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!

Consider Taking a Gap Year, and Bring Your Zeitgeist to College

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.

Gifted Students Enjoying Balance!What happens if a student graduates from high school exhausted? AP classes, standardized testing, extracurricular activities, sports, music, community service, research projects…and all of those college essays! What if they worked so hard they can’t remember what they like? Are they ready for four or five or six more years?

Among gifted high school students, it is especially important to remember that giftedness is innate to a person, and we should embrace the whole student by supporting their intellectual, social, spiritual, emotional and physical growth. When a gifted student’s high school years disproportionately emphasize intellectual development, the whole person is neglected. Refreshing all parts of a gifted student’s self helps to focus his or her intensities in ways that work with and for the student.

Read more about taking a gap year!

The Many Faces of Gifted: Thomas

By Carole Rosner

Every gifted person has a unique story. The following story is part of a series of posts depicting the many faces of gifted by highlighting gifted children and adults we have found through IEA programs. IEA’s Apprenticeship Program – mentioned in this story – links gifted high school students from across the country with mentors who advance each participant’s skills through the application of knowledge and exposure to real world experiences.

Thomas Zenteno
2008 Industrial Design Apprentice at Art Center College of Design
Current Student at Art Center College of Design

Thomas Zenteno grew up in Miami, Florida, and came to Pasadena, California, in the summer of 2008 to participate in the IEA Apprenticeship Program at Art Center College of Design. I talked to him about his experience.

“I started the IEA program when I was 17, in the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I was lucky enough to attend a visual arts magnet high school called Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH), where I was able to study Industrial Design as a focus. My teacher, Ms. Kwiatkowksi, selected myself and three other students from her program to participate in the IEA program that helped shape all of us as friends and designers.”

Even in Florida, Thomas was familiar with the reputation of the Pasadena-based college. “I had met students who had gone to the IEA program in previous years, and all of them came back with exceptional work and much more knowledge both in design and in life experiences. I also knew of the prestigious name Art Center had in the design world and a lot of my favorite product, transportation and entertainment designers graduated from Art Center. I remember Art Center sending a promotional book about the different majors of the school to DASH, and I would spend hours reading through the descriptions of students and looking at the quality of work in those pages, which was key in inspiring me to go to Art Center above any other design or art school.”

When I asked Thomas what he did as an Apprentice, he said, “Stan Kong, my Mentor for the program, had a small class of nine students, and together we were able to work on both personal and class projects. We learned a lot about design thinking and how we could use product design to help improve lives around the world. The class was treated as a studio atmosphere where we would learn from Stan or our T.A.’s K.C. Cho and Wayne Johnson. Afterwards, we would be given an assignment to practice in class as well as homework to bring in the following day. We would pin the work up on the walls and critique projects one by one. Our projects ranged from alarm clocks to devices that safely relocated bats form one area of a city to another. For final presentations, we were required to make a physical model of our design. We learned a lot about time management, discipline and work ethics that I’ve carried with me at Art Center as a student and into my professional practice working as a freelance concept artist.”

Although Thomas studied industrial design in high school, the Apprenticeship Program provided a positive challenge for him. “I believe one of the biggest challenges was to produce the amount of work we were required as well as back up our designs with good research and thinking. Although it was stressful, and many nights I would stay up late working, it was well worth the amount of learning I gained in just three short weeks. The mileage and knowledge I gained gave me a great foundation to start my portfolio to get into Art Center and truly opened up a lot of doors for me.”

Thomas said there was a big change in himself going from that summer experience back to high school. “It was my first time really being away from home, and you could definitely see a change in my drive and direction to focus even more during my senior year at DASH. Many of my friends and classmates got “senioritis,” where they slacked off for their last year of high school, while the four of us who went to the IEA program continued to push ourselves to be the best in our class. As a result, we received some of the highest scholarships in our class. Two of us went to Art Center College of Design, while the remaining two went to College for Creative Studies (CCS). I credit a lot of my work ethic to the IEA program.”

Thomas is currently majoring in Entertainment Design at Art Center. “I chose Entertainment Design because it blends a few of my favorite sensibilities in design and art. At DASH, my foundation was in product and transportation design, but I had a great love for figure drawing and painting as well. Entertainment Design allows me to blend all of those sensibilities– characters, environments, vehicles and props for films, video games, animation and theme parks. I try to be as well-rounded as I can, so Entertainment Design seemed to be very fitting since it has a very broad range of applications. Looking back, though, at the root of it all is the fact that Entertainment Design is all about storytelling, and I think that’s what attracted me to it.”

What are Thomas’ future plans? “I’m still really young, so there a lot of different ways my life could go. I’ve been freelancing as a Concept Designer since 2010, and I really enjoy working on multiple projects from film to animation. I’ve had a handful of notable clients from Bad Robot to an aerospace corporation, and interning at Warner Bros. was an enlightening experience. I would love to work on films and games for much of my life, but in the end, I would really like to give back by teaching and helping the world out in some small way.”

Thomas is still in touch with some of the other kids who were part of his program. “A few of my fellow Apprentices are peers of mine at Art Center as well as others who have gone to other schools. I meet up with them in my hometown of Miami, Florida, occasionally. A lot of the Apprentices are currently in colleges spread out around the country, but quite a few are in Pasadena at Caltech or Art Center. The ones I’ve kept closest contact with are definitely lifelong friends, and we’ll find ourselves at dinner parties or just having a good time out hiking.”

Thomas really benefitted from his time as an Apprentice. “It’s easily a pivotal moment in my life, and I think it really can open up a high school student’s perspective. It’s extremely fun to engage in all the different activities that IEA provides, as well as the more work-focused part of it. I think you always get what you put into it, and in the case of IEA, it’s given me a sort of second family that was crucial to me moving out here from Florida when I was 18. IEA truly inspired me to be a better person, and I met a lot of friends I never would have had otherwise; all in all I’m pretty happy because of it.”

Getting Your Parental Report Card

By Lisa Hartwig

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

I just received my first grade as a parent. I got an “A.” How do I know I got an “A”? U.S. News & World Report said so.

My oldest son earned me this grade by getting into the University of Chicago. I know that sounds awful. But the message I received from other parents over the last 18 years suggests that I am responsible for my children’s achievements. The ultimate achievement in our community is enrollment in an elite university.

No one told me directly that I was being graded, but I saw how my neighbors reacted when we made educational choices for our children that were different from theirs. They took it very personally. They behaved as though my husband and I were implying that what was good enough for their child was not good enough for ours. I remember one difficult dinner when our guests insisted that our move to a local independent school was not only unnecessary, it was opportunistic. Private schools were only good for helping students develop business contacts for the future. If a child had the strength of character and family support, he could achieve success in a public school setting. His proof? He went to a public school and ended up teaching at Stanford and working at a large biotechnology company.

We all went our separate ways, with no common rubric to judge our progress—until now. It’ time for our children to go to college.

It seems wrong to take credit for my son’s accomplishments, and I’m not even sure U.S. News & World Report can measure them. So I asked my husband what role he thinks we play in our children’s accomplishments. He said that he would not give himself credit for our children’s success but would take credit for not messing them up. I thought we deserved a little more credit than that. I decided to evaluate my parenting skills by my ability to help them find the sun.

My children are sunflowers. If I let them act instinctively, they will turn towards the sun by finding the people and places that feed their love of learning. If something gets in the way of the sun, they wilt. I know this is a silly metaphor, but it helps me visualize my role in their lives. My job is to clear away any obstructions so that they can find the sun. They faced a lot of obstructions over the years. Sometimes, it’s been me.

It’s hard to see yourself as an obstruction. But I learned, with my husband’s assistance, that my “help” was not always helpful. So, I returned my red pen to my son when my college essay edits robbed him of his voice. I remained silent when my son eschewed the Calculus AP exam in favor of “Circus” class. I bit my tongue when he told me that he wasn’t going to apply to a particular Ivy League school because the admissions officer stressed the accomplishments of the student body and he didn’t want to achieve anything in college; he just wanted to learn. I believed that my son has good instincts. I was determined to let him find the college that best suited him, and that meant I couldn’t get in the way.

I think parents of gifted children have a particularly hard time establishing the right grading policy for themselves. Most of us begin by assessing our ability to find and deliver the appropriate curriculum and social and emotional support for our child. Our efforts are often handicapped by teachers who think our children don’t need accommodations and parents who see our requests as elitist. Even with our best efforts, our children may still disengage in the classroom and underachieve at school. Given their abilities, we are tempted to see anything short of extraordinary achievement as our failure (and theirs). Our final grade, by my neighbors’ standards, may not reflect our efforts. We may not even agree on what constitutes an “A.”

My son decided to go to the University of Chicago because it had interdisciplinary classes like “Mind” and “Power Identity and Resistance.” The school has a Circus Club and the world’s largest scavenger hunt. He liked the admissions essays and heard that the kids watch Dr. Who. Its motto is “Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched.”

I dropped my son off last week. As we walked through the leaf strewn quad, he said, “I don’t think I will ever do anything in my life that takes advantage of everything this place has to offer.” My son turned toward the sun, which turned out to be in Chicago. Maybe if I stay close to him (but out of his way), I will feel some of its warmth, too.

What role do you feel you play in your child’s accomplishments? Please share in the comment section below.

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