Tag Archives: college

College Expectations and Aspirations: From the Mouths of Gifted Students

By Min-Ling Li

Min-Ling is a Program Coordinator at IEA and works most closely with our high school Apprenticeship Program, through which she meets and interacts with many gifted high school students. Before coming to IEA, she was a high school mathematics teacher.

ElonGoing off to college is probably one of my best and most anxious memories. At that point in time, it seemed that all of my prior education was in preparation for this milestone. As a first-generation college student, the plethora of tasks to complete for college applications was overwhelming. I recall that my mom, who completed 6th grade in China before immediately beginning to work, advised me that I had completed all the hard work and all that was left was to communicate my story to people whose actions and opinions we had no control over. My dad, who graduated with a Master’s Degree from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, simply gave me a stern look, smile and nod of encouragement when the subject of college was spoken of. Needless to note, “vini, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered), and tada!

That was 10 years ago, and I was curious about how students in our IEA community view higher education now. I have the privilege of working with highly gifted and mature youngsters, and with their help I compiled some of their thoughts, expectations, anxieties, and aspirations about higher education. By sharing this data, I hope to provide information and comfort, tell their stories and compel higher education and the world to prepare for this creative, curious and free-natured group of young adults. I asked students ages 13 through 18 amongst our community of Caroline D. Bradley Scholars, Apprentices and Yunasa Emerging Leaders and Counselors in Training about their outlook on higher education. The data from the 40 respondents is featured below. Thank you to all those who contributed!

Expectations

When asked, “In what ways do you hope learning as a young adult will be different from high school?”, 80% of students used the words “free,” “freedom” and “autonomy”:

  • “I hope that there will be more freedom involved. I like to believe that I am a very independent and intellectually bold thinker, and I know that I apply myself better to long-term projects than busy work. So, I hope that there will be less busy work and more projects/papers to engage with.”
  • 82% of students responded similarly to this student, yearning for greater depth and relation to solving problems that affect the world: “I hope that as a young adult I will be able to learn more about the things that matter to me. In high school we often talk about topics that do not interest me, or we talk about topics too shallowly. I hope to be able to learn with greater understanding and purpose.”
  • Students also expressed a need to learn based on their pace: “I hope to have more freedom to choose what I learn and to be able to make my own choices regarding the course material and pace as opposed to having to follow strict guidelines.”

See more of the results from Min-Ling’s survey!

“Parent Etiquette” During the High School and College Application Process

By Bonnie Raskin

Bonnie is the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Program Coordinator at IEA. She has extensive experience working with gifted students and supporting them through the high school and college application process.

Applying to high schools and colleges

In an attempt to be supportive and helpful, many parents are too involved in their child’s application process, doing much of the work themselves.

As the program coordinator for the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship, I have been fortunate to get to know, work with and be guided by the experiences and expertise of independent school, college and university admissions deans and directors throughout the United States. This blog is a composite of what I have learned from dialoguing with them.

Last April, a few weeks after sending the acceptance and rejection letters to college applicants, a dean of admissions at one of America’s most selective universities told me the following story:

“Two days after we announced our incoming freshman class, I received a reply from an applicant’s father. It was curt and written on his corporate letterhead: ‘You rejected my son, he’s devastated. See you in court.’ The very next day, I received another letter, but this time from the man’s son. It read: ‘Thank you for not admitting me. This is the best day of my life.’”

All threats aside, receiving a letter like this never warms the hearts of anyone in admissions. It is the consensus of admissions professionals from preschool through college that more and more, today’s parents are getting too involved in their child’s school admissions process – and not merely at the college level. High school and middle school admissions staff have expressed horror stories about parental actions and involvement so completely out of hand that it seems impossible and implausible for otherwise rational people to behave in such off-putting ways. And this behavior never serves the applicant in obtaining the desired positive outcome.

The increasingly bad “parent etiquette” that admissions officers are seeing right now comes from a confluence of several characteristics of our boomer generation: our sense of entitlement, our suspicion of authority and our bad habit of sometimes living too vicariously through our children. It all adds up to some pretty ugly parental behavior often played out in front of our children. A college admissions dean told me, “Today, parents call the admissions office more than the student applicants, often faxing us daily updates on their children’s lives or asking us to return an application already in process so the parent can double-check his/her child’s spelling.” A high school admissions counselor noted a parent who asked whether they should use their official letterhead when writing a letter of recommendation for their own child. It’s not unusual to know parents who openly write their kids’ essays and even attempt to attend their interviews. They make excuses for less than stellar grades or tout athletic promise as “Olympic team potential.”

Read Bonnie’s tips for being supportive and helpful, not over-involved, during the application process.

A 16 Year Old’s Guide to Colleges

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.

Be sure to check out the first part of Lisa’s college road trip journey!

ElonWe were 5 minutes into the student-led tour and I knew the school wasn’t the right place for my son. Our guide led us down the hallway of a beautiful colonial building. The walls were lined with cork board and sheets of brightly colored paper framing announcements and pictures of professors and administrators. “No, no, no,” I thought. “He’s going to hate this.”

I was trying to think like a 16 year old boy, or at least, my 16 year old boy. I had promised myself that I would allow him to set his own criteria when evaluating colleges. I admired how he navigated class selection, extracurricular activities and the work/life balance in his high school. I would not substitute my values for his now that he was looking for a college. So I tried to see the college through my son’s eyes.

It turns out that I was right—he hated the school. While the environment looked warm and nurturing to me, he felt smothered by the level of support suggested by the cheerfully decorated hallway and confirmed by our tour guide. We made a hasty exit at the tour’s end, skipping the information session and catching an earlier train to New York City. On the way out, my son said that he was really glad we made the trip. “I didn’t know if I would recognize a bad fit if I saw one. Now I know. I can trust my instincts.”

Thus began my son’s search for a methodology to assess the colleges we were visiting. What follows are his indicators of college excellence:

1. Personal Freedom

My son is on a quest for autonomy. He wants support at college to be available and encouraged, but not conspicuous. He disapproves of schools with multiple student committees tasked to help freshmen with everything from writing to public speaking skills. If he wants help, he will ask his professor. Jesuit priests in your dorm? Minus 5 points. A campus policy that encourages students to ask professors to lunch and gives them the funds to do it? Plus 10 points.
See what other factors were important to Lisa’s son!

The College Road Trip

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.

ElonIt’s the only fun part of the college application process: the college trip. It’s the chance for your child to dream before the harsh realities of test scores, class rank and GPAs hit. Best of all, parents are active participants. We get to be accomplices to the dream worlds our children are imagining.

Three years ago, I eagerly anticipated bonding with my oldest son on our whirlwind tour of 6 colleges in the east and one in the Midwest. I memorialized the trip with pictures of him scraping the snow off the windshield of our rented car, waking up with bed head and sampling cannoli in Boston. He was not amused. The defining moment of our trip happened during dinner midway into the week.

“I haven’t seen anyone in so long,” he said.

I not only wasn’t bonding with him, I wasn’t even someone.

Read more of Lisa’s story!

Helpful or Over-Involved?

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.

My middle son is a junior in high school. It’s time for him to start thinking about college. To help the process along, his school invited a speaker from Colleges that Change Lives to speak to the parents and students. She reminded the parents that the search should be student-centered. To make her point she told stories about over-involved parents who push their children aside during college fairs in order to speak to the admissions officers and those who get their pronouns confused when talking about the application process, as in, “We are still in the process of writing our essays.”

I have never pushed my children, and I am very conscious of which pronoun I use. That said, I was very involved in my oldest son’s college search, and I plan to do the same for my middle son. My experience has given me sympathy for the parents she ridiculed. It’s a fine line between over-involved helicopter parent and helpful consultant. But whichever side of the line you fall, there will be consequences for your child and a corresponding label of their own.

Read more of Lisa’s story here!

Liberal Arts vs. Research Universities for Science Students

By Kate Duey

Kate Duey is a private college counselor serving gifted students. She has worked with students on traditional schooling paths, home schooled students, community college students, and students seeking accelerated or early college entrance. Kate is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School. She has a Certificate in College Counseling from UCLA.

ElonIs an aspiring Ph.D. in the sciences better served by an undergraduate education at a liberal arts college or a research university? The vast majority (83%) of Ph.D.’s in science are awarded to students who graduated from research universities. The top ten research universities graduating undergraduates who go on to earn the most Ph.D.’s in the sciences are:

  1. UC Berkeley
  2. University of Michigan
  3. Cornell University
  4. M.I.T.
  5. University of Wisconsin, Madison
  6. Penn State
  7. UCLA
  8. Harvard
  9. University of Minnesota
  10. University of Washington

Read more about research and liberal arts universities here!

Thick or Thin? Preparing To Hear From Your Schools

By Bonnie Raskin

Bonnie is the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Program Coordinator at IEA and has extensive experience working with gifted middle school students to find the high school that best fits their individual intellectual and personal needs.

MailboxI have the pleasure and privilege to work with some of the smartest, most creative young people in the United States. While my comments are primarily geared towards high school, much of what follows is applicable to any phase of the application process that many of you will deal with in the course of your academic lives.

Applications to most of the so-called selective independent high schools throughout the country have increased 10% over previous years, resulting for many of these schools in their lowest admit rate as well. It’s therefore probable that not all of the students who might want to attend a certain school, regardless of their outstanding qualifications and eligibility requirements, may receive that coveted letter or e-mail of admission.

Read more of Bonnie’s advice here!