Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Flight Plan for Helicopter Parents - Be a Cosmetic and Content Consultant

3. Be both a "cosmetic consultant" and "content consultant" on applications.

Examples of cosmetic consultant: grammar, punctuation, spelling, family information [employment, job title, email, name and year of college] on the application, etc. 

I have found that our texting, Twitter, and Facebook generation tends to slip into those modes of writing on applications. 

I can't tell you how many times I've had to "touch up" acme on the face of an application that is peppered with i's and u's.

Examples of content consultant: the overarching goal in revealing a student (not packaging) involves what I call the "framework work" in the application: this framework work involves narration (telling the student's story well), synthesis (connecting-the-dots of major themes, points of excellence, salient traits), and distinction (elevating that student from the pack; revealing points of excellence). 

 This is never an easy task. 

And no student (or counselor) can create this framework without the parent's insights.

So what I encourage parents to do is help identify the major "spheres" of their child's life, and then help the student and counselor identify "narrative moments" that have a colorful "word picture" within that moment that we narrate. 

Winston Churchill once said, "The ear is 1/10th the organ of the eye." 

College admissions need more than reasons to accept a student. 

They need visions

We want to connect then not only with the admission officer's mind, but their imaginations

Too often we forget that the mind is not so much a debating hall as it is a picture gallery

So help think of key images, frozen "action moments", and metaphors that the student and counselor can pull into their essays, interviews, rec letters, etc.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Flight Plan for Helicopter Parents - The 75/25 Rule

Modeled after the Harkness Table at Phillips Exeter Academy, we have days in my English class where the students dialogue about the text we are reading, and I chart the threads of conversation between them.

The picture here illustrates this.

The goal is that 75% of the time, I'm charting threads, and only 25% of the time I'm saying something helpful or insightful about their threads.

I call it the 75/25 rule.
What I've found is that when there is a 75/25 split, these days are my best days as a teacher. Ironically, I've found that the efficacy of that day is the result not so much because of what I'm saying or doing, but because of what I am not saying or doing. 

My silence isn't absence; it's presence. 

And in my silence my students can hear the words, "Take ownership of your education. Make it an extraordinary experience. Take the conversation in directions that challenge, fascinate, and energize us for going further up and further in.”

Aim then to foster an environment where the student does 75% of the “college talking” – in meetings with college counselor or college reps, on tours, in info sessions, and in post-tour conversations.

Pre-Tour: Encourage student to research schools before they visit campus or visit with rep (on campus or at Casady).

Pre-Tour: Have your student write down 5 questions in their Phone to ask the tour guide.
Tour: Encourage students to jot down “Notes” on phone of major impressions, cool programs, and specifics.

Post Tour: Ask reflective questions:
·      "What did you learn about yourself on this college visit?"
·      "Why do you think this school may or may not be a good fit for you?
·      “What are one or two specific things you liked about this school?

 So here is the concluding point: The more your student can “own” the college experience, the more satisfied they will be with the journey and end destination.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Flight Plan for Helicopter Parents - Highly Selective Admissions

If your student has ambitions to gain admission into highly selective schools (5-25% admit rate), here is how you can help provide "low ground cover" through this process:

First, it's important to help your student do their homework.

Treat every potential application to this strata of schools as a small research project.  

 The Choice Blog is an excellent resource to use to find admission data. 

As part of your research, you will want to help your student ferret out the following information:

  • Application requirements: SAT Subject Tests - how many? required/or recommended? Teacher recommendations (1-2)? Peer recommendation? Interview?
  • Early vs. Regular admit statistics (app. volume/accept %)
  • Colleges within University admit statistics (engineering vs. liberal arts)
  • Mid-50% range for test scores (Early vs. Regular admission)
  • Hook: What is my hook? (Legacy, athlete, underrepresented minority, 1st gen, underrepresented gender, early decision, full pay)
  • Application Type I: Common App. Universal App., Institutional App.
  • Application Type II: Early Action (EA)? Early Decision (ED)? Early Decision 2 (ED2)? Single Choice Early Action (SCEA)? Regular?
  • Supplemental essays:  research what essays were optional/required for 2012-2013 admission cycle to anticipate what the student will be asked to submit in the 2013-2014 cycle.  Supplemental essays are very important in a "tie breaker" case.  In fact, I tell my students to spend two, if not three times, the amount of time and energy to crafting these essays.  The personal essay gives students a chance to tell colleges who they are;  the supplemental essays give students a chance to tell the colleges how they see themselves fitting in specifically to their college.  It's about fit!

Second, you need to have a game plan:

  • Create Contact History with Admission Rep - email/visit non-binding (EA or SCEA) schools
  • Apply to 3-4 schools other than ED 1 early (1-2 rolling; 1-2 early action). 
  • I compare this strategy to a archery target. If your "ED" school is the small bulls eye, then add a couple target rings that are easier to hit. That way your student gets a handful of "Yes" letters before or during the time they receive good or bad news on their "bulls eye school".
  • Additional recommendation letters (alumni, local dignitaries, youth pastors, people beyond school that can speak to character, leadership, excellence). 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Yale's Record Breaking Year (Graph)

Today I came across an article on Yale's record breaking application year. 

Just when Yale thought they had crested in their app. volume, they see another spike.

This chart helps us all get a sense of the steady and crazy rise of the Ivy tides.

From a little over 15,000 apps in 2002.

To now over 30,000 apps in 2013.

And what is even crazier is that it is not just the Ivies.

I call it the "bucket down" effect. 

Our Vandy rep reported last week to our community that they too have crested over the 30,000 application volume.

I've written extensively about the "perfect storm" in college admissions, specifically about five forces that have helped create this application tsunami that will inevitably obliterate many admissible kids' dreams.

High School graduation rates.

The Common Application.

International Students.

Marketing (attract to reject).

And our (America's) obsession with rankings.

Combine these forces with the growing concern over student loan debt and job prospects after graduation, and you have thousands of students clamoring to gain admission into the highly selective schools (admit 25% or less).

And of course, without a "hook", or as one colleague put it, without being "well angled", the chances at gaining admission are fairly bleak.

The good news, though, is that over 80% of the colleges and universities out there are still admitting more students than they are denying.

And there are still many excellent schools that are rewarding students with merit scholarships to make college affordable.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Flight Plan for Helicopter Parents - Timelines

In our first post on this topic, we talked about how students need a "low ground cover" helicopter parents.

Helicopter parenting gets a bad rap.

And rightly so when we're talking about "low ground control" parenting.

That's not what we are suggesting here.

Instead, we believe all adolescents need a parent figure to help keep all the balls in the air.

And someone to prevent a mile long car pile up on the highway of your adolescent's brain - the Corpus Collosum.

Here then is where you can start with your student.

Map out timeline(s).

There are three timelines you want to help map out for your student.

Standardized Test.  The goal is for the student to take both tests once, and one of the test a total of three times. Students applying to highly selective schools will want to take 2-3 SAT II Subject Tests in May or June.

College Visits. Map out dates/times during breaks that you can visit schools. Parents should take the lead on coordinating visits. College web sites have information regarding tour times. They also have info regarding state/school admission rep. For the "tourist season", you will want to catch a tour and try to schedule an informal meeting with our rep (email rep to schedule time). For the "buyers season", the colleges often contact you to try and get your student out for a "shopper's preview".

College Application. The key is to nail where the student will apply, when they will apply, and what kind of application they will submit. We encourage our students to apply to "rolling" schools (often public universities) in Sept/Oct, then focus on "Early" applications (whether Early Decision [ED], Early Action [EA], or SCEA [Single Choice Early Action]) in Oct./Nov., and then "ED2"/Regular admissions (2nd Early Decision round - schools like
Vanderbilt, Emory, Davidson offer this).  Most of our students average 4-5 applications.  We preach the old adage:  "Eight is enough."  Some students apply to fewer than 4.  Other students apply to more than 8.  Ultimately that decision is up to the student and family.

Admission Terms:

Rolling: non-binding; public institutions; apply July-May; quick turnaround with results.
ED 1: Early Decision; binding; public/private schools; usually Nov. 1 deadline; mid-Dec. results.
ED 2: Early Decision; binding; usually a Jan. deadline; mid-March result.
SCEA: Single Choice Early Action; non-binding; May 1 to decide; apply to only one school (public universities are excluded); Nov. 1/15 deadline; "bear trap" watch out! ("hook" students only).
EA 1: Early Action; non-binding; May 1 to decide; usually a Nov. deadline.
EA 2:  Early Action;  non-binding;   May 1 to decide;  usually a December-January deadline.
Regular: non-binding; May 1 to decide; usually a Dec-Jan deadline.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Flight Plan for Helicopter Parent, An Introduction

Anytime I mention "Helicopter Parent" to a parent of a high school kid, they are quick to deflect any possible affiliation with that label.

My response, I think that a parent who isn't a helicopter parent during the college process hurts their child.

Now let me first delineate between the two types of helicopter parents.

There is the helicopter parent who provides their child low ground cover.

And there is the helicopter parent who provides their child low ground control.

The former parent helps their student manage the stress that comes with the college process.

The latter parent contributes to their student's stress that comes with the college process.

And there will be inevitable stress.

Recently in
The Chronicle of Higher Education, there was an article on how pets experience stress during the college process. The study revealed that their owners don’t pet pets enough during the waiting period, which as a result, heightens the pet's stress level.

So if pets experience stress during this process, you can bet that parents will. And certainly the student.

Too often we forget that this is the first foray for many of these kids into the "adult world". This will be the first time they are critiqued, judged, evaluated, accepted, or rejected. In our hyper therapeutic, self-esteem culture, our kids have grown up being told how amazing they are. It's like the kid who sings in the living room to an audience of family members one day and the next day is standing in line to audition with 20,000 other living-room singers for American Idol.

It's one thing right to sing in front of Aunt Bethany and Uncle Fred and Grandpa Glenny.  It's quite another thing when it's Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson.

Two summers ago I had a chance to sit under the teaching of Dr. JoAnn Deak. Dr. Deak is the leading field researcher at The Ohio State University on adolescent brain development.

In her session on "Understanding the Adolescent Brain," she opened by saying point blank: "You are going against neurobiology. The adolescent brain is not equipped to handle the stresses and strains that 17-18 years old are put under, especially when it comes to the college process."

Dr.Deak explained how the Corpus collosum is under massive construction during the teenage years. Dr. Deaks compared the Corpus collosum to a 10-lane highway, like I-5 in LA. In order for teens to be able to think, organize, judge, and make morally sound, non-destructive decisions, "all lanes" on the Cc have to be open. What often happens though is that stress causes the Amygdala (feeling center) to swell, which then triggers a suppression of the Prefrontal cortex, which then causes the "highway to shut down". What ensues is a series of emotional, academic, and volitional "crashes".

This series of events often happens more in boys than girls. Ever wonder why your 17-year-old boy acts like a 5 year old? Now you know.

So what the new brain research shows is that adolescence is the worst time for organization. Many times kids are trying to juggle 10 balls with one hand and a finger.

This is then why we need to help create a flight plan that prevents our kids from crashing into a mountain.

So with that said, let's look at 6 ways we can help our kids navigate through the turbulence and around the mountains that are sure to come.

Friday, January 11, 2013

College Coaching Video #3: Best College Fit

At Casady our college counseling mission is to partner with students to discern the best college fit. 

We use five broad categories to help students find the colleges that are a good match.

There are many organic threads of dialogue based off these broad categories that we have with students over many months and conversations.

It's always amazing how things begin to come into focus for a student and parent by just reflecting and answering honestly in regards to each category.

I would invite you to enter into discussion with your student (or reflection) about these categories to help begin to "narrow the focus" in terms of what kind of college ethos will be that excellent fit.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

College Coaching Video #2: "The Bucket List"

Happy New Year.

We are wrapping up the application season with our seniors.

Most seniors applying into Regular admission pools have clicked the "Submit" button.

All green arrows on the Common Application.
Now we make the seismic shift to the 11th grade class.

This Friday we begin our College Seminar.

The first major phase of the college search process involves two things.


And research.

The former involves bending inward intentionally to explore the contours of self.

"Know thyself" is a helpful prerequisite to "know thy college".

The latter involves investing ample time and energies into researching the college landscape.

We will equip our students with a number of "handles" they can use primarily through Naviance to explore the horizons of possible college fits.

In between, we will encourage our students to begin to really formulate a bucket list.

To identify and enumerate what specific experiences they want to have during their college years.

Some students' bucket lists will have the same items.

Study abroad.  Double major.  Tailgating in September.

Other students' bucket lists will have very different items.

Live in a major city.  Do research in nano technology.  Study aviation.

This "bucket list" exercise is, of course, a very fluid process.

It evolves over the college search, apply, and selection process.