School Stops Publishing Where Graduating Students Are (And Are Not) Headed

My hat’s off to Palo Alto High School (aka Paly) for stopping the demeaning “End-of-the-School-Year Map” in their high school paper The Campanile this year. This map pointed out which colleges each senior planned to attend the following year accompanied by a list of students’ names with their respective colleges. Ouch! As if it wasn’t bad enough that all of the seniors knew which colleges you didn’t get into; but to have an official list in the school paper was tortuous to many students.

With Stanford University just up the street, many Paly students are children of professors or Silicon Valley executives. Palo Alto students receive top-notch education in their public schools – better than many private schools in the area. There’s a lot of pressure on these students to take excessive amounts of AP classes and engage in extracurricular activities. When SAT or ACT scores are released, everyone knows who got perfect scores. I remember meeting with one of my clients just 20 minutes after the SAT scores were released. She walked into my office sobbing – so I assumed she bombed the SAT – but was taken aback when she told me she got a 2380 (out of 2400). Apparently everyone shared their scores within minutes and she learned that 7 other students at her school received a perfect 2400. Imagine being upset with a 2380?

I find it disturbing that there is an air of arrogance by both parents and students towards students who choose to go to community college and transfer to a 4-year university. Parents often force students to choose more prestigious schools even though they’re not a perfect fit.  One parent told me that her daughter wanted to go to UC Santa Barbara but she insisted that she attend UC Berkeley because it’s more prestigious. Wow.  Another student selected UC Santa Barbara only to find out later that it didn’t offer business marketing – and she later dropped out. Choose colleges because they offer great programs in your areas of interest, not based on image.

Just this year, one of my clients got into Columbia University but didn’t receive much by way of scholarships.  His mother had just lost her job and there was no way his parents could pay the $275,000 tuition for an undergraduate degree.  After many tears and stressful conversations, they decided that the student would go to UC Berkeley instead. Sadly, other parents showed disdain for the parents because they believed that families should do whatever is necessary so their children can get into the best colleges.

Choosing your college path is personal. Many students need to factor in the cost of their entire academic plan so they can stretch their funds to include grad school. They might do 2 years at a community college, 2 years at a state college, and complete their education with a master’s degree at a private university. Others consider programs offered and choose colleges because of the training and exposure they’ll receive. Isn’t this why students go to college?

As a college advisor, I tell my clients NOT to share their SAT/ACT scores, GPA, or college lists with anyone. Why? It’s nobody’s business, and it’s awkward and painful to hear how well everyone else did and to have to answer relentless questions about scores and admissions decisions from nosy people. I hope other high schools follow in Paly’s footsteps by dropping the End-of-the-School-Year Map and lists of who is going to which college. That way, students (and parents) won’t have to deal with judgmental comments and gossip.


What if Privilege Wasn't a Factor in College Admissions?

Imagine if the best students got into the best colleges -- and that these entering freshman classes represented the real American population? That’d be in an ideal world. But we know the truth… that highly selective colleges admit white and wealthy students, and these privileged students have access to private college advisors, SAT/ACT prep classes, private schools, and professional opportunities that poor students don’t.

But there may be hope!

New America is proposing an overhaul of the college admissions process by removing the huge wealth gaps so students will NOT be admitted simply because they’re privileged. With this new plan, colleges and universities that give admission preferences to alumni children or offer Early Decision applications will lose federal aid programs (MONEY for students) and federal research grants (MONEY for research). Colleges need these programs and grants, and they tend to pay attention when they’ll lose funding.

New America recommends that all applicants have minimum GPA and SAT/ACT scores to ensure that all applicants will be successful if accepted. Then the applicants would all be placed in a lottery where there would be no preferential treatment for legacies, ethnicities and even athletes. After all, college admissions should be based on meritocracy where everyone has a fair chance of getting into top colleges.


College Degree Vs. Microcredentials

What is the most efficient way to hire?

For now, a college degree is still the ticket to a good-paying job. It is the easiest way to get a sense for the applicant’s general academic foundation. But employers recognize that a bachelor’s degree does not guarantee breadth or depth of knowledge in the field, experience and skills, or passion and drive.

In the next 10 years, microcredentials (degrees that specialize in a specific area) may become more valuable than a general 4-year degree. Employers want enthusiastic people with expertise in specific areas to meet their unique needs.

With the high cost of onboarding new employees who may look good on paper but tank in the job, many companies are giving pre-hire assessment tests to job candidates. This can determine the gap between a prospective employee’s competencies and the employer’s needs. While there may be some legal challenges in setting up pre-hiring assessments that don’t cause discrimination issues, these pre-hire assessments look like they will become part of the new hiring protocol.


6 Things Your Grad Should do Before Leaving for College

Now that the graduation ceremonies and parties are done (hooraaaay), and your young adult is biding time before heading off to college in the fall, review this list of 6 tasks that will help them close this chapter in their lives and be prepared to start their next one.

One: Clean Your Room!
Okay, this is a great way to get them to get rid of all of their "junk" that they've hung on to for years. Set up 2 large bins: one for trash and the other for Salvation Army or Goodwill. Then, give them a designated area where they can keep their belongings that they'll need when they come home for holidays and breaks. Any remaining items can be stored if they're family heirlooms or mementos, or sold on Craigslist or at a yard sale for cash.

Two: Write Your Autobiography
Before heading off to college, have your teen write an autobiography to give them closure on the first 18 years of their lives. If writing or organizing something like this is not your kids' cup of tea, they can always create a scrap book or photo album and fill it with their favorite memories. Giving them a sense of who they are will instill a strong sense of self-esteem, which will in turn give them a solid foundation on which to build their future.

Three: Create Your 4-Year College Plan
Have them organize their entire 4-year plan for college. By doing the research and thinking about what they hope to learn before the graduate, they'll understand what courses they need to take for their majors (and minors) and general education requirements. They can even add in internships, jobs, and research so they don't have regrets later. Not only will they take advantage of the many programs available to them on campus, they'll graduate in 4 years, which will save you between $12,000-$60,000 (depending on their tuition).  I probably don't have to tell you that anything you can do to save yourself tens of thousands of dollars is time well-spent.

Four: Purchase College Items Early
Every college gives students a list of things they should bring with them during orientation and before classes begin. If your kid is like most college-bound students, they'll probably wait until the last minute to buy these things, which means you'll be paying top dollar at the nearest stores when you arrive with their stuff piled high in your minivan. Instead, ask them to make a list of items they want and ask them to find sales. They can even go on Craiglist, Amazon, flea markets, garage sales, and local bargain stores to get great deals. Most colleges provide a twin bed (extra long), desk, chair and closet. PRO TIP: Buy the extra-long sheets online to get lower prices. They might want a mini-fridge or microwave for their dorm, and you can get those used. My daughter got one for free when students were vacating their dorms and didn't have a place to store them.  Score!

Five: Indulge in Reading
This will be the first time in over a decade that your kid won't have a list of "summer reading" and stress to study for SATs or ACTs. They actually have no responsibilities and no stress. So, give them a list of classics to read for the summer (reading isn't really a responsibility).

Six: Get a Job
With no homework, stress, or lists of things to do -- well, except these (awesome) lists -- they can go out and earn a buck! With no degrees or seniority, taking that low-paying summer job will be just what they need to realize how important it is to get their college degree! So let them slave away at an ice cream counter or bus tables at a restaurant. Earning those extra nickels will also give them spending money once they get to college because you'll be tapped out just paying their tuition, room and board and MONEY DOESN'T GROW ON TREES, KID!

Parents Will Try to Cheat the New SAT Adversity Score System

While the College Board has tried to level the field for college applicants by creating a new Adversity Score on the SATs, leave it up to parents to try to game the system. This Adversity Score gives points to students who don’t have the same privileges as wealthy students by evaluating where they live, family income, neighborhood crime, and other factors.  The College Board will neither release the algorithm nor the actual Adversity Scores. Naturally, there’s been a huge outcry from wealthy parents who want to know the algorithm used to determine these adversity points.

So how will parents try to game the system? They’ll use home addresses of friends who live in poor neighborhoods and report lower family incomes.  After the infamous college admissions scandal was exposed a few months ago, we now know that wealthy parents will pay their way to get their children into top colleges.  As for the Adversity Score, some parents will undoubtedly try to manipulate their way to giving their children a leg up on their peers.


Tips for Boomerang Students Home for the Summer

So you thought that having teens in the house during high school was challenging? Wait until they come home for the summer after living independently in a college dorm all year. Think: “Animal House.” They’ve spent the year doing what they wanted, when they wanted, and with whomever they wanted without parental supervision. Add a little “entitlement” and moving back home for the summer may be a recipe for disaster.

When your college student comes home for the summer, you’ll need to rethink your relationship and try not to expect them to live by your old rules when they were teens.  Remember, they’re adults now – even though they might not act like it.

Check out these 5 tips:

#1: The Plan:
Upon their arrival back home, discuss rules, chores, boundaries and expectations. It’s best to do this during their welcome-home dinner while their stuff is still in suitcases and the honeymoon hasn’t ended yet. In other words, negotiate the plan before they unpack and create their new environment for the summer.

#2: The Rules:
If you have younger children in the home, remind your college student that they’ll need to observe and respect the family rules so that the other children won’t be conflicted should there be double standards. Depending on how old your college student is, you can also grant them privileges because of their age and maturity. For instance, you can tell the younger children that their older brother doesn’t have a curfew or that his curfew is 2:00 am unless he calls to let the family know if his plans change.  Layout all of the rules before they need to be enforced.

#3: The Chores:
Just because they didn’t wash their sheets or make their beds for entire semester, doesn’t mean that they can continue that lifestyle in your home. Remind them that doing chores is a tradeoff for room and board.  When they do the math, they’ll quickly see that they’re getting a bargain! Rather than constantly asking them to do chores as they’re needed, discuss daily and weekly chores for the summer ahead of time so they can make plans accordingly.

#4: The Boundaries:
Give your college students privacy both in their old rooms (or guest rooms!) and in their personal space. Their sleep schedules might shock you (choose your battles!), and they may not want to discuss their grades, majors, jobs, or future careers (let them bring up these topics when they’re ready). Be available and be a good listener, and they’ll come around and share their thoughts with you.

#5: The Expectations:
If you have several children of driving age, there may be conflict over who gets the keys when your college student comes home for the summer. If you don’t have enough cars for all of the drivers, layout a schedule around work, internships, and outings. Post it on the fridge so everyone knows when they have the car.  Encourage them to negotiate trades and carpooling. Some families pride themselves on having Sunday dinners or special family time. If this is important to you, announce this and build excitement around your special time so everyone shows up and participates.

To manage your college student’s 3-month boomerang stay for the summer, discuss the 5 tips above as soon as they arrive home. That way, you’ll set up your expectations and everyone wants to know what’s expected of them. If tensions mount – as they inevitably will at some time – just be glad that it’s a temporary situation because they’ll be leaving at the end of the summer!


Summer Bucket List

Can't believe it's already the middle of June! I love the long days when it's still sunny out after work and I have time to ride my bike along the beach before sunset. 

With just a few weeks left before kids head back to school and autumn arrives, jot down some ideas for your Summer Bucket List! 

Whether it's for yourself or for the whole family, write them down, put them on your calendar, and start making arrangements NOW.

Here are some ideas:

For YOU:

1. Road Trip -- get away from stress and every-day hassles by heading out of town and relaxing at a resort or nice hotel with amenities to revitalize you!

2.  Day Spa -- get pampered from head to toe -- full-body massage and facial!

3.  Make Over -- learn how to take care of your skin and create a new look with makeup!

4.  New Wardrobe -- buy a new outfit, and if you can afford it, a new wardrobe!


For the FAMILY:

1.  Movie Marathon -- select 3 or 4 new movies and spend the day/night going to see all of them!

2.  TV Marathon -- watch an entire season in one weekend. Turn off the phones, make the popcorn, and indulge yourselves!

3.  Beach/Lake Day -- grab bathing suits and sunscreen, then head to the water!

4.  Amusement Park -- head out to your favorite amusement park to load up on the adrenaline rush, junk food, and people watching!

5.  Party Time -- invite all of the friends and family you were hoping to see during the summer (but just never got around to it)!

Put this on your calendar and make the calls or send the invites! You'll be glad you did once fall arrives and the days get shorter. 

Summer Reading Lists - Part 2: Middle and High School

As promised in my earlier post, below is a list of recommended summer reading for older kids.

Don't let summer slip by with just games and sports - get them reading!

Horrible Histories  (Deary) 
Quest for a Maid (Hendry) 
Count of Monte Cristo  (Dumas)  
Treasure Island (Stevenson)  
Hard Times (Dickens)  
Rifles for Waite (Keith)  
Catherine, Called Birdy (Cushman)  
Watership Down (Adams)  
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (O'Brien)

Pride and Prejudice (Austen)
Gone with the Wind (Mitchell)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Adams)
Small Gods (Pratchett)
Wuthering Heights (Bronte)
Time and Again  (Finney)
Angela's Ashes (McCourt)
Jane Eyre (Bronte)
Twelve Angry Men (Munyon)
Joy Luck Club (Tan)
Catch-22 (Heller)
Slaughterhouse-Five (Vonnegut) 

Are YOU Prepared for Fire or Earthquake?

Worried about fire danger? You’re not alone. If you think your fire department and the government will protect you should there be a major fire or earthquake – do the math -- they don’t have the manpower to save everyone. Think Paradise and Woolsey fires where 86 people died and over 18,000 structures were destroyed. I live in a tinderbox on 2+ acres, and I’m working with local Fire Chiefs, First District Supervisor, and Resource Conservation District to set up fire prevention and protection in my neighborhood.

You can do a few things right now to make sure that you, your family, the elderly and pets will be able to evacuate in time when the next fire or earthquake hits. In a crisis, firefighters and paramedics can reach all of us if we give them vital information. Will they know that you have an indoor cat or dogs locked up in your yard? What about the elderly or sick who might not hear sirens or loudspeakers? And to prevent wildfires from spreading exponentially, do you know where your propane tanks, gas tanks, and electricity boxes are located on your property and your neighbors’?  

Here are things you can do NOW:
     ☐  Gather neighborhood contact information (share this blog with all of your neighbors) Include names, address, children/elderly/disabled, phone, email, and pets.

Here are things you can do for you and your family:
     ☐ Create Family Disaster Plan [link to]

     ☐ Learn how to use your fire extinguishers

     ☐ Practice turning off your gas, electric, and water controls

     ☐ Make your Go Bags with emergency supplies, first aid kits, medications, etc. []

     ☐ Take first aid and CPR classes []

     ☐ Get your pets microchipped []

     ☐ Create an evacuation to-do lists: (1) Go Bags, pets, list of valuables you can’t live without; (2) Turn off utilities, lock up house, post sign (indicating you’ve evacuated). []

     ☐ Make your home fire safe []

     ☐ Create defensible space to protect your home []

     ☐ Sign up for CODE RED to get emergency alert messages on your landline or cell phones (reverse 9-1-1) [] or [] for Santa Cruz

 Here are things you can do for your neighbors:

     ☐ Create a map of their gas, electricity, and water controls (so you can turn them off if they are gone during evacuations)

     ☐ Find out who is elderly, sick, or disabled so EMS can help them evacuate

     ☐ Be prepared to place “Help” or “OK” signs so first responders don’t waste time searching for victims who have already evacuated.

     ☐ Set up Neighborhood Care Center where children, elderly/disabled, and pets can be safe until help arrives.

     ☐ Find out if there are healthcare professionals in your neighborhood who can help triage and treat victims if EMS is not available

     ☐ Organize emergency equipment and supplies for neighbors that include first aid, tents/bedding, chain saws, generators, fire extinguishers, NOAA weather radio, walkie talkie, etc)

     ☐ Get CERT trained (Community Emergency Response Team) [ or for Santa Cruz.

Remember Yogi Bear? He was smarter than the average bear? Now Yogi Bear is saying, “I’m losing control, Boo-Boo.  I don’t know who’s steering the ship!” So set aside 2-3 hours every weekend (you CAN DO THS!) to put together your Go Bag, make your lists, and to check off each of the boxes above. You’ll be glad you did!