Academic Leaders is providing a suite of workshops and institutes this summer. I am very pleased to announce that SAT and ACT preparation workshops will be taught by Mr. Jonas Holdeman and Mr. Phillip Stalls. Please contact our office for more information.
One of the significant realities that planning for future college and career placement hinges on how much thought, reflection and planning a student exhibits in looking at the series of summer breaks embedded in their four-year high school program. Unfortunately, many students do not look at the summer months with any strategic sensibility or planned perspective. It is a break from school studies and activities but high school students with any authentic ambitions and motivations must put some time and thought into how they can best use these months to expand their options and experience opportunities and insights that only come from moving out of the comfort of their “bubble” and diving into unknown “worlds”. There are many options within these options to enjoy experiential learning in new arenas of life and study: (1.) Study abroad programs that provide students with either foreign language and culture immersion or on-site studies done best abroad. (2.) Summer study programs at hundreds of colleges and universities seeking to attract highly motivated high school students to their campus for a “taste” of academic investigation within their programs. (3.) Internships and/or organized opportunities to conduct research or shadow particular career pathways. (4.) Service-learning experiences working with NGO’s or governmental agencies focused on building better lives for people and communities. This option can be combined with service-learning opportunities abroad in other countries. (5.) Development and implementation of a summer program of your own that provides a positive option for other youth within a community to enjoy and benefit from such as a summer soccer camp; chess camp; arts program; etc. (6.) Participate in a selective academic program such as a Governor’s School or by-application summer study program such as the options found at schools like MIT, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, etc.
Colleges are looking for students that act on their passions and interests and use their summer months to expand their horizons and broaden their interests. It doesn’t mean to use the entire summer for activities such as these. Everyone needs some recuperation and rest during the summer too. It is a matter of balance.
I can recommend sites like http://www.enrichmentalley.com as clearinghouses of all the options and choices that students have in planning their summers with a more strategic plan in mind. It is easy to google phrases such as “summer high school programs in ________” and get a long list of possible options to choose from for future investigation. As a grey-bearded individual on TV commercials says, “stay busy my friends”…..
With students applying to more and more colleges these days and with the overall growth in students applying to 4-year colleges and universities, the “numbers’ game” that is now very much in place strongly requires that students take into full account the role of “demonstrated interest” in admissions’ decisions. With spring break coming up in a month or so, students need to appreciate the decisions that admissions offices make when they vet thousands and thousands of applications. You may be a fantastic student with a strong GPA and some good to great test scores. The problem is….there are lots and lots of other students with a strong GPA and good to great test scores.
When an admissions committee has a stack of applications sitting in front of them, they find themselves looking for that oh so important…..extra factor! Often, that factor is the reality that you have visited their campus (maybe on multiple occasions), visited with their representative on a number of occasions in Memphis at college fairs and your school, and you have created a “presence” during all of these contacts with the school. “Presence” means you made a good impression on all of these occasions by maintaining good eye contact; asking good questions and setting a good example for yourself (dress/smile/etc.). Very often, the decision to admit or deny boils down to the existence of a “critical mass” of positive vibrations that you have created through what is called “demonstrated interest” in the college of your choice.
I strongly emphasize with students and their parents the necessity to not dismiss the significance of tests like PLAN and PSAT. Unfortunately, many students dismiss these tests as unimportant and having no real role in their journey to a good-fit college or university. The PLAN is an old ACT that is administered to 9th and 10th grade students as a “practice” ACT. The PSAT is an old SAT taken by 10th and 11th graders as “practice” for future SAT’s. By sitting for these tests, students get a “feel” for what a full-fledged ACT or SAT will be like when they are an upper classman with a bit more focus on the pending search and application to colleges and universities. This is true but, at the same time, doing their best on these tests through some preliminary practice and preparation will streamline the impact of these highly discriminating exams. Athletic coaches do not tell young athletes that their junior varsity years fill with innumerable practices and games are just “practice” and do not require commitment and focus to maximizing improvement in identified skills and physical prowess. The same is true with an Academic Coach. The more effort, practice, commitment and focus a student gives to preparing for these preliminary versions of the SAT and ACT, the better they will perform when the score really, really counts.
The Score Reports for the PLAN and PSAT are some of the most ignored and misused documents relevant to the student’s college advisement and test preparation process. These reports provide a blueprint for maximizing additional efforts and work to improve the next steps in building the strongest portfolio of scores and grades possible to achieve admission to desired colleges and universities. It is much more effective to proceed with an important journey if you have a “map” of how to get there. These score reports are a student’s map.
As students move from lower and middle schools to upper (high) school, an important reality needs to be remembered. The four domains of learning style tendencies need to be understood and assessed. There are a number of learning styles inventories out on the web. I like the inventory used by North Carolina State University’s College of Engineering. It is quick and easy to print off. All of the students I work with take this inventory to assist in the areas of adjustment and change that we focus on in high school.
95% of the students that I am working with as an Academic Coach are “visual learners” as compared to “verbal learners”. The diagnostic inventories that they took for me reaffirms this critical piece of information. I have attached a powerpoint presentation that I have developed to help students and parents understand the very necessary adjustments to study strategies and habits that must take place for students to maximize their performance in their courses. This is especially true for visual learners!
Unfortunately, 98% of American high school and college classrooms are conducted in methods that are very effective for verbal learners but NOT visual learners. Most classroom lessons are driven by “teacher-talk”. A minority of students are visual learners and they have great difficulty staying “tuned in” to the lesson and disengage frequently from the main material/topics/skills being talked about. As a result, it is quite necessary for these students to use their out-of-class time much more effectively than their peers who garner a much larger proportion of the material during class.
As I work with students who are predominantly visual learners, I find that it is quite difficult to get them to make very needed changes to their study habits and behaviors. They are bright young people who did not suffer too much in lower school and middle school as visual learners and their behaviors were reinforced by making good grades (B’s and A’s) without too much trouble (read “effort”). The material is covered in a much slower fashion and these divisions’ teachers are more inclined to have the students engage with the material in more active ways and in repeated activities. As these students reach a more rigorous college-preparatory curriculum, they experience courses that are much more dense and move at a much faster pace. Most importantly, teachers at the upper school level are more inclined to use lecture and teacher-directed learning. This is a proverbial “brick wall” for many students who are bright but are predominantly visual learners.
The lesson here is to be fully aware of “what you are working with” when it comes to how you best learn and the accommodations and adaptations that you will need to make to be the most effective and successful student that you want to be.