As I begin my latest Zoom meeting on this dreary April afternoon, I pause and take a breath. I am feeling the angst of another conversation with a senior who is disappointed in the application decisions she has received. To be clear, I am not dreading spending time with my student or discussing the fantastic opportunities she has; I am dreading hearing another young person question their self-worth.
As college decisions role in, educational consultants, school counselors, and those in higher education are witnessing historically low acceptance rates, and it is now our job to pick up the pieces. With dozens of colleges and universities reporting single-digit acceptance rates, we are left with students reeling from reality.
So, as your children start hearing back from their dream schools, waiting patiently to get off of the waitlist, and question why they were not enough, be patient and ensure them that they did all they could do, and the declines and waitlists are more about the school than about them.
Why is it so challenging to predict acceptances into college, and why is admissions so volatile? There are many factors to consider.
This is just a sampling of the various priorities that colleges and universities are looking at when creating a class. Many of these things your student does not have control over. So, we need to encourage our children to do the best they can, work hard, nurture their interests, enjoy their experiences, and let the chips fall. More importantly, reassure them, that they are enough, just the way they are!
As college decisions roll in, many families are reacting to the news with mixed emotions. For some, the acceptance into their desired school was all that stood in their way of fulfilling their dream. For others, the reality that an admission acceptance was not their only barrier, struggle with a dilemma that they had not prepared themselves for…affordability!
As parents, we try to protect our children in many ways by avoiding anything that may be uncomfortable or troubling. I am guilty of doing this as well, even as my four “children” navigate through their 20’s. But what I found throughout their teenage years is that what we are protecting them from usually cannot be ignored. Whether it be a health scare or financial insecurity, teens should not be left in the dark. This is never truer for those parents of high school juniors who are starting the college admissions process.
At Peak, we discuss with parents all the time the importance of transparency regarding their family's financial health. First, we encourage parents to complete the NetPrice calculators on each college website. Second, we suggest completing the Federal government's Expected Family Contribution calculator. Third, and most importantly, each family should discuss with their student how much they will feasibly be able to contribute to the yearly tuition bill. Most high school students are not looking at the cost of schools when reading about desired majors or the exciting social scene, especially if their parents have not discussed college affordability at all.
Unless you can pay 100% of your child’s tuition bill, discussing your family's financial health is essential. Merit aid, scholarships, and loans are not guaranteed and should not be “the plan” for financing your child's education. By not sharing our financial abilities to pay for college, we may be setting our children up for some disappointment, frustration, and even anger. Nothing is worse than witnessing a student being accepted into their dream school and being told they cannot attend due to affordability. It is a much easier pill to swallow for our children, to be told ahead of time what the financial situation is and what limits your child has, before falling in love with a school and working hard to get admitted. I have seen it with my own eyes! It is heartbreaking and confusing and often takes the joy and excitement out of the acceptance.
When looking at schools with your child, please don’t focus on the school's name, how others rank it, or the acceptance rate. Most importantly, is the school a good fit for your child? Second, can you afford it? It is not the name of the school that will define your child’s success; it is what they do with their education and the opportunities provided to them. But don’t get me started about that…to be continued.
Some students have lofty goals and unreasonable expectations; however, it is our job as their parents to manage those as best we can. Be honest and explain to your child there is not just one school out there that is a great fit and to keep options open. It is ok to disappoint them, but ripping the bandaid off as early as possible gives your child time to heal before the wound gets too deep.
Due to the recent college admissions scandal, I, like other ethical, educated college counselors, feel the need to speak up about the admission trends. I won’t spend my time worrying about those who starred in this scandal, there has been enough written about them and their unethical actions. However, I would like to address a major issue that is plaguing our young people, and that is pressure. It is not only the wealthy that are taking desperate measures to try and guarantee admission into college, our children are doing it every day. Students are participating in after school clubs that they have no interest in at all. They are running for school elections but want no responsibility and have no passion for leadership. Students are taking AP classes who struggled while in college prep and honors classes because they feel they are falling behind. The pressure they are feeling is real and understandable but unfortunate. Students are struggling to find out how they can stand out within a group of standouts. What will make them shine and get those coveted spots the admission counselors are filling?
For many parents the thought of the college process brings many different emotions. Parents feel a mix of conflicting feelings as their child approaches the age where college is in the near future. Some parents feel a sense of dread that their child will be moving on and out of the house. They feel sad that the roles that they play will be redefined. Some feel excited for their children who are on the verge of starting a new chapter in their lives. They may even be anticipating their own new chapter as their children leave the house and move on. For some of us, we have been waiting since our children were infants to watch them fly and leave the nest, anxious and excited for them at the same time.
As a parent of four teenagers, two in college, and one more about to launch into application chaos, I have felt every emotion known. Feeling different emotions is healthy and a great way to process what is happening in our lives, however, if not managed or controlled, emotions can get the best of us. This is never truer than during the college process with our teens. Not only are we parents experiencing a wide range of emotions during this time, so are our children. Often all of these emotions conflict with each other and parents and children are in two totally different places. This can complicate an already complicated process and make it unmanageable to deal with alone. Parent and child may see deadlines and responsibilities differently and conflict over almost all parts of the process which can quickly get tempers flaring. Sometimes certain family situations can make this even more difficult than others, like separation, divorce, illness, death, and single parenting.
One suggestion I have for helping deal with some of these conflicting emotions and flared tempers is to seek outside professional help. For those split families with young children who have college looming in the near future should talk to a family law expert. Talking about who is responsible for what parts of the college cost, who will be the point person during the process, and what role each parent will play are just a few of the important discussions. I cannot express that no matter what your family situation may be, being on the same side and setting a united front, is of the utmost importance not only for the process but also for your child. If you think that you are in a situation where you may need some agreements in place, prior to the college process, please reach out and get the help you need now. You will be happy that you did this sooner than later. According the family law Attorney Damian Turco, founder of Turco Legal, “The law generally assumes that co-parents will be able to work out issues of where a child will go to college and how it’s going to be paid for. But, these are certainly big issues they can easily result in conflict. The law is not completely black and white. The latest revisions to the child support guidelines established some presumptions, but there is still significant grey area and discretion left to the judge as to how education decisions will be made, how much each parent is to contribute, and what happens to child support once the child is off to school. A good family law attorney can assess the facts of any certain case and give the client a sense of what the judge will likely order. Most of these cases are resolved by mediation and a smaller percentage requires a modification or contempt complaint filed."
Another person a family can seek out is an Independent Educational Consultant. Hiring someone to be the middle man between parent and child is invaluable during this process. When tempers are flaring and each person seems to be on a different planet, a third party who understands both sides can make the situation not only bearable, but can take the pressure off of the parent/child relationship by taking on some of the responsibilities. For some of my clients it has made it so that the family dynamics can go back to the way they used to be before the whole “college” talk began.
If professional help is not what you are looking for, there are other adjustments and changes you can make within your own home that will help with this process. First, make sure that you know exactly what your child wants. Do they even want to go to college or are they doing it because you are insisting? Do they want to gap a year or go to community college or maybe the armed forces? As much as we want to guide them, remember, this is THEIR journey, not yours. I understand all the dreams you have had for your children but adjusting those dreams and bending what you think is right, might be what you need to do to help your child. Second, be patient! They are really stressing about this whole process. They are scared about leaving, about not getting into college, and making the wrong decision. This fear might come out in a lot of different forms so beware that they may cry, scream, or walk out. My suggestion is to take each requirement one by one and have your child work on one thing at a time. This will help prevent them from becoming overwhelmed by the extra work load and keep them feeling in control of the process. Remember, like the tortoise, slow and steady wins the race. The third suggestion is to help guide them. This is not a process that many teens can do 100% on their own. You need to be very careful with this guidance because you don’t want to do it all for them while at the same time you don’t want them to take it all on and miss important deadlines or requirements. A healthy balance is needed. I always tell my parents, put in as much effort as your child does. Do not do more then what they are doing. If they aren’t working on the process, have a discussion about your concerns but don’t berate them every day about it. I often tell my parents, pick a day when you talk about college. Once a week, maybe go out to breakfast and lay out the week and what it looks like. I know for some parents, this has saved their relationship with their children.
As I get ready to assist my daughter on her college applications, I feel your pain. She is resistant to my suggestions and often puts off what I have asked her to do. Luckily I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help me out. Whether you are a nuclear family who is struggling with your emotional teenager, or a split family who needs to put agreements into place now; there is help out there for you to get through this.
A parent’s role is pivotal during the college process. As the month’s role on and your child grows and develops towards the adult they will become, it is important to remember they are still children and they need your guidance, support, and love more than ever!
Good luck, I’ll see you on the other side.
So July has arrived and your new senior students are letting out a huge sigh of relief as they complete their junior year. Many of these students prepared and took the dreaded SAT and ACT tests, while at the same time sat for the May AP exams. Meanwhile in the back of their minds they worried all year about GPA, class rank, and how they are competing with their peers. Summer is the first sign since September that these new seniors have seen relief and relaxation. But don’t let that fool them into thinking that the summer before their senior year is a time for slacking and doing nothing. Quite the opposite! After a few weeks of rest and rejuvenation, this summer is time for productivity and creativity! I can hear the groans from my own living room as my own rising senior gets the news that indeed there is work to be done!
The fall of senior year is a common time for burnout and stress. There are several things that can be done to help this. Many students are ill prepared for the rigorous academic load of their senior year classes along with the demands of the college process. Between writing the much dreaded personal statement essay for the Common App, to filling out applications and supplemental materials required, students quickly become aware that they are ill equipped to handle everything in such a short period of time. The result can be burnout, stress and anxiety, disappointing grades, and poorly written essays.
The best thing to do to avoid this senior year burn out is to be prepared and do some work ahead of time. During the summer rising seniors want to put themselves in a good position for the upcoming fall and be ahead of the game with everything they possibly can. There are three areas, where if your student puts some work in during the summer, they will be rewarded with less anxiety and stress come September. This is especially true with the dreaded essays and applications that are required. As a parent of two college students and one rising senior, I understand how difficult it can be to motivate your children to do anything, especially because they aren’t even home, never mind wanting to write a personal essay. That being said, setting aside a few hours each week will make all the difference for you and your student!
One of the most crucial things a rising senior can do is start working on their personal statement essay. This essay will be needed for the Common App and also can be adapted for other colleges that ask for their own essay. This is the most important essay that your students will write and it takes several (can be even up to 5 or 6) drafts to complete. Waiting until the fall to start this essay is unnecessarily stressful for seniors and by making them get ahead of the game, you have helped them tremendously. I hope to hear the words “Mom you were right, it’s a good thing I started this summer” from my own senior! Who knows, miracles do happen.
The more the students can put into this essay during the summer, the less time they will have to do it during their rigorous senior year. The essay itself will also be a stronger piece of writing when students are less stressed and have more time to devote to it. Again, doing a little bit each week will make it feel less overwhelming in the end. The personal essay is so difficult for teenagers because they are not used to writing personal narratives. However, the more personal the essay, the better the admissions officer can learn about that particular candidate. With the personal essay, it is the only part of the admissions process the student now has control over. With SAT’s, ACT’s, GPA’s, transcripts, and recommendations, the student is sending what they have earned or what is a reflection of them. With the personal essay, the students have control over what is said to the admissions officers. It can reflect what really matters to them, what they believe in, their passions, their personal story or triumphs and struggles, and most importantly, what they want the admissions to know about them.
By now your students should have at least a rough idea of what schools they are interested in. This could include as many as 20 or more schools for some. Summer is the time to narrow this list down to the list of schools to which applications are going to be sent. This list should consist of 7 to 12 schools and be a mix of high, medium, and low chance of admissions. During the summer have your student research the schools on their list. Obtaining as much information about the schools via books, visits, contacts, and websites will help students narrow their list. Looking at the Princeton Review is just one example of how students can do this. Not only will this book go over all the details of the school, with facts directly from the school, it also incorporates students’ comments and opinions. A good tip is to find schools where the school and the students are in agreement, not drastically opposite with their comments. In this book (or website) you will also see a list of comparable schools, that Princeton has provided, that are similar to the school being researched; this is another way to find schools to add to your list. This activity should not be rushed and by taking an hour each week, students will take the time needed to completely absorb all the information and make informed decisions. Rushing this process is not advised and waiting until the end of the summer will put students in jeopardy of creating a meaningless college list.
The third item your senior can start early on, is the Common application App. The Common App, used by more than 700 schools Nationwide, can start to be filled out, August 1st. You can bet that will be my target date for not only my one daughter but also for all of my rising senior clients. No better time than the first day to start those applications. Some schools use their own application and may not be ready until after this August date. Have your seniors check the dates and requirements of each school on their completed list so that not only do they know what application they are required to use, but also all the deadlines that they need to meet.
I cannot stress enough that getting your students in the mindset that this summer is crucial to getting a jump start in the college process. It will make a world of difference for them come September. The last bit of advice to go along with this is having a system for students to keep all of their information together. A simple spreadsheet with important dates, deadlines, contacts, passwords, and user names is crucial. If they have not started doing this, then it is another thing to add to their summer list of to do’s….just don’t tell them I said so!
Rebekah Elmore is an Education Consultant and owns PEAK College Consulting where she works with students and parents throughout the entire college process.
As exciting as it is to feel the thrill of a college acceptance, it is equally devastating to receive a denial or deferred decision. A denial into college feels badly, no matter the institution or how excited a student was about attending. When students are told they are not enough, they feel rejected and hurt. However, the decision is final and students move on to navigate through. When a student gets a deferral letter, waitlisting them until a later decision date, there is no finality. Students are often confused about the decision and what it means for them. It also leaves them uncertain about what to do with other school decisions and what they want. They often have to wait months to finally hear the results of the deferral, which leads to anxiety of the unknown and disappointment as peers make their final decisions and commit to their school.
There are a few things that students can do to help if they are in this situation. The first is to immediately email the admissions officer a well written letter. This letter should include why the school is a good fit (be specific – academic program, athletics, etc.) and how the student intends to contribute to their school while they are there. Also, they should let the admissions office know how interested they still are in attending their school. Students should include in this email their current GPA and any other added information, accomplishment, or changes since submitting their application. Students should end the email by thanking the admissions office for a second look at their application and letting them know how much it is appreciated. The next thing they can do is wait until semester grades are completed. They should get a new, updated transcript with a new calculated GPA and have their guidance counselor send it to the school(s) from which they were deferred. Along with this transcript could be a letter from the guidance department stressing the student’s accomplishments and their desire to attend said university. Again, any changes or additions could also be attached as well as another letter of recommendation. Students should not over do it. By sending an initial email and filling out the card or form asking if you are still interested, and then following that up with end of semester grades and any other changes and letters, they have made a statement. Do not send cookies, cute poems or videos. These are a turn off and a no-no.
Many times, parents feel helpless in these situations. However, this is one time there are actually things we can do to help. Is there any legacy at this school that you can explore? Do any of these legacies hold positions in admissions or on the board? Do you know good friends or distant relatives who could give a good testimonial or write on your child’s behalf as an alumni? Do you have connections to professors that students could email or talk to? This is one time when getting your child’s name out there is the right thing to do. Just don’t overdo it. Parents should not call the schools admission office and demand to know why their child was not automatically accepted, nor personally send anything or communicate at all with the school themselves.
However difficult a deferral decision is, it does mean that a student is getting another chance and their application will be getting another look. There is a possibility of still being accepted. I say this lightly knowing that only about 30% of students who opted to remain on waitlists, actually receive admittance. It is important as parents that we explain to our child that they can be hopeful; it is also helpful for them to look at the other schools that they have been accepted to as good options. Go to the accepted student’s day, take another tour, talk to other students who also got admitted. Get excited about these options too because if you don’t get off the waitlist, you will be going somewhere else. I tell my students all the time, do not put all your eggs in one basket. More importantly, do not apply to any schools that you would not be happy to attend because those may be just the ones you will be attending. If you cannot see yourself at each school you applied then you could be setting yourself up for disappointment.
As parents we need to be patient when our child is anxious and upset about the upcoming decision letters. They may lash out or cry quietly to themselves while others will claim they don’t care. However they react, it is a tumultuous time for them. Remind your child that it isn’t the end of the world if they do not get accepted to their first choice school. Things like this will happen to them the rest of their lives. It is OK to feel disappointment and sadness but this decision will not define them for the rest of their lives. For many, it will be the first time they have experienced real rejection that they are not used to. For the most part, my guess is that any school your child has on their list, they will be happy at and they will grow as individuals. The school they attend may end up being the best option, no matter what. For one of my children, who ranked all the colleges he applied to in order of preference in attending, ended choosing school number 3. After being accepted into all the universities he applied to, he learned more and more about the schools and what they had to offer. He attended student acceptance days and really thought about his decision. After all of that, he chose very wisely and for lots of different reasons went with #3. We could not agree more with his decision and believe he is at the best school for him. You just never know what is going to feel right! What might seem like the end of the world may actually be the best thing that ever happened to you.
It is that time of the year again…the start of the college process for juniors. One of the best things about my job is the circular pattern from the start of the junior college process to a year later, completing applications with the same students as seniors, and then starting all over again with a new group of kids. One part of that pattern is not only working with different students, it is also working with different parents. Because of that, I thought it would be good to write about what junior parents should expect this year to look and feel like, and what their role should be during this time.
Just as students are feeling stress about the upcoming year of college visits, applications, testing, and school work; parents are having their own conflicting thoughts, including panic that their teen will not get into college and sadness about their lightning fast trajectory through high school. Just as with students, I like to arm my parents with information and tips to help them navigate through this crazy time in their lives.
One thing that is important for parents to understand is that the college process is a step to being prepared for college life. Their students will be using critical thinking, decision making, organization skills, and planning throughout the process. Parents can play a supportive role, but ultimately this is the student’s journey, please let them take the lead. Knowing how busy kids are today, there are things that parents can do to help their child.
Best times spent with your high schooler: As your high school student starts their junior year, it is common to feel melancholy about the next few years being the last with these little cherubs. Instead of focusing on the empty nest, think about how you can spend this very important year, connecting on time spent together while going through the college process. College planning can be one of the best times spent with your teenager. College road trips, discussions about dreams and goals, and open talks about wants and desires are just a few of the benefits during this time. As a parent, you most likely will be the one organizing and scheduling college visits. Try to include a few fun activities while visiting the colleges on your list. Make the trips enjoyable and memory making. Believe me, college road trips can quickly feel the same and students soon feel bored and/or overwhelmed by these visits. As well as adding some fun activities while touring, it is also important to plan ahead so that the visit is not stressful. Don’t try and cram too much into one day, make sure you are early for appointments, and plan out what the visit will look like and communicate that plan to your child. Your student will appreciate not being surprised about an on-campus interview on the morning of the visit! During these visits, be light and flexible. Try not to take these campus visits too seriously, make them fun and laugh with your child. This kind of behavior lets them see this experience as less mandatory and more enjoyable. As you know, fun time with your teen is at a premium.
Be Understanding: One of the topics that my parents and I talk about throughout the process is the need to try and understand what their child is feeling. No matter the student, from the Valedictorian to the struggling and or unmotivated student, they all believe they will not get accepted into college at some point in the process. Feelings of insecurity and uncertainty plague each child. They are nervous, stressed, and full of anxiety. When your child seems disinterested and disengaged, try to understand that this might be coming from a place of anxiety of the unknown and not necessarily lack of interest or caring. Often parents are far more excited about the process than their juniors; try to suppress your excitement a little and read your child’s emotions about the process first. Believe me; nothing is more annoying to children than parents who are over the top excited when they are not feeling the same.
Be realistic: Most students are well aware that they need to worry about their GPA, class selections, and standardized test scores, in order to be competitive for different schools. Sometimes, however, they have a difficult time realizing where they fit in regards to other students in the country. Oftentimes students with good grades will have lofty goals of attending uber elite schools without having any idea what their chances are. This is a place where parents can help. Figuring out the average GPA’s and test scores of accepted students can help determine realistic chances for admission for your student. There is nothing more heart wrenching than when a student falls in love with a school that they have no chance being accepted into. I am all for having dreams and am not saying encouraging students to follow dreams is a mistake. However, as parents it is our role to be realistic with our children as well. Not only be realistic about their chances of getting into each school but also what you as a family can financially afford. Being honest and open throughout the whole process can lead to less disappointment and tension later on.
Be Informed: More than ever parents need to be aware of what is going on with their students. Although we hear that this is a time of maturity and independence, it doesn’t mean that parents should be hands off and not involved in their student’s academic life. Being aware of homework, grades, and skill development is important. If you see grades slide or a time when they seemed discouraged or disinterested, don’t wait for it to get better, get involved. Being aware of what your child’s needs are is of the utmost importance during this year. On top of that, what are your child’s strengths and weaknesses? What do they want in a college? How do they learn best? Answers to all of these questions will make creating a college list easier. The more you are informed about their academics, their hopes and dreams, and their needs, the better the list becomes. On top of being informed about your student, you need to be aware of what the requirements of each college’s application are and the trends in college admissions.
A parent’s role is pivotal during the college process. As the months roll on and your child grows and develops towards the adult they will become, it is important to remember they are still children and they need your guidance, support, and love more than ever!
As promised, I am continuing my blog about different conversations and things to do before your child leaves for college.
As the mother of two sons leaving for college in just a matter of weeks, I feel like time is slipping away from me, and the time with my boys is already limited to the few minutes before they leave for work or the conversation they have with me as they grab the car keys to go out for whatever is left to their
evening. Even though I know all of this is normal, I find that I crave more time with them, one because I know my days are numbered and they will soon be leaving me, but also because there is so much I want to share with them, wisdom, advice, tidbits that I am sure they need to know before they leave.
Hopefully at your house, you have found some time with your little cherubs and had some of these important conversations. Here are a few that are on my list.
One of the most important to us parents, will be a conversation regarding contact, and how and when that will happen throughout the time our children are in college. Every family will have different ideas of what seems a reasonable amount of times that communication between home and school occur. In our house, we have agreed that some sort of face to face (Facetime or Skype) will happen every Sunday night. The expectation is that for all of us, this is a priority but also an understanding that flexibility is important. This kind of communication is not only important for parents and the students who are away, but also for siblings who are used to conversing and sharing inside jokes and family stories whenever they want. Younger siblings need to know they are not forgotten and are still an important part of the lives of their college siblings. We have also agreed that weekday texts are fine as long as not constant or interfering. I can live with these parameters!
Finances are something I touched on in the last blog. Specifically two areas I feel need to be discussed.
Will your student get a student credit card?
Do you have to or will you co-sign for their credit card?
What will the credit card by used for?
Who is responsible for paying the monthly bill?
Will it be used only for emergencies?
In our house, we will get our boys a student credit card with a very small limit (say $500). We believe giving them this small step to adulthood and financial responsibility is important.
For years they have managed a debit card, which we have watched over carefully. Getting a credit card is the next obvious step and one that will help them with earning credit, something not a lot of parents or students think about at this age. Speaking of credit cards, finance and who is responsible for what is another very important conversation to have with your student. Will they open a bank account on campus for getting money and depositing paychecks in? Are they responsible for their spending money, and what is a goal or a reasonable amount that they will need? Will you deposit money into the account and what will you in fact pay for? Discussing budgets and what costs they will incur is part of the whole discussion.
For those students who live far away from school, this next topic is not as important. However, for those
living close enough to come home often, a discussion about how often returning home is reasonable and expected. Some students come home every weekend to see old friends who are still at home. Others come home for weekend jobs and even others come home because that is where they feel more comfortable and where they want to spend their time. There is no wrong or right answer to this;
however, parents may have a thought about this that completely contradicts what their student is thinking. A conversation about visiting is a must for these families.
The topic that parents tend to discuss the least is the topic of sex. Unfortunately many families do not feel comfortable discussing this topic and often parents would rather not think their child will be participating in this activity. Please, don’t miss out on this opportunity to talk with your student about being safe and respectful. Some parents will provide students with birth control while others will discuss their desire for complete abstinence. Whatever it may be, having an open and honest conversation can go a long way.
Although there are a dozen more topics to discuss but another very important one is to lay out the expectations for when your student comes home for vacation. I am sure most of you have heard the moans and groans of parents whose children came home for Thanksgiving and within days; these parents wanted them to return to school. It is a hard adjustment for all involved, parents, siblings and the returning prodigal child. Try to discuss the issues that may arise (curfew, rules, respect, communication etc.) beforehand so that miscommunication and hurt feelings are limited. Agree on
time spent with family versus time spent with friends. Explain that younger siblings and relatives will
want their fair share of their attention and there are a certain amount of family obligations that they are
expected to be present at.
As promised there are also more things on the to-do list for these college bound students to cross off
their list. Here is a brief explanation and list.
I know this is a long blog but there is much to share. I will end this series next month with my last “Need
to Know” items for our little cherubs.
As college decisions are finalized and deposits are made graduating seniors are looking at the last days of high school. However, there are a few things to remember as these graduates enter the summer of their lives. With graduation festivities about to begin, summer jobs to commence, and college bags to be packed, there is much to be done before these little cherubs enter the next phase of their lives.
For students who are enjoying their first few weeks of freedom from high school, many are not thinking about college responsibilities. With proms, and class trips, they may not be paying attention to deadlines and requirements for the fall semester. Some schools have multiple steps to follow with deadlines of June 1st or 15th. These deadlines are important for students to meet because they often include room surveys for paring roommates, scheduling an orientation date, testing requirements for class placement, and also course registration for the first semester. For the larger universities, this process can be multi stepped and include long modules.
One of the first things incoming freshmen will have to do is set up their college emails either via an email link or through the schools portal. Most high school students do not check their emails regularly but as college students, it is a must that they check their new school email, every day. One suggestion is to have your student set up the new email onto their phones. Colleges will start to use these emails as a regular form of communication and if students are not checking these regularly, they may miss deadlines or important notifications. For some schools, these requirements must be completed before orientation and if they are not, students might miss out on course selection because the other freshmen will have registered, in some cases locking students out of required courses. This is obviously not how students want to start their freshman year. It could lead to the start of missing out on required classes and mean that students could have to extend graduation. So, no matter how much fun these next two weeks are bound to be, encourage your student to stay on top of emails, requirements, testing, and scheduling, whatever their school is looking for.
Another thing to be aware of is making sure that students are safe and making good decisions. For many, this is a time of graduation parties and celebrations like proms. It is very important to have a discussion with your student about drinking and driving, about keeping themselves safe, and staying out of trouble. Most students at graduation from high school are 18 which make them legal adults. With this responsibility comes the reality that legally they are adults and will have records if in fact are caught at parties with alcohol or other illegal drugs. I believe students should be able to have fun and celebrate with their friends however; they have so much to lose and need to be reminded of this during the next few weeks.
As the summer truly begins for these graduating seniors, summer jobs will begin as well. It is a good time to discuss with your students expectations on what their financial responsibility is for their contribution towards tuition and also spending money during the school year. Each set of parents have their own idea of what is appropriate for their student, but, for many, this discussion has not happened with their graduates. This is a good time to discuss budgets and expectations. It is a good time to get students a bank card, debit card, and or credit card. This next step into adulthood and entering college is monumental and finances often get overlooked. For many 18 year olds they have never had to pay a bill, deposit money into the bank, or be responsible for their own spending and saving. Discuss with your student how much they should save each paycheck and how much is reasonable to spend on a weekly basis. Discuss what monthly fees they may have while in school, or how much books and travel may cost them. As I mentioned, each family will have a different idea as to who is responsible for what, but no matter that decision, every student to some degree will need to understand their own finances and need guidance from parents as to what that looks like.
As the summer progresses, I will add to this list as to what are some different things that need to be taken care of and discussed, along with actions that need to be taken. Here are just the first three ideas that should be done in the next few days.
Congratulations to all you parents with recent graduates. As the mother of two who will soon walk down in cap and gown, I feel both your trepidation and joy during this time.
For all those juniors out there that are staring the ACT or SAT in the face…here is some advice…know who you are and what your self-worth is, before you go into that test. Know you will do the best you can and leave with your head held high. This test does not reflect who you are as a person; it does not show what you are made of or what your potential is going to be. It is simply a test, one of many you will have in your life…
I know you all have heard about the changes that are constantly being talked about with standardized tests. For the longest time these tests were the golden standard. It was what separated a great school from an elite school and unless you were one of the few who were close to a perfect score, you just didn’t share your results. When we were taking these tests, in the northeast, no one had even heard about the ACT, the SAT was the only option. Many schools along the Eastern Seaboard did not accept this generally Midwestern test and almost no high school even offered it up as an option for us. That has changed tremendously now that all schools in the nation accept the ACT and more students choose to take it over the SAT.
For those parents out there, remember we would spend countless hours on our free Saturday filling out little circles until we couldn’t even see. For some of us, we were happy to be guaranteed the 200 free points for just putting our name on the test. For others, when we were completely lost in the trig section we simply started making patterns on the answer sheet. I have even admitted to my own children that I would base my answer on whether or not I had used a B or C in a while. Yet, these tests were supposed to be able to tell the colleges and the universities what we were all about, how smart we were, and what kind of student we would be while at their institution. It never occurred to them that someone could score very high because they have a high IQ and a photographic memory, however, never passed a paper in on time or did homework that they felt was beneath them. Is that the kind of student they want filling seats in their freshmen class? How about the students who could afford all the money for test prep and tutors and learned strategies to "outsmart" the College Board, does that make them better than the rest of us?
Looking back, I took the SAT’s because I had to. I didn’t do well, and when my parents made me take them again, I think I did worse! I remember the feeling of failure because of my scores. I felt stupid and unworthy, and unwanted by the very institutions I was striving towards. Then, I became angry. I knew I was smart and had a lot to offer, I was just not a great test taker. I had great skills and innate strengths that would make me successful in school and in life, but these skills and strengths were not tested on the SAT’s. How did they test work ethic, or organization skills? Could it show my fast processing speed or the way my brain could quickly identify problems using logic and then communicate those findings? How did they evaluate your character and your integrity? Was there an answer sheet that would tell them my struggles and triumphs and how I had dealt with both? The answer is No and I thank God I was a strong enough high school student to know I was worthy. My parents had instilled in me a sense of pride for who I was and to celebrate it instead of feel shameful of it. However, there are and were a lot of seventeen year olds that let those tests results dictate their worth.
Now as my own children and my friends’ children gear up to take another round of standardized tests, I applaud the changes that are happening in our country. I think the schools that held onto that golden standard for so long, are realizing those students with those great test scores, were not any smarter or more prepared for the rigor of college. Some students who score high on test scores may be weaker in areas such as organizational skills and time management, compared to those students with mediocre test scores. Colleges and universities are seeing that there is more to a student than a test score and if they look deep enough and take the time, those students with lower scores, often can bring just as much to the institutions than those with higher scores. Often those mediocre test takers are harder workers, don’t take good grades for granted and have better skills in organization and time management. Sometimes these students are more empathetic to others and have an amazing work ethic. I am not taking away from those amazingly bright students who score a perfect 36 on the ACT or a 2400 on the SAT, or anyone even close to those numbers, but I am saying, this is just one aspect of who they are, and what they have to offer.
In the news today was the announcement that University of Delaware is going to do a study for the next four years. They are not requiring standardized tests starting next year.
The College Board tried to persuade them to change their minds when they made the announcement, why, because they know for every college and university that changes their testing policies, the College Board loses money. I say, good for UDel, be a leader with the state universities who lag behind in the idea about testing compared to their counterparts, the smaller liberal arts schools. I say, open your eyes to the changes and celebrate that we are finally seeing that our children are more than just a score on a test. They are human beings with strengths and weaknesses, with triumphs and tragedy. These young lives have lived through terrorism, mass shootings, and the social media explosion, through the pressure of drug addiction and working parents. They have a story, an amazing, celebratory story, which should not begin or end with a test score.