Category Archives: high school

But…What do Colleges Prefer

 

by Ashley Brookshire, Regional Director of Admissions for the West Coast

It’s a question I hear often – mostly from families at college fairs who are frantically trying to absorb every available nugget of information available to them in the tight time frame of the event: “But… what do colleges prefer?”  bend in the road

“My daughter has the opportunity to take classes at our local community college this summer or do an internship – which one do colleges prefer?”

“My son is thinking about going on a mission trip or finding a job for the summer – which one is better?”

“I can either stay with band or debate for my senior year, but not both. What should I do?”

Students, and parents, are hoping for a concrete answer – a guaranteed road map to get in to the college of their choice. If an admission counselor says it, then it must be truth, and should be followed to a “t” (trust me, we wish we had that kind of all-knowing power!). But if you’re reading this in hopes of gaining a paint-by-numbers insight into the college admission process, I’m afraid you’re going to be terribly disappointed.

The better question to ask is “why do we ask students to supply an activity record with their application?” Is it to count the number of hours you spent volunteering at a local hospital? Do we tally the number of times you were elected into an officer position for a club at school? No, on both counts.

We are looking at three things: your experiences, the talents you possess, and the skill sets that you’ve developed throughout your high school career. These three items help us gauge your fit and potential impact on our campus.

Experiences

Your experiences inform your beliefs, passions, and ambitions, and ultimately, this is what we want you to bring to our community. What types of opportunities did you opt into (or in some cases, stumble into by chance) and how did they differ from your initial expectations? Have you stepped into a club, trip, or commitment that was outside of your comfort zone? The beauty of a college campus is its ability to offer a more robust list of experiences than most high schools can provide. What experiences are you bringing to the table? I’m not just talking about the stamps in your passport. When we look at your application, we want to see the behaviors that make you open to experience life with new people, places, and activities.

Talents

A talent is an innate ability to do something, whereas a skill set is learned and developed. Many of the families I speak with seem to focus on talents, but in the admission process, skills sets are equally as insightful (more on that in a moment). I haven’t been a powerful force in a music classroom since learning to play the recorder in 5th grade. I can appreciate that some people have inherent abilities that I do not. If you have talent in art, music, dance, athletics, or public speaking, then you’re likely drawn to these types of activities. What students usually overlook is that you determine how your talents are utilized and ultimately captured on your application. Are you part of a club, company, or team that allows you to hone your craft? Have you created opportunities for others to engage in this activity? From an admission perspective, we’re not looking to fill a class of individuals who were born with special talents. We are looking for students who are motivated to share their unique talents in impactful ways.

Skill Sets

Skills, on the other hand, are developed. They are practiced, trained, and learned. These can be hard skills (programming, marketing, or painting) or soft skills (networking, time management, perseverance). Sometimes students apply so much effort to developing a skill set that it appears as a natural talent to others, leaving them unaware of the work going on behind the scenes. The skills you’ve cultivated by balancing your time outside of the classroom and working with others will make you a powerful member during the many group projects you’ll work on in college. Enrolling in a summer academic program or college course will sharpen your academic prowess and allow you to accelerate your coursework in college. The leadership skills you’ve gained as a club officer at your high school will embolden you to step into pivotal roles in one of the hundreds of organizations that contribute to our campus culture. As a volunteer, you’ve stayed mindful of those around you and connected more personally to your community. All of these experiences, talents, and skills bring positive value to a college campus, yet all cannot be pursued at the same time. Even in the summer, there are a limited number of hours in the day.

The Answer

So, back to the original question: “which (insert activity here) do colleges prefer?” We prefer that you use your time intentionally in whichever way you feel best engages your interests, utilizes your talents, and allows you to grow as an individual. These are the types of students who will join a college community and thrive both inside and outside the classroom. At the end of the day, we want to enroll a well-rounded freshman class. This is quite different than every student in our class being well-rounded. It means that, as a whole, our class is filled with philanthropists and athletes, musicians and researchers, leaders and employees, and their collective experiences, talents, and skills create dynamic, thought-provoking interactions on our campus. But before you schedule every free moment of your summer, remember: summer should bring reprieve with it. Enjoy the additional time in your day – days are longer and summer doesn’t normally hold the same time commitments as the school year. Take a deep breath, celebrate your achievements over the course of the last year, and catch up on that book or tv series that you set aside during the school year. After all, senior year and college application season is just around the corner.

 

 

Have Your Standards Dropped?

As the year went along did your standards go along with it?  ….You may be a homeschooling mama if….. you are an idealist who cannot maintain her ideals because there are so many of them!

The year begins, you have your curriculum set, your daily master plan laid out, and your energy reserves on high.  This is going to be the best year ever!  I mean EVER!  THIS is the year for perfect penmanship.  Day one is a wake up call to tune of ‘nobody wants to do school’.  To be honest, neither do you.  Perhaps this is day two or three at your home, but at some point the rosy bloom fades as we (children, mom, dad) realize a root word of home school indicates entry into trenches of hard work.

How can this be with such incredible lesson plans, wonderful academic groups, stellar social outings?  Standards begin to slip with a lesson here and there under the daily duress caused by a little one waking with The Grumpies and derailing the day.  (*on my best days I remember to send this child back to their room immediately as this attitude illness is highly contagious)  We convinced ourselves that a once a week lesson in insert nemesis subject here is adequate and/or will be caught up on during insert holiday/weekend here. (*on my best days I remember to eat the slimy toad first)  Somehow said slimy toad does not make it back to the A List.

Fast forward a few months and the What-Did-I-Forget-This-Year joins the What-Did-I-Forget-This-Day going to sleep review.  …Never caught up in that subject ….forgot to add in this subject… did we cover enough in those subjects?  Realizing we dropped some subjects altogether we ask how and when this could have happened?  Looking back you find that your last check date was JANUARY THIRD???!!!!  Were we even doing school that near to Christmas?  Well, it is my handwriting, so we must have been unless another alien abduction occurred.

Is recovery possible?  Happily, the answer is yes–if you want to, if you summer-school, if you realize the subject was a much-needed-basic as opposed to a fun-sounding-filler.  What’s up with all these hyphens?!  If your subject of concern falls within the first catagory, the good news is that you can focus deeply on this area over the summer.  This includes high schoolers.  If you fall into the latter category, realize that some of what you placed on your child’s lesson plan was temporal busy work that you saw as ‘fun’ (worksheet worship) rather than eternal expansion that is often seen as ‘play’ (explore/discover/create).   In either case, you can lay down your guilt, and know that you will be wiser in planning and executing next year.  You have given your best and realized that, as always, you fell short of perfection.

You may be a homeschooling mama if…..you want Heaven so badly you are willing to submit to daily sanctification applied through your children.

 

High School Readiness & Gaps

In answer to the common question, “How will I know I am covering “enough” with my soon-to-be 8th grader to prepare him for high school level courses?”

You never will.  Makes me grin each time I type this as I can envision the ‘thanks for nothing’ expression it must elicit.

If your student will return to public school you will need him prepared in math & reading comprehension, competent in gleaning material from texts, able to fill in a bubble with the stroke of a #2 pencil, stand in line, raise his hand, request a bathroom pass in twelve different languages,………….okay, I’m getting a bit silly.

Make certain your child is math confident.  Go back and insure that all upper level math building blocks are sturdy and steady.  (decimals, fractions, theories, etc).  Strengthen reading comprehension through re-reading and narrating short stories, classics, favorite books.  Use a strong program such as IEW or Lost Tools of Writing to assure that a well planned, well stated composition can be created if given a topic.

If your student has a strong foundation in these three basics, he/she will be able to learn any subject matter no matter how difficult or foreign.  Science and History are required subjects, so please don’t forget to include them in your days.  But the base three for a lifetime of success in learning anything from how to put together a bike to how to solve the worlds problems are math, reading comprehension, and writing.

Another spin off to this is the issue of ‘gaps’.  Not the super fantastic immune strengthening diet that is helping frantic moms across the world regain health over illness, just the simple empty spaces that feel, in an academic sense, as though they ought to be filled.

Every single student has gaps even if they attend the most stellar institution this world has to offer and switch to another.  There will be gaps.  From traditional school to traditional school, there are gaps- yes, even if they are all teaching The Core.  From home school to traditional school, there will be gaps.  Gaps just can’t be helped.

As long as the gaps are not in the above 3 mentioned areas (math, reading comprehension, writing) your student will be just fine and be caught up within a matter of weeks.  -even in computers and foreign language when placed with students who have had experience for 8 years and yours has none.  It’s a phenomenon for sure, but it’s real.