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Advice for Sexually Active High Schoolers

It can be a bit of a startling revelation for adults to find out that teenagers in their life are sexually active. I don’t even like that teenagers are legally allowed to handle food at restaurants. Now, this? But as a person of influence in a teenager’s life, your primary job is to help them make good decisions.

That means approaching the conversation as calmly and productively as possible. In this article, we talk about how parents and guidance counselors can talk to high school students about sexual activity.

Make Decisions

I’m pretty sure they already doing that, you think, as you begin moving the mouse toward the little x at the top of your screen. Well, sure. But there is a difference between making a decision as things are picking up, and, say, several hours before when you’re in a calmer frame of mind.

When a person is in the moment, it’s very easy to make decisions that they otherwise wouldn’t have. This could mean forgoing precautions that they know are important. It could also just mean taking things a little bit faster than they wanted to originally with this particular person.

Of course, high school students don’t necessarily need to plan to the point that spontaneity completely exits the equation. They should, however, be in a steady frame of mind as they make certain decisions. What boundaries am I comfortable with? How will I communicate what I want, and what I definitely don’t want? What ways will I protect myself from pregnancy and disease?

Adults worry about teenagers being sexually active precisely because they so often don’t think things out in this way. They have the bodies of adults, but in many ways, the minds of children. Adults who have the chance to help guide a sexually active teenager should try to help them view the situation from a more grown-up perspective.

Emphasize the Importance of Birth Control

High school students may not appreciate the risks they take with even one unprotected sexual encounter. As a guidance counselor or parent, it’s important to help them understand the reality of what can happen. Disease. Pregnancy. Permanently life-changing conditions that they can be left with after only one encounter.

As a guidance counselor, it’s also important to appreciate that not every teenager will have the same access to birth control. While it should be easy enough — they sell condoms at the grocery store — there may be financial or social barriers in place that you aren’t aware of.

Some public high schools distribute condoms for free in the nurse’s office. If yours does not, consider keeping a list of resources handy for where the student might find free contraception.

Discuss the Facts Without Being a Fear monger

Ok, so you typed something like “how to discuss sexual activity with teenagers” into the browser, right? And if you stopped anywhere else before getting here, you probably found a lot of articles on how to persuade a teenager out of being sexually active, or otherwise make them fear it.

Well, good luck with that. Sexually active teenagers are only doing what they’ve been biologically wired to do for millions of years. If you emphasize consequences over information, you’ll run the risk of shutting them out. And what happens when a teenager starts to shut you out? They listen better.

Ha. No. They don’t listen at all. Instead of being a fearmonger, just calmly discuss the facts. “The rate of sexually transmitted disease for teenagers in our area is X. Here’s how you can avoid it…”
And spoilers, the phrase “abstinence only” probably doesn’t have much of a place beyond those dot dot dots.

About sixty percent of kids have sex in high school. Less than many people might guess, but still a strong enough figure to make one thing clear—this is a normal, mainstream activity, that kids will do with or without “approval”.

The job isn’t to persuade them out of it. It’s to equip them to make smart decisions. Tell them the difference between HIV and AIDS. Discuss other STDs. Just don’t alienate them. Which feeds into our next point….

Be Someone They Can Talk To

Whether you’re a parent or a guidance counselor, you will have your own opinions about sexual activity in high school. Depending on your relationship with the child, it may be appropriate to express this opinion in measured, well-thought-out quantities.

Here’s the thing: you don’t want to do that at the risk of blowing up the entire conversation. You don’t necessarily need to go in completely resigned — they’re going to do it no matter what I say — but there are two things to consider:

  • They might not. Remember our stat from earlier? Forty percent of people graduate high school without having sex. Proving, perhaps, that high schoolers can distinguish between their biological impulses and activities that are in their best interest.
  • Your job isn’t really to talk them out of it. If you’re a guidance counselor, this is definitely true. You may have a personal or religious perspective on teen sexual activity, but your job in this context is just to have a productive, informative conversation. The same pretty much goes for parents. Your relationship is of course, different. Personal opinion will have more weight. Nevertheless, you don’t want the conversation to devolve into a fight.

So yes. Be someone they can talk to. If you think you have reasons that the teenager should abstain from sexual activity, make sure they are entirely rooted in fact. More importantly, though, make sure that your teenager leaves the conversation feeling comfortable enough to bring their sexual questions and concerns to you in the future.

They need guidance, and they aren’t going to seek it from someone whose only move is to try and shut them down.

Help Your Students Improve Executive Functioning Skills

You may be scratching your head – executive function skills?  Taken literally, the term seems to refer to something beyond a child’s immediate realm, and hardly something that needs improvement now.  Wouldn’t ‘executive’ function skills be better suited to briefcase-carrying corporate professionals? Actually, everyone would benefit from improved Executive Function Skills – especially children. 

By definition, executive function is a combination of skills and behaviors that we all use – on a daily basis – to focus our attention, plan, simultaneously manage multiple tasks, and achieve goals. Someone with poor Executive Function Skills (EFS) may find it difficult to focus, pay attention, follow directions, and get things done. Children with these challenges often have difficulty in school.  

These skills begin emerging in early childhood and continue to develop into early adulthood. Much like walking, talking, reading, and other milestone skills, EFS develops at different times in every child. However, if children cultivate strong executive function skills now, they will benefit throughout their lives.  

Jason Robinovitz, Chief Operating Officer of Score At The Top Learning Centers and Score Academy, says that it’s never too early – or too late – to strengthen your Executive Function Skills and help your children develop theirs.

“Executive function includes a long list of skills with inter-related themes,” he said. “They involve planning, time management, organization, and memory. They’re the four domains of EFS that you can work on to augment and improve now, and you’ll be a better – and happier student and person when you do.”

The ABCs of Executive Function Skills

Although many people with learning disabilities struggle with Executive Function Skills, poor executive function is not considered a disorder – and not everyone who struggles with EFS has a learning disability. 

To clarify the concept of EFS, here are its 12 facets explained in relatively simple terms: 

Fact 1. Planning and Prioritizing

Determining the appropriate order for accomplishing multiple tasks, then completing them so that the most time-critical assignments and tasks are tackled first, and multiple-component tasks are done in a logical order.

Fact 2. Time Management

Effectively allocating time for schoolwork, extracurricular activities, friends, family, part-time jobs, sports, and other commitments.

Fact 3. Task Initiation

Overcoming procrastination in order to begin a necessary task.

Fact 4. Organization

Keeping track of all necessary materials at home and in school, managing digital data, and efficiently organizing ideas and information to complete homework, study for tests, and write essays and research papers. 

Fact 5. Working Memory

The information we hold in our brains temporarily to relate to other information and complete tasks that require thinking and making connections. For example, we use working memory to temporarily remember an address to enter it into our GPS, or to perform mental math.

Fact 6. Metacognition

Metacognition literally means “thinking about thinking.” It involves reflecting on your own and having awareness of your thought process, and what drives your good – and poor – academic-related choices. 

Fact 7. Response Inhibition

The ability to inhibit our responses to distractions, or ignore distractions in our environment so that we can focus on the task at hand.

Fact 8. Cognitive Flexibility

Shifting between tasks and goals and handling multiple tasks simultaneously – being able to adapt our thinking and behavior to the situation.

Fact 9. Goal-Directed Persistence

Remaining focused on a goal and completing it without getting off track or becoming distracted by interruptions or other outside stimuli.

Fact 10. Sustained Attention

Properly directing our attention and maintaining focus – particularly when tasks are lengthy and/or have multiple components. 

Fact 11. Disengagement of Attention

The ability to shift and reengage our attention from one focus to another.

Fact 12. Regulation of Processing Speed

Being able to regulate the time it takes you to complete a mental task or process new information. 

Strategies To Improve EFS 

If your child experiences difficulty with one or more EFS, don’t worry. There are a variety of tried-and-true methods to improve Executive Function Skills and help your child stay focused in school and at home. Here are some easy ones to consider and adopt:

  • Using calendars, checklists, and ‘to-do’ lists that indicate ‘start-by’ and ‘complete by’ dates can help students plan and organize their time.
  • Establishing daily routines – and sticking to them – can get your kids into the habit of accomplishing tasks in an orderly fashion.
  • Breaking complicated tasks or lengthy assignments into smaller, more manageable segments makes goals more attainable and less overwhelming.
  • Writing due dates at the top of assignments (and highlighting the dates) serves as an effective deadline reminder.

Phone-Friendly

Your smartphone gives you access to a variety of organizational tools in the palm of your hand, including calendars, task lists, notepads, built-in video and voice recorders, and more. You and your child can download effective apps to support strong EFS, in addition to the ones already built into your phone. 

Additional Online Tools

You can also utilize a variety of online organizational tools including Google Drive for file storage, Google Keep (a free note-taking app), and countless others. Research the available online options to find apps that meet your child’s particular EFS needs.

A Place For Everything

Minimize clutter and ensure that your child puts belongings away in designated places so that everything can be easily located when needed. For even greater organization, create folders, label supplies, and color code items (using a different color binder for each subject, for example). Think plastic bins, painter’s tape for labeling, and a Sharpie.

Making Memories

To help retain information, students can use their phone’s voice recorder to record class lessons and lectures in addition to taking notes. Some students find it helpful to create flashcards to learn and remember the material. There are even a variety of free flashcard apps and sites available online, such as CRAM. 

Academic Coaching

Robinovitz says that another way to improve EFS is to work with an academic coach, who focuses on developing a student’s organizational and functional learning skills. 

“While a private tutor might touch upon some EFS skills, an academic success coach determines which executive function skills need strengthening,” he said. “Then, using multiple tools and methods, the coach works with students to strengthen those skills to make them better students and enhance their performance in everyday life.” 

Students who can benefit from private academic coaching include those who procrastinate on assignments, frequently submit assignments late (or don’t turn them in at all), easily become distracted and have difficulty staying on task, struggle in multiple classes, appear to lack motivation, are disorganized, and/or may have impulse-control issues.

Improving Executive Function Skills At School

If your child is struggling with one or more Executive Function Skills, talk to his or her teacher. Teachers can help support students by establishing clear and consistent classroom routines, sticking to daily schedules, and providing extra assistance when necessary. 

Some schools specialize in working with students individually or in small groups, which can also be beneficial. For example, Score Academy, a Florida-based private school with six locations, specializes in one-on-one and small group education. Instructors develop individual academic plans and specific strategies for each student. Using a variety of techniques and hands-on learning activities, they help students develop strong Executive Function Skills, and coping strategies, and build self-confidence. Programs like these can help students overcome EFS challenges and boost self-esteem.

EFS For Life

We know that Executive Function Skills aren’t just for corporate professionals who spend their days strategizing in boardrooms. We also know EFS is crucial to our children’s success (as well as to our own). The good news? Robinovitz says that by applying these simple strategies – and with proper support – our children can significantly improve their Executive Function Skills – and their lives.

“All academic learning – as well as doing well in most of life’s endeavors – requires the use of multiple Executive Function Skills,” he said.  “Strengthening EFS will not only create a better student – the benefits also extend far beyond the classroom and include increased self-confidence, reduced stress, effective time management, problem-solving skills, and so much more. Students who develop their Executive Function Skills will literally become better versions of themselves.”

Score at the Top provides tutoring, full-time schooling, courses for credit, test prep, college and grad school planning, and more. Check them out at www.scoreatthetop.com

How to Fight Against Discrimination in High School

As a counselor, it’s your responsibility to help each student succeed, whether that means helping them gain confidence and social skills, giving them tips for getting into college, or reporting the possibility of neglect to the appropriate authorities. Each student needs something different, and you have to be able to meet them where they are.

For some students, discrimination is a major issue that affects their ability to focus, feel safe, and excel. Discrimination isn’t just a workplace issue. It’s a problem at every level of society, including our schools. High school counselors can and must help to fight discrimination at their schools to promote great outcomes and well-being among the student body.

How Discrimination Affects the School Environment.

Discrimination takes many forms and might be directed at students and staff due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or other factors. When discrimination occurs in high school, it impacts both students and teachers.

Students who experience discrimination may have their mental health and well-being impacted. Or, they might have fewer opportunities to succeed and less support from teachers and staff. Ultimately, this can contribute to some students skipping school, dropping out, or developing severe mental health problems.

Teachers who face discrimination cannot fully focus on their critically important jobs. They have to deal with the stress of a hostile work environment and worry about the impact such an environment has on their students. A toxic school environment that tolerates discrimination isn’t healthy for anyone — students, teachers, staff, and families.

Understand the Current Problems and Culture

If you’re noticing discrimination in your high school, then the first step is to get a solid grasp of the problem. What incidents have been occurring, and how are they affecting the well-being of students?

Putting these incidents into a broader cultural context can help you understand where the issue has its roots. If you live in a progressive, liberal area and have mostly white students, your school might be dealing with racism toward students and teachers of color. If you’re in a more rural area, homophobia might be an issue to tackle. In some cases, it’s teachers and staff, not students, who are the source of discrimination.

You shouldn’t be doing this work alone. The leadership at your school should be involved in creating inclusive policies and a culture that will help everyone feel safe on campus. It’s painful to confront hateful actions and words in your own school. But if you don’t know what’s going on, implementing fixes isn’t likely to be successful.

Review and Question School Policies

Another critical step in tackling discrimination at your school is to review the existing policies on discrimination, bullying, and harassment and lobby for updates if needed. These policies should be updated regularly but frequently are not, and often do not meet current guidelines and expectations from the state and district.

Policies should not only make it clear what isn’t acceptable, but they should also state the consequences of those unacceptable activities. Today’s policies also need to address issues like technology use and cyberbullying, especially since school-related activities often take place virtually.

Students and parents need transparency when it comes to these policies. They should sign agreements to ensure that no one is unaware of the policies and consequences. The policies should be easily accessible to anyone who wishes to review them.

Be Open and Willing to Get Uncomfortable

When you’re working with students, incidents of discrimination might come up. It’s uncomfortable to talk about these things, and it can feel easier in the moment to focus on the positive or brush them off. But when a trusted adult can’t confront a student’s experiences, it can make them feel like they don’t have anyone to support them.

You need to be open and willing to get uncomfortable. It’s important to really confront discrimination at your school and to talk about it, with students who are experiencing it and the people who are in the position to enact change. Speaking up can be hard (and if you’re nervous, consider working on your public speaking skills!) but it’s absolutely critical for students’ well-being.

Create a Safe, Supportive Environment for Students

At the end of the day, school counselors need to be involved in fighting discrimination at work because it has a long and hateful legacy of pain and hate. It continues to affect students’ lives and it’s not fair to pretend that it isn’t happening at high schools across the United States.

By working to create a safe and supportive environment for the students at your school, you can help them achieve their goals. If they are able to feel safe, confident, and included at school, they are much more likely to excel, both academically and personally. The teen years are very influential in shaping a young person’s trajectory, and no one should have to deal with the emotional pain of discrimination.

How to Talk to Parents about Imperfect Essays

At least once a week, someone asks Susan or me a variation on this question: How do you talk to parents about imperfect essays?

We nod because we get it. Parents often have unrealistic expectations, not because they are unreasonable, but because they don’t really understand the role of the college essay in the application package.

We know that managing parent expectations is a delicate issue. For us, too. But we found a solution.

Would you like to give it a try?

As you move one class past the finish line for the Class of 2023 and start working with the Class of 2024, it’s a great time to look back on the season, think about how you communicate with parents, and consider what their concerns really are.

We try to set expectations up front. We communicate our intentions from the beginning (and again in the middle and one more time at the end of the process!)

We explain here’s how we do things, here’s what you can expect, here’s what you shouldn’t expect. This includes sending an email like this one early on, before the student even completes a first draft:

Dear [Parent],

I wanted to check in and let you know how pleased I am with the direction [Student]’s essay is headed. The topic illustrates her [insert characteristics, e.g., resourcefulness and curiosity], and I am confident admissions officers will find the story compelling and engaging. Highlighting these positive traits will help round out the application.

We encourage our students to write a first draft that’s messy and too long, so they feel free to explore their topic in depth without worrying about word count, first lines or other structure and polish concerns. With that in mind, I encourage you to wait till the final draft to take a peek!

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch.

 Best,

[Coach’s Name]

We don’t discuss the topic with parents; we focus on the student’s traits and characteristics. This helps the parent see that the student is on track, calms them from the beginning, and hopefully sets realistic expectations.

We also encourage parents to wait until the final draft to read their child’s essay, as first drafts will often look messy and unfocused to an outsider.

It works. We share templates like this one with counselors who participate in our professional training programs. We also have a lot of great, free resources for you and your famlies here.


Perceptive, resourceful, and curious, Kim Lifton, President of Wow Writing Workshop, can get a story out of anyone; she helped create the brainstorming process used in the Wow Method.

Wow provides students and educational professionals a simple, step-by-step process for writing effective college essays, so students can stand out and tell their stories. At Wow, we’re transforming the college essay experience from daunting and frightening to calm and empowering.

Kim’s articles on the college essay appear regularly in print and on the web, and her work has been featured in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and online publications. Kim is a former newspaper reporter and corporate communications manager with a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University.

5 Tips for Preparing Seniors for Working While Going to College

College is a huge transition for high school seniors. All of a sudden, students go from having a highly structured day to being responsible for managing their own time. There are also new responsibilities, especially if they will be living away from home and working while attending school.

Getting a job is a great way for college students to offset the cost of a degree, reduce their debt load, and gain experience in the workforce. However, it can be challenging for incoming freshmen to balance their schoolwork with the demands of a part-time job.

As a counselor, you can help set students up for success if they plan to work while attending college.

Discuss Time Management

High school students heading to college should already know how to manage their time to some extent. However, balancing a full school schedule in high school is quite different from balancing college courses and a job. Preparing students for these new demands means discussing time management with them and suggesting methods for staying on top of all their responsibilities.

You might go over concepts like time blocking and using tools like a digital calendar and Trello to ensure that schoolwork is turned in on time and work obligations don’t fall through the cracks. Because each person is different, it’s best to give students resources for creating their own time management system. That way, they can develop a system that works for them.

Help Students Learn How to Find the Right Kind of Job

Although jobs in college aren’t likely to be “career” jobs, that doesn’t mean students can’t get more out of them than a paycheck. Talk to students about their interests and guide them toward looking for part-time jobs that align with their interests and abilities.

If a student is interested in becoming a veterinarian, you could suggest that they find a job at a veterinary office or boarding kennel so they can get some firsthand experience and find out if they like the environment. Or, if they eventually want to work in business, they might want to work in an administrative role. Those who want to become teachers could work at a daycare center.

Students can gain valuable experience before they even finish their degree if they’re willing to put in the effort and find a job that is relevant to their future careers.

Encourage Students to Consider Online Classes

College schedules are more flexible than high school schedules, but students still have to arrive on time for their in-person classes. This can be tricky with work scheduling, especially since class times change every semester or quarter. One solution to this is taking classes online, which are much more flexible than in-person classes.

There are many benefits to choosing online classes, especially for students who are trying to graduate with less debt. Many students can continue living at home while they attend online classes, reducing their living expenses during college. Online classes are also more convenient and make it easier to manage both school and work.

Emphasize Communication

Students need to know that it’s okay to ask for help if they feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities. Talk to them about the need for open communication with their teachers and supervisors.

Most people are understanding and will be accommodating if there is communication before a potential conflict occurs. Although it’s not always possible for people in authority to provide flexibility, it doesn’t hurt to ask, and students need to know that communication is always preferable to saying nothing and simply letting work or school suffer.

Provide Self-Care Tips

The pressure can be overwhelming for new college students to do well in school. That, combined with the need to perform well at work, can lead to stress, overwhelm, and other problems. Students need to practice healthy self-care in order to manage their mental health and promote well-being.

Helping students understand why self-care like getting enough sleep and exercise is so important is critical. They won’t build time into their schedules for these essentials if they think that pulling an all-nighter is a good way to get an A on their next test.

Go over different types of self-care and stress-management techniques that students can use to proactively improve their mood, focus, and productivity. You should also talk about ways to de-escalate when overwhelm and anxiety occur.

Helping Students Succeed in College and Work

Balancing college and a part-time job is doable if students are prepared for the challenges. While a counselor can only do so much to help students succeed, it’s important to discuss the potential challenges and come up with a game plan before a student graduates and moves on to higher education.

Be honest with students about the reality of working while attending school. Giving students the pros and cons, plus the tools they need to be successful, will allow them to find their way and earn money while still doing well in their classes.

New Scholarship for Student with Disability

Earning a college degree is more expensive than ever, especially for those with disabilities, who not only have to pay for typical college-related expenses like tuition and books, but other medical-related costs as well. Sleep Family is offering a $1,500 Scholarship to one deserving student with a disability.

Eligibility Requirements

Enrollment Status

Applicants must be currently enrolled at or planning to attend a 2-4 year university, community college or graduate school program located in the United States.

Medical Disability

Candidates must have a medically recognized physical or mental disability.

GPA

The minimum GPA required for application is 2.5, indicating that all applicants are in good academic standing.

How to Apply

To apply, please write a short essay (no longer than 750 words) which addresses the following questions:

  • What obstacles have you had to overcome on your path to academic achievement?
  • What is your ultimate goal or dream job, and what do you plan to do with your degree?

Please try to include as many personal touches as possible so the Scholarship Committee can get to know you on a personal level.

Application Deadline and Submission

To be eligible, please send an email to info@sleepfamily.org with the following information:

  • Full name
  • Current mailing address
  • Phone number
  • Short description of your disability
  • The name of your current college or the college you plan to attend
  • Your essay
  • Attach a copy of your latest transcript (high school or college) so the Scholarship Committee can verify GPA

Scholarship applicants must submit a complete application via email by no later than December 31st.

Here is the link to apply and further information: https://sleepfamily.org/scholarship/

Tell Me Something Good! (And Pat Yourself on the Back)

We’re past the Nov. 1 deadline. Do you feel any relief? Will you be able to unwind for the short Thanksgiving break?

We hope you give yourself a bit of time off, too (which means please try hard not to read student essays while roasting that turkey or watching football!)

As we move into regular application season (which includes those UC deadlines), it’s a fabulous time to pat yourselves on the back for all the good work you do with your students, year after year.

We don’t do that often enough.

In fact, in our  College Essay Community and Wow Partners professional development programs, we get so busy helping one another solve problems, we sometimes forget to share some of the good news, the reasons we do this work!

Last month, Susan got an email with some amazing news from Sue, a member of the College Essay Community. With her permission, we shared her news inside the Community Forum.

We want to share the email with you, too. Why? Because we think it’s important to take time to reflect on what’s meaningful about the work we do. Here’s what Sue had to say:

I just had my final session with one of my students.  Very bittersweet – his essay is fabulous and most importantly HE is happy with it. 

But I’ve been enjoying our sessions and am sad we’re done.  I’m lucky – ALL of my students this year are good kids who are pleasures to work with. 

The two who started with me over the summer are blowing the supplements out of the water.  They come to me with drafts that don’t need much revision. 

I keep wondering what I’ve missed in them, and then I had the epiphany that they’ve learned HOW to attack the essays. 

Very humbling and gratifying to have been able to make that kind of impact and validating that I *AM* good at this!!!

Thanks so much for all the support and fantastic resources.

That’s Sue’s good news. We really like good news.

In fact, every morning, after my business partner, Susan Knoppow, and I meet, we end the conversation with this:

Tell me something good.

We’ve been doing this for nearly four years. It keeps us grounded; it’s often the highlight of our day. It can be something big or small; there are no rules.

What’s my something good today? You. We always appreciate you and the hard work you do to support students and their families on their journeys to college.
 
In honor of you, and all of our college counseling colleagues, we have made a donation to InsideOut Literary Arts, which has helped more than 60,000 of Detroit’s youth build their literacy and academic skills through creative writing.
 
We believe in good writing and the people who teach it. We appreciate InsideOut, and we appreciate you.
 
Wishing you a happy, healthy holiday season, from the Wow team: Susan, Joe, David, and me.

Now it’s your turn: Please tell me something good. You can reach me at kim@wowwritingworkshop.com.

Wow provides students and educational professionals a simple, step-by-step process for writing effective college essays, so students can stand out and tell their stories. At Wow, we’re transforming the college essay experience from daunting and frightening to calm and empowering.

Kim’s articles on the college essay appear regularly in print and on the web, and her work has been featured in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and online publications. Kim is a former newspaper reporter and corporate communications manager with a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University.

Geoscience: Providing Careers That Matter to Communities and Society

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) has assembled an array of career-related resources to inform and guide young people about options in the geosciences as they consider their future careers. At present, most geoscience career resources are directed toward college students to guide their studies and preparation for working in a variety of geoscience-related fields. We are currently developing resources geared to high school students, and you can help by giving input about the information they will contain. We invite you to complete a survey (here), which we estimate will take about 5-10 minutes and will provide invaluable guidance into the career resources for geosciences that we are developing.

Occupations within the Geosciences help people and society thrive within our interactions with our natural world, addressing everything from climate change impacts, natural hazards to clean and available water to the resources we need to support our modern society. Unfortunately, outdated and limited conceptions of how and what earth scientists do in their work deter many students from considering these exciting and important pathways. Geoscientists do much more today than make field observations, it’s a high-tech profession, utilizing cutting edge technologies such as ground penetrating radar, 4-D seismic visualization (Figure 1, USGS), LiDAR (Figure 2, Swezey, 2020) and even gravity, hyperspectral or gas measurements, much of which is collected using platforms like aerial drones, ships, and satellites to investigate important questions about the Earth and its processes. Communities use geoscience information in many ways, including to make roads, bridges, buildings, and other parts of new infrastructure stable and safe for generations and to identify areas of hazards and ensure access to clean water. As well, geoscience can help communities uncover and preserve the natural and cultural history of their area, such as through paleontological and anthropological research in local settings.

Studies show that young people are highly motivated to pursue careers that are known to help improve the environment and living conditions (Carter et al., 2021), which can be accomplished through geoscience careers. We can see that AGI’s most frequently accessed career documents are related to Atmospheric Sciences and Environmental Geology. As students research careers in broad areas such as these, young people can learn about the wide array of pathways that they can consider. The skills developed in becoming a geoscientist can enable students to pursue a variety of opportunities, such as journalism, engineering, medicine, and law.  Likewise, there are a wide variety of things students might be interested in that feed directly into a future in the geosciences.  Yet, limitations in opportunities for students to engage with earth science in elementary, middle, and high school can mean that students may not consider these careers unless they are encouraged to explore such connections between geoscience and their areas of interest.

For example, in the Next Generation Science Standards, which are used in many school systems nationally, there are fewer performance expectations for Earth and Space Science (58) than for Life and Physical Science (64 and 73, respectively); this may lead to less exposure to geoscience concepts over the course of a student’s pre-college education. A review of state standards by AGI suggests that currently only two states require an earth science class for graduation. Approximately 1% of elementary teachers and 3% of secondary teachers are certified in earth and space science, which is lower than any other science certification (Wilson, 2016). While every state has required geoscience-related standards, a majority of teachers addressing these concepts are teaching out of area, which may limit their ability address misconceptions or to spark interest in the subject (Hill & Chin, 2018); especially a level of interest that could lead to students pursuing a career in the geosciences.

Employment in geoscience fields is projected to grow by 5% from 2021 to 2031 (Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 2022), with over 325,000 total positions for geoscientists in the United States; data collected by AGI show that of this total, approximately 100,000 new hires will be needed to fill vacant and new positions, which is more than can be filled by the number of students currently pursuing geoscience degrees (Wilson, 2014). We are hoping that the documents we create can increase student awareness and interest in geoscience careers and introduce students to the many exciting opportunities afforded by the geoscience careers available to them. We appreciate your time and input in the development of these resources (Survey), and in making students aware of these exciting career possibilities.

Two technologies, ground penetrating radar and seismic refraction, allow scientists to create images like this 3D Seismic Profile. Such images can show underground features; for example, oil and gas reservoirs, or fault lines, allowing people to address questions including the potential for earthquake hazards in a region. An animated version of this image is available at: https://www.usgs.gov/media/images/3d-seismic-profile-animation
These two images show the same area in the Southeastern United States. The image on the left shows the LANDSAT data (Google Earth). The image on the right shows how a technology called LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is used to identify hard-to-see features on the landscape like these oblong depressions. Such features help geoscientists recognize that past climates in the Southeastern United States were a lot like the climate in parts of present-day Alaska. Understanding past climates can help us address climate change now and in the future.

References

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Geoscientists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/geoscientists.htm (visited October 31, 2022)

Carter, S.C., Griffith, E.M., Jorgensen, T.A. et al., Highlighting altruism in geoscience careers aligns with diverse US student ideals better than emphasizing working outdoors. Commun. Earth Environ 2, 213 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-021-00287-4 Hill, H. C., & Chin, M. (2018). Connections Between Teachers’ Knowledge of Students, Instruction, and Achievement Outcomes. American Educational Research Journal, 55(5), 1076–1112. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831218769614

“3D Seismic Profile Animation.” U.S. Geological Survey, Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center,  https://www.usgs.gov/media/images/3d-seismic-profile-animation  

Swezey, C.S. (2020). Quaternary Eolian Dunes and Sand Sheets in Inland Locations of the Atlantic Coastal Plain Province, USA. In: Lancaster, N., Hesp, P. (eds) Inland Dunes of North America. Dunes of the World. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-40498-7_2

Wilson, C. (Oct. 2014). “Explanation of the Predicted Geoscience Workforce Shortage.” American Geosciences Institute. Available from https://www.americangeosciences.org/geoscience-currents/explanation-predicted-geoscience-workforce-shortage.

Wilson, C. (2016). “Status of the Geoscience Workforce 2016.” American Geosciences Institute. Available from https://www.americangeosciences.org/workforce/reports/status-report

  • Date November 8, 2022
  • Author Lindsay C. Mossa, Luc Charbonneau, Christopher M. Keane, Edward C. Robeck

Preparing Students for Future Online Degree Programs

As the world pushes past the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many virtual or remote adaptations that were propelled by necessity will likely increase in utilization even as the world opens up again. Higher education and being able to pursue virtually every type of degree online now, is a sizable example of this phenomenon.

Obviously, online degrees were available before the pandemic began. However, lockdowns and other pandemic realities forced countless institutions and programs to make many more degree programs completely virtual. What had been conventionally considered a lesser option before the pandemic — completing a degree program online — quickly gained rapport and viability when it became the only option. And because of the improvements online degree programs underwent, they have now risen substantially in perceived value and robustness.

The schedule flexibility and geographic ubiquity that online degree programs offer over in-person programs will likely propel their engagement even higher in the future.

As a high school counselor working to prepare your students for college success, these realities will make a meaningful difference for an increasing number of your students. More and more of them will choose online degree programs in the coming years. Because of this, it’s important for you to think about how to adjust your work to prepare your high schoolers both for engaging in in-person and virtual degree programs.

By the Numbers: Engagement with Online Degree Programs

The stats are in: the global “e-learning” market is projected to increase by almost 100% between 2020 and 2026. In 2019, the number of undergraduate students in the United States that studied exclusively online was almost 15% of the total number of undergrad students studying that year.

And this doesn’t even include the much larger percentage that engaged in some of their classes online or participated in online/in-person hybrid degree programs.

The online student experience is here to stay. Because of this, it’s important to help today’s high school students prepare to thrive in online or partially online degree programs.

Equipping Your Students to Thrive in Online Learning Environments

To support stronger online learning aptitudes and help your students prepare for the possibility of online schooling during college, here are a few elements you can incorporate into your counseling and student engagement.

Determine Whether an Online Program is the Best Fit for Them

Though online programs are becoming more common and can suit the needs and lifestyles of a wide range of people, they aren’t for everyone. It’s important to help each of your students decide whether an online degree program is the right fit for them before they embark on one and find out the hard way. Some students need in-class interaction, enjoy in-person engagement with their peers or professors, or struggle to spend time engaging with material on a screen.

In addition, online coursework usually requires stronger time management skills and accountability to stay on top of assignments and lectures.

Talk to your students about these realities. Encourage them to try out an online class either at their high school or even through a local technical school or community college to see how it feels. It is hugely advantageous for any student to know before applying for undergraduate programs whether online coursework will work for him or her.

Help Them Prioritize Basic Physical Health and Wellness Needs

The nature of most in-person degree programs include a few elements that can help maintain physical and mental wellbeing almost automatically. Needing to walk or commute to and between classes, interact in person with classmates and teachers, and plan schedules around class times can intrinsically maintain physical activity, social outlets, and predictable life rhythms.

When engaging in an online degree, students often have to intentionally create time and space for healthy habits. Practicing the creation of regular weekly schedules or structures, committing to regular exercise or physical activity outlets, and attending social events or investing in friend groups can be ways your students can incorporate those healthy rhythms when they’re not naturally included via the rituals of in-person schooling.

Help Them Understand the Importance of Healthy Socialization and Relationships

As mentioned above, in-person programs often come with an element of built-in social opportunities and connections. Though online degree programs can go to great lengths to mimic and facilitate relational learning environments and social relationships, it is very difficult (or arguably impossible) to satisfy our needs for relational and social connections via remote or digital interactions.

Your students need to know that developing healthy in-person relationships is an important component of health and wellbeing. Encourage them to practice creating new friends. This can be especially important for juniors and seniors, whose focus is usually on completing their schooling requirements and spending time with friends they may have made freshman year or earlier.

This practice can prepare them for when they leave their familiar high school environment and, for many of them, need to create new relationships in different environments or sets of circumstances.

Help Them Develop and Practice Good Study Habits

Online programs almost always require from students’ certain elements of diligence, study, and organization that are not always as necessary during in-person programs. Because of this, it is vital to help any students you work with who are interested in pursuing an online degree practice their study skills and time management habits now so that they aren’t caught off-guard when they begin a virtual program.

Having fliers or exercises available in your office to explain study tips or organizational techniques can be a huge resource for all of your students, and particularly the ones that see themselves studying remotely in the future.

Helping your students prepare now for the differences they’ll experience in online degree programs can fundamentally change their experiences and rate of success once they reach undergraduate settings. These skills are important for every student as they graduate from high school, but particularly for those who plan to take on an online degree program. Incorporating these ideas now can help your students significantly down the road.

How to Get it Right with the UC Personal Insight Questions

Imagine UC was a person. If we met face-to-face, what would you want us to know about you? These personal insight questions allow you to tell us. You could write about your creative side. Your thoughts on leadership. A challenge you’ve faced. Whatever questions you answer, make sure you show us your personality—just as you would in real life.   I am sure you’ve read this before if you work with students applying to the UCs; it’s a quote from the University of California admissions website, an introduction to their personal insight questions for students.   Year after year, we hear how different the UC prompts are from other personal statements.   That likely comes from the UC’s insistence that the PIQs are nothing like Common App personal statements. That’s not entirely true.   Let me explain.   Sure, the questions are different. And they are more specific and straightforward. Not to mention shorter.   But what the UCs want is pretty much the same as what colleges want in any personal statement.   Insight.   The UCs, and schools reading essays on the Common App, want to know this in any personal statement:

Who are these applicants? What matters to them? What do they want to share with UC? And why?

It’s a whole lot easier to help students answer prompts when we realize the UC prompts are the same as any other personal statement. (Sigh!)   And best of all, you don’t need special training just for UC to help your students answer these prompts effectively. We start with the Common App, a more traditional essay prompt that serves as our best teaching essay, and then help our students with the UCs. You probably already know that we break down the essay-writing process into ten steps.   The first six steps focus on content (what the student will write about and why). Once the content is solid, we move on to structure (how to present that content), and finally, we wrap it up with polish (checking grammar, spelling and all those other last-minute details).    Every essay, whether it’s a Common App personal statement, a UC PIQ, a straightforward “Why Us” supplement or a University of Chicago creative essay, should focus on content first.   Every. Single. Time.   We give our students prep questions that they have to answer and send to us before we brainstorm topics for any essay. We don’t want them to show up to our brainstorm discussion unprepared.
 
We don’t want your students to show up unprepared either.
 
Here’s the pre-brainstorm worksheet our students complete before choosing topics for their UC PIQs. Feel free to use it, then let us know if it helps. We create worksheets like this for all of our schools. It saves us tons of time, and helps students focus.


Perceptive, resourceful, and curious, Kim Lifton, President of Wow Writing Workshop, can get a story out of anyone; she helped create the brainstorming process used in the Wow Method.

Wow provides students and educational professionals a simple, step-by-step process for writing effective college essays, so students can stand out and tell their stories. At Wow, we’re transforming the college essay experience from daunting and frightening to calm and empowering.

Kim’s articles on the college essay appear regularly in print and on the web, and her work has been featured in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and online publications. Kim is a former newspaper reporter and corporate communications manager with a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University.

Here’s a link to get free resources for you (including a book for counselors and a free monthly Pro Chat)!

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