Category: Parents

AP and IB Exam Update

College Board has announced that AP exams will be taken online in May. Material covered will be reduced to reflect what most students will have covered by mid-March. Each 45 minute exam will be offered on 2 dates. Specifics should be available in early April.

Free review material can be found at https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/coronavirus-updates?utm_source=Applerouth&utm_campaign=3b7149ea3c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_04_23_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_41a7cbffe6-3b7149ea3c-108463421#free-ap-classes

International Baccalaureate is working on their plan for testing which they expect to have in place by the end of March. You can access information on their website at https://www.ibo.org/news/news-about-the-ib/covid-19-coronavirus-updates/

As information comes available, I’ll send you an update.

Maximize Online Learning

Bring Your A Game to Distance Learning

Keeping focused while taking classes online can be difficult. Bring your study skills, time management and persistence to your new work space as you stay on top of assignments.

Creating a habit is probably most important to succeeding with online courses. When I don’t want to do something I procrastinate. I tell myself that there is plenty of time to complete the task. This is the exact opposite of what is needed with online classes. Make a schedule and stick to it. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it is when you have a framework for getting started.

If you don’t have lessons from your teachers you can find lesson plans and help at Khan Academy (khanacademy.org). You’ll find math, science and more. Khan even provides lists of books for reading for pleasure or to alert you to iconic works for cultural literacy.

One of my favorite websites is freerice.com. Challenge yourself with this vocabulary quiz were you will have a choice of meanings for the word that pops up. When you score well you are boosted to a new level of difficulty. When you guess incorrectly you remain at that level or drop back. Best of all, every correct response triggers donations of rice to communities that suffer food insecurity.

For college bound students this time without 24/7 scheduling is a blessing in disguise. You have time to deeply research colleges. Many admissions offices are putting the information sessions on line. Most have virtual tours of the campus led by one of the ambassadors who work for the admission office. Reach out to the admissions staff with questions. Join college social media although not much is being posted at the moment.

Khan Academy has SAT prep on their website for students who will be taking a standardized test. Even Freshmen can benefit from exposure to the prep sessions.

Online learning isn’t new to colleges. You will find that brick and mortar institutions make some of their classes online to facilitate getting the courses needed for graduation. Online learning isn’t dumbed down versions of in-person classes and some students find them more difficult. Time management is the key and persistence is right behind. The habits you develop while home from high school can be valuable when you are a college student.

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Thomas, Unsplash
Here’s another fun thing to do: go to the database www.citizenscience.gov and look at all the real time science research you can take part in. The image above illustrates one of the astronomy initiatives. You don’t need any special knowledge or training: if you can click of a mouse you’re qualified to take part. I’m curious about the cosmos so I chose to look at astronomy projects but there are hundreds of other fields. You can add tags for keyword search to documents in the Library of Congress. A task on Rosa Parks looks interesting. Other topics include Gardening, Biology, Environmental Science, Social Science,Clean Water Management. Go forth through the internet and explore the universe, or atoms or people!


Update: When you need to add some PE to your class schedule, or you’ve just had enough chair time, there are some places you can find a workout or a class. I’ve done this challenge; I hate squats but this is a fun break from sitting at the computer.

Several places are offering their virtual classes for free: Beach Body Fitness, Les Mills, Edge Fitness, Down Dog downdogapp.com. Enjoy!

College Visits? What To Do Now

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Oh, no!  Colleges are closing! 

Under other circumstances you would be executing planned college visits over the next few weeks and are finding that admissions offices are canceling tours and info sessions as their campus closes down.

There are some things that you can do now to learn about the colleges on your list.

Take a deep look at the college website: It tells the story of the college.  When and why was this institution founded?  What do they value?  Look up your potential major to see what is required to graduate.  Look at the required courses to see how interesting they seem.  Will you be able to take advantage of study abroad and internships?  Check out a few other subjects you might be curious about.

Take a virtual tour of the campus that you find on the college website.  It’s not the same thing as being there but you can see the layout and buildings.  Usually, the tour is led by admissions office ambassadors (tour guides) and is similar to the tour you would take in person.  If you like what you see, ask the admissions office to put you in touch with an ambassador or student similar to you, maybe from your high school or studying your major.

Campus Spotlight, https://www.collegematchpoint.com/college-matchpoint-blog/tag/Campus+Spotlight reviews some school.  Check out niche.com, too

Access campus tours through Campus Reel.    Campusreel.org offers tours of many campuses in 15,000 videos.  The quality varies as does the information.  An annoyance is that you must click the speaker icon at the bottom of each video as it loads so that you can hear the audio.

While campus is closed down, most admissions offices are up and running.  Make a list of questions you can’t find answers for on the website and call your admissions rep.  You will likely be able to have a conversation with him or her.  Not only do you get answers but you are showing interest in that college.  Some schools track Demonstrated Interest for consideration when processing your application.

Connect with college social media.  Instagram, Twitter, YouTube are good access points.  If there is an online campus newspaper you will be able to see a back issue or more; the campus radio station might still be operating.  From either, you can learn what is popular, what students care about.

Even though you can’t meet with anyone or take guided tour, it’s still possible to drive through  or walk around a school that you’d like to know more about.  Take time to visit the area surrounding the campus to find the local Thai restaurant, hair salon, movie theater or Target.  If you move here you’ll spend time eating, shopping and socializing in the neighborhood.

Let me know what you find out! 

How To Get The Most Affordable College Loans

You’ve read about students who graduate with mountains of debt and struggle to pay off their loans.  Borrowing money may be the only way to pay for some of the cost of higher education but being smart can make the pay back less painful.

According to Nerdwallet, borrowers should choose federal loans first.  Students are eligible because they don’t require the borrower to have previously established credit.  Federally backed loans have income-based repayment plans and for those in public service jobs there may be loan forgiveness.

If the federal loans aren’t enough, go first to the bank or credit union where your family does business for a private loan.  At a local bank, rather than a large national chain, you will be able to sit down with a bank official and discuss your needs where large chains may require you to do your loan shopping by phone.

Before you approach the loan officer, think about some options that may be important to you when its time to payback the loans.  Being able to release a co-signer, usually a parent or grandparent, from the loan upon your graduation is a courtesy to the co-signer and a solid business decision on your part. You may be find private loans with options to begin repaying later, or  the ability to stop paying temporarily if you hit a rough patch.

Forbearance is the term for a temporary halt to loan repayment while interest continues to accrue (adding to the total debt. Typically, forbearance is granted for 3 months at a time for up to a year.  Choose a bank with a clear forbearance policy.

In the matter of interest, a fixed rate is a better choice because you will know what the payments will be for the duration of the loan.  Variable rate loans usually have a low rate at the beginning but the rate is morel likely to go up than to go down before you pay off the loan and can change on a fixed schedule or whenever the prime rate changes.

Compare interest rates.  The lower it is, the less  your total payout will be. Borrowing $10,000 at 6.5% will make the total you repay 13,600.  at 5.5% the total will be $13,000.  Three ways to get the  lowest interest rate are to have excellent credit or have a co-signer with excellent credit; choose the shortest term for the loan you think you will be able to manage; sign up for autopay that deducts the payment automatically from a checking or savings account.

Look for discounts.  One common discount is paying the interest during the term of the loan while you are still in college.  Making interest payments can drop your rate by a while per cent. Sallie Mae offers this discount.

In addition to the interest rate, look at all the fees.  Some banks charge disbursement fees (for writing the check to you), origination fees (for processing the application), various administrative fees.  Any or all of these fees can be added to the loan amount or deducted from the amount of the check they write.   Be certain to compare late payment fees and penalties when you shop for a loan.

Keep in mind that you are likely to borrow a similar amount for each year you attend college.  Your repayment schedule should be comfortable when loans for 4 or more years are being repaid at the same time.

Parents, financial aid letters arrive with an offer of admission but are often written in ways that make comparison difficult.  Lets talk about how colleges put together an aid package and how to compare the difficult to understand aid offers.  610-212-6679 or stephanie@accessguidance.com

College Rankings: Helpful or Harmful?

Guidance counselors and independent educational consultants agree on many things; one of the strongest points for  high fives is disdain for the published college ranking system used by USNWR to sell magazines.  USNWR has about a dozen criteria; each year they manipulate the importance of the individual criteria so that the Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Stanford change positions.  None of the criteria have anything to do with educational outcomes.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy of The College Solution published a blog post listing 15 things that are wrong with the list.  Here are a few of her assessments.

  1.  One variable is ratings by administrators at the colleges in a given category such as Liberal Arts Colleges.  As O’Shaughnessy points out, the president and provost at  Lafayette probably have no idea of what goes on at  Endicott.
  2. Test scores, GPA, class rank help raise the position in USNWR rankings.  Each of these measures tend to be higher for students with more financial resources for a variety of reasons.  Colleges want to enroll students with higher benchmarks, ie wealthier students, skewing admission decisions.
  3. Related to #2 is the distribution of merit aid over need-based aid.  The former encourages wealthier students to attend and reduces resources for less well-heeled students.  With weatlthier students  showing up, costs can and do go up, disadvantaging everyone.
  4. Colleges now market strategically to encourage students that they don’t expect to admit to submit an application.  The more applicants a college denies, the more selective they appear and the higher the rank.  I know of one instance of a Tier One University admissions office personally inviting a student to apply, interview and then deny in a 2 week period near their application deadline.

Here’s the address of the entire article. http://www.thecollegesolution.com/15-things-to-know-about-u-s-news-college-rankings/

There are over 100 colleges and universities that have similar Tier One academic potential and outcomes to Ivies.  They are scattered around the US  and admit students based on many factors beyond the benchmarks.  Education is earned through hard work and where the education is earned is less important than the effort expended to earn it.  As Frank Bruni titled his book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be.

Lets work together to develop a list of great colleges where you can thrive academically, be comfortable socially and not send your family to the poor house.  610-212-6679 or stephanie@accessguidance.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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College Interview: Why Should We Choose You?

Scott Mattox

I am an ivy league graduate and have been an alumni interviewer for over 15 years. I ask this question, in various forms, to all my applicants. Having heard hundreds of replies to this question let me first address how not to answer the question. All of the following are actual responses I have gotten over the years.

  1. Do not say I am “hard working, conscientious” etc. This is by far the most common answer. Virtually all applicants are academically successful, and this answer will not serve to differentiate you from them.
  2. Do not say you are a “good person” etc. Self analysis of personality traits is always suspect, and in reference to number 1, I would assume all applicants think that they are good people.
  3. Do not say “I will make the University famous and enhance their reputation.” This is actually a fairly common reply. While in some cases this may ultimately prove to be correct, by no means can anyone reliably predict this outcome. Also while some element of self confidence is good, this type of response borders on arrogance.

The ivies, and likely most elite schools want to have a diversified class. This does NOT mean that they want of lot of diversified students, rather they want students that are exceptional in many different areas. For example they would much rather have someone who excels in one area e.g. : number one tennis player in their state, national science fair winner, or nationally renowned violinist, rather than someone who has all A’s, plays on a few varsity teams, and was in the chorus. Also please know that your interviewer has heard hundreds of answers and can recognize “bullshit” even before it has completely left your mouth. Above all be honest!! Choose an area that you are accomplished in and try to show how the Universities resources can help you achieve a particular goal in this field. The following a some examples of the more successful answers I have received: One applicant started his own successful software company in high school, and was familiar with the University’s strengths in this area and gave specific examples of the courses he would take to further his career goals. Another student started a charity to support a particular school in the caribbean. Her interest was in third world economics, and she was able to show how her acceptance would allow her to work with certain professors to make a difference in this world.

In short, you need to find an area in which you excel, and then show how this University has unique resources to help you achieve specific goals related to this area. If you are honest, the interviewer will see how your acceptance will be mutally beneficial.

Students, this is also how you should answer the question “Why do you want to go here?”  Lets talk about how to show your exceptionality in an interview and on your applications.  stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679

How To Nurture Your Children’s Gifts

I love to talk to parents of young children about preparing them for future success: getting into college and translating education into a satisfying life.  I came across this article that give some of the same advice that I offer.  Tips are not limited to children identified as talented or gifted.  Enjoy!

How to Help Your Gifted Child Thrive

Is Your Best Freshman Year A Gap Year?

https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Best-Freshman-Year-Is-a/243563

The Best Freshman Year Is a Gap Year

June 03, 2018

It’s that time of year again. High-school seniors across the country are finishing their final exams, cleaning out their lockers, and getting ready to walk up on stage to accept their diplomas. The students know where they’re going to college, and they’ll busy themselves over the coming months by looking into meal plans, registering for classes, and contacting their future roommates. Admissions deans are still analyzing yield targets with their staff and are already looking at what they could do differently next year. It’s a predictable cycle — except for one wrinkle.

An increasing number of students are questioning whether they are ready to dive straight into four more years of classroom lectures, research papers, and cramming for exams. Many are exhausted and burned out, eager to refuel their curiosity about the world through the kind of learning that won’t appear on a transcript.

Record numbers of students are contemplating a gap year before college, and they are looking for guidance on this important decision from the very colleges that admitted them. With a few exceptions, most students who inquire about a gap year will receive a silent nod from their admissions counselor and another form to fill out. Is that really the best we can do?Over the past five years, many college-admissions offices have adopted policies that allow students to defer their admission offer for one year. The gap year has become increasingly popular with admissions leaders, who have witnessed firsthand its positive impact on students and campus culture. Yet most colleges have remained resolutely agnostic as to what students should do on their gap year, and how they might pay for it.

At first glance this might make sense. The undergraduate clock starts ticking only when an incoming freshman sets foot on campus. Or does it? Not if you believe, as we do, that one of the most effective ways to improve college outcomes is to improve the inputs. A gap year designed with purpose and intent is a journey of personal growth that helps students successfully transition to college.

At a time when traditional four-year colleges are struggling to stay relevant and high-school graduates are hungry for real-­world experiences, why wouldn’t educators weigh in on the merits of a gap year? Isn’t it time for higher education to help students figure out what kind of experience will help them succeed in college and in life?

We recently worked with a group of experts to define the following key characteristics of a transformative gap year: It is purposeful and practical, involving some element of service to others; it takes students out of their comfort zone, challenging them to learn new skills and try on new perspectives; it offers the right balance of autonomy and mentoring to help students build self-confidence and a sense of purpose; it is accessible to students from all economic backgrounds.

The idea of integrating an experiential gap year with college may sound radical, but many colleges already routinely grant academic credit for service learning, internships, study abroad, and other forms of engaged learning. Education researchers have proven that these so-called high-impact practices improve student retention and engagement in college. However, many undergrads don’t have access to these formative experiences until their junior or senior year. Imagine how much we could amplify the positive effects if we offered students a megadose of high-impact practices at the beginning of college instead of at the end.

Reinforcing this point, the Gallup- Purdue Index, a large study of college graduates that seeks to track college outcomes, has demonstrated that how students go to college is much more important than where they go to college. Longitudinal data from the study show conclusively that the strongest predictors of future success are experiences that require initiative and agency — such as finding a mentor, having an internship, and doing a project that takes a semester or more to complete.

College leaders are desperate to cultivate a greater sense of civic responsibility among their students. In these turbulent political times, this is one of the most pressing challenges facing higher education. Similarly, educators recognize that the power skills of the 21st century — resilience, empathy, collaboration, initiative — are difficult to teach in the classroom. To build these skills, students need to be out in the world grappling with complex issues of identity, equity, diversity, and power. A purposeful gap year is a powerful way to build those muscles.And a growing number of colleges understand that a purposeful year off before college is the best way to ensure that more students arrive on campus prepared to declare both a major and a mission. Pioneering institutions are taking steps to repurpose gap years as transformative bridge years. Could this be the freshman-year makeover we’ve been hoping for?

Tufts and Princeton Universities have designed (and financed) their own service-oriented gap-year programs for incoming students, and several other institutions are exploring similar models. Meanwhile, the University of North Carolina, Florida State University, and Dickinson College all offer scholarships to make meaningful gap-year opportunities accessible to students from diverse backgrounds.

And there are numerous examples of admissions offices — including at Dartmouth College, Brown University, Rice University, Colorado College, and Middlebury College — that have developed useful gap-year resources for all prospective students. This is a perfect moment for other institutions to replicate and adapt these models to their own contexts.

In the next few weeks, admitted students may turn to you for guidance as they contemplate taking a gap year. Will you send them a form, or will you guide them toward a formative experience?

Abigail Falik is founder and chief executive of Global Citizen Year, a nonprofit dedicated to reinventing the gap year. Linda Frey is vice president for strategic partnerships at Global Citizen Year, where she leads the organization’s higher-education partnerships.

I‘ve had clients take a gap year for a variety of reasons.  Lets talk about what you can gain from spending a year, after high school or mid-college.  There are lots of options and many outcomes.  stephanie@accessguidance.com pr 610-212-6679

Curious About MIT?

Daan Mulder
Daan Mulder, studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Several things come to mind:

  • The professor you’ve just casually chatted with and asked about his/her research is actually a Nobel prize winner.
  • Everyone talks in code and it seems to make perfect sense: I’ll see you at E52; I’m taking 780 from course 15.
  • We complain that we should have gone to an easy college, like Harvard.
  • We constantly reference IHTFP (“I hate this f***ing place”) while secretly love every second here.
  • The institute is taken seriously by almost everyone. When we send emails from the MIT domain name (name@mit.edu) answer is almost always guaranteed.
  • You constantly feel inadequate by the level of the people around you (at orientation they even point out that it’s perfectly normal to have the “imposter syndrome”, i.e., feeling like you were admitted by mistake, as clearly you don’t feel like you deserve to be here with these people).
  • Sending an email to a wide distribution list saying “there is food left at [location]” and within seconds a swarm of hungry mouths descend, devour, and leave.
  • Playing with the beaver is totally not a sexual thing.

PS – sorry if this sounds like humblebrag. We’re really not full of ourselves here 🙂

 

ONE More comment from me: the most popular minor at MIT is music!

If MIT isn’t in your future, we can build a list of great colleges where you will thrive. stephanie@accessguidance.com pr 610-212-6679.

How Compensation Decisions Are Made

How Compensation Decisions Are Made

Understanding how employers make compensation decisions is critical if you want to be effective in negotiating your own compensation package.

Compensation has been very much in the news during the past year.  From the fervor over a $15.00 per hour minimum wage to robots coming to take people’s jobs to an accelerating employment market, compensation is on the minds and hearts of just about everyone. Before you can begin to get a handle on any of these issues, you first must have a basic understanding of how employers make compensation decisions.

Current Factors Impacting Compensation.

Like any other aspect of compensation, trends in the current market are impacting the compensation offered for specific positions.  Here are five of the factors that dramatically impact compensation ranges for virtually every position:

  1. The value of the work being done. Labor costs are almost always the single largest expense item incurred by any employer, other than the costs for the goods and services produced.  Labor costs include components such as base compensation (hourly or salary), variable compensation (such as bonuses or commissions), benefits, payroll taxes, and related insurances. So there is always pressure to assure that the value produced by each employee exceeds the costs associated with that employee.  Because the market sets to price for the goods and services it consumes, compensation must be tied to the value of what an employee’s work produces – or the employer cannot afford to remain in business.
  2. Supply vs. demand. This factor affects both industries and regions.  If there is a shortage of qualified candidates for a position in a particular area, compensation will tend to be on the high end of the range, with some employers electing to pay sign-on bonuses to attract candidates.  Likewise, if there is an over-supply of qualified candidates, compensation will be on the lower end of the range, with relatively few people hired in the higher ranges of compensation.  You will need to understand the dynamics of your industry and region.
  3. New job vs. raise. People changing employment (either inside their own company or moving to a different employer) tend to have larger compensation increases available, versus those staying in the same job or role.  The typical range for an annual increase is about 3%, while the average increase achieved when changing jobs is about 10%.
  4. Difficulty of filling the position. The difficulty an employer has experienced or (is anticipating) in filling the position will tend to increase what the employer is willing to pay.  Highly specialized skills, experience, and education are often the largest reason for the difficulty in filling a position.
  5. Benefits add 10% to 70% to total compensation. While benefits such as healthcare have been in the headlines during the past few years, the cumulative value of non-salary benefits is significant.  Here is an excellent calculator from CalcXML to determine the value of the benefits being offered.

The Mechanics of Compensation Decisions. 

Employers have established a range of what they are willing to pay for a particular position.  For example, a position with a target average annual salary of $55,000 might have the following range:

  1. Minimum – $45,000
  2. Mid-point – $55,000
  3. Maximum – $65,000

The interview process – the candidate’s credentials (résumé, social profile, and the like) and the results of any pre-offer background check (references, social media) – all influence where within the compensation range the initial offer will be made.

Researching compensation.

This can be done via the internet by Googling salary ranges or visiting compensation sites such as salary.com, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or payscale.com. Because information may be self-reported, tend to view these figures as optimistic about the position evaluated.  While the information provided on these sites is generally accurate (± 10%), there are regional differences, as well as differences from organization to organization.  Another helpful site for salary research is Glassdoor, which provides an inside look at jobs, companies, and compensation (as reported by current and former employees).  When calculating total compensation, bear in mind that benefits can be worth as little as 10% of base compensation, or as much as 50% or more.  Employer-paid expenses, travel allowances, hiring bonuses, tuition programs, insurances, paid time off, and other benefits add up quickly.

Some companies provide a lower starting salary, with a compensation increase once the new employee completes his/her training period (usually 90 days) and proves him/herself.  In a slow economy, there is an abundance of people looking for positions, so salaries can be somewhat depressed.  Likewise, when the economy is booming, starting salaries may be increased to attract better candidates.

Finally, understand that regional cost-of-living factors greatly affect the market-based compensation for any position.  A $60,000 position in an average cost of living area may translate to $48,000 in a low-cost area and $110,000 in a high-cost area.  Based on the relative cost of living of the area, the $48,000, $60,000, and $110,000 benchmarks reflect the same equivalent purchasing power.

Bottom Line

Like anything else in life, proper preparation prevents poor performance.  Never enter into a compensation negotiation without first having done your homework, with includes not only understanding how compensation for the position is established and what the reasonable ranges for compensation for your position by market, but also how you can prove that you’ll be able to deliver excellent value for the compensation you desire.

This article was excerpted from the most recent edition of Get a Better Job Faster? now available on Amazon.com.