Monday, August 30, 2010

Do the Basics Now for Personal Statements

On college applications, the personal statement is the essay that helps a college understand who the student is, how she thinks, what she feels deeply about and what sort of student she would make at the specific school. Each school will ask a different question. It's up to the student to demonstrate an ability to reason, be creative, honest -- and to stand out from the thousands of other statements being read by admissions officers.

We still have a week to go before sophomore year begins, and more than two years before these statements must be submitted. But I am going to suggest that our teen get a head start and list the activities she does, from babysitting and gecko-minding (crickets, anyone?) to places visited, memorable people -- anything that has really meant something to her during the past nearly 15 years.

Meanwhile, here's a helpful site on writing personal statements, for preliminary perusal now, or later.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thinking about Campus Visits?

Now when I see holidays coming up on the school calendar, I start thinking about visiting campuses. Maybe not formal ones, but visits that allow the sophomore to get a taste of a campus. I have heard about the big-deal junior year trips, usually taken by mom and teen, in which as many schools as possible are squeezed into the several days. It gives me a headache to consider the logistics.

But now there is a site that can help. It's the College Trip Planner on the Go See Campus site. According to a press release, it's a first, offering one-stop access to tours, information sessions and related admissions information at hundreds of schools.

It's probably worth testing -- we all need something to keep us organized.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

College Car Talk

Some time ago I slipped a college directory into the car. My thinking: when we are on long drives, going through different states, we can read about colleges located in the areas we're driving through. Just a no-pressure way to get a sophomore to start thinking about the kinds of schools that might appeal. It is, right now, just a game, pre-PSAT, pre-results from the academically challenging year coming up.

But even games can reveal some truths. On a 10-hour drive back from a camping trip in Maine, I would ask what colleges the teen wanted to hear about then read the descriptions from the Fiske directory.

What we learned is that right now our teen seems more interested in an urban setting and she is already beginning to clarify her thinking on what her academic interests might be.

It's a time of dreams and unlimited horizons. Reality will set in soon enough.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Procastination -- Not Just Teen Affliction

For all that I do to make sure our teen gets assignments done -- nag, be disappointed, try to ignore -- I often forget two painful truths:

1. She is almost always on top of things, but may do them in her own time frame, which is not necessarily mine.
2. I've got the procrastination problem too, sometimes. I have not published a post in 10 days. I said summer would be light, but never anticipated this degree of sparseness.

So who has shown the lack of discipline? No one cares that our dog got into mouse bait (dog is fine), that my new laptop was acting in a bizarre fashion and it took hours to correct, that the old van stopped running in the middle of an errand, that the teen and I went away for a few days and now, we are all going camping.

Still, even a level of procrastination may get in the way of preparing for the sprint to college -- tests, applications, interviews, essays. It will certainly be a time of growing self-awareness for our teen, who will be a high school sophomore and learning a great deal about herself.

That's good. According to interesting, semi-academic piece on teen procrastination,
"...we all have to 'grow up' a bit to decrease our procrastination. Procrastination may be, in part, a developmental issue. I know many parents of teenagers will agree (and perhaps find some hope that procrastination may decrease as developmental issues of identity resolve)."

OK, so it's just a phase for our teen. What's my excuse?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

High School -- It's More than Paying Dues

As our teen approaches sophomore year, I've been thinking more and more about what high school is about.

It's easy to focus on the end goal of college, but really, college is just the next step in growing up. It is not a trophy nor is it what defines a young person. No denying that it is important to get into the right school -- for the teen. Not the right school based on parents' desires or peers' opinions, but the school that best fits the teen's personality, interests, dreams.

Here's an essay by a high school counselor that is worth a parent/teen reading. His comments should be an important part of the college admissions process.

And we should all remember to relax and let our teens get as much as they can out of high school -- and I don't mean a bad case of the nerves.