Category Archives: College Acceptance

POSTSEASON LESSONS ABOUT PRE-COLLEGE

Never allow the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.— Babe Ruth

512px-Citi_Field_2011

This is an exciting time. First, many of us are glued to our televisions laptops, and smartphones to watch our favorite baseball team play with such skill and passion. And second, high school seniors are in the thick of preparing college applications. It’s not much of a stretch to see the shared elements of these two situations. For both baseball players and HS seniors alike, what’s involved right now is pulling together many prior experiences that have led up to this special moment, and then capitalizing on them through careful planning, practice, and execution. I can’t help but wonder what lessons can be gleaned from the field to help students get through this point in their educational lives with more confidence and self-management know-how that can be called upon in the future.

In my practice, when I discuss with students their developing and submitting applications, managing ongoing academic and extracurricular demands, and juggling their social lives and trying to be supportive friends (while often competing with those same friends for spots at the same universities), it’s clear that I am just scratching the surface of an enormous load. Parents also report that their regular routine of professional and personal obligations are upended by last-minute visits to schools, acting as sounding boards for their children, and trying to let their children take the lead while also being ready to be called into action at any moment.

With the admissions season in full swing, Ivy Prep has already lived through many Common App essay drafts and application checklists. But when it all started months ago, we front-loaded our stressed-out students with talks about how cross-training for writing applications, managing stress, and executive function strategies will yield a better outcome, and we assisted them in strengthening techniques for high school that they can later take to college. In my 30 years of coaching students and their families in developing writing and executive function techniques, I have found to be true what the popular press now reports with increasing frequency: high school is the best time to develop techniques for managing the stress of multitasking, fine-tuning executive function, and honing writing skills. It is the best time and way to anticipate the greater expectations of college.

Psychologists and counselors offer myriad cognitive-behavioral techniques for students and their parents, and research now shows that the more these techniques are broken down into manageable units and practiced, the better a student fares on campus. Some of the strongest findings in this regard come from the world of sports and performance. I knew I was onto something, watching these playoff games and thinking about my students at the same time!

For this reason, Ivy Prep partners with sports and performance experts to bridge our techniques with strategies for stress management and goal-setting. Dr. Jonathan Fader, clinical psychologist and team psychologist for the New York Mets, shared some of his techniques at a 2015 Abraham Joshua Heschel High School Sabermetrics Club Night and in response to a New York Times article last spring about how we can help students prepare for anxiety they may feel at college:

“What teenagers can do to improve their performance is to realize that they can get better at managing their anxiety through practice. Using the same performance psychology skills that elite athletes, performing artists and even soldiers employ—such as arousal control, imagery and other forms of relaxation—teens can better prepare and inoculate themselves against the stress that comes with testing, interviewing, and applying to top schools.”

Dr. Fader’s presentation to Heschel High’s Sabermetrics Club:     “Performance Psychology On & Off the Field,” Bergino Baseball Clubhouse, April 14, 2015                                                                                                              

 

Teaming Up: Sports Psych & Ivy Prep Executive Function Training:                                                                  

[I]t takes a ton of concentration, and self-belief, to stay in the moment in this way and not let the highs and lows mess with your psyche.Mariano Rivera, The Closer: My Story

Baseball HarvardIn partnering with sports experts and cognitive-behavior specialists Ivy Prep helps students and parents maximize the learning strategies being developed as part of the application process and the stress management techniques that sports psychologists use. For example, a student may procrastinate around rewriting multiple drafts for an essay prompt because organizing the content, managing the steps, and refining specific language is anxiety provoking. Applying Dr. Fader’s CBT lingo, this “exposure” to the stress of working with uncertainty for an extended period of time can result in a degree of innoculation to the anxiety that adds to the student’s burdens.

In this situation, Dr. Fader (or another expert) and I might consult about specific strategies I have designed for the student based on his learning style–e.g., dictating ideas into a text to speech app, or using a graphic organizer to see his ideas and color code them before putting them in sequence. Dr. Fader may then develop voice recordings that remind the student of these strategies (and why they work) and specific visualization or relaxation strategies he can employ when working in the Ivy Prep study space in advance of a writing session with me. This team approach gives the student a fully reinforcing experience, where the instruction for executive function work and stress management enhance one another, create an envelope to contain the range of tools he has, and provide an overall experience that is attuned to our understanding of the adolescent brain and to the particular goals of the student. In sessions with Dr. Fader and me, this student and we can then step back to assess the benefits and drawbacks of whatever strategies he is using, which in turn enables us to fine-tune our coaching and provide further supportive opportunities for increased self-reflection.

Project Management: Executive Functions and Self-Awareness                                                               

It gets late early out there.—Yogi Berra 

Baseball clock

Self-awareness (also referred to as metacognitive awareness) is a key area of growth for adolescents and young adults. The region of the brain that mediates the skills underlying self-awareness—the frontal lobe—is the one that develops last, from the teen years through the mid-twenties. A recent study involving close to 2,000 European college students found a strong correlation between the students’ awareness of their attention, planning, controlling their actions, and self-monitoring, and the number of credits they successfully completed by the end of their freshman year. These are the components of executive functions, and they can be directly taught and practiced so that students can then transfer them to new learning experiences (just as Fader’s stress management techniques can be practiced and transferred to new situations). Honing stress-management tools in tandem with learning techniques for handling actual coursework sets up students to be more self-aware of their thought processes during learning and to regulate their feelings in real and successful ways.

We owe it to our kids to make them aware of these tools and strategies. College can, and should be, a time for personal enjoyment and growth. For parents, it should be a time to watch their children successfully experience this new milestone. While there are bound to be moments of transitional stress as children adapt to campus life and the different patterns of studying that college demands, they can weather those blips with the stress management and executive function techniques they used while in high school. As graduation time becomes sharper in its focus, and we can soon begin to see the light at the end of the Common App tunnel, have your child take some time to practice these techniques. Entering this new life stage with confidence and awareness will help ease many of the anticipated (as well as unanticipated) bumps in the road.

Rebecca Mannis, Ph.D.

To learn more about Dr. Rebecca Mannis & the Ivy Prep Approach to school admissions and executive functions strategies, contact us at office@ivy-prep.com. Ivy Prep has proudly entered its 31st year providing customized educational remediation and instruction to students– in New York and across the globe.

Dr. Mannis thanks Karyn Slutsky, Assistant Director of Queens Paideia School,  for her insights in developing this blog series, Pre-College with a Broader Vision.  

Images: Wikimedia Commons and Rebecca Mannis, PhD

Planning the Transition from High School to College Life

High School to CollegeTIPS FOR STUDENTS WITH ACCOMMODATIONS AND THEIR PARENTS  

As we gear up for a new school year, it’s a good time for the college-bound and their families to turn their attention toward creating a smooth transition between high school and college life, in particular for students who contend with learning and attention disabilities that complicate this new stage.

If this is you, heading off to college can feel both exhilarating and loaded. Especially when considering your goals of adjusting to new rhythms of academic and social life on campus while also introducing yourself to student service administrators who will ensure that you receive accommodations and services to which you are entitled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights act that ensures a range of entitlements for documented needs. As this New York Times article highlights, you are not alone: some 11% of college students require these accommodations for issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), mobility issues, medically based disabilities, and dyslexia.

This is understandably a source of concern for you and your parents. The professors to whom you will hand your certification for accommodations will be familiar with this process from having taught other students who receive test, note-taking, or other accommodations. However, professors are content experts and usually not process-focused when it comes to students’ learning. Reports such as this show the ongoing need to sensitize educators at all levels to less common disabilities such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Nevertheless, even among this unusual though ever-growing area (approx. 1 million new TBI cases are diagnosed each year, teens age 15-19 among the two highest risk groups), I have found educators at all levels eager and committed to providing for the hundreds of students with TBI with whom I have consulted over the past 20 years.

The ADA, professors, and your university’s student service center are on your side. You can also build upon the advocacy skills you and your parents have developed in high school and while ensuring appropriate standardized test prep. You also have your parents, who know you well and can assist you in starting this process, and you have the encouragement of teachers and other advisors from your high school days.

EMERGING ADULTHOOD

True, you are moving from a structured, supportive home life to a seemingly limitless, and therefore harder to organize, dorm life.  You are ready for this, and you can ease the transition by putting into place systems that will help you enjoy the fun of meeting new friends in the dining hall, take a broader range of classes, and enjoy new experiences beyond the lecture hall, like pledging for a sorority, trying a new sport, or volunteering at a local agency.

It’s only natural for you to want to cast off your parents in great anticipation of a much more independent form of existence. However, don’t be too quick to cut those parental strings, as you will need their support, guidance, and reassurance. And they may just remember which crate contains the file with the testing report that needs to be provided to the Disability Office.

College LifeIt is normal to want the freedom to do it your way and to simultaneously feel a tug to check in with your parents at this time. Developmental psychologists have conducted studies over the past twenty years that suggest that the late teens and twenties are their own unique life stage in which this push-pull happens. It is sometimes referred to as “Emerging Adulthood.” In fact, according to the Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults, directed by psychology professor Jeffrey Arnett, “Most young people still want their parents’ guidance and support as they navigate their way toward adulthood.”

PRE-COLLEGE CHECKLIST

With that in mind, below is a checklist of practical matters you and your parents can attend to before you head off to college:

  • Verify that neuropsychological testing and other documentation are up to date and ready to be filed with the Disability Office. Call or e-mail the office before arriving to set up an appointment to meet with one of the officers to review your case.
  • Discuss with your parents whether you are comfortable providing written consent to the Disability Office for communication with them. Some good reasons to do this are (1) stressful times, like before exams, and (2) if the schools needs to contact your parents to confirm that additional materials from local specialists have been received at the office. The office’s contact with your parents may also prove helpful if you have mobility concerns or medical issues that necessitate some breaks, or if you at some point need accommodations due to medical reasons.
  • Develop and practice a script that communicates what your learning style is and why you require accommodations. In my work at Ivy Prep Learning Center, I coach my students in this process of understanding themselves as learners and how to communicate not only the what of entitlements (which are required) but also the why, i.e., the context of why certain accommodations are necessary.  This helps professors understand, and may perhaps even lead them to fine tune their methods of instruction or assessment. It also gives them insight into you as a person and why a specific accommodation is important, be it access to PowerPoint presentations in advance of lectures or the opportunity to clarify essay questions when taking tests at an off-site location.
  • Use your last sessions with your  hometown learning specialist to develop a list of strategies and materials you have used in the past that may serve you well when going forward. At Ivy Prep, we prepare lists for our students that include the essentials of their learning styles along with a reminder of ‘tried and true’ strategies, PDFs and links to charts, and other resources that have been useful in upper school and the college application process: the chart you  used for note-taking in you AP Psychology class may also do the trick in outlining responses for your freshman writing seminar.
  • Locate a local learning specialist (if none on campus) for transitional support if it is not provided at your school.
  • Practice executive functions for list-making, time management, transitioning between places, and estimating time required for tasks as you pack up your bags for the big move.
  • Set up and practice using your new computer and other technology throughout the summer.  Update your apps and software, and be sure to set up a schedule for offsite backup .
  • Review syllabi or key readings from prior versions of courses you might take or preview the supplementary websites for your survey courses. Identify which ones feel more user-friendly to you and how long it might take for you to read a chapter outline.
  • Arrange for a bank account and other services over the summer, and practice using them with parental guidance. Start by making a list of the life skills you will need: using a credit card, shopping for and preparing food, doing your laundry, negotiating public transportation, defensive driving, etc.
  • Meet with your psychopharmacologist to check on dosage and get a supply in advance of leaving. Discuss alcohol use and driving limitations. Also, whether you can monitor your needs with the university health service or if you will need a local specialist.
  • Incorporate midterm and finals dates onto your calendar and in planning family visits or vacations over Thanksgiving and other holidays.
  • For the first semester, consider taking more familiar coursework or a lighter course load, and discuss policies for summer courses at local universities or five-year university options.

These are some suggestions to give you a head start in taking what is perhaps your first big step away from home. But we also want to hear from you (and your parents, too)!

College-bound students: What advice do you need? What are your greatest concerns?

Parents: What advice do you give your children as they head off to college? Please share suggestions of what has proven most valuable.

Graduates: What was the best advice you received before or during your college years? What advice do you wish you had received but didn’t?

Images: Wikimedia Commons.

COMMON APP: UNIQUE STRATEGIES FOR YOU

Common AppThis Friday, August 1, 2014, the Common Application  for university applicants became available online. Rising high school seniors can get an early start to the general college application that is accepted by over 500 public and private colleges and universities in the U.S., including all eight Ivies, and in Europe. The application provides a relatively universal way for schools to compare and contrast applicants.

The Common App, as it is colloquially called, streamlines the college application process by providing basic information and a general set of questions for students to answer and submit to any of the colleges that participate in the Common App.

Although many universities do require supplementary questions for their applicants, the Common App service simplifies many elements of the application process.

The personal statement of the application is what typically gets the most attention because it holds the greatest potential for a student to stand out among the tens of thousands of applications colleges receive each year.

The remainder of the summer provides a good chunk of time for rising seniors to get a head start on their college applications. And it offers a natural opportunity for honing analytic writing skills and executive function strategies.

Simply determining what work can be done now on the Common App will help your organizational and time management skills. These skills are critical to your success in college when you will have open-ended tasks such as endless amounts of reading, work, preparation, juggling of schedules, and independent work without a teacher’s input or parental guidance.

As we wrote in a previous post, we know the brain is still developing in high school and beyond, including its executive function skills, which help us break down tasks in order to complete them. Since there are many moving parts to the Common App, you can view your work on it as a great way to continue to improve your executive function skills, and the brain. Moreover, you’re giving yourself time to work at a more relaxed pace so you can figure out how best to use your time and how to prioritize the demands of senior year (and life) in a way that works for you.

If you break the college application process into doable sections, and give yourself the time required to complete it, then the process is much less intimidating and stressful. Since technological tools are now so easily accessible for a student’s use, the process becomes less burdensome and, dare I say, can even be fun (or, at least, less painful).

One of the most helpful ways to hone this skill is to set an alarm on your iCal for 20 minutes in advance of when you plan to do a Common App task. Estimate how long you will need for that task, leave yourself 1.5 times that amount of time in case you need more, and then time yourself to see how long it actually takes. Then you can see whether you need to leave more time or if you can plow through your task list faster than you anticipated. Having this well-calibrated internal stopwatch will be a helpful asset as you head toward college. After all, the rule of thumb is that to ace a college course you need to put in three hours of studying and prep out of the lecture hall per course credit.

There are tools and software programs we use at Ivy Prep to help our students develop their brain power, especially their fast-growing frontal lobes, as part of the college application process. These include outlining programs and mind mapping software that enable applicants to determine steps of the application process and organize information for their essays by using shapes or color codes. The graphic organizers can be exported to a word document to further develop essays.

Ivy Prep students applying to college master using online to-do lists and project management software to organize text, audio, and photo notes in a way that is systematic and streamlined. The trick is to learn how to make the tools work for you. Then, you can bring your college application to life.

Mastering the online and software organizational tools now not only helps you manage the Common App process more easily; it also gives you a sense of how to use these tools in the future, especially as you move toward a more demanding, but less structured university life.

Whether the tools you use are paper and pencil materials or the latest online apps, the more you use the tool of choice, the better use you can make of it. After all, the Stradivarius violin and the Stratocaster electric guitar are among the greatest musical instruments ever made, but they are best put to use when the musician knows how to play the music. The same goes for the tools that can help organize your work and thoughts: No matter what instrument or tool you are using, it takes skill and customization to make the most of what you’ve got. All the various programs, apps, and tools we use to help our students organize their time, projects, files, calendars, etc., are only as good as the students make them to be.

Since there are so many kinds of software programs that help with organizing time, projects, files, calendars, and contacts, choose one that works for you. It doesn’t matter what program or app you use. It only matters that you find one that helps you calmly and carefully complete the Common App.

Whichever tool you use – the one that works best for you — there’s no doubt that an early jump to an impending pile of applications gives you the chance to determine work patterns, skills, and behaviors that best suit you while your parents are around to be used as a sounding board and available for support.

Working on the Common App over the summer can also help alleviate what is sure to be a busy fall semester when high school seniors feel the pinch of school coursework, standardized test prep, sports, extra curricular activities, college visits, and the other commitments that quickly expand an already jam-packed schedule.

Furthermore, it will make the application process less stressful for your parents. Taking some extra time to work on the Common App enables your parents to give you the space you need to figure out how to manage your time, and the tasks at hand. It also gives your parents a chance to appreciate your strengths, instincts, desires, and plans for the near (and far) future.

So, use some of August to work on the Common App. It not only will help you be successful and manage the stress of the college applications process. It will also help you hone skills that will make you successful in college and in life.

Rebecca Mannis, Ph.D.