We survived the all-encompassing moving into college, classes started, we set our phone call routine with our college student. We are somewhat adjusting to the empty room, the quiet house, and the colder mornings.
And then comes visiting weekend. Strange as it feels, we are coming to visit or child in his/her space for a weekend packed with activities, and then leave…
As I have gone through this experience several times – with my own children as well as with the families I work with – I compiled a list of considerations for those of you who are new to “visiting weekend”:
1. What was left behind. Communicate with your student if there is anything that was left behind that will be useful to have. In my case, this is the time to bring what didn’t fit in the car, and the special requests: snow boots, sled, poster hanging in his room, extra blanket, an electric kettle to make tea and soup.
2. Snacks are always welcome! Bring a good selection of the goodies you know your student likes. If you can bake, make something that your student can keep in the room and share with friends. It will probably be consumed in a few hours (teenagers..) so I wouldn’t worry about refrigeration. I also include cereal, cookies, granola bars, chips, dry fruit, nuts, soups and beverages. It is always useful to have a large plastic container to keep all of these goodies, that can be tucked under the bed.
3. Dinner Reservations. If you are planning to go out for lunch or dinner with your student (and perhaps invite some friends?) ask your student where to go and make a reservation. You are not the only parent with those intentions.
4. Empathy for Others. This is an opportunity to teach your student empathy: mention that there are students whose family cannot come to family weekend, and might enjoy coming to lunch or dinner with your family. However, if your student is not comfortable with this idea, I would not insist.
5. Flexibility. The activities planned by the college may or may not be your student’s favorite way of spending time with you. Be open minded and flexible, and prepare yourself to change plans at the last minute.
6. Have a Plan B. Be ready to be “dumped” by your student if a “better plan” comes along. Remember that your student loves you and is happy to see you, but parties and friends have a priority in their lives at this time. If and when you realize that you are priority number 2 or 3, don’t give your teenager a hard time! (as long as they are nice about it). Instead, have a “plan B” in your sleeve: a good book, something fun to do in the area, or meet other parents who have been dumped too! Think that right now, the fact that you are not a priority is healthy.
7. Don’t Clean Up! At all costs, contain your urge to clean their room! Chances are that it will not be up to your standards, the bathroom in particular. However, keep in mind that you are a visitor. You can be humorous about your “different cleanliness standards”, but do not nag or take any action. Just smile and move on.
8. Ask for a tour of their Hangouts. To the extent that your student is comfortable with you interacting with his friends, ask your child to introduce them to you. Make every attempt to know more about their “new life”, it is important for your child to feel your approval! I usually ask for a tour of my sons’ favorite hang-outs. Of course, I have visited the school before, but this new tour will be an opportunity to understand better how they experience the school.
9. Compliment, compliment, compliment! Remember when your child gave his/her first steps, how you clapped and cheered? Your child is now trying his/her first steps into independence. Show that you are happy for them, that you like what you see (if you really do) and you trust them to make the right choices. If you like what you see, make sure you clap and cheer (figuratively speaking).
Enjoy visiting weekend with your student!
Founder, Weil College Advising, LLC
by the Center of Cognitive Therapy
Every teen puts off a task. I’ll email my teacher tomorrow. I’ll start my homework after I finish watching this show. Some teens, however, are big-time procrastinators and there are a couple of reasons some teens procrastinate so much. First, some teens have trouble accurately estimating how much time something will take to complete. They think that they’ll have more time to get something done than they actually do and put it off until they can’t anymore.
The second reason some teens procrastinate is that it’s difficult for them to manage the stress, anxiety, or even boredom they anticipate feeling and they then put off starting tasks. It’s hard to blame them for this. Who wants to start something that’s going to be difficult? If your teen is a big-time procrastinator, here are six things you can do to help:
- Help Your Teen Break Down Tasks, Even Small Ones. Remember, that teens who procrastinate see certain tasks as overwhelming or very difficult. Helping your teen break assignments into smaller steps can help decrease the distress of tasks. This is called chunking and you can teach your teen to do this. Chunking helps teens develop a can-do attitude and that helps them start. For example, if your teen has an essay to write, you can help the teen identify the steps (write an outline, research each section of the outline) and commit to writing one segment of the outline at a time. If your teen has trouble estimating how much time it takes to complete a task, you can ask your teen to estimate the time to complete the step and to write the time it actually took to complete the task. In this way, you help your teen learn to more accurately estimate the time it takes to complete specific tasks.
- Ask Your Teen to Rate Confidence to Complete Task. At the end of the day, it all comes down to confidence, and when it comes to procrastination, you can help build your teen’s confidence by changing the task. Ask teens to rate their confidence, from 0% to 100%, that they can complete a particular task, then adjust or break down the task until they’re 90% confident (or greater) that they can complete the task in the time set aside to do it. It helps if you explain to your teen that confidence is something we build over time. As teens improve their ability to accurately estimate the amount of time it takes to complete particular tasks and they more often complete tasks on time, the more confident they become that they can complete things on time.
- Help Your Teen Anticipate Roadblocks and Plan Work Arounds. Often teens manage to start tasks but then bale out when they hit a roadblock. Sometimes the roadblock is needing something to complete the task that they don’t have, like a book or a worksheet, or teach your teen to take 5 minutes before beginning the task to go through a checklist. The checklist is usually three questions: Do I have all the information I need to complete the task? How much time do I have to complete the task? What other appointments do I have that will make it hard for me to complete the task on time? Teach your teen to brainstorm possible solutions and, more importantly, teach them that preparing for a task before beginning can save them time and make tasks less difficult.
- Help Your Teen Identify Best Times for Specific Tasks. Help your teen set up the best time to work on particular tasks. For example, most teens are not morning people, so tasks that take a lot of thinking power might not work so well when teens work on them in the morning. that works for them. Other tasks that get your teen moving, such as chores around the house, might work best at times when your teen’s energy is low. Last, teach your teen to build some extra time into their schedules so that they can complete things that are taking more time than they expected.
- Help Your Teen Develop Start-Now Self-Talk. Most teens who procrastinate are great at talking themselves into putting things off. I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll do it when I’m not so tired. Help your teen develop start-now self-talk that interrupts these permission thoughts. For example, help your teen think through the reasons to complete the task now and write them down. To the thought, “I’ll do it later,” suggest your teen think, “What’s so bad about doing it now?” Or, ask your teen to write down all the consequences they’ve experienced when they procrastinate and name it My Procrastination Hassle List. Encourage your teen to read the hassle list before beginning to work.
- Help Your Teen Be Better Than Perfect. Perfectionism. Better than perfect? Perfectionistic teens can be big-time procrastinators. They wait until they have the time to complete a task “perfectly” or they rework things over and over trying to make it perfect and this process makes any task more difficult and more stressful. Once teens have been through that process a time or two, they’re not likely to want to start it again. Help your teen be better than perfect. Better than perfect is excellence on time and once teens learn that, their lives become easier and happier.
Adapted from the College Board
What are college admission officers looking for when they read your application? They take into account more than your GPA and test scores. Your character and the personal qualities you can bring to a college are important too. That’s why you need to think about your goals, accomplishments, and personal values and figure out how you can best express those in your applications.
Colleges look for qualities like leadership and a sense of social responsibility.
The Qualities Colleges Want
“What is it that makes you unique, and how will you contribute to the life of our campus?” That’s what admission officers want to know, according to Earl Johnson, dean of admission at the University of Tulsa. To gauge what students can bring to their campus, they look for these types of qualities:
- A willingness to take risks
- A sense of social responsibility
- A commitment to service
- Special talents or abilities
Overall, colleges want a mix of students to create a rich campus community. They want the class valedictorians, says Marty O’Connell, executive director of Colleges That Change Lives. But they also are looking for “students who are going to be involved in a lot of activities and students who are musicians and students who are athletes and everything in between.”
Your Application Shows Your Qualities
So how do you show colleges what’s special about you? Personal qualities are not easy to measure, but admission officers look at the items listed below for clues to an applicant’s character.
Extracurricular activities: What you do outside the classroom reveals a lot about you. That’s why some applications ask for details about extracurricular activities. But remember, it’s not the number of activities that’s important. Admission officers want to know what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown from participating in these activities.
Summer jobs and activities: Your summer experiences provide insight into your character. And holding a summer job at a fast-food restaurant can build as much character as attending a prestigious summer learning program. It’s all about what you’ve gained, what you’ve learned and how you communicate that.
College essay: The college essay gives you the opportunity to show the admission officers who you are and how you will contribute to the college campus.
Mike Sexton, vice president for enrollment management at Santa Clara University, says that when admission officers read student essays, they ask themselves, “Would you like this person to be your roommate? Would you like to work on a group project with this person?” The essay can reveal the answers to these questions more than any test score can.
Letters of recommendation: Recommendation letters can tell a lot about the kind of person you are. A teacher who knows you well can give insight into not just your academic strengths but also the qualities you display in class, such as leadership or fairness.
Questions? Let’s chat!
Weil College Advising, LLC
As summer approaches its end and families start planning for the fall, conversations on college applications heat up in the homes and minds of parents and students. The “college talk,” which inevitably emerges in families’ social gatherings, often creates a great deal of anxiety, uncertainty, and common misconceptions. Let’s dive into a few of the classic “myths” and clarify some of the murky- and often contradicting- information that goes around.
College Myth #1: The more extracurricular activities you do, the better.
This is an outdated perception of what college admission counselors seek in an applicant. Today, the golden formula for extracurricular activities is Depth, Commitment, and Impact. What does this mean? Colleges like students who are dedicated, perseverant, and have grown with and through their experiences. Moreover, they like it when students take initiative and are active participants. In the eyes of admission counselors, these attributes are a good predictor of maturity, consistency, and determination.
College Myth #2: SATs and ACTs are the most important component in a college application.
Standardized tests are one of the pillars of the college application, but not the most important indicator a students’ potential in college. SATs and ACTs can be compared to a sprint– a three-hour sample of a students’ performance. However, admissions committees know that college is not a sprint, it is a marathon! The transcript is often a better indicator of how a student will sustain the effort required in that academic marathon. Don’t think, however, that you can forget about standardized tests! College admissions counselors understand that not all high schools grade in the same way. Therefore, the SAT and ACT tests are valuable standardized measures of student performance.
College Myth #3: It is better to have an A in a regular class than a B in an AP or honors class.
Colleges love to see that students challenge themselves and are willing to take risks with their academic coursework. Because taking APs and honors will fill that box, many students like to load their junior and senior schedules with such classes. If a more demanding course will result in a very slight drop in grades, this is acceptable. However, competitive colleges don’t like Cs and Ds. Therefore, if grades will drop to that extent due to the rigor of the class, it is better to stay in a regular class or take fewer demanding courses. Students should discuss their options with their guidance counselor at school, in order to strike a good balance between rigor and performance.
College Myth #4: A good application is the only thing that matters for admissions.
A good application will, of course, get you at least as far as the ‘maybe’ list and possibly further. However, there is more that you can do to get your foot in the door of your dream school, and that is called “demonstrated interest”. Why does this work? Because colleges like to know that the students who are offered a spot will actually attend. This ratio of offers to enrollment is called “yield,” an important statistic for colleges.
If you demonstrate your willingness to attend by visiting, writing to your regional counselor, or scheduling an interview (if offered), it might help your file pass from the “maybe” pile over to the “yes” pile. Be mindful that admissions officers are very busy people, so don’t overdo by reaching out to them many times or you may end up in the “no” pile. Be aware that highly competitive colleges (ivies, etc.) usually do not track demonstrated interest.
College Myth #5: The college essay is the least important variable in a college application.
Not at all! Colleges admission counselors strive to acquire a holistic understanding of the applicant: their academic performance and potential (transcript and SAT/ACT) what they do in their free time (extracurricular activities), what others think of them (letters of recommendation) and who they are as a person.
What do admissions counselors want to learn from the essay? They want to understand how you think, what shaped you into who you are, what are the values you wrestle with… in essence, who you are beyond the numbers. You might ask, “what drives that curiosity?” Admission officers try their best to create a diverse group in which students can exchange ideas and learn from one another. It is estimated that 40% of the learning in college takes place outside of the classroom! Admissions counselors try to facilitate that learning by selecting students who are self-aware independent thinkers who can reflect upon their experiences. This can only be transmitted through the personal statement, so make sure you really show yourself!
College Myth #6: It is best to ask for recommendations from “important” people.
Unless the VIP or celebrity has a personal connection with the student, and has interacted with him in an academic/professional setting, such a letter will not help in a college application and might even hurt it. Refrain from asking for recommendations from your congressman or the CEO of a multinational company who knows the parents. Admissions officials will probably frown upon such a letter, and likely interpret it as “name-dropping.” Letters of recommendation are supposed to be from someone who knows the student well and worked with him/her on a daily basis. Great recommendations often come from teachers of a core subject in school.
College Myth #7: Applying for financial aid compromises the chances of admissions.
It depends on the student and on the college. Regarding financial aid, some colleges are “need bind” – the application for financial assistance does not interfere at all with the decision of accepting the student. Other colleges are “need-aware” – the decision might be affected by the request for financial aid. This is a complex topic, so make sure you inquire before you draw conclusions.
Questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org