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New Podcast Available for Counselors, Parents and Students

The College Spy has launched a new podcast with some great content for Counselors, Parents and Students. It is a weekly podcast that addresses all aspects of the college selection and admissions process hosted by Michelle McAnaney, founder of The College Spy.

As a high school counselor for 16 years and Director of Guidance at two high schools, she has extensive experience working with administrators and teachers. In this podcast she will outline how parents and students can take full advantage of all the resources offered at your high school.

In the first podcast, Michelle and her co-host, Justin McAnaney discuss how COVID-19 is impacting the college admission process and how high school juniors and seniors will need to move forward with their college search and selection process despite the disruption caused by the virus. This is a developing topic that changes day-to-day as colleges, standardized testing providers and high schools continue to update their responses to the virus.

Here is a link to the podcast: https://anchor.fm/thecollegespy/episodes/1-COVID-19-and-College-Admissions-ec9aq4/a-a1r5ckq

Coping with Coronavirus: What Students Need to Know

Current students–like most of us– have never experienced anything like the 2020 pandemic. With schools closing and events being cancelled, normal life has been greatly disrupted.

High school closings means no athletics, clubs, proms or other social events. It’s a really big loss for many students. Juniors applying to college will not be able to do the campus tours or attend the college fairs they normally would this spring. Seniors who’ve been accepted don’t have the chance to go to on-campus admitted students events to help make their final decisions.

Being sent home from college in the middle of the term is incredibly unsettling. Day-to-day social and athletic opportunities are gone, and classes have suddenly gone virtual. Those who  are seniors may have already bid a rushed goodbye to friends months earlier than expected.

Here are some ideas you can pass along to students to help them through these turbulent times:

  • Honor your feelings. You have every right to be upset that you are no longer on campus with your friends, or that you can’t participate in an internship or study abroad. Your feelings are valid, regardless of how others might react.
  • Find balance. While “venting” may give you temporary relief, be sure to spend time focusing on fulfilling activities as well, such as hobbies, reading, or creative endeavors.
  • Manage your media exposure. Staying up to date on important changes (e.g., travel bans) is appropriate, but it’s not necessary to check news outlets multiple times a day.
  • Keep some perspective. If you and your family are healthy, be thankful. Consider ways that you might learn or grow from this experience. You are living through a historical event that people will talk about for many years to come. Some of the changes in society–which we can only guess at–are likely to be positive. 
  • Focus on what’s under your control. You can practice good hygiene and social distancing; you can’t control the availability of masks and treatments, or when schools will reopen.
  • Become a distance-learning expert. Not only is this technology important to your education right now, but it is also likely to be more widely used in the future. Become familiar with how the online platforms work, and help your teachers and school think creatively about how to use it most effectively.
  • Do something constructive. Brush up on your cooking skills. Learn to fix things around the house. You will need these skills in adulthood.
  • Expand your knowledge. Learn a new computer language or foreign language. There are many free resources available online. You might uncover a career path you never knew about.
  • Maintain your health. Sleep, good nutrition and exercise are as important as ever. They will help keep your spirits as well as your immunity up.
  • Develop routines. Your old patterns (e.g., going to sports practice) may not be possible now, but you can establish new habits such as regular chat times with friends or mealtimes with family.
  • If you’re in high school, stay on track with college admissions. Colleges are making allowances for the current situation (e.g., by extending the deposit deadline or going test-optional), but they still expect you to do your part. You can learn about colleges through virtual tours/events, communicate with admissions reps by phone or email and, most importantly, continue to do well in your courses.
  • If you’re in college, continue laying the groundwork for your career. Stay connected to your professors; research future career paths or internships; update your resume or LinkedIn profile.

Your ability to be resourceful, and to draw on the support of others during this crisis, will make you a wiser, more resilient person in the years to come.

Eric Endlich, Ph.D. is the founder of  Top College Consultants®. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or like his Facebook page. He can also be reached by e-mail at eric@topcollegeconsultants.com.

Free Handouts available for download – The Role of the Counselor

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has put together some great resources that you can use to for back-to-school nights, faculty meetings, school board meetings, one-on-one parents meetings or any other time you might want to have resources to share that show the valuable role you play in working with students. Here are the direct links:

They offer the profession a lot of great tools to help you do your job better. If you would like to have more information on what benefits they offer and information about joining ASCA, here is the link: https://www.schoolcounselor.org/school-counselors-members/member-benefits-info

High School Career Guidance

It was at the Queen’s Croquet Ground in the story of Alice in Wonderland, that the game begins with Alice using a flamingo tucked under her arm as the mallet, a rolled-up hedgehog as the puck and the Queen’s soldiers bent over, acting as the hoops. The players all start at the same time without waiting for their turn. The hedgehog continually unrolls itself and the Queen’s soldiers are called away to another beheading. The game quickly turns into disorganized chaos with everyone running in different directions.

For many High School students, planning for their future training or career can, at times, resemble this croquet game. With so many career opportunities available, each with different skill requirements, how do students begin to consider making decisions about which direction to take?

Working on employability while studying isn’t just for those wanting to get on to prestigious graduate programs. Doing so helps students to discover what sort of work they want to do so they can start to plan their future study and work experience.

Like all students, I went through the same levels of confusion, which is why today, I spend my days providing what is termed ‘expert’ virtual speaker sessions for schools across the US.

As school counsellors will appreciate, giving each student the right information and advice comes with the same challenges; what a student may be inspired by today, may not be the career of their future.

From my experience many of today’s students need a wake-up call to tell them what is going on in the world of employment and the steps they should be taking. The objective of my sessions is to not only inspire them but to open up their minds to potential careers and the skills they’ll need. Being young (I’m only 26 years old myself) certainly helps to ensure they feel more aligned to my advice.

My career has taken several turns, from community theater, to helping small businesses find their ‘voice’; making their ideas a reality and helping to visualize and create their brand.

The first thing I share with students during my sessions is that, to a certain extent, there are two main skill areas that are required in all careers; marketing and IT.

Whichever career path a student takes, marketing is a central requirement. Whether a student wants to run their own website development company, work for a law firm, become a teacher or be a hairstylist they all need to market themselves. A lawyer has to ‘sell’ his defense to the jury, a web developer and hairstylist have to market themselves to potential new clients and a restaurant owner has to market the business to the surrounding community. In fact, everyone has to market themselves. If you want to apply for a job, you’ll need to write your resume to be appealing to the company and then, if invited in, you’ll need to promote yourself to the people conducting the interview.

IT is another skill that thankfully most of today’s students have. Creativity and artistic skills play a major role in technology. If they are to become a website developer or graphic designer, today’s new-age careers demand a high level of creativity. Whether they run their own business and set up a marketing database or use an online system for invoicing, they will all need to know how to use technology in their future careers.

Questions

One common trait in all my sessions is that the students want to know the formula. They want me to tell them what they need and the career they should embark on. I therefore spend time ensuring that students recognize that they are the only ones in charge of their future.

The next most common question I’m asked is whether they have to go to college. While I dropped out of college, I always encourage them to go; after all the experience of college life is so valuable and you learn skills beyond pure academic achievement. But what I do stress is that if it’s just not practical for any individual student, it isn’t 100 percent necessary.

And finally, in terms of setting up my own business, they want to know how hard it was and how long it takes; again, expecting a set formula. It is interesting that however honest I am about the hard work and long hours they seem to value this honesty. I start with hard facts about the failures, long hours and the loneliness of working alone. The bottom line they need to understand is that ‘the world is a lot more difficult than you think.’ I want these students to understand that whatever stage they are at in their career pathway, they may certainly feel like they are running around the Queen’s Croquet Ground, feeling confused, taking constant knocks, experiencing failure, and being at a loss to see a clear direction. These are all completely normal; it’s an important part of career guidance.

Ryan Hertel is an expert speaker on Career Exploration. He carries out face to face and virtual sessions in classes and assemblies across the US. For further information please visit www.LessonALive.com .

Secondary Schools College Admissions Services Update

The Secondary Schools College Admission Services Update is now available. It provides secondary schools professionals an opportunity to report on the current admission-related services at their schools and organizations under these unprecedented circumstances.

This is a tool created by NACAC. With so many schools closed or otherwise disrupted, it’s a challenge for counselors to provide students, especially seniors, with transcripts, guidance, and other services needed to finalize college plans. The Secondary Schools tool shows how different schools and counselors are responding. The tool includes replies to questions such as:

  • What is your school’s plan for issuing final course grades?
  • Do you have the ability to provide updated transcripts and other information?
  • What questions are your students seeking answers to from colleges at this time?

Here is a link to it: https://www.nacacnet.org/news–publications/newsroom/secondary-schools-update-coronavirus/

Would you like to include what your school is doing to help other Counselors around the country? If so, here is a link to include your schools information – https://nacac.formstack.com/forms/covid_19_sec_response

Should Your Students Write Their College Essay Now?

Before they start, they should ask themselves a few questions to determine if they are ready

This time of year, we focus on ways to prepare for the college essay, which students generally begin writing at the end of junior year – presumably in June.

But lately, we’ve been getting a lot of questions from counselors, independent educational consultants and parents about the college essay.

Should students start writing their essays now, while they are home?

The answer to this question doesn’t have a simple answer.

We understand these are unsettling, super stressful times. You are working remotely while news about college admissions for the Class of 2020 has been changing by the minute since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

So, what are your students supposed to do with all this additional free time? Likely, they’ve got schoolwork. Much of everything else has been canceled. Sports. Dances. Clubs. Jobs. They can’t sit inside Starbucks with their friends or go shopping at the mall (neither can you!) They can chat on Instagram or Snap Chat and binge watch their favorite shows if they are fortunate enough to have Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu. But to be honest, we know – and you know – there’s  not much going on.

Before making a decision about whether or not your students should actually start writing their college essay, they need to ask themselves:

  • Does writing my Common App essay sound like something I want to do now?
  • Why am I going to write a college essay?
  • Why should I write it now?
  • Is it urgent that I write any college essay now?

Right now, more than ever, they should not forget the fundamentals: Plan. Process. Schedule.

Unless your students can reliably start the Common App essay, and finish it soon, it won’t work. They need to make sure they have a plan to finish what they start.

Help them make sure they have a process to follow so they know exactly what they’re doing and WHY they are doing it.

And make sure they understand the importance of sticking to a schedule. Everything is up in the air right now. They might need help staying focused.

Unless the essay is something your students can focus on – and I mean really focus on – it won’t work.

Were they going to wing it? Then they should slow down. It’s hard to focus.  It’s hard to stick to a routine.

To succeed on a college essay, students need a plan. They need a schedule. And they need a process to get it done without losing momentum?

So back to that original question: “Should students start working on college essays now?”

Share with you students in an email the right questions, and you’ll help them come up with the right answer.

It’s a good time to learn more. I hope you’ll ask your students to join me on April 7 for a free, 1-hour class, to help you prepare for your college essay. It’s online, on Zoom.

Get Started on Your College Essay – Free

Find out what you need to know to stand out in your college essay from Wow Writing Workshop, the leading national experts on the college essay. It can be hard to write about yourself, especially when the stakes are so high. We’ll help you prepare now, so you can write your essay when you are ready. We’ll answer your questions, too. Sign up here.

Stay healthy. We’re sending warm and calming thoughts to all of you.

Kim Lifton is President and Co-founder of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication company specializing in college admission and grad school application essay writing and professional training. She leads a team of writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. Wow’s team teaches students how to write application essays, and provides expert training on their unique approach to professionals who want to improve their essay coaching practices. Kim blogs regularly about the college essay’s role in the admission process for multiple industry publications and websites. In 2019, she was named a LinkedIn Top Voice in Education.

Before co-founding Wow, Kim worked as a reporter and communication consultant. Highlights include: Co-producing a PBS documentary about teens and depression, No Ordinary Joe: Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness; writing “First Class,” a weekly lifestyle column about the area’s most successful businessmen and women for the Detroit Free Press; creating “A Small Business Adventure,” a 12-part monthly series about the perils and pitfalls of running a small business for the Detroiter Magazine; supervising a public relations campaign and accompanying print materials that attracted local and national print, radio, and TV media coverage for the National Council of Jewish Women’s annual convention in celebrating its 100th anniversary.

You can’t be what you can’t see

“I fought really hard to get here,” she said with tears filling her eyes. “I’m in my first internship and not only am I the only woman there, but I’m the only person of color. I don’t belong in this field.” I sat across the auditorium, stunned by this statement from a fellow audience member. I was at a forum discussion about women in the computing workforce at Spelman College. I was shaken by what I was hearing. Was it possible that the number of women in computer science is really that imbalanced?

Sadly, the answer is yes. According to research, only 3% of the computing workforce is composed of African American women. Did you know that in 2016, only 19% of Computer Science bachelor’s degree recipients at major research universities were conferred to women (down from 37% in 1985)? See more stats here: ncwit.org/bythenumbers.

As a school counselor educator, I am committed to providing opportunities for all of my students to pursue a career that aligns with their interests. I had never truly considered the systemic barriers, cultural patterns, and access to opportunities that affect our students as they explore interests and select career pathways.

I began talking to more young women at the high school and university level taking computer science courses. “What are the demographics of your computer science classes?” I asked. I repeatedly heard stories of being the “only one” and “feeling behind” or “out of place.” Their words resonated with me because they were not isolated stories but a united demand for change.

I also asked these women what they enjoyed about computer science. Not having a background in the field, I felt like I didn’t know much about technology. I was curious about the persistence of these women. What sparked their interest and inspired them to keep going? It’s all about coding, right?

Wrong!

The women lit up when asked about their interest in computing. I repeatedly heard, “I love solving problems!” “It’s actually a very creative field!” and most often what I heard about was a concept called CS + X. CS stands for Computer Science and the X represents an area of interest. These women talked about the intersection of computer science with other industries like history, art, finance, fashion, and so much more. I learned about how every industry has computer science in it, and these women were finding engaging, creative, and sustainable career opportunities.

As a school counselor, I realized the influence I have to spark an interest in computer science with young women and other underrepresented students. I can demystify what computer science is for all students and use resources like Family Code Night to find free, scripted activities that bring the community together, inspire interest in computing, and engage in career conversations about the intersection of computer science with every area of interest.

Google’s free CS First curriculum engages content area teachers and school counselors! With MIT App Inventor, anyone can build an app! Many schools are using Apple’s Swift curriculum to engage students, build apps, and more! Code.org offers K-12 learning opportunities! There are many opportunities to find the right fit for your students. Explore, Share, and Engage! Ignite interest in sustainable careers of the future!

Want to learn more? Check out these resources:

About the Author

Angela Cleveland

Angela Cleveland is the co-author of “50+ Tech Tools for School Counselors: How to Be More Engaging, Efficient, and Effective” and “Coding Capers: Luci and the Missing Robot.” She has 15 years of experience as a school counselor and received the “2017 New Jersey School Counselor of the Year” award. She is an Executive Board Member and Webmaster for the New Jersey School Counselor Association (NJSCA). She is also the Program Director for NCWIT Counselors for Computing (ncwit.org/c4c), which provides professional school counselors with information and resources they can use to support ALL students as they explore computer science education and careers.

College Status Update – COVID-19

Many Colleges & Universities have postponed classes due to COVID-19 and a number have even announced that they will be going online only for the remainder of the semester. Your Seniors who are still in the midst of visiting Colleges and determining which College they will attend are definitely feeling a lot of angst. NACAC has put together a nice tool that provides a status for more than 200 Colleges (with more being added every day). It includes changes in the status of College events and open houses, deposit dates, are they open to having Admission visitors, direct links for more information and a contact for each College.

Here is a link to the tool: https://www.nacacnet.org/college-admission-status-coronavirus

If you are with a College/University and want to get your school listed (it’s free) here is a direct link to the form – https://nacac.formstack.com/forms/covid_19_cu_response

10 SAT and ACT tips for your students

Here are 10 great tips from C2 Education that your students can use to get better scores on these tests:

1. Start with a Practice Test: Any test prep plan should start with a practice SAT or practice ACT. Before your students can set a goal, they need to figure out where they are currently scoring – a diagnostic test is the best way to do that. To get the most accurate score, they will need to take their practice test under realistic testing conditions.

2. Create a Study Schedule: Once they have their original test scores, they will need to set some goals. If they already have a list of colleges where you know they want to apply, research the median test scores from prior admitted classes. The College Board’s Big Future website has a search tool that provides this information for hundreds of colleges. Compare their original scores to the average scores for their target schools, and use this information to set score goals.

3. Build on Strengths and Target Weaknesses: One of the most valuable things they can learn from their diagnostic SAT or ACT is where to target their test prep. If there are certain types of questions that they did particularly poorly on, they know they will need to focus on those questions. For example, if their writing score wasn’t as high as they would like and they noticed that they didn’t do very well on organization questions, they know that they will need to spend extra time studying transitions and paragraph cohesion.

4. Read, Read, Read: On both the ACT and the SAT, the reading and writing sections are passage-based, which means there’s a lot of reading to be done in a short amount of time. Both tests also include word problems on the math section – in fact, many students have reported that one of the hardest parts of the SAT math section is that it is very text heavy, so even the math section requires the ability to read efficiently.

There is no shortcut to learn to read quickly and efficiently. The only way to gain that skill is through lots of practice. The more your students read, the better a reader they will become. Whether they prefer to read novels, magazines, or news articles, they should simply pick some reasonably complex text and make sure that they read every single day.

5. Practice Makes Perfect: Especially if they are studying on their own, practice tests are their best friend. Taking practice tests can help them to not only master the content of the tests, but also improve their time management, combat testing anxiety, and boost confidence by allowing them to become familiar with the test format and question types ahead of time.

6. Know the Test: By knowing exactly what they are going to face on test day – the types of questions, how many passages, what the instructions say, and so on – they can enter the testing space with confidence. Testing anxiety is reduced by familiarity, and they won’t waste precious minutes parsing the wording of instructions or wondering what information a particular type of question is asking for.

7. Get a Good Night’s Sleep: It’s tempting to stay up late doing some last minute cramming for the SAT or ACT, but your students best bet is to go to bed early! In fact, researchers at UCLA found that sacrificing sleep for extra study time actually has adverse effects on academic performance. Sleep is important for retention, and the first half of the night contains the largest amounts of so-called “deep sleep,” which is when the brain consolidates new facts.

To get a good night’s sleep, avoid screen time for at least an hour before they plan to hit the hay. The blue light from televisions, smart phones, and computers can make it harder to fall asleep, and lying awake staring at the ceiling won’t help them on test day.

8. Eat a Balanced Breakfast:The SAT or ACT exam is probably going to take place pretty early on a Saturday morning, so it’s easy to rush out the door without eating breakfast first. Like any other organ in the body, the brain needs food to function properly, so breakfast is important! Prep a healthy breakfast the night before and set the alarm a few minutes early so that there is time for brain food. Research shows that a breakfast low in sugar – think whole wheat toast and eggs – improves the ability to maintain attention, and maintaining attention is pretty important when it’s time to take a 3+ hour long test.

9. Gather Supplies: To reduce test day stress, get everything together the night before the test. Be sure to bring an approved calculator, several sharpened pencils with erasers, ID, and registration information. Check the list of banned items for the SAT or ACT so nothing is brought in that isn’t allowed. This includes certain types of calculators, pretty much any electronic device, and food or drink.

10. Overcome Anxiety: A lot of absolutely brilliant students are disappointed by their SAT or ACT scores because they froze up on test day. The ACT and SAT are high stakes tests, so it’s easy to overthink things. Before test day, students should work on some anxiety reducing technigues to beat testing anxiety. For example, try positive visualization – picture looking at really amazing test scores in a few weeks. Or try deep breathing, which has the added benefit of ensuring that the brain has ample oxygen to work with.

If you like these tips check out some of C2 Education’s other blogs linked below:

Understanding Your SAT Score Report: Free Resources

What is a Good SAT Score?

What SAT and ACT Scores Do I Need?

Why the PSAT Matters to You

Top 5 Signs You Need Test Prep Help

Help your students become financially literate

Entering college life might seem like entering into a Utopia for many students. They think it is the ultimate “real world” that can never be compromised for any damn reason. 

They imagined it is the perfect time to do something great, have fun, start a new relationship, and many other things. But they often forget that college life is the prime time for taking out responsibilities.

This is the time when many of the students become responsible for their finances. Some students may learn financial basics from their parents. They get personal finance advice from their parents or family members since childhood and hit the ground with confidence.

But many college students didn’t get enough knowledge from their parents about how to manage their finances and fulfill financial goals in life. As a result, they keep struggling with limited funds to cope up with their multiple expenses and forget about how to spend wisely to gain more.

A student must know how to pay for college, and other expenses related to his/her future life. So, let’s get more info on how students can become financially sound by setting up financial goals.

How to set up smart financial goals being a student?

1. Set some financial goals

You need to review your financial situations and write down your financial goals. You need to list your current financial assets and income sources. 

There is a concept of setting SMART financial goals, they are practically the characteristics that you want in your financial goals. They are as follows:

  • Specific
  • Measurable   
  • Attainable   
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Getting rich before your retirement is not a SMART financial goal. But saving to buy a vacation home or a new car before you turn into the ’50s is a SMART goal. Your goal might be saving for retirement or paying down debt, your financial goals should motivate you to work hard and fulfill your targets.

2. Start a budget

You should try to set up a budget as soon as possible. During your college days, you should always control your expenses and save more. 

For this reason, you should start budgeting your finances and track your spending. Many financial goals may become successful depending on your budgeting skills.

Your budget should cover these aspects:

  • A proper monthly spending plan and how to follow it
  • Options to reduce monthly bills
  • Managing outstanding debts and avoid more debts
  • Saving for emergencies
  • Set up short-term, medium and long-term goals
  • Keeping provision for family needs

You should calculate your income and expenses for the semester. Make sure you consider fixed expenses and all the variable ones. After considering such expenses you may set up a budget for a month.

Similarly, you may use some financial apps to track your spending. After a month you may see that in which category you have spent more. Then you may try to reduce expenses on that category and save more.

3. Avoid unsecured debts

If being a student you are using credit cards, make sure you use your cards wisely and keep your credit utilization ratio below 33%.

If you are already carrying a heavy debt load (especially unsecured debts such as credit card bills, payday loans, or personal loan debts), you should work on paying then off asap.

Credit card balances, payday loans will carry a high-interest rate compared to other loans. Apart from that, they also have late fees and additional charges which may increase your debt amount. If you miss any payment on credit cards or payday loans, it will be very harmful to your credit.

So, you may consolidate your debts with a low-interest loan and pay your debts off.

Payday loan payment due dates may extend for two weeks or 15 days most of the time. So, if you have taken payday loans from legal lenders, make sure to opt for a payday loan debt consolidation option and get out of that misery once and for all!

4. Look for a decent job

Find out your key skills and improve them. It will be helpful for you to find a decent job with a good salary. As a student, working full-time might not be possible for you. But working for a few hours a week may help you get some extra cash.

You may use your hobbies to earn extra dollars. You may teach online, write online, or sell online and start earning.

5. Keep an eye on your credit score

Your credit score is a strong indicator of your financial health. There are 3 major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion which primarily assign FICO scores, ranging from 300 (poor and high risk) to 850 (excellent and low risk).

Things you should do:

  • You should review your credit report and get a clear picture of your credit profile. Make sure you look for errors/bad items and remove them asap from your credit report.
       
  • You can get a copy of your credit report free once every year from each of the credit bureaus.

Building a high credit score can help you get offers on loans with low-interest rates, credit cards, home loans, and car payments. When you search for a new home and apply for mortgages, or get a new job, your credit history and score will play an important part.

6. Start thinking about retirement savings

I know it is a bit early, but it is wise to start early for retirement savings. The sooner you start saving for retirement, the more chances you may get to grow the resources such as personal savings account, bank savings, investment portfolio, etc.

Conclusion

There are lots of other financial goals that you may choose while in college. Whatever goal you choose, make sure your goals are practical and affordable to you. Best of luck.

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