How to Audit Your Child's Extracurriculars

Before we get too far into the new school year, I encourage you to perform an extracurricular activity audit with your 8th, 9th, or 10th-grader. Sounds like a blast, right?

This will either reinforce that you're on the right path, or open your eyes to a world you never knew existed.

Extracurricular activities are a critical component in the college admissions process - especially for very or most-selective colleges (Top 75).

Admissions Screen #1

There are 3 primary factors that determine whether or not your child will pass through the first admissions screen:

  1. GPA
  2. Rigor of course work (number of AP, Honors, IB classes)
  3. SAT or ACT score

As you move up the selectivity scale, the holes in the screen get smaller and smaller.

Admissions Screen #2

Once your child gets through Admissions Screen #1, admissions officers will then review their extracurricular activities:

  • sports
  • clubs
  • theater
  • music
  • family support (child or elder care)
  • job
  • summer experiences
  • internships
  • shadowing
  • volunteer...
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21 High School Clubs to Consider

As your child moves through high school, participation in after-school "clubs" can be a transformational experience - or a colossal waste of time.

Now would be a great time to sit down with your child to discuss how to think about after-school opportunities.

How After-School Clubs Can Help

High school clubs can benefit students in many ways:

  • provide an affinity group to make and cultivate friendships
  • provide a signal to colleges about what you are interested in
  • provide a path to leadership within an organization
  • provide a low-risk way to "test" a fledgling interest in a topic
  • provide a structure to start your own club

In the context of college admissions, "Clubs" are considered Extracurricular Activities because they happen "outside of the classroom".  Other Extracurricular Activities include sports, jobs, music, theater, child care responsibilities, etc.

As you may know, there is room for 10 Extracurricular Activities on the Common Application. Especially at the more...

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3 Ways to Demystify the College Admissions Experience

As you probably know, there is a lot hype surrounding the college admissions process - probably too much.

Yes, it can be tricky if you wait until junior or senior year to start the process. The "wait-and-see" approach can lead to anxiety and broken dreams.

It doesn't have to be that way.

As you know, my deep conviction is that the college admissions process should be introduced to teenagers gradually beginning in 9th or 10th grade.

This early introduction puts families in the driver's seat.

Here are three steps you can take to help demystify the process.

STEP 1: CAMPUS VISITS THAT INSPIRE

How can we expect our children to care about college if they've never stepped foot onto a college campus?

Campus visits can often spark interest and curiosity in the process. Motivation can be triggered by the strangest things - a certain vision, feeling, or personal encounter they experience during their visits.

Of course, there is no guarantee that visiting colleges will motivate your child, but...

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How To Select, Prepare, and Perform on the SAT or ACT

sat study tips Jul 17, 2018

Your child's number #1 priority this summer is to prepare for their official standardized test at the end of August or beginning of September.

This is what your child should do:

  • Select a standardized test to take (SAT or ACT)
  • Register for the exam
  • Study their face off
  • Take the exam
  • Never look back

Let me remind you why I recommend this strategy in case your child starts to waver on implementing any of these steps:

  • An SAT or ACT score is a top 3 criteria for college admissions
  • Summer provides maximum time and flexibility to study
  • Studying for this test in the middle of junior year is a disaster
  • Ability to maximize energy, sleep, and hydration before test
  • Fewer distractions and potential scheduling conflicts
  • Less-crowded testing sites
  • Results provide an early indicator of what tier of colleges to consider
  • Potential to score well and never take test ever again
  • Ability to re-test later in the year if things don't go as planned
  • If a re-test is necessary, the bulk of studying is...
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Should your Child Consider Military Service Academies?

Under the Radar

I talk with a lot of people about college admissions issues - all day every day. And I would guess that only about 10% know anything about the service academies.

Some have a passing familiarity with the terms "Naval Academy" or "West Point" or "Annapolis", but that's about the extent of it. 

The goal of this post is to demystify the academies and provide you with information so that your child doesn't miss out on a big opportunity.

What are service academies?

Military service academies are 4-year colleges that are rich in military tradition, culture, and training. Their goal is to educate, train and inspire the future leaders of the U.S. military. These leaders are known as "U.S. Military Officers".

There are five service academies:

I won't...

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Who's to Blame for College Admissions Misses?

Decision Time

Yesterday was the deadline for most high school seniors to make their final college choice. It shouldn't be as stressful as many people make it out to be.

Part of the reason can be explained here.

In this blog post, a mom wonders why so many highly-qualified students aren't getting into their dream colleges and what effect it will have on their psyches.

She also, within the first paragraph, blames:

  • this "generation"
  • the "system"
  • parents
  • Admissions Offices

This is a rough post. I agree with some of the sentiments, but not others. Here are my takeaways:

Managing Expectations

Just because your child's stat line reads: 1480 SAT, 4.3 GPA, varsity soccer team, student government, black belt, and quarterly soup kitchen volunteer doesn't mean they'll get into a highly-selective college. It just doesn't. Not even close.

There are thousands of kids just like this. They grow on trees these days. Just ask any parent. I'm not sure why so many people think that a high-performer like...

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The Golden Years | Freshman and Sophomore Year

 

A Broken Model

After years of engaging with hundreds of high school students, parents, and guidance counselors from around the country, I've witnessed an unfortunate pattern.

These individuals continue to operate under the assumption that "college preparation" should begin in junior year.

I strongly disagree.

In fact, before stepping one foot into junior year, students should have a firm understanding of the expectations, milestones, and context for what lies ahead. [More on exactly what these factors are in a subesquent post].

Otherwise, students (and parents) risk feeling overwhelmed, paralyzed, and ill-prepared to manage the onslaught of information dumped in their laps. Once a student enters junior year, there are no do-overs.

In my private counseling practice, I find that a student's freshman and sophomore years (The Golden Years) have disproportionate impact on their readiness for the college admissions process, college selection, and life itself.

They are - as an economist...

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Are Kids Specializing in Youth Sports Too Early?

What Happened to All the 3-Sport Athletes?

These days, many parents (and their children) are feeling pressure to specialize in a particular sport earlier and earlier.

The pressure can come from coaches, parents, trainers, kids, or the media. A billion-dollar industry has emerged to meet this growing trend

In some cases, a child's first taste of athletic success (at age 5) will send a parent on two wheels to Dick's Sporting Goods. The sales associate sees this parent from a mile away. Hello daily sales quota!

I know it's flattering when the volunteer coach tells you that Ricky or Samantha has a "big league swing". You wonder, "Could it be? Could my son/daughter be that special athlete? Could I be the next Archie Manning?"

But before quitting soccer and dance and buying Ricky a $299 T-ball bat or Samantha a $199 softball glove, consider whether specializing so early is in their best interests?

This blog post makes the case for a slower transition to specialization - or no...

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You made my son do what?

Would you want your son to experience this?

On a cool Friday afternoon in San Diego, CA, 36 high school lacrosse players (9th - 12th) were leisurely stretching out on a well-manicured grassy knoll 300 yards from the Pacific Ocean.

This was the group's final day of tryouts for the JV and Varsity lacrosse team. The participants were told to show up with a t-shirt and running shoes and to be prepared for a 3-hour workout.

Halfway through their stretching routine, two other former Navy SEAL Instructors and I emerged from of our cars and walked over to greet them. This was no ordinary greeting.

Here's how the next four hours unfolded for the group:


Activity: Introduction and (Dis)orientation

With bullhorn in hand, we told the group that the original plan had changed. The 3-hour workout had been extended to a 24-hour Hell Night where they would be tested with a series of mental and physical challenges that would last until the next day. This was not true, but we had to get the athletes...

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How to Be Strategic About your Teen's Summers

 

How teens spend their summers has become an increasingly important piece of the college admissions puzzle. Objective measures like GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and transcripts can quickly become lifeless numbers in a sea of sameness. (Yup, another 4.0 GPA, check).

Admissions officers are being forced to look elsewhere to find what differentiates students from each other. They often turn to letters of recommendation, alumni interviews, and, of course, summer experiences. 

Let's start with the tactics, then we'll move into strategy.

Here are some options to consider for the summer:

Volunteer Work (FT or PT):

Volunteer work is easy to find, affordable, and can be full-time, part-time, or project-based. Not only does volunteer work show that you care about someone other than yourself, but it also allows a teen to gain real-world experience in a field or industry they enjoy. 

Paid Work (FT or PT):

Colleges love to see applicants who have worked at a paying job - of any kind. Sometimes,...

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