Student Login

Blog

Kindness: one key to success for college admission

May 14th, 2019

Earlier this month, I toured several boarding schools on the east coast. The visits were great and I was particularly struck by the last school visited, where students displayed an uncommon degree of kindness and compassion.  This was manifested in part by their warm descriptions of not only teachers, but staff members performing important but less prestigious work on campus.  Students’ smiles were huge as they described these individuals’ roles in their lives and I left wondering why that isn’t the norm.

The admissions scandals are bringing up important conversations among parents, teachers and students. How can we improve the system so that we are considering the best fit for each individual instead of ignoring core values just to get into the most selective schools?

My trip sparked ideas about character development and made me think about the second “Turning the Tide” report released earlier this spring. Turning the Tide stems from the Making Caring Common campaign based at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, focusing on character building in schools, at home, and during the admissions process. It is a great read for people of all ages and I hope it provokes thought about which values are really important to become a good citizen, which in turn will lead you on the right path through the college admissions process … and through life.

Article linked below from Making Caring Common Project, published in March 2019

Our new report calls on parents and high schools to put young people’s character and well-being at the center of a healthier, more sane college admissions process.

Three years in the making, Turning the Tide II: How Parents and High Schools Can Cultivate Ethical Character and Reduce Distress in The College Admissions Process, offers guidelines for high schools and parents in promoting ethical character. It also describes how Tsome high schools and colleges are working to promote greater ethical engagement among high school students, level the playing field for economically disadvantaged students, and reduce excessive achievement pressure. The report also includes a pioneering statement from admissions deans seeking to advance Turning the Tide’s goals.

Read more at Making Caring Common Project>>

Ready, Set, Go: finishing the year strong

April 30th, 2019

Warm weather is bringing about much excitement in the Bluegrass.  As flowers bloom and Derby Day nears, we know that summer will soon be here.

With celebrations and year-end activities being planned, it can be challenging to maintain plenty of energy for the final weeks of the school year.  Don’t let that end-of-the-year fatigue set in!  Consider the school year a marathon, not a sprint – do you really want to slow down and walk across the finish line?  Or would you rather push yourself to finish strong? Remember your long-term goals and how important your academic success is to achieving them.

Students at all grade levels can still make the most of the remainder of the school year.  Yes, even seniors who have college plans secured should strive for their strongest finish yet.   With the right effort, you can keep it all together through this home stretch.  Summer will be your near-term reward.

When thinking of ways to encourage all of you to finish the year with a flourish, an email surfaced in my inbox.  Jim Siverts, a retired business owner, sent a link to his exceptional website built to help college students manage their time effectively.  His site helps students create a solid study plan, which can increase success dramatically.  We think it may also be a great tool for high school and middle school students, and hope you’ll give it a try.  The best part is, the web version is free and there could soon be a mobile app version.  If you’d like to learn more, visit Siverts’s website:  www.howtostudyincollege.com.

Tagged: , , , ,

Freshman Files: Taking some time away with a gap year

April 16th, 2019

The “Gap Year” has been popular in Europe for a long time and is now on the rise in the United States.  During a gap year, students explore their interests after graduating high school and before attending college to explore the world, sharpen their sense of purpose or develop a new focus for the future.  

While this has not been the traditional route for students in the past, many colleges in the U.S. are now on board by providing programs to support such a plan.  Colleges like Tufts University, Florida State University and University of North Carolina have added enriching international and domestic volunteer, fellowship and internship gap year programs.  To read more about these schools and several others that now offer gap year programs, go to www.goabroad.com .  

In today’s Freshman Files post, Eliana Shapere has written a beautiful description of her self-constructed gap year and what it has meant to her.  I am delighted that she is willing to share her experience and think it is a great read for all parents and students as we all continue to consider which direction to go in life.  

I have always been an autodidact. When I was four, I refused to participate in art class but spent all my time at home making sculptures out of tape and things from the recycling bin. School pretty much went the same; I taught myself French and got in trouble for drawing during class. What can I say? Like many creative kids, I was bored. I did the International Baccalaureate Program, which worked well with my learning style. There was a required research paper for each class, and ironically, this was the most freeing experience I had in high school. At the end of my junior year at Tates Creek, I decided to take a gap year to travel the world. It was the best decision I ever made.

I didn’t just decide to take a gap year and spend it travelling out of nowhere. My dad travelled through Europe and Asia in the middle of college, and afterwards switched majors from Math to Physics. His adventure stories filled me with a desire to see the world, and to go at it alone. I was also inspired by my great-grandfather who travelled for two years after college. He too came back from his voyages a changed man, and turned away from his conservative upbringing to devote himself to writing and progressive politics.

I knew that a relatively unstructured year would prepare me to give college my all. My teachers have been books, coworkers, bosses, museums, and strangers who became friends. To raise money for my travels, I interviewed faculty from the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences, lifeguarded at Woodland Pool, and canvassed for Amy McGrath. I was pretty shy around strangers until I got a job talking to dozens of them each day about politics. I discovered that I enjoy creative writing more than journalism, and I have filled many notebooks these past months.

So far I have travelled alone to Cuba, Italy, Switzerland, France, and Spain. In Havana, I made friends with an artist who had a huge collection of Art Brut. By the way, I had never heard of Art Brut until meeting him, but now I love it. During school, I prioritized sports, music, and theater, but Cuba helped me remember how much I love drawing. In Florence, I learned enough Italian to survive, and then went to Sicily to eat cannoli and check out all the Greek ruins. I will never forget my first glimpse of the Temple of Concordia through fragrant almond trees. I am interested in Classics, so this was a dream come true.

There have been few drawbacks. A common fear (or so my mother tells me) is that people who take gap years are less likely to go on to college. All I can say is that somehow, my excitement about college decreased exponentially throughout high school. I never thought I would say this last May, but now I feel hopeful and excited about college. I have gained confidence about teaching myself, but I want to join a stable academic community, so I feel sure that college is the right path for me. Another fear is that taking a gap year turns kids lazy. Too much time makes idle minds, but I am grateful for the space to think. I am more creative than I was in high school, because I have free time. During high school, it was all too easy for me to ignore the “little” things like sleep and hanging out with friends. I don’t say this lightly: now, I have a clearer sense of what matters in life.

If you are in high school now, I wholeheartedly suggest that you take a gap year. You will grow in ways you cannot yet imagine. You will get a better idea of what you want to study. And yes, you will have time to think, relax, see your friends, and sleep. Consider if you prefer more or less structure, and let that dictate your year. Even if you’re sure you don’t want to take a gap year, brainstorm what you might do just as an exercise.

There are various scholarships for service, and you can find work nearly anywhere you want. Americans can work with no visa in Australia, and everywhere I’ve been, there have been volunteers working at the hostels in exchange for room and board. There’s WWOOFing (working on organic farms), workaway, and Helpx. I have been Couchsurfing to save money and live like a local. Couchsurfing is a network of people who open their homes to travellers, but it’s more than a free place to stay. It’s about exchanging stories, cooking for each other, and a shared hope for the future.

The possibilities are endless, and it’s never too early to consider a gap year. Now take some time to dream.

 

Tagged: , ,

National College Decision Day is almost here! Seniors, are you ready?

April 2nd, 2019

Seniors know that May 1st is designated as National College Decision Day: the deadline to submit an enrollment deposit to attend the university of one’s choice.  That’s right – after a long and thorough search process, seniors are down to roughly four weeks remaining to decide where they’ll spend the next four years of their lives. This is a very exciting time, yet it can also be stressful because there is a lot to consider.

In the article linked below from Forbes.com, the author, who is also a professor, lists four important things to consider when choosing a college.  Whether you are just beginning or a senior in the final phase of the college search, I hope today’s article will help you focus further on what is truly important to you in a school.

I look forward to hearing from seniors about choices very soon.

Article linked below from Forbes.com, published on February 19, 2016, by Chad Orzel

Four Important Things To Consider When Choosing A College

The college admissions process goes year-round these days, but the activity and the associated stress level peaks twice a year: once in the fall, when high-school students have to decide what schools they want to apply to, and again in late winter/early spring when those same students are forced to make a decision about what college to attend. The process and the pressure on students has intensified considerably since my high-school days back in the 1980’s (after the dinosaurs but before the giant armored sloths), and as a faculty member, I’ve talked to dozens of students (and parents) over the years who are going through the process, many of them teetering on the edge of panic.

Having gone through this a lot– this is my fifteenth year as a professor– I have a well-worn set of advice I give to anxious high-school seniors on campus visits. Having previously offered a bunch of academic advice in blog form– why small colleges are great for students planning to study science, what students should do to prepare for studying science in college, why non-science students need to take science, and why science students need to take non-science classes— I might as well offer some general advice on the choice of college.

Read more at Forbes >>

Tagged: , ,