Over the many years that I have tutored children and teens in writing, and as a college essay coach, I’ve repeatedly heard parents say, “My kid is lazy; he doesn’t do his homework until it’s too late.” I’ve also heard parents say “My daughter always procrastinates until the last minute.” Let me just say, unequivocally, that the kid is NOT lazy. Procrastination,  missing deadlines, not following through with tasks are common symptoms of ADHD.

Teens with ADHD typically experience some or all of the following:

  • Distractibility and lack of focus
  • Disorganization and forgetfulness
  • Self-focused behavior
  • Hyperactivity and fidgeting
  • Heightened emotionality and rejection sensitive dysphoria
  • Impulsivity and poor decision making
  • Poor concentration and trouble finishing tasks

According to ADDitude, teens will have a few specific activities or tasks for which they have no difficulty in exercising their executive functions quite well, which can be a source of confusion among parents, physicians, and psychologists. This may be in playing a favorite sport or video games; it could be in making art or music or some other favorite pastime.

Experts say that 80 to 85 percent of preteens continue to experience symptoms into their adolescent years, and 60 percent of children with ADHD become adults with ADHD. The impact of ADHD symptoms may increase or decrease over time depending on the individual’s brain development and the specific challenges faced in school or at work.

Further, according to ADDitude, many of your teens’ problems at home, at school, and in social settings arise due to neurological delays. ADHD is tied to weak executive skills — the brain-based functions that help teens regulate behavior, recognize the need for guidance, set and achieve goals, balance desires with responsibilities, and learn to function independently.

How does this manifest in teens?

  • Response inhibition (being able to stop an action when situations suddenly change)
  • Working memory
  • Emotional control
  • Flexibility
  • Sustained attention
  • Task initiation
  • Planning/prioritizing, organization
  • Time management
  • Goal-directed persistence (sticking with a task when it becomes “boring” or difficult)
  • Metacognition (the awareness and understanding of your own thought processes a.k.a. self-awareness)

What can you, the parent , do? Don’t say “He’s lazy and will outgrow it” thus setting your child up for failure in college and beyond. If you see these symptoms, talk with your child’s doctor.  ADHD is very treatable. The symptoms in teens are treated with medication, behavior therapy, and/or through changes to diet and nutritional supplements. Regular exercise and sufficient sleep are also very important.

 

Pandemic Effect on Students

 

The difficulties we are facing with this year’s students reminds me of a story I once heard, told by meditation teacher and psychologist Tara Brach. The story concerns a white tiger named Mohini who lives at a zoo. 

Mohini was put in a 12 foot by 12 foot cage upon arrival at the zoo, and lived much of her life in this prison. She spent years of her life pacing out the dimensions of her cage. Eventually, zoo staff were able to construct a larger habitat for the tiger, with much more open space. However, when they set Mohini free in the new space, she found a small corner of it and resumed her pacing, tracing out a 12 by 12 box in the grass.

Our current seniors spent a significant amount of their high school careers “boxed in,” like Mohini, in the confined space of their parents’ homes, with little exposure to the outside world and social exposure to no one but their parents. It is no wonder that now, even when restrictions have been lifted, a psychological cage remains. Being psychologically boxed in can leave one afraid to take risks and go outside of the comfort zone, which is also reflected in less-than-stellar essays. Perhaps a lack of boldness and daring in the writing is a symptom of a pandemic that asked an entire generation of enthusiastic students to put their adventurousness on hold. 

Our puzzle is how to encourage this generation to rekindle the inner adventurousness that makes for bold, standout essays. It is likely that we, too, have a bit of that psychological cage around us. The story of Mohini often elicits compassion from listeners. Can we hold that compassion for ourselves and our students, being patient as we slowly find our way back into the open grass? 

Simon Ginet, a college essay coach at A Starting Line, joined the team last year after getting his Master’s Degree in Education/Counseling from Boston University. He’s worked in the mental health field with trauma survivors around the same age as the students we work with, and has studied psychology as a student and layperson since 2009.

by S. Ginet
The college application process offers students an incredible opportunity to demonstrate their strengths, both academic and character, as well as maturity. And while most students do not have a clear picture of their college future at age 14, they may at this age begin to develop a keener understanding of their interests, unique talents, and values.

A Starting Line offers coaching to ninth grade students and their families to lay the foundation for a successful and meaningful high school career. We encourage self-inquiry and introspection, guiding students towards greater levels of self-awareness and confidence.

An introspective 9^th grader becomes a self-reliant senior, and encouraging students to do inner work from a young age provides them with the tools they need to become successful college applicants and healthy young adults.

Allison Barchichat, owner of East Cobb Tutoring Center, offers some sound advice for our students wanting to apply for scholarships…

Over the last twenty years, I have served on several scholarship grading committees. Who decides the winners and how? How can you maximize your chances to win scholarship money? 

Follow the directions.

I know, I know. How basic is this? Seriously though, in every committee I’ve served on there have been students immediately disqualified for not following directions. For example, one scholarship application required the winner to be a member of the school PTSA. Three students were immediately rejected because they never joined the PTSA – the rest of their application packets were complete, with thoughtfully written essays. But ultimately, they didn’t follow the directions and their hard work was for naught.

Read on for more vital information.

April is the month of Earth Day – think environment and sustainability. Do you want to help save Earth and its environments? Do you recycle, compost and make informed choices about sustainable consumer products?

Each year, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) releases a report on the most sustainable colleges and universities. The AASHE measures institutions using the STARS system: Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. In 2021, 550 institutions in the U.S. and Canada submitted information about the sustainability of their campus, academics, and community. Each school received a score and a rating of Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze. Take a look at the list, 2021 Sustainable Campus Index

Although college may seem like a far-away concept for many high school juniors, the optimal time to begin the college application process is in the spring. One task that can be easily accomplished before the CommonApp even opens in August is to write a personal statement. Getting this one looming task done eliminates the stress of trying to write it during the hectic fall semester of senior year when you’re still narrowing your college list, focusing on keeping up your grades and still participating in extracurricular activities.

The prompts never change dramatically, so take a peek at the 2022-2023 prompts and begin thinking about them. Allow yourself time to really reflect on each; maybe even free-write a few sentences in response to each prompt. What do you want the schools to know about you? How will you show them your strengths?

Use this reflective essay with a maximum word count of 650 to strongly show who you are. If you begin in the spring and give yourself time, you will be able to strategically craft an interesting, vivid personal statement.

By the way, this is the optimal time for high school sophomores to begin a strategic plan for applicaitons. We recommend not waiting until the last minute scramble entering senior year.

 

We at A Starting Line love data, and we analyze all kinds of data to help our clients be strategic in college planning. But, it is very important that we are selective in what data we take into account and how we incorporate it into our strategy.  

Some of the publicly available data that you may be familiar with include US News and World Report rankings and Naviance (if your child’s high school subscribes to this tool).

A working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, “Why Don’t Elite Colleges Expand Supply?” finds that top colleges care more about prestige as measured against their peers than any other factor when it comes to setting their enrollment numbers.

The four colleges that appear at the top of the annual U.S. News rankings—Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale (HPSY)—increased their enrollment by only 7% even as their applications skyrocketed, especially as the schools have gone ‘test optional’ during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the past 40 years, the freshman class at Yale has increased by only 14 seats; however, the number of applications has increased 300%, from 9,331 in 1979 to 30,932 in 2015. For the Class of 2021, 32,900 students applied to Yale.

This is not unique to Yale. In fact, the top 20 schools have found ways to increase their number of applicants while at the same time keeping enrollment constant over the years. This is how prestigious schools lower their yields, thus making the school seem more prestigious. The lower the yield, the higher the school sits on some of the most well-known ranking lists.

What does this mean for your student?

We like to say that the top 20 schools are ‘lottery’ schools. Even if Naviance indicates that, based on your child’s test scores and GPA, they are plotted on the Naviance scattergram into Harvard or UChicago, the likelihood of admittance is extremely low.

Scattergrams give data points for each student from a specific high school who has applied to a particular college in the past few years. The data points represent the students’ standardized test scores and GPAs based on your school’s scale. The points also indicate whether the student was admitted, waitlisted, or denied at a particular school. 

The key words here are “data points”. This data is collected from the school over the course of several years, therefore making the data old.

Another point to consider is that if 43 students from your child’s school apply to a lottery school, from the school’s perspective, only a very small percentage from the school will be admitted, assuming that they even qualify, because the university wants a well-rounded freshman class.

We always suggest a variety of schools since not every top tier college is well-suited for a particular student. We want to ensure that a student will find their course of study at a school that is a ‘just right fit’ for them

Some students are ready to explore the world as soon as they graduate high school; others want to stay closer to home. To help offer some perspective, we recently asked one of our clients who attended a Canadian university to reflect on their experience studying abroad for four years… 

The largest anxiety I had about attending an international university was, without a doubt, all the red tape: I was stressed about obtaining a student visa, acquiring international health insurance, opening a bank account, finding a phone plan etc. These are all normal things to be stressed about, but don’t let them stop you from applying or attending; it’s all worth it!

First of all- remember that your school is a resource. If you are accepted into an international school, the university will delineate the steps you need to take to get a visa, and will likely have programs catered specifically to assisting international students in their process of ‘settling in.’ Once you get your visa application in, you can begin to tackle the other daunting tasks one at a time. If you know anyone in your community who studied internationally, or better yet, at your school of interest, it may be helpful to ask them about the process. On the whole, the process is much more manageable than it seems.

After you’ve filled out all the forms and submitted all the paperwork, you’ll have arrived at the best part! Studying internationally is a great opportunity to put yourself outside of your comfort zone and experience a new culture, language, and city. Finding other international students once on campus is a helpful way to feel ‘settled-in’ in a new place. Although it may be daunting to be in a different country alone, there are always other people who are in the same boat!

We recently heard a heart-breaking story. The father of a graduating senior came to us seeking guidance and insight after his child graduated and applied, mostly unsuccessfully, to universities. This family was NOT our client. They didn’t understand why, with a 3.9 GPA and 1560 SAT, the student was rejected from over 15 US schools. We explained about how some schools want to see demonstrated interest. Other schools are looking for non-academic activities to round out their incoming class. But it seemed to fall on deaf ears. The parent repeatedly, in a mixture of disbelief and denial, came back to the scattergram which plotted his child’s theoretical admittance to most every school. We want to emphasize that each student is more than a combined GPA and test score, and that those scattergrams show data that is at least one year old.

Equally important, and usually understated, is having passion and showing passion. It is demonstrated in various ways. It’s not enough to focus on summer and holiday classes and competitions. Yes, that math olympiad competition is a passion, but it is only as a participant that a student contributes. And it’s yet another academic endeavor. Not every student is cut out to be the president or captain of various teams and clubs. Therefore, it’s important to find the passion and show potential colleges (and employers) how that passion has been realized. It’s something you do for the sheer joy of it, and the love of what you are doing outweighs any other considerations.

If a student’s  passion is math, then show us the passion. If the student can’t be THE leader of the math olympiad team, then it’s important to find individual ways to show a passion for math. How about tutoring and mentoring younger students either in the community or inner city, or even internationally via zoom? Or organizing math related games for neighboring children over the summer?

Identifying one’s passion is an exercise in emotional growth and maturity. It takes fortitude and a real evaluation of beliefs and perceptions, something generally new to teenagers,  to find out what makes a student truly light up, excitedly coming up with tons of ideas.

Essentially, a passion project is a first-hand experience with the innovation process, of bringing a service or product to life. It should have benefits for and also  impact upon other people. Showing us your passion will help the chances of being admitted to the dream school. And this process is also transformative and transferable to life.

And about the father’s child…the good news is that the student was accepted to one prestigious school – an international school that only looks at the hard numbers rather than the person.

Amy Garbis

Partner-Consultant

Engaging customer experience so that as an end result, we be CMSable. Leverage below the fold and finally gain traction. Generating bleeding edge and creating actionable insights.

Marcus Abbott

Brand Expert | Mantell Design

Generating best in class in order to improve overall outcomes. Inform outside the box thinking and finally target the low hanging fruit. Repurose big data and possibly gain traction.

Lucinda Johnson

Support Staff | Gerwyn Financial

 

Avoid the summer slump With a tutoring package!


What is summer slump? It’s that time of year when there’s no school and students forget much of what they’ve learned in the prior nine months.

Did you know that we offer tutoring packages from A Starting Line to help your student avoid the summer slump? We have a…

New Customer Special: Buy a package of 5 hours and get one extra hour for free.

Loyal Customer Special: Buy a package of 10 hours and get credit for an extra 90 minutes of tutoring for free!

Check out our fabulous tutors here.

Our tutors are experienced (in addition to being carefully vetted) in research/essay writing as well as in creative writing, math, science and foreign languages (French and Spanish). 

 

 

Why volunteer? 

Most schools have a minimum requirement for volunteering in order to graduate. But that should not be the sole reason for volunteering. It’s a way to give back, to help others whether people, land or animals – volunteer for a better world. Volunteering is a great way to help you better understand yourself and what you value. Some people like to work with animals and spend part of a Saturday at an animal shelter; others enjoy serving food or loading trucks with food being distributed to families in need. Each school has its own rules regarding what can be counted for volunteering hours, so be sure to check with your school. And if your school doesn’t have a list of pre-approved volunteer organizations/opportunities, try Youth Service America for some excellent ideas.

Don’t forget, you can also design your own volunteer project, and YSA has advice on how to get started. Ultimately, volunteering should make the volunteer feel good about themselves.

What are your volunteering plans for this summer? How will you help make the world better?

irl girl power…

Happy Women’s History Month! Since the 1970s, Women’s Studies programs have been emerging on many college campuses across the nation. In the most basic of definitions, these programs allow students to study women’s lives and experiences with a cultural and social lens, considering how race, power structures, ideologies, institutions, etc., interact with gender.
When these Women’s Studies programs first began to appear with the advent of the Women’s Liberation movement, many were skeptical. Critics asked, “What can you DO with a Women’s Studies major?”
The answer is–pretty much anything! Interdisciplinary majors like Women’s Studies develop students’ analytical thinking, oral communication, and writing skills, all of which can be flaunted on resumes.

Women’s History Month

(by Emma Sonnenblick)


Top Women’s studies programs:

Where are the best Women’s Studies programs, you may ask? Here are the top 10, as of 2020:
1. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
2. Yale University (New Haven, CT)
3. Pomona College (Claremont, CA)
4. Amherst College (Amherst, MA)
5. Williams College (Williamstown, MA)
6. Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA)
7. Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT)
8. Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME)
9. Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)
10. Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)
These are only 10 out of the more than 800 programs across the country, so if you are interested, you have plenty of options!
University of Michigan women graduates, 1909

(published by Emma Sonnenblick)

Smith, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley–what do all of these schools have in common? All of these schools are Women’s Colleges! When these schools were founded in the 1800s, many higher education institutions existed on the East Coast for men, and most of those colleges excluded women from admission. These four schools in particular were originally part of the “Seven Sisters,” which acted as counterparts to the male-only Ivy League schools, providing an educational equivalent to women from upper class families. 

 

Some historically all-female schools, like Vassar, went coed in the late 1900s. Others, like Radcliffe, got absorbed into traditionally male schools, with Radcliffe becoming a part of Harvard. Although many schools are now coeducational, some women still choose to attend all-female schools because of the unique environment they offer. 

 

Atessa F. (Smith College, 2020) shared some of the benefits of the all-female college experience, saying, “I loved going to a historically women’s college because it gave me the confidence to not only pursue a major in a traditionally male-dominated discipline [math], but to participate confidently in all aspects of my community.”

 

The all-female schools named above (and others!) continue to offer this special opportunity for women to excel in the academic sphere without intimidation from, or competition with, men.  

 

    • 70% of Georgetonians marry other Georgetonians.
    • Yale students get assigned to one of fourteen houses, which they will remain in for the entirety of their time at Yale. Each year, the residential colleges compete in an intramural competition for the Tyng Cup.
    • At Swarthmore, all grades are pass/fail for the first semester.
    • At Franklin and Marshall, you can find charging outlets in the trees.
    • The campus of American University is an accredited arboretum.
    • Tufts students can apply to Tufts School of Medicine in their sophomore year of college without taking the MCAT and gain admission through the early assurance program, guaranteeing them a spot in the med school after they graduate.
    • Columbia’s student center sells Broadway tickets for only $2.
    • More of Google’s employees come from Stanford than any other school.
    • Oberlin’s art museum rents out paintings by famous artists like Renoir and Picasso for only $5 a semester. What a way to decorate your room!
    • Students at Villanova have the opportunity to apply for the Vatican Internship Program, in which they manage the Pope’s social media accounts.
    • University of California-Los Angeles has the best food of any college campus.
    • Harvard has the highest percentage of students living on campus, with 99% of the undergrad population in the residential system.
    • In New England,  KeeneState_ is the only state college or university with a bachelor’s program specializing in #Holocaust and #Genocide Studies.

 

 

How do I compare colleges if I can’t visit?

Before comparing colleges, look inward to assess your likes and motivations. Critical thinking is more important now than in the past.  What is important for you to have in your college? Do you want football games on the weekends and crowds that have huge school spirit? Do you want small classes where you can ask more questions and have discussions with your professors?

 

Being able to ask the ‘why’ questions is crucial. Why did you make certain academic choices? Why did you choose specific clubs/activities? Why do you want to go to college? What is most important to you in your ideal college?

 

Begin to search for colleges that match your interests, goals, and what’s important to you. You can use average GPA and test scores, potential majors, and other factors to help you narrow it down.

 

Sign up for email from schools to receive information from them. 

Virtual College Tours

Many colleges have canceled their on-campus information sessions and tours, so what can a student do to find deeper info on a college? Go to colleges’ websites and register for their virtual tours to show your interest. 

Also, demonstrate interest by getting on the schools’ mailing lists. Read the emails from the colleges and click on some links in the correspondences to learn more.

Virtual college fairs are a thing. You might check out the following for more info:

NACAC National College Fairs

 

 

Do you have a high school junior? Winter and Spring are very busy times for Juniors wanting to go to college. Let’s focus on the NOW. Here’s a list of some things you should be doing in your prep for college admissions.

Winter is the perfect time to look at free, personalized, SAT test prep at Khan Academy. Students can take eight full-length, real practice tests and content is created in partnership with College Board (the creators of AP). We recommend getting started here before paying for a test prep tutor. 

There is also the ACT test. On their site, they also offer some free prep materials.

Winter is the time to identify challenging classes for the senior year. For some students, this means honors while for others it means AP. And some students will end up taking a class or two that are mid-level courses. This is fine as long as the student also takes a good number of more challenging classes.

If your 11th-grader takes AP or other advanced classes, have him or her talk with teachers now about taking these tests in May.

Also, from the comfort of home, your student can begin attending virtual college fairs to learn more about schools.