Best Tips for a Successful Undergraduate Experience

Best Tips for a Successful Undergraduate Experience

Harvard Professor Richard Light has spent a lifetime studying what leads to the most “successful” undergraduate experience. Over 20 years of research enriched by the views of nearly 2500 students led to advice he shared…

According to Dr. Light, successful college students will

  1. Get to know one faculty member reasonably well each term or semester. Research shows this is the single best way to engage fully in the life of the campus.
  2. Explore at least one entirely new topic or course every semester. Replicating your high school class roster is not particularly productive or satisfying.
  3. Develop a strategy for making tradeoffs between “investing” in new classes or activities and “harvesting” the benefits of known skills. Successful students experiment with the new but also continue to build on what they know they’re already good at.
  4. Focus on time management. Students who make adjustments to and are aware of issues in time management are far more likely to succeed in college.
  5. Pick classes in the first or second year that will support choosing a major wisely. Knowing something in advance about departments and majors saves time and aggravation in the long run.
  6. Try to relate what goes on inside the classroom to life outside of class. Forming these kinds of connections gives more meaning and depth to academics.
  7. Engage in a wide variety of extracurricular activities. There exists a very strong correlation between campus involvement and overall student satisfaction with college.
  8. Seek out diverse views. Successful students will reach out to people whose views do not necessarily correspond to their own.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil, LMSW, IEC

How Multiple Intelligences Shape Learning

How Multiple Intelligences Shape Learning

Written by Katherine Lee for VeryWell Family

You may have heard the term “learning style” used to describe how a child learns (as in, one child learns best visually while another learns best through movement). The problem with such characterizations is that all kids learn through various methods—sight, touch, etc.

While a child may absorb information better through one approach at one point in time, that same child may learn something else better through another approach. Labeling children as having just one learning style is inaccurate and limiting. A much better way to understand the individuality of how kids learn is to apply the concept of “multiple intelligences.” In 1983, Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist and the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, disputed the idea that people are born with a single intelligence that can be measured—such as with IQ tests—and cannot be changed. According to Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences (MIs), there are at least eight different human intelligences, and all human beings are born with varying degrees of each. Gardner also asserts that people have unique and distinct intelligence profiles that are shaped by biological and environmental factors. For example, one child may have stronger musical intelligence and mathematical intelligence while another may have stronger linguistic or interpersonal intelligence. These distinct MI profiles are different because of individual experiences and genetic variations.

What Are the Multiple Intelligences?

Gardner defines the eight types of MI as the following.3 Everyone has all of them, but they exist on a spectrum of weak to strong ability in a combination that is unique to each person.

  1. Spatial: Visualizing, creating, and manipulating something in a space, such as what an airplane pilot, architect, or chess player may do.
  2. Bodily/Kinesthetic: Using one’s gross motor skills or fine motor skills to express oneself or to create, learn, or solve problems; involves coordination and dexterity and the use of one’s whole body or parts of the body, such as the hands.
  3. Musical: Expressing oneself and understanding and creating through music⁠—by singing, playing musical instruments, composing, conducting, etc. Involves musical abilities such as sensitivity to rhythm, pitch, tone, and timbre.
  4. Linguistic: Being attuned to the meaning of words and the sound, rhythms, inflections, and meter of words, the way a poet might. May involve reading, writing, speaking, an affinity for foreign languages.
  5. Mathematical/Logical: Understanding and recognizing the patterns and relationships between numbers and actions or symbols; possessing computing skills; having the ability to solve various problems through logic.
  6. Interpersonal: Being attuned to other people’s feelings, emotions, and temperament. Individuals with high interpersonal intelligence are often associated with leadership and tend to be good at communicating with and understanding other people and are good at working with others. Sometimes referred to as social intelligence.
  7. Intrapersonal: Awareness of one’s own feelings, thoughts, anxieties, and traits, and the ability to use that understanding of oneself to control one’s own impulses and behavior and make plans and decisions.
  8. Naturalist: Understanding nature⁠—plants, animals, the environment, etc.⁠—and identifying, observing, categorizing, and understanding distinguishing features. This intelligence helps us use elements and patterns in the natural world to create products or solve problems.


How Parents Can Use Multiple Intelligences

Parents know that kids have unique abilities, interests, likes, and dislikes. One child may devour books and love to dance, another may love animals, and a third may love music and math. That’s the beauty of human beings⁠—we are such interesting and different creatures, and any parent who’s seen a child develop a keen interest and obsession with something knows that kids are very much individuals.

But it’s important not to label a child as being one thing or another. “We have a tendency to try to label kids, such as with IQ tests, and when you do that, you tend to pay less attention to their fluidity,” says Mindy L. Kornhaber, associate professor in the Department of Education Policy Studies at Pennsylvania State University.

For example, when you say a child learns best by working with their hands, you are ignoring the fact that all kids learn through all kinds of different methods, and that how they learn best or what they are good at can change over time.

To nurture and support MI in your children at home:

  • Spend time with kids and see what they like. Spend time doing ordinary things like having dinner or playing games. As a bonus: regular family dinners have been shown to improve kids’ health and nutrition, build strong emotional and mental skills, and lead to good behavior.
  • Value strengths instead of what kids can’t do. “We tend to see what is lacking when we label kids,” says Kornhaber. Instead of thinking, My child isn’t good at learning to read, build your child’s sense of pride in things that they are good at. “MI helps parents, teachers, and children understand children’s strengths and how these may be used to help them learn and solve problems,” Kornhaber says.
  • Engage your child in different ways. If your child is having trouble writing a paper, boost confidence by drawing out other skills while you help with writing skills. For instance, ask what they’ve learned; they may be able to describe it aloud, suggests Kornhaber. Or ask them to draw a picture of what they learned.
  • Consider the expectations we have today. Young children are expected to read and have basic math skills at younger and younger ages. With added pressures come increased expectations, but that doesn’t mean all first- and second-graders should be soaring through chapter books. Unless you spot signs of learning problems, relax and let your child grow at their own pace.
  • Know that intelligence is a snapshot. Unlike general intelligence, which is measured by an IQ score, a child’s multiple intelligence profile is not static and may shift over time. Expose your child to all kinds of different activities and experiences and allow them to learn and grow in their own unique way.
  • Look at the value of all the intelligences. In preschool, we value and praise everything that kids discover and share. But by third grade, kids are expected to be good at math and reading or they can be labeled as not being good learners. “Only valuing linguistic and math and not other intelligences does a disservice to kids,” Kornhaber says.


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.

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

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.

Is Your Student College-Ready?

Is Your Student College-Ready?

One of the biggest adjustments for new college students is the newfound freedom. College students have an increase in personal responsibility and a lot less external structure. There are no set study times, no required meal times, no one to tell them when to sleep or get them up, an increase in their academic workload, a greater need to multi-task and balance and a myriad of new social opportunities and challenges. The following are skills that will help you develop your own internal structure and be successful in college:


Prepare a weekly schedule that includes time in class, studying, activities, work, meals, study, and time with friends. Being a college student is like having a full-time job. Several hours of studying and preparation are expected for each class.


Regular exercise, adequate rest, good nutrition, prayer and/or meditation are all suggested ways of engaging in self-care that reduces stress. Finding ways to increase coping resources will help students decrease the stressors that life will throw your way.

Even some of the best high school students have not always developed good study skills. Knowing how to read a text book, take notes in class, use the library and take multiple choice tests are all areas that will help you be more successful in the classroom.

It is important to have experience in independently handling money, balancing a checkbook, using an ATM, reading a bank statement and learning to make responsible decisions about living on a budget.


Speak up for yourself in an assertive manner that is not aggressive or passively allowing others to take advantage of you. Assertiveness skills are helpful in roommate communication, study groups, teams and conflict resolution. They also involve learning and practicing healthy boundaries.


Develop bedtimes based on physical need and health. Adequate sleep and a healthy diet can improve mood, athletic and classroom performance, and coping strategies for stress. Exercise, relaxation, and good hygiene are also important aspects of self-care.


Staying safe means learning to advocate for your well-being. It means making smart and low-risk choices and planning for the “what ifs” in life.


A big part of advocating for yourself is knowing when to ask for help. The college years are a time for learning new information, new life skills and a new way of relating with our world. Seeking help when you need it is a sign of strength and integrity, not an admission of failure.


Every community has rules and policies and our college campus is no different. Our rules and policies apply to safety and fostering a positive community where all students are respectful of themselves, others and the environment.


Learning to incorporate personal values and ethics into every aspect of life is a significant part of personal growth during the college experience. Part of the path of integrity is learning how to hang in there and stay committed to goals even when situations are challenging.