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.

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). 

 

 

  • Start researching colleges and universities. Go to college fairs and open houses. Learn as much as you can about colleges online.
  • Begin planning college visits. Try to visit colleges near you over spring break. Include a large, medium size, and small campus.
  • Request recommendation letters from the counselor and teachers.

Spring to-do’s

Juniors, here are tips on what to do as you embark on your college admissions journey.


  • Develop a preliminary list of colleges that interest you. Go online to request additional information.
  • Take a look at some college applications. Make note of all the pieces of information you will need to compile. Make a list of teachers, counselors, employers, and other adults who could write letters of recommendation.
  • Consider lining up a summer job or internship.

 

Tips

  • Find your passion.
  • Secondly, get involved.
  • Thirdly, leadership doesn’t mean ‘president’.
  • Fourth, show initiative.

Admissions: forget the scatter grams


Times have changed

The pandemic has upended college admissions. The top 20-30 schools have seen their applications increase by anywhere from 20 to 50 percent as a result of going test optional or blind. Nearly 168,000 freshmen and transfer students applied to UCLA for fall 2021 admission, a 24.6% increase compared to last year, according to data released by the University of California Office of the President. Of those, 139,463 applied for first-year admissions, while 28,440 applied for transfer admissions. Applications at Tufts were up 35 percent from the previous year.

What college admissions offices noticed with the test optional/blind policy is that many underrepresented students were now applying. These students sometimes had quite stellar resumes filled with community and school leadership roles and landed some sweet acceptances at top schools.

This leads us to data and scatter grams. By the time data points show up in Naviance, the data is at least one year old. But without community and school leadership roles, those data points on scatter grams are meaningless. The top schools want a diverse student body; they want students who show initiative, leadership, involvement, empathy, business acumen, creativity etc. 

So, a near perfect test score coupled with a stellar GPA alone isn’t going to get a student into a top school – those days are gone. It’s all about strategy.