Conversations to Avoid at the Holiday Meal

For students, Thanksgiving and the upcoming December holidays can be a nice break 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 buying a house, in landing a job, or getting accepted into the school of their choice, 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 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!

What I Wish I Knew as a High School Junior

Dear High School Junior,

Congratulations. You’ve worked hard to get here and the end of high school is just about in sight.

But it’s a busy year, and if you plan to attend college, it’s an important one. With that in mind, I want to share a few tips to make sure you get 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(s) 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. You do not need to add more activities if you are already involved in meaningful ways.
     
  6. Decide on your test prep plan. Most of you just took the PSAT. You can 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 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.
     
  9. Sign up to be on the mailing list of colleges that you are interested in. That is the first step in showing your interest. Then make sure you open the emails of the schools you care about (yes, colleges track that!).
     
  10. Keep an open mind as you put together a list of potential colleges. There are many colleges you may not have heard of that may be a great fit for you. Don’t narrow the field too soon. Do some research – you will be there for four years (at least) – and make sure it's a good fit!

 
All my best for a great junior year!
 
 

Sleep – It’s More Important Than You Think!

There have been multiple studies in recent years on the benefits of regular sleep. That applies to all of us, but it’s particularly important for teens and young adults.

Sleep impacts the strength of our immune system, decreases the risk of accidents and improves academic and extracurricular performance. It also plays a big role in mood and mental well-being.

Experts say the optimal amount of sleep for teens is between 8.5 and 9.5 hours per night (not just on weekends!). Suffice to say that not many teens pull this off on a regular basis.

With that in mind, here are some articles on sleep worth reading and passing along to your student:

A sleep guide for teens

Help for those who struggle with falling asleep

Tips for improving studying without sacrificing sleep

Better sleep for those who live in a college dorm

Wishing you and your family a restful night’s sleep!