Seton Hall: what a beautiful fall!

Posted by Sandra Clifton on Oct 11, 2015 in Academic Coaching, College, School Snapshots: Tours & Open Houses

I couldn’t have picked a prettier day to visit the beautiful campus of Seton Hall University this past Saturday…Making the 45-minute trip from NYC on the NJ Transit, I landed in picturesque South Orange to blue skies and sunshine, and made the 10-minute walk for a lovely tour…

Seton Hall

At first glance, I was a little nervous that this is a “commuter school,” as all the walkways seemed eerily empty—and then quickly learned on our trek with a peppy tour guide that this weekend was Fall Break, and many students were away.  That said, Seton Hall is a really sweet enclave of winding walkways, sturdy trees, demure buildings, and a lovely old chapel.  Immaculate landscaping frames this private Roman Catholic campus that was established in 1856, and there is much history and lore in its long-standing tradition of a truly fine-arts education.

Seton Hall is in the midst of a $100 million renovation, and I was able to get a glimpse of their stunning fitness center.  Anyone would be inspired to work out in this facility, and hours have been increased so that students can visit at most hours of the day.  One thing that made me especially proud of this college is that students are encouraged to attend games and can “earn back” their admission costs (of just $10 per event) when they achieve perfect attendance.  In addition, all students get free busing to basketball games and (unlike other colleges) are guaranteed a seat to cheer for their feisty Pirates.

Seton Hall, while proud of its Catholic roots, is both theologically and ethnically diverse in its student population of almost 10,000, and strives to inspire students to learn and serve.  There is still time to register for their first Open House this fall, and many reasons to attend this exciting event.  While I wanted to linger longer, I took a copy of The Stillman ExchangeThe Official Business Publication of Seton Hall University for the ride back, and have to admit that this bi-weekly paper provided a better update on current events than I’d had in a long time.  Perhaps that’s because it is the first undergraduate business newspaper in the United States, published by the “Center for Securities Trading and Analysis” in the W. Paul Stillman School of Business.  Impressive!

Not sold yet?  Seton Hall offers $5 tickets (and a free bus) to attend NYC events (like Broadway shows and Usher concerts), provides free tutoring for students in their dorms, and has produced more than 15 Fulbright Scholars since 2009.  If you’re living in NYC, NJ, or PA and a quality education is your goal, going “True Blue” in South Orange just might be your winning college ticket!


10th Annual NYC College Counselor Breakfast

Posted by Sandra Clifton on Oct 11, 2015 in Academic Coaching, College

For the past three years, I have been attending University of Rochester’s Annual NYC College Counselor Breakfast at the 3 West Club as an independent educational consultant.  It’s a fascinating way to get a glimpse of a school from one of the top admissions reps and to ask important, timely questions about the application process—as well as discuss current collegiate trends.

roch pic

This past Thursday morning, I listened to information presented by representatives from U of R, Middlebury, Oberlin, and the University of Pittsburgh.  Here are some highlights:

* University of Rochester:  Did you know that this institution has a $400 million endowment dedicated to research?  If a enrolled student finds a passion they want to explore outside their major, they can apply for a grant to stay at the college for a fifth year (for free!) to explore it completely….This project is called the “Take 5 Proposal” and you can learn more about it here.

* Middlebury:  Did you know that the townspeople created this college to educate their own?  This campus is “test flexible” and very environmentally astute:  they use the whole state of Vermont as “a learning lab” and implemented a student-suggested idea for a biomass gasification plant to save energy.  You can find out more here.

* Oberlin:   Did you know that this is the first co-ed college in the nation?  Enough said.

* University of Pittsburgh:   Did you know that students get free public transportation all four years?  They have a Cathedral of Learning that is reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, and a Quidditch team to boot!  But perhaps most importantly, according to their rep, not only does this institution provide nine different engineering majors at The Swanson School, Pitt is ranked #1 in engineering for women.

When a student, parent, or another educator says that it’s important to attend a “good” school, I pause inside before I ask, “What’s your measurement of ‘good’?”  From one scholar to another, I think it depends on the quality of the research you do in the process of deciding.  😉  So if you would like a guide in that journey, don’t hesitate to reach out for some support—I’m here to help you in the effort of digging, dissecting, and discovering all that’s good!


BASIS: An Independent Brooklyn School

Posted by Sandra Clifton on Oct 3, 2015 in School Snapshots: Tours & Open Houses

basis 2“The world itself is a text.”

-BASIS High School English Teacher

What happens when I have no clients at my private practice on Montague Street in The Heights?  Work, of course!  As a woman who wears many hats, part of my job is to stay in touch with school options for my families.  So on this blustery Saturday in October, I put on my heaviest rain jacket n’ scarf and made my way midst wet autumn leaves to attend a two-hour tour of BASIS, a new independent school in Red Hook, Brooklyn.  Although I felt some trepidation as I crossed the highway from familiar territory in Carroll Gardens and made my way towards the wind and water of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, let me say right away that it was worth the trip. The minute I entered the doors, I was greeted by an upbeat team who welcomed me (despite being five minutes late—) with reading materials, a book bag, and a journal for notes.

When I expressed interest in the 8th-12th grades, I was given a card for Ba or “Group Barium,” on a cute pink schedule:


Parents, students, and I (a Certified Educational Planner) then made our way through a “mock high school schedule,” visiting the history, arts, math, science, and English teachers in their state-of-the-art classrooms, on four floors offering misty views of the cloudy East River.  Positioned right next door to the IKEA compound, BASIS is actually very similar in concept, as it’s built on a model rolled out in several states, from Arizona to Virginia—and now China.  Their website states, “They developed a formula for success,” and that message becomes clear when you hear some of the teacher-spiels.  I had to put aside a few initial reservations when one educator claimed that “no other school in the city and probably the country” offers the same quality of instruction.  Based on the tenets of STEM with its offering of Mandarin in the elementary school and the gray carpet, gray walls, and gray lockers—punctuated by some splashes of red—this setting reminded me a bit of Avenues.  Both schools are in distinctly industrial neighborhoods bordered by a harbor and housing projects—and both institutions are new in their NYC K-12 independent school journey.  BASIS and Avenues also attract excellent teacher talent, evidenced by the high-energy modeled by each of the instructors, who often spoke non-stop during their 10-minute presentations.

What appears to be unique about BASIS, however, is their emphasis on “spiraling,” a concept used in math to circle back to concepts every three days and “layer” new knowledge with higher-level facts.  This approach is also employed in science, where middle school students are exposed to three days of biology, three days of chemistry, and three days of physics…with increasingly more difficult concepts woven into these disciplines each year.  As we moved through each subject, I took a minute to notice the math teacher’s sign to “KEEP CALM AND SHOW YOUR WORK,”  the art teacher’s poster to “Start with a glow and move to a grow” when critiquing pieces, and the history teacher’s acronym of ACE:  “Answer, Cite evidence, and Elaborate/explain.”  Educators here are well-trained (some with PhD’s) and passionate about their work:  many stay until 6PM to make sure that students succeed, and all give a minimum of two hours after school each week to support individual academic efforts.

That said, parents should know that BASIS does not have a school psychologist on site, and grade deans are expected to handle the responsibilities of an (also absent) learning specialist.  All students are required to take (and pass) six AP classes for graduation, so the bar is set high from the start.  As the English teacher stated, “Middle school students have a high school curriculum, and high schoolers are expected to perform like college students.”  So….if your child has any kind of (un)diagnosed learning difference, this is a consideration, and one that gives me pause.  Like Fusion, BASIS has a “tried and true” model that is planted in different cities and has—for some students and families—been quite successful.  But if your situation is at all unique, it might help to hear more of my impressions about the lack of an online system of communication between students and teachers and the use of only a traditional paper planner for recording homework.  Apparently, BASIS does not have an online portal where teachers post access to documents or homework updates, and there is no formal parent-teacher conference night, though they do provide a weekly conference time for mothers and fathers to visit.  Students should also be aware that formal teams will not start playing games for another two years, if they happen to be competitive athletes—and I was surprised that a gym was not part of the formal tour.  In addition, despite the design of this impressively modern building, there wasn’t the inclusion of a dance or yoga/creative movement studio.  But—considering that the price-tag is about half the cost of other independent schools and there IS room—this just might be a great opportunity for your family.

Needless to say, no school is perfect and BASIS has some very strong qualities—with some obvious quirks.  So sign up for a visit yourself—and then don’t hesitate to let me know how I can help untangle just what these options might mean for your family’s educational journey.  Happy Touring!


Artists, Writers, Innovators :: PRATT!

Posted by Sandra Clifton on Sep 30, 2015 in College, School Snapshots: Tours & Open Houses

Although it’s practically in my back yard, I had never visited Pratt…until last Friday.  And I have to say—in a word, it was….stunning.  If I had one ounce of artistry in my left pinky, I would seriously consider a chapter of reinvention at this amazing oasis in Brooklyn.

From the moment I walked through the gates, I knew I had entered a place of beauty and design:  Pratt is “cuddled” in the neighborhood of Clinton Hill, near Fort Greene, and its lush green quad is decorated by original sculptures and beautiful flowers that made me feel as if I had landed in Connecticut—or perhaps Salzburg.  Many of its brick buildings date back to the early 1800’s, and the campus has been lovingly renovated to honor the past and yet celebrate the future:  new-age angles dance midst an old-fashioned foundation, and you can tell that a major in Historic Preservation is time well-spent here.  I walked through the tour wondering, “Am I in Copenhagen?  No, perhaps Soho.  Or maybe Savannah?”  One minute we were walking into a white loft of still-life drawing with views of the city from wooden windows and the next moment our group wandered down sleek hallways of fashion design filled with sewing machines, midst Parisian-looking sketches.

Pratt_Fall_HR_074 (2)(1)

Did you know that at Pratt, you can not only major in architecture, digital arts, or interior design but also writing, library science, and construction management?  Upon landing from the subway, I was a bit turned around when looking for the admissions office, and a sweet junior from Jersey pointed me in the right direction—so of course I had to ask about her experience there, and after glowing with compliments for the college, she shared that her major is fiction!

I have to admit that this Institute is deeper and richer than I can ever begin to give it credit in this quick column, and if I had my choice, I’d return again for another (and longer) tour this fall.  There are so many delicious details to share (and discover) about this Brooklyn gem, from the nine domesticated cats that roam campus to the gluten-free options in one of three food courts, a beautiful lodge-looking gym, and guaranteed housing in NYC for each student all four years.

If you have someone in your family who is visionary, innovative, and into discovery, please have them visit this campus:  its one-of-a-kind art and innovation alone is worth the trip.  And you may decide that Pratt is where YOU’re at!


A Response to “Watchman”

Posted by Sandra Clifton on Aug 31, 2015 in Emotional Literacy

When I learned about a decade ago that my dad, an American Baptist minister, hadn’t read To Kill a Mockingbird, I told him that he couldn’t really preach another great sermon until he finished this book.  This is what he wrote this summer in response to Harper Lee’s sequel, Go Set a Watchman

I was a college student when I first saw the movie, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It was a hot summer night in Missouri. I know this because all the nights in Missouri are hot in the summer. I took my younger sister and one of her friends to the local drive-in. The movie had been released the year prior but I knew nothing about it or the writer of the novel. It was just a hot summer night before Air Conditioning became the norm and we needed a place to go and something to do.

I then did something that I had never done before and never did again–I took my father to a movie the following night. And we watched–just father and son– Gregory Peck portray Atticus Finch. I do recall my father having a cool reaction to the movie. He was, like most of the adults I knew–an un-reconstructed Southern Man. My father was involved in local politics in those days and I suppose he fit perfectly what Joseph Crespino described as a “Jeffersonian Democrat” (“New York Times,” July 16, 2015). That is, my father believed that citizenship is a privilege to be earned. He had little interest in America moving toward a more just society if that meant change in how we dealt with racial politics. I know the Atticus Finch of “Go Set a Watchman.”  That Atticus was my father, my Southern Baptist pastor, my teachers at school and every relative I could name or recognize.

It was many years before I got around to reading “Mockingbird.” And by the time I did, my English teacher wife had schooled me widely about who Harper Lee was and what she was like. But I have watched the movie a dozen times or more through the years. And the Attics on the screen in the person of Gregory Peck still makes me almost stop breathing when he squares off with the people of his Alabama town.

Some are now saying that the early Atticus is too good to be true. Tony Norman of the Post-Gazette (July 14, 2015), with whom I agree about 99% of the time, says that the early Atticus of “Mockingbird” could only have existed in science fiction novels. And Mr. Crespino asks: “Where were the decent white Southerners…?” (July 16, “New York Times”).

I could name a few. None of them would be recognized by the people who read these pages. But let me name just one– G.W. Like me, G.W. was a Baptist pastor. I fled north, in part to rebel against a church and a culture that systematically denied citizenship, dignity and opportunity to African Americans. G.W., who was a few years older, stayed in the South. In fact, he began his ministry in Alabama, Harper Lee’s Alabama, the Alabama prior to the Freedom Rides and the Montgomery boycott and the Greensboro sit-ins. This was the Alabama that had barely changed since Reconstruction and which had no plans ever to change. The “Watchman” Atticus Finch was Everyman in this Alabama.

Now a word about G.W. He was gifted in his youth, an able baseball player in Southern Missouri who remembers once hitting a home run against one of the Boyer brothers. G.W. was active in his Southern Baptist Church and when he got an appointment to the Air Force Academy, turned it down. Another calling was in his life, the calling of service as a minister and preacher. In the 20 years or more that I have known G.W., he has consistently been a most decent, loving and honest human being.

So place G.W. in Alabama as America reaches the 1960s. We both learned a song as children. It’s very familiar…

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red & yellow, black & white
they’re precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world
Jesus cares for all the children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus cares for all the children of the world.

It comes as little surprise to know that G.W. was summarily fired from his Alabama church. Sometimes this happens when a delegation of deacons pays a visit with message: “You are finished here as pastor. We want your resignation immediately and we want you out of town.” That happened quite often in those days. Or, sometimes the church actually took a vote with appropriate applause when the pastor was dismissed. G.W. had to watch the vote as people whom he loved and served sent him out and away.

The stories are there. The people were there. They were homemakers, teachers, shopkeepers, medical workers and other ordinary people who quietly acted with courage and dignity in the midst of hate and ignorance. Their stories will not be published. Their names will not be remembered. But they do not exist in science fiction. They exist in a cloud of witnesses known primarily to God.

That’s why the Atticus Finch of “Mockingbird” has always been with us. He is still calling us to be decent human beings in a world of violence, intolerance and hate. This Atticus Finch still offers a summons to us to love all of God’s children. We need that Atticus now as much as we needed it long ago.

Tom Clifton
Shaler, PA

My dad doesn’t have a permanent pulpit anymore…but he can still write a sermon. Regardless of your religious affiliation, I think we all need to hear this one.

May the spirit of Atticus live on–in each of us.


The Benefits of Being an “HSP” ~

Posted by Sandra Clifton on Jul 17, 2015 in Health & Wholeness

{This is an article I worked on for an entrepreneurial magazine, which I decided was not the right forum for publication, for a variety of reasons.  Don’t ever let someone stifle your authentic voice or diminish your true value!}

Is ‘Sensitivity’ Actually a Super-Strength?

The Benefits of Being an “HSP”

“You’re so sensitive!” Did you often hear that phrase when growing up? Perhaps you noticed intricate details in artwork that other children missed, or were the son who became immediately aware of the smallest change in your family’s home. Maybe you knew the car would break down because you heard an ‘odd sound’ before anyone else did, or you could anticipate when to leave a party just before the cops arrived. Your teachers may have mentioned that your comments in class were especially insightful, or perhaps a coach acknowledged that your support helped a teammate regain confidence. You may have spent a lot of time ‘getting lost’ in nature; created your own secret language; or had a special knack of connecting with animals, older people, or individuals from other cultures. You might have been the kid in college who everyone told their secrets to during finals week, or the first to sense calamity before a natural disaster struck. Maybe you secretly shed tears when a tree in the park was ripped apart from lightening, its branches torn across the pavement like amputated limbs…

In our society, where stoicism is celebrated, it’s not fun being labeled as “too sensitive.” In fact, many Westerners think that this tendency is a softness that needs to be fixed, like an “Achilles heal” or fatal flaw. “Big boys” are scolded not to cry on the playground; adults are commanded, “Never let them see you sweat” when going on a job interview; and new teachers have been advised, “If you want to survive the first year, don’t smile until Christmas!” Many of us have developed great shame around the idea that we should have a “thicker skin,” and that we’re somehow wrong or inept because we feel things intensely and with great complexity.

But what if your sensitivity is actually a superpower? The ability to notice artistic subtleties, to empathize with others, and to connect in nature are just a few of the characteristics that make up 15-20% of the population….those who happen to be what Dr. Elaine Aron has identified as “Highly Sensitive Persons” (or HSPs). Aron began studying this innate trait in 1991, and explains that the scientific term for HSP is actually a “Sensory Processing Sensitivity” (or SPS), which is not a disorder or a diagnosis—but can be accidentally (and tragically) dismissed. Being an HSP is a natural-born trait that occurs across societies, as well as in animal species. In fact, SPS has been found in every culture and in over 100 different creatures—including horses, dogs, birds, cats, fish and even fruit flies. HSPs have brains that process information very deeply and can often feel alienated due to this unique neurobiology: sometimes kids are labeled shy, introverted or even ADHD because the trait of High Sensitivity can look like an individual is “on another level” or in a “different world.” That’s because the subtleties and nuances both observed and internalized by someone with SPS are much more vivid, compelling, and/or overwhelming than for the more “hardy” population. However, this keen response to various stimuli can be surprisingly intuitive (and even uncanny) because HSPs can predict patterns and anticipate events in advance of the “other 80%.” As a result, sometimes HSPs are labeled the “crazy scientists,” “odd inventors,” or even “visionary gurus.”

Do you wonder if you might have this trait? There is a simple self-test of 27 questions that can help to identify if you’re an HSP, which is located on Dr. Elaine Aron’s website, where you can purchase and read the classic text and national bestseller, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You. This text is a ‘handbook’ that can increase your awareness and anchor your acceptance of this trait and help to shift your perspective of sensitivity into a strength.

There are several other steps that can support your journey:

Build in buffers: most HSPs (including children and teens—) can become taxed when there isn’t enough of a “cushion” to transition between one demanding activity and the next. (This includes adjusting to vacation/locations and returning home after any kind of trip.) Try to intentionally “pace some space” around more intense activities in a hectic schedule of classes and work/meetings, in order to create “containers” of when and where you can recharge and re-center:  even five minutes can make a notable difference.

Get your A’s to zzz’s: HSPs can become exceedingly stretched when they are not getting proper rest or nutrition. Everything is louder and harsher when a sensitive nervous system doesn’t have a firm foundation. Some HSPs need gluten-free or dairy-free diets; most require the endorphins of exercise to stay positive; and all require reliable and consistent rest. While some HSPs are night-owls and others are early-morning birds, it’s helpful to know that (whether you’re an introvert or extrovert) everyone with this trait has to find moments of time alone…to think, to recalibrate, and even to zone out. I call this “internal calibration,” as HSPs process information, energy, and emotions in a myriad of ways. It’s almost like we weave together a tapestry of intuition with each new experience that we encounter. Without the time and space to integrate our external world with our internal landscape, the HSP can encounter cognitive dissonance that may mimic a more serious situation (like depression). But this darker tendency can be often be remedied with a walk in nature, listening to music, dancing, talking on the phone, cooking, gardening, or any other rejuvenating activity that feeds an HSP’s daily need for beauty, harmony, and spirituality.

Allow for idiosyncrasies: there is no “one type” of an HSP. While many are introverted (70%) and some are soft-spoken, others are “high sensation-seeking,” ambitious, and charismatic—yet underneath these confident exteriors are deeply thoughtful and sometimes even troubled souls. Robin Williams is a perfect example of this kind of extroverted-HSP. He made so many of us laugh with his extraordinary humor—but few of us in our hectic society realized that his journey was riddled with the highs and lows of intensity that ultimately led to an untimely death.


HSPs are often artists, writers, spiritual leaders, teachers, musicians, poets, doctors, healers, judges, and therapistsand they can also be rock stars, Harley Davidson motorcyclists, NBA basketball players, and police officers. It’s important for us to embrace all the many manifestations of this trait with care and compassion, as many of us mask sensitive souls to hide our more tender sides.

Being highly sensitive is not a condition that can be erasedwe enter the world with this trait, just like someone who is born with hazel as the color of their eyes. By understanding and accepting the intensities of being a Highly Sensitive Person, we can bring new appreciation for the super-strong way we experience and express our unique place on this planet.

-Sandra E. Clifton, M.Ed.


Sandra is a professionally-trained educational therapist and Yale-certified coach in Emotional Literacy, with a private practice in Brooklyn Heights.  Her special population is serving the families of Twice Exceptional and Highly Sensitive Students.  She is a high-sensation seeking HSP who is a shy extrovert, and loves the culture of NYC, traveling to new destinations, and exploring the artistic angles of an entrepreneurial life!


Are Y*O*U ‘college ready’ ?!?

Posted by Sandra Clifton on Jun 4, 2015 in Academic Coaching, College, Student Success

I just attended IECA‘s first Northeast Regional Symposium on the “Future of College Admissions,” at Newark’s Airport Marriott this morning.  As a Professional Member of this organization, I participated in a very interesting round table discussion which involved perspectives of independent college consultants from the Tri-State area.  We had just listened to a panel of admissions reps from the University of Rochester, Swarthmore, Marist, Franklin & Marshall, Wheaton, and Drew University for over two hours, and the topic of “college readiness” surfaced…


One of the panelists had commented that everyone in the room knows that it’s not about getting IN to college that matters most—it’s getting out with a degree.  With the knowledge that over 37% of all freshman drop out of school by Thanksgiving, that statement launched a thousand ships, as they say….So as both educators and consultants, it’s part of our work to help families understand this fact:  our job is not just to help students and parents choose a school carefully, but to prepare for this whole experience wisely.  Another rep highlighted that very often, if kids haven’t identified their challenges and “owned” how to effectively seek help, there are obstacles that can surface on campus as very really foes.  He called these enemies “The Three P’s,” and they have the power to wreck havoc in our student’s lives.  What are they?




Sound like familiar themes in your home?  They are very common challenges here at the Clifton Corner.  So I’d like to direct your attention to a helpful document from Landmark College, which may provide some interesting angles for summer reading in the form of a short checklist:  https://www.med.upenn.edu/pan/documents/CollegeReadinessGuide.pdf

Midst such a stringent focus on AP or IB classes, SAT prep, and extra-curricular involvements, this guide is a good place to start considering the “soft” skills of metacognition, executive function, confidence, motivation, and self-advocacy, which can be the subtle keys to developing the very resilience that every college student most needs when they leave home—regardless of his or her high GPA.

If you’d like a little more direction and guidance with these efforts, reach out—I’m here all summer and client-ready!  😉




Posted by Sandra Clifton on May 21, 2015 in Emotional Literacy

Yes, there’s been a lot of rain in Brooklyn this spring, but with all that’s going on, it’s also one of the best acronyms I’ve discovered for SEL (Social & Emotional Learning).  When we’re being hit with a variety of emotions and struggling with a conflicted situation, it helps to have something super-simple to steady our pulse and focus our attention.  I’ve found that R.A.I.N. can provide a quiet oasis of reflection.

Here’s how it works:

Recognize what’s going on…Let yourself acknowledge that your heart is beating (fast), that your palms are sweaty, that your fist might be clenched, that your eyebrows are furled, that your lip is pouting, that your leg is twitching, that your foot is tapping.  Take a full scan to see what the landscape of your body is telling you right now.

Allow the experience to be whatever it is for you…I was coaching a college kid the other day who is a natural “nurturer” and she just needed a minute to be human and helpless and hurt—instead of her family’s usual care-taker.  One of the most powerful lessons I learned in my coach training was the phrase, “What we resist, persists…” It’s very important to just allow emotions to surface as they are—without trying to twist them into something acceptable or even deniable.  I call this ‘riding the wave,’ and scientists have said that if we allow our emotion to flow fully through our body, it lasts exactly 90 seconds.  You can do that.

Investigate with kindness….It’s important that we assume the best about our emotions, just when they feel the worst.  I learned this as a teacher:  the student who was acting “ugly” was the one who most needed my beautiful belief—whether it was because a parent had been unkind about a grade, they were struggling to read, or a friend said they were forever flawed.  Our emotions can trick us into believing that we’re worthless, and it’s perhaps the biggest task of our individual journey to approach this moment with complete compassion.  Next time you’re upset, try listening to your feelings with the tenderness that you would offer your very best friend or your favorite person on the planet….See what you discover.

Natural awareness….Take the approach that emotions are (as the acronym alludes—) a lot like the weather:  conditions develop, accelerate, intensify—and then shift.  If we truly allow ourselves to observe the emotions with identifying ourselves as the actual feeling or permanent thought, we can create a neutral space of being rather than blaming.  This step is much like a becoming a scientist or a Buddhist–your choice–but either way, we instigate more experiences of curiosity and empathy.  I tell clients that we don’t “yell at thunder for being loud,” and it definitely doesn’t last forever.

Introducing other parallels to weather can help kids identify these events without labeling their value.  Heartmath has a wonderful tool called “How’s Your Inner Weather?” that I’ve posted on my office door to help in this centering process.  You might want to get one for your fridge.  In the meantime, here’s to beautiful spring showers–



Another college fair at Fordham–

Posted by Sandra Clifton on Apr 23, 2015 in Academic Coaching, College


I braved a torrential downpour this past Monday morning to attend the NYSACAC Regional Forum at Fordham University, with other independent educational consultants, high school guidance counselors, and college admissions reps.  As the only Professional Member of IECA in Brooklyn, I view attendance as part of my job, and reporting back to you one of the perks of being connected to the Corner.

So here are some highlights about the college process that I’d like to share from our roundtable discussions this spring:


* Colleges are tracking which students open correspondence and when students read the emails that they send them.  These actions are recorded as data, and all actions are interpreted as signs of “demonstrated interest” -or- lack thereof…Many reps complain that seniors are ignoring email outreach and confess that this negligence online can definitely dent chances of acceptance.

* Reps at college fair record student visits—even if kids have already introduced themselves and made contact at a school visit or another event, swing by again and reestablish contact.  If your senior isn’t “stopping by to say hi while in the neighborhood,” that’s a mistake.

* Colleges are literally diagramming where and when you go online with their school/s, and can tell if you’re checking correspondence from an iPhone or desktop—just an FYI.

* Contrary to popular belief, CUNY expects you to make a college visit.  So does every school represented at this conference.  If you haven’t made a footprint on campus, chance are close to ‘nil that a college will give any consideration to an applicant–so make sure you reach out to ask for an interview with a local grad and contact the regional reps in your area.  The effort to “start a relationship” with a school that you’re interested in these days is an absolute essential.

ETIQUETTEYour Image is Important.

* Watch your P’s & Q’s.  That was a phrase that my parents used to say, and it applies to college admissions—reps disclosed that students are sending them correspondence that looks and sounds like “text talk,” instead of proper spelling and syntax.  Needless to say, that “informal approach” actually causes them to wonder about students’ intelligence…

* Speaking of grammar…One college rep stated that the #1 Recommendation that he could offer every senior is to have a qualified professional review your college essay for both polish and content.

* Clean up your online presence.  College reps are appalled when they Google your name and discover what you’re saying on Twitter, what you’re posting on Facebook, and what you’re writing on Instagram.  As a result, the consensus was (if you haven’t heard it yet) “Sanitize your social media.”

FINANCIAL AIDMoney is Tricky.

* One rep commented that if you have financial restrictions, it’s best not to go ED.  Something to think about…

* Another rep said that finances are the “huge 100-ton elephant in the room.”  If you spend any money on your college application process, I would recommend a financial adviser.  Many hearts have been broken when the acceptance arrives, but the financial package does not.

* Did you know that you can appeal the financial aid package—and some schools will even try to match what another institution offered?  Reps say to tread carefully here…some admissions committees will review a package but the student must have integrity with this process.  If a college takes the time to reconsider and put together another offer because a student says they are their “#1 choice,” they need to follow through with that commitment to attend.

**      **      **

Hope this info helps!

I’m here if you’d like to examine your own son or daughter’s journey…

And in the meantime, here’s to all the bright and talented seniors this year who have worked so hard to earn their high school diplomas!


“Ready Readers & Resilient Writers~!”

Posted by Sandra Clifton on Mar 10, 2015 in Academic Coaching, Learning Differences

As March brings (much needed) signs of spring, I wanted to let you know of options for summer support at the Corner!  There are three “bridge programs” in development:  one for rising 5th graders going into middle school; another for rising 9th graders starting high school; and a third for rising seniors who are facing The Common App Personal Statement, supplemental essays, and college choices!

Because I have a cozy space, classes are small and can be tailored for families to fit their children’s specific learning needs and school curriculum–so please take a look at the first program, “Ready Readers & Resilient Writers,” and let me know if you’re interested in creating some wonderful opportunities for learning at the Corner this summer!

Ready Readers & Resilient Writers~!
Summer Support at the Clifton Corner
for Rising 5th Graders

Students who could “benefit from a boost” before beginning middle school are encouraged to apply for Summer Enrichment at the Clifton Corner.  Small-group instruction will be offered to help rising 5th graders develop better reading, writing, and critical thinking strategies through a curriculum of individualized attention and creative activities.  Participants are supported in a nurturing environment to build tools for stronger self-esteem, perseverance, and academic confidence for a smooth and successful transition to middle school.


Ready Readers—will shift from ‘learning to read’ to reading to learn.  Students will identify core components of literature to better understand theme, characterization, plot development, setting, figurative language, point of view, and an author’s artistic/social agenda.  The technique of “FIREWORKS” will be incorporated to support active reading techniques, improve working memory, and boost risk-taking through participating in dynamic small-group discussions.


Resilient Writers—will be guided through the process of writing:  evidence-based techniques in a workshop setting—to explore composition through modeling and independent practice of “perfect paragraphs” and extended essays.  Students will learn to active prior knowledge, develop brainstorming strategies, incorporate graphic organizers, identify revision techniques, and gain additional reinforcement for effective editing skills and grammar proficiency.
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Space is limited, and families are encouraged to contact Sandra immediately for more information concerning tuition costs and specific dates, which will be tailored to meet the eclectic summer schedules of actual enrollees.  Students can participate in either the AM –or– PM instruction, and are encouraged to enroll in both classes—which will be held for two weeks in July, and possibly again in August.

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Clifton Corner is a safe space in Brooklyn Heights created to provide individualized interventions of academic coaching and SEL support for 2nd-12th graders.  Sandra is the only ICF-accredited Professional Coach in Brooklyn certified in Emotional Literacy by Yale University, and has just completed both a post-graduate certificate in Educational Therapy from the University of California-Riverside, along with AET Board Supervision, to become an ET/P (Educational Therapist/Professional).  She is also a Professional Member of IECA+ with over 26 years of experience in education, and is licensed through New York State in Special Education and English Education. 

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For more information, visit www.cliftoncorner.com.