Amplified Anxiety

By: Jim Paterson via The Journal of College Admission

COVID-19 is taking a mental toll on students as they plan for college, but college admission counselors say connections can ease uncertainty.

For many students struggling through high school closures and rapid changes to their postsecondary plans, there has been one overriding theme during the last six months: uncertainty.

Instead of savoring familiar traditions and farewells, they faced months of upheaval that tossed around every aspect of their lives during a period that should have instead been focused on excitement about the next stage.

Added to that, they are looking ahead to an uncertain future in college and perhaps even long-term in the world beyond that.

“The version of high school and college that’s been guaranteed for many generations is now contingent on an ambiguous and uncertain return to the way things were,” said Jaime Meline, associate director of college counseling at the Marin Academy (CA), a private college preparatory high school in San Rafael.

“There are so many unknowns and it creates a lot of anxiety,” said Christine Loo, director of college counseling at the Stony Brook School (NY). “That’s what anxiety really is—a fear of what we don’t know and can’t control. And these students certainly have faced that.”

About one quarter of the young people responding said they were concerned “that their dreams won’t come true,” and a similar number felt they might not be able to have job or career that will pay enough. In a

Click below to read the full article featuring Gina Gerrato-Greenhaus, head of Greenhaus College Consulting in San Diego.

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – More local college applicants could soon be admitted to UC schools.

Independent college counselor Gina Greenhaus has spent more than a decade helping local students get into colleges and universities. She spoke to ABC 10News on Tuesday about this week’s news that state lawmakers are reportedly looking at a plan to cut the share of international and out-of-state students at University of California public schools. The goal would reportedly be to pave the way for additional resident students like many of the ones that Greenhaus works with.

“I’m hoping that maybe this will make a difference,” she told ABC 10News. She said it has become increasingly difficult for state applicants to gain admission, especially this year. She added, “When I saw those decisions come in [and many read] ‘denied’ [or] ‘waitlist’ with a handful of kids that I thought would probably get in, I thought, ‘Wow. Something has really changed.'”

According to the LA Times, state senators proposed slashing the percentage of nonresident freshmen from 19% to 10% over a 10-year period, allowing about 4,600 more in-state students a place each year. Additionally, the plan would reportedly compensate the UC system for the loss of revenue it typically gets from high dollar out-of-state tuition.

The University of California’s Office of the President sent ABC 10News the following statement:

“The University of California is dedicated to educating California’s next generation of leaders. We understand and support the Legislature’s goal of providing more opportunities for Californians at UC, though we believe trying to achieve this through reducing nonresident students will potentially lead to unanticipated outcomes. The UC Board of Regents has a policy in place restricting non-resident enrollment, a cap across all UC campuses of 18 percent, or the level the campus was at in 2017. While tuition paid by nonresident students continues to be a key funding source for financial aid for low-income California undergraduates to attend UC, these students also contribute to the academic environment and enrich the overall experience. We believe that providing UC a stable and predictable revenue source through the State budget process would give us the resources necessary to support all enrolled California students – a goal we share with the Legislature.

We encourage state leaders to build on Gov. Newsom’s significant investments in his revised budget by allotting additional stable revenue streams for UC. This support will give us the ongoing funding necessary to increase California undergraduate enrollment without adversely impacting our low-income students and without limiting our ability to recruit hardworking students from across the country and the world.” “If we want a globally-minded campus, we have to balance things on both sides,” added Greenhaus.

By: Jennifer Kastner

Rising Juniors and Seniors:

For students applying to college in the next year or two, planning out the summer is especially important. By participating in unique activities and thinking ahead, applicants can make themselves stand out among the competition. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on college admissions, it is especially critical to develop a holistic resume that highlights not only academics, but social consciousness and diverse abilities. There are several different options to accomplish this.

Credit and Non-Credit Classes:

Summer is the ideal time to learn something new and out of the ordinary: if the school year is spent knee-deep in chemistry, then try and acquire a new skill over summer break. Going into healthcare, teaching, or another occupation that involves working with people? Consider studying a language that may come in handy in a large metropolitan area. Most schools, hospitals, and government agencies encourage employees to be proficient in another language to allow for easier communication. Plan on studying Architecture or Sociology in college? Take a course at a local community college and get ahead on your major. Most 100 level classes will transfer over to a four-year university, so it is time well spent. A college class over summer  also shows motivation and interest, which looks good to future colleges when application season rolls around. For students who have more specialty interests not easily found at community colleges, browse through the catalog at Coursera.org. Students can take classes in anything from Data Analytics to Medical Neuroscience taught by lecturers at Duke, Yale, and many other prestigious universities (even international ones). Coursera offers more than 5100 courses to satisfy all interests and encourage learning and exploration. While students don’t earn credit, they do earn a certificate that proves they took the course, and that’s enough to stand out to future colleges. The fees are reasonable and the schedule allows for asynchronous learning, so students can squeeze it in even with other activities.

Internships and Volunteering:

The pandemic has made it more difficult to do summer internships, but there are still opportunities available to work virtually or make a contribution. Local universities are good places to start because they often have programs for high school students. There are plenty of websites that can help too, such as volunteermatch.com and even the job site indeed.com. Remember that colleges are looking for students who are active in their communities and who strive to make some sort of local impact. If an internship in business doesn’t work out, volunteering behind the scenes at a local food bank can still be a way to learn essential management, interpersonal, and decision-making skills. Students should personalize their resumes as much as possible: music students can play concerts for the elderly, environmental science majors can coordinate beach clean-ups, and art students can offer outdoor painting classes for kids stuck at home during distance learning. With a little creativity and planning, every future college applicant can develop a well-rounded activity list that shows off his or her strengths. Even holding down a part-time job as a beach lifeguard or Target employee demonstrates motivation.

Display a Diverse Skill Set:

Many colleges have supplemental essay questions that ask about interests and hobbies. For students who have many years of sports on their resumes, consider using the summer to learn an instrument or take a photography class. By venturing outside the traditional and leaving their comfort zone, applicants can demonstrate a wider scope of talents and abilities. Colleges are allowing more students to add links to their applications which show portfolios of artwork, film or music videos, or online businesses such as an etsy shop. Starting an online business not only illustrates creativity and entrepreneurship, but also shows drive and a desire for success. Starting a business isn’t your style? Applicants can also do tutoring for classmates who lag behind, shop for elderly or housebound neighbors, or volunteer at an animal shelter or museum to show a love for nature. While the pandemic has made travel more difficult, most volunteer opportunities are only a car ride away. Another option is leading youth groups through a religious organization or the San Diego YMCA.

Show Leadership and Involvement:

Finally, another way to show innovation and leadership is to start a new club at school or participate in an already existing club. Most schools have a club listing on the website (typically on the ASB page), and students can sign up to get involved or suggest a new club to add to the roster. Although it is expected for Computer Science and Engineering majors to be involved in robotics clubs, how many of these same students belong to Speech and Debate? More options to consider would be poetry or creative writing clubs, school magazines, or service-related clubs that do fundraising for local causes.

Interested in design or illustration? Build sets for the theater group or work on murals around the campus. Many of these groups will still be active over the summer and need volunteers to prepare for the year ahead. If students want to start a new club, summer is the time for them to actively recruit members, write a proposal, and get a teacher sponsor.

In Conclusion:

Colleges look for applicants who know how to make a difference and will positively contribute to their campus as well as their community. By thinking ahead and planning accordingly, students can ensure they do a wide variety of activities that will get them noticed by their universities of choice. Don’t wait until application season rolls around to find activities and get involved. Summer is the perfect season to be proactive and explore opportunities that will complement the GPA and result in more colleges that say YES.

By Erika Brucia M.S. Ed
Erika Brucia earned her B.A. from NYU and M.S.Ed from Hofstra University, teaching both high school English & History in New York as well as California. She currently teaches part-time in addition to running her own tutoring business in Advanced Placement, ACT/SAT, and Writing Skills. She enjoys helping students with creative college essays and being a mother to her four high school and college kids. In her “spare” time, Erika has edited two books and published essays on a variety of topics. She hopes to begin her EdD program within the year, specializing in Language and Literacy.

You may or may not be aware that the most important factor when it comes to preparing for college admissions is achieving high grades in challenging classes. This has traditionally motivated students to perform at their best and monitor their GPAs in hopes of securing a spot at their ideal college. But as schools continue to muddle through online and hybrid learning due to the pandemic, many students are struggling to keep their grades up with even a standard course load – let alone honors and survive AP-level classes. Stressors outside of the classroom combined with social isolation, feeling disconnected from teachers, counselors, and peers, as well as the sheer amount of screen time required for distance learning makes it harder than ever for students to manage academic stress and avoid academic burnout. While some high-achieving students will continue to strive for academic excellence, they do so under extreme pressure. Meanwhile, students with learning challenges face even more obstacles on the way to academic success. There’s no doubt that the pandemic has changed the way students and their families approach learning and schoolwork. When it comes to tackling challenging classes whether learning online or in the classroom, the following tips will alleviate stress and help students achieve their academic goals.

PLAN AHEAD AND CREATE A FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE

Review class websites with your student and direct them to make note of the due dates of big papers and projects for each class. Be especially mindful of due dates that are close together, or even overlap. For children that are visual learners, pick a color for each class and create a color-coded calendar to help them stay mindful of important deadlines as they come and avoid last-minute scrambling. As you develop a schedule, keep in mind that extracurricular activities are also important appointments to keep for your student’s social and emotional health. Help to build some flexibility into the schedule to allow your student to have a balanced academic and social life without feeling stressed about looming assignment.

BREAK WORK INTO MANAGEABLE PIECES AND SET SMART GOALS

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound. When coming up with a schedule and setting goals for learning, make sure to break down large projects into smaller steps with their own place on the schedule. This is especially useful for students with executive functioning challenges, so that they don’t feel overwhelmed, and can feel in control of their work.

As your student makes progress, don’t forget to celebrate milestones! Some tasks that may have been easy for your student before the pandemic are more difficult under the current circumstances. Acknowledge that shift with your student and find ways to mark achievement, such as enjoying a special meal or favorite activity together.

ESTABLISH REGULAR COMMUNICATION WITH TEACHERS

Now more than ever, communication with teachers is paramount to addressing any academic challenges. With remote learning through the pandemic, this is one of the biggest hurdles students have faced. Even typically outgoing students can feel awkward asking questions during video lessons or reaching out to their teachers directly for help, especially if they’ve never had in-person interaction with the teacher before. As students gradually go back to school, their class time is still limited and they may face greater difficulty adjusting to a new schedule and being in class with masks on their faces. Encourage your student to establish a regular cadence of communication between them and their teachers — for example, a weekly email check-in or a ten-minute one-on-one zoom call every other week. Of course your student should feel welcome to reach out to their teacher any time they need help, but establishing a regular check-in early on will facilitate that process, especially for more introverted students.

When communicating with teachers, we find that our students often struggle with self-advocacy. Even as adults, it can be hard to talk about our areas of vulnerability, but it’s important to empower your student to be honest with teachers about the challenges they’re facing. Even the most perceptive teachers can’t read your child’s mind, and will appreciate the opportunity to connect over shared topics of interest and support a student in areas where they need help.

USE ALL THE TOOLS AT YOUR DISPOSAL

Kinetic learners especially suffer when it comes to moving the majority of schoolwork online. Activities such as taking notes by hand, making physical flashcards, and even doodling relevant images along with notes all force the brain to slow down and absorb information. Talk to your student to help raise their awareness of their learning style strengths and weaknesses and work together to come up with some strategies to try. You may also ask their teacher to recommend tools or strategies based on your child’s learning style.

FORM A STUDY GROUP

You already know how important social interaction is for students’ mental and emotional wellbeing. Studies have shown that students also benefit academically from positive interaction — often called “peer effects” — with their classmates. With social interaction limited even when students are on campus together, it takes more effort to create safe spaces for students to interact with one another. A study group of friends in the same classes is a great solution!

When your child participates in a study group, even one that meets online, they benefit from social interaction as well as learning from peers with different strengths and reinforcing their own knowledge by sharing it with others. Connecting outside of the digital classroom also gives students the opportunity to remind each other of upcoming due dates, share different perspectives on course content, and bond over shared interests and struggles. It also reinforces accountability when it comes to completing assignments and being prepared.

STUDY GROUP SUCCESS

Help your student coordinate regular weekly meeting times with their peers so there is less planning and legwork involved in setting up meetings. This will ensure that the group members are all available to meet on a regular basis and without as much effort in scheduling each meeting.

It’s important for your student to be able to relax and regroup outside of school time. While it’s not a bad thing if they want to do so by watching tv or playing video games, it’s important to be mindful that doing school online constitutes a significant increase in screen time. Help your student strike a balance by exploring other ways to unwind that don’t involve screens.

Keep in mind that this can also be an opportunity for your student to boost their extracurricular activities for college applications. Activities such as learning to play an instrument, knitting or crocheting items for donation, or building an invention will give your student’s eyes a break and make their applications stand out.

DISCUSSIONS ABOUT HIGH SCHOOL CLASSES

When you’re around the dinner table, doing chores together, or even just having a quiet moment on the couch, ask your child about what they’re learning. Remember: more specific questions will yield more detailed answers. Ask for their opinion and share your own. When you demonstrate genuine interest, it will help your child stay motivated and engaged with the learning material.

You may find that on some days, school is the last thing your child wants to talk about. That’s okay! Check in with them about hobbies, friends, college plans, career aspirations, favorite television shows, or anything else that comes to mind and sparks a conversation. During these times, it’s especially important to remember to communicate with your child through empathy. Just saying, “I get it.

I’ve been feeling the same way,” or “Of course you feel stressed. There is a lot on your plate right now,” can provide the validation your student needs to muster up the strength to persist through these challenges. Feeling truly seen and heard goes a long way for kids of all ages, especially teens during these chaotic times.

ENLIST THE HELP OF AN ACADEMIC SUPPORT PROFESSIONAL

We’re all feeling more isolated than usual, so it’s even more important than ever to remember that you aren’t alone. If your child is struggling with the demands of challenging classes, it may be helpful to seek professional academic support for student success. Virtual tutoring or educational therapy can make your child feel supported while keeping them focused and holding them accountable to achieve high academic performance and follow through with assignments.

At La Jolla LearningWorks, our experienced and compassionate instructors connect with students one-on-one to address areas of weakness and reinforce strengths. We can help students with learning challenges overcome obstacles and thrive academically. In addition to support with course material, we support students with study skills, test preparation, time management, and building confidence. There are many factors that make this time especially difficult for students in challenging courses, from adjusting to new learning modalities and communication mediums to the stress of the current political climate. Even students that have excelled in honors or AP courses in years past may find themselves struggling now. You can help your student stay calm and focused and excel in challenging courses by planning ahead, setting SMART goals, forming a study group, keeping the lines of communication open with your child and their teacher, using a variety of tools and strategies for learning, encouraging your child to engage in screenless hobbies, and/ or seeking professional academic support.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Megan Trezza, M.Ed. is the founder and CEO of La Jolla LearningWorks, a private learning center based in La Jolla, California, that focuses on individualized 1:1 educational coaching to bring each student to his or her full achievement potential. As an educational therapist, she believes that all students can learn with the right approach. In 2009, Megan created La Jolla LearningWorks as a space where different learners can receive the personal attention they need to discover their capability to become successful learners. Visit ljlearning.com to learn more.

Applying to college is a big step for any teen or young adult. They are taking the first steps towards their independence. Even if your teen is sure about their future career, choosing the right college can make all the difference in the world. One way to make that choice simpler may be to interact with several colleges at a college fair. For some students, college fairs might be a bit overwhelming this is why it’s helpful to set up a game plan for which schools you plan to visit with. Because of the pandemic the in person college fairs have been postponed. However, a few virtual events are coming up in the spring that might interest students and their families. All high school students who are rising juniors

Virtual College Fairs

The fairs are organized by the National Association of College Admissions Counseling. (NACAC) 

  • March 16: NACAC Performing Arts/Visual Fair – check out recorded sessions as well. 
  • March 21: NACAC National Fair with more than 600 colleges participating.
  • April 10: Western College Fair
  • May 2: NACAC National College Fair 

How Do They Work?

Each of the virtual fairs listed above has similar formats. You can access the colleges by reviewing the recorded videos that are posted from each college.  You can also sign up for times to meet virtually with a counselor to gather more information about your choices. These sessions are designed to help you learn more about each school. Virtual fairs are a fantastic way to see multiple schools in one day and there is no driving or parking involved. No lines at the booths either. 

What Should I ask?

Speaking to an admissions officer can feel intimidating if you don’t know what to ask. You will want to ask the same questions at each school so that you can make accurate comparisons.  You should be able to narrow the field to a few promising options. The following are just some of the guidelines and questions to keep in mind.  We will break them down by category.

Academics

  • What are your core educational requirements needed to graduate?
  • Most popular majors and minors…
  • Average GPA for admitted students  
  • Can I double major or minor?
  • Can freshmen get involved with scientific research?
  • Am I applying to the school or a specific major?
  • Are there certain majors that are more competitive than others?

Campus Life

  • What do students do on the weekend?
  • Is there anything unique about your campus?
  • What is available nearby the campus, restaurants, shops, beaches? Ski trips?
  • Most popular clubs and campus activities for students?
  • Club or intramural sports? Swimming, fitness?
  • Dance classes and clubs. 
  • Theatre performances on campus.
  • Sporting events.

Housing

  • Dorm options for freshman? Do all freshman live together in a separate dorm building? 
  • Honors dorms and Living communities ? 
  • Single rooms with private bathrooms for freshman? 
  • How will I get matched up with a roommate ? 
  • What are off-campus options?
  • If I live on-campus, can I have a vehicle my freshman year? Is there a fee involved? 
  • What are parking options for students who live on-campus?
  • What are parking options for off-campus students?
  • What are meal options for on-campus/ off-campus students?

Extra-Curriculars

  • Greek Life on campus or off campus? 
  • What sports are available? Can we try out, or are the positions scouted?
  • Are there other competitive options, such as academic teams?
  • What honor’s society options are there?
  • Are there any study abroad options? When do they begin?
  • There are dozens more questions you may choose to ask. These questions are only designed to get you started. 

Enjoy the fairs and take notes!  Remember to get the names of the admissions personnel and send them a thank you note for hosting the event.

COVID-19 has changed school and life for many individuals over the last year. Many high school students will be applying to colleges next fall and are concerned about maintaining their grades while still searching for new ways to continue their extracurricular activities during the pandemic.  The first thing is to realize that your extracurricular activities may change the format. That’s okay. You just have to get a little creative.


Volunteer from Home

You may think that volunteering from home is not going to work. How can you sit at home and volunteer? Well, one solution is a virtual service. Call a local elementary school and offer to tutor some of the children who are struggling. You might also volunteer to make phone calls for local charities to confirm or solicit donations. You can also set up a tutoring circle in your neighborhood. Create some flyers and post them around your neighborhood offering to tutor elementary school kids through Google Meets, Zoom, or WebEx for free. While you might get paid for tutoring, many families are struggling to find resources right now, and volunteerism will help you to connect with others who may need your help. Bonus tip: Your school may allow you to count these hours for community service requirements as well.

Learn Something New

Coding classes, foreign language classes, and even crafting can be a great way to showcase your initiative during the pandemic. While you might already take a foreign language at school, becoming more proficient on your own time shows that you are interested in your future in both academics and career development.

Teach Others

Once you get good at something it means you now have the skills to teach and help others. Start a YouTube channel or even a TikTok that teaches people a new skill. This can be a cooking channel, crafting, or even fashion design. If you can tie your “teaching” into your desired career field, even better! Some recreation centers are offering virtual personal enrichment classes, offer your services to teach something new.

Start a Book Club or Study Buddy Group

You could start a Study Buddy Club for those students who enjoy studying in a group.

Colleges want to know more about how you spend your time outside of school. Bonus points for those of you who are avid readers and enjoy learning just for the joy of it. Make sure to document your hours so that you can include this information in your college application. Reading novels is a great extracurricular and it also is a great way to connect with friends while having a meaningful discussion.

Start a Virtual Club

Most colleges and high schools have clubs. However, once remote learning began, many of these clubs stopped meeting. Rather than sitting around wishing for human interaction, start a virtual club at your high school or college. It may start small at first, but if you keep inviting people, it may become quite popular. Start a pop culture club by posting it on Facebook and you can start by creating music blogs and posting information about movies and music. Get your friends involved.

Start a Live Club

Now that many states are relaxing their stay-at-home orders and mandates, you might be able to begin an in-person club. Be sure that you follow all CDC recommendations for social distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitation. Think about how you and your friends might perform a play in the park. Try to get help from teachers, parents, friends and mentors. Think about how much enjoyment this could bring to the local community.

Start a Business

Nothing stands out on college applications like entrepreneurship. Starting a business during the pandemic can be overwhelming but one way to start is think locally. Think about providing services for people who can no longer get out of their homes. Uber Eats, Door Dash, and Instacart offer many of these services already, but many seniors who live at home who are uncomfortable with these apps. Offer another option for these folks. Start a grocery delivery service in your area.

Take Online or Summer Classes

Some community colleges allow high school graduates to take summer classes and include them on the students transcripts. See if there are electives you might be able to take over the summer. If not, go to websites like Coursera, EdX, and Open Culture to find some MOOCs.

Open culture also has lectures, ebooks, and audiobooks available on many subjects.

Create a Neighborhood Volunteer Network

Many students go to school near their neighborhoods. Round up your friends who are also looking for something to do. Create a volunteer network to help the people in your surrounding area who need help. If your neighborhood primarily needs lawn-care, shopping, and delivery services, consider volunteering to do these jobs for the residents having the most financial troubles. Locate some services that may also help and refer your new clients when you see fit.

Start a Virtual Band or Theater Group

If you are musically talented, consider starting a band and holding virtual concerts.

Additionally, “Radio plays” can be done through online platforms. You don’t even have to be in the same city. Each person can log in and perform their part from their homes. People are enjoying virtual events at home—make those work for you.

Do Your Best

Colleges do understand that the pandemic has hit students hard. They know that typical programs have been halted in many areas. Do the best you can to participate and begin some of these programs and continue to look for new opportunities. Starting a club or activity may be easier than you think. Continue to engage in your favorite hobbies and activities while at home.  

Stay Positive

There are dozens of things you can do while you are remote learning and primarily remaining at home. You are doing a great job in considering how to continue to be active. This list is just a few of the activities you may choose. Be creative. Let these ideas be an inspiration for your own endeavors. Connect with others in your school and community and try to help those in need. This is always the best place to start.

Organization is a Key to Success

Building your organization skills is key to preventing procrastination, keeping you on task, and eliminating distractions. When you are organized you can focus better and accomplish tasks quicker, allowing you to beat the overwhelm.

Here’s what to do…

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

Start with making a list of the most important tasks you need to complete. Typically, you can figure this out by the dates each task is due.

When tackling large projects, it helps to break down pieces of the project by weeks. If you push big projects back until the due date, you will find yourself thinking, “How am I possibly going to get this done,” and become easily stressed.

Schedule Your Plan of Attack

Plan out your schedule in advance on a calendar to ensure you meet each of your deadlines. You can either hang a monthly calendar in your work area where you can easily see it or use Google calendar.

Start by writing in your due dates. It’s a good idea to set your due date a day or two in advance. That way if something comes up at the last minute, you can still meet your deadline.

Then figure out how much time you need to complete each task, overestimating your timeframe and placing those blocks of time on your calendar. If you have an assignment that will take you four hours, but you only like to work in two-hour periods, break that assignment into two time blocks.

Highlight your assignments in different colors to help you visualize which assignment to work on at what time.

Lastly, set reminders on your phone to let you know when it’s time to start working on your tasks.

Create an Organized Space

Research has shown it takes about 23 minutes to regain your focus after becoming distracted. Imagine how much more time you have to accomplish tasks when you stay focused! Creating an organized work space helps eliminate distractions so you can keep focusing.

First, make sure your workspace is in a quiet area. If this is not entirely possible, soundproof headphones and white noise can help lessen those distractions.

Keeping folders or files for each subject allows you to easily access the next task you need to work on.

Finally, adding a little ambiance to your work area keeps you coming back to focus on your assignments and projects; however, to decrease distractions, keep your decor at a minimum.

Lets Get Organized!

Go ahead and implement these executive functioning tips, so you can begin focusing more, procrastinating less, and feeling less stressed!

Dr. Donica Dohrenwend is a licensed clinical psychologist and founder and director of Psychology 360, a private practice in San Diego, that specializes in psychoeducational and psychological evaluations. Dr. Dohrenwend and her team of clinicians serve students and their families throughout Southern California. They offer assessment, evaluation and short-term therapy services.

www.psyc360.com

With the news of the college admissions scandal, many families and students have become both angry and confused about the entire process and how something like this could have happened.   As a professional educational consultant, I am not entirely surprised that these events have transpired as corrupt admissions practices have been around for quite some time. It certainly saddens me that these families did not have the opportunity to work with an educational consultant that could have guided the family more appropriately.

To our community of motivated students: You should not feel discouraged by a few people that have broken the rules. You should be proud of your hard efforts to excel both academically and in your extracurriculars. You are a role model for others.  Wherever you attend college in the fall, you can rely on knowing that you put your best foot forward and college will be an exciting journey for you.

To our community of caring families:  It’s important that we stand by our students while they spread their wings and discover who they are and what their interests might be.  High School is a time for self-discovery and the lessons we learn can and will have a lasting effect.

At Greenhaus College Consulting we strive to help each student make a smooth transition from high school to college.  We help guide our students towards their college and career path by engaging them in college research, visits, career, and personality testing, summer programs, and job shadowing opportunities.  We pride ourselves at being able to offer our families the skills they need to be successful in life and referring our families to other educational professionals that hold the same ethical standards in high regard as we do.  Applying to college can be a stressful process for students and parents. Our kids will make some mistakes and learn some important lessons along the way. The important qualities of grit and self-esteem will be developed at this time.

Not every student will be prepared to start their journey at a selective institution, which may have been the case for many of these students involved in this scandal.  One way that we come together and fight against these unethical practices is to start changing the culture about how we prepare students for their entrance to college and focus more on finding a school where a student can explore their interests, and talents as opposed to focusing on college rankings. As your student begins their search for colleges, try to focus less on brand names and more on the journey. As I mentioned above, when students are involved in this process of self-discovery they become more prepared to take the next step towards their adult development.   While many people continue to be shocked, confused and upset about this news, we are holding our head up and continuing to do the good work we do each day which is about inspiring young people to be the best student they can be and continue to give back to their high school and the local community. In the words of Martha O’Connell, “College is not a prize to be won but a match to be made.

The college search process can be a daunting task for any student, but even more so for a student with a learning challenge. Parents are often worried about how colleges will view their students’ grades and test scores in light of a learning disability, anxiety, depression or ADHD. As Independent Educational Consultants, we suggest that you begin by examining your student’s academic profile. Do their grades, test scores, and choice of coursework reflect their true academic abilities or has the learning disability or disabilities prevented them from achieving academic success? Were the accommodations put in place early enough in high school to impact grades and has the student benefitted by the accommodations? Has the student shown an upward progression in grades? These are just some of the many questions to consider when assisting your child. Parents also worry that their child does not understand their lack of executive functioning skills and how it affects their classroom performance, causing them to be highly distracted. In many cases these students have had a lot of assistance during high school with subject tutoring, learning specialists, and therapists to help manage anxiety, mood and motivation. It makes sense that they would need some outside help during their first year of college.

Although the first step is to examine the student’s transcript and test scores, this is not the only information that a college will review. If the student is able to articulate their understanding of their strengths and challenges, how it has impacted them, what they have learned about themselves and their accommodations, and how they plan to succeed in college, this will speak volumes to colleges. For students who have had numerous challenges in high school and have received accommodations that have helped them to be successful, the transition to high school can be much less stressful than their peers.

The next step is to help your student find supportive college environments where your student can grow and succeed. The level of support will be an important factor to consider when creating your initial list of colleges. When approaching the college search, remember that not all colleges will be equipped to support the needs of your student. It your child has a learning disability, you will need to be a savvy consumer who can recognize the differences as the level of support can vary widely from one school to another. You need to know how to distinguish the minimum supports offered from a more comprehensive model. The best way to begin is by searching on a college website for “disability support services.” Below, find a description of each type of college disability support programs from the most basic to increasingly expanding services.

Learning Support Programs in College

BASIC- By law, all colleges must comply by offering minimal services for student with disabilities. At this level there are no professional learning specialists on staff. The responsibility for reviewing documentation and awarding basic accommodations usually falls on the Dean of Students. There are no specific services for students with learning disabilities; students utilize the writing center, math center, and study skills assistance available to all students at the school.

MODERATE- Students with disabilities have their own dedicated Learning Center that serves their needs in addition to the writing center, math center and study skills center available to all students. This means that the disability support staff are Masters Level trained professionals who are well versed in the challenges of your students. These centers offer a much wider range of accommodations, assistive technology, and support to students, and may have professional tutors and coaches on staff.

COMPREHENSIVE- Students with disabilities not only have their own dedicated Learning Center, but an additional fee-based program is offered to those who need a structured learning program. Typically students meet weekly or biweekly with a professional who can help them with study skills, organizational skills, and time management and will address any difficulties that the student is having and advocate on behalf of the students. There is a separate application and review process for acceptance into these programs in addition to the admissions application.

When visiting colleges with your high school junior or senior, we suggest you include an appointment with the disabilities office on campus. Note that you and your student’s impressions as your student may be spending considerable time in the office and will need to feel comfortable. In addition, if your student will be applying to college in the next two years, we suggest learning more about the differences between the K-12 system and the college system for students with disabilities. There are significant differences between high school and college when it comes to applicable laws, documentation, self-advocacy and student responsibilities.

Differences Between High School and College for Students with Disabilities

Key Factors

Some of the most common challenges that can cause students to struggle significantly:

  1. Students are unable to articulate their challenges to the disability coordinator and with professors and unprepared to advocate for themselves in and out of the classroom. Many students are intimidated by talking to a professor and do not seek help or make connections with a staff member who can help.
  2. Students are unprepared for the academic challenges and do not have the academic foundation to succeed in a selective major or selective university.
  3. Students often hold the mistaken belief that they can manage in college without accommodations and do not utilize the accommodations granted them in college until it’s too late in the semester to benefit from them.
  4. Students are unprepared to manage their time and fall behind in their study and coursework and do not seek out the tutoring or coaching services until it’s too late in the semester.

Types of Accommodations Offered in College
You need to determine what kinds of accommodations are available in college for your student’s particular disability. Here are a few of the most common accommodations that you will see in colleges. (These examples are from Colorado State Office of Disabilities)

For Students with ADHD

  • Extra time on tests
  • Priority registration
  • Access to a testing room with less distraction during mid-terms and exam finals
  • Note taking support
  • Use of computer during classes

For Students with Anxiety
Flexible matriculation requirements including:

  • Extended time to complete degree program
  • Flexible course requirements
  • Alternative housing options: living in a single room as opposed to having a roommate
  • Course load flexibility: taking a part-time load the first semester
  • Alternative format: textbooks and print materials can be converted to alternative formats for students
  • Alternative testing arrangements: extra time; a quiet, separate room; provision of a reader/scribe; and use of a computer, including adaptive software and hardware
  • Note-taking support
  • Priority registration

For Students with Dyslexia or Other Language Based/Auditory Processing Disorders

  • Alternative format: textbooks and print materials can be converted to alternative formats for students. Film and video material with captions included.
  • Alternative testing arrangements: extra time, less distracting environment, provision of a reader/scribe, and use of a computer, including adaptive software and hardware
  • Preferential classroom seating: sitting where the student can see the board and professor’s face
  • Use of computer during classes or access to taped lectures
  • Note-taking support

Requesting Accommodations
After your student has accepted the admissions offer, you may begin contacting the disabilities office for instructions on requesting accommodations. Each university will have a different process, but the most common practice is to submit the student’s psychoeducational report that includes their diagnosis, online or in person, at the first meeting with the disabilities office. The testing report must come from a licensed educational psychologist. Some colleges will accept an IEP but others may not and this will vary from school to school. The disability office will have an application link posted on their webpage. Students are encouraged to complete this paperwork as it is best for them to take the lead role in answering the questions about their challenges.

It is important for the student to understand the kinds of accommodations they may need and to document what has made the most impact at the high school level. Some of these questions will include a statement about the student’s diagnosis and how this impacts them in the classroom. Other questions directly ask which accommodations the student would like to request. For students who are coming from smaller private high schools, where the accommodations were built into the program, it may help to have a meeting with the learning center or with some of the teachers who offered them the flexibility to be successful. After paperwork is submitted, the student will schedule an appointment to meet with the director of the office of disabilities. We suggest a practice interview with students before the meeting to ensure that the student feels comfortable discussing their disability and its impact and advocating for the accommodations that they feel they need to be successful at the college level.

Timeline for success

  1. First Semester of Junior Year in High School: College search for students with LD and ADHD- Set up an appointment with a college advisor who has an understanding of your learning issues and can help you set up a timeline that includes identifying colleges where you can be successful.
  1. Second Semester of Junior Year: If your student has significant learning challenges, this is a good time to update your students testing and make sure that your accommodations are in place. Arrange a meeting with your educational consulting team, which includes your tutors, educational therapist, college counselor and psychologist. Make it clear that your goal is to transition to college in one year and request help setting milestones to reach this goal.
  1. Spring or Summer of Junior Year: When visiting colleges, include a meeting with those in the disabilities office. Can you distinguish the differences between the basic and moderate services, for example? Note how comfortable your student feels while visiting these offices. Do they see themselves comfortably walking into the office and utilizing their services while in college?
  1. Senior Year: Apply to colleges on your final list. Will your student disclose their disability? If they choose to disclose, seek assistance from your consultant when crafting this written statement.
  1. Spring of Senior Year: Once accepted, visit the colleges on your final list once more during admitted students day or on another day and speak with students on campus before you make your final decision. Visit the disabilities office again to assess your student’s level of comfort.
  1. After You Deposit and High School Graduation: Apply for accommodations and make sure your testing is up to date. Prepare for the interview in the office of disabilities by meeting with your educational support team. In some cases, we suggest that students use the summer to do more educational therapy in order to sharpen their academic skill set. Sometimes a student may practice their skills by taking a summer class.
  2. Prepare for the fall: For students with ADHD you may consider working with an academic coach during the first semester in college. Students with anxiety should continue to work with their therapist over the summer and make sure to find a counselor on campus or look for local options near the campus.

The college search process and the transition to college can be difficult for even the most prepared student. For students with a variety of learning disabilities, there are many important factors to consider for assistance with the challenges ahead. With the guidance of an Independent Educational Consultant and your student’s educational support team, you and your child can choose from colleges that will be the best fit to support your individual student. We have addressed the types of learning support programs in college, the major differences your student will need to understand to navigate disability supports in college versus high school, the kinds of accommodations offered at colleges, key factors in ensuring your child’s success, and a timeline for success. Taking the time and effort to consider all of these factors ahead of time when putting together a college plan is the key to your child’s successful future. If you have difficulty deciphering the options, you may benefit from professional advisement from an independent college consultant who is familiar with the process and these programs.

Authored by:
Teresa Collins, M.Ed.  Educational Consultant
Gina Gerrato Greenhaus M.A.  Educational Consultant

College Consulting

Don’t Bury Your Head in the Sand 

Top 6 tips for Students Applying for College 

  1. Hire a College Admissions Counselor to answer your questions.
  2. Make Sure your college list is balanced.
  3. Don’t apply to too many schools.
  4. Visit Colleges.
  5. Clean up your social media profile
  6. Follow through with sending grades, test scores and letters of recommendation.

College planning can be daunting for some parents and teens. The key is to begin thinking about college preparation early in the process. This can mean carefully planning your curriculum in grades 9 and 10 and keeping a list of the students activities,honors and achievements. For a younger student, parents will want to help the child find a few extracurricular activities that their child can bring to the next level and develop a particular talent or strength. Colleges also look for volunteer service so it’s a good idea to get started on this early in freshman year. The most important part of college planning is being a good student and taking a challenging high school curriculum. Middle school will set the groundwork for this. By the time a student hits senior year he should have a full resume of activities,leadership and volunteer work on his resume. It’s a good idea to visit a few colleges during junior year to get a feel for campus location and size as well as the surrounding community. As an independent college counselor in San Diego I often see students coming in to meet with me as late as senior year and there is a lot of preparation to do in a very short time. For students who are interested in applying by November 1, they need to set aside more time in their schedule in order to do a good job on their applications.

Tip #1 Hire a College Admissions Counselor 

Many juniors and seniors  have not sat down with their parents to have an in-depth discussion about college. Families will want to discuss various factors such as cost and location as well as majors. The majority of students will begin these discussions during their junior year however some students are just getting organized in senior year.   When this happens I highly suggest meeting with a college admissions consultant to help put a plan in place.   While high school counselors will do their best to help answer questions, many of them do not have time to meet with students on a weekly basis to help them get organized and narrow down their options. This is where the help of an independent college counselor will be important.

A college admissions counselor has many years of experience working with high school students.  We are trained in knowing how to create a college list and have in depth knowledge about majors and programs that are of interest to our students.  Greenhaus College Consulting offers a 4 step process including personality testing that begins early in junior year.  As a student is learning more about himself he will be better equipped to choose a school based on his personality and interests.

Tip #2 Make sure your college list is balanced. 

What do we mean when we say “Balanced College List”. Many students make the mistake of applying to mostly reach schools and not enough target and safety schools. We are advising you against doing this as it is not a good approach. A reach school denies more students than it accepts. These are schools with a 15-25% acceptance rate. Even if a student has over a 4.0 and perfect SAT scores can be turned down by one of these schools. The point is that you cannot use this school as a safety, even if you are a high level student with great stats. This is one of the biggest mistakes that students will make. A Balanced college list will have a few schools in each category.

Tip #3 Don’t over apply to Colleges 

Are you planning on applying to 20-30 colleges hoping that more is better? Stop yourself before you start because the admissions process does not work this way.

Students will be asked to write an essay for each of the schools they are applying to.  If a student has visited the college, spoken to current alumni, and sat in on a class, they will have a very good idea of the campus climate that exists at this school.  Providing that they are within reach of the admitted profile of the school, they now have a much better chance of acceptance in that they have truly done their research and can write an honest, intelligent essay about why they want to attend X university.  Finding a few good targets should be your ultimate goal, not outsmarting the system or trying to add more random schools to your list and rushing through the supplemental essays.

Tip #4 Visit Colleges 

If you are planning to apply to college in your home state, please take the time to visit.  Many private colleges do track a students interest, so it’s a good idea to sign up for a tour and plan to spend the day on campus. In my practice, Greenhaus College Consulting, I often suggest that students visit schools within driving distance. San Diego students are strongly encouraged to visit colleges in Orange County and Los Angeles.

#5  Clean up your social media profile 

Social media has become a dangerous minefield for teenagers where they share freely with little regard to how this information can impact their future. More colleges are checking social media profiles than in previous years.  As students approach their senior year in high school they should be using a professional email and make sure they are coming across positively on social media avoiding any posts that could be taken in a negative light. At Greenhaus Consulting we often review a students social media sites and give them feedback on both photos and current postings.

#6 Follow through with sending grades and test scores

After spending so much time on your applications and essays you need to follow through by sending your ACT scores,subject tests, transcripts and letters of recommendation. Colleges will ask for three sets of transcripts which include grades from years 9-11, senior year grades from first semester and the final transcript is usually due by July 1 after graduation. While the high school usually uploads this information through a computer portal, not every school subscribes to college planning software and they may need to send this information through another means. If your school is not using Naviance you should ask the admissions office if the transcript can be emailed,faxed or sent through the mail. Students might be required to give their teachers a self addressed envelope to send to out of state colleges. As a college counselor in San Diego I often remind my students to reach out to their out of state colleges that are not on the common application and ask about how they would like to receive both transcripts and letters of recommendation. Students should make a list of all of their common application and out of state schools. In January we often send follow up emails to non common application schools to make sure they have received all of the necessary documents. It’s always best to safe than sorry in the long run