Dream College

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Well the waiting continues for some senior high school students, including my son. Many of the top private colleges are sending their acceptance letters out over the next week or so. My son applied to his dream school of Stanford University which also happens to be the Alma Mater of my husband and I. Stanford will have a 5.5% acceptance rate this year. It gets more competitive every year but you never know if you will get in, if you don’t apply.

I am concerned by how many students I talk to who don’t have a dream college that they apply to. They are concerned about how much the college costs to attend or worse than that, they don’t think that they are good enough because they don’t have a 5.0 GPA and perfect SAT scores. In both cases, you really don’t know the answer to these questions until after you apply. Many students make wrong assumptions. Let’s take these topics one at a time.

Of course everyone should be concerned about the cost of college, it is a big deal. The problem is that you never know the true cost of what it is going to cost you to attend until you apply, get accepted, get financial aid offers from schools, and any outside scholarship offers. Most college websites now have a net price calculator that gives a more realistic idea of overall costs including tuition, room and board, and internal scholarships. However, remember it doesn’t take everything into account and your cost may be even lower. Once again, you never know the true cost until after you apply.

The topic I have a bigger concern with is student’s who think that they are not good enough. You need to understand that many of the major private universities are looking for overall diversity in culture, thought, interests, etc. Many students with high GPA and test scores will not get accepted. College websites  list average test scores of accepted students. Hence, many students that were accepted have scores that are below the average for that school. Colleges are looking at your overall academic preparedness. Can you come to their school and complete the coursework successfully? They understand that students are human and are sometimes going to fumble. Perhaps as a Freshman, you got a “C” in a class that you didn’t have interest in or that was a lower level class that you went on to excel in at upper levels. In fact, figuring out what you don’t like to do can be just as important as discovering interests that you do have and recovery from failures is a good thing. It can prove that you are resilient.

So I encourage students to dream and parents to encourage your students to dream. A dream college should not be chosen based on rankings or where parents went. It should be based on a student’s interests and what they think the ideal academic, social, and physical environment is.

Pathways 4 Teens offers services to help students determine the Right Fit College and for parents to help guide students in the process. Visit http://www.pathways4teens.com for more details! Also follow us on facebook and twitter for more great information and tips on how to empower students to be successful in high school, college, and beyond!

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Choosing the Right College Starts in Middle School/Junior High

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The New Year is the perfect time to set resolutions or goals for the upcoming year. In fact, it is a critical goal setting and transition time for teens choosing classes or a college for next school year. There is a study that shows overall only 30% of college students are satisfied with the college that they go to. As seniors begin to get acceptance letters and continue applying for colleges, it is important to take the time out to do research to determine whether the college you choose to attend is a good fit for you.

A good fit isn’t the college that has the highest ranking or the college that gives you the most scholarships. A good fit college provides the support systems that you need to be successful. Hence, the best way to determine if a college is a good fit, is to start with yourself.  Know your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, while at the same time being open to change and the exploration of new possibilities.

Only by trying new things do we know what we like. Likes and dislikes are a subjective thing that only students themselves can determine. In our era of specialization, with club sports where students play the same sport year-round and specialty high school programs that put students on a bio medical or engineering track of coursework, it is important to allow our students to explore and discover the whole of who they are. This process starts well before senior year in high school. Beginning with puberty, especially in middle school/junior high, it’s important for parents to give students the tools to discover their own uniqueness and start directing their own future

Common Mistake Middle Class Families Make is Not Applying For Financial Aid

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A few weeks ago my son who is a senior in high school came home and told me that he was asked by a counselor at his school whether he needed to apply for scholarships to attend college. Even though I have discussed with him the need to apply for scholarships, I was shocked by his sincere questioning of me as to whether he needed to do so. I have been very upfront with each of my children upon entering high school  that they are going to need to contribute to their college education. It is a conversation I urge each family to have with their high school student no matter what your financial circumstances. Many times there is a disconnect between what parents are willing or able to pay and what students think their parents will pay.

We don’t have that big college fund set aside capable of sending each our children to colleges with the price tags of  $50,000 per year per student once you take all expenses into account. In the past 15 years.we have started two businesses, had a downturn in the economy, been raising teenagers, sending our first child through college, and been saving for retirement. That has severely affected our capacity to set aside enough funds. Even if we did have the funds, I think it is important for students to take some personal responsibility for their college education and contribute.

I encourage all middle class families to apply for financial aid and not base the colleges that students apply to on the initial sticker price. There are scholarships available that are not based on financial need. Scholarships can be based on strong academics, community service, sports participation, area of study, etc. Why should you pay money for college that you don’t have to?  Furthermore, financial need is viewed differently by each college, especially private colleges. Things other than your income such as multiple students attending college,  parents attending college,  caring for an elderly parent, and having large medical expenses are things that colleges may consider when determining whether you  have financial need.

Pass this information along!

Note: To all high school seniors and current college students, The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) – fafsa.ed.gov –  for this upcoming fall is now available. Check with the colleges you are applying to or currently attend, it is usually a required step in applying for financial aid and you don’t want to miss any deadlines!

Pathways 4 Teens offers events on “How to Search Effectively for Scholarships” and “The True Cost of College and How to Pay for It”. Contact miriam@pathways4teen.com or go to our website http://www.pathways4teens.com for more information.

Changing Traditions

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Last  week it was my birthday and in the past I would never put up Christmas Decorations before my birthday. I am the type of person who likes to do one celebration as a time. However, this year I decided to be different and I started a few days before. Why? It’s simple. Our family is changing and  I want to really enjoy the moments of this Christmas.

Four years ago, my son went off to college. I don’t think I realized the impact on Family traditions fully until this year. There has been a slow transition to doing holiday traditions without him. The first year we managed to get it all in. He was here Thanksgiving. Followed a few weeks later by a trip home for Christmas, which was just in time to do the traditional Santa picture and to decorate the tree. During year two, the Santa picture didn’t happen and year three helping with the Christmas tree was abandoned. The last holdout was Thanksgiving, which for many is the first holiday to go. His actual presence was replaced with a laptop and dinner conversation via Skype.

My son replaced our family traditions with spending time with his friends. He now realizes that the time that you spend with friends is not limitless. When he comes home he juggles seeing us with seeing old friends, who all have the same challenge. I feel very fortunate that he has been able to stay in touch with the friends that mean so much to him especially due to technology like Facebook and Skype. However, there is this small longing for the past.

So this Christmas, I will truly cherish my son’s presence and soak it all in.  My son continues to mature and make his own place in the world. My other son will follow, and my daughter after that. So I will truly enjoy having all three of my children with me this year. I will take out the time from this hectic holiday to soak in who they are at this moment. It is amazing to me how they grow and change from year to year developing different interests. I encourage them to explore different things, stay true to themselves, and enjoy life.  For I know one day, Christmas itself will be a holiday that we won’t spend together and they will be creating new traditions of their own.

“No Palm Trees”

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Fall is the perfect time to visit colleges. As seniors make their final decisions on what colleges to apply to, I am reminded of the importance of location when selecting colleges.

When speaking with one high school student, she had made a determination to not go to a school that had palm trees. The parents were really frustrated because many top schools in the academic field she had chosen had palm trees. Hence, the parents thought that this was a random criteria to base a decision on.

However, let’s approach this in a different way. Everybody has an environment that gives them a sense of inner peace and that special feeling of calm. From a relaxing beach, to a serene forest, to a bustling city, only you can determine the perfect place for you. I believe the college you choose should give you that special feeling,

For the vast majority of students, college is the first time that they will be living on their own. Freshman year is a big transition, and being in an environment that makes you feel comfortable can help reduce stress.

There are thousands of colleges to chose from in almost any environment imaginable. More important that the ranking of the school is the ability for the student to adjust to being on their own, and to take advantage of every opportunity that the college has to offer.

So, if you are a senior, consider the location in your college search. If you think about it, this may be the one time in your life that you can take just your feelings into account. Later there may be grad school, job, and possibly the opinion of a partner to consider.

If you are in middle school through high school, students should travel and experience different environments. Only by exploring can you determine just the right environment for you.