Seniors: Control what you can.

Seniors: Control what you can.

This is crunch time! What are your priorities now?
(Adapted from jeff Selingo’s blog)
  • Without test scores, those colleges where the ACT/SAT played a role in admissions—and it always played less of a role than many students and parents thought—will lean into other parts of the application where students have more control over their destiny anyway.
  • The high-school transcript is the most important piece of your application—yes, even more than test scores. While it’s too late to change your senior-year schedule, you can spend your time earning good grades in those classes.
  • Essays. One place where applicants can stand out this year is in their essay. I found during my year inside admissions most essays are unfortunately mind-numbingly similar. Teenagers often focus on the same things: overcoming an athletic injury, dealing with anxiety, depression, or their sexuality, or discovering themselves on a trip, with a fill-in-the-blank country such as Guatemala or Thailand (more on essays below).
  • Recommendations. Seniors might be worried that some of their teachers only got to know them during remote learning. That might be true of senior-year teachers, but most students have teachers to ask from previous years when they were in-person. This might also be the year to choose a teacher who may have had you more than one year in school to talk about your growth. Another tip from the book: also ask a teacher outside the subject you want to major in to show your breadth of interests.
Bottom line: Spend less time worrying about the ACT/SAT and more on your class work and completing your applications.
The New Priority: Independent Learning

The New Priority: Independent Learning

Adapted from Bright Knowledge

The last six months have changed every aspect of life. While these shifts aren’t forever, they are central to our lives now. Education has had to adapt especially quickly and we understand that student stress levels are at an all-time high.

Recent studies show that for students to succeed in this new environment they need two things: continuity and independent study skills. 

What is independent learning?

Independent learning is when an individual is able to think, act, and pursue their own studies autonomously, without the same levels of support you receive from a teacher at school.

In other words, you need to be able to do your own research instead of expecting a teacher to give you all the background material you might need.

To become a good independent learner you need to be:

  • Motivated
  • Resilient, to overcome challenges
  • An excellent time manager
Why is independent learning important?
Independent learning is not just important to become a good student. The skills you gain are transferrable to most jobs. These include:
  • Motivation
  • Independence
  • Initiative
  • Time management
  • Organization and multi-tasking
  • Strong reading and writing skills
How can I become an independent learner?
  • Read actively: You will need to be an active reader, paying close attention to the words you are reading and their meaning.
  • Skim read: Speed read or skim material before reading it in detail and then summarising the text in your notes.
  • Go solo: Practice working on your own for long periods of time without seeking the help of an adult.
  • Different sources: When doing research, try to draw from a variety of different sources.
  • Be persistent: If a task is challenging, don’t give up. Keep at it until you understand what you need to do.
  • Seek help where necessary: Asking for support and advice is an important part of independent learning. Unlike school, you are unlikely to be spoon-fed all the information you need at work or at university. If you need help, ask for it!
  • Discussions: If you want to expand an argument but are stuck for ideas, get a debate going with friends or peers. This could help you think about an element you hadn’t considered before.
  • Set goals: A good way to keep your motivation up is to think about what you want to get out of your work and remind yourself next time you’re flagging.
  • Effective time management: In work or uni studies, you’re more than likely to have several pieces of work to juggle at any one time. Break each project down into the relevant tasks, work out how long you will need to spend on each part, then allocate time in your diary in order or priority.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC

Help Your Child Manage Their Time

Help Your Child Manage Their Time

From the Versed Blog

Time management is one of the most important skills to develop in high school. With a rigorous academic course load, countless extracurriculars, and the ever-encroaching college admissions process, it is one of the busiest and most stressful periods for young students. With that being said, it’s important to equip your child with the know-how and knowledge to stay successful and happy during this time.

Here are some tips to help your child learn to manage their time. Whether your child is already a strong student or proven procrastinator, they can benefit from streamlining their study habits and learning how to spend time in a smart way. This list includes links to online resources and downloadable apps designed to help students stay motivated and on top of tasks as high school progresses.

Create a To-Do list

Have your child keep track of tasks. Whether using a pad of paper or apps, it can be helpful to plot out and visualize everything that needs to be done in a day, a week, or a month. Popular online options for organizing assignments and events are myHomework and RememberTheMilk.

Budget time

In addition to creating a schedule, encourage your child to designate a specific amount of time to each item. There is a such thing as taking too much time on something, even studying for a test. Teaching your child to restrict themselves will ultimately teach them to utilize their time. A physical planner may be helpful. A more digital-friendly option would be an app, such as HabitHub or 30/30, that can help keep track of how much time is being spent on any activity.

Utilize technology

While it’s important to limit your child’s screen time, understand that technology also brings them a wealth of opportunity when it comes to refining study and organizational skills. Programs, like Google Keep and SimpleMind, were designed to help students organize their ideas, craft mind maps, and “see” their thoughts as they come to them, no matter where they are.

Don’t waste spare time

Take advantage of the minutes your child spends waiting for the bus or in between activities. Encourage them to make full use of this time. Apps, like StudyBlue and Quizlet, are a great way to break studying down into bite size chunks so that it’s not an all-nighter before the test.

Limit distractions

Whether this means designating a study space or switching all electronic devices to silent, have your child create a space for studying and homework that is free of distractions. It may be helpful to download a blocking program, like StayFocused or AntiSocial, to keep them from logging on.

Don’t overload 

Allow your child to say ‘no’ to adding on activities or commitments. High school is an important time for your child to develop a sense of what “busy” means to them and understand how much they can handle inside and outside of school. Remind them to take breaks when they feel stressed or overwhelmed. Eye Care 202020 is a great program that helps users rest their eyes after all that screen time. It may also be helpful to use a meditation app, like Calm, to learn how to truly and purposefully relax before/after studying.

Celebrate achievements

Whether your child has finally ticked off the last item on a lengthy to-do list or aced an exam that they’ve been carefully preparing for, be sure to recognize all achievements. No matter the size. Success in high school is the cumulation of a thousand tiny tasks and not just graduation. As a parent, be sure to communicate your approval and celebrate with them through the years. Whether it’s with an ice cream cone or another hour of TV.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC

Parenting your High School Freshman

Parenting your High School Freshman

From the Grown and Flown blog

1. Do not talk about college

DO NOT. College admissions is a dark grey fog that will at some point descend upon your home. Put this off for as long as possible, reminding yourself and your kid that high school should be about high school.

Tell your teen that ninth grade is about 1. Exploring new activities and making new friends 2. Taking whatever activity you already love to the next level and 3. Getting good grades and acclimatizing to the rigors of high school. That is it. Everything else comes later.

The single caveat would be that parents can mention college to expel the notion (an urban myth) that freshman grades do not count for college admissions. All grades count.

2. Stick close

You teen is in uncharted territory, for them. And while you may not be a hovering parent, it would not hurt to stick close for the first few months. A close eye on who they are making friends with, how and when they are getting work done and their general health would not go amiss.

Some kids stumble with their time management as they enter high school and find themselves up late, sleeping inadequately and getting on a vicious cycle. Parents can help with this, establishing routines, limits on social media, and strict bedtime. Sleep for teens is like water for plants, it is not pretty when they don’t get enough.

3. Count back for curfews

A wise headmaster once suggested to ninth grade parents that they think long and hard about curfews. He explained it this way,

Think about what time is okay for a high school senior to come in at night. Realize that every year you will want to move their curfew back a little bit in acknowledgment of their growing maturity and freedom. Then work backwards four years. If you start ninth grade at midnight, you will soon find yourself in trouble.

Couldn’t have said it better.

4. Talk about the hard stuff

If you have not been talking about the hard stuff, drugs, birth control, sex, consent….this is the time to start. If you have been talking, double down. Your teen is now in world where these issues arise, if not for them (hopefully!) for schoolmates, and the time to talk is early and often.

Every family has its own mores and values and every ninth grader should know them. Over time, they may discard some of what we say, ignore our warnings or our rules. They may choose to defy us, but they should never for one moment be unclear of both the rules and the values our families espouse.

5. Find the one thing

Ninth grade is the year to start (or for some kids, continue) one thing that will carry your student through high school (the newspaper, a drama group, a sport or art activity) and to try other things along the way. Academics may seem a bit challenging, but for most freshman, there is still time to experiment with different extracurricular interests.

The most important things a freshman learns are about themselves. This is a year to discover interest they never knew they had or that an activity undertaken since childhood is better left behind.

6. Friendships change

Ninth grade is the time and chance for new friendships to grow. For most school districts, ninth grade provides an opportunity for teens to expand and/or completely change their social group. As multiple middle schools feed into one high school, it can be immensely liberating for 8th grade students who crave different peer groups. It can also shake up an existing social order, bringing in a breath of fresh air to stratified social status.

7. Freshmen should stick with Freshmen

Freshman year is high school, but not all high schoolers are the same. The social order of high school means that kids largely stay in their grade groups. But in clubs, sports and other activities the grades mix fluidly. For Freshmen, and to a lesser extent sophomores, this is not always a great thing.

Sure, older students have much to teach younger students about leadership and excelling at extracurricular activities, but it doesn’t end there. The world of a 14/15-year-old is very different from that of a 17/18-year-old. While some socializing is nice, end of season parties, cast parties, younger high school students are best encouraged to stay amongst their own.

8. A bit of parental input

In ninth grade, teachers will not mind a bit of input from parents if there are hiccups along the way. Emphasis on a bit. Students, by now, should be able to speak up for themselves, but sometimes teachers or counselors need a bit of background and helping a 14-year old. Again, a bit, is not out of line.

9. Course selection

Many high school classes have prerequisites and freshmen need to be aware of these and the order in which classes should be taken. In an ideal world, each student would have a counselor who guides them through the process of course selection and planning their four years. In the real world sometimes parents need to help.

Freshman need to imagine where they would like to end up academically senior year and draw a path of classes that will get them there. Plans change but it helps to set goals from the start.

10. Finding feet as high schoolers and parents of high schoolers

Finally, freshman year is a year of our kids finding their feet as a high schooler and us finding our feet as the parents of one. It seems almost inconceivable that we could have a child this old, as our own high school days seem not so far removed.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Founder, Weil College Advising, LLC

Vulnerability in the College Essay

Vulnerability in the College Essay

Through the steps of the college application process, I think that the essay portion can possibly be the most frustrating and stressful part of applying to colleges. Writing a solid college essay and impressing college application recipients can be tough; However, one attribute that can be used to enhance the overall topic of the essay is vulnerability. Vulnerability can prove to colleges that the person writing is not a robot, but instead a person with a set of unique qualities and traits. It is definitely important to share some background information on personal achievements; even though this is great, it can become oversaturated and almost show no emotion within the writing. What makes an essay so enthralling is the writer’s vulnerability. Vulnerability gives the readers a perspective of the behind-the-scenes action and opens up the writer to express themselves in a little more detail. In addition, vulnerability can lead to the writer expressing a hardship or conflict that occurred relating to the topic. The writer can then express overcoming such conflicts which makes the essay more riveting to the readers. Begin expressive of emotions is one of the key elements to relate to readers. Expressing such feelings reveals how colleges are not just choosing another student, but are choosing a unique individual. Overall, vulnerability can be one of the key factors to writing a good college essay. Also, I feel as though expressing oneself would be easier to write about instead of just listing random achievements throughout the years.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC

Campus/Virtual Visits

Campus/Virtual Visits

Master your virtual visits this fall! Here are some tips:

Katy Beth Chisholm (Assistant Director for Campus Visits) provides key tips for students and families about how to access colleges using online resources, such as online tours, sessions, webinars, and other campus resources.

Listen to “Basics of College Admission: Campus/Virtual Visits – Katy Beth Chisolm” on Spreaker.

Top Tips: Take and keep notes, debrief with friends, family members, school counselors. Find authentic sources. Pace yourself.

Listen For: The Massive Matrix Spreadsheet. (I did find this one.)

Key Quote: “Check out the YouTube channel, Facebook Live, and Instagram stories (from individual colleges).”

Further Reading: YouVisit and Inside HigherEd