College Readiness Checklist for Parents

College Readiness Checklist for Parents

Article written by By Jeff Livingston

As May begins, high school seniors are enjoying their final weeks in school before graduation. In just a few months, they will be stepping onto college campuses for the first time and entering a new chapter.

Twenty-five percent of college students drop out in their freshman year because they are not academically, emotionally or financially prepared for college life and adulthood. Whether students like it or not, college takes planning and preparation. Fortunately, there are things that parents can do to make sure that their child is ready for what will be one of the biggest transitions of his or her life.

Here’s a college readiness checklist to make sure your high school grads are prepared for what’s waiting for them on campus. (Teachers, you may wish to pass this on to your students’ parents.)

Arrange for them to speak formally to a recent college grad.

No one can give your child better advice than a family friend who has recently completed college and found a career in their chosen field. Encourage your child to speak with them about what it takes to be successful in college and what, if anything, they may have done differently. Have your child follow up on the meeting by writing a formal thank you note.

Teach them the ins-and-outs of their college finances.

Students are more likely to take college seriously if they understand how their college finances work. To show them the importance of making the most out of their education on a day-in, day-out basis, go beyond yearly tuition totals and review the cost breakdown of each individual class. Also show them the benefit that finishing in four years will have on their long-term financial future.

Have them start building their network — now.

Some of the most important connections your child can make in college are ones that begin before they even set foot on campus. Encourage them to speak with their future roommate, other high school classmates who are attending the same college, and student officers in the clubs your child may be interested in joining. Sites like will allow your child to connect with future classmates who may share similar interests. And when your child arrives at school, urge them to be aggressive about participating in activities and meeting new people.

Give them opportunities to practice critical thinking.

For instance, you could give them the opinion section of a major newspaper and ask them to take an opposing viewpoint to an article, even one they agree with. Doing college-level work requires more than just taking what you read at face value and memorizing a bunch of facts — students should practice thinking critically about what they see, hear and read.

Help them learn to manage their time.

Encourage them to use a digital calendar to keep track of appointments and deadlines. Many students arrive at college not knowing how to manage their time effectively. Digital calendars, such as Google Calendar or Apple’s iCal, can be accessed from a smartphone or tablet, allowing students to stay on top of their schedule no matter where they are.

Make sure they get to know their faculty advisor.

Making big decisions like picking a major or following a career path can be daunting, causing students to put them off as long as possible. Faculty advisors, provided to students by most colleges, can help take the fear out of the process. Make sure your child develops a relationship with their faculty advisor as early as possible to ensure their choices are well informed.

Show them how to use social media beyond photos on Facebook.

College-age students are among the most active users of social media, but how many are aware of the ways it can benefit them academically and professionally? Have your child talk with recent grads who have used social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to help build their academic network and market themselves as professionals. Additionally, sites like can help students get a feel for their school’s culture before stepping foot on campus.

Equip them with the right technology.To succeed in college, students need technology that works with the latest tools and systems being used in the classroom. Only a few years ago, this simply meant buying the latest model laptop. These days, as colleges introduce more technology into the classroom, students are using a combination of devices — such as tablets, smartphones and e-readers — to stay on top of their coursework and connect with classmates. Check the school’s technology guidelines before making any major purchases.

Test-Optional vs. Test-Flexible vs. Test-Blind

Test-Optional vs. Test-Flexible vs. Test-Blind

Test optional, test flexible and test blind refer to admissions policies with reference to the SAT or ACT. There may be slight variations between colleges as to exactly what these terms imply.

In general:


‘Test Optional’ means it is not mandatory for students to submit their SAT or ACT scores as part of their application. For colleges that have a test-optional admissions policy, the applicant’s high school academic record is the most important assessment criteria. Next in importance are the applicant’s personal essay, recommendation letters, extracurricular activities, and the personal interview. A test-optional college may be a great choice for you if you prefer that colleges assess your application based on another important factor, like your high school grades or accomplishments.

Test Flexible

Colleges that have a ‘Test-Flexible’ admissions policy allow applicants to submit various standardized test scores to support their application. Every college has its own list of scores that it will accept. Some may accept International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement exam scores. While others may accept the scores of the ACT Assessment Test or the SAT Reasoning Test. You must find out the details from each school so you know which test scores you are required to submit.

Test Blind

‘Test Blind’ means students are not required to submit any standardized test scores. There are several variations of this admissions policy. Some colleges may exempt applicants who have scored above a certain grade point average. While others may leave it up to the student to decide whether or not they want to submit their scores.

If you are unclear about a school’s admission policy, make sure you check their website or reach out to admissions!


Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC

Juniors: Dare to be Different

Juniors: Dare to be Different

As I finished my 2021 application season I thought… if I could give every family only one piece of advice about college admission and the college application process, what would that be? So here’s my advice. Ready? Be different.

Be different from the beginning. Don’t wait like so many other people until the summer after junior year or, even worse, the fall of senior year to begin the process. Starting early will alleviate much of the stress that you might be witnessing in senior friends who are crunching to create lists, visit schools, write essays, and complete applications.

Be different in how you prepare your college list. Don’t assume a college is a great fit until you’ve done your due diligence. Stretch yourself to consider colleges beyond the “usual suspects.” Colleges read all the applications from each high school together. That means they are comparing students from the same high school with the same measuring stick. the understanding is that you’ve all had the same opportunity to take the same classes over your high school career. If hundreds of students are applying to a college from your high school and the rigor of your coursework and your test scores don’t measure up to the competition, it’s obviously going to be more challenging to be accepted. However, if you are one of a handful of students applying to a certain college, your credentials will still be compared, but your leadership or special talents may carry more weight.

Be different in the activities you choose. Don’t join the Spanish club if the only reason you want to be there is to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Follow your interests, not your friends. Find something, almost anything, that matters to you – something you care about. It could be tutoring, the environment, Boy Scouts, dance, writing a blog, starting your own business, etc, but participate for the right reasons. Your activities should tell a story about who you are and what you care about. Make them meaningful.

Be different in what you choose to write about. Your essay is your best opportunity to self to set yourself apart in the application. It is the one area where you maintain total control. It can be a powerful tool, so use it wisely. Don’t write what you think college admissions officers want to read; write what you want them to know about you. Brainstorming your essay topic is a soul-searching process. Stay away from cliche topics that anyone could write and identify something that is uniquely you!

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC

The Most Recognized Summer Programs for High School Students

The Most Recognized Summer Programs for High School Students


Many college prep programs for high school students take place on a college campus and focus on various subjects like journalism, entrepreneurship, or computer science to expand students’ understanding of their interests. Most programs range from 1-7 weeks long and students either live on campus for that time period or can commute to and from campus.

Getting into one of these pre-college summer programs can be a great addition to your resume, but be cautious when choosing a program because there are many out there that take advantage of students and will select any student that applies. University admissions faculty know which programs are legitimate and which ones are just cash cows, so be selective and do your research when applying. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 25 recognizable college prep programs for high school students:

1. Bank of America Student Leaders

The Bank of America student leaders program is part of Bank of America’s ongoing commitment to youth employment and economic mobility. 225 juniors and seniors are selected each year to take part in a leadership summit in Washington D.C. and are awarded paid internships with local nonprofits like Boys & Girls Club or Habitat for Humanity where they learn first-hand about the needs of their community.

2. Carnegie Mellon Summer Academy for Math & Science

This is a six week summer program for historically underrepresented minority groups interested in pursuing STEM-related undergraduate majors. Students can choose from two different tracks: science and engineering or computer science. Rising juniors and seniors are encouraged to apply, though a limited number of juniors are accepted.

3. Center for Excellence in Education – Research Science Institute (RSI)

80 students are selected for the cost-free Research Institute at MIT every summer where they participate in a week of STEM intensives followed by a 5 week research internship culminating in written and oral presentations of their research findings.

4. Yale Young Global Scholars

This two week academic and leadership program at Yale combines lectures, seminars, and small-group discussions designed to challenge and inspire students in specialites from applied science and engineering to literature, philosophy, and culture.

5. University of Pennsylvania – Leadership in the Business World

A month-long summer program for 80 rising high school seniors who want an introduction to an undergraduate business education and the opportunity to hone their leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. Students have opportunities to learn about leadership in 21st century organizations through a dynamic and rigorous mix of classes with professors and business leaders, company site visits, and team-building activities.

6. University of Notre Dame – Leadership Seminars

This 10-day program on Notre Dame’s campus is for 90 academically talented students who show impressive leadership within their communities and focuses on topics like global issues, the environment, and the state of race in 21st century America. Students are eligible to receive one college credit upon completion of the program.

7. Texas Tech University – Clark Scholars

For rising juniors and seniors, this 7-week research program guides students through a hands-on practical research experience with experienced faculty and includes fun activities, weekly seminars and field trips.

8. Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP)

A cost-free six-week educational experience for high school juniors, TASP centers on an academic seminar that meets every weekday morning for three hours. In addition to the seminar, students participate in a public-speaking program, attend lectures by guest speakers, and hold other social and intellectual activities as a community.

9. Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SuMaC)

SUMac leads participants on a journey in advanced mathematics through lectures, guided research, and group problem solving over three weeks. In a social environment centered on mathematics, participants explore current lines of mathematical research, the historical development of important areas of mathematics, and applications across scientific disciplines.

10. Simons Summer Research Program

Simons summer research program is a 6-week program for rising seniors who will work with distinguished faculty mentors at Stony Brook University, learn laboratory techniques and tools, become part of active research teams, and experience life at a research university.

11. Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists (PROMYS)

PROMYS is a six-week summer program at Boston University designed to encourage 80 strongly motivated high school students from around the country to explore in depth the creative world of mathematics in a supportive community of peers, counselors, research mathematicians, and visiting scientists.

12. Princeton University Summer Journalism Program

35-40 rising seniors from low-income backgrounds are selected for this ten day seminar on journalism. The program’s goal is to diversify college and professional newsrooms by encouraging outstanding students from low-income backgrounds to pursue careers in journalism. All expenses, including students’ travel costs to and from Princeton, are paid for by the program.

13. Ohio State University – Ross Mathematics Program

The Ross Mathematics Program is a six week program for students ages 15-18 with interests in mathematics and science. Students take a basic course in number theory and are immersed in a world of mathematical discovery.

14. Monell Center Science Apprenticeship Program

The Monell apprenticeship is a paid internship for high school and undergrad students in philadelphia that provides students with hands-on research training, improves student learning in science, encourages critical thought and communication skills, and increases appreciation of the chemical senses.

15. Michigan State University – High School Honors Science, Math and Engineering Program (HSHSP)

A seven-week, intensive summer research program for rising seniors from across the United States who wish to gain more experience conducting research while living on the campus of a major research-intensive university.

16. Michigan Math and Science Scholars

Open to any rising high school sophomore, junior, or senior, this program is designed to introduce high school students to current developments and research in the sciences and to encourage the next generation of researchers to develop and retain a love of mathematics and science.

17. MathILy – Bryn Mawr College

This 5-week program for mathematically-talented high school students introduces them to new ideas to improve their problem-solving skills, learn advanced mathematics, and hone overall thinking skills.

18. Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Minority Introduction to Science and Engineering (MITES)

A cost-free, six-week residential academic enrichment program for rising high school seniors – many of whom come from underrepresented or underserved communities – who have a strong academic record and are interested in studying and exploring careers in science and engineering. Students take one calculus course, one life sciences course, one physics course, a humanities course and an elective course.

19. LaunchX

In this program, students interested in entrepreneurship spend four weeks building and launching an actual start-up, learning from industry experts, and working in a group of peer co-founders to build real products and solve business challenges. LaunchX has programs at Universities around the U.S. and admits students from all over the world.

20. JCamp

High school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors with a strong interest in broadcasting, newspapers, magazines, photojournalism or online media are encouraged to apply. The six-day training camp brings together culturally diverse students from across the nation to learn from veteran journalists and leading media executives. JCamp participants will receive hands-on training and produce multiplatform news packages for the program’s news site.

21. Jackson Laboratory – Summer Student Program

The Summer Student Program is designed for 48 undergraduate and high school students chosen from all over the U.S. who want to immerse themselves in genetics and genomics research. It emphasizes laboratory discovery, communication of knowledge, and professional growth. Students participate in an ongoing research program with the support of an experienced scientific mentor. They develop an independent project, implement their plan, analyze the data, and report the results. At the end of the summer, they present their findings to researchers, other students, and parents. The Summer Student Program is available at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine and The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Connecticut.

22. Indiana University – Young Women’s Institute

The Young Women’s Institute is open to women finishing their junior year of high school (rising seniors). Students are selected from around the country to spend a week at Indiana University in Bloomington participating in workshops with top Kelley School of Business faculty, interacting with Kelley alumni and current students, preparing a real-world business case project, building leadership and communication skills, and connecting with like-minded women interested in business.

23. Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics (HCSSIM)

HCSSiM is an intensive six-week encounter with college-level mathematics for talented and highly motivated high school students at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. Participants spend a major portion of each day actively engaged in doing mathematics (not simply learning the results of mathematics).

24. Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Camp

The Girls Who Code summer immersion program is a 7-week program for 10th-11th grade girls to learn coding and get exposure to tech jobs. Each week of the program covers projects related to computer science, such as art, storytelling, robotics, video games, websites, and apps. You’ll also hear from guest speakers, participate in workshops, connect with female engineers and entrepreneurs, and go on field trips.

25. Foundation for Teaching Economics – Economics for Leaders (EFL)

The goal of economics for leaders is to give promising students the skills to be more effective leaders and to teach them how to employ economic analysis when considering difficult public policy choices. EFL is a selective summer program for high school sophomores and juniors that teaches leaders how to integrate economics into the process of decision-making in a hands-on environment.

When and How to Praise Your Teen

When and How to Praise Your Teen

Parenting adolescents is frequently a delicate balancing act – don’t be too strict, nor too lenient; be involved, but not overinvolved; encourage your teen to participate in activities, but don’t over-schedule them; monitor their activities, but don’t snoop. We have basically learned from research that there can be too much of a good thing! This is true with our praise, as well. Experts say we should build our children’s self-esteem, but research shows that we can go overboard if we praise them too much.

Problems with Overpraise

Creating doubt. We may think our kids are awesome, but when we overpraise, our teens actually start to doubt us. Teens are quite observant and they quickly notice if their parents are the only ones who think they are remarkable. When mom and dad are praising them, but no one else is, or when your praise feels insincere, teens start to doubt the objectivity of their parents, which creates a trust problem in the relationship. Teens become insecure because they don’t believe your positive words, and they find it difficult to tell the difference between when they have really done something great or not.

Creating avoidance. When we rave too easily and disregard poor behavior, teens eventually learn to cheat, exaggerate, or lie to get praise. Perhaps more importantly, they blame others and make excuses to avoid difficulties. Overpraising creates teens that are not resilient enough to handle challenges or rejection.

Creating superiority. Studies show that parents who believe their children are special and deserve special treatment create teens who are demanding and believe they are superior to others.

Creating fear of risk. Research has also shown that when parents shower children with compliments to try to boost their self-esteem, it actually sends the message that the child must continue to meet very high standards. Teens can feel pressure to always be amazing, and this perception actually discourages them from trying new things or taking risks. They become afraid to fail.

What to Praise

The true purpose of praise is to encourage our children to continue positive behaviors that produce good outcomes. As a result, experts suggest we praise our teens for areas which they have control, and avoid praising their traits or abilities.

  • What parents should praise their teens for:
    • trying hard or making a strong effort,
    • setting and obtaining a goal,
    • persistence when facing a challenge,
    • having a good attitude,
    • respectful behavior,
    • trying something new or taking a risk,
    • learning from a mistake,
    • following through on a commitment or promise,
    • not giving up when it looks like they might fail,
    • showing focus or discipline,
    • demonstrating compassion, generosity, kindness, or love,
    • taking responsibility, and
    • solving a problem or making a difficult decision.
  • What parents should NOT praise their teens for:
    • intelligence,
    • physical attractiveness, and
    • innate talents, such as athletic or artistic gifts.


How to Build Self-Esteem

A child with a healthy self-esteem values himself as a person, trusts his feelings and abilities, believes he is capable of doing things well, and is able to work toward his goals. This is what we want our praise to do in our children. Here are some tips when you are dishing out your praise:

Praise the process. When we praise our children for their effort, we are helping them to build confidence. When we praise our teens for every minor thing they do, or focus on things not under their control, we actually strip them of confidence. So don’t focus on the result; instead point out how impressed you are with HOW they accomplished the outcome.

Be specific. When we are specific, our praise sounds sincere and also helps teens understand what behaviors they should repeat. “Good job” gives them no feedback on what they should do in the future to get the same outcome and also communicates that you’re more impressed with the result than in how they achieved it.

Ask a related question. “How did you figure out how to do that?” When you ask your teen an open-ended question, you give them an opportunity to realize what they have accomplished on their own. We need to raise children who can feel satisfaction with their own selves because not everyone is going to shower them with praise for everything they do.

Recall previous success. When you see your child struggling with something, remind them of past successes they have had. “I know you’re feeling frustrated with your English project now, but I remember last year you felt the same way about your Science project and you got an A. I feel confident that you can do this well.” This type of comment not only praises them for a past success, but also expresses belief in their abilities.

Final thoughts…

Teens develop self-esteem and confidence by overcoming challenges and experiencing success. So, first, we must give our teens the opportunity to be successful (which means that we cannot rescue our kids every time they face a difficulty), and then we must help them see how they contributed to their own success (identify the skills and hard work they used to accomplish the result). Experts say that the quality of our praise is way more important than the quantity. Make sure your praise is genuine, sincere, focused on their effort, and encourages positive behavior.

6 Tips to Plan your SAT Practice

6 Tips to Plan your SAT Practice

by Khan Academy

One of the challenges you will face with the SAT is figuring out what kind of study schedule works for you and will best prepare you to succeed. An SAT study plan is not one size fits all, so what works for your friends or classmates may not work for you. In fact, students who have taken the SAT have used very different approaches with very different focuses, as you’ll see in our sample study guides for the redesigned SAT written by current high school students.
You should definitely consider your study preferences, SAT goals, and resources before deciding on a study plan. In general, we recommend starting your SAT prep early. About three months before your test should give you enough of a buffer to try a few study approaches and get comfortable with the test content.
When you create your Official SAT Practice schedule, the system will suggest how often you should practice and how many full-length tests to take based on the amount of time before your test. You’ll also choose the times each week that you want to do focused practice on improving your different skills.
For more tips on how to study and manage your time, see these ideas from fellow students:
  • Diagnose your skills early on. Even if you don’t plan on studying during the months leading up to the SAT, we advise you to take a diagnostic on Khan Academy or complete the PSAT/NMSQT, six months before the test. That way, you’ll have a good sense of how close you are to your SAT goal. If you have a lot of skills to learn, you might want to start studying earlier than you’d planned. Fariha suggests: “Figure out what areas you need to focus on the most, and keep practicing. Don’t get discouraged if at first it is difficult to understand or learn, the more you practice the easier it will get.”
  • Take at least two full practice tests. We recommend taking at least one fully-timed practice test toward the beginning of your studying, and one toward the end. We also recommend you take at least one practice test on paper, which is how the actual SAT is administered, so you can get comfortable with the format. Taking a full-length practice test provides a realistic sense of how long the test is and where you tend to get tired or mentally blocked. Yes, it’s at least three hours of hard work, but if your first full SAT is on Test Day, you may find yourself unpleasantly surprised by how taxing all of that intense thinking can be. You can’t train for a marathon just by doing sprints! Gaeun says: “Full practice tests are invaluable. Taking at least two before the actual test helps you gain some sense of what it’s like to sit for four hours taking the SAT. Timing yourself strictly and accurately is essential when taking these tests.”
  • Familiarize yourself with the instructions for each test section. The sequence of the sections and the directions for each section will be the same for every SAT. Time that you spend trying to understand the instructions on Test Day is time wasted. Hannah says: “If I take the SAT again … I would want to better know what would be expected of me on the writing portion, by looking at some kind of rubric or other guide.”
  • Study outside the box. Mix up your SAT prep with some general skill-building. Read and summarize long articles and scientific studies to prepare for the Reading Test. Read editorial articles or essays and pay attention to how the writer constructs his or her argument to prepare for the optional essay. These approaches may not be enough on their own, but there’s no more sure way to reinforce a skill and build your understanding than to apply what you know to the real world. Eric advises: “Don’t underestimate the power of reading books. Reading in bulk not only increases your world knowledge and cultural awareness, but it also helps exercise your brain to pick up on finer details and make extrapolations based on context. It will make the critical reading and writing sections more enjoyable and allow you to think clearer. Read often, read lots.”
  • Take a break the night before the test. We know this can be hard advice to follow—why would you waste any critical study time right before the SAT? But it’s important to make sure you’re rested and relaxed when you wake up for the test. Studying at the last minute can introduce extra stress, lower your confidence, and wear you out. Instead, we recommend you do something calm and enjoyable, like watching a favorite movie or playing soccer with friends, to take your mind off the test and put yourself in a good mood. David says: “Please, do not study the SATs the night before the exam! Our neurons need some rest too.”
  • Set yourself up for success on Test Day. What everyone says is true—a good night’s sleep can make all the difference. Make sure you go to bed early the night before the test and clock a full night of sleep (at least 8 hours). It may help to go to bed a little earlier every night the week before the test so an early bedtime on Friday feels natural. Wake up early on Saturday so you have plenty of time to warm up your brain before the SAT starts, and eat a full, healthy breakfast so you’re not distracted by hunger or discomfort during the test. And don’t forget to organize your supplies in advance! You’ll need No. 2 pencils and a calculator to take the test, and you will not be allowed into the test room without a valid photo ID and a printed copy of your SAT test registration. The more you do to feel prepared and rested before the SAT, the more you’ll be able to focus on success while taking the test. Rushi says: “Try to get as much sleep as possible before the exam. You’re most likely already prepared, and the extra sleep will help you think properly during the SAT.”

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC