Book Review: The Gatekeepers

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.  There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.  We’ve created lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone.  Please check out our Resources and Tools page for suggestions.

The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College is a must-read for any parent whose son or daughter is in the process of applying to college.  It is not a how-to book with secrets to getting admitted, but it is a book which tells the real stories of students and admissions officers as they take the journey of putting together a college freshman class.

The Gatekeepers grew out of a newspaper series.  Specifically, it tells the story of one admissions officer and the high school seniors whose cases he and his colleagues considered that year.  The story begins in the homes and classrooms of the applicants as they work with their guidance counselors and parents in their junior year.  The narrative then travels behind the closed doors of the admissions office, as well as the officers’ homes as the applications are debated.  It continues to follow the story as the applicants receive their responses and make their decisions.

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The Problem with College Placement Exams

Many, if not most, students headed to college will be required to take one or more placement exams at their school.  For many students, this may come as a surprise.  As a college parent, you can help your student anticipate, understand, and cope with these important tests.

What are placement exams?

Placement exams or tests are given to students, usually after they have been accepted to the college, to determine how ready students are for college level work in basic core courses.  They are most often given in subjects such as English and math.  Students cannot ”pass” or ”fail” placement tests since they simply measure a level or readiness in a subject.  They are used for placing the student in the appropriate level class.

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What is a College Orientation Leader?

College and university orientations for new students take many forms.  Sometimes orientation may take place early in the summer and may be a day long or may involve an overnight.  Orientation may take place just before the fall semester begins, with new students arriving on campus a few days before returning students.  Orientation usually takes place on campus, but may involve an off-campus trip or outing.  Orientation provides an important opportunity for new students to meet each other, make connections, and get to know the school and its expectations.

Whatever form Orientation may take, most schools use student Orientation Leaders to help conduct the program.  If your student is a new student and will be attending Orientation, he may be wondering who this Orientation Leader is.  If your student is a returning student, he may be considering becoming an Orientation Leader and you may wonder what that involves.

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New Year’s Resolutions – What Makes a Good One?

Last year at this time we offered some New Year’s resolutions for college and high school parents and for their students.  We still think they are good resolutions, worth considering carefully if you are a college or high school parent.  Please take a few minutes to follow the links below and reread our suggestions.

New Year’s Resolutions for College Parents — and Their College Students

New Year’s Resolutions for High School Parents — and Their College Bound Students

In addition to the specific resolutions offered last year, this year we’d like to offer some suggestions to keep in mind as you and your student think about creating your own resolutions for the fresh start that the second semester of the year offers.  Give some thought to these characteristics of good resolutions as you consider what matters to you in the New Year.

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College Acceptance – or Rejection – Letters: Ten Ways Parents Can Help Students Cope

The wait is over.  The envelope may be fat, or thin, or the news may have come via e-mail.  However it has arrived, your high school student has received word from his chosen colleges about whether he has been accepted, waitlisted, or rejected.  It is a defining moment for most students.

This may also be a defining moment for you as a parent as well.  You will need to think about how you react to any news, and how you support your student no matter what that news may be.  Your responses will help set the tone for your student.  Your reactions will send important messages to your student.  If the news is good, you’ll want to celebrate with him.  If the news is not what he had hoped for, you’ll need to help your student deal with his disappointment.

Giving thought in advance to how you will respond may help you to be prepared for any eventuality.  Here are ten suggestions of things to consider as you, as a parent, confront the college acceptance — or rejection letters.

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Parents Can Help High School — and College — Students Deal with Disappointment

Events like the Olympic Games are a marvel.  Once every few years we are able to watch the best in the world doing what they do.  They put everything on the line, give everything that they have — and they do it publicly.  When they succeed, there is nothing like the thrill of that moment.  When they do not, to say that they are disappointed is completely inadequate.

As parents, most of us love nothing better than to see our children succeed at whatever they attempt.  Sometimes, however, they will not.  It is easy to celebrate with your child when they are successful.  It is heart wrenching to support your child through disappointment.  As parents, we can make the difference in how our students face and deal with their disappointment.  Our children have dealt with disappointments all of their lives, but as they face college acceptances or rejections, or perhaps their first semester college grades, the stakes seem somehow higher.  They will get in to their choice of college — or not.  They may receive adequate financial aid (perhaps merit aid) — or not.  They may get into the classes they want, or the major they want — or not.  They may make the team, or the play, or the assistantship — or not.

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Making Sense of Your Student’s College Financial Aid Package

High school seniors wait anxiously for that all important college acceptance letter.  Parents of those high school seniors wait just as anxiously for that all important financial aid letter.  Everyone agrees that college is expensive these days, and most of us need financial help to be able to afford it.  The financial aid letter which your student receives from his college may include several different types of aid.  Although understanding the finer points of these different types of aid and loans may at times seem like a full time job, it is important to have a general understanding of the different types of help your student’s school may offer.

How do schools determine aid?

Most schools use the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form to determine your financial need.  The FAFSA is filled out and filed with the federal government and the information is sent to the schools that you request.  The FAFSA is available in January of each year and can be completed on-line.  The federal government is working to make the FAFSA a bit simpler each year.

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Waiting for the College Acceptance Letter: How Parents Can Help

The college application process consumes much of a high school student’s junior and senior years.  Your student has been focused on the application process through SAT prep time, tests, possible AP courses, college visits, deciding where to apply, filling out applications, writing admissions essays, requesting recommendation letters, applying for scholarships.  It’s been overwhelming and all-consuming.  As a parent, you’ve been more or less involved in the process — perhaps keeping track of important dates, planning and driving to college visits, helping with decisions and applications, and dealing with financial matters.

But now it is mid senior year.  The applications have been sent.  The FAFSA and other financial applications have been filed.  Unless your student was one of the lucky students who was admitted through early action or early decision, there is nothing left for you, and your student, to do but wait.  It’s a difficult time.  You’ve both been so busy and focused for so long that it is difficult — perhaps almost impossible — to stop doing.

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New Year’s Resolutions for High School Parents and Their College Bound Students

New Year’s is often a time of new beginnings.  For parents of high school students who may be headed off to college in the fall, this year will bring significant changes.  You may, or may not, be prepared for those changes, but you know that they are still several months away.  We’d like to offer some New Year’s resolutions to help you, and your college bound high school student, begin to prepare now.  We hope that you find them helpful — and that you pass some of these on to your student.

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Why College Parents Might Be Interested in Student Engagement

Are you familiar with NSSE (pronounced ”Nessie”)?  As a college parent, you may have looked at some NSSE results when your student was choosing a college.  Or you may have heard from your college student that he has filled out a NSSE survey at his current school.  More than likely, however, you may not be aware of NSSE.  NSSE stands for the National Survey of Student Engagement, and as a college parent, it might be helpful to know something about it.

NSSE is an approximately ten year old, eighty-two question survey, conducted each year by researchers from Indiana University, which measures how students spend their time at college and what they gain from their college experiences.  Over the life of the survey, more than 1400 colleges have participated at least once, and over 2.4 million students have been surveyed.  Each year the survey is distributed to first year students and seniors at schools who choose to participate in the program.  The results for 2009, released recently, come from students at more than 600 schools. The results of the NSSE survey are intended to help schools identify areas that may be improved in order to help students become more engaged in their learning.

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