A Big Month for Everyone

April 13, 2011
If you were unable to attend my talk in Hopkinton in March … you get a second chance!

“The Ten Biggest Mistakes Made by parents During the College Planning Process”
Tuesday, April 26th, 7-8 pm, Ashland High School Auditorium
Note that although I specialize in helping students with learning differences or disabilities, this talk is intended for all parents of 9th, 10th and 11th graders.

For all:
I just returned from a 3-day counselor tour of 6 colleges and campuses, all of which were buzzing with end of term activity.

A common theme at all the schools was this: High school students benefit from having an idea of an academic direction when choosing a college (even if that direction is something fairly broad, like “liberal arts.”).  It  doesn’t mean you can’t make plenty of changes along the way, but a general direction is very helpful.  First, because there are programs in which students are asked to apply directly as freshman, such as nursing, OT, PT, business, etc.  Second, because depending on your student’s interests (e.g., engineering, the arts, creative writing),  a particular school may not offer the courses needed.  Knowing where you’re headed (more or less) helps you to make good choices.

High school and summers should be used to experiment and to investigate different directions. This will not happen automatically and students will need to look for opportunities. My son, for example, thought he wanted to be an industrial design major. I set up an afternoon for him to shadow a friend who is a designer and he came home and immediately dropped that idea. (He had no idea that so much of the design process is now done on a computer!)  Similarly, students interested in the medical fields should find an opportunity to shadow or intern in a real medical setting.  There’s no better way to learn how they really feel about sick or injured people, strong emotions and life situations, and, ahem, bodily fluids.

A part time job in a related field of interest is best of all. Your child will be much better prepared for college and have a better chance of attending a college with the programs they want if they set up career exploration opportunities while still in high school.

Recommend Resource: Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org)
This website is extremely comprehensive with over 2,000 free educational videos, mostly in math and science. It allows students to work at their own pace and listen again until they have mastered the material.  It comes highly recommended – check it out and let me know what your student thinks. (Click on Test Prep for free math SAT preparation.)

Crunch Time: Solving the College Acceptance Dilemma,” is a terrific article, courtesy of CollegeParents.org, for those who are still making a decision on the best fit school.  It’s a bit long, so you may want to jump to 2 helpful charts:

•    Pages 9/10 for the chart comparing college qualities
•    Page 15 for a chart comparing financial aid and costs (Remember, by the way, that many colleges will list federal loans under an “aid” package but loans are loans and will have to be paid back.)

Once you do decide this month, don’t forget to celebrate in some special way  – it’s been a long haul for all involved!

Consider using spring break week to visit colleges. Make sure you call ahead (soon) to book a tour and information schedule as they do fill up during vacation weeks. (Reread my February 2011 newsletter for more specifics regarding campus visits.)

Plan your summer!  Whether it’s a part-time job, internship, informational interviews, or  whatever works for you, remember that what you do this summer will help shape your future choices.

For students with learning challenges:
Consider a summer college readiness program after your sophomore, junior, or senior year. There are a range of programs – from free to quite costly, residential or commuter – but they all work on getting high school students more prepared to enter college. Some have more of a focus on academics and others add in social readiness skills.  Feel free to contact me if you need some specific suggestions.

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