How To Conquer Your Junior Year

Every summer, I sit down with my soon-to-be juniors and give them a pep talk.  It is no secret that the junior year of high school is notorious for being difficult, busy, and downright stressful.  However, it doesn’t have to be that way.  No really.

I find that if students know the purpose behind the importance of the junior year, they head into it with more motivation.  It’s like climbing a mountain without knowing if you will have a brick wall blocking the view on the other side.

Yes, the junior year is important. Yes, you will work hard.  But it is all building towards your goals.  It is not only helping you get closer to the top of the mountain but guaranteeing a pretty amazing view on the other side.

Here are the main areas I tell my students to focus on during their junior year of high school and why they are important.

Grades:  Junior year grades get a lot of attention, but few students understand why. Your academic transcript is the most important part of your college application.  Usually, your junior year grades are the last set of official grades colleges will see when they review your applications.  Most colleges will look at your senior year courses, and some will ask for your first quarter or mid-year grades.  However, by the time they see your senior year grades, they may have already made a decision on your application and use updated grades to reinforce that decision.

Strong grades are not only essential to the college application process but they are also considered in the merit aid process.  Think of every A as “money in the bank.”  The higher your grades, the more options you will have.  Also, do not fall into the trap of thinking that a “C” in an AP course is really a “B.”  A “C” is a “C”.  You need to show colleges that you took challenging courses because you can do well in them, not just to boost your GPA.  

Relationships With Teachers and School Counselor:  There are so many students who do not consider the value of having a good relationship with teachers.  It is not just about completing your work on time (though that is important); it is also about participating in class, helping other students succeed, and showing intellectual curiosity.  Colleges want to know how you are going to add to their academic environment, not just that you can do the work.

Colleges will look to your school counselor’s letter of recommendation to learn more about how you contributed to your school community.  Make sure to talk to your counselor about what you are involved in.  Ask for suggestions for internship or scholarship opportunities.  Have a conversation with your school counselor about something other than issues with your class schedule.

Shaping Your Personal Qualities:  Not only do colleges want to know how you will add to their academic environment, but they also want to know how you are going to add to their greater community.  They assess this portion of your application through your recommendations (see above) and your involvement.  It is important that you show depth in your interests.  The number of extracurricular activities is not as important as quality.

So your junior year is the perfect time to dive into your activities.  Are you interest in politics? Help with a political campaign or see if you can intern for a local representative.  Are you an amazing swimmer?  Look for a job as a swim instructor or coach your local Special Olympics team.  Take a look at the activities you are already doing and expand on them.  You don’t have to be good at everything, but showing focus in one or two particular areas will show colleges the depth of commitment.

College Research:  Now is the time to do thorough research on colleges. Collecting information, asking questions, planning well-thought-out college visits, etc. will not only help you learn about a specific college but will also help you narrow down what you are looking for in your college experience.  There is more information about colleges online now than ever.  Schedule a few online information sessions or virtual tours to start getting an idea of what you are looking for in your college experience. 

Standardized Testing Plan: After researching the standardized testing requirements for the schools you are interested in, you need to determine which standardized test you need to take (SAT or ACT). You also need to develop a plan for how you will prepare for each test.  Finally, you should determine your official test dates. It is recommended that you try to complete your official testing by the end of your junior year.  This will help you narrow down your college list and make sure you are on track.  Also, be aware that many schools are now test-optional, meaning that if your SAT or ACT scores are not an accurate reflection of your academic ability, you do not have to submit them.  Several schools have also adopted test-blind or score-free testing policies, meaning they do not use test scores in their application review process.  If you submit test scores, they will be ignored. 

Balance and Quality of Life:  Junior year is a good time to begin practicing stress management techniques (i.e. maintain an exercise routine, taking time for yourself, etc.) to maintain balance and healthy quality of life.  Also, make sure to ask for help when you need it.  There are plenty of people around willing to help you problem solve and brainstorm different approaches to the situations that may arise throughout the year!  

So there you have it- all of the goals you need to focus on for the junior year of high school. Remember to break each goal down into manageable pieces.  By tackling each task in smaller parts, you will feel better about conquering the notorious junior year!

What Does It Mean To Be An Educator?

Three months ago, I lost my brother, Kevin Barkley. It still doesn’t seem real. I miss him at the strangest times. The other day, I was making scrambled eggs, and they were really fluffy (my eggs are never fluffy), and he popped into my head. Kevin always made the fluffiest scrambled eggs. 

Over the last few months, I have done a lot of reflecting about what he taught me. His lessons spanned from teaching me the firing order of a small block Chevy to always being there for others. But perhaps his most important lesson, the one that will stay with me forever, was what it means to be an educator.

My brother spent 28 years in the automotive industry. His experience of “turning wrenches” gave him plenty of knowledge to move into his final career as an automotive instructor. In the days following Kevin’s death, I spoke with many of his students and co-workers. Through these conversations, I learned what an impact my brother had, and I started reflecting on my role as an educator. What is my role with high school students as they travel through the major life decision of choosing a college? How do I impact their lives? What does it mean to me to be an educator? Here are the lessons I learned from my brother that, moving forward, I will apply to my career as an educator. 

Creating self-awareness: Kevin taught his students to look at themselves and figure out their capabilities. Teaching students to ask the question, “who am I” is the foundation for any curriculum. It is the first step towards their future. Whenever I have a student who feels a bit lost, I will always direct them back to this foundation. 

Listening:  Being an educator starts with building a relationship with your students. Connecting with people is what my brother did best, and I know it began with his listening skills. Kevin had the ability to really focus on who he was talking to. As an educator, when I meet with a student, I remind myself that this is the first time a student is learning about the college process. They have never done this before, even though I have been through it hundreds of times. I imagine it was the same for my brother, and he had the patience to be in the moment, listening to questions as he taught an automotive skill he’d done a thousand times. It is in these moments, with patience and attention, that relationships are built. 

Supporting: An educator is a supporter but not necessarily a fixer. My brother did everything he could to support his students so they could reach their potential. He knew he couldn’t fix their life circumstances, but Kevin did what he could to make sure they could focus while learning. He’d help them find temporary housing or bring food to class so they wouldn’t be hungry. He knew that educating them was the long-term solution to their futures, so he supported them in every way so they could reach their potential. As I learned this about my brother, I thought about supporting and challenging my students but not doing things for them. I want to help them decide where to attend college but not make the decision for them. My job is to provide my students with information and to teach them to ask questions. I want to give them the foundation they need to plan their futures. 

Teaching Accountability:  Holding a student accountable is another critical role of an educator. If one of Kevin’s students did not show up for class, he’d pick up the phone and call them. If one of my students misses a meeting, I reach out to see where they are. Being present and doing the work is the best way for students to move forward. Yes, students will make mistakes. They will show up unprepared; they may even waste your time, but finding the right way to help them acknowledge their mistakes and, more importantly, move on from them, is an essential role of an educator. 

Building Skills: One of the most important things my brother did as an educator was to teach his students skills beyond his curriculum. He did more than teach how to fix cars, but he instilled in the important skill of looking at the big picture of their responsibility in ensuring the safety of others. He also made sure they knew how to network. He’d put them in touch with people to help them find a job or coach them through their next interview. From my brother, I learned that teaching students information is one thing but helping them learn how to use it is another. I never want just to get my student through the college process. I want to make sure they know the skills they need to thrive in college and beyond. 

Shaping Human Beings: Several of my brother’s students said to me (repeatedly) that he made them the people they are today. Just take that in for a moment. I was struck by the quiet impact he had on so many lives. It made me think about what role I have in shaping human beings. What lessons am I instilling to make sure they will function in society and, better yet, make the world a better place? As an educator, I will think about the impact I can have on each student as a person.

My brother worked with a student population that was very different than the one I see daily, yet the impact he had, the lessons he taught, can be applied to so many different types of educators. Now when I am in a student meeting, I know he will pop into my head, reminding me not to answer questions for them or to let them off the hook too easily. His picture sits on my desk. It is my daily reminder of what a role an educator can have in shaping a human being. It is my reminder to strive to be the educator my brother was- and to always make fluffy scrambled eggs. 

Hindsight is 2020: College Counseling Lessons from the Year that Changed EVERYTHING

Article originally appeared on Applerouth.com/blog

As I sat at my desk on Friday, March 13, 2020, I had many questions about the impending quarantine. Utterly blind to the imminent rollercoaster ride, none of us knew we were slowly climbing the hill towards an upcoming free fall and wild curves.

Month after month, the changes kept coming. We leaned with every turn, held onto the short reprieves to adjust before the next curve hit, making it challenging to keep up and provide reliable advice to our students. With each change, I saw the admission process through a new lens and adjusted my perspective. I am now using the lessons I learned in 2020 to sharpen my college counseling skills in 2021.

Give students more information about holistic application review.

In 2020, students became more aware of the term “holistic review.” With a growing test-optional movement and now the elimination of the SAT Subject Tests, students have more control over who sees their scores and who doesn’t. My goal as a counselor is to explain all of the opportunities students have to present themselves to colleges, including their personal and academic profiles. Moving forward, this will need to be a more in-depth, intentional conversation.

Encourage students to be open to the uncomfortable.

2020 turned the “traditional” college experience upside down, and colleges need to know how students face challenges and shift gears. Seeking resources and problem-solving skills are also essential to a student’s success on a college campus. Students also need to find new ways to connect and be engaged, especially when an experience is not “in-person.” Asking the question, how do you become a member of a community if that community is not outside your door? Finally, as campuses are reckoning with their racial histories and dialogue about discrimination, introspection is critical. Teaching students to use inquiry and reflection to look at their own biases and expectations will be essential in 2021.

Teach students to be better storytellers.

With the importance of holistic review and the need to see that students are comfortable with the uncomfortable, students must become better storytellers. Through their essays, students need to provide details of their experiences and the context of their opportunities. Colleges recognize that students have factors affecting their lives, like personal circumstances, financial concerns, and family responsibilities, but students have to tell their stories to provide the context.

Have a backup plan for your backup plan.

One consistent piece of the college application process in 2020 is that you cannot make predictions. While I have always been conservative when making students’ college lists, 2020 taught me that you still need a backup plan to your backup plan. With the number of deferrals resulting from early applications, I found myself reviewing students’ college lists – double-checking that we had considered and discussed every option.

Fine-tune knowledge about financial aid.

Access and financial aid will still be top concerns moving forward. Colleges are in precarious financial positions, so only time will tell how that will affect financial aid offers. With significant changes coming to the FAFSA, I will focus on attending webinars and increasing my knowledge of the financial aid process. First-generation and low-income students need more support and information as the college application, and financial aid processes evolve.

Overall, 2020 reminded us college is still a place of learning and exchanging ideas, which does not have to happen in-person to be effective. Still, the community element, learning how to be a human being, is difficult to provide through a screen. Colleges are also places where racial inequities and the effects of a global pandemic are colliding. Throw in government instability and national debates about leadership – and you still have one heck of a roller coaster ride. While 2020 brought changes and lessons, 2021 will be the year to reflect and react. Students and counselors need to lean into the curves and push back on them to keep upright and moving forward.

Katherine Price


5 Tips To Complete Your College Applications

Are you in a hurry to finish your college applications? Yes, November 1st deadlines are right around the corner but don’t rush to hit the submit button. Here are five tips to help you slow down and give your college applications the attention they deserve:

1. Prioritize: Finish up your main Common Application, including the activities section and your essay. Take your time writing your activity descriptions- this section is often overlooked.

2. Focus: Figure out which applications need your attention now (November 1st deadlines) and which ones can wait until later.

3. Schedule: Block out time in your schedule for your applications. Turn off your phone, put on your headphones, so you focus entirely on your applications.

4. Proofread: Print out the PDF of your Common Application and supplemental forms. Read every essay out loud and review your entire application with a friend or mentor.

5. Breathe: While deadlines won’t wait, you can stop and take a breath. Calming your emotions will put you in the right mindset to complete your college applications.

Learn to Ask Great Questions

Have you ever walked away from a conversation and thought, “I wish I would’ve asked more questions.” You don’t want to bypass an opportunity because you did not ask the right questions. Asking questions is a skill, and it is an important one to master. It shows that you care, can spark the exchange of ideas, and build trust. When you are just starting out, asking clarifying, open-ended questions will help get you closer to your goals.

As with any new skill, it is essential to practice. Before starting any conversation, think about what you want to learn. What is your purpose in the discussion? Then identify the right tone, types of questions, and sequence.

For the tone, most situations benefit from a casual approach.

Open-ended questions can go a long way to helping you learn new information. You can also build further questions into your plan based on the responses you receive.

For the sequence of questions, if you are trying to develop a relationship, you may need to ask less personal questions first to build trust. If you are in a confrontation, consider starting with the tough questions, since you don’t know how long the conversation will last.

Asking questions will open doors and allow you to discover new ideas and concepts. It may introduce you to a part of yourself that you didn’t know what there.

As Albert Einstein said, “Question everything.” I couldn’t agree more.

College Visits 101: Planning the Perfect Campus Visit

Now that you know which schools you want to visit, do you know how to plan your trip? Katherine has visited over 100 colleges and universities all over the country. In this video, she’ll give you all of her tips and tricks for planning the perfect college visit.

Now that you know which schools you want to visit, do you know how to plan your trip?

Katherine has visited over 100 colleges and universities all over the country. In this video, she’ll give you all of her tips and tricks for planning the perfect college visit.

 

Do you want more tips for the college process? Check out the College Mindset Ideal College Planning Timeline!

College Visits 101: 3 Types of Campus Visits

Did you know there are different types of campus visits? Katherine will talk you through each type of visit so you can be sure you will get the most out of visiting a college or university.

Did you know there are different types of campus visits?

First-year and sophomore high school students should be planning “practice” campus visits.

Juniors, you need to be moving towards “intentional” visits.

And Seniors, you are now visiting campuses as an admitted student- which changes everything.

Katherine will talk you through each type of visit so you can be sure you will get the most out of visiting a college or university.

Do you want more tips for the college process? Check out the College Mindset Ideal College Planning Timeline!

 

College Application Process Tips For Winter & Spring

Do you know what you should be working on? Watch my video for tips for high school seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen.

Happy New Year!  The holidays are over and it is time to get back on track with your college process. Do you know what you should be working on?  Watch my video for tips for high school seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen.

 

Do you want more tips for the college process? Check out the College Mindset Ideal College Planning Timeline!

Hats Off To The Class of 2018

As the students in the College Mindset Class of 2018 prepare to head off to the next step in the college process (orientation, anyone?) I want to take a moment to celebrate everything they accomplished. As a college counselor, it is a privilege to work with young people as they navigate one of their first major life decisions. Through all the questions, anxiety, uncertainty and ultimately, excitement, I feel so lucky to have a glimpse of who they are and who they will become.

The College Mindset Class of 2018 received 88 Acceptances after submitting 116 applications. Collectively, they received approximately 34 merit scholarship offers, totaling over $2.3 million.

In addition to managing their academics and preparing for standardized testing, they did medical research, interviewed refugees settling in Israel, worked as an archeologist assistant at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and completed an internship at an engineering firm. They took computer programming classes and learned JavaScript. They earned a black belt in Judo and played basketball, baseball, tennis, rugby, football, and soccer- some recovering from injuries and surgeries along the way.  They taught science to elementary school children, created a company to provided tutoring services, and refereed for youth sports. They created service trips to bring athletic equipment to children in Costa Rica. They volunteered in animal shelters and soup kitchens. They provided meals for chronically ill and house-bound patients and worked with the developmentally disabled. They worked summer jobs babysitting, peeling potatoes at a burger joint, lifeguarding at the local pool and providing customer service at a soft-serve ice cream shop. They ran for student government positions, worked on the student newspaper and mentored fellow students through Linked Crew. They taught discipleship as a student chaplain and coordinated activities for religious organizations. They played musical instruments, sung in choirs and performed in plays. They worked on the student judicial court for their local government.

The College Mindset Class of 2018 was made up of an amazing group of students who are just beginning to leave their mark on the world. The colleges and universities below will be lucky to have them!

  • American University
  • Arizona State University
  • Bates College
  • Baylor University
  • Colorado State University
  • Denison University
  • Gettysburg College
  • Seattle University
  • Texas Christian University
  • Tulane University
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
  • University of Kansas
  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Washington University, St. Louis
  • Wheaton College (IL)

5 Steps to Making Your Final College Decision

Why Hire a College ConsultantAs with many other aspects of the college process, making your final decision is an excellent way to learn a significant life skill.  You will make decisions for the rest of your life, including deciding what to major in, which internship to apply for, and ultimately, what job offer to accept.

Making the final decision about which college to attend is the first in the long line of “life choices.” However, this particular decision is not the student’s alone. It is a family decision. The student is the one going to college, but the parents are the ones (generally) paying for it. So while it is important for students to follow the steps below, they also need to take into consideration the input of those around them. Student should also consider the 3 Questions to Ask When Making Your Final College Choice, which was covered earlier this week.

When it comes to making a decision, any decision, it is important to approach it in a step-by-step format.  Below are the steps that can be taken in order to make the final college choice, but these steps can apply to any decision you need to make in college and beyond.

Step 1: Review your priorities.

As with any major life decision, you need to go back to the core: your priorities. Why did you apply to college in the first place? What were your priorities when you began the process? How have your priorities changed? Examine all of the aspects you are looking for in your college experience: academics, location, support services, a particular club or organization, cost, etc. and rank them. Which ones are the most important to you? Which ones are the most important to your family? There can be a lot of emotion tied up into making your final college choice, so it is important to keep yourself grounded by establishing your priorities.

Step 2: Determine your questions.

When you began the process, your priorities were general: good financial aid, strong academics, an opportunity to play sports, social campus, etc. Now is the time to get specific and find evidence to determine how each campus supports your priorities. For some families, the cost of a college education is the most important factor. Being able to compare financial aid offers side-by-side and determine the out-of-pocket cost for your family is an important component of your final decision.

If one of your priorities is “strong academics,” figure what that means to you. Do you want a campus where students are well-supported by professors? Or are you looking for more concrete numbers such as the percentage of students admitted to medical school?

If you are looking for “opportunities to play sports,” determine what type of sport. Are you looking at club sports or intramurals? What teams are available? For club sports, figure out if you have to try out for the team. How competitive is the process?

The social aspects of college are often an important priority for some students. However, you need to determine what “social” means for you. Do you need to find more information about a particular club or organization? Are there activities happening on campus that interest you? Do students go home on weekends? Is Greek life popular on campus? Determining what you need to happy socially is an important step in making the final college decision.

Step 3: Collect information.

There are many ways you can collect the answers to the questions you brainstormed above. Ideally, you should plan on visiting the final colleges on your list. Staying in the residence hall, attending an admitted student event or sitting in on a class are all great ways to gain insights.

You may also want to consider requesting meetings with other individuals on campus. Interested in a music group? Email the director. Curious about a particular major? Contact a faculty member in that department. Reaching out to individuals on campus may seem like an intimidating idea, but professors and administrators are often very open to meeting with prospective students. Just make sure if you schedule a meeting, you prepare questions ahead of time.

You should visit a college before you attend, but if you are not able to make it out for a second visit before May 1st, there are plenty of other ways to college information.

  • Call the admissions office and ask to speak with a current student.

  •  Ask your guidance counselor to put you in touch with students from your high school who are attending the school.

  • Join Facebook groups associated with the school (specifically if there is a group for your graduating class).

  • Call specific departments and ask questions. Just like the statements about meeting with individuals if you are going to campus, you can accomplish the same goals by picking up the phone.

  • Review outside sights- but don’t base your final decision on what is posted there. Use the opinions posted to formulate your questions then use the resources above to look into any issues you find further.

The bottom line is that you need to explore EVERY aspect of the final colleges on your list. This not the time to feel like you are being a nuisance or think that you will figure it out later. ASK ALL OF YOUR QUESTIONS.

Step 4: Make a pros and cons list.

After you have reviewed your priorities and found answers to your questions, make a pros and cons list. Sometimes seeing all of the information laid out will make the answer clear.

Step 5: Make a decision, and stick to it.

After completing the steps above, you need to make a final decision. If the answer is not immediately clear, consider these techniques:

  • Give yourself a deadline. Stewing about the decision is not going to make it easier. By giving yourself a time limit, you force yourself to move forward.

  • Flip a coin. This may sound like a trivial way to make a decision, but sometimes it will reveal how you honestly feel based on the decision being made for you.

  • Say it out loud. Telling someone you trust your final decision (before you announce it to the rest of world) is a good way to ease into it. Saying it out loud makes it real.

  • Sit on it for a few days. Choose one college and then proceed for a few days as if you are a student of that college. How does it feel?

Once you have made your final decision, don’t look back. Be excited for what lies ahead and turn your focus away from what could’ve been.

Often if you are in the position of choosing between 2 or 3 colleges, there is no wrong choice. If you truly have taken the time to examine what you need to be successful in college, you will more than likely be able to make that happen at any of the colleges that were a part of your final decision process.