Gap Year: Should those words strike fear in your heart?
College application deadlines are looming. And in some households, there will be the inevitable conversation about taking a gap year instead of going straight to college. Should this conversation strike fear in your heart or be a source of joy?
Taking a gap year between high school and college is quite common in countries like New Zealand and Australia. Teens are expected to travel abroad and support themselves for a year while they experience new cultures, find what interests them, and learn to live responsibly on a budget.
In recent years, this concept has been embraced by more American and European universities. In fact, several Ivy League colleges, like Harvard and Princeton, encourage a gap year and in return they gain students who are more focused and are more likely to complete their college education within 5 years.
So why is your teen advocating for a gap year? Procrastination? Fear? Lack of focus? Desire for adventure? This may be the critical question. If it is procrastination regarding finishing those applications, then think again. As MSNBC noted in their recent review of gap years: “The best way to start a gap year is with an admissions offer in hand.” Not filling the applications out closes a door. Filling them out keeps the door open and allows for better decisions. And if your teen is accepted to that dream school, call to ask for a deferment, which is often not a problem.
If he or she isn’t accepted to the dream school, give some thought to what can be done during the gap year to increase your teen’s chances for the next application. If the desire for a gap year is lack of focus or a desire for adventure, it might make financial sense. Time Magazine explored the financial pros and cons of a gap year.
If you decide a gap year is right for your teen, then comes the money and planning discussion. A gap year isn’t designed for teens to run unfettered, but it is a chance to learn and grow. Sit down with your teen and discuss finances, what they want from a gap year, what you expect from them, and what the options are. Gap year activities range from pure work (imagine traveling to Germany and being a waitress or an English teaching assistant) to service/volunteering (there are an amazing number of companies built around gap year volunteering: GapGuru, RealGap, and Projects-Abroad are good starting points) , or combining work with study (take one or two classes from a small specialty college). But no matter what the choice, plan a budget, make sure you and your teen know what expectations you have of each other, and talk about what comes next.
And after you have the conversation with your teen, breathe deep and imagine the possibilities if you took a gap year, too. Gap years for adults and executives are growing in popularity, after all.
Harvard: Where You Find A Little Louie Love
From the editor: I'm always looking for stories about the local flavor of college towns and surrounding communities. When I ran across this story about "Louie's Superette" by Eden Pontz on TravelingMom, I just had to share. Parents always want to know who's looking out for their kids once the kids head off to college and, at Louie's, some concerns can be put to rest. ZKQ
Louie: A Parent's Secret Weapon in Cambridge, Mass.
Cheng-san Chen is an unassuming man, running an unassuming store that skims the edge of Harvard University's campus in Cambridge, Mass. A banner hanging on the storefront announces "Louie's Superette" is celebrating 25 years of business. But inside, this convenience store owner/clerk, code name, Louie, is a parent's secret weapon, and known by students as the "man with the electronic eyes."
Not only does he offer all the standard conveniences that a "Superette" should stock, he holds values that parents can only hope their children develop while living away at college. And he's worth an in-person visit if you're traveling through town (continue reading on TravelingMom).
8 Parenting Resolutions for Academic Success
I’m often approached by panicked parents of high school students. Some are worried about their children’s college potential. Others are searching for ways to give them “an edge” in the competitive college admissions process. It’s never too late to support our children, but resolving to foster learning skills and opportunities throughout childhood is the best way to give your child an academic advantage. Below are 8 parenting resolutions to consider for 2013....
1. Don't be college-obsessed. Parents should never be college-obsessed. Panic-pushing prep industries make money by making parents nervous. Nervous parents often make their children nervous. Remain calm and focus on helping your young children develop their skill sets and overcome obstacles to become academically competent and confident. PS: There's a great college for everyone, so back off of the thought that your child must land in one place. You'll be doing yourself and your child a huge favor.
2. Make reading a priority. Ask any great test prep expert and they'll agree -- Years of dedicated reading, especially reading for fun, will boost SAT scores more than an expensive prep course.
What if your child proclaims he hates to read? Look for creative ways to incorporate reading. Some parents have reported spikes in teen reading with a People Magazine subscription. Others claim Uncle John's Bathroom Reader is the secret to reading enthusiasm and crazy facts. No, these options aren't Shakespeare, but sometimes you just need to get the process rolling.Always have books and magazines on hand when traveling. And consider using devices like the Kindle to kindle an enthusiasm for reading and improve vocabulary.
3. Build math confidence early. Work with your child to make math fun. If you suffer from math anxiety, don't proclaim it's genetic. Speak with your child's teachers and find a tutor if he or she needs one. Some school districts provide free tutoring via high school honor students. Take advantage of options to make your child math savvy. And remember, males and females share equal mathematical talents.
4. Encourage writing mastery. Students who write well can inspire and convince. A student who is comfortable writing may be less apt to procrastinate (That includes college admission essays!) and will feel more comfortable with some forms of testing. She may find she has more time in test-taking situations. How do you get your reluctant-to-write child on the bandwagon without forcing her? Provide materials early. Paper, colorful journals, cool pens and a computer can push the reluctant to create. Identify writing opportunities like after school classes, contests, blogs and summer camps. And, most importantly, always support your child's writing efforts by being cautious before you offer up your own critiques.
5. Embrace technology. Computer literacy can enhance academic success as students are able to strengthen project content and presentation. In addition to online research and learning opportunities, computer skills can build confidence and increase presentation options.
6. Focus on social skills. Every day I am surprised at the number of adults I encounter with poor social skills. Great social skills improve a person's potential for success. When you witness inappropriate social behavior, privately point out these examples to your children. Teach sensitivity, respect and concern and remind your child that a person's value is not measured by his bank book, his weight or his physical "beauty."
7. Celebrate your child's unique talents. Every child is special. Nurture your child's talents and interests. It's not about college right now. It's about childhood and family and creating educational opportunities and experiences that will help your child succeed.
8. Find free resources. Building academic success isn’t always costly. There are plenty of free educational resources to help boost your child’s academic arsenal. Alleyoop.com is a fabulous new creative site dedicated to boosting children’s college readiness by helping teens master math and science via videos, practice quizzes, game-like challenges and tutoring.
Happy New Year!!
Nancy Berk, Ph.D. is the author of College Bound and Gagged: How to Help Your Kid Get Into a Great College Without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship, or Your Mind. An accomplished psychologist, speaker and award-winning lifestyle humorist, she is a former full-time university professor, and the mom of a college graduate and college sophomore. Follow her on Twitter and check out her new podcast The College-Bound Chronicles on iTunes.
Holiday Deadlines: Submit Your College Applications Early!
Encourage your high school student to submit their college applications
before the New Year.
By: April Bell, Director, Counselor Advocacy | The College Board
Help your high school seniors get ahead in the college application process and avoid the stress of the “rippling effect,” by implementing a target deadline. Come New Year’s Day, they’ll be celebrating the successful completion and submission of their college applications, and can relax, enjoy the holidays and return to school prepared to take on the remaining portions of the college admissions process!
Senior year, students experience a number of changes as they end their high school career and prepare for their future after graduation. It’s easy for them to become overwhelmed with the lengthy to-do lists for college applications. Parents should encourage their teens to complete each portion of the application process on time and avoid the rippling effect that comes when even just one deadline is missed. Applying before the new year gets the applications out of the way so students can focus on other tasks such as financial aid applications, securing housing and selecting a meal plan. Bigfuture.org will help seniors outline a plan that’s tailored to their individual needs with calendars, deadline alerts, and holiday breaks, all the while keeping your teenager on track to reach their goal of receiving a college acceptance letter in the Spring!
But remember, college applications are important for all students, regardless of their grade level. Many college applications require information about extracurricular activities, scores from tests such as the SAT, and of course an academic transcript. This means, from freshman year in high school to senior year, students can always be working towards creating their best college application package possible. See the tips below to discover more on how to assist your high school students with maximizing each year of high school.
It’s important to be on track, even as early as Freshman year, and resources such as BigFuture by the College Board can help your high schooler personalize their path and stay ahead of the curve. As a parent, you are vital to the success of your teenager by ensuring they excel academically and establish effective work habits. But remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Helping your high school student understand the roles of their school counselors and teachers in the college application process early will encourage them to establish relationships with their counselors and teachers throughout all four years of high school. Make it a goal to urge your teenager to begin talking about college with their educators at the start of their freshman year.
To help prepare your high school student to be strong college applicants, remember to reassure your teenagers that what they do in high school matters. Colleges seek well-rounded candidates, so encourage children to take advantage of the clubs, sports and other extracurricular and enrichment activities available in the school and community to explore their personal interests and get a head start on building their portfolio and resume.
Sophomore year, invite your high school student to take the PSAT/NMSQT and challenge them to set personal goals to track their success. Encourage them to seek out teachers, school counselors and other valuable resources to learn more and prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT. Early and ongoing preparation will enable students to perform well on the test and possibly expose them and their scores to colleges and scholarship providers.
Throughout junior year, encourage your teen to begin taking practical steps to start their college search to avoid becoming overwhelmed their senior year with their college applications. Junior year can be very stressful for a number of reasons. However, if used effectively, it can actually be a great stress reliever. Encourage students to perform well in school, and on their college entrance exams, such as the SAT, prior to senior year. Strong performance in school that is consistent appeals to colleges and universities and will give your student an advantage. Also, staying proactive junior year will help them stay balanced and give them more freedom to enjoy their senior year in high school and look forward to the next phase of their life.
Talk to your teenagers about their interest in college to help them begin thinking about the application process. Share your experiences and make it a priority to talk to your teens about identifying a few colleges of interest prior to the New Year. Some may consider applying early to college. There are various resources available such as this early decision calendar, which outlines what to do junior and senior year to prepare for applying to colleges and meeting the early decision application deadline. This will give them enough time to learn more about the early decision process and begin researching colleges of interest, contact school admissions offices, and even schedule campus tours.
For additional resources and information on colleges, applications, financial aid and more, visit bigfuture.org.
Cyber Monday Gift Ideas for Teens & College Students
For some great gift ideas for the teen or college student in your life, check these out:
- 21 Great Holiday Gifts for College Students (Lynn O'Shaughnessy | CBS Money Watch)
- Presents for College Students (BenchPrep Inc | Pinterest) - Note this is just one Pinterest board with gift ideas - search Pinterest to narrow your search, or expand it!
Did you see any gift ideas you liked? What's your favorite gift idea for a teen or college student?
Smart Definitions: College Admission Application Types
Early Decision - for students who are really sure of their first-choice school and are ready to accept an offer of admission (and finanical aid package, if applicable). Early Decision application deadines typically fall between October 30 - December 1. Students are notified during December and January. Deadlines vary by school.
Applying ED carries certain expectations:
- That the college you applied to is your first-choice and you will accept the offer of admission.
- That you will apply to only one school as an ED applicant.
- That acceptance of an offer admission is binding.
- And, it is expected that you will withdraw all applications to other institutions.
Early Action (a.k.a. Early Action I) - for students who want to apply early (before the regular application deadline). The offer of admission is non-binding, meaning you are not under any obligation to accept the offer of admission. The Early Action option makes sense for students who are sure of their first-choice college but don't want the restrictions that come with applying as an ED applicant.
Some benefits to applying Early Action include early consideration for competitive majors where the number of slots is limited and perhaps access to certain scholarship opportunities (details and opportunities will vary by institution and program).
Early Action II - similar to EA I, but with a later deadline (still prior to the regular admissions deadline). Same conditions apply: non-binding; ideal for students with top/first-choice schools.
Not Ready to Apply Early?
If the timing's not right to apply early then Regular Decision works just fine.
Regular Decision - means you will apply by a specified date that usually falls between January and March, after which application review typically begins. Students will be notified by a certain date in the spring (usually by early April since the national candidate reply date to accept the offer of admission is May 1).
Rolling Admissions - means applications are accepted on an on-going basis and are reviewed as they come in. Students are typically notified withing 2-4 weeks following submission.
Always check with each college you're considering to find out which of the above application methods "apply" to their institution.
Hurricane Sandy Alert Tracking
Here's hoping students and college/university personnel in all of the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy are safe. For those who are tracking information related to weather, travel and news, here are a few resources you may want to use:
- Hurricane #Frankenstorm Twitter List by TravelingMom (@travelingmoms) referencing tweets from news and travel sources.
- Subscribe this list to pull the tweets into your Twitter feed (you can unsubscribe anytime).
- FlightStats.com - check flights and airport closings (nice map of US airports and their status). As of this post (Monday, October 29, 2012) over 7,000 flights have been cancelled or delayed.
- NOAA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
College / University Updates
- Search and follow the colleges and universities that interest you on Twitter and Facebook.
- Go to the university home page for the school you need to track. Most colleges post emergency alerts and closings on their home page. Sign up for any alerts offered to the public.
- Set up a Google Alert for any school you need to track for "as-it-happens" news.
- It's likely that many colleges on the East Coast will changed their Early Decision and Early Action deadlines. Check your email for updates from schools you already have contact with and be sure to check their web site and the admissions/application pages for announcements related to deadline changes. Check more than once. It may take a few days for updates to be posted. If in doubt, stick with the original deadline if possible.
- You can also phone the admissions office. Many schools will post information about delays and deadlines on their answer message.
Be smart and be safe during this and all extreme weather situations.
What Would You Do: High School Final Exam Policies
If a high school student has an "A" or "B" average in a class, should he or she be allowed to skip the final exam?
As I stood in the packed commons area of my son's high school listening to the assistant principal run through the school's policies on attendance and exams, I found myself questioning the logic in the final exam exemption policy.
If I were a student, I'd love it: if you have A or B average and have not missed a single class, you do not have to take the final. Students can opt to take the final (in case you want to try to raise a B to an A) but it's not required if the above conditions are met.
As a parent and founder of a business focused on helping kids with college search, I found myself questioning whether this was the best college prep policy. Following the presentation, I met up with two parents who are faculty members at one of the universities in our area and who also have a son entering the high school freshman class. I asked them what the thought of the policy.
Neither were fans and, having gone through this before with an older son, they had developed their own "family rules" policy where there is no exemption for a "B" grade. Their policy is that they will let their son be exempt from the exam only if he has an "A" average and has not missed a class.
Thanks to them, I realized what had really been bugging me. It was the inclusion of a B-level grade in the exemption policy. I appreciate these parents and their family rule. They've set the bar a little higher for their kids. As professors, they know first-hand how competitive getting into college can be and that for high-demand majors, an above average grade won't make the cut.
As a parent, what would you do if your high school had this policy? Do you have a family rule that overrides the school policy? Please share your comments below.
Z. Kelly Queijo is founder of Smart College Visit and parent of two teens.
College Bound and Gagged: The Video Launch
Filmed in Chicago at the American Marketing Association
2011 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education
Author, psychologist, humorist and frequent contributor to Smart College Visit, Dr. Nancy Berk launched the release of her new book: COLLEGE BOUND AND GAGGED: How to Help Your Kid Get into a Great College without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship, or Your Mind at the AMA's higher-ed symposium in October, 2011.
#CampusChat HomeSchool Parents Panel
On November 30, the #CampusChat topic will be:
HomeSchooling the College-bound Teen/Preparing for the College Admissions Process.
If you are interested in being a panelist on November 30, please RSVP by adding your Twitter handle as a comment to this post. Teens and college students who were home-schooled are invited to participate as well.
For more information about #CampusChat, please see: What is #CampusChat?
11/16/11 Guest: author Dr. Nancy Berk debuts her book: COLLEGE BOUND AND GAGGED: How to Help Your Kid Get into a Great College without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship, or Your Mind
11/23/11 - Open Mic
11/30/11 - Parent panel: Home Schooling and College Admissions