Dr. Gena Khodos, North Shore College Consulting Essay Coach
When I was applying to college, the University of Michigan was my top choice. I submitted application for early action and pledged to the university that it was my number one choice.
A few months later a very thin envelope arrived from Ann Arbor: a rejection. It was the first university I heard back from and it was, by far, the most painful. I remember bursting into tears the second I spotted the envelope, knowing that had I been accepted, a large welcome packet would have been welcoming me to become a Wolverine. I tore open the skimpy mailing, read the letter of regret, and went running to my parents for comfort.
So many questions ran through my head: how come they didn’t like me? What did I do wrong? Did I make a mistake on my application? Was I simply not good enough?
Months later I got a full ride to the University of Iowa and decided to go there instead. And I had a blast: I double majored in English and finance, joined a sorority, worked at a local bar, played IM soccer, and had an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
All of these memories came rushing back when I recently comforted a student who was rejected from the University of Illinois. She was absolutely despondent and couldn’t figure out what had happened. She seemed to meet all the criteria. Illinois was her dream, and she was sure that no other school would be as good a fit.
While disappointment of any kind can be hard, getting rejected from your top, or one of your top, college choices can be particularly sharp. But there are ways to handle it and move forward.Read more
The term “gap year” may bring up certain emotions of confusion, concern or uncertainty. For some, the term “gap year” can provoke an image of an 18 year old lounging on the beach, running around a foreign country, or simply wasting their time and their parents money. However, the gap year gets a bad reputation without students and their parents truly understanding the meaning of a much needed mental break and how that break can be used to the student’s advantage.
First, let’s clear up the scary confusion of the elusive “gap year”. Taking a gap year does NOT mean that a student does not go to college, nor does it mean that a student will NEVER go to college. Actually it is the opposite. In reality, 99% of students go on to college after their gap year and 94% graduate in 4 years. A gap year is simply an alternative way for a student to transition to college, while learning valuable life skills and lessons that they were unable to learn in high school or in the classroom. Students still go through the entire college application process, the only difference is that the student will then ask the college to defer their acceptance until the following year. This extra time to transition gives students a space to mature, heal and a year of recovery after pushing their brain to the limit. We understand the idea of delaying college may seem scary or daunting, but if the gap year is used appropriately, the benefits could put anyone at ease.
The gap year is completely designed around the student and their strengths. How they spend their time does not need to be limited to one specific year-long experience. The gap year can actually be multiple experiences at the same time or some that are done consecutively that have nothing to do with one another. Some examples include work and internships, travel and adventure, service and volunteer, wildlife, language and culture, and the list goes on and on. Students have the option to choose from a variety of programs and experiences, they just need to plan accordingly, do their research and compare their options. This is not “time off”; this is time to learn skills outside of the classroom setting.
The number one reason a student drops out of college is because of lack of non-academic skills. Students are constantly running on a “wheel” of academics and extracurriculars that they become so programmed and conditioned they do not know how to make their own choices. The gap year is meant to correct this problem and some colleges even recommend it! UNC, Tufts, Brown, Dartmouth and Princeton are just a few of the schools who encourage their students to delay their acceptances. Fred A. Hargadon, former Dean of Admissions at Princeton University, said that he encouraged students to take gap years because “one’s college education is greatly enhanced by the maturity, experience, and perspective a student can bring post gap year.” Employers also have been known to endorse a gap year and may even prefer students who took a gap year because the students have learned how to be self-sufficient and have had unique opportunities to learn about themselves. Employers have found these personal skills to be beneficial in the workplace.
Aren’t gap years expensive? Will my child feel left behind and not get the “true college experience” if they start a year later? These are the biggest questions that most parents fear when considering a gap year for their child and also the biggest myths. In reality, there are gap year programs that can fit any budget. For the programs that are more pricey, students can find opportunities to work to earn money for their program. This is another benefit for the student because it gives them a stake in the game and another growing experience where students can learn value of the dollar and responsibility. In terms of being left behind and not having a true “college experience”, students actually have reported the opposite to be true. Being a year older gives gap year students the opportunity to learn tips from their friends who were just freshmen and instead of feeling behind they actually feel ahead because of their new sense of maturity and life skills.
Overall, the gap year is not for every student, but it is a great option and should be considered in a new light for the student who may not be sure if they want to dive head first into the collegiate atmosphere right after high school.
It's hard to believe but 2019 is here which means your children are one year closer to going off to college. As exciting as this might be, it is also bittersweet and for many, foreboding. As we start 2019, we wanted to share some of our favorite New Year’s Resolutions which we hope will reduce the angst and keep your homelife calm and stress-free (or at least, as stress-free as possible considering you're raising teenagers). Read more
By Gena Khodos, North Shore College Consulting Essay Coach
As worried as you were about your child getting into college, we know you are equally as worried about his success once he actually gets there. This worry is not without merit: college will be a new challenge and you want to make sure that your child has all the tools he needs to ensure academic achievement. There are numerous things that can be done to prepare students for entering a post-secondary institution, but luckily one of the most helpful ones is also the easiest: expansive reading. This is because your propensity for “deep reading,” may be one of the strongest indicators of post high school success.
The number of studies highlighting the benefits of reading is innumerable. Work by Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown illustrated that reading for pleasure produces important benefits across a variety of academic disciplines (including math) and that “reading is actually linked to increased cognitive progress over time.” French sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron found that the influence of language skills developed through reading, conversation, and family life “never ceases to be felt” across an individual’s life span. And the benefits go much deeper than vocabulary: “Language is not simply an instrument of communication: it also provides, together with a richer or poorer vocabulary, a more or less complex system of categories, so that the capacity to decipher and manipulate complex structures, whether logical or aesthetic,” depends partly on the complexity of the language a student possesses.
All that can be boiled down into a very simple piece of advice: if kids want to be well prepared for college, they need to read more books! Voracious readers are better writers, better thinkers, and better communicators. Additionally, your son or daughter will be hard pressed to find a college professor who will expect anything less than careful and critical reading.
At first glance you may consider outside reading less important than your child’s other obligations, however, high level reading is crucial for the college prep process and deserving of their effort and attention.
So what am I recommending? I recommend that you start to find a way right now to incorporate reading and to make it an important part of your and their life. A great deal of research has been done on the importance of free choice in building engagement with reading, so choosing what your child is interested in is a great way for him or her to start. They can read whatever books or articles they want. But I would caution away from texts focusing on celebrity gossip or the latest fashion trends. While they are, indubitably interesting, they may not present much of a challenge or a cognitive stretch. Fiction is a great place to start. Fiction books are great because they allow us to imagine a life other than our own which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of Twitter friendly thinking, and staying within the world of a book gives us the ability to be quiet and focused. So go ahead and help your child choose a meaty novel. This kind of reading requires sustained concentration that will help them develop a number of important cognitive skills, including the capacity to focus their attention for longer periods of time and the ability to monitor and direct their reading processes (metacognition). These skills will be vitally important to them in college and beyond.
Not sure where to find the book that will be both engaging and challenging? My recommendation is to start with the award winners. Prize winning books are important because they encapsulate the pulse of American popular and literary conscience. They are also likely to pop up as required reading in class, giving your child a leg up on his classmates!
Most respected literary prizes in the world:
1. Man Booker Prize is awarded to writers of full-length novels from the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe.
4321 by Paul Auster
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Winner)
Autumn by Ali Smith
2. The Pulitzer Prize is given to those in newspaper or online journalism, literature, or music.
Imagine me Gone by Adam Haslett
The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Winner)
3. Hugo Award is given to writers of science fiction or fantasy and categories include Best Novel, Best Graphic Story and Best Fan Writer.
The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Winner)
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
4. National Book Award is one of the most prestigious US literature prizes, with four categories available - fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people's literature, as well as two lifetime awards.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Winner)
Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman
The Leavers by Lisa Ko
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
So grab your Kindle or head over to library and help your child find his next favorite book!
As parents, we can get very worried about the major our son or daughter chooses. This worry is not without merit: what major your son or daughter picks, and whether or not your child sticks with it, may impact not only his or her college experience, but also your wallet, as longer extended college experiences lead to extended tuition payments. However, there is no need to panic: if your child doesn’t know what she wants to do, she is not alone. Going in undecided is hardly an uncommon phenomenon.
Several years ago, in an issue of Black Issues In Higher Education E. St. John suggested that, “There is, perhaps, no college decision that is more thought-provoking, gut wrenching and rest-of-your-life oriented—or disoriented—than the choice of a major” (St. John, 2000, p. 22). While this may seem slightly hyperbolic, there is some truth in it: choosing a major is a choice that should be intentional and based on knowledge of one’s self, and when the wrong choice is made, the implications can be harsh. From the perspective of parents footing the bill for a four year institution the key to graduating in four years may be picking a major early and sticking with it. College and university administrators have begun implementing various types of institutional resources to assist undecided students when choosing a major, however, not all students are likely to come to college prepared to choose a major. An estimated 20 to 50 percent of students enter college as “undecided”. In fact, a new report suggests students who change their major as late as senior year are more likely to graduate from college than students who settle on one the second they set foot on campus.
The report, published by the Education Advisory Board, a research and consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., questions the suggestion that changing majors is keeping students in college past their intended graduation date and driving up their debt. Instead of looking at when students first declared a major, the EAB's study explored the connection between students' final declaration and how it affected their time to degree and graduation rates. Most students -- as many as 80 percent in some surveys -- will switch majors at one point during their time in college. According to the report, students who made a final decision as late as the fifth term they were enrolled did not see their time to graduation increase. Even one-quarter of the students who landed on a final major during senior year graduated in four years, the EAB found. Settling on a final major during the second through eighth terms of enrollment did not influence students’ graduation rates, either. Students who declared a new major during any of those terms posted a graduation rate of between 82 and 84 percent.
A better explanation of these numbers can be found by looking at the College Student Journal survey. More than 800 students who were asked to elaborate on their major decision-making process. Factors that played a role included a (1) general interest the student had in the subject he or she chose, (2) family and peer influence, and (3) assumptions about introductory courses, potential job characteristics, and characteristics of the major. While these may seem like valid reasons at first glance, the study ultimately implied that students are choosing a major based on external influence and unfounded assumption rather than a thorough understanding of their own personal goals and values.
It might be worthwhile to acknowledge that most students will not be developmentally ready to make effective decisions such as choosing a major. If choosing a major actually means choosing one’s goals, values, and interests based on intentional self-reflection and understanding of one’s self, then first-year students may simply not be ready.
Fortunately, it is not all bad news; there are practical solutions to address this inherent disconnect. The simplest is to take some summer school classes at a local community college or apply for an internship in the area of prospective interest. Both of these will immerse the student in the course work or career in which they anticipate interests and allow for an accurate assessment of actual fit. Prospective freshmen, be they ready or not to choose a major before or in the first year of school will still benefit from undergoing a structured period of self-reflection. Ultimately, a student who makes an informed decision based on personal goals and values will be more engaged in the college experience and more successful academically, personally, and professionally.