Taming the Social Media Beast

We are inundated daily with warnings about social media use and misuse by our teens. How are we supposed to keep up?

We need to stay current on what's happening, what to look out for, and how to mitigate potential risks.

"Make mistakes, just not the big ones"

I don't mind when teens make mistakes. In fact, I promote it. Mistakes can drive personal growth. However, I also warn teens to avoid the big mistakes - mistakes that are life-altering. Avoid these at all costs:

  1. Drug use
  2. Drunk Driving
  3. Unwanted pregnancy
  4. Social Media misuse

I recently added #4 to the list - and for good reason. Social media problems are ruining peoples' lives everywhere. Unfortunately, the use of social media has become so widespread, that the odds of someone doing something disastrous are increasing by the minute.

What you should know

  • Once posted, consider the content of the post to be permanently embedded in the digital landscape - forever
  • Don't believe any promises that your post will disappear in x...
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Benefits of Mentorship

The transition from middle school to high school can be tricky. Teens immediately begin searching for an identity, social acceptance, and a path forward.

As confounding as this is, we (as parents) aren't always in the best position to influence our kids during this period of uncertainty. We're still a major player on the surface - but at the edges of their psyche - they often prefer external voices and opinions.

Enter the mentor.

Mentors come in many shapes and sizes. Your child's mentor could be an older sibling, coach, music teacher, Boy or Girl Scout Leader, guidance counselor, aunt, uncle, grandparent, neighbor - or person like me. Some children have multiple mentors.

Does your son or daughter have a mentor(s)?

Benefits of having an early mentor in high school

Wisdom and learning. Mentors share important life lessons from past successes and failures.

Expertise and knowledge. Mentors can provide answers and guidance in a field most parents know nothing about.

Contacts. Mentors...

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LinkedIn for Teens

After a lot of experimentation and teen-testing, I found that a creating a LinkedIn profile is the most elegant, efficient, and effective solution for your child to capture and order important milestones throughout their high school career.

You may already have your own LinkedIn account, or likely have heard of the professional networking behemoth. If you don't have an account, maybe now is a good time to create one alongside your child.

My recommendation comes after reviewing the Common Application in detail and noticing the vast similarities between the two formats (the Common Application is the universal, online college application that is accepted by hundreds of colleges).

When I tried this myself, I pulled up www.linkedin.com, and within 15 minutes, I had created a robust profile for an imaginary student that I named -- Chris Prepwell.

To be clear, LinkedIn is not really for kids. It's for adults looking to advance their professional careers. I say, "Who cares?" It's perfect...

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How many AP classes?

This is one of the top 3 questions I hear regularly from high school students. It's such an important (and difficult) question, that I thought I'd share my thoughts below.

To review, AP (Advanced Placement) classes are considered "college-level" courses and are thus weighted more heavily than regular classes when calculating GPAs.

For example, an "A" in AP History gives you 5 points, versus 4 points from regular History. This is why some schools regard a 4.0 GPA as a yawner these days.

As long as GPA remains one of the top three criteria for college admissions, students will continue to use AP classes to spike their GPAs. Taken to extremes, however, this can be dangerous.

Things to consider before registering for AP classes:

Are you interested in the topic? If so, chances are you will succeed in the class. If not, you are flirting with danger. For example, if you don't like to read, but take AP History anyway to boost your GPA - think again. AP History may require 90+ minutes of...

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How Do Teens View Time?

These days, I worry that teens are gradually losing skills and concepts that may have long-term effects on their personal development. Here's a short list of things that are going the way of the buffalo...

  1. writing in cursive   (thanks keyboard)
  2. typing   (thanks voice activation technology)
  3. driving   (thanks Uber)
  4. map skills   (thanks Google Maps)
  5. patience to wait for their favorite song on the radio   (thanks Pandora and iTunes)
  6. face-to-face conversations   (thanks texting and SnapChat)
  7. cooking   (thanks microwave)
  8. humility   (thanks Instagram and selfie-sticks)
  9. restraint   (thanks Costco)
  10. concept of time   (thanks digital calendars)

Clearly, these changes aren't all bad, but the pace and depth of these changes should be noted.

After spending the last two years observing how teenagers approach the college admissions process, I have concluded that the average teenager's concept of time...

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Letters of Recommendation

How do I ask for a Letter of Recommendation?

I received this question from a highly motivated 9th grade PrepWell Academy student. It's a bit early for 9th graders to worry about this - and I couldn't be more proud! This is proof positive that our message is getting through. It is never too early to prepare well.

How important are letters of recommendation?
If you plan to apply to selective or highly selective schools, they are very important. After a few hours of staring at GPAs and standardized test scores, they all start to blend together - especially for application readers at highly selective schools where everyone posts impressive scores. Letters of recommendation can help you stand out from the crowd. In fact, qualitative inputs like this can serve as tie-breakers in many cases.

When are they needed?
Letters are not normally due until the beginning of senior year, but in no way, shape, or form should you wait that long to begin this process.

Whom do schools want to see letters...

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How to Raise a Reader

Experts agree that reading may be the single best activity a student can do to excel academically in school. It trumps tutoring, Kumon classes, and flash cards. I wholeheartedly agree.

In addition to what reading does for one's imagination and exposure to new ideas, it also takes a tremendous weight off a student's shoulders when it comes to SAT prep (and class work in general).

The truth is, the verbal section of the SAT (which includes Critical Reading and Writing) cannot be studied for at the last minute. There is no way to cram for "reading comprehension", for example. In some ways, a student either "has it" or not.

Sure, there are strategies and test-taking tips that may swing a score by a few points, but a student's true score will be a direct reflection of how much they have read over the past decade. Yes, the last decade.

Gulp!

Yes, there's a lot riding on whether your child grows up as a "reader" or not. And the benefits extend far beyond the verbal section of the SAT.

All...

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Foreign Language classes?

How much foreign language is enough?

This is another common question I hear from my PrepWell Academy students as they begin to solidify next year's class schedule.

Aside from "a love of learning" (which is the best motivation), there may be other reasons to extend your foreign language study during high school. Namely, the impact it may have on your college admissions prospects. Here are some factors to consider:

What type of schools do you aspire to?

Highly-Selective Liberal Arts Colleges...

  • expect 4 years of foreign language study in high school
  • yes, even if you took foreign language in middle school, and plan to meet the minimum high school language requirements by sophomore year, highly-selective liberal arts colleges still want to see 4 years (in high school) of foreign language study.
  • consider foreign language on par with other core disciplines (e.g. math, science, social sciences, English).
  • believe foreign language is essential to a broad-based education
  • often...
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The Power of Habit

During a recent blog interview, I was posed this question:

"Phil, if you had to pick one thing that was most responsible for the success you've had thus far in your life, what would it be?"

My answer was simple - good habits.

"Good habits", she replied. "That's it?"

She seemed a little disappointed.

"Yes, good habits," I continued. "While our lives are certainly complex with an infinite number of factors that influence our paths, in some respects, we are nothing more than an accumulation of habits - both good and bad."

The Power of Habit
Habits are a powerful force in our lives, yet we rarely pay attention to them. Here's an old story that illustrates this disconnect:

Two young fish were swimming side-by-side in the ocean when an older fish swam by in the opposite direction. The older fish saw the younger two and greeted them, "Hey guys, how's the water?" he asked. The two younger fish just kept on swimming. A few minutes later, one of the fish looked at the other and said, "What...

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Procrastination

It was over two month's ago when I sat down with my 10-year old son to discuss the academic tasks he was assigned over the summer by his 5th grade teacher:

  1. Read 3 books (Hatchet, The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time)
  2. Create index cards for 300 vocabulary words
  3. Complete 300 math problems

At the time, nothing about these tasks seemed particularly difficult, especially with the "whole summer" to do it.

Preparer or Crammer?

He and I discussed two options:

"Chip away method" - this involved spreading the workload over the entire summer. We did the math, and it came out to roughly 2 pages of reading per day and 1 vocab word and 1 math problem every other day. This amounted to about 8 minutes of concentrated work per day. No big.

"Cram-it-all-in method" - this involved skipping the daily 8-minutes of work in exchange for a 3-week cram session at the end of the summer when all the work had to be completed at once.

We prepared a spreadsheet that mapped out 10 weeks of daily tasks. He could...

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