(More) Conversations to Avoid at Your Holiday Table

Thanksgiving can be a nice break for students and a time to relax with extended family. But it can also be stressful for seniors as they may have already applied to schools and are waiting to hear – or have not yet applied and have that hanging over them.

As some kids are starting to hear that they are accepted (or not) to their dream school, it can raise the stress level even higher. Keep that in mind as the relatives assemble. You may need to ask Uncle Fred to leave the subject of college out of his questions for your teen if the tension level is high.

It’s important to talk to your child and let them know that it will all work out fine, even if they don’t get into a school(s) that they had their heart set on. Try not to let yourself get too attached either to the idea of a particular school. That will come across to your child and will make it even harder if things do not go their way. We need to encourage our kids to work as hard as they can in school, spend time on making decisions to apply to schools that are a good fit, and then know that it will all work out for the best.

It may be helpful (when the time is right) to share a story about yourself or another who didn’t get their first choice in acceptance to a college, in buying a house, in landing a job, etc., but who looked back later, only to realize that their second was a better fit.

If your child gets disappointing news, it is good to empathize and let them have a chance to be sad. Then they may need some support to begin feeling good about Plan B. There are numerous great schools that will be a good fit for all our kids and it will be easier once your child begins to get excited about the next school(s) on the list.

Most important, our kids should hear loud and clear that a rejection letter is not a commentary on them as a person. It is an opinion based on a paper record of their achievements. As wonderful as we all know our children to be, they simply may not have been what a particular school was looking for to round out its class in the coming year.

This is a good time to let our kids know that we think they are great, no matter where they go to college or whatever they choose to do after high school.

All the best for an enjoyable, healthy and relaxing break this week!

Juniors – 8 Tips to Jumpstart Your Year

Dear Juniors,

This year can be quite busy – it’s an important one for your future too, if you plan to attend college. I want to share a few tips to help you start off on the right foot:

  1. Work harder at school this year. Your junior year grades will be what colleges see as you apply next fall. You can still have fun, of course, but doing your best this year really matters.
  2. Participate in class even if it doesn’t come naturally. Come this spring you will be advised to ask two academic teachers to write your college recommendation letters. Those letters will be much more personal and favorable if your teacher has gotten to know you through your contributions to class discussions. Speaking up in class will get easier as you practice, and you will need this skill in college and in the workplace.
  3. Stay after school for extra help or to attend review sessions before a quiz or test. This will almost always make you better prepared. And, again, it will give your teacher a chance to get to know you and your work ethic.
  4. Work on your study skills, time management, and overall organization. You will need to be proficient in these areas to be a successful student in high school and college. If these areas are difficult, ask your parent to help you find some support, either at school or by hiring an academic coach.
  5. Make sure you are involved in some activities outside of class.  When it comes time to write your essays and participate in campus interviews, you’ll want to be able to point to things you have done in addition to your academics. Volunteering, part-time jobs, clubs, sports, the arts, etc., are all valuable in this way. Plus, they can be fun and help you realize your strengths and interests.
  6. Plan to take the PSAT when your school offers it in October. Arrange to also take a practice ACT and compare the results. Pick one and then decide on your test prep plan. (If you receive accommodations for school testing, talk to school counselors to make sure you have them for these tests too.)
  7. Be vigilant about your presence on Social Media. Schools definitely have access to this and yes, scholarships and even acceptances have been rescinded based on what they have seen on social channels. In short, if you wouldn’t want your grandmother or a future employer to see it, don’t put it out there!  
  8. Plan to visit some college campuses this fall to do some window shopping. Do your best to visit local schools of different sizes and locations (city vs suburban/rural). It is best to see schools that are realistic for you to attend so that you don’t fall in love with a school that is not an option for you.

All my best for a great junior year!

And Away They Go!

As we bid farewell to summer, many of us are also saying goodbye to our college-aged children. It is certainly bittersweet, as some sadness is invariably mixed in with the nervousness and excitement around the new adventure that awaits them (and us!).

Here then, are a few things to keep in mind, especially for those sending a child off to college for the first time:

  1. There is bound to be some grumpiness or mood swings as your child realizes they are really leaving home and their friends (soon).
  2. Do not save all the things you want to pass along until the day you bring them to campus – none of it will register.
  3. There will now be many things out of your control. You’ll need to get used to that.
  4. You are now in more of a “consultant role,” as opposed to being on board to solve every problem. Practice saying, “I’m sorry to hear that, what do you plan to do about it?” Still, be on the lookout and get involved if your child sounds depressed or overly anxious on an ongoing basis.
  5. It is normal for your child to call you when they are homesick, or physically sick. They tend not to call as much when things are going well.
  6. Encourage patience as it can take quite a while to settle in academically and socially. Your child will not feel as comfortable at school as they did at home, even after a few weeks. They need to expect to feel uncomfortable as they get settled.
  7. Remind your child that the best time to reach out and make friends is during the first weeks of school when others are also looking for connections. Encourage them to join an activity. They should not stay hidden in the dorm room!
  8. Regarding the previous suggestion, make sure your student knows that the most common time for students to be sexually assaulted is in the first few weeks of freshman year. It’s important to set up a buddy system with friends.
  9. Remind students that buying or selling prescription medication is against the law and can get them kicked off campus. Students taking prescribed meds may want to use a small safe.
  10. Talk to your child about using the academic support services right from the beginning – transition to college workshops, tutoring as needed, writing center, etc. You are paying for these as part of tuition and they really do help.
  11. Time management is often a problem due to all the hours outside of class where students need manage their time. Encourage them to treat 9am to 5pm as the work day, and to be fully productive during those hours.
  12. Encourage your child to find a few adults / older students on campus that they can turn to for advice and support when things are not going well. (professor, advisor, club leader, coach, RA, peer mentor, etc).

Ready?  Here we go. I wish you and your student all the best for a smooth and successful transition this fall!