First and foremost- It is my hope that you are all safe and practicing CDC and local community guidelines to protect yourself and your neighbors within your community – together we can stop the spread of COVID-19.
As the virus continues to affect communities everywhere, I’m sure we can all agree that educational delivery will continue to remain a challenge as school districts, colleges and universities implement plans and revise again and again as our public health situation warrants.
Today I want to focus on how to realize your educational and college admissions planning goals in the COVID environment where you are very likely starting the 2020-21 school year in a virtual classroom.
I continue to extend my best wishes for your good health and remind us all that every citizen is part of a broader local and global community. Where and how can you help others?
How do we approach “back-to-school” this season with the same smiles, excitement and inspiration that we typically experience at the outset of each academic year – fostering joyful learning and discovery?
I look back over the dozens of blogs and client newsletters I’ve written since March 2020 – five months ago when the situation was very different. As an educator with 30+ years of experience my message continues to be the same. Students need our support and encouragement as we all ADAPT within the “new/temporary” virtual classrooms. Every student begins their new academic year with goals. I’m not naïve — I recognize that there are a range of student abilities and motivational levels, economic situations and even learning disabilities – including the huge emotional toll that teens and parents face as the pandemic brings our students into the virtual/hybrid learning models for the foreseeable future.
So how can we help create positive expectations about what is possible?
What are some of the anticipated changes in the college admissions and college application arena as well?
NAVIGATING YOUR SCHOOL YEAR– STAYING ON TARGET!
How do students achieve Academic Success in their classes and maximize learning experiences in this unimaginable situation? Teens are capable of extraordinary accomplishments in the face of challenges – more so than adults (who can be set in their ways). That said, as parents and educators, we need to remain mindful of the extra support and love that we all need during this time.
What are your 2020-21 educational goals and broader college admissions plans?
Adapting virtual learning skills, your students won’t just survive virtual learning, they’ll thrive! Whether your student is assigned a remote learning environment, a traditional classroom, or moving back-and-forth, I can help you set goals and manage your new school year!
Regardless of how smoothly your zoom/blackboard or other virtual learning platforms unfold during the first quarter of 2020-21- and regardless of the grades you may earn — it’s critical that every student focus on mastery of subject content. Education is cumulative — and it’s a lifelong journey. Any holes in subject content will weaken the foundation for your subsequent high school, undergraduate and graduate classes. While it’s easy to blame the school district or complain about a teacher who hasn’t been provided the training to figure out how to best use the online platform- in the end – your educational goals take priority. Let’s discuss how to learn what you need to learn in the reality we face. STUDENT-LED vs. TEACHER-LED learning presents an extraordinarily empowering moment.
If you’ve previously enjoyed my video or read my blogs about What Admissions Officers Consider when evaluating college applications, you know that the most important aspect of high school is your educational progress and in College Planning this boils down to important and curated curriculum choices to accept manageable challenges preparing you for increasingly more difficult content and the transition to a college campus.
College Admissions Planning & Financial Aid : What Do College Admissions Reps Consider?
??? SHOULD I CHANGE MY COURSE SELECTIONS???
This past week, I received at least a dozen emails from students asking whether to drop some of their more challenging AP/AICE/IB courses. Their concern was whether they could be successful in the online platform. This is a reasonable question since the experiences during last spring’s virtual classrooms weren’t always positive ones. Similarly, some of my undergraduate freshman were wondering about revising their semester plans and questioned whether to head off to campus.
My response: Have your educational and college goals changed? No!
The road towards your goal is filled with new opportunities, some bumps, and yes some closures– but removing the challenging curriculum from your path will impact your longer-term plans. With few exceptions, I would say to keep your planned curriculum in place- especially Juniors ’22 and Seniors ’21. You can manage– Let’s discuss this more fully. Reach out for a consultation- -and please read on below.
Secondary in college admissions and in particular how to distinguish yourself from other equally qualified college applicants are your extracurricular activities. That too will change during this academic year as school districts have already announced that sports and student clubs will be paused.
The world is on pause- but YOU don’t have to PAUSE – adapt!
I challenge every teen and young adult to embrace their independence and learn your course content with peers. It’s been many months since classrooms closed- and it’s even possible your school district and/or teacher may not yet have caught up with the technology. I know it’s disheartening if not downright discouraging to know that every teen in high school has effectively become their own teacher. Remaining organized is a challenge of course should there be numerous assignments without proper or sufficient instruction. It’s troubling to tackle foreign language, calculus, or chemistry on your own. And students all miss the opportunity to engage in discussions with their peers in English or history classes. What about band/orchestra – that’s an opportunity that is hard to duplicate on Zoom.
Here’s some guidelines on how to navigate the start of the academic year with grade-level appropriate recommendations.
Many years ago, at the infancy of the online education industry, I was fortunate enough to be involved at the ground level to work alongside instructional designers as a subject matter expert for a dozen now recognized leading universities in online education. I worked to learn about modalities of online education as I wrote course content and worked on teams to review online curriculum being delivered. The industry was just in its infancy- and one of the key factors in establishing a model of online education was whether instruction would be delivered Asynchronously or SYNCHONOUSLY WHAT’s that?
If you’re a parent and a member of any social media parenting groups, you’ve seen the same question raised. Taxpaying parents are confounded (as am I) by why school districts didn’t require teachers to deliver live interactive lessons at pre-set times? Some parents had some downright nasty comments about how districts allowed some teachers to simply drop a PowerPoint slide, assign homework and collect their salary. With all due respect to our amazing educators, we know they were hurled from a cannon into online learning platforms not always with the technical training or the necessary support.
We all know and expect that the new school year will in fact be different. The example I just outlined was Asynchronous instruction. In contrast, what we are expecting for our middle and high school students is SYNCHONOUS classrooms. Virtual classrooms are indeed seamless if the lessons are live and include opportunities for students to interact and ask questions.
There is absolutely no reason why synchonousity isn’t occurring – PERIOD. If you’re in a private school, I’ve heard some reports of awesome SYNCHONOUS instructional delivery.
In some school districts, students are being given the opportunity to select to enroll in the existing virtual learning platforms. These are asynchronous – a series of pre-recorded lectures, some discussion boards and if you’re lucky, there’s access through email and an occasional virtual conversation with an instructor.
For some of you, you’ll start in a hybrid model and should there be an outbreak at your school or your community is again issued stay-in-place orders- you’ll be back at home in an online classroom. For other districts, learning PODS have formed for elementary and middle school families- smaller learning communities where families have engaged privately the services of tutors. We do not have enough time in the day to discuss the impact this has on lower- income families and their inability to participate in this model.
For the vast majority of teens across the country, it’s unclear whether changes have been made as many districts were hoping the pandemic would have ended by now and didn’t prepare for the changes we now see for fall.
Our earliest models of educational delivery included multi-grade level classrooms. Montessori learning still embraces this model of learning. It’s a system where students assist others. Students will need to step up into small groups- and this an excellent opportunity to learn to learn with peers.
Forming study-learning- buddy systems comprised of small groups of learners to partner and navigate their curriculum is an awesome way to adapt for success. Whether you are handed a winning hand of teachers who mastered the online modality or not-you need to learn the content. Complaining is akin to the old adage of cutting your nose off to spite your face. Life is challenging, the disease is going to keep us socially distanced for some time. I also see a huge opportunity here for older students to tutor those in younger grades – expanding community service while reinforcing lessons learned and being a good citizen.
CLASSROOM LEARNING: SCHOOL CLOSINGS and/or PERSONAL QUARANTINE
To support realizing each individual student’s 2020-21 educational goals and broader college admissions planning, please reach out to explore how you will personalize your learning if you are unable to attend school or your school shifts indefinitely to online learning. Let’s discuss the challenges you see – and let’s proactively create a plan together to make sure you can stay on target with this year’s academic goals.
Some students have IEPs / 504s and modifications may become necessary-please expect that your local high school may not be prepared to respond with the same level of support that was provided in brick-and-mortar classrooms. While assignments might be modified or reduced, the instructional support may be lacking. I can also assist with requested accommodations.
Many college campuses have already encouraged students to consider staying home as instruction will be largely virtual. Dorms in some campuses have been opened to half the freshman class. Other campuses have already closed their doors.
Universities are in better position than local public-school districts to implement instructional changes. Despite the best of teachers’ desires to continue to engage and serve the great number of students — sadly we know that over a third of students nationwide didn’t even login and have slipped through the cracks. Students will need the support of friends, parents and teachers to stay on target with their academic goals and requirements to begin the 2020-21 academic year.
RECOMMENDATION NUMBER 1-Organize Small Group/Study Partners and Create Peer Tutoring Opportunities
This is an incredible opportunity – learning how to learn and apply the lesson to areas where we are joyful and strong.
Collaborative learning taking place throughout college is a model to implement early in high school. Regardless of whether your teen is succeeding or struggling, study groups are one of the most effective ways to learn in challenging classes. With a virtual classroom and social distancing – students can form a team of 2 to 3 students to progress through lessons in a mutually supportive way to learn material while practicing social distancing. Now is the time that the social media skills our teens we take for granted can be put to great use – learning together will be seamless.
Should You Hire A Tutor?
Many of my clients experience Pre-Calc, Calculus or AP Chemistry challenges, and I often discourage reliance on a tutor as this doesn’t foster a student’s academic and social independence. A great tutor is worth every dollar spent. However, a standing weekly appointment with your tutor can undermine your student’s ability to learn how to learn and to learn how to absorb the concepts being taught by the teacher at the front of the classroom. Before you jump at hiring an expensive tutor- have you considered hiring a peer who has already completed the course? There are also several undergraduate and graduate students now formally providing instruction to middle and high school students in assorted platforms at NO cost.
Did you know there’s a COVID prompt on the Common Application?
If your student is able to step up as an ongoing peer tutor providing support to students in need, this is an excellent example of a noteworthy experience to share on this optional essay prompt. Please click to read my earlier blog on the COVID PROMPT here
Some school districts prepared and are ready to embrace remote learning as teachers will be delivering a live video with a full lesson. Others with less robust technological resources and no time nor budget to train teachers on their use will find themselves again receiving little more than a PowerPoint and reading lists. Teens- you’re going have to embrace proactive approaches- you have AP exams that cover the content learned ALL year and above all- you need to learn the material in order to advance to the next course in the sequence ahead.
It’s reasonable to expect that tutors cannot visit your home – and these will become available to you remotely. How is that any different than working with your qualified peers?
OTHER Learning RESOURCES: Here are some outstanding online resources that focus on self-reliance in challenging AP and STEM classes include:
Khan Academy, Thinkwell & Wolfram Alpha
Your textbook and the College Board are also excellent resources. If your textbook isn’t over a decade old, find the ISBN # in the inside cover and you’ll be surprised to learn that many publishing companies offer online student support resources for specific textbooks including practice test questions and helpful explanations of complex concepts. There are videos, solved problems and answers to your questions.
If you’re in an AP course that is using a college textbook- head to the publisher to find the accompanying STUDENT STUDY GUIDE. These guides are worth their price to navigate through. Hint-hint-hint- your teacher has the TEACHER GUIDE and that has a test bank – all these resources are coordinated.
As an educational consultant, I can assist your student in creating a self-directed ongoing learning and time management strategy to not only feel confident about academic readiness in high school classes, but also proactively prepare throughout the academic year for spring AP and SATII subject tests. There is no reason for surprises nor stress in April when a student can realistically assume responsibility for learning and time management throughout the year.
COVID-19 will create situations for virtual classrooms at the outset of the academic year and perhaps temporary closings as peaks resurface- be ready to move forward in the absence of your teacher and traditional lessons.
Our long-term goal is to build your student’s educational strategy to leave each student feeling empowered about their success! The shorter-term and immediate goal-learning materials in your courses and be prepared for year-end exams taking place in May.
Seniors 2021 This is not the time to catch senioritis. I need to remind you that a significant decline in your GPA from the time you submitted your application can be the grounds for college admissions retraction or possibly being placed on academic probation upon arrival. As part of your college applications you will be submitting your high school transcript THREE TIMES. Your transcript is submitted during the fall (see separate blog/newsletters on submitting external supporting materials), again mid-year and you’ll have to send a final transcript showing course completion. There is no place for sliding grades during the senior year. If anything, colleges look at your grades for presumably your most challenging curriculum to-date as an indicator of your readiness to tackle college-level work.
AP exams and mastery to allow for proper placement in your freshman classes. Like all students, investing proactively in exam preparation and forming study groups early in the school year is a great plan.
RECENT COLLEGE ACCEPTANCES:
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!
It’s time to set your 2020-21 goals- some personal, some academic and undoubtedly you are ready to begin the year with anticipation and excitement.
Are you still On Target? Joyful? Motivated? Confident?
The COVID-19 pandemic will likely challenge many of your plans. Please reach out for guidance.
I’m here to assist in many ways- from:
Helping recent HS graduates ’20 renegotiate financial aid awards and perhaps re-evaluate choices about whether to enroll this fall
Seniors ’21-Ready for College Apps–? Have you created your Common-App – Started College Essays?
9th to 11th– Establishing ways to engage in extracurricular activities during the pandemic and down-the-road in healthy times ahead
Exploring the best learning opportunities online
Evaluating college choices and majors in the absence of campus visits
Recreating your test taking schedule and test prep in our new TEST OPTIONAL college application cycle
Creating an extracurricular plan that is homebound and virtual
Starting on your Common Application and brainstorming your college essaysBonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
Personalized Educational Advising & College Application Services
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.