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College Readiness through Great Family Dinners

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

“One of the most important things in my life as I grew up were family dinners,” said a friend who seemed to have amazing confidence, as well as the ability to navigate life with great intention, wisdom, and aplomb.

She said that each member of her family knew from very early on, that it was his or she responsibility to arrive at the dinner table prepared to answer two questions. The first was: what is the most important thing that happened to you today? The second was: what is the most important thing that happened in the world today?

You can imagine how the discussion that ensued helped to develop the family’s connectedness, but more importantly, each member’s 0wn agency and mindfulness. Each member had both the responsibility of observing and interacting in the world around him or her and the task of evaluating what he or she saw, and then the privilege of sharing that story with the others at the table.

An eight year old might say the most important thing in her life was catching a ball during the kick ball game at school. And the most important thing in her bigger world was that there was a visiting scientist talked about the properties of magnets in her classroom that day.

But by 11 or 12 he might be saying that the most important thing in his life was baseball tryouts. And the most important thing in his bigger world was that a gorilla had to be shot at the Cleveland Zoo or that Djokovic just won a Grand Slam by betting Murray in the French Open.

Such a conversation every night and being responsible for both your part and hearing what others have to say helps a student, an individual, learn to grow into and be comfortable with communicating and explaining a position or view, analyzing the views of others, and questioning the opinions of others. It might also stimulate curiosity and a search for more knowledge and deeper understanding of topics that come up. All of these skills are needed for a student who engages fully in college learning. And what better place to begin to develop and hone them than in the safe environment of a family dinner?

So let’s eat together more often. And let’s talk about our observations to each other. It will make your student all the more ready for college.

New SAT Scores--Looking at College Admissions Profiles

Monday, May 23, 2016

The College Board recently (5/9/16) released concordance tables which compare March, 2016’s SAT scores (resulting from the first administration of the new version of the SAT) to previous SAT scores—scores that were calibrated and refined during the years between March, 2005 and March, 2016. It is especially important to understand the equivalent value of the new SAT scores when comparing these SAT scores to reported admissions criteria on Naviance or any published data-based sources which used the SAT scores previous to March, 2016 to report current admissions outcomes.

 

If you or your student are planning to use ACT scores as a way to evaluate your chance of admission or to submit standardized test scores to colleges then this has no bearing on those scores.

 

When you evaluate March SAT scores, however, it is very important that you bear in mind this new concordance information. For instance, if your student or you, if you are the student, got a 1300, on the new March SAT this is equivalent to 1230 on the old SAT. So whether you look at Naviance or another data source reporting SAT scores for various colleges, you need to use the equivalent old SAT score, not the new score to compare yourself to this previously collected data posted as a reflection of admission’s trends in various colleges. (Right now, the data represented in Naviance and other data bases is from the years previous to this year's, 2016's, graduating class. So it is listed in old score SAT terms.) 


The same is true of any data on a college website, or in national guides, either in print or online, like Fiske Guide to Colleges, for example. This data is all based on old--pre March, 2016--SAT test score data.

 

So be sure to adjust your thinking about the new scores and make the adjustment when looking at data collected and published using old scores.

 

The charts correlating the new and old scores may be found on the College Board website at:

https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/higher-ed-brief-sat-concordance.pdf

 I found pages 8 and 9 especially helpful as far as converting students scores to the old equivalent scores.


 Jan Rooker #SAT scores #college admissions #student advice #parent advice

 

Five Reasons to Love UC's Personal Insight Questions

Sunday, April 03, 2016
In March, 2016, UC introduced a new essay format for students applying to be undergraduates. The format includes eight questions, from which the applicant is allowed to choose four about which to write. Each answer is to be no more than 350 words. The actual question prompts are included at the end of this article. 

I really love this new format. First the “personal insight” questions make high school students feel comfortable by allowing them to choose among prompts for ones that they like. Second formulating answers to them will help provide real insight to high school students struggling to figure out who they are. The University of California says this about the questions, “The personal insight questions are about getting to know you better — your life experience, interests, ambitions and inspirations. Think of it as your interview with the admissions office. Be open. Be reflective. Find your individual voice and express it.”

Third, more than other essay prompts, these prompts signal the kinds of things a college is looking for in its incoming class. Fourth applicants get to write about four of the eight prompts and so can stress four different individual aspects without seeming disjointed, which they might if they had to write one long essay. Fifth each answer is long enough (350 words) to give a student space to explain thoroughly. As the University of California website says, “Expand on a topic by using specific, concrete examples to support the points you want to make.”

Here are the UC Personal Insight Questions, following by advice from the UC admissions offices on how to answer them, if you are having trouble getting started. 

“Questions & guidance 

Remember, the personal questions are just that — personal. Which means you should use our guidance for each question just as a suggestion in case you need help. The important thing is expressing who are you, what matters to you and what you want to share with UC. 

1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time. 

Things to consider: A leadership role can mean more than just a title. It can mean being a mentor to others, acting as the person in charge of a specific task, or a taking lead role in organizing an event or project. Think about your accomplishments and what you learned from the experience. What were your responsibilities? Did you lead a team? How did your experience change your perspective on leading others? Did you help to resolve an important dispute at your school, church in your community or an organization? And your leadership role doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to school
activities. For example, do you help out or take care of your family? 

2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side. 

Things to consider: What does creativity mean to you? Do you have a creative skill that is important to you? What have you been able to do with that skill? If you used creativity to solve a problem, what was your solution? What are the steps you took to solve the problem? How does your creativity influence your decisions inside or outside the classroom? Does your creativity relate to your major or a future career? 

3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? 

Things to consider: If there’s a talent or skill that you’re proud of, this is the time to share it. You don’t necessarily have to be recognized or have received awards for your talent (although if you did and you want to talk about, feel free to do so). Why is this talent or skill meaningful to you? Does the talent come naturally or have you worked hard to develop this skill or talent? Does your talent or skill allow you opportunities in or outside the classroom? If so, what are they and how do they fit into your schedule? 

4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced. 

Things to consider: An educational opportunity can be anything that has added value to your educational experience and better prepared you for college. For example, participation in an honors or academic enrichment program, or enrollment in an academy that’s geared toward an occupation or a major, or taking advanced courses that interest you — just to name a few. If you choose to write about educational barriers you’ve faced, how did you overcome or strived to overcome them? What personal characteristics or skills did you call on to overcome this challenge? How did overcoming this barrier help shape who are you today? 

5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement? 

Things to consider: A challenge could be personal, or something you have faced in your community or school. Why was the challenge significant to you? This is a good opportunity to
talk about any obstacles you’ve faced and what you’ve learned from the experience. Did you have support from someone else or did you handle it alone? If you’re currently working your way through a challenge, what are you doing now, and does that affect different aspects of your life? For example, ask yourself, “How has my life changed at home, at my school, with my friends, or with my family?” 

6. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you. 

Things to consider: Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had inside and outside the classroom — such as volunteer work, summer programs, participation in student organizations and/or activities — and what you have gained from your involvement. Has your interest in the subject influenced you in choosing a major and/or career? Have you been able to pursue coursework at a higher level in this subject (honors, AP, IB, college or university work)? 

7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? 

Things to consider: Think of community as a term that can encompass a group, team or a place – like your high school, hometown, or home. You can define community as you see fit, just make sure you talk about your role in that community. Was there a problem that you wanted to fix in your community? Why were you inspired to act? What did you learn from your effort? How did your actions benefit others, the wider community or both? Did you work alone or with others to initiate change in your community? 

8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California? 

Things to consider: Don’t be afraid to brag a little. Even if you don’t think you’re unique, you are — remember, there’s only one of you in the world. From your point of view, what do you feel makes you belong on one of UC’s campuses? When looking at your life, what does a stranger need to understand in order to know you? What have you not shared with us that will highlight a skill, talent, challenge, or opportunity that you think will help us know you better? We’re not necessarily looking for what makes you unique compared to others, but what makes you, YOU.”

Determining College Fit—By the Numbers

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Very often when students use a short-hand way to determine if a certain college is a good fit, they look up the standardized test scores for the college. But what test score number he uses to make the assessment matters.


Of course, we all know that good fit, even just thinking about the academic part of fit, does not have to do with just the incoming abilities of the students as predicted by their standardize test scores. Besides basic academic abilities, there is also the level of intensity toward academic pursuits on a given campus. And the competitiveness of students--for example, does the campus culture foster collaboration or competitiveness? And academics is influenced by the work/ play style on the campus. And the kind of majors taught and amount of research done on a campus influence the academic atmosphere. And there are more. But these aside, students often look for a short-hand way to determine academic fit.

So if a student is using a number that he calls the average SAT or ACT score of students at Somename State University, it matters where he finds that number. If he is using the score produced by a program called Naviance which is employed by many high schools to give students information about the scores and GPAs of students from their high school who have been “accepted” to this college, then he may be seeing a much higher average score than might exist for those attending this school. This is because some of the students who were accepted to this college will not attend, and the ones who will most likely not attend are those at the very top of the chart. High scoring students tend to apply to more colleges than most other students and have more choices in the end of the process.

If, instead, the student looks on the admissions page of Somename State University’s website for a profile of its average student, he may or may not get the score of the average student “attending” the university. The website may give the average score of the “accepted” students. Or the website may give the score of the average student who is “attending” the university. This is where careful reading matters.

Two places where the student can be sure to find the right reported score for a student “attending” the university in which is interested are: a website called collegedata.com, and a website containing a published document called The Common Data Set for Somename State University for 2016, for this year, for instance. This document contains the data that the college is required to file with the U. S. government each year.

When I did a recent investigation with a student of so called Somename State University, for instance, the score on Naviance at his high school for the average accepted student was 1360 on the SATs. The website for the university sited an even higher score for the average “accepted” student. But when we looked up the information for this university on the collegedata.com site we learned that the score for the average attending student was 1275—85 points lower than what my student had been expecting. It turned out that the school—based on standardized test scores, only—appeared to be a good fit for the student.

Another source of information about standardized test scores that we found helpful was Wintergreen Orchard House data. There the data for attending students is described this way: students who scored: 500-599 44%, 600-699 45%, and 700-800 11%. So, in this case if your student's score was 570, you would know that he or she would fall into the group with scores in the lower half of the attending students and might have to work harder than most.

Of course there are other issues to discuss concerning “averaging” test scores, but that is for another blog. 

To get into College, Be a Thermostat, not a Thermometer

Thursday, February 18, 2016

If you register the temperature and don’t try to do something about it when it is too hot or too cold, you are only a thermometer—you can record the situation but not change it. If you are a thermostat, on the other hand, you can call for heat or call for cool air when you sense that the temperature is not optimal. “I heard this admonition when I was growing up,” said a recent autobiographer talking about his childhood. Being a thermostat, his dad always taught, is the goal of life. It seems that Harvard University agrees with this criterion. See their recent discussion of what makes a good candidate (“Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions,” 1/20/16) .

Being a thermostat, not just a thermometer takes the kind of confidence that not many 16-year-olds have, however. For most of their lives they have been working hard to fit in, to first learn and then uphold standards—at school, in their families, on athletic teams and in their friend-groups. Asking a 16-year-old to look outside herself, identify an issue that needs fixing and become a change-agent is challenging.

But sometimes it happens. One of my student clients decided to help children who had to undergo chemotherapy. She saw, because of her hospital volunteering, that often these kids lost their hair and felt embarrassed. So she set to work collecting hats for the children. She asked sports teams like the Yankees and she asked celebrities to donate a hat. Then she asked everyone in her high school to donate one hat. Soon she was filling boxes and delivering them to local hospitals. And the National Cancer Society gave her an award.

A student, who lived in Massachusetts, spent time going to beaches on cold nights in October and November to search for sea turtles. Sea turtles on the East coast travel north for the summer to feed; then swimming south, many get stuck in Cape Cod Bay. Then the cold water causes their muscles to freeze. In the timeline of their species, the glacial creation of Cape Cod is recent. So, when their instincts tell them to swim north to feed, and then south for winter to reproduce, they get disoriented around the relatively new peninsula of Cape Cod. Working with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and the Gulf of Maine Institute, this student with others made and launched wind-floats to help track the ocean currents in order to predict where the turtles would wash up on shore at night.

More recently a student worked on an issue about which she wanted to know more and about which she could see many students in her high school needed guidance—the issue of teens not getting enough sleep. This student began an independent study to learn as much as possible about deterrents--such as, coffee, TV and computer screens, late-night eating--that hinder healthy sleep. She also did a survey in her school to see how many of her peers, unaware of sleep deterrents, were using them and getting less than optimal sleep. Finally when she made her presentation of the findings from the survey and research, she invited not only the independent study committee, but the high school teachers who teach health courses and the vice-principal in charge of curriculum. In the end the health teachers agreed to include her findings in a unit the following year on how to get optimal sleep.

Each of these students was exceptional in his or her ability to see and affect issues outside his or her own circle of life. Each was successful in bettering the common good. However, each of them did these things because of a developed interest in an area. If you are looking to explore areas where you might become a change-agent, start with your natural interests and look for projects there, look outside your circle of life, but not too far.. Do something like my varsity baseball player who painted all of the little league dugouts in his town. And good luck!

To Get into College, Be a Thermostat, Not Just a Thermometer

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

If you register the temperature and don’t try to do something about it when it is too hot or too cold, you are only a thermometer—you can record the situation but not change it. If you are a thermostat, on the other hand, you can call for heat or call for cool air when you sense that the temperature is not optimal. “I heard this admonition when I was growing up,” said a recent autobiographer talking about his childhood. Being a thermostat, his dad always taught, is the goal of life. It seems that Harvard University agrees with this criterion. See their recent discussion of what makes a good candidate (“Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions,” 1/20/16) .


Being a thermostat, not just a thermometer takes the kind of confidence that not many 16-year-olds have, however. For most of their lives they have been working hard to fit in, to first learn and then uphold standards—at school, in their families, on athletic teams and in their friend-groups. Asking a 16-year-old to look outside herself, identify an issue that needs fixing and become a change-agent is challenging.

But sometimes it happens. One of my student clients decided to help children who had to undergo chemotherapy. She saw, because of her hospital volunteering, that often these kids lost their hair and felt embarrassed. So she set to work collecting hats for the children. She asked sports teams like the Yankees and she asked celebrities to donate a hat. Then she asked everyone in her high school to donate one hat. Soon she was filling boxes and delivering them to local hospitals. And the National Cancer Society gave her an award.

A student, who lived in Massachusetts, spent time going to beaches on cold nights in October and November to search for sea turtles. Sea turtles on the East coast travel north for the summer to feed; then swimming south, many get stuck in Cape Cod Bay. Then the cold water causes their muscles to freeze. In the timeline of their species, the glacial creation of Cape Cod is recent. So, when their instincts tell them to swim north to feed, and then south for winter to reproduce, they get disoriented around the relatively new peninsula of Cape Cod. Working with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and the Gulf of Maine Institute, this student with others made and launched wind-floats to help track the ocean currents in order to predict where the turtles would wash up on shore at night.

More recently a student worked on an issue about which she wanted to know more and about which she could see many students in her high school needed guidance—the issue of teens not getting enough sleep. This student began an independent study to learn as much as possible about deterrents--such as, coffee, TV and computer screens, late-night eating--that hinder healthy sleep. She also did a survey in her school to see how many of her peers, unaware of sleep deterrents, were using them and getting less than optimal sleep. Finally when she made her presentation of the findings from the survey and research, she invited not only the independent study committee, but the high school teachers who teach health courses and the vice-principal in charge of curriculum. In the end the health teachers agreed to include her findings in a unit the following year on how to get optimal sleep.

Each of these students was exceptional in his or her ability to see and affect issues outside his or her own circle of life. Each was successful in bettering the common good. However, each of them did these things because of a developed interest in an area. If you are looking to explore areas where you might become a change-agent, start with your natural interests and look for projects there, look outside your circle of life, but not too far.. Do something like my varsity baseball player who painted all of the little league dugouts in his town. And good luck!

 

 


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