What if you think your student may not be ready for college? What if your student feels they just need a break? In this podcast, Lynn and Vicki look at college admission deferral, high school postgrad programs and other gap year options. If you are thinking of a gap year you’ll need to consider the advantages and disadvantages, how to investigate options, and what to expect. This is an excellent opportunity for conversations about readiness, motivation, and specific goals for a possible year out.
The college admissions process is complex, stressful, and often overwhelming. Both students and their parents spend a lot of time and energy thinking, planning, testing, applying, waiting, and then making important decisions. Could it get any more difficult? In some ways, the answer is yes.
Changes to the admission process
In November 2019, the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NCAC), removed three provisions from their Code of Ethics and Professional Practices (CEPP). NACAC, an association of more than 15,000 admission professionals from most colleges and universities in the U.S., chose to make these changes in response to an investigation by the Department of Justice.
The organization chose to strike the following provisions from their Code of Ethics and Professional Practices:
- “Colleges must not offer incentives exclusive to students applying or admitted under an early decision application plan.”
- “Once students have committed themselves to a college, other colleges must respect that choice and cease recruiting them.”
- “Colleges must not solicit transfer applications from a previous year’s applicant or prospect pool unless the students have themselves initiated a transfer inquiry or the college has verified prior to contacting the students that they are either enrolled at a college that allows transfer recruitment from other colleges or are not currently enrolled in a college.”
Essentially, these changes mean that 1) colleges can continue to recruit students after they have made their college choice by the May 1 National College Decision Day. In the past, once students made their commitment, other colleges ceased recruiting them. They may now continue to pursue them – perhaps with offers of increased aid. 2) It also means that students may be offered incentives to apply with binding Early Decision, and 3) that once a student begins college in the fall, they may continue to receive communication from other colleges to which they had applied encouraging them to consider transferring.
It isn’t possible to be a college parenting website without addressing the current Admissions Scandal sweeping across our news feeds. Parents have paid enormous sums of money to have their students fraudulently admitted to elite colleges. They have doctored test scores, bribed consultants, coaches and admissions staff. It’s the latest, most outrageous development in the college admissions parental involvement saga.
Parental reputations have progressed from what Laura Hamilton, author of Parenting to a Degree calls “bystander parenting” to helicoptering to snow plow and lawnmower parenting and now to curling and what Dean Julie (Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult) has referred to as drone parenting.
Almost all of us are familiar with helicopter parents who hover over their children to make sure everything is OK – and then swoop in when they need to rescue them. In case you are less familiar with the other terms, snow plow and lawn mower parents push problems and obstacles out of the way or mow down obstacles to clear a path for their students. Curling parents go one step further –warming the ice and reducing any friction to help students slide forward in the direction the “sweeper” chooses. And now, in light of this new scandal, we have drone parents; parents who pick their child up and deposit them where they (the parents) want them to be – sometimes without the student even realizing that it has happened. And for at least one set of parents, that apparently means a trophy school that comes with bragging rights.
The admissions system is flawed, to be sure. It may even be broken. Hopefully, a lot of people will now be looking long and hard at how students are coached, tested, and admitted to schools. This scandal has shone a light on a host of problems, some illegal and many unethical or at least unfair.
But even as we cast blame on the system and its participants, we need to hold the mirror up to ourselves.
Senior year is a stressful and tricky year for high school students. They face the final stages of the college application process, then the w-a-i-t-i-n-g that seems interminable, and there’s the final decision to be made. All the while, students are told to keep their grades up so colleges won’t change their mind and so students will be ready for the academic work of college.
But if your senior wants to be successful in college, there’s more work to be done than meets the eye – and many students and their parents may not realize all that they should be doing. Academic preparation is essential, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Many students come to college well prepared academically yet they struggle through the first year, not because the coursework is too hard, but because they suddenly need to cope with all of life. They may have taken for granted all that is involved in managing their day-to-day life; never considered, or never mastered those skills.
How do parents fit in?
Many high schools don’t address the life skills that students need to succeed. Parents can help students use the senior year to learn to manage their lives well – leaving them energy and time to focus on their academic work. It’s a gradual process, of course. Don’t present your student with a list at the beginning of senior year – remember that they’re probably already feeling overwhelmed. But slip some of these skills in as the year goes along – and then take time at the end of the year to remind your student how prepared they now are to manage not only their schoolwork, but their life.
Graduation is a special season for your student – and for you! Whether your student is graduating from high school or from college, the event marks a milestone. Your student is proud, you are proud, and everyone should celebrate. This is an achievement worthy of praise and of celebrating accomplishments – and the future.
For many families, graduation also means gifts, and many parents stress over finding just the right gift for this big occasion. We’d like to share a few thoughts – and then offer some help to get your creative juices flowing as you try to think of the perfect gift.
What should you think about as you decide on a gift?
- Of course, gifts of money are always appreciated. This is especially true if you know there is something that your student would like that might be a big expense, or something that you know your student would like to pick out himself. Cash is always welcome.
- As you think about a gift, think about everything that you know about your student. What does she love? What are her interests? What kinds of things excite her or are especially meaningful to her? You know your student better than anyone. Build on that knowledge to make your gift especially personal.
- Think about the transition that your student is making. What’s next? If your student is finishing high school, will he go on to college, living on his own, a new job, technical school? If your student is graduating from college, is he going on to graduate school, career, a first apartment? Find a gift that speaks to that new phase in his life.
- Perhaps you’d like to focus on something commemorative and lasting. Something that your student will cherish and that will always show your pride in him.
- You might like to aim for something sentimental. Perhaps there is something from childhood or a gift that represents earlier generations of the family. You might share a piece of family jewelry or a treasured family heirloom.
- And nothing can be more personal than a handwritten letter from you expressing your pride, your dreams for your student’s future, and your love.
Making a decision about the right college is a difficult and stressful task for many high school students. You and your student have been gathering information about the schools on your student’s “short list.” You’ve looked at the college website, checked ratings, talked to friends and high school counselors, looked at the catalog and informational material, and probably visited campus – perhaps more than once.
One additional way to gather some different information is for your student to spend an overnight on campus. This is an excellent way for your student to get a closer look at student life on campus as well as to have an opportunity to experience college life and to ask students some of the questions that may not come up during a formal campus tour.
Many colleges offer campus overnight visits, either individually or as part of a larger program. . At some schools, your student may need to be accepted first, but others may offer visits to those who plan to apply. If the Admission office hasn’t offered the opportunity, your student should ask whether the option is available.
One of the most important steps in the college admissions process is the campus visit. Your student should see and get a feeling for a campus before making a final decision about whether a school is right for them. Although the decision ultimately belongs to your student, as a parent, you also need to feel comfortable about the school. Asking questions during the admission visit is a great way to gather some of the information that you need to feel comfortable. However, just as with so many other considerations in the college process, parents walk a find line between being helpful and becoming intrusive.
Remember that the admission process really does belong to your student. It is important that you be involved, and provide support, but it is crucial that you remind yourself that this is not your process. While it is important that you go along on a campus visit if possible, your student is the person who will make the final decision. What seems like the absolutely ideal school or environment to you may just not feel right to your student. There is a chemistry that happens when a certain campus just plain “feels right.”
However, even though you may be peripheral to this visit, there are some important ways in which you can be involved.
This is the second article by College Parent Central contributor Dr. Lynn Abrahams. Lynn specializes in college transition and success for students with learning differences.
Over the past ten years more and more programs have been created to help prepare and support college students with learning differences. In fact, there are now so many models out there that it has become crucial to do your homework before making the decision about the best post-secondary environment for your student. As a learning disabilities specialist over the past 30 years, I have seen families pay a tremendous amount of money for programs that may not be the right fit, because they did not fully understand what was or was not being offered.
Here are a few issues to keep in mind:
Support in High School
Look at how much support your student is getting in high school. Shifting the amount and type of support when entering a new college environment is not usually a good idea.
- Is your student in a substantially separate classroom?
- Is your student fully mainstreamed in all high school classes?
- Is your student in college preparatory classes?
- How much time does your student get for support in a resource room?
- How much time does your student work with other therapists, such as speech and language, occupational therapy, English language learner support, or counseling?
Your student is about to graduate from high school, and they’re ready to head to college in the fall. Congratulations!
But wait! What if only part of that statement is true?
Your student may be about to graduate from high school, but that doesn’t automatically mean that they’re ready to head to college in the fall. Not all students mature and operate on the same timetable. Not all students have an immediate interest in college. More and more students and their parents are considering a postgrad or fifth year of high school to prepare for college.
What is a high school post grad year?
A postgrad year does not mean that your student simply stays in their high school a year longer. It is not a fifth year because your student has not done well and is not ready to graduate. A postgrad high school year is a specialized year of school for students who have already earned their high school diploma. It is most often a year of school spent at an independent high school with a specialized curriculum designed for the experience.
Postgrad experiences have been around for a long time. They have traditionally existed at New England prep schools for male athletes who need an extra year to improve athletically and to bolster grades. Recently, however, more schools offer postgrad experiences, more students are applying, including females and non-athletes. According to the Boarding School Review, as many as 146 schools now offer such programs. A few schools offer day programs as well.
A postgrad program serves as a transitional year for a student to experience living on their own, away from home. Programs are generally designed for academically strong, motivated students who want to experience new courses, challenges and personal growth. Programs are often competitive, and schools look for students who have demonstrated academic growth throughout their high school careers and who have demonstrated a positive trend. The postgrad year allows these students to build on their past experiences.
Social media have become part of the fabric of life for most of our high school and college students. But for many parents, discussing social media with our students is not something we really want to do. After all, there are so many options – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Yik Yak, LinkedIn, Periscope, and something new seemingly every week. How do we keep up? Where do we start? What do we say?
Why do we even need to have the conversation?
There are lots of reasons to talk to your student about his use of social media, and many parents have already had some of these important conversations when their students were younger. We talk about the amount of time spent, we talk about being careful about what gets posted, we talk about cyberbullying, and we talk about separating fact from fiction. At least we should. But it isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always comfortable. In fact, it seems to get less comfortable as our students get older.
Two important topics to discuss – at least for a start – are the amount of time spent on social media and the importance of carefully considering what your student posts.