More Worried than Sad about Your Student Transitioning to College?

I know the drill. Your son or daughter is getting ready to head off to college. You’ve been watching the stories posted on social media reminiscing about how fast the time has flown by. You’ve heard the other parents that have young adults getting ready to transition to college talk at length about how much they will miss their son or daughter. You want to relate, but instead the feeling you have is dread. Dread that your child won’t “make it”. Dread that they won’t get up and go to class without you there to provide the needed back up to their siren-like alarm clock. You’ve begun to wonder how they will get their work done without you there to remind them that they said they were going to begin their homework hours ago. There simply isn’t emotional space left to worry about missing them. Raising a child to be college ready is a struggle for most parents, but this becomes even more challenging when the student has a learning challenge, such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or any Specific Learning Disability.

With only a few weeks left until most colleges kick off freshman orientation, there is time left to help prepare your student for a successful year. Getting ready to transition to college successfully with a learning difference takes a little extra work. In addition to the typical back to school dorm shopping, there are a few extra steps that could make a real difference. First, if your student hasn’t yet registered with student disability services, now is the time. Have your student set up a meeting with disability services before the school year begins. Appointments will be tough to arrange once the year begins. If your student is open to it, go with them. Get a full understanding of the available help. Be there while your student completes disclosure forms to gain assistance. Be aware, your student may need an updated diagnostic evaluation in order to get the kind of accommodations (e.g. extended time on tests, note takers, audio books, livescribe pen, etc) they were receiving in high school. Be sure to call your student’s college to find out what they will need in order to get help.

Encourage your college student to treat the first week like a scavenger hunt. They should be translating all of their syllabi into a calendar system and visiting professors in office hours (to learn the location of the office, provide any evidence of accommodations they receive and just say “hi”). It’s a really good idea for a student with any kind of executive function challenges to create their own spreadsheets or tracking systems for their grades for each class. Before they head off to school, help them check to see what mandatory supplies they will need for their classes. If possible, I recommend that they have their books ahead of the beginning of a given semester.

In addition, I have been surprised in the past how many college freshmen don’t realize that they CAN drop classes. Have a conversation with your student before they head off to college about the drop/add policies at their school. Have them add these important dates to their calendars. Many students with executive function challenges have learned to “suck it up” and deal with courses that are not a good match for them. They essentially get really good digging themselves into holes. This strategy is not going to serve them well in college. Knowing their class standing ahead of a drop date could save their GPA and also important scholarship money.

Finally, be prepared for college to take an extra semester or two for your student with learning differences. Consider a lighter load first semester (e.g. 4 classes instead of 5), and be sure they have a couple of high interest classes in the beginning as well. They are more likely to be successful if they have a more manageable load. Keep in mind, they will be dealing with a great deal of changes and new possible distractions to manage. A few intentional steps can make this transition to college a more successful experience for you all.

Benefits of Strong Relationships Between Parents, Students and Teachers

Strong relationships between parents, students and teachers benefit the entire community.

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How much Internet is too much Internet for teens?

The Internet is an amazing resource allowing adults and teens to access high quality educational resources, positive family friendly entertainment and organizational resources. However, it is not without its dangers. When raising teens, the Internet is just one more place that is important to monitor.  Teens and adults alike spend hours on the Internet every day for work, school and staying connected. When that use becomes excessive, it can reach an addictive level. How can you know if your teen’s Internet use has reached an unhealthy level?

  1. Is your teen addicted to the Internet? Here are some symptoms to watch out for:

*Staying online longer than originally agreed upon

*Staying up late into the night or even all night to be on the Internet

*Sacrificing homework or other obligations in lieu of time on the Internet

*Moodiness, irritability when offline for a couple of days

*Loss of interest in other activities that used to bring joy

*Lying about time on the Internet

If your teen exhibits most of these characteristics and you feel that their Internet usage is causing or linked to isolation, depression, decreased responsibility, disturbed sleep patterns or other changes in behavior, make a call to your teen’s doctor for more information.

  1. Be an Internet mentor for your teen:

Many of the dysfunctional habits regarding Internet use are being modeled by adults. As a family, choose to have “technology-free” meal time, for example. Also, rather than using social media or the Internet in isolation, require open areas of the home for Internet use. Phones, tablets, and other devices (gaming consoles, etc) that can connect to the should be docked and used in public spaces in the home. Keep in mind that teens whose parents try to “limit” their use rather than mentor positive use seem to have more difficulty using the Internet appropriately.

  1. Encourage healthy exercise habits:

Because of the high quantity of time individuals spend on the Internet, obesity is becoming more of a problem. Healthy outlets for exercise should be encouraged. Encourage your teen to join a recreation sports league, sign up as a family for a 5K walk or run, or simply go shoot some hoops with some neighborhood friends. Unfortunately, a lot of young people who become addicted to the internet have isolated themselves from friend groups or were already feeling isolated. Understanding your teen’s social situation could provide some much-needed clues regarding their Internet use. Exercise is a great help on many fronts: it provides an opportunity for physical well-being and mental well-being. It might also help with the sleep problems that often develop for those who are addicted to the Internet.

  1. Encourage healthy relationships:

While social media provides a great medium to begin a relationship, it isn’t such a great place to deepen friendships or other types of relationships. One way parents can model healthy relationships and boundaries on the Internet is to seek permission from their children before posting pictures and content about their child. In other words, they may be your child and you want to share, but your teenager still should have some right to boundaries concerning the content you post about them on the Internet. In addition to asking for permission before posting pictures and accomplishments of your child to the Internet, it is wise to help encourage healthy face-to-face interactions as well. It is important for all of us to have time together in order to develop meaningful relationships.

  1. What to do if you feel your teen’s Internet use has reached an unhealthy level?

If after you read this article, you have serious concerns that your teen’s Internet use is out of control, a trip to the doctor or counselor is a good idea. These professionals should be able to help you better understand the full picture of your teen’s health.

Smooth Sailing: Planning for College Admissions and Affordability

What do colleges and universities look for during the admissions process? How can a student stand out in the admissions process and increase affordability at the same time? Join college planning professional Robyn Spoon April 17th at the Bartholomew County Library Red Room at 6:30 pm to learn more about helping your student prepare to be a great applicant, find the right fit and make it affordable. As always, plenty of time for Q and A!

College Admissions Help for High School Juniors

The class of 2017 is heading towards graduation and most of my students have a pretty good idea where they will be headed next year. It is amazing to me that another year has passed.  The past few months new juniors, the Class of 2018, has been flowing into my office to begin work to figure out what they might want to major in and where they might want to go to school. Spring of junior year is the time to begin getting serious about the college process. In just a few short months, juniors will become seniors and need to have a college list ready to go.  If you are like any other parent of a junior, your mail box looks like the picture on this post—loaded with college flyers and invitations to attend special events.  Each spring, I bring up to 25 students into my practice to guide through this process. I still have a few open spots for my class of 2018!

Getting a head start on college applications

Over the next few weeks, school will let out for students all across the US.  It is an exciting time filled with the anticipation of long summer days, pool parties, amusement parks and sleeping in, but somewhere in all of that relaxation is the reality that college applications are just around the corner.  Senior year is a fun year, but is jam-packed for most students with increased responsibilities in the classroom and in their extra curricular leadership roles.  Summer is a great time to spread out the work that needs to be completed for college applications in the fall.

So, what can be done this summer?

  • By August a strong vetted list of schools should be ready to go. While college visits in the summer can be a little flat with campuses on the sluggish side, if you haven’t had a chance to get many visits done then use this opportunity to do so.  Just be sure to go in knowing that the energy on the campuses will be different than during the school year.
  • Essays, essays, essays!  The essays included in applications can be the most important part of your application!  The admissions counselors repeatedly share with me the importance of this part of the process—these essays should be written over a week or more rather than pumped out at the last minute.  The essays are an important opportunity for a student to consider what is important to them and what they want admissions counselors to know about them that is not otherwise found in their application. I regularly see students learn more about themselves during this process if it is done thoughtfully.  If your list of colleges is long and/or includes some highly selective schools be prepared to write a lot of essays!  Getting through a few of these during the summer can greatly reduce stress in the fall.
  • Resume!  Some applications allow a student to include a resume.  Having a resume ready to go when the student requests letters of recommendation is also very helpful.  A high school resume does NOT have the same requirements as a professional resume.  Colleges like to see how much time a student committed to each activity, leadership roles held and the way their interests took shape in their involvement.
  • Build a resume of activities! So, you created a resume and then realized it was a bit empty.  Now what?  You have an entire summer ahead of you to volunteer, build leadership, create a project, create a portfolio and more!  Don’t waste this summer-it is NOT too late!
  • A list of application requirements should be created during this time!  I use the last few weeks of July each year to create the deadline checklist for each of my students.  Take into consideration which application period you want to make application during (Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, Early Decision, Early Decision 2, Regular Decision).  Know and understand what each of these mean to your application process and/or scholarship opportunities.  The period you apply during also impacts when your decision is shared with you.
  • Not sure what you want to study?  This is a great time to consider your options!  Career assessments, such as the MBTI and Strong Interest Inventory can be a great starting point. Beyond assessments, job shadows and interviews with professors on campuses can help out a lot as well.  The good news is that you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do, but it is helpful to have some direction!
  • Get ahead on outside scholarship applications.  There are many scholarship search sites to help you with this.  Creating a system for making these applications and working ahead can make a big difference in your choices next spring.  I have many students who wish they had started those applications earlier so they knew if they were going to have these funds to help pay for their schooling-outside scholarships can open up choices you wouldn’t otherwise have due to the high cost of college.

I hope this list helps provide some ideas to get your summer off to a great start!  Complete a contact form if you would like more information about working with me to make this process effective and less stressful!


Have you heard about the new SAT? FREE Library Event in Columbus!

There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT.  The College Board has done a complete remodel of the SAT, some colleges are going “test-optional”, some schools accept something called “score choice” and more.  There is always a huge discussion about whether or not these tests should even be used. The fact is that most colleges and universities still require these tests for admissions and most of them use these scores to determine scholarship levels.

Join me at the Bartholomew County Public Library in the Red Room on May 11, 2015 from 6:30-7:30 to learn more about these tests and how students can best be prepared to take them.  I’ll be sharing timeline information about the release of these tests, how they will impact the National Merit Scholarship program and more.  Plenty of time for Q and A to follow the event!

Applying to Highly Selective Colleges-No “Hail Mary’s”-PLEASE

On November 13, 2014 from 7-8 pm I will be sharing information at the Bartholomew County Public Library on the admissions process for highly selective colleges and universities.  We will be talking about how a school might be defined as highly selective, important benchmarks and tests a student should be meeting/taking in order to keep highly selective schools an option for them and more.  Over the years, I’ve heard students say things  like “I thought I’d apply to MIT” or “I threw in an application to Stanford to see what would happen”.  If a student is truly interested in keeping a highly selective school as an option, a last minute “Hail Mary” is not a great idea.  There is a reason why “Hail Mary’s” make the news-they rarely work.  They are like little miracles in highly competitive sports. They are born in moments of desperation at the very end of a game in the hopes of a near-miracle.  While amazing to watch, I’m pretty sure most coaches don’t want to be in the position to need to succumb to the last minute play of desperation. The film that doesn’t make the news comes from guys and girls who work hard every week and slowly trudge along to do what is necessary to become great in their sport. Applying to a highly selective school is kind of like that-it is the work that happens each and every year that slowly builds to make a great case for admission that most often gets results.  Join me as we talk about how decisions are made in highly selective schools and other options for high achieving students.

Library Program Regristation

“Must-dos” for high school juniors!

So, for the past month or so I’ve been buried in the senior application schedule along with many of the students I work with.  Now that I have a few moments to reflect on the process, I’m filled with suggestions for JUNIORS.  I know it seems like a long way off and most juniors avoid college planning, but I beg you to consider doing a few things now to make your life easier next fall.

Keep in mind college applications are often due beginning in November to meet scholarship deadlines. Sounds like a really long way off, doesn’t it?  It won’t feel like a lot of time when you suddenly realize that in order to meet that deadline you will need to have at least one, but most likely more than one, essay done.  You will also need to have made arrangements with teachers for letters of recommendation.  Depending on your guidance office, you may need to provide them with a 2-3 week window to process your application and submit transcripts, SSR (Secondary School Report) and more.  Students I am working with have either already applied to one or more colleges or will be in the next week or two.

What is involved in applying to a college or university?  It depends on the school, but here are the most commonly requested items:

*Official high school transcripts

*Official test scores sent directly to the school from College Board or the ACT (Some schools require SAT Subject Tests)

*Common Application Essay

*Why “X University?” Essay

*1 or 2 letters of recommendation from core teachers (math, english, social studies, etc)

*Application completed along with a list of activities/awards or a resume

Before you can get the applications done, you need to know where you plan to apply!  Your junior year is the time to figure that out.  Attend college fairs, college visits from admissions counselors, read that stack of mail you’ve received, talk to your teachers, make some visits!  By the fall of your senior year, your list should be pretty complete.  By making your college list during your junior year, you will better understand the requirements of the schools on your list and have time to complete any outstanding requirements.  One of the most stressful decisions I have seen students have to make is whether they will sit for a college entrance exam to improve their scores or to fulfill a missing requirement OR attend a high stakes athletic competition during their fall sport.  Don’t put yourself in that position.  By making a list your junior year and understanding the application requirements for each of those schools during your junior year can prevent this kind of stress.

This is supposed to be a “must-do” list for juniors, so here goes:

*Your grades are critically important this year-keep them up!

*Visit colleges and compile a list you plan to apply to.

*Get help to determine an appropriate pathway for a major or concentration in college.  (It’s hard to pick a college if you have no idea what you want to study).

*Take all the tests you need for the colleges you are interested in and make sure your scores meet the requirements.

*Continue to build a resume that includes some opportunities for leadership.

*Remember- your junior year teachers are typically the ones you will ask for recommendations from-treat them well and develop good relationships with these teachers!

*Don’t wait until your senior year to get help with this process-call me now and I can develop a custom plan for you.

Do college essays really matter?

I had a student recently ask me if the essay was actually important.  YES!   Generally, admissions counselors only have a handful of minutes to review your application.  Many, but not all, colleges first review a weighted combination of your grades, rigor and test scores.  If you meet that mark, then they begin to look at other items; the essay, or personal statement, extra curricular involvement, demonstrated interest in the college itself, SAT subject tests, teacher recommendations and more.  Out of all the elements of the application, the one element that allows the admissions counselor to get to know you the best is your essay.  So, does the essay really matter?  You better believe it does.  NACAC (National Association of College Admissions Counselors) states that over 62% of colleges place moderate or considerable importance to the essay. I recently had someone in admissions at a big state school admit that the essay becomes very important when it comes time for the scholarship disbursements  and honors college admissions, but less important for general admissions.  In the end, it depends on your goals.

How can you make your essay stand out?  Don’t wait until the last minute to write your essay. The college essay is most often a personal statement outlining the things most important to you told through a story.  Don’t overthink the essay, but instead make sure you tell them what you want them to know about you.  Use your own voice and tell your own story.  Not every student has a dramatic life story to tell.  That is ok.  A college admissions counselor told me at the IECA (Independent Education Consultant’s Association)conference in May that students sometimes worry when they don’t have a dramatic story to tell.  She said that although those stories can be powerful, her favorite stories are often about every day life.  Because it is important for the story to be told using your own voice, be careful letting someone overly edit your story to include words or phrases you wouldn’t use. Admissions counselors want to hear your voice; the voice of a senior in high school applying for college.

I love watching a student work their way through the application essay.  Students get to know themselves better when they take the time to embrace the writing process.  Feeling stuck on your college essays?  Send me a note and I’ll break the process down into manageable pieces.