Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Starting or Continuing the College Conversation with your Teen

We’ve probably all been reading and hearing a lot about finding the right “fit” as your high school student begins investigating colleges.  It’s sometimes difficult to keep focused on researching what schools might provide both the best educational and social environment with all the hype about getting into the most prestigious college.  Just last week when I was advising undergraduate students at
Stanford, a sophomore came to see me about taking a leave of absence.  Although Stanford had been a “dream” school for him, he was feeling more and more unmotivated in his classes with each passing term and was beginning to realize that he didn’t like attending a school so far from home.

So as your teen develops a college list try to avoid saying or even thinking that phrase—“getting into” college.  By carefully choosing schools that match academic and extracurricular interests as well as learning environment, your child will enhance a successful outcome to the college search.
As summer approaches I find myself feeling both curious and impatient about which schools my daughter Lily is adding to her list.  I’m trying to let her approach me with observations and questions rather than pelt her with my own.  However, I think there are a few ways to initiate a healthy conversation.  You might look over the college search books I mentioned in an earlier blog post for suggestions. 

Also, I recommend a book called College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family by Seven Goodman and Andrea Leiman.  It contains helpful role plays and exercises you can use to begin to let your child take on more independence and responsibility in this process.  The first exercise in chapter 1, “Role Reversal 101” is particularly effective in helping different family members appreciate one another’s perspectives.

Don’t forget the role of high school guidance and college counselors as well as independent college consultants in the process.

*If you’re considering enrolling your child in one of my essay writing workshops later this summer, here’s a special early enrollment discount until June 10: write “College Blog Special” on the registration form and take $15 off the tuition price for a total price of $285. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Late Spring Recommendations for Juniors and their parents

This is a frantically busy time for most families with high school aged students.  But before leaving school for the summer, juniors and their parents should follow-up on a few tasks to prepare for the college application season in the fall. 

1) If possible, attend an event at your child’s school where high school seniors and/or their parents discuss their college search process.  Sequoia High School in Redwood City is offering a panel of senior students and their parents this Thursday, May 16 at 7 pm in Carrington Hall.  I’m sure you could attend even if your child is not a Sequoia student.

2) Remind your junior to ask or pre-ask teachers for recommendations this spring; some teachers limit the number of recommendations they will write and others like to plan ahead of time to gather better impressions of their students in order to write more specific letters.

3) Review the tests your child plans to take: SAT and/or ACT, any required subject tests; plan ahead for fall exam dates.

4) Encourage your child to develop a well-researched list of about 6-12 schools he/she is interested in ranging from safety schools to target and reach schools.  Ideally, the final list of schools to apply to should be around 8 schools, but this number can vary depending on a student’s fields of interests, athletic or other scholarships, and financial considerations.

5) Begin researching your family’s expected contribution to college costs.  You can visit college websites and use their financial adi calculators, visit the IES CollegeNavigator for more information about individual college’s financial aid statistics, and preview the 2012 FAFSA so you know what information you’ll need to provide when you fill out next year’s form in January. 

I’d also like to recommend College Funding Specialist Beatrice Schultz, who can help you determine the best financial plan for paying for college as well as how best to qualify for financial aid.

6) Encourage your junior to begin brainstorming and drafting college essays this summer; sign up for a Peninsula Young Writers workshop or consultation

Hang in there—summer is around the corner!