I have the honor of attending a holiday party hosted by Fusion Academy next week, which will feature a doctor who I like to call “The Father of ADHD.” His name is Ned Hallowell, and he has been a pioneer in reframing how we view ADHD. I first heard Dr. Hallowell speak at the Berkeley Carroll School, and knew he was the real deal. Ned embraces the distinct differences of ADHD for the “imperfect presents” that this condition offers for daily living and connecting, and his speech moved me to tears for the compassion he extends to our kids. This link to Ned’s website provides some very helpful information and support.
Do you think your child is suffering at school due to this condition? As most of us now know, the statistics are predicting that 1/10 kids in the United States have ADHD and some reports even assert that 1/5 high school boys are challenged by ADHD.
Here’s a recent post by Neil Peterson, founder of The Edge Foundation, that may also provide some insight: “Sometimes to those of us living with ADHD, the symptoms can feel more like a curse than a blessing. I invite you to consider what blessings ADHD has personally brought to your life. Can’t think of any? Then why not start with these five:
- Do you have a larger than average sense of humor? A lot of us with ADHD do, and a good sense of humor helps make the world a bit brighter for everyone concerned.
- Consider the high energy child who always wakes up ready to go. Imagine how much she will be able to accomplish with the supports in place to keep her focused.
- Going with the flow can be a strength in the fast-paced world we live in.
- Being different from the mainstream gives us the ability to more easily see the world from another person’s point of view.
- Are you an entrepreneur, adventurer, inventor? People with ADHD are often rule breakers and inspire innovative ideas that solve problems and move our society forward.”
I also really enjoyed watching one of my “virtual colleagues,” featured in this YouTube video, who models some of the support that is available through academic coaching! If you would like to investigate additional interventions, don’t hesitate to reach out: I’ve worked with many teens who face this challenge with renewed confidence and improved organization. In the meantime, here’s to embracing all our gifts!
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Nov 24, 2013 in Academic Coaching
One of the best parts of my job is that it keeps unfolding into new adventures….and the latest one is coaching one of my college graduates, now that she is teaching kindergarten in Thailand! This morning during our session together, as we discussed lesson plans and various experiences in her Bangkok classroom, the subject of teaching grammar surfaced. My client, “Sally,” explained that in Thailand, there is no past tense and no future tense: there is only “the present.” Can you imagine? So when Sally teaches her students about the days of the week, she attempts this construction:
“Yesterday was Sunday.
Today is Monday.
Tomorrow will be Tuesday.”
However, not only is understanding these words a new and different experience for her students to master in English, but so is the entire idea of the past-tense or future-perfect, as these constructs in their country just don’t exist! The people of Thailand have no comparable grammar to express the passage of time….they always express actions in the present tense. Just think about how this grammar rule shapes the language and lives of its people: they stay in the “here and now,” claiming only the power of each new moment.
As we head towards Thanksgiving in our own country this week, I can think of no better way to remind each of us to choose our thoughts carefully, to be mindful of our words, and to seize each day as an ever-unfolding gift. I am blessed by this perspective, by the opportunity to learn from my students around the world, and by the reminder to relish each rich moment of being truly present.
May this week be full of gratitude and gobbles for you, wherever you are!
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Nov 18, 2013 in Academic Coaching
I have to admit that it was difficult to tear myself away from the pages of EAST OF EDEN to write this post today…I originally bought the centennial addition at the wonderful Book Court in my neighborhood, shelling out the full $28 to help keep one of my favorite old-fashioned bookstores alive. I actually marched up to one of the clerks and demanded, “If you want to sell this book, you have to promise that it doesn’t end like Grapes of Wrath,” which opened up a fun conversation with a man that used to be in publishing who shared some stories with me about Steinbeck and his editor when they lived about a block or two from each other in New York City.
I originally intended to read this classic novel with a group of friends over the summer, but was late coming to their book club and never quite caught up. Thus Steinbeck sat, slightly discarded and neglected in the corner of my living room, sure to slip into one of my many forgotten endeavors on about page 98, until one of my juniors chose it for her independent reading assignment. I saw an opportunity and announced, “I’ll read it with you!“ It’s kind of like that in my life—sometimes I “have” to watch teenybopper shows like AWKWARD. on MTV to keep in touch with my clientele. I call it ‘market research’ to stay up-to-date with the fast-paced New York school scene, but….it keeps me young and is a lot of fun.
At any rate, I’ve begun lugging this 600-page novel with me all the way up to Maine and out to the laundry mat, because now—I’m hooked. And there isn’t anything better than growing close to characters, caring about their conflicts, and getting lost in the scenery of their lives. While my student worked on a journal reflection for the second part of this book, I continued to read ahead of her a bit, and then gasped, “Oh NO!” She looked at me in alarm and asked, “What happened?!”
“I can’t tell you,” I answered. Partly because it’s true—spoilers are wrong—but partly to peak her interest. She’s a bit behind in her reading schedule…
But what happened next was (and is) always a surprise…no matter how many times it happens. I started to cry. Yes. One of the characters died, and suddenly (even though I didn’t even like him!) the “reality” of this loss hit me hard. I’m not sure even movies can strike a chord in us like that. And the poignancy of this fact reminded me of the powerful world that novels provide: no matter where I am, some of my best friends are books.
I actually googled that phrase before writing this blog, and to my delightful surprise, I discovered that Judith Wynn Halstead has written a resource guide for gifted readers with this exact title, of course! Here is Amazon’s description of this 2009 resource:
“Good books are often good friends. Because gifted readers often intensely identify with characters, good books can provide bridges to new insights and better communication of feelings, values, and decision making, while also fostering intellectual and creative development. Now in its third edition, Some of My Best Friends Are Books describes: Intellectual and emotional needs of children of high ability; Typical and advanced reading patterns for grades K-12; How parents and teachers can give reading guidance and discuss books with young readers; A well-indexed annotated bibliography of more than 300 books for readers of all ages, carefully selected to promote intellectual and emotional development; Books that deal with themes such as Achievement, Aloneness, Arrogance, Developing Imagination, Intensity, Introversion, Perfectionism, Relationships with Others, Sensitivity, and Resiliency; and An index with suggested titles for each theme and the page numbers for short summaries of these titles.”
Talk about supporting the journey of Twice-Exceptional Students! And I must also admit this morning—one of the best aspects of being in the classroom was the opportunity to introduce these friends to my students…Speaking of Steinbeck, I used to teach Of Mice and Men as part of the ninth grade curriculum at Lawson High School, and practiced the tradition of “popcorn,” passing along the reading responsibility, one paragraph at a time. But one morning, my kids were reluctant to participate and I became a bit frustrated. Finally one of my boys blurted out, “Miss Clifton, will YOU just read it?” Another girl chimed in, “Yeah! We like your voices.” So off we went into a world of our own, my imitating George and Lennie, bringing a journey of struggle and sensitivity alive again.
It was….magic. So when we were wading through some of Steinbeck’s lengthy renditions and descriptions, I heard an echo of those days. “It makes so much more sense when we read it together!” I grinned. Holding the hands of our kids as we walk through the pages of life…..this is what I live for…So if you have a youngster or teen who is struggling to connect—either to the world outside or the world within—consider the Corner. It’s a place that is alive with characters and rich with stories that save us and stir us…and send us soaring.
I am writing this post cuddled up on a rainy afternoon in the Mermaid Inn at Mystic, CT. It’s my first official Fall Break…probably ever—but certainly since I began running my own business eight years ago. And I can’t tell you how good it feels to dial it down a notch or two. Although I haven’t “done” all that much (visited the aquarium, read some East of Eden, offered a few essay/editing ideas in an email to a student) the benefits of just seeing some autumn leaves, drinking hot tea, and sitting on an all-American porch swing have been really nourishing….
I have to admit that it was a huge hit of culture shock to walk from the train station into the little B&B and realize that I have two whole nights to spend here. I ended up calling my mom within the first twenty minutes to admit that I had no idea what I was doing—it felt foreign to be so still, away from the eclectic energy of NYC. But then I kind-of settled in to the very revolutionary idea of….relaxing.
It’s so important to take breaks—our body, mind, and soul aren’t meant to be a machine—and even those break down. As I continue to let myself recover from a very busy fall, I want to share with you two different studies about the rewards of rest. The first is the kind of break we can do anywhere, without actually traveling someplace, and one which our kids are often criticized for: daydreaming. But guess what? According to neuroscientists, that “vice” might actually stimulate our brain in some beneficial ways. You can read more about this free escape here in an article on Huffington Post, “How Daydreaming Can Actually Make You Smarter.”
For those of you feeling a bit guilty about being “out of pocket” on Veteran’s Day, don’t. In a recent article, “Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime,” from Scientific American, the writer explains: “Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life.” Research in this article also supports the idea of small naps to recharge our memory banks, and reports that the prime time to take this break is between 2-4PM (no wonder I crawled back into my cozy cocoon at 3:30 today!). So there’s no surprise to discover that Huffington Post has created two nap rooms in their NYC offices—you can read here how the 850 journalists there are taking full advantage of this option to recharge! You can also learn more about the benefits of stepping back to step it up here at The Energy Project—
…and for me? I’m going to explore downtown Mystic for a little dinner—right after I curl up for a tiny cat nap!
May you relish the beauty of fall (and a renewed sense of self) by enjoying a good book by a warm fire, midst many nice daydreams….wherever you might be on this holiday weekend~!
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Nov 4, 2013 in School Snapshots: Tours & Open Houses
On a rainy Friday morning last week, my day was brightened by a tour of The IDEAL School of Manhattan, just a few blocks away from Trinity School, on the Upper West Side. This unique program has recently been highlighted on the TODAY Show for its innovative approach to diversity and inclusive independent education, and currently hosts a full curriculum of classes, after-school activities, sports, and arts for students in K-8th grade. Our visit began with the morning meeting, which highlighted a fun musical presentation of tanbou (or bonga) drums, led by a teacher from Haiti. It was wonderful to see and hear such vibrant participation from each of the twelve students from this class—and you would be hard-pressed to identify which of the kids had special needs and which were not “differently-abled,” because this was an exercise in a totally different kind of learning, listening, and interacting together!
After an up-beat beginning, educational therapists and school consultants were taken to various classrooms, where students and teachers demonstrated how tailored the education is here: each individual is on a different learning plan, which is integrated into a holistic classroom experience. I would want to visit again to see how this incredibly individualized approach unfolds in the upper grades, because each student was reading a book on his/her comprehension level and yet totally focused in a class discussion together—quite a feat! As a former high school English teacher, I found this to be especially interesting.
What was also beautiful was the art room…Each autumn, students of the school work to create the pieces highlighted for the annual gala, and the teachers shared their supportive, inspiring approach to interactive art. For example, to draw a dragonfly, they first watched the movement of these insects on videos together—so amazing! While the clarity is not great, here is a picture that I took that is comprised of each student’s individual contribution to the whole….a “visual metaphor” of how life is created at IDEAL:
The IDEAL School of Manhattan is an inclusion school dedicated to creating a diverse community that affirms and accepts the full identities of all people, while inspiring academic excellence, creative leadership, and a desire to build a more just and equitable world.
At The IDEAL School, we strive to develop students who:
- are intellectually curious, independent, and creative;
- are self-confident, have self-respect, and are willing to take risks;
- possess a sense of social responsibility toward their school and the community at large;
- are prepared to be responsible, productive citizens, and ethical and compassionate human beings;
- have had the opportunity to learn from peers and to be leaders and mentors;
- have a true appreciation for individual differences and have respect for others, and are thus prepared to flourish and find happiness in a global and diverse community. (Reposted from their website: http://www.theidealschool.org/mission)
This past Saturday, I was a moderator for one of the Social & Emotional Learning strands for the first NYC Gifted & Talented Symposium, sponsored by PALS (Parents of Accelerated Learners). This event, hosted at NYU’s Kimmel Center, focused on providing support for children who need additional direction and attention because of a variety of profiles—from intellectual or musical talent to twice exceptional challenges. In the panel that I facilitated, experts shared what happens to gifted kids when they are bullied (for example, being called “nerds”) with Israel Kalman from Bullies2Buddies; provided angles of becoming a pro-active bystander with Dr. Lori Evans from NYU Child’s Center; and emphasized the importance of participating as a member of a supportive, interconnected community, with Connie Coulianos from the Speyer Legacy School.
After a healthy sack lunch with views of Washington Square and lower Manhattan, I listened to a round table of thought leaders who discussed such issues as the inequity of access to opportunities for gifted students in lower income areas of the city, and then attended a lecture by Richard Gallagher, Ph.D., who spoke about “Uneven Development in Advanced/Gifted Learners” (or twice exceptional kids). What I found especially helpful during this presentation was the point that many gifted learners go undiagnosed because the processing speed of dual exceptionality frequently masks and/or hampers WISC-IV results. Dr. Gallagher emphasized that SLDs (specific learning disabilities) can surface during many different times of development and this can significantly shift the profile of a student’s achievement—meaning that both teachers and parents must be continually aware of fluctuations and frustrations in young people. However, the positive aspect of this fact is that kids with twice exceptional challenges can do very well with accommodations. As someone who struggled horribly with math but soared in writing, the arts, and leadership, I know this to be true~!
If you missed the symposium on Saturday, there are many resources to help tap into ongoing information and gatherings. There is a list of resources online, and don’t hesitate to check out the many organizations highlighted by PAL and this informative website, which aptly reflects, “The Gifted Child. No individual can be more exhilarating, or more frustrating. The parents and teachers who deal with these wonderful children can often be described in a single word: exhausted.” Make sure you tap into a group that supports you too—as I said during the panel I moderated on Saturday morning, “I applaud your presence today, because sometimes the best thing we can do for our gifted individual is to truly put the oxygen mask on ourselves first.”
If you have a twice-exceptional kid and would like individualized support, please don’t hesitate to reach out—they are my specialty! In the meantime, may your week be full of very few tricks and many treats~!
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Oct 21, 2013 in School Snapshots: Tours & Open Houses
The third admissions event I attended in recent weeks focused not on college but NYC independent schools, from the perspective of families of color, sponsored by RIISE. This 4th annual gathering was hosted at Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville, New York—just a short ride away on the MTA. Admittedly, I reluctantly caught a train after a very interesting meeting with the NYC Association of Educational Therapists at the home of Susan Micari. The insightful and resourceful Dr. Paul Yellin was presenting on the neuroscience of dyslexia, and it was truly difficult to leave such a fascinating discussion!
RIISE stands for Resources In Independent School Education, and its mission is to empower families of color and to help private independent schools bridge the gap of diversity through connections on a digital platform. Their website is currently under construction, but here are some interesting notes that I took for the members of AET to share with our local group that I want to pass along to you today:
THE FINANCIAL PICTURE: Families should look into financial options at SSS and TADS and plan carefully with a budget, in advance of applying. Parents need to have several years of tax returns to start building a “financial profile” that is solid and in place before the application and interview process. Parents are encouraged to apply to six schools if they don’t need financial aid, and 8-10 schools if they do: the goal is to “cast a wide net.” In addition, parents are encouraged to contact the school’s financial aid office to work with them directly, instead of assuming that there are no additional options for their family, based on the proposed package.
THE INTERVIEW: A student resume is considered a “red flag” to administrators. What is more important is that children demonstrate their individual and eclectic interests: admission counselors are looking for kids who have both participation and passion in things that matter to them. One little girl shared that she loved baking blueberry pies with her grandmother and this is what the director remembered about her interview (she got in). Schools want parents who allow their kids to pursue the passions that they love.
Jason Caldwell of Horace Mann emphasized that his school focuses on a love of the mind, mutual respect, a secure/supportive community, and diversity that goes “beyond population to programming.” Many of the counselors echoed his sentiments, reiterating: “It’s about balance.” Directors want kids who are involved but not unrealistic—if parents’ expectations are too high, the school doesn’t feel like they can meet those unrelenting standards. Schools want kids with a “moral compass” but with a “bit of honesty,” not a rehearsed script. (But do leave parents without a filter at home during the interview…) Families should be careful to answer the question/s being asked and avoid dodging issues with “pat” or “performed” responses.
THE ERB: It isn’t going anywhere. Middle and upper schools at this conference still want the raw scores. Having said that, admissions counselors reflected that “Scores are a matter of context.” In addition, a parent’s (lack of) educational background can be leveraged as an advantage, because we all want better for our kids.
SPECIAL NEEDS: Counselors reassured parents that there is no stigma for a family to disclose that siblings are attending “different kinds of schools” on their application, as many schools do ask. However, no discussion was provided at this conference of support for students with learning differences….
THE KEYNOTE SPEECH: Of special note was this quote, shared by Ted Parker, President of Vibrant Health: “Working at Xerox was like earning an MBA.” Think on that fact~!
SARAH LAWRENCE: It was great to see this campus, and visiting that day is a whole blog entry in itself! I was lucky enough to meet with a freshman there this year, who is a graduate of Fusion Academy/Manhattan. Through my introduction to this vivacious young woman, I learned that a faculty mentor is assigned to everyone and this person, called a “DOM,” visits with each student every week to design their own tailored curriculum. Faculty-student ratio at this college is just 11:1 and individualized support is significant.
I look forward to sharing more about RIISE and empowering families of color in the independent school process at NYC, and hope to share my impressions of the documentary they sponsored this past weekend at the IFC!
Until then, if you have any questions about the independent school process, please don’t hesitate to reach out to explore a free consultation of 10-15 minutes to see if I can support your family’s journey. In the meantime, bright wishes for a wonderful week!
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Oct 14, 2013 in College
Last week, I attended three admissions events in five days, and I’d like to share with you some of the insights I gained from those gatherings in this post, a part two. The second meeting was at The Women’s National Republican Club in Midtown Manhattan, which was a stunning setting. The four colleges that attended this event were Brandeis, Case Western Reserve, Emory, and University of Rochester, and each representative spent about fifteen minutes offering unique angles of their institutions:
Brandeis University was established in 1948 with a mission of social justice by such innovative souls as Einstein, Bernstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Abraham Maslow. It has a flexible curriculum with 45 majors and minors, including a liberal arts business major! The admissions crew reads every word of every application, and the process here is “test flexible,” with the option of providing the SAT/ACT, an SAT II, or a graded paper. Imagine that. Students don’t apply to a specific school and there is a Renaissance & Global Scholars program of full-ride tuition for the very best of the best applicants. In addition, students who need a more supportive program can apply for TYP, a Transitional Year Program: “The intelligent and talented students selected to participate in the Myra Kraft TYP typically have not had access to AP and honors courses in their previous schooling experiences. For this reason, the Myra Kraft TYP guarantees small classes, rigorous academics, and strong academic support.” Talk about exciting! If you would like to discuss this opportunity or other angles of Brandeis, the associate director of admissions is Rebecca Simons and you can contact her here: email@example.com.
CASE WESTERN UNIVERSITY:
The theme of Case Western is “connections, community, and collaboration,” and the 9:1 student-faculty ratio really helps to support that goal. One of the missions behind this institution is to help “get ideas from inside students’ heads into their hands” and the college does that through providing “interesting playgrounds” like their design lab: “A state-of-the-art multi-million-dollar electrical engineering lab, the Sears Undergraduate Design Laboratory provides Case engineering students with an environment that will promote and encourage hands-on engineering and design.” Case Western just celebrated that one of their recent graduates was chosen to be the manager of the new Apple iPhone 5, due to these exciting opportunities. When I got online to research this university, I just happened to find an interesting article on Social & Emotional Intelligence, provided here, so that is a great sign as well. Students are admitted “through one door” to four different disciplines: business, medicine, engineering, or nursing—so if you’re a math/science person, Case just might be your place.
The interesting thing about Emory University is that students can start on one of two campuses: either the urban site of 6,000 or Oxford College of just 1,000 kids on 1,000 acres. Being from a liberal arts college myself, I am slightly inclined towards the smaller start with more individualized attention: “As one of Emory’s nine academic divisions, Oxford offers a distinctive, small-campus setting particularly conducive to significant academic accomplishments and personal development in the freshman and sophomore years. Students who complete the first two years of the Emory bachelor’s degree in Oxford’s liberal arts intensive program are automatically enrolled as juniors in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences, or they may compete with others to enter Emory’s nursing and business schools.” You can read more about that unique start here or learn about how the Dalai Lama has been a visiting professor three times to this campus. With the third largest corporation headquarters in America and the busiest airport in the nation, Atlanta is quite connected. The admissions committee conducts a full, holistic review of applicants, and has an ED acceptance rate of 40%.
UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER:
….has one of the nicest admissions persons I’ve ever met: Joe Latimer, Assistant Dean for Enrollment Diversity and Outreach. Joe wants to meet each and every student who applies to U of R through an interview, and genuinely cares about the student body. U of R absolutely requires a visit to the campus and follows “demonstrated student interest.” Each student who applies to the University of Rochester with a GPA of 3.89 will receive a “priority review,” and 1/4 are admitted ED. They offer a Renaissance & Global Scholarship, a full ride to the very “best of the best” students, and their admissions are also “test flexible” in terms of standardized test requirements. In addition to supporting the Eastman School of Music and providing an eclectic audio and engineering program, U of R hosts a “Diversity at the University” conference each year and sponsors College Horizons, which reaches out to Native American high school students: “College Horizons is a pre-college program that provides current sophomores or juniors who are American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian with the opportunity to interact and build relationships with admissions counselors from a variety of colleges and universities. Throughout the week, students will attend workshops that provide an overview of the application process, explore tips on writing applications, résumés, and personal essays, and learn study strategies for taking the ACT and SAT. They also will learn how to navigate the financial aid process and will complete a preliminary Free Application for Federal Student Aid form.”
Of Important Note:
While each of these institutions of higher learning are obviously exciting and support the journey of learning in a myriad of ways, it gave me pause when I had the opportunity to pose this question: “Getting into college is one thing; staying in is another. Can you speak to the programs of advisory and counseling support that are provided for students at your campus—especially during life transitions like a parent’s divorce or an extended depression?” Not one of the admissions reps could address the specific need for additional social and emotional support for our freshmen. As someone who is increasingly concerned with issues of eating disorders, date rape, fraternity/sorority hazing, and suicide, I wanted more information concerning the arms of outreach available to our young people while away from home. As we know, this aspect of campus life deserves our attention as a form of prevention rather than as a response to the next tragedy on the news….Obviously, a conversation to be continued—and here is an interesting link about providing interventions for our college kids: “Self-Compassion for Freshmen,” on the website Greater Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life.
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Oct 7, 2013 in Academic Coaching
Last week, I attended three different admissions events in five days. The first two were college admissions and the third was focused on the independent school process in NYC, so I’d like to share some insights and impressions from those meetings in the next couple of weeks. Obviously, I’m much more detailed in private consultations with clients, but here’s some “juicy nuggets” that may guide and/or inspire you…
Event #1: “NYC Directors of Admission Panel” featuring Fordham, NYU, Cooper Union, and Columbia University~Wednesday, October 2nd, at the Lowenstein Building of Fordham University
This breakfast was a panel discussion with the admissions directors from each of these highly esteemed schools in the city. It was held on Fordham’s Lincoln Center Campus, overlooking a skyline of the Upper West Side. The room was packed with independent educational consultants and school counselors, and a moderator facilitated the various questions and answers. I learned a great deal by attending this event, and here are some highlights:
* With some schools like Fordham that receive 36,000 applications, colleges can have an admissions committee with as few as three counselors, while others range as large as thirty different individuals—and each institution maintains that at least one person reads every word of each application. Each college has a different acceptance process: some committees vote on decisions, as in a democracy, and others (like Columbia) are ultimately made by a “committee of one.” Within larger universities, when a student applies to a specific program, that acceptance is usually dictated by the professors and advisors who will teach in this domain.
* Each college considers students in light of his or her current educational context and in relation to this question: “Did you do EVERYTHING YOU COULD to seize the opportunities that are around you and to be challenged in your high school experience?”
* Don’t stalk admissions counselors, especially Peter Johnson, of Columbia—and if you ask him a question that is already answered on the application form, expect to be put in the rejection bin.
* If you don’t visit a school before you apply, the prediction of acceptance is very slim—and the chances for your happiness at that institution are severely jeopardized.
* Don’t apply early action if a) you’re not emotionally ready to make that commitment and b) you don’t have all the paperwork of exams & required documentation. A college automatically has to discard your file if it’s incomplete.
* “You would be blown away by how many students want to transfer from a school where they applied ED,” says Peter Johnson. Hmmmmm.
* Each of the counselors, like Mitchell Lipton from Cooper Union, expressed concern that writing skills have continued to decline in their freshman classes, and every one of them stressed, as Shawn Abbott of NYU, that “The influence of the writing sample is huge.”
* Students should be wary of writing about “shared school experiences” or group trips and focus on expressing their authenticity through a unique lens of personal perspective: “Each line should have their voice,” shares Patricia Peek, Ph.D., from Fordham.
* The depth of your personal statement cannot be over-emphasized. Counselors all complained that students have trouble getting “beneath the surface” and that “deep reflection is lacking in essays.” Translation? You have to be raw and vulnerable to reach others on the admissions team—your application essay isn’t’ the place to look “polished and professional” like a finished product. It’s a space to explore who you are becoming through examining the way you have processed a specific experience in your life…And if you need additional support for this act of courage, it’s one of my favorite activities on the earth!
* One of the most important facts that I gleaned from this meeting was that financial aid deadlines are “RUTHLESS.” Shawn Abbott stressed that due dates for scholarships and loans are non-negotiable—even if a parent has missed the window by a few hours….So get your financial ducks-in-a-row early, or you may miss an incredible opportunity!
* NYU is now awarding more money to students who have the greatest need. That means that scholarships spread out to many are now focused on “the most deserving few.”
* Shawn Abbott also shared something that I thought was incredibly sensitive and supportive: your college fantasy may not be a wise financial choice for your family—and no dream is worth going into dire debt: “Don’t make reckless financial decisions with your future. Sometimes families need to have permission to say no.”
Other ‘Little’ Details:
* NYU is enrolling its first engineering class in 2014!
* Counselors told parents “not to focus so much on school rankings”—they are almost always out-of-date by the time they reach us anyway, and other organizations use stats incorrectly…
* The unanimous goal of each college admissions director is that students be HAPPY at their school and that requires A GOOD F*I*T. This phrase was uttered over 20 times during the 2-hour panel. Students should write a description of their “college vision” first and then research for a school that matches these details—rather than running after a name-brand or ivy label.
* No test score or grade can indicate INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY—perhaps the most important ingredient in any individual’s application. Imagine that.
Of Final Note:
Once you get in, stay in the game! Counselors lamented that many individuals miss out on wonderful experiences and opportunities provided at their colleges and universities BECAUSE STUDENTS DON’T READ THEIR EMAILS. Schools are struggling to find a way to reach college kids about internships, career services, and other arms of support, due to this most unfortunate fact. My take? Once you’re accepted to college, you gotta GET IN to your own game of success at school!
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Sep 30, 2013 in Academic Coaching
, Health & Wholeness
I’ve always been a huge sports fan—perhaps it’s because I was born to a man who wanted nothing more than a son to whom he could throw a baseball on Sunday afternoons….But I was definitely my father’s daughter, and learned to love athletics: from attending indoor track meets to watching the Olympics, my father inspired a spirit of competitive grit in all my endeavors—and despite a lack of hand-eye coordination, my spirit absolutely benefited from physical fitness. It’s no surprise, then, that my dad forwarded an interesting article from the New York Times last week titled, “How Physical Fitness May Promote School Success,” written by Gretchen Reynolds. In an age when many young kids are addicted to sitting in front of video games for hours on the weekend and then returning to a school that may have reduced recess time or suffered from financial cuts that impact physical education, this article should certainly be on our radar. One of the most stunning reports in this important article is that “The more difficult something is to learn, the more physical fitness may aid children in learning it.”
There’s a link between the scholar-athlete, and the director of a new school called Urban Dove really understands it. I recently saw Jai Nanda interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning and he talked about how he recruits students who don’t make it in traditional schools but then thrive in his educational experiment called the Urban Dove Team Charter School here in New York City. Coaches require kids to work out for three hours each morning and then bring them into the classroom to engage their brains. It’s a successful structure that makes sense on a variety of levels and I believe it’s going to catch on like wild fire. If you have a kid who seems disinterested and lackadaisical, you’ve got to watch this link.
As a high school English teacher, I always started the school year saying these words, “You can call me Miss Clifton, Miss C, or Coach.” The kids looked at me like I was crazy at first, but then they realized that I really got it: the grit that is required on the football field or the intricate memorization in a dance routine can be directly translated into the intellectual journey. It’s time we help students move their bodies to help release the brilliance intheir minds. It’s possible—with a little a bit of sweat at school!