Demonstrated Interest and Your College Acceptance

Guest Blogger: Liz Levine

A parent and her son came to me asking for help in searching for and applying to NY State schools. His core course GPA was in the high 70’s and his total GPA at 82. I had reservations about how successful he would be in gaining acceptance to some of the state schools he wanted to apply to. They were headed upstate NY to visit the state schools near the Canadian border. I advised them to find their admissions counselor, the one that covers our geographic area, and speak with them about how interested they were in attending their institution. They did so and continued the communication after they came back home.

How much interest you show a college may mean the difference between being accepted, or not.  This is called Demonstrated interest.

“Demonstrated Interest” is a term used by college’s that describes how much a student is interested in attending their college. It encompasses every touch point that a student has with a specific college. By touch points I mean visiting a school, Emailing a college admissions officer, sending a thank you note after an interview, completing an information request form on a college’s web site, Facebook “Likes”, Tweets about the college and more. These touch points can improve a students chances of gaining acceptance to certain colleges and is used not only during the application process but prior to as well as if a student is waitlisted.

There are specific software packages that some colleges have that tracks these touch points. They use this software not only to gauge how much a student is interested in their school but also to gain insight on how to better market their institution to students and parents given the competitive landscape in today’s search for the right college.

Each college considers “Demonstrated Interest” at varying levels from very important, in line with consideration of academic GPA, to not considered whatsoever. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 50.2% of colleges consider Demonstrated Interest of moderate importance to considerable importance, which is an increase since 2003.

You can find out how much a college takes into consideration “Demonstrated Interest” by searching on the Internet “Common Data Set” and the college name you are interested in.

Bottom line is, don’t ever underestimate how important a student showing their interest in a college is and how every interaction you have with that school is tracked. It just may mean the difference between being accepted by the school of your choice, or not. 

Federal Financial Aid for College and How it's Calculated

Guest Blogger: Liz Levine

I work with many families helping them understand the college financial aid process and how the Federal government views their assets, as it relates to paying for college.

If you are saving for your child’s college education and there’s a chance that you will be applying for any kind of federal financial aid when your child heads to college, (loans, scholarships, grants…etc.), keep on reading.

Many parents I speak with, as was also my impression when my children were growing up, feel that the money they put away for college should be put into their child’s name.  Unless these funds are deposited into a 529 account/plan, which is a plan that is operated by the state, putting money into your child’s name can actually be detrimental to the amount of funds the federal government will provide to you.

In order to get any kind of federal or even college specific financial aid the student/parent needs to complete the FAFSA form, the federal government financial aid form.  There is a lot of information that needs to be completed and a complex calculation that goes into assessing what a parent/student can pay towards a year of college.  There is one piece of the calculation that relates to what we are speaking about here:

+  20% of a child’s assets may be counted towards aid calculations, meaning how much that child can apply towards one year of their college costs

+  5.64% of a parents assets may be counted towards aid calculations, meaning how much a parent can apply towards one year of their child’s college costs

+  When there is money put into a 529 account though, that money is counted as a parental asset at 5.64% vs. a child’s asset at 20%

As an example, if you have $50,000 put into your child’s name, the government says $10,000 of it can be applied to pay for 1 year of college.  If it is in the parents name only $2,820 will be applied.

The financial aid calculation has many factors that feed into the result but being aware of how you can best manage your funds to gain the best possible outcome can make the difference in not only how much money you can receive but what kind of aid as well.

College Consultant Orange County NY Helps Students with NCAA Requirements

Guest Blogger: Liz Levine 

College recruiting and NCAA requirements and rules can be very complex. It is important to follow all rules diligently, or you may be at risk for being disqualified from the recruiting process and participating in these sports at the college level.

Even when a college has made you a formal offer, grades, SATs, and high school course requirements have to be met for you to play a Division I or II college sport.

One recent client of ours was a football player being recruited by Div IAA and II colleges. He had the courses necessary to meet the NCAA minimum requirements, but his grades, coupled with his SAT/ACT scores were not up to par and bordering not meeting the NCAA rules. Several of the Div I schools withdrew their offer because of his grades. I’m happy to say, after much work and research, he received an offer from a school that met his needs.

Go to the NCAA Eligibility Center online that certifies the academic and amateur credentials of all college-bound student-athletes who wish to compete in Division I or II athletics.

NCAA Quick Reference Sheet

8 Steps to Taking Back Control of Your Classroom!

TEACHERS - Having problems controlling your class?

                 Are you a teacher stuck in the ether of an uncontrollable class? Do you feel like your classroom is disorganized, or full of children who aren't respecting your lessons or policies? Are you afraid that the ability to do your job somewhat relies on a classroom that's willing to…actually…LISTEN, and maybe even respect you?

                 If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, seek no further guidance than the expertise that almost thirty years in this business can give you. You know the deal- you have most likely heard your colleagues discussing specific students that seem to be a constant distraction in class, and probably have a few students of your own in your mind. Here's the bottom line: It ISN'T difficult to teach in a classroom where students are misbehaving. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE!

               So how do you implement a system that is strong enough to withstand whatever classroom problems you may be facing? Well, it's actually not that simple. Every classroom is different, yet so many can be the same in some fashion. You might have to adjust some of these Golden Rules to fit your needs, but these are PROVEN building blocks on which to maintain a safe, functional classroom:

              1. No foul language 

              - This is a BIG one. So many teachers allow their students to get away with swearing in class. It's a bit different in context at the collegian level, but in grades K-12, it's something that can really turn a classroom upside down. Allowing students to swear even once could give them the green light to keep it up. Destroy this problem the FIRST time it occurs in class. Give a harsh warning, talk to the student after class, whatever you think is appropriate for the situation, but do SOMETHING. If you don't stop it as soon as it begins, the problem will grow! PROVE to your students that you won't tolerate it.

            2. No hats 

            - Bad hair days are the student's problem. But seriously, a hat in class is a sign of disrespect. You may not think so, and if so, skip this rule. However, remember it's possible that if students see that they can get away with something, they may try to break boundaries in even more areas.

           3. Raise your hand to ask a question

           - In some courses, student led discussions are pivotal. However, as the teacher, it's a smart idea to keep control of class discussion. The last thing you want are students screaming across the room at each other. That is why students MUST raise their hands and be called on to ask a question. The more random blurting that occurs, the noisier and more chaotic the classroom can get. Make it clear on the first day of class that students MUST raise their hand and be called on to make a comment or ask a question. It's YOUR class. YOU are the only one who should be speaking without being called on.

         4. Never throw your work out

         - Why do students always complain they don't have that handout from a few weeks ago? In every course you teach, students should be made aware  that they are responsible for every piece of paper handed out in class. Accidents happen, but generally you want to make it clear to students that they keep all work from the first day until they receive a grade. Do it this way, and there are no more excuses about not having required class materials!

        5. Garbage gets thrown out at the END of the period

         - Don't allow students to wander around class. Tell them that all garbage can be disposed of when class is dismissed, barring unique circumstances. When one student gets up, more will see it's acceptable, and more WILL follow!

       6. The student is responsible for ALL work even when absent

       - Let's get clear- the whole "I wasn't here last class, can I make the homework" speech, and all of its variations you've probably heard; THEY SHOULD NOT EXIST! In 2014, you can send emails or syllabi from one phone to another person's phone. Nearly every student has one, or at least has some sort of access to the internet. If students are absent, they should know it is their responsibility to email either you or another student so they can complete the assignment and hand it in ON TIME. There are still some extreme circumstances, but the more lenient you are with late assignments, the more you will be handed late assignments. There are due dates for a reason! Stick to them!

      7. The Period is over when YOU say so. The bell means nothing.

      - Anyone who has taught even a day knows what the 'bell' really means. Or, more importantly, what a few minutes BEFORE the bell means. It means that some students aren't listening and some are packing up. This cannot be tolerated. You are given your entire class period for a reason. Your students should feel free to pack up AFTER you officially dismiss them. The bell is there to tell YOU that in 5-7 minutes, the next period will start. It does NOT mean that students can turn off their ears and pack their notes away. Two minutes lost per day is two weeks of teaching time! YOU be the bell!

    8. Don't forget to have FUN.

      - Kids love to have fun. Even though you need to be forceful sometimes to keep control of a classroom, it is easy to motivate students by laughing, having some fun, and doing hands-on activities. Reward your students for excellent work with a (relevant) movie day, or class outside in warm weather. Students generally hate sitting in a seat and not being able to move for a whole class period. That is WHY some classrooms can spiral out of control. A balance between fun and seriousness needs to be maintained, and if it is, your class will respect you!

There you have it! This is a small guide to managing a classroom. As teachers, we have two real jobs, which some people who aren't in the business aren't aware of. Mastery of teaching the material and mastery of the CLASSROOM. All that knowledge means nothing if you cannot communicate it to your class. Be clear with your students about what is expected of them and don't bend your own rules. Remember, it's your classroom. What you say goes!

Want more info about Grade Success? Have any questions about teaching methods, tutoring, bullying or parent involvement in education? How about an entire book on classroom management, and collaborative teaching?  Visit our website or like us on Facebook and Twitter, and read some info about The Ninth Period, a handbook designed to help teachers!

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3 Approaches to Collaborative Teaching

“There is no “I” in TEAM.”  Somebody said this, but I don’t know who, sorry.

A book would not be able to cover this topic, but I do want to mention it since:

a.    I have done it for over five years.
b.    I believe in it wholeheartedly and feel it will be used more in the future.

In the best case scenario, if you teach collaboratively, you will be able to choose your partner, but this is not always the case. I didn’t really get to choose my co-teacher but god smiled on me and I got an angel. I don’t mention other teachers in this guidebook, but you can see a picture of her if you go to my website, hint, hint.

You need to respect each other and acknowledge what each of you can bring to the teaching table. It is important to divide and conquer whenever possible. If you think that two people in the classroom reduces your workload, you are sadly mistaken.

You need to do lesson plans together and constantly discuss students in depth. This is a difficult job to do with someone else, but I think it is invaluable to the students. Just think of all the things that have to be delegated.

Lesson planning
Parental contact
And more…

There are many collaborative teaching approaches.

1.    One teaches, one roams
2.    Both teach different parts of the lesson
3.    One does the content and one focuses on various learning styles

Many times you have to learn your rhythm, “on the fly”. You can not create this winning team overnight. My co-teacher and I weren’t really comfortable until our third year together. We are always in the process of tweaking and refining our approaches.

The most difficult thing for me was to give up some of my territory. As I mentioned before, I tend to be territorial.  Now, I am happy to let my co-teacher share the responsibility of delivering the lesson. It gives me time to visit with each student personally during the class period. I feel that I am truly bonding with the students. If done right, Collaborative Teaching can improve the fluidity and functionality of any classroom. 

Working with Parents

“Parents love their children more than children love their parents.” Medieval Proposition

Just because kids say their parents don’t care does not make it true. I have yet to see a parent who does not care. I have seen frustrated  and overworked parents.  But uncaring parents… not yet.

I have not been at all satisfied with the amount of parents that come to open school night. However, I have learned that some cultures believe that the schools are all knowing and that parents trust us implicitly to care for and educate their children while they are in school. Does your school welcome parents? Do you attend PTA meetings? Consider Parent Involvement in your school. They can be your greatest allies.

Be truthful when speaking with parents but be professional. Log all phone calls listing the date and time you called or emailed and list the name of the person with whom you spoke.

There are several ways to tell a parent bad news.

1.    If a student is misbehaving, I always call the parent in the child's presence. I make the student dial the phone and ask for the parent. This way the parent doesn’t think that the child is injured and the school is calling for serious news. I also want the child there because I ALWAYS ask the student if I have said anything that is not accurate. Many students "stretch the truth" if the parent receives a phone call or email, so discussing the issue with the parent and the child at the same time precludes the chance of the child's denying my information at a later time.

2.    Use what I call, “professional synonyms”. Others call these euphemisms.

Instead of saying, “Hi, Mrs. Jones, your son is a lying cheater. He copied off someone else’s paper during a test. I can never trust him again.” You could say, “Hello Mrs. Jones, I am sorry to have to bother you with this, but your son has left me no alternative. He copied answers from another student’s test paper today. I feel that if he spent more time studying, he wouldn’t have to rely on the answers of others. I would like to suggest that you talk to him about being better prepared for tests. If there is any way you think I could be of help please feel free to contact me.”

I then tell the student that I am deeply disappointed that he cheated. I do not respect that and I really expect more from him. If he does study and performs well on the next test, be sure to let the parent know. If you really want to throw parents for a loop, call them with good news. I am fairly certain that less than 5% of parent phone calls are positive. It might be time consuming, but it is invaluable.

The Three Dangers of Labeling - A Must-Read for Camp Employees, Teachers and Parents!

We live our lives surrounded by labels. We see them in supermarkets, advertisements, and we even use them subconsciously throughout the day. However, we never stop to realize the dangers of using labels as they apply to people, and more specifically, to children. In school, labeling manifests itself as peer pressure for children to do better and meet the expectations of parents, teachers and people who administer state and national exams.

Often in camping, we tend to label children without realizing the dangers inherent in such pigeonholing. From lowering self-esteem to eliminating motivation, labeling children can be detrimental.

I.              When you label a child, it closes the mind of the person doing the labeling. Once you have decided that a child acts a certain way, lacks certain athletic ability, or does not know how to get along with his or her peers, there is little that the youngster can do to change your mind. This makes it virtually impossible for the child to rise to the level of expectation you have for the other campers. It is important to remember that NO ONE rises to LOW expectations.

II.            Children who are labeled do not always make it obvious that their feelings are hurt. They might not be able to verbalize their emotions and some have been negatively labeled so often in their lives, they don’t even show how they feel in their expressions. This makes it very difficult to see how much damage is actually being done to the individual involved.

III.           Contrary to what some believe, even POSITIVE labeling may result in a negative outcome. A camper who is labeled a “jock” or super athlete will feel an enormous amount of pressure to score the winning touchdown, hit the winning home run, for fear of losing the label of “best athlete in the group”. We have seen what these pressures to perform at high levels have done to professional athletes; imagine what they do to a child!

Camp and school must always be a place where children constantly feel safe both physically AND emotionally. You cannot have one without the other! A young person must feel SAFE TO FAIL. It is then the responsibility of the caretaker, be it a counselor, group leader, or director to assist the camper in navigating the skills necessary to improve in whatever area is deficient. Whether it is sports, communicating with peers or adults, this is the time to take advantage of the situation and help the child gain confidence by teaching positive ways to address the situation.

It is most important to note that the same dangers of labeling hold true to staff members. How often do we call one counselor or group leader a superstar, while we say another is lazy? When a staff member gets wind of that kind of negativity, what is his/her motivation to try harder? We must ask ourselves what we can do to bring poor performing staff members to a higher level.

Since it takes TEN positive strokes to make up for ONE negative stroke, it is most important that we focus on the positive whenever possible and leave the labels where they belong…..on the Campbell’s soup can!

Teachers - How to Handle and Prevent Negative Behavior

When students misbehave in my classroom I always try to handle the problem myself. I call the student out of the room, every time. I often get asked, “Why can’t you talk to me here?” My answer is always “What I want to discuss with you is nobody else’s business and I am willing to give you my undivided attention so I would appreciate yours for a minute.” Never get into an argument with a student in front of the class. You will always lose. If you have to prove that you are in charge, then you are not in charge. People who are in control of their room don’t need to show it, EVERYBODY knows.

When I write up a student’s behavior I usually read it to the student and leave it on my desk. I tell him or her that if he can change his behavior for the rest of the period, I will tear up the form. However, there will be no other chance. Actions speak louder than words so if they say, “OK” I answer, I know you can behave, just show me that I am right. Ninety percent of the time I am able to tear up the written form. When a dean gets a complaint from me, it is taken very seriously. I don’t send gum chewers to someone else. Handle your own problems and soon you will see that you don’t have any. For example, I do not allow students to put their heads down in my classroom. I never allow them to sleep. Some teachers do allow classroom naps, believe it or not, but this is highly unprofessional. I take the student outside of the room and say, “If something at home is creating an atmosphere where you can’t get enough rest at night, perhaps I can help you. But, you cannot sleep in my room. I am responsible for your education and sleeping is not part of that education, sorry. Let me know if I can help you with any problems that are making you so tired.” Tell the student exactly what they need to hear without dancing around the point.

I put the onus on them to learn. I also let them know that I take the learning seriously and will make them take it seriously as well, that is my job as an educator. I am willing to help them diffuse any anger they have. My saying, “sorry” gives the appearance that I wish they could rest in my room, but it is not a possibility since I take my job, and their education, seriously. Then I thank them.

Of course, serious infractions need to be handled a bit differently. Hopefully, creating these boundaries will stop serious infractions from happening altogether.

Go to the rooms where learning is always taking place. Learn from the Masters. Pick their brains. It’s an incredible compliment to them and most are eager to help you. Borrow, Learn, and Pass It On!

The Uncommon Core

For many many months, we have seen several articles about the new Common Core curriculum. While some tout its rigor, others feel that it has been "rolled out" too quickly. After 28 years of teaching, I can tell you that the rigor of the Common Core or the speed with which it has been presented is neither the solution nor the problem. Rather, I would like to speak about thee Uncommon Core. This is my term for the core that has been lost in recent years. The Core of THE FAMILY was something that many of us had in common in the past; however, it has now been eaten up by the internet, cell phones, X-box, overworked students, and litigious individuals who rather blame educators than work with them.
In a world where the divorce rate has skyrocketed, bullying appears in many forms, and teen suicide continues to rise, do we really need to focus on a new educational curriculum with such ardor? Curriculums come and go, and those that stay, whether good bad or indifferent, somehow we adjust. What we need to focus on is the fact that we are losing our children to drugs, bullies, and the added pressure we as parents, and educators often place on them. Are we all guilty of this? Perhaps not; I know I am. Bogged down with higher expectations and the need to have my students perform better on standardized tests, I, too, have fallen prey to the Uncommon Core. As a parent, I have often failed my children and blamed others for their shortcomings as well as mine.
How often did we, as youngsters, eat meals with our parents? Compare that to the number of times per week we eat meals at the SAME time with all of our family members present. We are too busy carpooling to hockey, jazz band, baseball, Model UN, and a myriad of other activities. Many of these activities are those our children love to attend, and often, we are trying to expand the list of
clubs we can add to their high school activity sheets for college. What children used to learn from us at the dinner table, they are now learning in an adverse manner at parties, on Facebook, and Call of Duty.
The next time you are at a family restaurant, look around and see how many children have an earphone attached to their heads as they are texting throughout the entire meal. You can also see how many adults are doing the same thing. I should know; I read my emails when I am out to dinner and also text as well. Does this make me a hypocrite? It certainly does. I can easily blame this on society, technology, or the axiom, "If you cant beat'em, join'em.” I can beat them and I do NOT have to join them. This is my choice and my fault....period.
When our parents saw a less than stellar report card they would turn to us
and say, "How did this happen?" The question has remained the same, yet we now direct it to the teachers. I have been in education for almost 30 years and I would be lying if I didn't say that I have met some less than adequate teachers. I would also be lying if I didn't admit that I have had some awful doctors, lawyers, and plumbers in my more than 50 years on this earth. I can say with total confidence that, by and large, the educators I have worked with are hard working, dedicated professionals who take their charge most seriously. They have an unparalleled love and respect for children that is evidenced by their professionalism every day. I have also met dedicated, loving parents who want the best for their children.
There is a "triangle" in education that must be created in order to have our youth succeed. This three pronged approach must consist of the school, the parent, and the STUDENT! We are all responsible for the well-being and character development of the children whom we serve. You can't ask the teacher, "What is the meaning of this report card," without asking the child and yourself the same question. Even more important is the BLAMELESS question, "How can WE work together to see a better report card next quarter?" THIS is the needed COMMON CORE!
How do WE use the triangle as parents, students, and school staff to stop the bullying of our children beyond a simple BULLY FREE Zone sign? How many
of us have the passwords to our children's Facebook accounts? Some may say this is an invasion of privacy. I would argue that there are parents who have lost their sons and daughters to cyber-bullying who would disagree.
The Family CORE is something that we had in COMMON several years ago. It has been lost in far too many families recently, and we need to focus our efforts on getting it back. We have all worked hard to give our children better lives than we had. Were ours that bad? Are we basing our successes on materialistic possessions? Are we crazy because we had fun playing pong and Monopoly with our family compared to our children who now play online war games with strangers on the Internet? Are we fools because we used to play family word games during long car trips while our children now listen to music as they sleep in the back seat? Is our problem really the new Common Core Curriculum? I don't think so.
I believe our problem has become the unraveling of the family unit. Think of some of the inappropriate things your children often say. Now laugh as you think of what your parents would have said or done to you if you uttered some of those comments. Are we bad parents? Of course not. Increased taxes, a
higher cost of living, and outrageous college costs have made us work harder and longer in order to survive and provide for our families. More families than ever before are double income families, and that has taken away from "family time". Never before has the term quality vs. quantity been more meaningful.
I submit that we, as a nation, have always shown our courage and resilience in times of adversity. Hurricane Sandy, 911, and the Boston Bombing to name just a few. We need to work together as families AND schools to give the youth of America the moral fiber they will need to become productive members of society. With that, there is no enemy, certainly no curriculum, which can hinder them from reaching their full potential. Let's teach them to take responsibility for their actions, fight against injustice appropriately, and respect themselves and each other. Not only can we learn from history, but also, we have the ability to CREATE it! In this respect, we ALL need to do our Common Core homework, myself included.

Is Your Child Struggling in School?

With all the busy schedules of children today, it is harder than ever to motivate them in the school setting. But it’s important for parents to help keep kids on track.

1. Know when you can’t help, and why. First of all, parents are emotionally involved in their children’s lives and this creates an enormous amount of frustration. Additionally, most parents do not have the knowledge base to effectively teach children the material they need to learn.

2. Parents, you are the enemy! Why is it that teachers, who might not know our children well, say things that are taken as gospel but when we say the same things to our children, we don’t know what we are talking about? As much as you want to help your child, most youngsters resist assistance from their parents…..period. Take solace in the fact that when they are older and need money, you will seem very smart to them.

3. Know when you can help, and how. No matter their grade level, children rarely ask for help. You must notice the warning signs as soon as possible so intervention can take place in a fast and efficient manner.

4. What are the warning signs? During study time, a child’s head might be down, he or she might be crying, falling asleep or, in some cases, pulling his hair out. Low grades on quizzes, tests or projects are indications that help is needed. Teacher phone calls or emails, as well as negative progress reports, can also be signs that students are struggling.

5. Don’t wait! Progress reports are usually mailed home five weeks (half-way) into a marking period. At this point, too much time has passed for a struggling student to make up missed work. Contact the teacher and make sure you let her know to contact you if you can help in any way. Your child’s success is everyone’s responsibility.

6. What can you do to help? Firstly, set up a schedule of extra help sessions for your child. Many schools have peer tutoring and other resources as well. Sometimes parents feel it’s necessary to contact a professional tutor. Be wary of agencies that make you sign contracts for an excessive number of lessons. Also, ask for referrals and make sure that the person working with your child has acceptable credentials; however, some tutors who do not have Master’s degrees can also be excellent instructors.

7. Testing. If you feel your child needs special testing accommodations or might have a learning disability, your school district can often do the testing for you. Sometimes it’s necessary to go to an outside agency, but these tests are quite costly so be sure to get a referral from someone you trust.
It is never easy to help a struggling, frustrated youngster; but with a positive action plan, it is certainly easier to motivate your child to succeed in school.

The Waitlist

Guest Blogger: Kelli MacDonald

You’ve received most of your letters by now: Admit (YAY!), Deny (Ugh…), or Waitlist (Waitlist… I got on the waitlist??). Now what? Most students wait a few more weeks to find out if they will get accepted or not. Don’t sit back and wait – be aggressive and take action!

Why do colleges put students on the dreaded waitlist? In a word: numbers.  The average college-bound high school senior applies to eight colleges.  Take Suzie Q. Assume five colleges admit her and she chooses one. Four colleges now have a spot open for their next waitlisted student.  The only problem is that usually by the time the waitlist opens up, the deposit deadline for other schools has passed. This is where the process gets tricky. Some students will chose from a school they’ve been admitted to and forget about the waitlist schools.  Others, though, have had their sights set on Awesome University and are determined to attend if admitted.  As a College Advisor, I would recommend students put a deposit on the top choice of admitted schools, then follow the plan below to get yourself off the waitlist and admitted. Full or partial deposit refunds are usually available up until a certain date, so even if you put a deposit down, you may not be out all of the money if you don’t end up going to that college. (And while a couple hundred dollars is a big chunk of change, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to tuition. You want to make sure you’ve chosen the correct school for you, otherwise, it will be a long four years.)

Colleges care about action; you have to show that you deserve that spot in their institution and will be a contributing member of the campus community. When you take action, you are in essence taking control of the situation. I always advise students to get moving when it comes to waitlist letters. Write a follow up letter to the admissions counselor who is assigned to your file. You probably have their contact information in the letter or email that told of your waitlist status. This follow up letter should be something like the following:

Dear Ms. Adams,
I received your recent offer to be placed on the waiting list. I was disappointed but remain optimistic that an opportunity to attend Awesome University is still possible.  Awesome University has been and remains my first choice.  Although I have been accepted at several other institutions, my dream to attend Awesome University remains strong.
I have continued to work hard on every level and I have continued to maintain a competitive GPA. In addition to my Physics, English, Anatomy and Physiology I have taken AP Government and Pre-calculus.
My schedule has remained active and full.  I am a Varsity Lacrosse player, but this year there was an upset.  Unexpectedly, our only goalie was gone.  The team needed someone and no one had the skills or the desire to step up.  In January I spoke with coach and told him I will ensure I get training between then and now to assume the position with competence.  I took the challenge, learned the skills, practiced non-stop and I am currently doing very well in the position for our team.  I share this with you to show I am willing to step up. I am not only a student, but also an individual who faces life challenges. I will always strive to do my best in every situation.
I still very much want to attend Awesome University.  I appreciate your consideration in the event that an additional space becomes available.
John Blake
 This letter should include information on the following:
  • The activities you’ve participated in since sending your application
  • A re-iteration of your second semester courses
  • An update on your GPA (if it’s good…)
  • Any personal information that may be compelling to an admissions committee (a loss in your family,an award earned from a civic group, your volleyball winning the sectional      tournament, etc)
  • Your interest in attending the university (and how they are your first choice… ALWAYS tell the school they are your first choice!)
  • Good grammar.  Make sure an adult (preferably an English teacher) proofreads the letter before sending.
The letter requesting a move from the waitlist column to the admit column should be upbeat, optimistic, and enthusiastic. Be yourself and be honest; these are two critical pieces that add authenticity to your request!

The College Interview

You’ve taken challenging courses, sat for the SAT or ACT, filled out all of the applications, written the essays and there’s still more??? The college interview can be a critical piece of the admissions process. Many students look identical on paper; they’ve all been involved in multiple activities, taken challenging courses, and penned compelling essays.  How do colleges decide which applicants to admit? They interview.

Most students get the email or letter requesting an interview and the heart palpitations start immediately.  Why do they want an interview? What will they ask? Will they like me? AHHH! Stressful.

Managing the college interview is easy with three parts: knowing how to dress, what types of questions they will ask, and what questions you should ask.  The first part, how to dress, determines what the interviewer’s first impression of you will be.  This doesn’t require a magical formula – GUYS: wear a nice shirt, nice pants, and clean shoes; GIRLS: a skirt (not too short!) and shirt, or pants and a nice shirt.  If you would be comfortable around your grandparents or in a church/synagogue, then you’ll be fine for the interview.  A suit and tie is unnecessary; dressing that way will probably only make you feel uneasy and tell the interviewer you’re uncomfortable and hoping to compensate by dressing up. I advise students not to wear jeans, only because they’re a bit casual.  However, if they are nice jeans (preferably dark…) paired with a nice shirt and clean dark shoes, then jeans can be acceptable.  Clearly, the idea is to form an impression that you take care of yourself, dress appropriately for an academic interview, and are comfortable presenting yourself.
The second component: What will they ask? Every college is different, but most have a bank of questions from which the interviewer can choose.  The ultimate goal for the interview is to be conversational; they want to get to know who you are as a person and how you will contribute to campus life at their institution. Some interviewers will only get to one or two of the optional questions because the conversation is self-generating and easy to maintain.  This is good! It means you and the interviewer have connected on a personal level and your personality is coming through without being forced. However, this won’t necessarily happen on every interview. Personalities differ and you won’t connect immediately with each one.  Not to worry though - interviewers have their lists of questions to keep the conversation going. Some typical questions include:
  • Why are you interested in this school?
  • What do you expect to gain from your college experience?
  • How have you spent your summers and free time?
  • How would you describe yourself to someone who has never met you?
  • Name an experience when your friends were proud of you or the way you handled a situation?
  • Tell me about a significant personal experience.
  • Discuss the reasons for choosing your essay topic. (Bring two copies and be ready to discuss.)
  • What is your favorite book? (Don’t just give the title - be prepared to share your thoughts.)
  • Briefly explain a challenge you overcame and how it affected your life.
  • Prepare a 30-second biography. Paint a vivid, compelling portrait of yourself.
  • If you could travel in time, what period of history would you visit and why?
Prepare a little information about yourself and ask an adult to give you a mock interview using the questions above. The adult should NOT be a parent! You are way too comfortable with them; ask a teacher, counselor, or another adult.  Remember, the idea is to be nervous and uncomfortable during the mock interview.  Get this out of the way so you can be confident during your real interview.  The more you practice (in front of a mirror, with friends, etc), the better you’ll be.  Trust me, this will be awkward, weird, and not fun – but you will get better.  Keep working at it!
*Remember to bring two copies of the following (one for you, one for interviewer):
  • Resume
  • College Essay
  • Any Supplemental Essays  (if applicable)
The third part: What to ask? This is the part where most interviewees get freaked out.  Toward the end of the interview, most students will be asked “Do you have any questions for me?” and the typical response is “Umm… I don’t think so.”  Fail. This is your chance to show the interviewer that you have prepared and researched this amazing college where you are applying! Here are some good, generic questions (but also feel free to develop some on your own!)
  • What was your college experience like at ________ University?
  • How does ________  University help freshmen to get involved with campus activities?
  • What is the typical 4-year college schedule at ______ University?
  • Are courses typically taught by professors or teaching assistants (TAs)?
  • If _________ University is strongly known for it’s internship program, ask detailed questions about how these programs would work for your specific intended major or area of      interest.
  • Ask a follow-up question for a topic discussed during the interview.
Stay true to yourself during the interview.  This is not a test! The colleges just want to get to know you a little better and see what your contribution to their campus has the potential to be.
The best advice? Be yourself. Practice to gain confidence in your answers and be prepared to talk about yourself. That is why you are there!

10 Tips to Get Your Student's Grades Back Up

Once October arrives, the leaves fall and a hint of winter is in the air. Along with the changes of nature, there may be something else arriving at home . . . progress reports, interim reports, or failure notices. This will be the first time many parents are made aware of their child’s performance in school.   Here’s how to take the next step in helping your child succeed, early in the semester:

1. Do NOT panic. Let me say that again. Do NOT panic! Although it is difficult because of your emotional involvement, you must be careful not to go into full parent mode. As we all know, this immediately puts your child into child mode. All parents know that child mode is far stronger and more frustrating than parent mode.

2. You will not get a lot of help from your child. If you see something problematic on the report, be prepared to hear your child refute every single aspect of anything negative. You will hear things such as, “She is the worst teacher; ask anybody.” Or, “I don’t know what Mr. Smith is talking about. I did every homework assignment this quarter.” Students seem to have no idea how they are doing in a class until these reports surface.

3. Contact the teacher. You must call or email each teacher individually and allow a few days for your return call. But you should not have to wait more than a few days. Depending on grade level, you can call the department chairperson, guidance counselor, or appropriate assistant principal. Do not call anyone before you try to reach the teacher first. This is not only courteous, but professional as well.

4. Pinpoint the problem. You should not accept any non-specific answers. “He is not working to his ability” is not an acceptable answer. You need to know if your child is: a. attentive in class b. participating in class c. handing in all homework assignments d. asking questions (not just answering them) e. doing well on tests f. completing all projects

 5. Set up a plan to move forward. There is a triangle that’s needed to work together for the benefit of the child. You need the school, the parent, and the child. If any one of these is missing, it’s difficult to improve the situation. Too many parents talk to the teacher when the child is not present. This is a HUGE error. The student has to do the work and implement the changes. Too often parents make deals with teachers that the students simply can’t honor.

 6. Your child must make arrangements for extra help. Whether it be lunch time or after school, extra help serves two very important functions. First of all, the student will get more personalized attention. Secondly, the teacher truly appreciates the efforts of a student who puts in that extra time.

 7. More drastic measures are often needed. If the student has not done his or her homework. Instead of taking things “away”, add things to reward good work habits. If I child usually gets 30 minutes for Playstation, he should now get 45 minutes after all homework is completed. This creates a win-win situation in the household.

 8. Outside help might be needed.  Although I own a tutoring agency, I don’t think parents should use outside help until all other alternatives have been exhausted. Some teacher don’t know how to reach certain children and often personalities do clash. There are many outside agencies that offer tutoring and even educational testing. It is best to find these people from referrals whenever possible.

 9. Daily progress sheets. In more drastic situations, these are sheets that each teacher must sign daily to indicate how your child is doing. This will give you an immediate idea of how well the new plan is working.

10. DO not wait for the next progress sheet/report card. The first report card is usually mailed home 10 weeks into the school year. You need to be in contact with certain teachers sooner. One quarter of missed work is very difficult for an already struggling student to make up.

The Summer Brain Drain

Studies have shown that children can lose between 10 and 25 percent of their reading skills over the course of the summer. This is directly due to the lack of work, skills and drills in which the student should be engaged over the break from school. It manifests itself in a slow start and difficulty with coursework when school resumes. Additionally, a child’s ability to write effectively is hindered because the writing process has not continued over the summer. Below are several ideas to help your child maintain and improve his or her abilities over the summer months.

READ, READ, READ: Reading is without a doubt the most important facet to a child’s education regardless of age or grade in school. Even math tests are becoming more challenging as word problems are nearly impossible to answer correctly without an understanding of the task at hand. Although many schools have summer reading assignments, more often than not a child sees this as a punishment since the book was chosen for them and not by them. Most students read the summer book assigned three or four days before school begins.
To get your child excited about reading, purchase a $15 gift card from the local bookstore and allow him to choose any book he feels like reading. (Of course, it must be appropriate.) This does not have to be a book that he will be reading for school. It will have extra meaning since it will be a book that he has chosen without parental or teacher input.

Write, Write, Write: Journals or diaries are an excellent way to keep students in the “school mode”. While reading is important, writing and reading work in concert. Children will not want to do long writing assignments, but journals based on what they read and how they feel about the readings can be brief and assist them in moving forward once school begins.

Fun Study Groups: Kids get together all the time to play video games, watch movies, and just hang out. An exciting book or magazine article that all have read can spark some additional interest. This is a bit more difficult because it requires some parent input. You might find an article on the Internet about a video game the kids play and challenge them to create a test for you based on that article. This way, you have to read the article as well. The culmination is to see if they can stump you on a question. Bet them a trip to their favorite ice cream store once they have completed their test regardless of how well you do on the exam. (Pizza works, too!)

Movie Reviews: Take your child and a friend to the movies and offer to buy extra surprises at the candy counter if they promise to write a movie review afterwards.
Letters: The arrival of computers and improved technology has been a double-edged sword in society. Our children rely on spell checkers and other such programs to provide them with a product that is well written. Have them write to their grandparents via “snail mail” rather than email in order to maintain and sharpen their skills.

While it is difficult to have children complete arduous assignments over the summer, it is important and necessary to engage them in activities that will keep their brains active. This will make the transition from one school year to the next more positive for them on a variety of levels. Turn the summer brain drain into the summer BRAIN GAIN!
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Staff Training Year Round - Four Seasons of Change

Although the ground is cold and the trees are bare, summer 2012 will soon be upon us. Of course, camp directors think about July and August constantly. But upper staff and counselors don’t always think about camp until the early buds of May appear.
Many people don’t realize that staff training need not be an Orientation only proposition. People learn by what they see and what they hear, but they learn even more by actually DOING. Below are some ideas that might prove helpful in training your staff before, during, and after the camp season.

  1. Don’t assume that people need help in certain areas……ASK.
Staff are sometimes disillusioned with training because many of them feel as if certain topics are not pertinent to their jobs. Although they are often mistaken, clearly we can do a better job of finding out what would have a greater impact on helping them become more effective. Also, you are showing your staff that asking questions is not a sign of weakness, but rather, a sign of strength.
     a. Surveys  are a great way to find out information without putting staff members in a position to feel embarrassed. This is also an opportunity to get honest  and important feedback which can help you improve the training process. Surveys or suggestion boxes should be done during the summer as well as at the end. The BEST time to help people with issues that arise is during on the job training! In the fall, surveys are a great idea since camp is still fresh in the minds of staff. While filling out the surveys, they are once again thinking about their jobs at camp and looking forward to the next summer.
     b. Mini-meetings.  During the year, upper staff is more readily available than counselors who might be away at college. Divide and conquer is a great approach that  will help you gain information through effective dialogue. You can meet  with specialists, group leaders, maintenance staff and others in an informal setting to determine what training is needed in the future for them and those they supervise. Helpful hint: Supply refreshments.
     c. Emails- Sending emails is a fast way to get IMMEDIATE responses from staff members. There are no stamps and envelopes that make snail mail such a difficult process. Think of sending personalized emails whenever possible. Blast emails are great for sending mass information, but when you want frank responses, the more personal…the better.
Winter (and all year long)
  1. Train by Example-We often hear the term “lead by example.” But most of us have never thought to “train by example.” In other words, sending birthday cards to campers is something many camps do. However, few camps send such cards      to staff members throughout the year. Doing so would send a message to your staff that going the extra mile means so much. You could, of course, reference this at Orientation and create a dialogue about how the staff members felt when they received the card from the camp. Additionally, this could springboard into a  discussion about how campers feel when staff go the “extra mile for them”.   It is SO MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE to train staff with things that are tangible as opposed to a simple lecture.
  1. Manual Madness- If two heads are better than one, then what would we think about 250 heads?!!  Although the size of a staff varies from camp to camp, why not send small parts of the staff manual to certain people throughout the year and ask  them to add information? For example, you can send Water Safety pages from the staff manual to those people who work at your pools. As productive as we try to be, it is almost certain that others will think of important things that we left out. This way, your staff is learning as they THINK of things that would be helpful for the future. Giving them credit for their input in the staff manual or at a staff meeting would be an added bonus as well. When you Empower your staff, you make them more Powerful!
  1. Bring in Guest Speakers- Training throughout the year can be made more fun and interesting if you think “outside the box” and bring people in to help you train. This does not mean you have to always hire motivational speakers or camp experts. You can use guest speakers that are already on your payroll! Let a specialist with a lot of experience lead a session in November on how to get the most from your assistants. Bring a parent in who has had children in the camp for a few years to speak about parent expectations. A director can talk about what the parents expect, but that pales in comparison to hearing it from an actual mother or father. Bring in a veteran counselor to speak to newly hired counselors in May or June.
People who are not in the camp industry have no idea how long planning takes to ensure a safe and fun summer for children. Staff Training is a key element in giving counselors and upper staff the tools they need to succeed. Relegating this training to a few hot days in June before the start of camp is simply not enough time. By following the above outline, you will be well on the way to training your staff year-round while strengthening your bond with them at the same time.