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

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!

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). 

 

 

 

This Earth Day, we bring you an overview of environmentally-related college offerings. 

 

If you are interested in the environment, many schools have environmental science or environmental studies majors/minors. What is the difference between these two fields? Environmental science is often focused on preserving nature and Earth’s resources, whereas environmental studies looks at the interactions between environment, policy, economics, etc. The courses you can take to fulfill the environmental studies requirements are often interdisciplinary, which helps to build your critical thinking skills. For example, Hobart and William Smith College offers many cool courses in environmental studies, like Intro to Environmental Law and Environmental Change in the Indigenous World.

 

In addition, many colleges have Eco Reps, who promote sustainability through projects and community programs. Tufts University’s Eco Reps sponsor programs like a widespread Zero Waste Week Challenge, during which students are encouraged to carry around all of the garbage they produce in a bag, in order to dissuade waste production. The Tufts Eco Reps also put out an Eat Local Sustainability Guide, to promote nearby restaurants that buy their produce locally.

 

Furthermore, some schools have green living spaces in which students can choose to live. Dickinson College has “The Treehouse,” in which sustainability-minded students may choose to live. The Treehouse takes food from the dining hall that would otherwise be thrown away, and all of their extra foodstuffs go into the compost. In addition, while the house has a washer, they hang-dry all of their clothing to save energy. 

 

If you are interested in the environment, check out your prospective schools’ websites, and see if you are interested in their related majors, clubs, housing, etc. 

 

 

In honor of Alcohol Awareness Month and 4/20, we are dedicating this blog to campus party culture. Whether you would like a school with a vibrant partying culture, or one with no big parties at all, there is definitely a school out there for you. No matter what list you consult, some of the biggest partying schools include the University of Wisconsin, Tulane University, University of Alabama, Syracuse University, and University of West Virginia. On the flip side, Fordham College, Pepperdine University, West Point, and Brigham Young University are generally recognized as some of the colleges with minimal to no partying. 

 

In addition, each school has its own policy on drugs and alcohol. For example, some campuses are “dry” campuses, meaning that even after students turn 21, they are not permitted to drink on campus. Other campuses are “wet,” meaning that once students turn 21, they may consume alcoholic beverages on campus. Depending on your comfort level, these are some factors you can look into to help narrow down your college decision. 

 

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!
    • 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