This 4-Letter Word Will Help Your Child Graduate From College

This word is one that will help each of us, student or adult, be successful in whatever it is we set out to do. This is especially relevant now, during all the challenges of COVID, to help us use this time to gain some benefit that will stay with us after the pandemic has moved on. 

It is attainable by each of us and, according to extensive research, has nothing to do with IQ, talent, or socioeconomic level.

It was a popular buzzword a few years back and is still talked about regularly by college admissions teams. You may have guessed it … GRIT.

Grit was coined by psychologist and researcher Dr. Angela Duckworth, something she equates with having passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.

Dr. Duckworth has written a book on the subject that I recommend, but I know that many of you may not get to read all of it. So at least please watch her six-minute TED talk to get a handle on how this concept can change your thinking about success in a big way.

Dr. Duckworth also shares her theory regarding how one develops grit. She believes it begins with Dr. Carol Dweck’s work on what she calls a “growth mindset.”

In short, Dr. Dweck suggests that rather than praising intelligence or talent (both of which come from a “fixed mindset” way of thinking), parents and educators should instead praise the process one uses to achieve goals. This includes things like effort, focus, and perseverance, all of which lead to improvement.

Her work stresses the importance for both children and adults in understanding that when we struggle to learn a new concept or push outside our comfort zone, neurons in our brain are forming new and stronger connections. In essence, we can get smarter over time with effort, regardless of where we started.

That is something worth embracing as students struggle to succeed with virtual learning. It may also serve as encouragement to learn something new during the upcoming winter months. 

TED talk on Grit by Dr. Angela Duckworth: (6 min) “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” by Angela Duckworth (2016 book)

TED talk on Growth Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck (10 min) “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” by Carol Dweck (2006 book)

“Dear Juniors…” Tips for Starting the Year Strong

This year can be quite busy – it’s an important one for your future, too, if you plan to attend college. I want to share a few tips to help you start off on the right foot:

(These things are all still important even with the current circumstances of the pandemic.)

  • Work harder at school this year. Your junior year grades will be what colleges see as you apply next fall. You can still have fun, of course, but doing your best this year really matters.
     
  • Participate in class even if it doesn’t come naturally. Come this spring you will be advised to ask two academic teachers to write your college recommendation letters. Those letters will be much more personal and favorable if your teacher has gotten to know you through your contributions to class discussions. Speaking up in class will get easier as you practice, and you will need this skill in college and in the workplace.
     
  • Stay after school for extra help (in person or virtually) or to attend review sessions before a quiz or test. This will almost always make you better prepared. And, again, it will give your teacher a chance to get to know you and your work ethic.
     
  • Work on your study skills, time management, and overall organization. You will need to be proficient in these areas to be a successful student in high school and college. If these areas are difficult, ask your parent to help you find some support, either at school or by hiring an academic coach.
     
  • Make sure you are involved in some activities outside of class. (This one is very difficult because of Covid-19, but hopefully, you can find ways to participate) When it comes time to write your essays and participate in campus interviews, you’ll want to point to things you have done in addition to your academics. Volunteering, part-time jobs, clubs, sports, the arts, etc., are all valuable in this way. Plus, they can be fun and help you realize your strengths and interests.
     
  • Plan to take the PSAT when your school offers it in October. (It may be in January this year.) Arrange to also take a practice ACT and compare the results. Pick one and then decide on your test-prep plan. (If you receive accommodations for school testing, talk to school counselors to make sure you have them for these tests too.) Many schools have switched to Test-Optional this year, but it is unclear how many will continue with that when you apply.
     
  • Be vigilant about your presence on Social Media. Schools definitely have access to this, and yes, scholarships and even acceptances have been rescinded based on what they have seen on social channels. In short, if you wouldn’t want your grandmother or a future employer to see it, don’t put it out there!  
     
  • Plan to visit some college campuses this fall to do some window shopping. Do your best to visit local schools of different sizes and locations (city vs suburban/rural). It is best to see schools that are realistic for you to attend so that you don’t fall in love with a school that is not an option for you. Some schools are offering on-campus tours and some are virtual. All schools are offering virtual information sessions, so you don’t have to sit in a room with others!

All my best for a great junior year!
 

10 Tips To Thrive This FallĀ 

I have listened to a lot of webinars this summer about COVID-19 and teens. When it comes to coping, the overall recommendations hold true for all of us:

Acknowledge the losses that have occurred. The lost sports season, the canceled spring play, the missed internship or summer job, the socially distanced graduation ceremony, and, of course, the ongoing isolation from friends – each of these losses has an impact. Acknowledging what’s been missed is the first step in getting past it. 

Accept the things over which we have no control. Most of these things are nobody’s fault. Colleges understand that student grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities will not be the same as usual.  

Accept the coming uncertainty. This doesn’t mean that the future is all negative. Whatever it turns out to be, it is not helpful to worry endlessly about what may occur. 

Know that you are not alone. We are all in this together. Remind your child that this will not go on forever and that adversity builds resilience. We will all be stronger for having lived through this.  

Find the opportunity. Where are the benefits? How can the additional time that has been made available be used productively to learn something new, dive further into an existing interest or hobby, etc.?

Be aware:  For your teens especially, it’s important to stay connected and keep an eye on their mental health. This may be a good time to contact a virtual therapist so your child has someone to connect with on a regular basis. 

Maintain social connections. These are so important for teens. Remind your child to keep reaching out and interacting (safely!) with friends, cousins, grandparents, etc. Helping others is also a meaningful way to distance ourselves from our own problems as we focus on the needs of someone else. 

Establish family time. Are there some new traditions that you have begun since the pandemic (e.g., baking together, watching movies, playing board games)? Can you continue as the school year starts? In addition, try giving your teen some new family responsibilities to help keep the household running smoothly and increase their independence. 

Agree on expectations. Set up a family meeting to review plans and expectations for the coming year. Discuss sleep (teens need 8-9 hours per night), chores, daily exercise, distraction-free study areas and times, weekly fun family activities, etc. Begin now to move them towards the coming fall schedule, starting with setting an alarm and getting themselves up. (Good practice for college!)

Ramp up college application work (for rising seniors). As always, this work needs to be completed thoughtfully and on time. Set up separate family meetings on a regular basis to discuss college-related issues. Then make a point to not discuss college outside of these meetings, so your child has some college-free time at home! 

All the best to you and your family in making a smooth transition back to school!