By: Ann Wilson, The Village Tutors
Depending on your student’s year in school, it’s either “wait for college decisions” season or “think about college applications” season. Both are super exciting and super stressful!
For this year’s seniors, there have been more delays than usual as schools try to sift through thousands of applicants, many of whom do not have standardized test scores. The lesson learned this year is that a student can never have too many safety schools, and, thankfully, there are actually a few schools still accepting applications. Other kids are starting to consider gap years if they cannot get into their school of choice this time around. Hopefully, everyone gets an acceptance they feel good about, but, gosh, waiting is so tough.
Seniors are also starting to think about scholarship applications, which often require more essays and a resume. Some kids are putting together portfolios, videos of sports highlights, and preparing auditions. Phew!
For juniors, the reality might have hit that they will soon be applying to colleges themselves, and some students may be contemplating whether or not they actually want to pursue a college degree. Some juniors are avoiding having to think about these next steps, but I (we) highly encourage families to start having conversations about college plans.
And what about those standardized tests? Take them! Prepare for them! It doesn’t mean you have to submit them, but for most students, submitting them will help your application. The fact that the SAT dropped the subject tests and the optional essay portion in order ‘to reduce the burden on students’ sends the message that colleges want students to attempt to submit test scores.
As the College Consultant at TVT, I encourage students to be ready to start filling out applications and writing essays in June. It is very stressful for kids to try and do a good job on college applications at the same time that they are trying to do well in school. If kids return to school in the fall with all their applications done and essays written, all they have to do in September is request their teacher and counselor recommendations and send their transcripts. At some of our big area high schools, requesting these supplementary materials is a very detailed and stressful process in itself, so the less there is to do in September, the better.
For families that have spring breaks, hopefully you can visit some college campuses. Use time away from school to talk about majors, types of post high school options for kids who might not be college-bound, and the types of schools where kids feel they might fit.
When I work with students on their college applications, we discuss majors and identify what they enjoy and what they are good at. We also discuss types of schools (big, small, medium, rural, urban, etc), but what matters most is “fit” -- a sense that each student will feel at home on the campus, surrounded by their kind of people, that they’re at a place where they can thrive on their own.
Once a list of colleges has been made (to include safety, reach, and ‘right there’ choices) we work on those essays. This is my favorite part of college consulting -- I love creative writing and helping kids find their voice!
Our college consulting services are offered a la carte: some students want help with the whole process, while others only use consulting to write the essays, to fill out the applications, or delve into how they can best use their talents and interests. Whatever your family needs, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can make the path to college more exciting and less stressful by starting the process early!
This past school year has been one of many challenges for students, teachers, and families. From navigating remote learning, practicing distancing in schools, and relying on technology in new ways, it’s been quite the year.
As summer break rapidly approaches, now is the critical time to keep students motivated to finish the year focused and optimistic. How can you best support your student during these last weeks of school? We have some ideas…
Lead with Empathy
Since this has been an unprecedented school year, it’s unsurprising that students may be feeling overwhelmed and tired. While it’s important to continue to maintain due dates and expectations – especially for homework, projects, tests, etc. – remember to lead with a spirit of understanding. For students struggling to meet due dates, or resisting completing homework at home, take the time to talk with them about what’s going on. It could be the stresses of finishing the school year, the ongoing pandemic, or something else entirely. Taking the time to understand where they are – and what they need – is a critical way to boost motivation through the rest of the school year.
Change the Scenery
As the weather continues to warm up, now is a great time to take learning outside! For remote learners, encourage students to complete tasks outdoors – especially those that don’t require WiFi. Something simple like sitting on the back porch or spreading a blanket on the yard to complete work can help re-energize students. Similarly, for students learning in-person at schools, teachers can take advantage of nice days to bring lessons outdoors. This change in scenery can help students better focus on topics, and even complete work more quickly and effectively. A change from the everyday routine can make a big difference and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Now more than ever, celebrating the big and small wins is so important! At home, celebrate when your students complete a difficult task, finish a test, or turn in a large project. Taking the time to recognize and acknowledge their accomplishments is a great way to keep them motivated. Remember that celebrating the small wins is just as important as the big! For in-person learners, teachers can consider a “Wins Wall” or something similar where students can be recognized and share their accomplishments. Celebrating large and small wins is very significant for students, and will help them stay on track for finishing the school year positively.
Provide More Support When Needed
If your student is struggling, remember that there is more support available – outside of parents and teachers. Knowing how to “Take N.O.T.E.” and observe whether additional support is needed is critical to your student’s academic success. Giving them the help and support they need, even if they don’t know to ask for it, is the ultimate tool in keeping them motivated and on track in their academic journey.