary in the margins, on a separate sheet of paper or make your own quizlet online
  • Stop every paragraph or two and ask, “What did I just read?”
  1. Explore purplemath or mathisfun, websites that will help you review and clarify:
  • Exponents
  • Arithmetic (PEMDAS)
  • Algebra
  • Coordinate Plane Geometry
  • Geometry
  • Basic Trig

What strategies can I use on multiple choice tests and college entrance exams?

  1. Process of Elimination
  • For each answer choice, ask, “Is it wrong?” If it’s not wrong, do not cross it out. Keep it. The choice may not be great, but it may be the least wrong.
  • Underline the word or words that make an answer choice wrong; then, cross it out.
  • The answer that’s not wrong is the correct answer
  1. Annotate all test questions, whether math or English.
  • Hunt for the most specific words and underline them.
  • Ignore everything else- it wastes your time to read words you don’t need.
  • In the following example, inferred, both, and agree are your key words:

It can be inferred from both passages that the authors would most likely agree that

  1. Don’t do anything you don’t have to do on a multiple choice test.
  • Less is more
  • Keep it simple
  • Let your answer choices guide you, particularly in math
    • Sometimes solving half the problem is all that is required.
  1. Set up a Khan Academy account online and practice for free.

The world of educational opportunity remains a far cry from egalitarian or “equal,” but there are resources available to students of every circumstance. If your school or home doesn’t have what you need, perhaps a bus pass and the public library will. Combined with determination, hard work and basic resources, every student can succeed if you have the desire.

Breaking Bad Habits: The Right ACT Attitude

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Developing Bad Habits

As students gain academic experience, they cannot help but develop coping mechanisms or “bad habits,” which they wholly believe will enable their survival under the competitive pressure of college admissions. These behavioral patterns often serve them well…until they don’t.

For better or worse, we mimic the behavior of others, mistakenly accept bad advice as truth and obstinately cling to our ways and means of achievement even if these methods imperil our future goals. Consequently, “undoing” erroneous habits and rigid ways of thinking is essential for students to make genuine progress toward college acceptance.

It only stands to reason then that students, parents and educators alike must adopt a more adaptable and flexible attitude when approaching college entrance to ensure eventual student success.

Without Pretense or Euphemism, the ACT is a Beast of a Test

  • Many tout it as “knowledge based,” when in fact the ACT requires nuanced reasoning, particularly in the Reading and English sections.
  • Time is of the essence; in other words, you rarely have enough of it. In fact, students have only 35 minutes to complete 40 questions in both the Reading and Science sections, which boils down to 48 seconds per question! This barely accounts for time to read and truly comprehend the text.
  • Lastly, the ACT is deceiving; in other words, it is not an honest, straightforward exam. Specifically, questions supply answer choices that contain misleading details from the passage that may be true in one context, but don’t actually answer the question at hand.
  • Eliminate wrong answers before taking a stab at choosing the correct one.

Given Its Rigorous Timing and Trickery, Might the ACT Be One of Many “Bad Habits?”

  • There is an abundance of costly SAT/ACT diagnostic tests, abbreviated exams that tout accurate predictions of which one is the more appropriate. 
  • The long and short of these magical shortcuts; they are not magic and rarely reveal an accurate picture.
  • Rather, students can print a free online ACT and SAT, and complete each full length exam on their own or with a parent. Don’t forget to set the stop watch- timing is everything!

Be Willing to Confront and Accept the Frustrating Facts: The ACT is Not Your Friend

  • Some college counselors and for-profit testing companies are often the perpetrators of bad advice that steer impressionable teens in the wrong direction.
  • At ages as young as fourteen, some students are convinced that there’s only one way to succeed even when their testing data suggests alternative methods are necessary.
  • For example, a young scholar may believe the ACT is the only route to college admittance even when he’s scoring a 16 out of 36with guided instruction– which is an unacceptable score for any undergraduate institution.
  • In actuality, the new “overhauled” SAT is usually the better test generally for one reason: more time per question.
  • It’s imperative to switch gears if the ACT isn’t working and try something different!

Success Involves Many Avenues; When One Dead Ends, Follow Another

  • Take both the SAT and ACT to start.
  • Prep for the test with the higher score- See the Study Point Score Conversion Chart here
  • If you’re scoring comparably or at roughly the same level on both, analyze which areas you’re scoring better or worse in; if the science section of the ACT is dragging you down, the ACT may not be your test.
  • If you are a slower reader, the ACT is definitely not your test!
  • If you’re scoring poorly on both, even with test prep, consider other options:
  1. Retake certain high school courses that you didn’t pass the first time around to fortify your basic English and math skills.
  2. Consider community college; if you perform well in your classes, you can save a boatload of cash and skip both ACT and SAT to transfer to a four-year.
  3. Don’t get stuck! Attempting the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome is one definition of insanity! When it’s time, move on.

To achieve college acceptance, you must first accept yourself. Unless you’re a gifted test-taker to begin with, the ACT will assuredly be a brutal, if not impossible journey.

If the ACT isn’t working, there are better choices that will reveal themselves to you if you’re mind is open and you adapt your behavior. Break some “bad habits;” turn left instead of right this time- try the SAT or junior college- or reverse course altogether and shore up basic skills before moving forward.

You will arrive at the gates of the university you were meant to attend when you finally step foot on the right path!

Online Education or Not to Online Education

online learning, university, traditional classroom, in person learning, special needs, education, higher education

Online Education’s Perks 

Is online education an effective learning tool or a duplicitous marketing scam for sub par college courses? Dodging an overwhelming number of conflicting studies, interpretations and opinions, many parents and students feel that it’s nearly impossible to be “on the ball” and make heads or tails of the truth. Therefore, it’s essential to evaluate the two sides of this proverbial online educational coin: the virtues of online education versus its challenges.

On the one hand, many studies suggest that online college courses cost less and provide equal opportunity for less mobile students who are often inundated with work woes and other time constraints. According to Open Education’s “10 Advantages to Taking Online Courses,” the world of online ed is replete with:

  • A broader range of course variety and selection
  • Lower costs for students and the institution
  • Less (if any) commute time
  • Convenience for working students with computer access
  • Course flexibility and “work at your own pace” options

Similarly, Wired Magazine’s Op Ed, “Why Online Learning Is More Valuable Than Traditional College,” asserts that since the dawn of video conferencing, through Skype, Wimba or Google Hangouts, online education possesses almost everything a traditional tutoring or teaching environment includes, but every task can be accomplished without wasted resources and time on traveling, parking, fuel,books, etc. Online visual learning not only provides accountability for both teacher and student, but many contend that the optics also support student-teacher rapport.

Furthermore, The Best Colleges’ “2017 Online Education Trends Report” suggests that online classes may be best suited for “Industry Switchers” or mature adults seeking a career change and “Career Accelerators,” older industry professionals who enroll in additional courses to earn a credits, certificates and/or degrees that yield higher salaries

Online Education’s Challenges

Despite the benefits for working adults, in person or face-to-face education may be the superior option.

For one, a recent 2017 study explored in Inside Higher Ed’s “Online Education Costs More, Not Less,” contends online education is not necessarily more affordable.

21 components of an online course, such as faculty development, instructional   design and student assessment, and how the cost of those components compares to a similar face-to-face course. The respondents — administrators in charge of distance education at 197 colleges — said nine of the components cost more in an online course than in a face-to-face course, while 12 cost about the same.

In other words, students will pay a higher tuition in order to offset the more expensive aspects of online learning even though students may save on time and travel.

Furthermore, Issues in Science and Technology’s article, “The Online Challenge to Higher Education,” highlights the multitude of online academia’s barriers, such as the:

  • predatory nature of for-profit online universities that charge exorbitant fees for a mediocre curriculum
  • lag in updating educational technology and analyzing its trends
  • inability to accommodate the necessary discourse in humanities disciplines
  • absence of “developing expertise through oral expression and presentations”
  • abandonment of lab sciences
  • lack of community to facilitate research and peer learning

Online learning may be convenient for financially astute working adults pursuing vocational training or extension courses, but may not suit the novice university student. Issues in Science and Technology clearly indicates, “Although computer simulations and modeling can capture elements of how to perform research, in many fields the student ultimately needs to be at a lab bench or in the field, interacting with a research team for project-based learning.”

The deficits of online learning for college students with ADHD, Executive Functioning Disorder and other special needs are more pronounced than its advantages in Understood’s study, “Online Colleges: Pros and Cons for Students with Learning and Attention Issues.” For instance, while students are permitted to arrange their own class schedule for online institutions, what if they are not able to manage their time, prioritize and make critical scheduling decisions? The predetermined schedule of in person or traditional classroom education is preferable.

Additional concerns for university students who need more support include a lack of:

  • in person guidance and connection to professors and peers
  • discovery of new interests and skills through social interactions
  • opportunity to make professional connections and build new friendships
  • support services such as individual tutoring
  • social and emotional learning among a group

In sum, online courses are tailored toward motivated and knowledgeable adults who are computer adept and experienced. Online education can bridge a vocational or financial gap for mature learners who are already professionally connected, intrinsically driven and crunched for time.

However, for the beginning university scholar or one who is in need of structure and community, the university classroom may be the more apt environment. Simply put, the convenience of online learning is no substitute for the dynamism of a classroom in which a plurality of ideas, human interaction and campus support coexist for the betterment of every participant.

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