Jul 9 2015

Studies Show That College-Age Depression Is Increasingly Tied to Helicopter Parenting

“The data emerging confirms the harm done by asking so little of our kids when it comes to life skills, yet so much of them when it comes to academics.” – How To Raise an Adult (via Challenge Success)

Click here to learn more about how studies show that “College-Age Depression Is Increasingly Tied to Helicopter Parenting”.

Jun 26 2014

New This Year: UC Application Opens on August 1!

collegeAll students interested in attending college in the Fall of 2015, be ready!  On August 1, the Common Application will open for the next application cycle, signaling the beginning of college application season.

Seniors: get a hard start on your essays NOW while you have some extra time in your schedule.  Your senior year will be a blurr with the demands of your regular schedule and college applications.  Essay prompts for colleges using the Common App will be available August 1, University of California will also open the application this year on August 1, and UNC Chapel Hill has already released their essay prompts (see below).

Also, consider NOW which teachers you will want to ask to write your teacher recommendation letters.  Once the school year starts, you can approach those teachers to enlist their support.  The earlier you talk to your teachers the better!  First, you will have your recommendation letter earlier to file in your applications. Second, you will be most respectful of your teacher’s extra time and they have more of it available in September than in October or November.

Great news for students interested in attending UC colleges: New this year, UC will open the 2015-16 application for undergraduate admission on August 1, two months earlier than in previous years, to give students more time to complete their applications. This will be a great help in the effort to balance your senior year course load, activities, college application deadlines and financial aid/scholarship deadlines.  The application filing period remains the same: you can file you application for Fall 2015 anytime between October 1-November 30. Keep in mind, early preparation and submission of the application do not impact admission decisions. The UC essay prompts for Fall 2015 can be found here.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has released their Essay prompts for 2015-16.  This is great news for students who want to get a head start on the UNC application, since this institution boasts the earliest “Early Action” application deadline, October 15, of the more selective colleges.

Finally, all high school students: keep those grades up. Your chances of merit aid and scholarships increase with your continued efforts toward your academic “best”.  Athletic and performing arts scholarships are few, but there is ton of merit aid available to help families with the skyrocketing costs of college. Make your best, and balanced, effort!

Need help navigating the college application process and financial aid maze? I can help.  Check out my website and contact me for a consultation today.

Mar 10 2014

The 2014-2015 Common Application Essay Topics

College-Application-Essay-Tips_mini-1024x1024Acceptance letters aren’t even out yet for most California college bound students, but next year’s application season has unofficially kicked off with the release of the new Common Application Essay Topics.  If you are a junior in high school, this is important information for you! Ideally, after you take an SAT and/or ACT this spring, you can spend some of your time this summer to draft your essays for college applications.

Below are the 2014-2015 Common Application essay topics.

Instructions. The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so. (The application won’t accept a response shorter than 250 words.)

  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.


To get started, access the new Common Application.

Sep 6 2013

SAT / ACT: Score Choice & Super Score

super score

Recommendation Letters, and College Essays, and SAT/ACT scores, OH MY!  Yep, it is that time of year when seniors are compiling college application elements and hoping for admission to the college of their dreams.  Most students will attempt either the ACT or the SAT more than once, in an effort to boost scores and admission chances.  The prevailing question at this time of year is the definitions of and differences between Score Choice and Super Score, and who are the colleges doing the Super Scoring.  I hear this question at least 5 times per week.  Let’s take a look…

Score Choice

In October of 2010, the College Board introduced the idea of Score Choice for students taking the SAT and SAT II exams.  Score choice affords a student the opportunity to select specific scores across multiple exam sittings to submit with college applications.  For example, if a student takes the SAT in March, May, and again in October and wants only to submit scores from March and October, he/she can choose those sittings to send to college admissions offices.   Similarly with SAT II exams, students can pick scores from individual subject exams to submit.  For example, if a student took the US History, Math Level 1, and Physics in May and then took the Math Level 1 again in addition to the Literature in October, he/she can pick US History, Physics, and Math Level 1 (October) to submit to his/her colleges and they’ll never know his/her scores from the other exams OR that he/she even took them.

All that said, not every college embraces the policy of Score Choice.  Individual colleges have their own policies about Score Choice and how they will use the scores that a student submits.  For instance, some schools require that he/she send ALL scores from ALL test dates while other schools utilize the Score Choice policy. Before banking on using Score Choice, it is wise to check the policies of the schools making the cut on a college list here.  Best practice: contact the school directly if you really wnat to know the answer on Score Choice policy.

On the other hand, the ACT has always been a Score Choice test and you can take the test as many times as you want and then can pick the specific test dates for which you want to send scores.  The great news about the ACT is that schools are now allowing you to superscore it!

Super Score

Soooo, what is Super Scoring, exactly?

Let’s start with the SAT.  The SAT Superscore is a fairly recent concept that has gained steam in the increasingly competitive college admissions process. The basic idea behind the SAT super score is that a college will look at multiple SAT test dates that a student has taken, and combine the highest scores in each section from across the different test dates to give a “superscore” that may be higher than any individual SAT score he/she received.  For example, if a student took the SAT twice and the scores were as follows:

Test 1:  Reading-540, Math-670, Writing-610, Total SAT Score 1820

Test 2:  Reading-620, Math-600, Writing-620, Total SAT Score 1840

She would then take the highest SECTION scores to make her superscore:

Reading:  620, Math-670, Writing-620, Total SAT Score 1910

As you can see, this student’s SAT superscore is higher than either SAT exam by itself.  It is calculated by combining the higher Critical Reading and Writing scores from Test 2 with the higher Math score from Test 1.

Let’s say a student takes the ACT instead.  To understand how ACT Super Scoring works, it is important to understand some pertinent background information about how the traditional  ACT score is calculated. Historically, college admission offices used a student’s composite ACT Score that’s made up of four underlying categories: English, Mathematics, Reading and Science.

The four sub scores are averaged, with each ranging from 1 to 36, to create a composite average.  Schools have traditionally only taken the composite score rather than cherry picking the best sub-scores.  ACT super scoring isn’t as prevalent among institutions – perhaps it is because the ACT is a composite score. For example, when a college sees an ACT score of 27, it doesn’t know what the underlying scores are for English, Math, Reading and Science.  Thus, Super Scoring the ACT is when a student’s highest sub-scores from each of the four categories from multiple test dates (i.e the best English, best Math, best Reading and best Science) and create what could be a more impressive composite “Super Score”.

It is a win-win. You get the highest score from each section of an exam on different dates!  Super Scoring can be extremely helpful to students who take the SAT/ACT more than once, which, in my professional opinion, most students should be doing anyway.  The competitive admissions process is allowing a student the opportunity to increase admission odds, or capture fatter financial aid packages, or augment merit aid awards, simply by sitting for multiple exam dates.

All of that said, remember that if you’re being Super Scored, so is everyone else that you’re competing with.  Yet, many admissions are most interested in your best performance on each section. They understand that test day is difficult and stressful and you aren’t always feeling your best.

Which Colleges Super Score?

I have found a list of colleges that Super Score the SAT, provided directly by the College Board. This list will give you an excellent idea of how each college will view your SAT scores from multiple test dates: SAT Score Use Practices by College (last updated by College Board: August 2012).

Although the College Board provides and maintains this list, it is always best to contact each individual college directly to determine what their Super Score practices are.  Case in point, this useful College Board List is over a year old and colleges may have changed their policy from last year.  Don’t trust the list, do your homework if you really want to know.

Regarding the ACT, I have found multiple lists that I use as resources to assist students.  Unlike the College Board, ACT doesn’t provide a centralized list of Super Score friendly colleges. The best source that I refer to for colleges that superscore the ACT is College Admissions Partners, which is an independent college consulting firm.  Again, it goes without saying (but I will say it again), that it is a best practice to contact every individual college directly to determine school policy on Super Scoring the ACT.  Do your homework if you really want to know.

Best of luck to you in the upcoming test season and the college application process!

Sep 5 2013

College Application Season is Open!!

Putting together the puzzle of college applications

Putting together the puzzle of college applications

School is back in session and the college application season for Fall 2014 is officially open.  The Common Application went live for the new admissions cycle on August 1.  All required essays and supplements of participating colleges are now available there. The Common App has upgraded their software which has brought about both simplicity and complexity.  I have been working with many colleagues to troubleshoot Common App bugs, and apply solutions to many of the issues there that might contribute to increased anxiety as the time comes to submit timely college applications. If any of the colleges you intend to apply to use the Common App, it is a good idea to visit the website to create an account and begin brainstorming your essay topics.  College Gig can help you to review your essays and we utilize the College Essay Organizer tool as part of your application process.  This unique tool makes managing just the essay portion of the application process realistic.  It allows you to determine which essays are required at each college where you want to apply, and it indicates how to write the fewest essays possible in order to complete all of your college apps in a timely manner.

Seniors: Class of 2014! You have made it!  This is a year marked with nostalgia, sentimentality, and commemorations. The college application season is here.  There is a lot to do.  Although preparation pays, there is still plenty of time to get everything accomplished that you will need to do.  Most importantly, it is time to make your preliminary college list.  Visit your high school campus Career Center and/or Counseling Office to find out when College & University Admission Representatives are scheduled to visit your school. Virtual college visits are increasingly popular.  Check out one of my favorite interactive websites, College Week Live, to see which colleges are showcasing this week….and beyond.  They have great informational sessions and chat forums with admissions reps too!

If you are a Junior, it is time for you to begin preparing yourself for the upcoming year.  Your junior year is significant because it is the time when you sharpen your focus on your plans for your life after high school. Now is a good time to explore all of your future possibilities – will you go to college, start a career, or travel?  You can ask yourself questions about your future, shadow a job, visit colleges, take interest surveys, set up a checking and/or savings account, or get an internship in a field you are interested in.  Not only do you need to continue to maintain your best academic efforts, you will also begin to plan for your future.  It is a precarious balancing act, but it is manageable in small bites.

Finally, in this generation, the most significant element of choosing a “best fit” college is matching your budget with the rising cost of a college education.  I have years of experience working as a Financial Aid Director, so I can help you navigate the financial aid maze. There is scholarship and grant money out there. I can help you find it. I understand the subtle intricacies of the ever-changing federal and state financial aid landscape. I understand how overwhelming it can be.

Hope the first two weeks of school are smooth.  Get ready to gear up!  College application season is OPEN!

Apr 20 2013

College Application Pressures: Then and Now

May_1stThe following piece describes the heart of my philosophy.  It is the reason I desire to work with school-aged kids.  You don’t know my life story, but I can tell you that I was motivated to working young people simply because I had no one guiding me as a young person. I was figuring it all out for myself.   I made mistakes along the way, some that altered the direction of my life. Despite some costly mistakes and long detours, I think I turned out alright.

There is so much pressure these days on kids to “find themselves” NOW so that they can apply to the “right” college, get the “best” education, in order to land the “right” job.  I won’t attempt to delve into the contradiction in this writing that our fast paced culture cannot support this illusion.  What I will say is that there is no “right” way.  Every child is different.  Most parents are doing their best by their children.  They want the best for them and want them to succeed.  However, what gets lost on us is who is defining the term “success”?  A friend of mine, who lives in Danville, is a talented and passionate auto mechanic with a deeply rooted commitment to serve his community well (great mechanic, by the way, happy to recommend him).  In fact, he just expanded his business to a second location.  His career path did not require a college degree, but did require skills training in a vocational college.  I am running my own business and I have two advanced degrees and a credential.

Who is more successful?  I guess it depends on your definition.

This need to define kids early is the other end of the spectrum where I was as a kid.  I could’ve used a little more guidance, and my kids probably need a little less “support” from me. I must always remember that they have their own lives, their own story.  My story is not their story.  I had my shot at being young already.  It is my passion to guide kids on their path of self discovery.  If they don’t know by 17 or 18, I believe that they will be just fine.  However, I can equip students with life skills necessary to fly the coop, or leave the secure and comfortable family nest.  Perhaps we might uncover a passion along the path, or gain some clarity in order to “see” and avoid some of life’s costly pitfalls and detours.  Maybe not. But, it all turns out fine.


On Being Unchosen by the College of One’s Choice

By Joan Didion

This piece appeared in The Saturday Evening Post April 16, 1968.

“Dear Joan,” the letter begins, although the writer did not know me at all. The letter is dated April 25, 1952, and for a long time now it has been in a drawer in my mother’s house, the kind of back-bedroom drawer given over to class prophecies and dried butterfly orchids and newspaper photographs that show eight bridesmaids and two flower girls inspecting a sixpence in a bride’s shoe. What slight emotional investment I ever had in dried butterfly orchids and pictures of myself as a bridesmaid has proved evanescent, but I still have an investment in the letter, which, except for the “Dear Joan,” is mimeographed. I got the letter out as an object lesson for a17-year-old cousin who is unable to eat or sleep as she waits to hear from what she keeps calling the colleges of her choice.  Here is what the letter says: “The Committee on Admissions asks me to inform you that it is unable to take favorable action upon your application for admission to Stanford University. While you have met the minimum requirements, we regret that because of the severity of the competition, the committee cannot include you in the group to be admitted. The Committee joins me in extending you every good wish for the successful continuation of your education. Sincerely yours, Rixford K. Snyder, Director of Admissions.”

I remember quite clearly the afternoon I opened that letter. I stood reading and re-reading it, my sweater and my books fallen on the hall floor, trying to interpret the words in some less final way, the phrases “unable to take” and “favorable action” fading in and out of focus until the sentence made no sense at all. We lived then in a big dark Victorian house, and I had a sharp and dolorous image of myself growing old in it, never going to school anywhere, the spinster in Washington Square. I went upstairs to my room and locked the door and for a couple of hours I cried. For a while I sat on the floor of my closet and buried my face in an old quilted robe and later, after the situation’s real humiliations (all my friends who applied to Stanford had been admitted) had faded into safe theatrics, I sat on the edge of the bathtub and thought about swallowing the contents of an old bottle of codeine-and-Empirin.  I saw myself in an oxygen tent, with Rixford K. Snyder hovering outside, although how the news was to reach Rixford K. Snyder was a plot point that troubled me even as I counted out the tablets.

Of course I did not take the tablets. I spent the rest of the spring in sullen but mild rebellion, sitting around drive-ins, listening to Tulsa evangelists on the car radio, and in the summer I fell in love with someone who wanted to be a golf pro, and I spent a lot of time watching him practice putting, and in the fall I went to a junior college a couple of hours a day and made up the credits I needed to go to the University of California at Berkeley. The next year a friend at Stanford asked me to write him a paper on Conrad’s Nostromo, and I did, and he got an A on it.  I got a B- on the same paper at Berkeley, and the specter of Rixford K. Snyder was exorcised.

So it worked out all right, my single experience in that most conventional middle-class confrontation, the child vs. the Admissions Committee. But that was in the benign world of country California in 1952, and I think it must be more difficult for children I know now, children whose lives from the age of two or three are a series of perilously programmed steps, each of which must be successfully negotiated in order to avoid just such a letter as mine from one or another of the Rixford K. Snyders of the world.  An acquaintance told me recently that there were ninety applicants for the seven openings in the kindergarten of an expensive school in which she hoped to enroll her four-year-old, and that she was frantic because none of the four-year-old’s letters of recommendation had mentioned the child’s “interest in art.” Had I been raised under that pressure, I suspect, I would have taken the codeine-and-Empirin on that April afternoon in 1952. My rejection was different, my humiliation private: No parental hopes rode on whether I was admitted to Stanford, or anywhere. Of course my mother and father wanted me to be happy, and of course they expected that happiness would necessarily entail accomplishment, but the terms of that accomplishment were my affair. Their idea of their own and of my worth remained independent of where, or even if, I went to college. Our social situation was static, and the question of “right” schools, so traditionally urgent to the upwardly mobile, did not arise. When my father was told that I had been rejected by Stanford, he shrugged and offered me a drink.

I think about that shrug with a great deal of appreciation whenever I hear parents talking about their children’s “chances.” What makes me uneasy is the sense that they are merging their children’s chances with their own, demanding of a child that he make good not only for himself but for the greater glory of his father and mother. Of course there are more children than “desirable” openings. But we are deluding ourselves if we pretend that desirable schools benefit the child alone. (“I wouldn’t care at all about his getting into Yale if it weren’t for Vietnam,” a father told me not long ago, quite unconscious of his own speciousness; it would have been malicious of me to suggest that one could also get a deferment at Long Beach State.) Getting into college has become an ugly business, malignant in its consumption and diversion of time and energy and true interests, and not its least deleterious aspect is how the children themselves accept it. They talk casually and unattractively of their “first, second and third choices,” of how their “first-choice” application (to Stephens, say) does not actually reflect their first choice (their first choice was Smith, but their adviser said their chances were low, so why “waste” the application?); they are calculating about the expectation of rejections, about their “backup” possibilities, about getting the right sport and the right extracurricular activities to “balance” the application, about juggling confirmations when their third choice accepts before their first choices answers. They are wise in the white lie here, the small self-aggrandizement there, in the importance of letters from “names” their parents scarcely know. I have heard conversations among 16-year-olds who were exceeded in their skill at manipulative self-promotion only by applicants for large literary grants.

And of course none of it matters very much at all, none of these early successes, early failures. I wonder if we had better not find some way to let our children know this, some way to extricate our expectations from theirs, some way to let them work through their own rejections and sullen rebellions and interludes with golf pros, unassisted by anxious prompting from the wings. Finding one’s role at 17 is problem enough, without being handed somebody else’s script.


Nov 26 2012

Stop Shoulding on Your Children…and Yourself, For That Matter!

Our Christmas Puppy, Jasper

I am prone to anxiety. I get anxious over just about everything.  My life is quite blessed, frankly. We just got back from a week vacation in Maui. I got to spend Thanksgiving with extended family.  My immediate family is healthy. We live in a beautiful area, evidenced by my late November hike in shorts and a t-shirt. I have supportive friends and colleagues. AND, we are getting a Chocolate Labrador Retriever puppy for Christmas.

Yet, I have difficulty resting that attitude of gratitude.  I think I “should” be doing more…or less.  I “should” know more…by now.  I “should” have a bigger yard.  I “should” bake more zucchini bread from scratch, using the zucchini  from my carefully tended garden (did I mention that I can’t keep a houseplant alive?).  I “should” volunteer more at my children’s schools.  I “should” be a more patient parent. I “should” have little stress and much less anxiety.  I “should” do the laundry more efficiently.  I “should”  have children who excel in history.

As long as I am distracted by my fantasied Hallmark life, I miss my abundantly blessed life and the great people in it, namely my husband and children.

Quarter grades and progress reports were sent out last month.  Those of you with students in middle-school and/or high school already know that only the parents of students with D’s or F’s receive the progress reports.  Both of my older children are “in danger of failing”  their respective history classes. Ironically, they are both at the grade levels which focus on World History.  I guess the good news is that they are struggling in the same subject, so we have an existing study group to help them pull up the World History grade.  They don’t think this is good news.

Perhaps I have anxiety around it because I was an accidental History minor in college.  I admit it, school comes fairly easy to me.  I love learning. I love to be in school.  I fit into the existing education framework that teaches to my learning style.  When I was in college, I took a lot of college history courses simply because they interested me. When it came time to graduate, I had accumulated enough history courses that I could declare a minor.  It wasn’t my plan.  Like I said, it was an accident. So, back to present day:  the reality is that two of my kids are in danger of failing World History and I have the anxiety.   I think it is my unrealistic expectations that they “should be” somewhere else (achieving an A…or B…even a C) that they are not.

I suppose I am telling myself that my children “should” do better in history.  Why? Because I did better in history?  I don’t know about you, but I am guilty of not seeing my children exactly as they are. I see them as how I think they “should” be based on what I “should or “shouldn’t” do.  I unfairly compare their accomplishments to their peers’ accolades.   They “should” be able to do “that” too.  They “should” have no struggles in school, especially not in history…or, while we are at it, Geometry. Ugh, why stop at History when we can dwell on future Geometry performance?  Next year I will have a sophomore who will take Geometry.  I got an A in Geometry….will I expect that from her too?  See, it never really stops. I am not telling you, as much as I am reminding myself…publicly.  Is this helpful to them?  Is this helpful to me?

No, and…no.  Sending them the message that they “should be” doing better or they “should be” getting a different grade hurts them. I am simply projecting my fears onto them and not accepting them as they are…right now.  They learn to doubt themselves and to avoid reality, which is unrealistic and thus, perpetuates anxiety.  My intention is to teach them to embrace all of life’s lessons – good and bad –  and to be resourceful, creative and imaginative in pursuing illumination. Instead, my fantasy of “shoulding” has equipped them only with more anxiety.

My anxiety stems from my untethered fears, and the stories that I tell myself about what may or may not happen as a result of those irrational fears.  I am usually wrong about how things turn out.  Yet, I find familiar comfort in the fretful worry over things that I cannot control. I scare myself into falsely believing that my kids will not be okay if ________________ (fill in the blank).  If I keep imposing the sentence of  “should be” on them, then they will likely not fare well and my anxiety remains at intolerable levels. However, once I become willing to accept the reality of my situation, my anxiety lessens and I can seek out a solution. In this case, I am now willing to accept the progress reports for my struggling students (they did come out a month ago!).  Now that I am breathing again, I can ask for support and direction from the school, the teacher, and my friends with similar experiences.  I can also see my children exactly where they are at on this given day.  Neither of them appear to be celebrating this lesson…yet.  I can tell you that they feel worse about this reality than I do.

I nearly bombed out of college altogether, because of my poor choices and the consequences of those decisions. Yet I survived myself, and I am okay. As a matter of fact, I have a very rich life!  The semester ends mid January. The quarter progress reports initially scared me, and are now motivating me.  Just because I am their mother doesn’t entitle me to their life experiences.  The D in World History is not a reflection of me either.  They each get to have their own experience of a D in World History. This isn’t my experience.  I did fail German, but not World History, so I can have some empathy. However, this is their life story to tell…not mine.  My role is to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with each of them to offer support, suggest practical tools, and teach valuable life skills.

For me, it is much easier to just worry; in part because I still believe I “should be” a more knowledgeable mother, but mostly because I would rather avoid reality altogether. My “shoulds” allow me to stay entrenched in my fantasy life that is surrounded by a white picket fence.  Honestly, my desire to avoid reality is directly proportional to the self-doubt of my own abilities.  Am I really able to teach life skills to my children when I, myself, feel so anxious about it all?   Yes. I learned from a wise friend that I can still carry out whatever is in front of me to do, and feel scared while doing it.

They each have a D in history.  So what?  I have a BA in Speech Communication, with a History minor.  I got a D in College Algebra, twice.  My kids are excelling in math right now…


Oct 29 2012

Priority College Application Deadlines Extended Due to Hurricane Sandy

As Hurricane Sandy makes its way up the eastern seaboard, many colleges and universities have closed up campus in preparation to wait out the storm.  It makes practical and logical sense that schools would close in the name of safety, but there are tens of thousands of high school seniors across the country making final touches on their college applications in anticipation of the November 1 deadline for Early Action, Early Decision, and Priority applications.

Many colleges have issued notices that they will be closed for the first part of the week.  Some have extended this deadline with a new date, while others (mostly the Ivies) have made the announcement of their willingness to be “flexible” on the deadline in the face of the impending storm.

This may be sounding familiar to some….this happened last year too.  In November 2011, the New York Times reported on priority application deadline extensions after a freak snowstorm last year wreaked havoc on the Ealy Action and Early Decison timetable.  Many were left without power and/or access to the online applications.  Further, high school counselors were unable to postmark their recommendations and transcripts, both neccesary to complete a prospective student’s application.

One might think that prospective 2013 college freshman would heed last year’s experience as a lesson learned for timely application submissions. Not so.  One student from College Confidential’s application extension forum posted, “OMGOMGOMG. THANK YOU U Chicago. I can’t even describe how happy I am.”

Another student reported to Inklings, “I’m really appreciative that some schools have extended their deadlines,” said Daniel Ciotoli ’13, who is applying to a school that granted an extension. “However, to be honest I should have gotten my applications done way before the deadlines because working up to the last minute has caused a lot of unnecessary stress.”

Procrastinating seniors may welcome the application reprieve, but there will be complications associated with the extended deadlines.  Be assured, once colleges go off the grid, there willl be post-storm system delays, efficiency voids, and processing hiccups. For example, as I write, millions of people are without power, and the storm surge is rising across many states.  In fact, according to a tweet by Michael Szarek, of College Counseling for the Rest of Us, all 55 New Jersey colleges and universities have closed down for Monday and/or Tuesday of this week.  And, the National Association for Admissions Counselors (NACAC) has postponed it’s National College Fair and Performing Arts Colleges Fair, slated to begin on November 1 in Atlantic City.

So, for the student who has already submitted a college application, and has not delayed in requesting October standardized test results, you can breathe easier.  For those students still working on your college apps due Nov. 1, get them in ASAP.  Keep in mind the potential, yet unknown, hurdles of the storm aftermath, and consider that the College Board and Educational Testing Service (where standardized testing scores are sent from) are both located back east.

This is what I know so far about revised deadlines, based on a list compiled by an East Coast College Admissions blogger and expert, Nancy Griesemer.  ALWAYS check with the institution itself, as I am not an official authority.

Beloit College: Students living in areas affected by the hurricane have until November 8 to assure their applications are submitted.

Bentley University: Early Decision and Early Action deadlines have been extended to November 5.

Boston College: Will be “flexible” with it’s Early Action deadline.

Boston University: Early Decision deadline has been extended to Monday, November 5.

Brown University: Early Decision deadline has been extended to November 7.

College of William & Mary: Early Decision and spring transfer deadlines have been extended to November 5.

Columbia University: Early Decision deadline extended to Monday, November 5.

Cornell University: Early Decision deadline has been extended to midnight on Monday, November 5.

Dartmouth College: Flexible with the Early Decision deadline for all students who are impacted by this storm; contact the office if materials cannot be submitted by November 5.

Duke University: Early Decision deadline extended to Sunday, November 4. Note that the website has not been completely updated in some places.

Emory University: Early Decision deadline extended to Monday, November 5.

Fordham University: Early Action applications will be considered timely if received by November 8.

Harvard College: Will be “flexible” on Early Action deadline.

Lawrence University: Early Decision deadline extended to November 15.

Marist College: Early Decision deadline has been extended to Friday, November 9.

MIT: Will be “flexible” on Early Action deadline.

Northwestern University: For applicants living in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, the application deadline for early decision has been extended to midnight November 7.

Princeton University: Will be “flexible” on its Nov. 1 Early Action deadline.  Submit a brief explanation with your application, if you need to file late.

RPI: The Early Decision deadline has been extended to November 5; additional extensions will be announced as warranted.

SMU: The Early Action deadline has been extended to Thursday, November 8.

Stanford: Early Decision deadline has been extended to midnight on Monday, November 5 for students and high school personnel affected by the storm.

Tufts University: Early Decision deadline has been extended to November 7.

University of Chicago: Early Action deadline has been extended. All materials due by 5 pm, Central Time, on Friday, November 9.

University of Maryland: The early application deadline will be extended; check with the website as specifics become available.

University of Pennsylvania: Early Decision deadline extended to Tuesday, November 6. Applications for financial aid can be submitted by November 15 to be evaluated for a package to be provided at the time of decision release.

University of Rochester: Extending Early Decision deadline to November 8 for students living in areas affected by the hurricane.

University of Virginia: The Early Action deadline is extended to midnight on Sunday, November 4.

University of Vermont: November 1 deadlines (early and spring) have been extended to November 5.

Villanova University: Early Action deadline extended to Thursday, November 8 for students directly impacted by the storm.

Washington & Lee University: Will be “flexible” on Early Action deadline. Submit a brief note to admissions@wlu.edu or a phone call to (540) 458-8710, outlining your circumstances ASAP.

Yale University: Single-Choice Early Action deadline extended to Monday, November 5.

These dates are subject to change based on the severity of the situation. Please check with individual websites for the most up-to-date information.

Sep 21 2012

Dr. Madeline Levine in Danville on 10/2 for Community Event

Presents … A Community Education Event …
Parenting for Authentic Success
An evening with Dr. Madeline Levine 
Tuesday, October 2nd at 7:00pm
San Ramon Valley High School – P.A.C.
(Book Signing at the Event)
ADMISSION: $10 Pre-Registration On-Line or $15 at the Door
Middle School and High School Students – FREE
Seating is LIMITED ~ Pre-registration is RECOMMENDED!!!
Register for this Event Here
“Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success” acknowledges that every parent wants successful children, but emphasizes that until we are clearer about our core values and the parenting choices that are most likely to lead to authentic success, we will continue to
raise exhausted, externally-driven, impaired children who believe that they are “only as good as their last performance.” Real success is always an “inside job”, argues Levine, and is measured not by today’s report card but by the people our children become ten to fifteen years down the line.
Childcare Provided for Ages 3 yrs to Kindergarten
NO children under 3 years old
Register My Kids for Childcare at this event here!
Support our community and remember to shop locally.


Jul 30 2012

Get ready, PACK and go!

Time to start packing for college!

I remember when I was packing to go away as a college freshman.  My bags were packed like I was headed off to an extended stay at summer camp. My mom had to remind me that I was going to study at school, so I was certain to throw in my dictionary! True.

Now that August is upon us, it is time to really buckle down and pack your stuff for school.  Do you know what you need?  This can be an overwhelming task, to say the least, since you must plan to pack almost everything but the kitchen sink.  I came across the following packing lists and I like them since they are not commercially specific.  These can help you to structure your packing, reminding you of the obvious essentials, while triggering thoughts of the subtle necessities.

1.       Residence Hall  Packing List

2.       Personal Needs Packing List

3.       School Supplies Packing List

Heading off to study abroad in the fall?  Lucky you!  Here is a generic checklist covering the basics of what you’ll need on your international journey, prepared by a seasoned international student. Make sure you you check with your school and program to get a packing checklist for the specific location where you will study.


Jul 20 2012

Whose Life Is It, Anyway?

In June, my 14 year old daughter “promoted” from 8th Grade.  She is my oldest and will start high school at San Ramon Valley in the fall. I’ve been a guidance counselor in the SRVUSD , a therapist, and an academic advisor to teenagers for nearly 15 years, but now it’s my turn to walk through this process as “the parent”.  However, please keep in mind that my knowledge of the college applications and admissions process taints my objectivity with this particular student.

Most everyone with a middle schooler knows that the grades earned during these years do not count toward college applications.  However, the courses students take in middle school set the stage for which road a student will travel through high school.  And, once the student gets to high school, the phrase “A-G Coursework Requirements“,  becomes paramount. The A-G courses are a series of 15 units that need to be taken in a specific order in high school to be eligible for admission to UCs and CSUs. For instance, taking two years of language in middle school will count as one full year of foreign language credit in high school to fulfill a portion of the “foreign language requirement (“e”) .  Similarly, if a student tests into Geometry after 8th grade Algebra I, he/she can advance through the math requirement (“c”), and allows the student to concurrently enroll in Biology as a freshman to accelerate the science requirement (“d”).  On the other hand, if a middle schooler chooses electives that don’t include a foreign language, or decides to take Algebra in 9th grade, this student is already behind the 8-ball, as far as the most competitive schools go.  This includes most UC schools!

My personal opinion on the subject of the high school experience, as both an educator and parent, is that we are stressing our children out!  As a parent, I try to teach my own kids about moderation and balance, emphasizing that the developmental tasks of simply “growing up” are their primary purpose, especially as they hit adolescence.  Having worked with hundreds of teenagers, I can see the effects of the constant pressures to perform exacted upon them, the stress that motivates their poor choices to escape these pressures, and the consequences of some of these choices in the effort to seek out some spontaneous freedom.  As a counselor, I equip students with tools, help teens set goals, and develop strategies for them to meet those goals.  As the parent, I share the same information, but through an entirely different channel.  The teens I work with may find my frequency and tune in clearly, but my own children have static on the channels dispensing my voice.

It’s true.  The competition for admissions to America’s colleges and universities is getting stiffer.  Remember when we were in high school?  We took geometry and biology as sophomores.  There were a handful of naturally academic superstars with the intellectual ability to accelerate their course load, but for the rest of us, we celebrated our Sweet 16’s with right angles and DNA strands. In order to get accepted at the top colleges and universities today, students must frontload their schedules with graduation requirements so that class periods become available during the junior and senior year to stack up some Honors and AP courses.  A 4.0 grade point average isn’t enough anymore to get admitted into a top college.  Further, since college has become so expensive, it becomes imperative for our children to do well in high school if there is any chance for merit aid, grants and/or scholarships.

It’s subtle.  The pressure to keep up with the academic Joneses, so to speak, is elusive.  In fact, despite my “knowledge”, I have fallen into the trap of pushing my children harder without even being aware of it!  My personal experience over the last 6 months is indicative of the subtleties of  the delusion of academic performance equaling success.  Listen, I am not above wanting the best for my kids and enrolling them in those activities and classes that will help them get where I think they need to be.  But, I believe that this is the core issue.  Are we asking ourselves, “Whose life is it, anyway?” Is it their life or is it the life that I want for them?” Do you notice the subtle difference?  I have been guilty of stepping in to create my kids’ lives, and I must persist in not hijacking their path.

In March 2012, all SRVUSD 8th graders were invited to  attend a freshman orientation night at their prospective high schools.  My daughter will attend SRVHS. At this orientation, there was a panel of students present, grades 9-12, to discuss their experiences at the high school so far.  Much of the panel discussion centered around whether to take or not to take the “A” period, the optional 7th period of a school day.  Essentially, a traditional high school student is required only to take 6 class periods during a regular school day.  As a freshman, those periods are filled up completely with necessary A-G  Requirements for UC/CSU.  Thus, if a student wants to choose an elective, then the optional 7th period is a great option!  It took all I had to keep my mouth shut and my opinion to myself.  I wanted to leave this choice completely up to her.  After all, it is her high school experience.  If she is overwhelmed, she will underperform.  Why set her up for failure?  But, let’s be real and I’ll be honest:  I thought she should take the 7th period so that she could have an elective, but also so that she could keep up with her peers.  You see, my daughter is a great student, but only average by district standards and her peers nationwide who will compete for a spot in college three years from now.  She gets mostly B’s, with an occasional  A, but she must work really hard to get those grades – it doesn’t come easily. I am proud of her, but college admissions officers aren’t likely to be as compassionate.

She decided to take the 7th period, and picked Drama as her first choice, or Photography, depending on what is available.   Secretly, I was thrilled!

In May 2012, all SRVUSD 8th graders took a geometry readiness test to determine whether they would register for Algebra I or Geometry as a freshman.  My daughter was nervous about taking this test. She wanted to do well so that she wouldn’t need to “repeat” Algebra.  Ugh, really? Is this what students are thinking?  Maybe not, but it is what my daughter was thinking.  All I could do was encourage her to do her best and that the results would simply indicate her next step.

When the results came in, I was shocked at the ambiguous packaging.   The readiness test clearly indicated that she was not ready for Geometry, but the letter from the district indicated that despite her lower than average performance, she was allowed to choose either Algebra I or Geometry.  Wait a minute…even though the evaluation indicated she isn’t ready for Geometry, she is allowed to take it anyway?  Of course, if she decides to take Geometry, she would also be eligible to take Biology, whether she is ready or not. This seems irresponsible to me.  She could take both of these classes in 9th grade so that she can have some AP courses to boost her GPA later on down the line, but if she does poorly in these classes up front, then the whole plan is botched (pressure!), or she must settle for mediocre grades.  That doesn’t sound promising for college applications.

I gave her the facts: she did her best and the readiness test indicated a below average score in this subject; she was given the option to choose; and there was no wrong choice, although either choice would come with its own issues and consequences.  I believe in her ability to choose for herself, as she has demonstrated this consistently over the last few years. Again, I had my own opinions, but I let her choose.

She is taking Algebra I. She plans on attending college someday and she didn’t feel ready for Geometry. She wants to get decent grades.

A couple weeks later, during the same week she was celebrating her promotion from 8th grade, we received a letter from the high school indicating that she had been chosen to APPLY for the AVID program.  As an educator, I am a huge fan of AVID!  This programs helps students to develop organization skills, improve study habits, and expand communication skills, resulting in higher academic performance and essentially increased self-esteem and confidence.  Students recommended for this program are specifically recruited by their middle-of-the-road academic performance.  I talked to middle school teachers, her counselors, and an administrator about the pros and cons.  What it boiled down to was that IF she was accepted to the AVID program, she would need to take it during that optional 7th period in order to be part of it; thus, no drama or photography.  Wait….that 7th period, really?  Another academic-based course during the 7th period?  She just decided to take the 7th period for the elective value!

Since we had only one week to consider, discuss, and apply for AVID, I stepped in and decided to discard the idea for this year.  I didn’t let her choose this time. I didn’t even tell her about it. She was in the midst of enjoying her accomplishment – promotion from 8th grade.  She finally felt like she found a groove in her last semester of middle school. She is already anxious about starting high school.  I don’t want to send the message that her interests must take a backseat to her academics. She made a big decision to take the optional 7th period in high school and she decided to fill the period with an elective that she enjoys.

Was that the right parental decision?  Well, it was a tricky decision, to say the least.  Like I told my daughter, there are no wrong decisions, but each decision comes with its own baggage.  After all, AVID is geared for students just like her: average performers who are willing to work really hard to improve. The transition from middle school into high school will be a big one for my daughter.  I was willing to step in at this point and trust that there are still three more years to apply to AVID if it is what she wants to participate in as she progresses through high school. This is a discussion that will merit more than a week of time.  She prefers to take her time with big decisions.  So, we can start this one after she finds her new groove.

I’m walking the fine line of parenting a child through high school as a College Admissions Consultant. It will be a journey where we will both be learning.  I just need to remember which hat is most important for me to be wearing at any given moment.


Jul 1 2012

Life After the Acceptance Letter – Tips to Surviving Freshman Year at College

Congratulations on your graduation!  This is quite an accomplishment.  Many of you may be headed off to college in the fall to start your life journey!  Or, you may be the parent of a college freshman, sending your child out into the great, big world on his/her own. It is an exciting time certainly, and it is a momentous life transition. Major adjustments require strong coping strategies. Naturally, heading off to college brings about significant life changes, and you’ll need to be prepared.  The first few weeks on campus are extremely critical for all new students. It is during this time that you will make crucial decisions that will have an effect on the rest of your life. Whatever you do, be sure to be yourself and try to enjoy your college experience as much as possible. Expect to feel some stress and homesickness, but don’t let these issues wear you down.

I believe that the skills applied to your life after your acceptance letter are fundamental to your success in college and in your life beyond college.  One of the unique services I provide in my practice is tangible assistance and resources beyond the acceptance letter.  This transition from home into college is so significant, that from the moment I begin working with new students in my practice, I am preparing and equipping them with concrete tools for a successful launch.  Once you are out on your own, familiar routines are gone and it’s time to re-establish a “new normal”. Performance pressures will be greater, time management will require more concentration, and healthy choices will become more complex.

There is a lot of solid advice out there, but I will share with you seven practical tips that I find most useful to prepare my students for launch, all of which translate to success in the critical first few weeks and long-term guidance and survival.

1. Get involved.

Seriously, this is THE most important thing you can do for initial and sustained success. This applies not only to your first few weeks of college, but can apply to anytime in your life when you are getting started someplace new. Go to all orientation meetings to become familiar with and engaged in campus life, to meet other new students, and to learn more about the way the college operates. Consider joining a select group — and be careful not to go overboard — of student organizations, clubs, sororities or fraternities, or sports teams. You’ll make new friends, learn new skills, and feel more connected to your school.

2. Prioritize.

Remember, you are enrolled in college to go to school and actually learn something!  The college experience is quite exciting and there are all sorts of novel distractions to keep you from studying.  Be sure to organize your time for both activities and studying.  Try to establish a routine, which includes regular eating and sleeping patterns, as quickly as possible.  Unlike high school, where the teachers continually reminded you of your assignments, college professors will expect you to be prepared for the entire semester. Buy an organizer, a PDA, a big wall calendar — whatever works best for you to know when assignments are due. Procrastinating and still receiving a decent grade may have worked well in the past, but college academics are more intense – make deadlines and stick to them.

3. Get help.

There are a lot of resources available to help you on campus, whatever your needs may be.  Get academic help through tutors, learning labs, or study groups.  Take advantage of free Wi-Fi in campus coffee houses or the student union.  Computer Labs are ideal to print out class assignments and presentations, since you can save on printer ink.  The library usually loans DVD’s, and the Campus Recreation Center is included in tuition costs. If necessary, you can find mental health assistance at the campus health clinic. Get to know your roommates and others who live in your dorm, since you are all likely having similar experiences and emotions. Your RA (Residential Advisor) is a trained peer advisor and is a great resource to assist with adjustments to campus life, as well as being a solid mentor.

4. Find balance.

College life is a mixture of academic and social activities. Don’t tip the scales too far in either direction, or you will fall out of balance.  Academically, try choose a mixture of classes and don’t fall behind in them. Identify an academic mentor, someone who has been down the road you are on and can offer guidance. Perhaps this person is an upperclassman, your RA, a Graduate Assistant, or a Professor.  Finally, find an ideal place to study, and meet regularly with your academic advisor.

Socially, manage and regulate your time for video games, Facebook, and extracurricular activities.  Treat your social time as a reward for time invested in academics. Find ways to take care of yourself, like treating yourself to an ice cream cone, watching your favorite movies or television shows, journaling, meditating, or going for a long run – whatever works best for you, just be good to yourself!

5. Manage your money.

If you’ve never managed a personal budget, it is time to start.  While you can, enjoy the fact that you have a little bit of money, because as the years pass by, you will likely have less and less!  Be sure to allot enough money for tuition and books.  Since books can cost so much, be aware of helpful online stores like www.half.com or www.alibris.com to purchase pricey textbooks at a significant discount.

You will be offered credit cards – DON’T TAKE THEM. It may seem like an easy way to get things you need in college, but the long-term consequences of over-spending on credit can be disastrous.  Try to keep your money divided into “3 Buckets”: The first bucket is strictly for saving. The second bucket is a savings bucket for major purchases, like a computer, software programs, a new bike, or a weekend trip. The last bucket is for a general fund, which includes bills and spending money.

6. Make healthy choices.

Take responsibility for yourself and your actions. Don’t look to place the blame on others for your mistakes; own up to them and move on. Being an adult means taking responsibility for everything that happens to you.

Get enough sleep, take your vitamins, exercise regularly and eat right. Avoid the dreaded “Freshman 15” by sticking to a healthy and balanced diet.  You will be up late at night snacking with friends, try to keep some healthy snacks that you love – fruit, trail mix, pretzels, popcorn – around for such occasions!  Your sleep schedule will change significantly, so try to keep a regular routine to avoid exhaustion and the side effects of poor sleep habits.  Even if you go to bed later, still try to get the recommended 8 hours.  You will have the option to schedule your classes for any time you would like. Be smart about this choice. Be sure to set aside some time for yourself with your favorite personal activities that will help you de-stress and relax.

7.  Be prepared to feel overwhelmed.

It’s true. Flying the coup and leaving the safety of your home and family is an overwhelming adjustment, on its own merit.  Even if you are well-prepared to launch out on your own, you will have those times when homesickness, performance pressures, loneliness, confusion, and lifestyle changes will knock you down.  Understand that this is a normal part of the college transition.  Everyone is going through this to some degree, and don’t be fooled by comparing what you are feeling on your “insides” to what it appears others’ may look like they are feeling on their “outsides”.  Make phone calls home, send emails, or Skype with friends and family. Stay tuned in to your own feelings, allow yourself to experience the discomfort, and the overwhelming feelings will eventually pass.  Whether you choose to resist it or to allow yourself to experience and learn from it, I frequently remind my students that no matter what you do, the feelings of overwhelm will indeed pass.

Have a great time in college!  Looking for more practical guidance counseling during your transition to college?  Need academic advising and college application assistance? Please visit College Gig at www.thecollegegig.com.

May 8 2012

What about a Gap Year?

Decision Day 2012 has come and gone for the incoming freshman college Class of 2016.  Transfer students have until June 1st to decide their higher education plans.   This month hundreds of thousands of students will graduate as the college Class of 2012.  Some know what they are doing and where they are going.  Some will land on their feet and hit the ground running, but many others may change their minds about their decisions, or simply be uncertain in which direction to go.

A gap year is an expression associated with taking time out to travel between life stages.  For students, it is a time of disengagement from curricular education to undertake non curricular activities, such as travel, work or service. A gap year taken post-baccalaureate can be an opportuinity used for self-discovery and global engagement.  The pratice of a deferred year developed in Great Britain in the 1960’s, but has become increasingly popular in our sinking economy.  The prospect of taking out student loan debt with an “Undecided” major is daunting.  The idea of beginning to repay those hefty student loan balances in the face of entering a tough job market can be overwhelming.  A gap year offers fresh perspectives, unique experiences and invaluable opportunities that one may not otherwise have access to from a more traditional life trajectory (job, marriage, kids, retirement, etc.).  It can be a new beginning or an uncovering of a life path undiscovered.

In March, I had the experience of traveling into Henryville, Indiana (20 miles north of Louisville, KY) in the wake of the F4 tornado that ravaged the area and it’s surrounding communities.  I was deployed there for seven days as part of a Disaster Relief Team to provide spiritual care to the vicitms, first responders and relief workers.  This was a great opportunity to step out of my daily routine to be of service to others during their great time of need.  Granted, this isn’t a gap year experience, but it carries the same idea and I considered it a microcosm of a gap year experience.  A gap week, per se.

From this experience I learned a great deal about myself, my capabilities, and my capacity for grace and compassion.  I also regained some sense of long-held ideals that had become obscured amidst marriage and children, carpools and extracurriculars.  Some of my deeply held beliefs and passions resurfaced while I was grounded in a different reality altogether.  The things that had become “important” to me over the last 15 years quickly dissolved in the face of others’ real pain and inevitable changes. It was a gap week filled with reality checks, fresh insights, and revitalized passions.  By getting out of “me” and “my little word” for a week, I was able to regain a sense gratitude for my life and the abundant blessings within it. I won’t go as far to say that I’m again enamored with the job of shuttling my children everywhere as the family taxicab, but I will admit that I can see both my life and each of theirs much more clearly after this experience.

So, maybe you have changed your mind about starting college right now.  Perhaps you have just graduated and are unclear of what direction to take.  Quite possibly, you might be longing for an adventure and yearning for some self-discovery.  Whatever your fancy, a gap year (or gap semester) experience might be just the thing to get you on the right track and excited again.

There are plenty of programs out there that will help you orchestrate your ideal sabbatical experience.  Contact me at www.thecollegegig.com if you have interest in trying an opportunity like this, or simply want more information about the idea of a gap year, and I can point you in the right direction.

Apr 9 2012

Colleges Still Accepting Applications for Fall 2012

Wow!  As a sports fanatic, March Madness literally means NCAA basketball, but also translatates to NHL Hockey, NBA basketball (ehhh, not so much, but sports nonetheless…) and the fast approaching MLB Opening Day!

March Madness 2012 had a much deeper meaning for me this year.  No, no, not because my 9th seeded Saint Louis University Billikens nearly upset the #2 seed Michigan State University in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  In fact, I never even got the chance to predict my NCAA brackets this year because I was given a couple great spontaneous opprotunities last month.  I am a certified Worker on the National Foursquare Disaster Relief Ministry Team through my church East Bay Fellowship in Danville. Twelve of us, four from EBF alone, from across the nation were deployed to Henryville, IN following the devastating tornado.  Then, less than a week later I was invited by a friend who won a ticket lottery to go to St. Louis (back to my old graduate school stomping grounds) to sit in Oprah Winfrey’s audience for her Lifeclass series on her newly launched network OWN.  Since both of these experiences were amazing in their own right, I will blog about each seperately to follow this post.

What I want to talk about here is that it isn’t too late to apply to college for the Fall 2012!  “Huh?”, you might be wondering.  Fact: this is the time of year when seniors and transfers are receiving acceptance or rejection letters for the Fall 2012 semester.  Fact: there are plenty of well-known colleges still accepting applications even now.  A professional colleague of mine, Nancy Griesemer, from the Higher Education Consultants Association recently wrote an article detailing how to find out more information about applying to college for the fall.

Why would a student decide to apply now?  It could be that a high school senior or community college transfer wants to wait on second semster grades to boost an application. Or, perhaps the initial college application process didn’t go as planned and he isn’t getting the results he wants.  Finally, a student may have simply changed her mind.

Locally, the following colleges are still open to Fall 2012 applications:  Stanford University, Santa Clara University, CSU East Bay, Saint Mary’s College, University of San Francisco, Mills College, Menlo College, Dominican University of California, and University of the Pacific.  In fact, there are many colleges and universities, statewide and beyond, still accepting Fall 2012 applications.  Check out my colleague’s article in the DC Examiner to get insider tips on how to apply for college if you are still interested.

It really is never too late!   If you are looking to return to school or are to start your applications process again, please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.

Jan 28 2012

Fall Semester? Or, the semester of the fall…?

The first semester is complete in our district.  I realized, now more than ever, that my 8th grade daughter has worked her butt off to stay on top of her work for the past two and one-half years.

“Why are you just noticing this now?”, you might be asking yourself.  Well, my younger daughter entered sixth grade this past fall semester and the transition to middle school has been more challenging for her.  Seeing her struggle so much this first semester has made me realize how hard my older daughter has worked at keeping up her grades.

Our philosophy here at home is “to always do your best.”  My older daughter’s “best” doesn’t rate on the Harvard scale.  My younger daughter is quite smart, but her organization and time management skills are seriously lacking.  Her “best” looks much different than her older sister.  We can handle these differences, and still stand firm in the “always do your best” philosophy.

My 6th grader crumbled in this transition from elementary to middle school.   School has always comes pretty easy for her. Much easier for her than her older sister,  who had math, reading, and writing interventionists in elementary school.  My younger daughter started strong, but then quickly lost her stamina, and her academic planner (we did find it after Christmas making room for all the new booty!).  As the semester progressed, homework passed the parent checklist, but went missing on the way to the teacher.  Or, directions weren’t followed and she received partial credit. Once she forgot to put her name on the paper where instructed, and got a zero for the project.  And the worst, her assignments underwent peer review and sometimes her peers liked her work, while other times they didn’t. Thus, she received inconsistent information which reflected on her test scores.

All of this instant pressure crushed her.  Elementary school was not at all like this! No limit to the amount of math homework in 5th grade would’ve prepared her for the rigors of middle school.  An irrational part of me wanted her to tow the line and get it together. But the other part of me, the grown-up, knows that she really is struggling to adjust.

Grades arrived in the mail today.  I must admit, at first glance, I made her grades a reflection on me and felt frustrated.  Though, the reality is more difficult to swallow.  The pressures our kids are under is enormous.  There is a high standard to perform at excellence.  There is little wiggle room.  I mean really, no credit for her name on the wrong part of her paper?  Is this really helpful and motivating?

Some might say yes. I would disagree.  I would say she is doing her best – she could use more organizational skills, certainly – and her best was a struggle this past semester.  We’ve added some tools to her toolbox.  We’ve removed some privileges that could be a distraction, but most importantly, we are letting her experience the painful transition.  Ugh, it’s hard for me, so it must be excruciating for her.

I wish we could let kids be kids instead of stressing them out with adult pressures and expectations. Alas, she is relieved to have a fresh start for the Spring.  Our challenge will be to let her be her, and to equip her with skills she’ll need to better do her best.  Don’t misunderstand, if her best is mediocre grades with a strong discipline and work ethic, I am quite proud of her.  It’s our hope that her best allows balance between family, friends, and academics and includes includes volunteering and community service.

Jan 12 2012

Even California’s Community Colleges are “Prioritizing” Enrollment

When will we stop penalizing our kids for not knowing what they want to do when they grow up?  The Community College System in California, already existentially stigmatized for what they are not (i.e. a 4-year instittuion), has generated a Task Force to determine the most effective practices for the system based on the student population, demographics and budget cuts.  In a report finalized last month by the Community College Student Success Task Force, the group called for the system to be more intentional  about “rationing” access.

Broadly speaking, there are three populations of students in the community college system:  those students broadening their horizons while attending an inexpensive community college, adult leaners/continuing education students, and those students who are serious about pursuing an Associate’s degree, a certificate, or completing general education requirements in preparation for the transfer to a 4-year institution. Essentially, based on the financial crisis, the community college system is not equipped to educate the diverse student demographic spectrum, so they are calling to prioritize enrollment to those students who are serious about pursuing a degree, certificate or transfer.

So, again, our kids must know who they are and what they want to do before they finish high school if they want to pursue higher education or vocational training.  The local, albeit stigmatized, community college could once be considered training ground for tentative students to baby step out on their own.  It was a place of academic development, self-discovery, vocational enrichment, and community-building. It seems that has fallen into the trap of “College Education is Big Business”, with emphasis placed on retention, intentional pursuit, and academic commitment. However, the system is delineating the parameters of “a successful student”.  No more curiousity or self-exploration, just commitment to any program that advances academics.

Who comes first in California? An Inside Higher Education article summarizes the debate in California over prioritizing community college enrollment to those students who are “serious” about pursuing education.   Why do the community college officials get to decided who is serious and who is not?



Jan 9 2012

Perfect is no longer good enough for aspiring college freshman…

You heard me correctly, perfect is no longer good enough for high school students hoping to get accepted into the nation’s elite colleges.  It used be to be something to strive for: straight A’s.  Now, in order to be considered into America’s premiere universities, you must have a transcript loaded with AP and Honors classes and carry a GPA above 4.0.  Here is a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle discussing this trend.

This is exactly what I am trying to work against!  Why, as a nation, are we so dedicated to stressing out our children?  The education system in place is barely competing with other 1st world, developed nations, yet we continue to pit our kids against one another for the top spots in the best colleges.  It’s become common knowledge that having a college education is necessary to compete in the job market.  So why are we making it so hard for students to succeed?

Here is where I come in.  You don’t need to sell your soul to get into the “best” college, when you can get into the “best fit” college for you.    This is my expertise:  matching you with the college campus where you will place where you will grow academically and develop socially.   Don’t worry – just do your best, have some fun, and you’ll land on your feet at the best college for you.

Jan 7 2012

Breaking News for Cal Grant Recipients

Ugh…bad news for eligible California College Students about California Grant Aid for college.

Major cuts in Cal Grant Programs proposed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2012-12 State Budget.

  • Maximum Cal Grant in proprietary colleges reduced to $4000
  • Maximum Cal Grant in independent colleges reduced to equal amount paid at CSU
  • GPA for Cal Grant A raised to 3.25
  • GPA for Cal Grant B raised to 2.75
  • GPA for Transfer Entitlement raised to 2.75
  • Phase out loan assumption for teachers and nurses
  • Default rate for program reduction/elimination = 25% (not the 30% as previously proposed)
  • Eliminate Transfer Entitlement eligibility for students who take a gap (this action, to comply with the law, was scheduled for 2012-13 implementation)

For more information and analysis, we recommend you monitor www.dof.ca.gov and www.lao.ca.gov

Dec 29 2011

File your FAFSA on Jan. 1, 2012

At Golden State College of Court Reporting and Captioning (GSC), a proprietary vocational college, where I serve as a Financial Aid Administrator, we are gearing up for the upcoming financial aid award year, 2012-2013.  The application window for the 12-13 Aid award year opens January 1, 2012, at the stroke of midnight!

This means that it is almost time to fill out YOUR Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  You can get ready for the January 1, 2012 registration by signing up for your PIN now.   Just go to www.fafsa.ed.gov to get started.  You’ll need all of your tax information (or your parent’s depending on your situation) ready too, so start assembling that information NOW, in advance of filling out the application.    You’ll need it all to complete the FAFSA.   For those of you continuing at GSC or other colleges or re-enrolling in higher education, you must renew your FAFSA every year.

You might be thinking, “How will that be possible? 2011 isn’t even over yet!”.  Although the application opens at midnight on January 1, 2012, you can still fill out the form online with the “estimation” of your 2011 tax situation.  However, you’ll want the most accurate picture of this estimation, so put together your tax info to get a realistic EFC  (Estimated Family Contribution) figure.  This EFC is the “magic number” you’ll come to depend on when it comes to financial aid.  Colleges use the EFC as determined by your completed FAFSA, and it is the amount of money the .  government calculates you can contribute to yours or your child’s college education.  Your “Financial Need” is the difference between the “Cost of Attendance” (COA) as stated by individual college budgets and your EFC.  The lower the EFC, the more financial aid you may be available for.

Finally,  why file so early?  Isn’t it overkill to fill out the FAFSA while you are watching the ball drop in Times Square?  Well, it has to do with the principle of “first come, first served” – most colleges allocate their grants, scholarship funds, and merit aid to those who have completed their FAFSA application first. Once the money runs out at the colleges, it’s gone for the year.  If you live in California, you’ll need to fill out your FAFSA no later than March 2, 2012 to be eligible for California State Grant funds.

Whew!  It’s a lot to consider right now…but it is just the beginning of a brand new year!

Dec 17 2011

Necessity is the mother of invention

I have a passion for helping students and families – it’s why I’ve created College Gig.  We live in a community with a college-going mentality. It is my desire to help families plan for college admission. More importantly, I want to prepare students to STAY there!    Our schools and community are a great advantage in getting kids into college, but those kids need the tools to cope with the complex transition into college life. There you have it…

Something else that I love is to dabble in software development, graphic design,  digital media, and information technology.   Sounds fancier than it is, really.  I’m self-taught, which means there is room for great improvement.  There is a lot to learn about web design and development.  I’m learning as I go since the inception of College Gig. Since I have a new consulting business, and I’m a writer at heart, I need a business blog….thus, necessity is the mother of invention…or web design on the fly!

It’s simple. It’s interactive (I hope!), and it’s a work in progress.

Dec 12 2011

Going to college is one thing. STAYING in college is another

I grew up in Alamo, CA and attended schools in the reputable San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD). I went to Monte Vista High School and I was a standout student – an overall 3.5 GPA, Student Body Vice President, Class Vice President, numerous class officer positions, school newspaper journalist, Captain of the Varsity Soccer Team for 3 years, all while working part-time, paticipating in the YMCA Youth in Govermnet program, and playing Class I soccer outside of school.  I had my choice of colleges to attend. The world was at my feet!  All of these acceptance letters surely meant that I was ready for college,…right?

Ummm…no.  My resume looked stellar, but I wasn’t prepared for the transition into this important rite of passage. My dilemma was that college life was just too much fun.  Once I fell behind in my coursework, I wasn’t prepared to get back on track.  With limited tools, I had a full social life but hung by an academic thread,  managing to graduate with a 2.3 GPA after 5 years.

We live in an exceptional community with an award-winning school district.  Much of the appeal of our area is our high-performing and academically enriched school district.

The results of a SRVUSD “post-graduation plans” survey indicated that 96% of graduating seniors in the the district-wide Class of 2011 reported planning to go to college – either 2-year or 4-year institutions.  The remaining 4% indicated military entry, work, travel plans, or other (click here for link to results) in their post graduation plans.

Our schools and community do a comprehensive job of cementing the college-bound mindset.  Our students are academically challenged and enriched. College applications are generally packed with solid GPA’s and acceleration classes.  Students are offered a multitude of options to “standout”.  Honors, advanced-level, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses provide opportunities for students to pursue rigorous and challenging studies.  On-campus extracurricular options ranging from co-curricular activities to cultural/environmental awareness clubs offer social development to balance strenuous academics. Many families have the resources for additional options that boost college entrance resumes like personal tutoring, PSAT/SAT/ACT prep seminars, and off-campus extracurricular activities.  All of these things are helpful in preparing your child to plan to go, and get accepted in, to college.  In fact, all of these things, in moderation, are strongly recommended for the college-bound mentality!

There is a very real dropout dilemma.  One in four college freshmen are dropping out of college.  Why is this happening if our students are so highly prepared to go to college? Are our students truly prepared to STAY in college once they are accepted?  Are we offering enough transitional support once we send them out of the nest?Some students drop out because of trouble paying the cost — the average college debt upon graduation is a whopping $24,000. Others struggle with the far more demanding college courseload and balancing the socialzation with academics. Most students are on their own for the first time and are trying to navigate a major life transition alone.   Sometimes the pressure is just too much and students miss the security of home.

I can help. I believe the transition into college is an equally important focus as  the academic rigor and SAT/ACT scores required to get admitted in the first place! Not only can I help you get in, but I am passionate about equipping you to stay in college!


Dec 8 2011

3…2…1…Launch! Coming January 4, 2012

The College Gig shingle will hang on 1/4/12. Enjoy the Christmas season.