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About Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer has been a member since April 8th 2011, and has created 972 posts from scratch.

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Watch for Pre-College Anxiety This Summer

 

pre-college anxiety

High school graduation is here and parents are proudly snapping photos, bragging about which college their student will attend, and basking in the fact that they raised a successful high school graduate. Then comes the summer before college . . .

Right now, your student is probably looking forward to “gelling” during the summer: spending time with friends free from the worries and stresses of the past year. Some students will be looking forward with anticipation to the fall and becoming a college student. But others might be experiencing noticeable pre-college anxiety about this next big step.

It happened in my house. My daughter dreamed of going to college in Boston. She worked hard during high school and her dream became a reality. The campus was gorgeous, the academics were superb, and the student body was a perfect fit for her. The icing on the cake was the many Greek organizations on campus. Her grandmother was a Zeta and she always dreamed of following in her footsteps in college.

But as the summer dragged on, I began to notice measurable hesitancy on her part. She didn’t want to discuss the topic of college. She started voicing thoughts of transferring after the first semester to a college in her home state. She didn’t want to start discussing dorm specifics or communicate with her future roommate. What was happening?

If you start seeing any red flags like these, you should ask yourself, “What’s really going on?” Is it simply nervousness related to the change? Is there another person or persons influencing her sudden change in mood or direction? Is she truly changing her mind about college and you need to discuss other options with her?

Once you diagnose the problem, it should be easier to determine what action you need to take.

I’ve outlined the six red flags in this article I wrote for Teen Life Magazine: Watch for These 6 Red Flags the Summer Before College. If your student is exhibiting any of these symptoms, take action. Don’t assume they will pass. Start a non-judgmental conversation and listen to what he is feeling.

My daughter and I were able to find the cause of her problem and I was able to ease her concerns. Just because the decision was made in May to go to college, keep an eye out during the summer before college for any signs of pre-college anxiety.

Dear Middle School Student . . .

middle school student

It’s time for a serious talk. As a middle school student, you might think that college is far away in the distance and you will think about it when you’re in high school. But nothing could be further from the truth. In middle school you’re on the launching pad–preparing for takeoff. If you are serious about college-and a national survey says 92% of middle schoolers are—there’s no time like the present to get in the college mindset.

With this in mind, ask yourself these questions:

What are my goals?

How do your interests translate into a college and career plan? Do you have any career aspirations at this point or are you still keeping your options open? Even though you might not know yet, you can begin to formulate a plan to find out. Volunteer or shadow someone with a career that interests you. If you have hobbies, how will that translate into a career goal or college major? While in middle school, set your sights on the future and set some easily attainable goals.

Am I serious about my grades?

Academic success is a crucial factor in a college application. While colleges don’t look at middle school grades, good grades allow you to sign up for advanced courses in high school. If you aren’t serious in middle school, it’s going to be hard to change that pattern in high school. Commit to excellence in every class. This commitment will pay off when you enter high school and start applying to college.

Do I have a good study plan?

You need good time management and study skills to succeed in high school and college. Middle school is the perfect environment to focus on good study habits. Set up a study space, agree on a study schedule, and gather the necessary study materials before school begins. When school starts, get help if needed and communicate with your parents if you are struggling so they can make arrangements for a tutor. Don’t wait until you are drowning to ask for help.

Am I taking the right courses to prepare for college?

The courses you take in middle school will prepare you for high school. Take math and science courses that prepare you for advanced courses in high school. In addition, take English every year, as many history classes as possible, any computer courses that are offered, and foreign language electives. If you are interested in music, sports, or art, middle school is the time to explore those interests. In order to take the advanced courses in high school that colleges require, prepare for those in middle school.

Am I organized or is my room a disaster area?

The floor in your room is not a filing cabinet or a landing zone. Start now by developing good organizational habits. There will be scholarship applications, college information, standardized test information, school calendars, and more. Practicing good habits in middle school will prepare you for all the information you will receive in high school.

Am I reading?

Everyone reads, but is reading a priority? Reading is the best preparation for standardized testing and high school reading assignments. Reading also improves vocabulary and writing skills. Get your family involved by reading the same book and having a discussion or adding vocabulary words to the family dinner discussion. Summer is the best time to dive in to a summer reading program.

Am I involved in extracurricular activities?

Middle school is the perfect time to start exploring extracurriculars. Once you find one that interests you, you can carry it on into high school. Colleges look for consistency in this area and if you find your interest in middle school, you can begin your high school years focused and committed to that one activity.

How do I plan to pay for college?

Paying for college shouldn’t be your parents’ sole responsibility. There’s no time like the present to start applying for scholarships. There are scholarships for all ages and if you get a head start now, that free money will add up. Start asking for money for gifts and special occasions and add it to a 529 savings plan that your parents can set up for you. You don’t have to be legal age to work. Spend summers babysitting, mowing lawns, pet sitting and any other job that young teenagers can do. Add that to your savings account.

Research shows that students who are financially invested in the cost of their degree are more successful in college. Don’t rely solely on your parents to pay—make it your goal to contribute.

Have I visited any colleges?

It’s never too early to visit colleges. You don’t have to be a prospective student to visit. Plan some nearby college visits. It can be a family affair; even a mini-vacation. Early college visits will help you get accustomed to the college environment and a feel for what college life is like.

Are my friends motivated toward this same goal?

Friends are a huge factor in college aspirations. Consequently, start now by choosing those friends who are committed to academics and focused on future goals. When you and your friends are like-minded, you can encourage one another and motivate each other toward success. The wrong friends can certainly have a negative effect on your middle school experience.

It’s hard to look ahead four years and imagine graduating from high school. But, take it from a parent of two college graduates, the time will fly by. You can enter your senior year prepared and confident that you have planned for that inevitable day or you can be one of those students who starts panicking before graduation, knowing he has no plan or goal for the future. It’s entirely up to you.

Plan for the future but enjoy the journey!

Get Ready for College: It’s Going to be a Bumpy Ride!

 

ready for college

Your child going away to college is likely to bring a mixture of emotions. You might be proud, upset and overwhelmed all at one time. So, you need to make sure you prepare and plan to help them (and yourself) through it. Here are some tips that might help you get ready for college:

Accommodations

One of the key things you need to think about when it comes to college life is accommodations. Where will your student live while attending college? Will he live in the dorm? Will he live off campus? Will he live at home and commute? You should sit down and discuss his options. Once you decide, act quickly. On campus housing goes quickly, so be prepared to sign up as soon as your student accepts an offer of admission. If your student is living off campus, investigate options early. Housing off campus also fills up quickly.

Finances

Paying for college and tuition fees will be a huge expense. If you want your child to go to a good school, it’s going to cost you. Many parents like to start saving when they’re children are born, and will set up a college fund. But, you also need to be aware of the fact that this might not always be possible. In some scenarios, you’re not going to have the money saved, and this is when you need financial support. This is where things like AES loans come in handy. Make sure you assess everything as a family and decide on the best loan for your child’s education and future.

Nerves

Everyone is going to have nerves in this sort of scenario. You may be nervous about what the future holds for your child. But, think about how nervous they are going to be as they’ll actually be going through it! It’s important to try to remain calm and to be there to offer advice. Your child is going to have questions for you, and will look to you for support. It’s up to you to calm their nerves (and your own) by offering advice and support. Being nervous is natural with any big life change, and this is something you need to make sure you address.

Make Sure They’re Happy

It’s important to make sure your child is happy with this upcoming chapter in their life. You need to make sure that college is something they want to do. It’s crucial that they’re in the best possible frame of mind, so you need to keep an eye out for any pre-college anxiety. Going away to college is a big step in life and something they need to adapt to. And the only way of ensuring that is to make sure they are perfectly placed to enjoy everything college life offers.

When your child is going off to college, there are going to be a lot of things to address. And, as the parent, you should take responsibility for many of them. You have to make sure that you help your child choose the right college and major. And you need to make sure you address issues of finances and accommodations. If you can focus on these, your child’s transition to college should be smooth.

Get a Great Letter of Recommendation

 

letter of recommendation

Most scholarship applications require a letter of recommendation, some will require as many as three. The individuals you will ask to write these letters are called references.

Getting a great letter of recommendation takes a little planning on your part.

Here are 8 tips to keep in mind:

1. Start thinking early about who could write you a good letter of recommendation. Common examples include teachers, your principal, school counselors, employers, community members, church leaders, etc.… Anyone can do this, as long as they are NOT related to you.

Did you know? Teachers are the most common required authors of recommendation letters. It is important to build relationships with your teachers early to ensure that they will be willing and able to write you a good letter of recommendation.

2. Some people will serve as better references for certain scholarships. If you are applying for a community service focused scholarship, it would benefit you to get letters of recommendation from individuals who have interacted with you in this capacity. However, if you are applying for a math scholarship, you will want to ask people who can attest to your mathematical abilities.

3. If you are given a copy of a recommendation letter, make copies and save a digital version. These saved letters can be used in situations that do not require the recommendation to come directly from the author. But keep in mind that original, signed letters may carry more weight than electronic or copied letters.

4. Come up with a diverse list of potential references, e.g. not all teachers.

5. Provide your recommender with your resume. Even though you should be choosing people who know you well, it is helpful to remind them of your activities and accomplishments. This will make it easy for them to talk about your skills and involvement specifically, ensuring a more personal letter. You should also tell them what the recommendation is for, so they can highlight the reasons why you should be chosen.

6. If there are special requirements for the letter, these will be provided to you. Make sure you read them carefully. For example, some committees require:

  • A survey to be filled out by your recommender and accompanied by the letter
  • The letter to be printed on official letterhead
  • The letter be sealed and signed across the seal
  • The letter to be mailed directly from the author

7. It is a nice gesture to provide your recommender with all the materials they will need to deliver your recommendation. If the author needs to mail the letter directly to the scholarship committee, make sure you provide a stamp and envelop, unless it must be sent in an official envelop. Once again, read all the directions.

8. Send a thank you to everyone who gave you a recommendation. Send another thank you if you receive the scholarship, mentioning your appreciation for their role in you receiving the award.

Quick Tips:

  • Start early building relationships with individuals you may use as references.
  • Come up with a list of potential references.
  • Choose people who know you well. Most applications will ask you how long you have known the individual.
  • Make sure your references are good writers and that they are comfortable writing letters of recommendation.
  • Ask early for letters of recommendation, not only is this courteous, it also ensures that they will have plenty of time to complete the letter before the deadline.
  • Don’t expect to be able to read the recommendation for your approval, so choose your references wisely because many letters must be sealed.
  • Follow the specific requirements given on each application.
  • Provide your reference with your resume and any other information and materials they might need.
  • Thank your references, and send another thank you if you receive the award.

______________________________

Today’s guest blog post is contributed by ScholarPrep! The organization brings students, parents, and counselors together to prepare for the college and scholarship application process. The ScholarPrep Organizer saves time and money by encouraging students to start planning for their future now, helping them to set goals, organize information, and track their progress.

Teaching Basic Skills to Prepare for College

 

basic skills

Many people are under the impression that college is the place where teens generate their life skills. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. College is the place where they will face their greatest test. Here they’ll be exposed to alcohol and drugs. And here, they’ll have to organize their own time in the way that they see fit. They need basic skills to prepare for college.

The way that they respond to that new environment is a function of everything that has come before. It’s all the preparation that goes on in their teen years that will determine whether college is a success or not. That’s why it’s so important to start building their life skills early on. Otherwise, they’ll do what so many college dropouts do: arrive at college and practice risky behavior. And then wonder why they didn’t pass any of their midterm exams.

Study Skills

The whole point of going to college is to study. It’s at college where we are supposed to build up our skills and become valuable to employers. But, as discussed, many young people squander the opportunity. Often it’s because they’ve been pushed into doing degrees they don’t want to do. But most of the time it just comes down to the fact that they still feel as if education is something being done to them. Now’s their chance to rebel, and they take it.

As parents, it’s important not to force education on children. It should be something that arises out of their natural interest in the world around them. Yes, there will be times when they are growing up when they won’t want to study. But the aim should be to make study something to be enjoyed, not forced.

A Sense Of Community

 

Too many young people these days are focused on themselves. And, given the pressure to do well in education, can you blame them? One of the consequences of this is that they are not focused on the world or the community around them. At college, this means that teens make it harder to make friends and establish satisfying relationships. That’s why teen mission trips can be so useful. Here teens learn about concepts of justice and fairness. And they get to interact with other people in their community and do their bit for the environment.

Cooking

Teens are used to having food prepared for them. And that’s all well and good – until, of course, they go to college. Once they get there, their inability to cook really begins to show. And this then means that they end up spending money on takeaways and putting on weight.

Cooking is an essential life skill. It’s something we all need to master if we’re going to lead longer and healthier lives. And it’s something that’s crucial for young people when they get to college. Food is an important part of our culture. And so students who can cook are often at the centre of student social life.

Being able to cook your own food at college can also be a great comfort. You get to eat homemade meals away from home with the added bonus of saving money.

Helping Students to Actively Participate at College

 

college

The college experience is – mostly – about learning. But when you look at the graduates that excel in their careers, they have something else in common other than good grades. The vast majority were active participants at their colleges. They got involved in many areas, made connections, and it gave them a more solid foundation to embrace life’s challenges.

The big question is, how can you teach your child to embrace college life in the same manner? Given that participating more can have such a positive effect, it’s something every parent should consider. The good news is that you can ready your children from an early age, and we’re going to reveal some excellent ideas for you right now. Let’s get started!

Extracurricular activities

Giving your child a great school education is vital, of course. But, you should also get them involved with extracurricular activities – as many as possible. It could be sports, or music, or drama – or a combination of each of them. There are many benefits. They will develop their confidence, learn how to be a team player, and there’s a positive social impact, too. Plus, it will get them used to learning new skills outside of the classroom environment. When it comes to college, they will be ready to involve themselves in all kinds of groups, from political debating to deep sea diving. It’s all there for them to experience – you just have to give them the confidence to branch out. 

Fundraising and community work

Most parents get involved with fundraising and community events for their children’s school. However, it’s a necessity, of course. Parent volunteers raise money for all kinds of things, from contributing to school trip costs to paying for new classroom desks. But, why not give your kids the opportunity to get involved, too? Colleges, just like schools, are communities. And preparing your kids to be involved with the school community will give them the experience they need to do the same at college. It readies them for participation and helps them understand the benefits of being a key player.

Communication

Not all kids are natural communicators. The trouble is that if your children can’t communicate or ask questions in class, they won’t get the most out of their education. It’s nothing to do with being shy, or introverted – although, clearly, this will have an impact of sorts. It’s more about teaching your children the value of asking questions, and helping them be more confident to speak out. So, try giving your child lessons in one of the performing arts – music or drama, for example. Even dancing can help kids overcome shyness. As a result, it will help them feel good about speaking up in class, and will put them on the road to becoming an active classroom participant.  

There you have it – three strategies you can use to encourage more participation at college. Embracing college life has so many benefits for your kids, and it is essential that you can give them the skills they need. As you can see, it doesn’t take all that much to give them that helping hand!