Tag Archives: college

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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Preparing For an Independent School Interview

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.

When applying to competitive, selective independent schools, many things count, including grades, test scores, extracurricular activities and the interview. Here is a basic list that will help students and parents get through this important part of the admissions process and allow the applicant to show yourself as the accomplished, unique person you are:

Student Applicants

Don’t panic! If it’s difficult or impossible for you to relax, think of the interview as a friendly get-to-know-you conversation and an opportunity for you to learn more about a prospective school as well as the interviewer to learn about you off paper as a multi-dimensional person.

If possible, try to secure an interview in the morning, when both you and your interviewer will be fresh. You want to look and be awake and attentive. Get plenty of sleep the night before and eat a nutritious breakfast.

Dress according to, but slightly nicer than, the school’s dress code. No jeans. Girls, if you tend to play with your hair when you’re nervous, tie it up and secure bangs out of your face. Guys, brush your hair.

Don’t slouch. Always sit with your legs together.

When you meet the interviewer, give a firm handshake, smile, look him or her in the eye and clearly enunciate your first and last name.

Two important elements to bring to a school interview are honesty and curiosity. If a tour of the school precedes or follows the interview, listen attentively and ask questions. It will make you appear more interested in the school and gives you a chance to listen instead of talking. If you’re someone who, when nervous, can’t always think on the spot, make a list of questions ahead of time after you’ve researched the school on its website.

Be original in your answers and be yourself! Honesty, remember? Never try to present yourself as someone you think the interviewer “wants” to see.

Do not mention repeatedly that this school is your number-one-top-choice unless it absolutely is. Even then, don’t go overboard, as it may appear ingenuous to the interviewer.

Always remember to appear cheerful. Don’t mumble or look bored. Keep eye contact.

If your parents are part of the interview, look at them when they talk and don’t look annoyed or embarrassed by their remarks. It makes a very bad impression if you don’t seem to get along with your parents.

When the interview is over, shake the interviewer’s hand and say, “Thank you for your time.” If offered the interviewer’s card, accept it graciously. Say goodbye and thank you to the receptionist if he or she is on your way out.

Write a nice thank you note. It should be brief but express an aspect of the interview that was personal to you. In other words, not a generic thank you. For example, if the interviewer addressed your love of art, mention that in your note. If you liked a particular building’s architecture, note that.

Do not, under any circumstances: slouch, wave to people you know who might pass by, stare off into space, interrupt or talk about any other school.


In preparing your son or daughter for a school interview, it is a good idea to explicitly discuss what the expectations are with them. This conversation should include the etiquette of an interview such as greeting, leave-taking with thanks, shaking hands and appropriate dress, which will depend on the school’s style.

If it’s likely that your child will be asked questions directly, you may wish to practice, but not to the extent that your child’s responses come off as rehearsed or canned. This is about making your child feel comfortable and prepared—not robotic.

Do not over-emphasize the importance of the interview so that your nerves become transmitted to your child.

Commonly Asked Interview Questions

  • Describe yourself or Tell me about yourself. This is a great way to segue into your interests, which should be an area you are comfortable talking about.
  • What appeals to you about this school? Why do you want to enroll here?
  • What extracurricular activities are you interested in?
  • Why should we select you?
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • How will you benefit from attending this school?
  • Describe your family.
  • Do you have any questions about this school?

Above all, everyone involved in the interview process should remember to be relaxed, genuine, and honest. This is one aspect of a multi-tiered application process to help determine if the applicant and the school are the right fit for each other, not the be all and end all towards the holy grail of school admission.

Have you or your kids participated in independent school interviews? What tips do you have for other applicants and parents preparing for them? Please share in the comment section below.

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Strange Coincidences and Sending My Son Off to College

By Abby Margolis Newman

This post originally appeared on September 4, 2012, on ModernMom. It has been republished here with the permission of the author, who is a writer and mother of three. This post is about her gifted oldest son leaving home for college. While it is not an experience limited to parents of gifted children, it is an experience many of you will have. It may come when you send your child to a boarding school because it is what will best fit his or her individual needs, or it might be when your child heads off to college, or it might be after college, when your child decides to move out. After years of advocating for them in school and supporting their unique needs, your gifted children will leave home and must learn how to support these needs on their own. And no matter how much you help prepare them for that, it is still difficult to watch them set out on their own.

On the day my eldest son left for college, my youngest son got his first zit. This had to be some kind of sign, I thought. Time marches on or some such thing.

Maybe this was God’s little joke aimed at a mom whose “baby” is no longer a baby and whose first child was flying the coop. If so: not funny.

So many words have been spilled on this very subject – the first kid leaving for college – that it feels unoriginal to be thinking about it, let alone writing about it. And yet it pierces uniquely.

In the months leading up to Jonah’s departure, I’d find myself crying at unpredictable moments. I’d wander past his closed door, hear the sounds of his guitar playing on the other side, and think: Starting in September that room will be empty and silent. Cue the tears.

As Jonah and I made our cross-country sojourn from the San Francisco Bay area to Brown University in Providence, leaving his two younger brothers (17 and 13) at home with my husband, strange coincidences ensued.

Jonah has always had out-of-the-mainstream interests. Two examples: he became borderline-obsessed with Napoleon Bonaparte in middle school and is endlessly fascinated by 19th-century French history; and his favorite musician is Mark Knopfler, known mostly by people my age as the lead-man and guitarist of the 80’s band, Dire Straits.

A couple of nights before we left home, Jonah played his guitar at an open-mic night at a music club in our hometown of Mill Valley. The song he played was Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” – a fairly obscure choice for non-Knopflerphiles.

A few days later, our rental car stuffed to the brim with Target purchases, we stopped for lunch on our way to Providence. The restaurant was playing music, 60’s Motown-type stuff. Then out of nowhere, we heard the sound of Mark Knopfler’s voice: it was “Romeo and Juliet.” I burst into tears, sending our alarmed waiter scurrying away.

When we got to the Brown campus on Friday, the very first kid we met was a history-obsessed young man from North Carolina with a special passion for Napoleon who, out of a class of 1500 freshmen, also happens to be in Jonah’s history seminar of 20 kids.

On Sunday I attended a parent seminar entitled “Saying Goodbye, Letting Go, and Learning to Live with a Brown Student.” Much of the discussion centered on being supportive without being intrusive. The faculty members and upperclassmen running the seminar did a few skits, re-enacting phone calls that typically occur between parents and children during the first few weeks of freshman year.

As one faculty member, playing “Mom,” phoned her “son” with a variation on the “you don’t call, you don’t write” complaint, parents in the audience laughed nervously. You mean they really won’t call? We were encouraged to give our kids some space; we were reassured that they’d get in touch eventually; we were instructed to let them try to solve roommate issues on their own.

As I sat in the crowded auditorium, I felt slightly better. I realized that while this experience was specific and personal, it was also universal. And it’s exactly what is supposed to happen. We raise our kids from babies to toddlers to children to adolescents to young adults, and then they leave us to begin their own lives. It’s only logical: if they never develop the skills to live independently, we haven’t done our job. Who wants to suck at being a parent?

And yet.

I didn’t feel ready for Jonah to go. I don’t feel like I had enough of his company during those short 18 years. I wish I had more time to see him interact with his brothers at the dinner table; to observe his thought process as he works through a research paper or a discussion about politics; to listen to him play guitar along with Mark Knopfler. I simply loved having him around, and the loss feels huge.

So as I watched him walk back toward his dorm before I left, his roommate’s arm slung around Jonah’s shoulder in a protective and brotherly way, of course I cried. But eventually, I had to drive away and to fly back home.

After all, I need to help Aaron with his college applications. And maybe we’ll see if we can do something about Henry’s zit, like introduce him to face soap. Life goes on. As for Jonah, he can’t get rid of me that easily: I just figured out how to use Skype.

If you liked this article, please thank Abby by commenting on the original post.

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