Parents and College Admission: Know What to Ask to Make the Most of Your Campus Visit

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 him.  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.

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Support for Students with Learning Differences in College: Do Your Homework!

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?

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Should Your Student Consider a High School Post Grad Year?

Your student is about to graduate from high school, and she’s 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 she’s 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 her 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 his 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.

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Why You Need to Discuss Social Media with Your High School or College Student

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.

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New Year’s Resolutions for Parents of High School Seniors and College Students

As the old year rolls over into the new, it is often a time of looking backward and looking forward.  For many parents of high school seniors and college students, the focus may be more forward than backward.  It’s an exciting – and sometimes anxious time.

A few years ago, we offered some suggestions to keep in mind as you formulate your resolutions for the New Year.  We’d like to share them again here and then help you get started by offering five resolutions for high school senior parents and five resolutions for those of you who are college parents.

We’re sure you’ll add a few of your own, but we hope these may help to spur your imagination.

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Should My Student Take Advantage of Test Optional College Admission Policies?

An increasing number of colleges in the United States are becoming what they term “test optional.”  Still other schools may be “test flexible” or even “test blind.”  These terms are not exactly the same thing, and it is important that your student know the difference and consider carefully what each might mean for him.

What do test optional, test flexible, and test blind mean?

According to Fairtest.org, a non-profit organization which maintains a database of schools, more than 850 four-year colleges in the United States are “test optional.”  This means that the student may decide whether or not to send test scores as part of his admission packet. If he decides to send scores, he may decide which scores to send.  Schools which are “test flexible,” ask students to submit test scores, but the student may decide whether to send scores from the SAT, ACT, AP exam, International Baccalaureate, or SAT subject tests.  Other schools use a “test blind” policy and choose not to consider test scores even if students send them.

Schools opting for the emerging trend of the test optional approach include a wide range of sizes, mission, and selectivity, but many tend to be liberal arts colleges with a more holistic approach to admission.  More than 1/3 of liberal arts colleges have adopted this approach.  Many of the schools who have adopted test optional policies have done so out of a concern about an over-reliance on standardized testing and/or to increase the diversity of their applicant base.  According to Fairtest.org, “test scores do not equal merit.”  Many schools feel that high school performance is a better indicator of college success than standardized test scores.

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Might Early College High School Be Right for Your Student?

For some students, spending the high school years just waiting to get to college doesn’t happen – and for good reason.  These students are spending their high school years doing the work of college.  They are enrolled in an Early College High School.

Early College High School is not the same thing as Dual Enrollment.  In a dual enrollment program, students attend a traditional high school and take one or two college classes at the same time.  In an Early College High School, some strictly high school classes are replaced by college classes – for all students in the school.  So Early College High School is an institutional, rather than an individual, program.  The program provides an opportunity for students to receive a high school diploma at the same time that they receive college credit, or even an associates degree – tuition free.

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Turning the Page on the College Decision Dilemma

For many high school seniors (and their parents) the last few months have been torture: all of the questions about where to apply to college, all of the college visits, all of the applications and essays and forms, the wait for the acceptance or rejection letters, and then finally the dilemma about the decision.

But May 1 has come and gone.  Decision Day is over.  Your student has made a decision, paid the deposit, and now a strange new phase begins – for both of you.

For high school seniors, the final few weeks of school may be a blur.  It’s time to make sure they don’t let their guard down and jeopardize the grades on which their acceptance is contingent.  And it’s an emotional time – full of the highs of celebrating the end of high school and lows of leaving their friends as they all move on.

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Why Staging a Sit-In Should Be Part of Your Student’s Campus Visits

Campus visits are an essential part of the college admission and decision process.  Nothing can replace the experience of visiting a campus to experience the feeling and to help determine whether the school is a good fit for your student.  Most campus visits are similar – a presentation by admission staff, maybe a student panel, possibly an interview,  and a campus tour.  That will give your student an overall feeling for a school, but may not give the total picture.

It may be important for your student to dig a little deeper in order to get a real feel for a school.  Grabbing a snack or a meal in the dining area may help, talking to some current students (not just admission tour guides) may help, just sitting in the Student Center or on a bench on campus may help.  But during the course of your student’s college career, she may spend close to 2000 hours in class.  One important tool for judging the feel of a college is sitting in on one, or more, classes.

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Does Your Student Qualify for a Free Visit to College?

The words “free” and “college” don’t often appear in the same sentence, but this time they just might.  Many families don’t realize that a number of colleges may offer financial help to students to make an admission visit possible.  Not all colleges offer the option and not all students will qualify, but the option is worth investigating.

Each college that offers a visit reimbursement program or option handles it differently and may give it a different name, but typical programs may be referred to as fly-in programs, travel grants, travel scholarships, or funded campus visits.  Colleges most likely, but not exclusively, to offer such programs may be more selective liberal arts colleges, although some research universities (such as Dartmouth or Yale) offer programs for students interested in particular majors.  They have names that include descriptions such as Fly-in Weekend, Diversity Overnight Program, Weekend Immersion, Diversity Achievement Program, or include words such as Access, Discover and Explore.

Who is eligible?

Fly-in programs and travel grants are available largely to high school seniors who would find the cost of a visit prohibitive and to students who are underrepresented on the campus such as first generation students, students of diverse backgrounds, minority students and/or low income students.

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