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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 College Waitlist- How to Survive Purgatory

Waitlist, college application, higher education, college, college planning

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.

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.

What about Summer? 5 Benefits of the New Summer SAT

Summer SAT, SAT prep, college readiness, college planning, tutoring, teaching, higher education

What about Summer?

Thinking about a blissful summer sojourn, not the summer SAT? Perhaps a six week program with Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, the Young Writer’s Camp at UCSD, playing some Park and Rec club soccer or tennis, jet setting around the globe, or just gaming with friends next door?

Perhaps, we should reconsider the summer plan, or at the very least, make some room in the schedule; the College Board is finally offering the golden ticket- an opportunity to tackle the SAT over the summer for the first time!

First, let’s put it on the calendar, August 26th, 2017! More importantly, let’s list why summer preparation is better than the alternative, cramming it into an already inundated and stressful school year.

5 Benefits of the Summer SAT and Test Prep

  1. Minimize Test Prep’s Competition, with..
  • Sports and athletics
  • AP courses and exams
  • Rigorous academics
  • Clubs and extracurricular activities
  1. Increase Preparation, Decrease Stress
  • Schedule routine practice 3-4 times per week
  • Meet with a qualified Test Prep instructor as needed
  • Simulate the exam and take full practice tests
  • Take some time out- meditate, hike or nap. It is summer after all!
  1. Focus on College Preparation as a Whole
  • Target your “match” and “reach” college prospects
  • Align your target exam score with your target universities
  • Think scholarships: Higher SAT scores and GPA’s = more funding!
  • Create or research college planning checklists, which include testing
  1. Use the SAT Essay as a College Writing Resource, because it requires
  • reading comprehension and analysis
  • citing evidence and providing relevant commentary
  • effective grammar usage and word choice
  • classic essay organization and structure
  • quality revision and editing
  1. Time- There’s so much more of it!
  • Drag your books to the beach or pack em’ in your suitcase
  • Haul them out on work breaks or while riding the bus
  • If you have no other homework, summer is the time to focus!

Spare just some of that precious summer time; chances are, it’ll be harder to master the SAT during the school year with one more high stakes ball to juggle, especially as an 11th grader. Avoid amplifying the school year’s nail biting pressure by attempting a summer test prep program. Whether it’s self-study, light weight tutoring or a comprehensive curriculum, you’ll likely be better off for it!

College Planning 2017; It Just Got Real

University, College Planning, academics, College Campus, College Planning,

The College Planning Saga

How do we know the college planning season is upon us? When the phone starts ringing off the hook! Concerned parents on the other end are desperately seeking a strategy, any strategic means by which to navigate the university application maelstrom.

“My son’s a junior. He’s a 4.2 GPA student, and such a good kid, but he struggled to perform on the SAT. He finally did alright, but he’s not sure what he wants to study or what colleges will take him. I just don’t know, but I know he doesn’t want someone making his decisions for him. What should I do?” As college planning season quickly ensnares panicked parents, high school juniors and seniors struggle to access the college admissions guidance they need.

Even in affluent public school districts, many high school administrators hope students will just “figure it out” on their own. Unfortunately, lack of funding is the frequent culprit. As a result, high school college counselors across the US are overburdened with an average of 436 students per individual counselor according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and a 2013-2014 U.S. Department of Education survey, which is nearly double the recommended 250 students per one counselor ratio. Most public high school counselors do their best to meet with students once or twice in a semester, leaving parents who haven’t attended university in decades terrified for their students who are unprepared to dodge the treacherous landmines of college admissions.

Daunting issues include soaring tuition and living expenses, selecting the right school and major of study, completing scholarship and FASFA applications, and the lengthy college essay process. Despite its difficulties, college acceptance within reach!

The Right College Planning

Not every student requires a personal college counselor. As long as your student possess a combination of the following characteristics and resources, enlisting additional help may not be necessary.

The Checklist

Your student:

___ Is intrinsically motivated

___ Has access to consistent, quality college counseling at school

___ Has an available parent, guardian or caretaker who is willing and able to research current college planning metrics

___ Has a good working rapport with his or her parent or primary caretaker

Some students will need personal college guidance. If your student requires or lacks the following, hiring a reputable and qualified college planner who is an experienced educator is a plus. (In many cases, credentialed teachers make the best college planners; they are not only professionally trained, but they also interact with high school students far more than administrators and keep up to date on college requirements and processes.)

The Checklist

Your student:

___ Requires hands on assistance and step by step guidance

___ Has limited college counseling opportunities at school

___ Does not have access to sufficient college planning resources at home

___ Experiences difficulty communicating or working with parents to achieve goals

Although many teens continue to respond to their parents advice and guidance, others are often at odds with their caretakers in the waning days of their high school careers; a combination of hormones and the youthful yearning to be free from parental restrictions can strain the college scouting partnership. According to the Kid’s Health’s article, “Butting Heads,” “The primary goal of the teen years is to achieve independence. To do this, teens must start pulling away from their parents — especially the parent whom they’re the closest to.” Without an interdependent and respectful relationship between parent and teen, such a duo is likely to accomplish little progress, which is not an option when its crunch time; deadlines are non-negotiable and quality applications must meet if not exceed standards for the competitive edge.

Effective parental college guidance is a viable option if a parent can navigate the current college application maze, doesn’t work grueling hours outside of the home, and possesses a working rapport with his or her young scholar. Otherwise, there are other viable options; seeking the support of a professional educator and college planner to lighten the load and secure success is just one!

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