Blow-Your-Mind Extracurricular Activities

As applications are reviewed by college admissions officers, they must survive several "screens" to make it to the end. The more selective the school - the less porous the screens.  This week, we address the first two screens in the process.

Screen #1

  1. GPA
  2. Standardized Test Scores (SAT or ACT)
  3. Rigor of coursework

Outcomes on these three criteria will dictate the "selectivity" of colleges to consider. 

Screen #2

When (and if) a student gets through Screen #1, the more selective schools dig deeper.

Next stop: Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular Activities include anything that happens outside the classroom:

  • Sports teams
  • Debate Team
  • Part-time work
  • Elder or childcare responsibilities
  • Summer experiences
  • Volunteer work
  • Theater
  • Travel

On the Common Application, there is room for 10 such Activities. The activities should be listed in the order of importance to the student. Space is limited (50 characters for the position and organization name and 150 characters for the...

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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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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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How Teens Can Optimize Their Summer

Please don't underestimate the power of the summer.  It's a magical time for teens that can either be optimized or squandered.

Yes, colleges like to see your child engaged in interesting and productive pursuits during the summer, but that's only half the story.

The summer is also the time for your child to find out more about themselves. What do they like? What do they hate? What is it like to make money? What is it like to do manual labor? What is it like to work in a cubicle? What is it like to find a job?

These are invaluable experiences that teens need to live through to make better decisions in the years ahead.

I call summer activities "Summer Quests" because your child should be searching for something. Here are some things worthy of their search:

  • work experience
  • passion
  • education
  • travel experiences
  • fun and adventure
  • money
  • exposure

What interests your child?

The first place for your child to start when considering their summer plans is what they are interested in. If...

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4 Tips To Finish the Summer Strong

By now, a lot of the summer "busy-ness" is winding down. After all, school starts in a few weeks for most of us.

I wanted to review a few things that you can do with your kids to get them back into a learning mindset. If you've been following me "live" every day on Facebook, you may have heard me discuss some of these issues in recent weeks.

(1) Math Brain
With few exceptions, most parents (unless they are PrepWell Parents) report that their kids have not done one ounce of "math work" this summer.  I don't like this one bit.  It's important that students keep up some level of engagement with math so that they are not starting next year from ground zero. Teachers confess that the first 3-4 months of the school year is spent reviewing last year's material in order to get kids' brains back in order.

Solution: Encourage your child to create a Khan Academy account (if they don't have one already) and work through the modules until they have achieved 100% mastery of last year's...

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Transition Night | From Middle to High School

From Middle School to High School

Many cultures, religions, and social groups mark the transition from middle school to high school with some type of event, celebration, or activity.

For my two sons, I decided to make up my own transition event. I wanted it to be fun, significant, and memorable.

The Search for Advice

I started by soliciting advice from trusted friends and family members about their personal experiences with this transition as well as anything they learned from ushering their own children through this phase of life.

I received a ton of exceptional advice.

The hard part was parsing it down into something that was accessible and not overwhelming.

I boiled down pages of input into 11 Key Words. These words, in my opinion, represent some of the most important aspects of life that a rising high schooler will face.

There are no right or wrong answers to this puzzle, but here are my 11 Key Words:

  1. Relationships
  2. Preparation
  3. "Good"
  4. Discipline
  5. Fun/Not Folly
  6. Patience
  7. Struggle
  8. ...
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Summer is a terrible thing to waste...

Summer: A Terrible Thing to Waste

Does your child have a plan for the summer? 

Summer is one of the most important and often underutilized blocks of time in a teen's life. With few mandatory school commitments, the possibilities for growth and life experience are endless.

Unfortunately, end-of-school fatigue and the allure of "time off" can overwhelm even the most well-intentioned parent and child. Snap your fingers and "poof" - it's September!

Goal-Setting

One of the most important skills a teen can learn is how to think about the future (vision), how to plan for the future (preparation), and how to follow-through on a plan (execute). This skill will be repeated hundreds of times over their lifetime.

The skill is known as goal-setting - and should be taught and practiced sooner rather than later.

Summer is the perfect time and duration to practice this skill.

What We Teach

PrepWell Academy's Lesson (Week 2) is all about goal-setting.  I challenge students to not only ...

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Sweet & Sour Summer

Summer is a few weeks away. Does your child have a plan?

Within PrepWell Academy, I spend significant time helping students plan their summers. This entails several weeks of advice, recommended websites, prompts for self-reflection, and interest inventories.

Why are summers so important?

  • An opportunity to learn and grow
  • Time to prepare for standardized tests
  • A chance to "test a theory" about careers
  • A break from over-scheduled school year
  • A time to earn money
  • Exposure to college coaches
  • and more...

If you would like your child to get the full playbook on these options and their pros and cons, enroll them in PrepWell Academy.

I do have a general recommendation, however, that applies to all high school students.

Have your child pursue a "sweet and sour" summer. That is, 50% sweet (or fun) and 50% sour (or hard). I'm sure they will have plenty of ideas for the sweet part.

For the sour part, they get to pick from these options:

  1. construction work
  2. landscaping
  3. moving and storage company...
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Best Summer Job: Career Shadowing

In addition to last week's question regarding How do I build a list of colleges? the next biggest challenge I hear from parents (and kids) seems to be:

"What should my child do this summer?"

Of course, the standard, generic advice is:

  • find a job
  • find an internship
  • volunteer

I like to provide more unconventional advice to my PrepWellers.

Cast a Wide Summer Shadow

If your child wants a unique summer experience, encourage them to "shadow" as many people in as many careers as possible.

These days, kids have no clue what people do at their jobs.

They see people rush into buildings, shuffle around the streets with their Starbucks coffee, and sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway.

What happens the other 97% of the time?

My 8th-grade son is obsessed with the question:

"Dad, what do people do all day at work?"

He is fascinated by the whole concept.

Unfortunately, I haven't the foggiest idea what to tell him.

I haven't had a conventional job for many years so I find it difficult to...

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How a Navy SEAL studies for the SAT

If your son or daughter is taking the SAT or ACT in the coming weeks, here are some tips to help them maximize their score:

Common (but good) advice

  • Register for the exam
  • Prepare well in advance
  • Match study style with learning style (e.g. book, online, classroom with students, tutor, etc.)
  • Learn tips and tricks to help manage time, guessing strategies, etc.
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before

PrepWell's "uncommon" advice

Take practice tests under real test-taking conditions - over and over again!

Let me elaborate. Many students spend a lot of time looking for hacks, tricks, and shortcuts to improve their test scores. They also normally study in "short bursts" (e.g. Study Math for 40 minutes every M, W, F) - when they really should be spending a lot more time and effort simply taking more full-length tests.

In my opinion, a large component of how well you perform on the test will be based on how much mental endurance you have built up by test day.

Most high school students aren't...

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