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Scholarship Mania in The 2018 College Application Season

 

The following article is one of several articles previously published by Hawk Educational Solutions in 2015. Please review this updated version for the 2018 college planning season.

Like clockwork, every October and November, many 12th graders, parents, teachers and college counselors struggle to submit scholarship applications on time while hustling through the flurry of standardized testing, university applications, housing decisions and the unsubsidized loan nightmare that is FASFA. The storm of anxiety and stress quickly gathers strength and leads to monumental burn out long before our prospective collegiate “athletes get off the blocks” of their first year at university.

How can this be?

  • Many scholarship application deadlines overwhelmingly arrive before or as college acceptance letters start rolling in, usually in early spring.
  • In fact, the majority of scholarship applications are due long before students’ intent to enroll deposits are due in May.

How can this be resolved?

By 12th graders:

  • As soon as, if not prior to submitting university admissions applications, immediately apply for scholarships. See Cal Poly Pomona’s Bronco Scholarship application (BSA)
  • Most universities have their own scholarship websites that host a multitude of smaller scholarship opportunities through university funding and private foundations.
  • These are often only available if you create a scholarship application profile through the target university.
  • Note: Scholarship system applications are often not part of your college application. They are separate. Do not assume you’ve applied for scholarships with your college application.

By Parents:

It’s never too early to begin your research! Look into younger scholars and college readiness programs for your elementary and middle school students:

By Teachers and Counselors:

the Hispanic Scholarship Fund

Scholarships.com

Chegg.com/scholarships

Nitrocollege.com

  • Better yet, compile an online resources page, similar to our Hawk Educational Solutions’ Resources Page (albeit, a more comprehensive page of course), which provides links to a variety of scholarship sites and databases.
  • Most importantly, discuss these resources with parents and students in person or through online video chat sites such as Google Hangouts or Skype.

As always, gathering the knowledge and resources early tames the mayhem, clears the fog and betters your chances of gaining the financial assistance you and your students need for a debt-free college future!

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!

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.

Breaking Bad Habits: The Right ACT Attitude

Hawk Educational Solutions, ACT, college, tutoring, college counseling, college admissions, test prep, SAT

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!

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!

Three Crucial Tips for the Engineering College Applicant

#engineering #collegeadmissions #testprep

Engineering is just harder; there is no other way to categorize its seemingly insurmountable college acceptance expectations. However high the general admissions standards are for a given university, expect that these have become a monumental “Goliath” for the prospective engineering candidate. Let’s consider California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo or Cal Poly SLO. Engineering applicants whose combined GPA/SAT is 4.2 and 1450 stand a 50% chance, give or take, of admittance. In contrast, every other department at Cal Poly considers students with lesser GPA’s and tests scores, ranging from 1250-1350, according to its recently released freshman profile.

Is this par for the course now? Generally, yes. Larger, more established institutions such as the Universities of California, California State Schools and Ivy League Universities have all raised the proverbial bar for our future engineers. Even smaller private colleges can be equally competitive in their own right, such as Harvey Mudd and the Claremont Colleges, The Franklin W. Olin School of Engineering and Cooper Union School of Engineering.

However, there is hope. It is not impossible to study engineering, but students and parents may have to redesign their strategies and attitudes.

Here’s how:

1. Do not hesitate- Begin test preparation for the ACT or SAT as early as the 9th grade, and yes, it does work!

 

  • As published in an earlier post, large and expensive cram classes are mostly ineffective, but individual or small group instruction is well worth it if you start early enough.
  • Highly motivated students can and should begin practicing on their own years in advance of the target test date during their junior or senior year. The SAT isn’t changing for the foreseeable future.

2.Parents- Work with an experienced, private college counselor.

  • Public and Private school college counselors employed are overloaded, often times at a ratio of one counselor to 500 students!
  • Find an experienced educator that communicates well and listens to your needs.

3. Students- Work Hard (and Play Hard) In and Out of School

  • Pursue internships in robotics
  • Tutor younger students in math
  • Volunteer at the local library and lead a book discussion
  • Research colleges well in advance of your senior year
  • Ask, ask and ask again. Asking the right questions lead to the best options- If one school isn’t a fit, another will be!

Private School Entrance Exams: The Misnomer of “Verbal Reasoning”

#education #testprep #tutoring

We can all relate to the stress of an progressively competitive 21st Century. Increasingly, I encounter panicked parents who fearfully insist that their children brutalize themselves in preparation for private school exams such as the SSAT or ISEE. Many are compelled to enroll their children in expensive private schools because they wholeheartedly believe private institutions offer a better education and the only shoo-in to the Ivy League. Simply put, this is not always the case. According to US News, the highest ranking K-12 schools are in fact public district and charter schools. Whitney High School, a public school, is 2016’s number one in the state of California and San Diego’s own Canyon Crest Academy, a San Dieguito Union High School District school, ranks number five. Furthermore, multiple studies, including  Christopher Lubienski’s 2013 publication, The Public School Advantage, discovered the following:

 

We analyzed instruction and performance for over 300,000 elementary and middle school students in 15,108 public, charter, and private schools. What we found surprised us. Students in public schools actually outperform those in private schools.

 

While many public schools clearly offer advantages, there are a number of private commuter or boarding schools known as “feeder” schools  to the Ivy Leagues, which are attractive to America’s elite because of their lengthy legacies and exclusivity. Few would argue that San Diego’s top private schools, Bishops and Francis Parker, are not top notch- they are. Nonetheless, these are not the sole avenues to America’s top tier universities. So, how is it possible that some families and even educators firmly believe that private schools, which typically cost $30,000-$40,000 annually, are the only option? Bluntly put, because they cost more, they must be better. Because the wealthiest families attend them, they must provide higher quality.

Therefore, flashcard after pointless flashcard, children are pressured to memorize and prepare for the “Verbal Reasoning,” a section of isolated vocabulary words that still remain on private school entrance exams. Generally, preparation for this section entails the rote memorization- not reasoning- of vocabulary words beyond the grade or developmental level students. As a result, as soon as students cease cramming for this synonym section of the test, most promptly forget the vocabulary they so vigorously inhaled.

Let’s look at an example from an ISEE Lower Level ERB practice guide:

PERPLEXED

(A) alarmed

(B) disgraced

(C) embarrassed

(D) puzzled

Certainly, if students by the third or fourth grade have learned Greek and Latin prefixes and roots, they can dissect certain words to guess at the meaning even if they don’t know the precise definition of the target word. For instance, the etymology of the word “perplexed” stems from the Greek root “perplexus,” which means “confused or entangled.” However, English is not merely Latin, but a “sponge” language that has also descended from ancient Anglo Germanic languages and numerous other linguistic influences. The correct answer, “puzzled,” actually developed from the medieval French word, “aposer.” If students happened to know the ancient French word, “aposer,” they may be able to identify the Latin root, “pos” or “to put.” However, knowledge of the root “pos” does not enable students to connect “pos” or to put directly to “perplexed.” 

The only way to really know the answer to this question like many on the ISEE is to memorize, memorize, and memorize as many vocabulary words without any context as possible. According to other standardized tests, including the college entrance exams, the SAT and ACT, as well as the CAASP, SBAC and other Common Core tests, have aptly disavowed this type of testing since memorization does not equate to higher level thinking. Furthermore, words without other words or context offer little meaning. Rather, single words work in “concert” (together, not a musical performance) with other words to convey the myriad of nuances and connotations or “shades” of meaning the incredible English language possesses.

The Verbal Reasoning section on private school entrance exams disservice our students because, in many cases, they destroy the confidence of many of our brilliant youth and  ineffectively measure intelligence and talent. In my 16 years of experience as an educator, not all K-12 private school students make the Ivy cut, and yet some students who attend public district and charter schools do; public school students can ultimately achieve academic excellence at the most noteworthy institutions of higher learning in the nation, including the University of CA Berkeley, Stanford, Princeton, and numerous others- no “Verbal Reasoning” required.

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