Embrace and enjoy that scoop- don’t follow the crowd at the ice-cream store or in life!
My goal is to help build your student’s educational strategy to leave each student feeling empowered about their journey and success! Success is very personal — each family’s definition is a reflection of values and personal preferences- but we all agree– it is a process that needs to be student-led if it is to be sustainable for the long haul. I hope you also see success as including joy, minimizing stress and being a contributing member to communities- becoming an impactful global citizen in a way that leverages each student’s personal and academic strengths.
While the title of this week’s newsletter is “Mistakes to Avoid” – it’s important to recognize that without concrete goals- we cannot assess “success” and hence, there’s no mistake worthy of discussion. So first, let’s talk about “Goals”.
DEFINE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS GOALS–
SET A COLLEGE PLAN and
IS YOUR STUDENT ON TARGET?
Why or Why Not?
The pandemic left students and families confused about college admissions and college planning. But I’d argue that students’ goals and dreams haven’t changed. If you’ve been reading my blogs and as a newsletter subscriber- you know I’ve been writing about how the pandemic has impacted high school learning and college admissions – providing tips for engaging effectively within virtual classrooms, understanding test optional policies, shifting AP exam formats, and college research in the absence of in-person campus visits.
But mostly- I’ve spoken about staying focused on goals and adapting your educational and personal journey thru carefully curated joyful extracurricular experiences leading to both personal and academic discovery and success.
It is never too early to begin taking steps to ensure your student has a long-term strategic educational and college admissions plan fostering a love of learning, building solid time management skills and establishing a directed path towards the undergraduate experience.
Whether you’ve just started following my newsletters and blogs or a long time reader– I welcome you to reach out with your Educational and College Planning questions and BUILD YOUR COLLEGE PLAN.
You’ll find several of my videos on topics including high school course planning, STEM admissions, & financial aid sprinkled throughout this newsletter, at my website and even more videos at YouTube: College Career Consulting. PLEASE ENJOY!
In my series of back-to-school newsletters during August and early September, I remarked at the enthusiasm we witness in our students during the initial days of school. The realities of a challenging set of classes and a packed and somewhat modified extracurricular schedule may require proactive adjustments. For seniors, the intensity of your college applications probably made a full plate overflow! Thankfully- that process of submitting college applications has wrapped up for most seniors. My seniors are now focused on scholarship applications, ongoing research on colleges (in light of the absence of in-person campus visits), submitting financial aid forms, and preparing for mid-year admissions update letters.
The “fit” between a student and a university is based upon three pillars, including “Academics”, “Social” and “Financial”.
Two newsletters ago I detailed EVERYTHING you need to know about “Financial Aid and Scholarships” . Today I want to highlight “mistakes” that can rob you of your peace– by peace I mean the joy and discovery that teens should embrace throughout high school to prepare each student for academic success and CONFIDENCE!!
There’s 3900+ colleges and universities within the US – and the top 300 offer a great education and are a good financial investment. Unless your GPA is a 2.0 – (in which case I’d argue you should consider beginning your post-secondary education at a local 2-year college) – you have a very solid chance of being accepted to one of these fabulous universities.
Busy parents and overwhelmed students require accurate information and personalized attention to navigate high school curriculum choices and the details surrounding the college admissions and financial aid processes.
As this point in the school year, students should be proactively engaged and immersed in the learning taking place. Some classes are truly captivating deepening an interest in the sciences, business, the humanities or the arts. Other students are struggling and re-evaluating perceived interests or strengths. Both experiences are OK!
High school, just the same as the initial years of college is a time to explore and take risks. Some students are thriving– joyful, engaged and well-rested.
Sadly, I also meet students who are tired and have a bit too much angst about high school and the misconception that high school has the power to be an an all-or-nothing experience for future success. Think outside-the-box and recognizing, every opportunity presents options. Perspective is important.
I’m often asked when to start planning for College Applications. My answer may surprise some people-but there’s no better time than ASAP. But let me change up that question– instead of asking about College Admissions, as an Educator with over 30 years of university teaching, research and academic advising experience, let me stress that the question you should be asking is:
“When and How Does my Middle/High School student prepare for academic success?!”
Your focus shouldn’t be driven by college admissions acceptances- but rather, your focus should always be about being prepared for academic and social success. With 3900+ colleges and universities- chances are your student will find that perfect “fit” I’ve spoken in all my blogs – Academic, Social and Financial.
Academic success means learning — and that means every student needs to focus on honing their skills and approach throughout high school to be prepared to engage within the college campus independently and with confidence. To ensure a seamless transition, the work to be done takes place in high school. Selecting the right classes – a balance of an appropriate challenge and manageability. It’s learning how to manage tasks, due dates and assignments and be intrinsically motivated to learn – not just complete assigned tasks. We could spend hours discussing student performance and attention- but that’s not my focus today.
Parents, teachers and academic advisors assume a major role in guiding young adults to becoming mature, motivated and self-directed learners. All too often I’ve observed families making avoidable mistakes later impacting both a student’s joy and their academic and college application success. I
Understand the College Admissions Process- Key Dates, forms and factors for success in admissions and in maximizing financial aid.
Create your curriculum map of high school and online programs to reach academic potential and prepare for success as a student and in the college admissions process. The foundation of coursework in high school impacts your success as an undergraduate
Extracurricular Activities: Identify opportunities for enhancing and refining your activities addressing educational and admissions red-flags. Embrace your strengths, take risks and discover uncharted paths!
Recommendations for relevant summer programs to increase your admissions chances and confirm / discover an academic area of interest
Personalized learning strategies to confidence, increase grades and address concerns in one or more classes. Customized solutions for better time management
Recommendations for Colleges and Majors (conventional and “unusual”)
Clarity on standardized testing (and customized solutions for preparation) and discussion of colleges de-emphasizing their value in admissions decision making
Activities Resume – Receive proprietary tools to build an eye-catching “activities statement” supporting your summer program applications, Common Application and Scholarship applications.
Understanding the Real Cost of Education. Specific Strategies for your family and an explanation of Financial Aid and Scholarship Eligibility.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS:
MISTAKES TO AVOID:
DERAILING YOUR SUCCESS IN HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE ADMISSIONS
# 1 CURRICULUM MAP FOLLOWS THE CROWD
The single most important factor for success as an undergraduate and in the college admissions process is taking the most challenging and relevant curriculum a student can comfortably manage.
For example, regular readers of my newsletter have heard me state before– if your student is STEM focused, there is little admissions advantage gained from taking AP History classes which have exceptionally large homework demands. Similarly, if your student is interested in obtaining an “MBA” or “MD” or “JD”, we’ll work on that admissions process in four to five years. Right now, don’t plan high school classes for graduate school. Focus on the right steps to prepare for academic success as an undergraduate! Your foundation sets the tone– but also– avoiding challenges will likely catch up with you as a undergraduate. I meet many students too worried about their GPA to take on a challenging course. So the result- walking onto the college campus without having stepped outside the comfort bubble becomes a rude awakening.
Despite the best of intentions and the best time management, enrolling in too many AP classes can create hours of homework limiting time available for meaningful extracurricular activities (which are also essential for admissions success and personally rewarding and joyful experiences), needed sleep and family harmony (parent-child dynamics suffer when students are stressed and unnecessary homework completion “arguments” ensue).
As noted, Admissions representatives aren’t impressed by APUSH on a STEM applicant’s high school transcript. The flip side, humanities driven students might consider the importance of “big data”! All disciplines are now moving to analytics. So while AP Physics isn’t necessarily your cup of tea-consider AP Statistics, AP Psychology or AP Computer Science to add breadth to your file setting you apart from the typical humanities applicant.
As part of my approach to strategic educational planning, I’ll guide you to creating a high school curriculum that is relevant to your education, college admissions and career objectives. Leverage my extensive knowledge of academic disciplines and explore some unusual major areas of study (increasing your odds of admission and making you a stronger student). Research taking place at universities and in industry is often multi-disciplinary.
MISTAKE # 2: Not Having Honed Your “Niche”
WHAT RESEARCH and PRACTICAL PROBLEMS INTRIGUE YOU?
WHAT MIGHT YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT?
Consider exploring the “research institutes” tab at a few universities simply to learn more about the options that you won’t be hearing about in your AP classes:
Students often tell me they want to become a physician, an engineer, a lawyer– but oddly, don’t really know much (and that’s where I can assist) about the vast number- hundreds actually- of potential undergraduate majors. Learning about the types of problems and innovations taking place in these fields can be inspirational.
Having an opportunity to intern, solve problems, take an EdX course or explore in a summer program can help to develop a very specific interest area – your niche! Discovery is sparked within the classroom – but it’s nurtured in hands-on activities- sometimes this takes planning to find that opportunity. I have so many ideas- let’s talk!
This interest area will also make your College Specific Supplemental Essays much easier to write. Finally- those alumni interviews will set you apart when you can confidently talk about your interest in International Diplomacy, Green Energy or Lighting Technical Theater design.
FIND YOUR NICHE and YOUR PASSION – ENGAGE IN DISCOVERY!
# 3 Learning Strategies and Time Management:
“Did you do your homework?” Students often ignore or delay implementation of solutions when struggling with time management, difficult concepts in one or more classes or things just don’t feel right in the course schedule. Perhaps the reason homework is “delayed” is because the student is overwhelmed or confused.
My experience advising thousands of students over the past three decades allows me to assess and implement classroom and time management solutions. I’ve worked with students having a variety of learning disabilities and where appropriate, I can help families partner with health care professionals to receive necessary care.
Declining grades can be the result of many factors. Hovering and arguing are unpleasant, nor is this leading to a long-term solution of student-led independence and accountability. Student and parents have the same goals- success.
Self-destructive behavior can be avoided if we help our students recalibrate their goals. Remember, parents have 20 years of life experience- why should you assume or require your teen to be as mature or focused as you are as an adult?
Please don’t expect there to be a desire to complete more hours of homework after a day of learning. Let’s look at ways to change things so students can function with joy and purpose. Think about how long a student’s workday is compared to the length of most of their parents’ workdays?! Why are students doing homework at 10 pm after 6 to 8 hours at school, and another 1 to 3 in extracurriculars?
# 4 OVEREXTENDED STUDENTS – OVERWHELMED PARENTS
Don’t continue an activity simply because you think it will “look good” in the college admissions process. Certainly don’t participate in any activity that is taking so much time that your GPA is being affected.
Students should not be encouraged to engage in too many or “irrelevant” or “drudge” extracurricular activities. I meet families that ask me if : “Will participating in ‘x’ look good?” WRONG QUESTION!!
Spend time in activities that are joyful, encourage exploration and leverage strengths. No one should spend time in activities that are boring or again- follow friends. One student was reluctant to continue in theater– something he truly enjoyed – because his friends were in other activities. With some gentle prodding – he continued- and he’s really happy he has done so. Another student was spending so many hours in marching band, she missed out on HOSA– we made some tough choices, but she’s now a senior with a bio-medical research path at Johns Hopkins.
Likelike – while too many or the continuing something that has long since been joyful- doing nothing is also dangerous- that is my # 10 below – please read on ….
As a former college admissions representative and Cornell alumni interviewer, I can assure you that we can spot insincerity on applications. Activities should only include those that capitalize on a student’s academic strengths or personal interests. No one should be engaged in an activity that doesn’t bring joy or adversely impacts time needed for academic success.
Activities enrich a student’s academic experience and should bring balance into a student’s busy life. Let’s discuss continued opportunities for leadership in current activities, as well as enriching personal and academic interests.
Parents are needlessly worrying about their busy student’s schedule which seems short on sleep and long on late night homework. Let me help your student redirect so that everyone is balanced and goals are realized.
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. Educational & College Admissions Consultant
Carnegie Mellon, Princeton, Cornell, U. Michigan, Northwestern, Georgia Tech, University of North Carolina, Vassar, Brown, Bowdoin, Wellesley, Emory, U.Illinois, Notre Dame, NYU, Rice, University of Chicago, Washington University (WUSTL), Drexel, Tulane, London School of Economics, Purdue, Swarthmore, SCAD, Ohio, Georgetown, Hamilton, Reed, Miami, Johns Hopkins, University of Florida, University of Arizona, Penn State, Villanova, Northeastern, SUNY-ESF, St. Johns, Embry-Riddle, Colgate, Fordham, Columbia, Barnard, Syracuse, Swarthmore, Pittsburgh, Dickinson, Colorado, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Howard, Fordham, SUNY Stonybrook, Duke, Case Western, Rochester Institute of Technology, Parsons, Virginia Tech, Boston U., Hobart & William Smith, Claremont Mckenna, Davidson, Westpoint, Gettysburg, Amherst, Temple, Denison, Howard, UT Austin, SUNY-Binghamton, Hamilton, George Washington, American, Indiana, SMU, James Madison, and many more!
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. is the founder and principal educational consultant of College Career Consulting, LLC. She has over 30 years of experience as a university faculty member and shares her knowledge, professional resources and support with students who are ready to advance their lifelong educational and career journeys.