Tagged: college success

What Were You Least Prepared For At An Ivy?

From Quora

What Were You Least Prepared For When You Entered An Ivy League School

Answered by Wes Lai, retired teacher of 34 years

“I did not attend an Ivy League school. My son did, and he graduated #1 in his class of 480 at a public high school. The one thing he said that blew him away was how students from private prep and boarding schools were so well prepared for college. The other thing was how everybody was just as smart as he was, or smarter. Culture shock.”

This answer explains why admission to Tier One colleges is competitive.  The outstanding student in any high school is just average in the pool of applicants to selective colleges.  All of the candidates have stellar grades in a rigorous curriculum.  Most will have nearly perfect scores.  Admission depends on the interests, passions and accomplishments outside of school.   Overcoming challenges, solving real world problems, and having done something that benefits others gain traction in the admissions office.

Lai’s response highlights the epidemic of depression and anxiety experienced on college campuses.  Discovering that you aren’t the smartest person in the room when your parents, teachers and accomplishments have told you just that, is difficult for many students to accept.  They believe that less than perfect grades or not having the answer to a difficult question shows them to be  weak and failing.

As parents, we need to emphasize that the quest is more important than the badge of achievement.  A goal should be to grow, become better at the tasks we undertake, to focus our  education on how to use knowledge and experience to help others. Most of all we need to treat failure as a part of moving forward: it teaches persistence, humility and spurs determination.  Sometimes it opens doors to new thinking.

As I’ve told countless students,  when you get to college you will meet people who have had different experiences than you have, learned bits of information that diverge from what you are familiar with,  connect the dots in a different pattern.  That doesn’t make one of you smarter or a better student: its another opportunity to apply critical thinking.

When you’re ready to talk about a college list, or ways in which college might surprise you, I’ll be waiting to hear from you. stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679.



Experiences College Students Say Lead To Success

When a college information session mentions the number of students who return for a second year, they are giving insight into the quality of the programs designed to integrate young students into the fabric of college life.  Most do a good job.

First Year Experience Programs that create  groups of students with similar interests or into a First Year Seminar in which all participants student the same thing or read the same book make it possible for new students to have an immediate group of acquaintances to walk with, talk to and meet for dinner or coffee.

The National Career Development Association polled students to formulate this list of activities that helped them stay the course to graduation.

6 College Experiences that College Grads Say Helped Them Be Successful  NCDA

  1. I had at least one professor at [college] who made me excited about learning.2.2. 2. My professor(s) at [college] cared about me as a person.
    3. I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams.
    4. I worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete.
    5. I had an internship or job that allowed me to apply what I was learning in the classroom.
    6. I was extremely active in extracurricular activities and organizations while I attended [college].

Point 1, having professors who create excitement about learning or who fuel your curiosity puts the onus on the professor to bring the subject to life.  You will meet professors who know a lot but aren’t inspiring teachers and you will meet professors who can make a brick wall interesting.  Don’t write off the boring subjects or boring teachers: learn what you can because somewhere, some time, you will be able to use that knowledge.

Notice that Points 2-6 all rely on the student to take initiative.

#2 For your professors to care about you they must know you.  Get over your intimidation and drop by office hours for a chat.  See them as people who happen to know more about a given topic than you do.  Pick their brain, ask questions, show interest.

#3 To find a mentor you have to  know people and when you find the right one you must ask.  Mentors don’t pop up out of nowhere: you have to look for and make connections with lots of people.  Put yourself out there!

#4 Projects that are interdisciplinary or are carried out over an extended period mirror work experiences.  Assisting a professor’s research or writing is a great way to get yourself known in your field.  Many undergrads are published before commencement.

#5 Internships are like jobs.  You will need a resume and an interview.  Students who expect the college or a professor to hook them up with an internship have missed the point.  Gaining experience requires that you know what you are good at as well as what you need to learn.  Guess what?  You will use those skills every time you look for a new job.  Internships create experience and networks that lead to your first post-grad job.  Use this opportunity to have as many internships or co-op experiences as possible.

#6 Joining organizations early in your first year is a great way to meet people and explore ideas or events that you might consider in your job search.  Students who spend their time with high school friends on FB or Instagram tend to be lonely and unhappy.  Choose a time once a week to check in with your old group but spend the bulk of your socializing hours getting to know the people in your new world.  Those with the most connections tend to be the happiest and most successful.  You may make life-long friends in the organizations you join.

To sum up, colleges have a responsibility to provide relevant knowledge and to make it available to students.  Students have the responsibility to build relationships with faculty and other students.  You aren’t in high school any longer; only you can make these years productive and fulfilling.

I have more transition advice for college-bound students.  Let me answer your questions and give you the confidence you need to flourish.  610-212-6679 or stephanie@accessguidance.com

Expert Advice: Tips To Survive College

Perseverance :  Tips to survive college life

By Dr.Michelle   Getting Into the Ivies


The Art of Perseverance: Tips to Survive College Life

College life is a huge adjustment for many students. You are away from home (maybe even for the first time) and find that you are responsible for taking care of yourself on your own. For example, handling your laundry, meals, housekeeping, and even waking up on time.

Combine these new responsibilities with studying, writing papers, attending lectures, and social engagements and you may feel a sense of doom before you even get started.

Many students find themselves overwhelmed and struggling until they get the hang of this new life. It is possible to make it through successfully – if you just stick with it. We’ve put together a list of tips to help you survive the college life.

  • Get involved. Make some friends, join some clubs, attend campus events – whatever will get you involved and make you feel like you belong.
  • Stay organized and prioritize. Keep your space tidy. Get a calendar to organize your
  • Studies and your engagements: prioritize these items.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat healthy meals, exercise regularly, and get proper sleep.
  • Create a budget. College-life is a real lesson in money-management. Make a budget and stick to it. Your bank balance and credit score will thank you!
  • Find a study place that works for you. Once you find this place, go there often.
  • Allow some fun time. Do not deny yourself time to unwind. Have fun and lots of it – just at the right time, that’s all.

Remember what you are there for. Your education. Keep this is the forefront of your mind so you don’t find yourself drifting. Go to class, engage with your professors, and be active in the college complete process.

Your future career awaits.

High School Doesn’t Necessarily Prepare You for College

An article in the Harvard Crimson addresses some problems faced by students who come from less than stellar high schools in the US or abroad.  While aimed at academic disadvantage there are lessons for all students preparing to make the leap to college academic work.

College writing can be very different from your experience in high school where teachers tend to have expectations.  Professors are more likely to use their own rubrics and to follow what is typical for academic writing in their discipline.  Five courses per semester and you probably have five sets of challenges.

For every subject in high school there are many text books, therefore, a variety of preparation for college work.  You may find that your professors interests align well with you pre-college background-or not.  If others in the class have previously learned similar material to the college course, you may feel inadequate and frustrated.

Time management, especially for those who never had to study much to get fine grades, is the most challenging hurdle to overcome.  With only 3 grades per course it’s important not to allow yourself to get behind.

As you make the leap to a higher level of academics, as first year students, you are also making social adjustments and learning about personal finance in real time.  The all-in, everything at once, can be overwhelming.

And top students aren’t accustomed to asking for help.  There is some    prickle of embarrassment at being a college student and not being able to write well, or not being able to get reading done.  This is where the successful find a mentor, reach out to professors, make friends with their advisor or drop in at the writing or math tutoring centers.

Leave your pride in the drawer and get help as soon as you start to feel uncomfortable.  Its easier to fix a small problem than to bring up a low grade with only one exam left.

Read about Harvard and imagine how these scenarios will play out on your campus.  Even if you don’t identify with the subjects of the article, imagine yourself having the same problems and how you would solve them.

Bridging The Gap To College Academics by Melissa Rodman



Get the Recommendations You Deserve

Easy, right? Ask your favorite 11th grade teacher to turn in a rec to the guidance office by a certain date. With Naviance, if your high school uses the service, there is even a form and format on line.

Not so fast. What do you want the recommendation to say? What would the college admission officer want to read about you?

The purpose of the recommendation is to give detail about you as a student beyond the grades and rigor of the coursework. The critical word in that sentence is “detail“. A recommender must know you well in order to provide examples.

A good college recommendation. or job reference, comes from someone who knows you well. The writer could be the 9th grade French teacher you’ve stayed in touch with by dropping in between classes or after school. You could be a member of a club that he advises. You’ve kept him apprised of your goals and progress, asked him questions about France, engaged with him on multiple topics.

Here are some things the French teacher might say:
-Has an abiding interest in all things French (curiosity and persistence)
– Member of French club for 4 years, ran our fund raisers for 3 years (commitment)
-Has a 10,000 word French vocabulary (diligence)
-Plans to spend a college semester abroad in France (uses long-term planning)
-With a degree in history hopes to do French geneology research (sets goals)
-Participated in and invented games in class to increase French vocabulary (creativity)
-Reads French magazines and comic books (shares personal interests)

Another recommender could be the chem teacher who taught the most challenging class you’ve taken so far.
-Found chemistry to be difficult but came to class prepared everyday (persistence)
-Asked for help from me and others (problem solving)
-Participated in class (good class manners and citizenship)
-Joined Chemistry Club for moral support ( creative solution finder, determination)
-Will fulfill college science requirement in a less math-focused course (realistic)
-Has deep interest in environmental policy formation (curiosity, passion)
-Has reputation in school for leadership and support of student causes (respect of teachers and students)

Two things are important here. The first is that the teacher knows you well. The French teacher spent lots of time over three years with the first student. The chemistry teacher knew the student for one year but got to see good qualities through their frequent tutoring sessions.

The other important point is that each high school student demonstrated qualities that are desirable in a college student. The recommenders gave illustrations of those qualities.

Start early to develop relationships with teachers
Make a list of qualities that you see in yourself and where you are displaying them in school.
When you select recommenders do so based on how well they know you and what they can say about you,