We want to provide one last update before summer about theCollege Board Opportunity Scholarships, a first-of-its-kind national scholarship program. This unique program guides your students through the college planning process and offers them a chance to earn money for college for each action they complete. Important reminders for you and your students are below.
Encourage your students to continue their journey to college over the summer and earn scholarship opportunities for the work they’re already doing.Reminder:Students must opt in bythe end of Juneand complete theBuild Scholarship, in order to stay on track for the$40,000Complete the Journey Scholarship.
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Strengthen Your College List: $500 Opening August 2019
Students strengthen their college list from the Build Scholarship, so it has a mix of safety, match, and reach schools. We’ll award 100 scholarships every month from August through October 2019.
Students should carefully identify which classes to take during their junior year.HERO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES)
EACH YEAR OF high school represents an important phase in the preparation process for the ACT or SAT, and yearly objectives can help to keep students on track over the long term by ensuring slow yet steady progress. Rising high school sophomores can benefit from adding these three test-prep goals to their second-year checklist:
Determine whether your high school requires the PreACT or the PSAT.
Review the official websites for the ACT and SAT and tentatively begin choosing an exam.
Identify which courses to take as a junior to finish preparing for the ACT or SAT.
Determine whether your high school requires the PreACT or the PSAT. The PreACT is a practice version of the ACT, while the PSAT embodies this same concept for the SAT.
Whether your high school offers the PreACT or the PSAT in the fall largely depends on state requirements for graduation. If your state requires that you take the ACT in order to graduate, your school will be more likely to administer the PreACT, and vice versa. Some high schools may opt to administer both tests, though this is certainly not guaranteed.
Scores on the PSAT can lead to a National Merit Scholarship; though the PreACT is not associated with a scholarship competition, students should not overlook this opportunity to practice for the actual ACT and SAT in a low-stakes environment. The PreACT and PSAT offer a chance to assess your skills and both can indirectly lead to scholarships later if your short list of colleges offers them for competitive ACT/SAT scores.
To find out whether your school requires the PreACT or the PSAT, speak to your guidance counselor. Also be aware of posted signs around your school that may indicate this information. If it is difficult to locate or make an appointment with a guidance counselor at your school, ask a teacher to point you in the right direction.
Review the official websites for the ACT and SAT and tentatively begin choosing an exam.The official websites for the ACT and SAT outline the specific knowledge you will need for success on these entrance exams. They also provide a number of sample questions. Use these websites as your initial guide to learning more about the tests. Educate yourself about the differences and similarities between their format, timing and content areas.
It is normal for students to feel torn between the ACT and SAT. So if you are having issues deciding which exam to take, start by borrowing two books from your local library: one with ACT practice tests and one with SAT practice tests. Take one timed, full-length practice exam from each book.
Then, assess both your score and your comfort level to determine which test might be a better fit for you. If you have not yet done so, you should also weigh whether your state requires the ACT or SAT for graduation, as this may influence your choice.
Identify which courses to take as a junior to finish preparing for the ACT or SAT. Not all standardized test preparation is done outside of the classroom. In fact, the foundations of math, reading and writing are skills students acquire throughout their entire academic career. As such, doing well on the ACT or SAT would be nearly impossible without having taken high school-level math and language classes.
It is for this reason that students should look ahead and carefully consider which courses to enroll in for their junior year.
The math and English classes you select for your third year of high school should align with the content you will be faced with on either the ACT or SAT. Your guidance counselor can help you with this enrollment process should you need a little assistance.
Though still somewhat early in the test-prep process, sophomore year is the ideal time for students to do some research and planning. Getting certain details out of the way now will allow for more productive study time when it is most crucial: junior year.
The crazed pursuit of college admissions helps no one thrive. And while the Varsity Blues admissions scandal shines a light on families that break the rules, it’s time to consider the unhappiness of families that play by them. While competition for seats may be inevitable, students scramble to do ever more to get into college—and give away more of their childhood to do so. This competition might seem a problem only for middle class and wealthy families. But students of modest means suffer most when applying to college becomes an endless list of tasks requiring time and other resources.
As the CEO of the College Board, I see this arms race up close. We administer the SAT, a test that helps admissions officers assess the reading, writing, and math skills of students across the country and around the world. We also administer the Advanced Placement program, which helps students earn credit for college-level work they do while in high school. We know these tools to be useful, but we also see how they can contribute to the arms race. The College Board can and will do more to limit the excesses—more on that below—but there is more at stake than which tests kids take or don’t take.
The statistic that should worry us most is this one: According to a 2014 study by Gallup and Purdue University, only 3 percent of students have the kind of transformative experience in college that fosters personal success and happiness. Three percent. Even as the pressure of college admissions haunts students throughout their adolescence, whispering premature anxiety into questions of what to learn and how to spend time, the admissions process as we know it often misses the heart of the matter: What kind of education is really worth investing in? What is it that students should be doing, not just to get into college, but to succeed there and live a good life after they graduate?
Having listened to hundreds of admissions officers, school counselors, parents, and students, and after reflecting on my own experience, I believe there is a healthier model to prepare young people to excel. There are durable ways to invest in children that will help them thrive in college and beyond. As the Varsity Blues scandal works its way through the legal system, the broader question is whether there’s a productive path out of the current admissions madness—a way to fill students not with anxiety, but with a deeper devotion to learning.
In the Gallup-Purdue study, the type of college that students attended affected their sense of well-being after graduation more than what they experienced at whichever institution they chose. The 3 percent of students whose lives changed for the better—who, according to Gallup, had the types of experiences that “strongly relate to great jobs and great lives afterward”—had three features in common: a great teacher and mentor, intensive engagement in activities outside class, and in-depth study and application of ideas.
These three shared features are all about intensity—not just participation in college life, but active engagement. They require students to move beyond merely doing something and toward becoming devoted to something. They require a depth of commitment that will serve students well throughout their lives. And yet nearly nothing in the admissions process tells students that these are the keys to their success.
1. Find great teachers.
At the College Board, we regularly convene first-generation students on the threshold of college to help them plan their future. These students have been remarkably resourceful in navigating their path to college, yet they have much less to say about how they will succeed once there. I have asked hundreds of high-school students what choices they will make in college that will most shape their success. Students talk about which major they will choose, who their friends will be, or which clubs they’ll join. They never say that their most important decision will be who their professors are. In general, students are extremely passive about seeking out great teaching.
Outside of family, though, no single factor comes close to the impact of a great teacher on students’ success. Former U.S. Education Secretary John King describes how a New York City public-school teacher effectively saved his life after he lost his mother and father. He says that as a young African American and Puerto Rican man from Brooklyn in a family in crisis, he might well have ended up “shot or in prison” but for great teaching.
Even for students who confront far fewer challenges, seeking out and finding the right teachers pays enormous rewards. In my high school in New York City, there was a tough and engaging teacher named Mrs. Grist. I asked whether I could take her government class, and I went on to study psychology with her as well. Mrs. Grist was among the most forbidding people I had ever met, yet she made the subjects she taught intense and urgent. I was stunned when she asked me whether I needed a recommendation for college. Her offer gave me a confidence in my step, as if her hand were behind me.
Mrs. Grist’s approach to teaching helped transform my college life as well. I arrived at college disoriented by large lectures and huge reading lists. I knew I was a slower, more deliberate reader. I could be intimidated by racing through books I did not understand. I was not self-sufficient to do my best work on my own and needed a great teacher to inspire me.
So rather than accepting the typical first-year roster of large introductory courses, I began a hunt. I used those first days of the semester, before schedules were set in stone, to find classes where I felt at home. I will never forget how much I relaxed when I walked into a small philosophy class that taught only one book. Instead of racing through a book a week in a big survey course, I immersed myself in the world of Plato’s Republic with a gifted teacher, Professor Ferrari. Rather than dazzling us with his expertise, he asked questions as if he, too, were reading the book for the first time.
In effect, I was attending a very different college from that of so many of my classmates. They carried around piles of books that they might at best skim before class; I was kept up at night by the handful of old books on my shelf. They were more engaged in what was going on outside class, and studied in binges for midterms and finals; I read my few pages, often with a sense of defeat, but there were moments when the centuries separating the authors and me would melt away. I worked daily for my teachers—looking forward to the next conversation, usually in class, sometimes in office hours, where I seldom saw another classmate. All these students who had fought so hard to pry open the doors of college didn’t know to knock on their teachers’ doors.
Finding great teachers and insisting on learning from them is a form of resistance. You must push the rules and the system. One of the most misleading things we say in education is that a good school will “give you an excellent education.” A great education is never given—it is taken. The ancient myth of Prometheus is more honest; the gods do not give Prometheus the flame—he steals it.
Religious tradition testifies that immersion changes lives. Research agrees; the College Board reviewed dozens of studies to find the factors that most predict success. After grades and test scores, the factor that most predicts college success is follow-through—that is, students’ sustained effort and growth in one or two extracurricular activities while in high school. Students who devote themselves to an activity are more likely to succeed later in areas such as campus leadership and independent accomplishment.
Devotion to one or two activities—not several—advances you. Competition to get into college has metastasized into a race where more is better. We have sacrificed the productive ideal of nurturing excellence in one thing for the mad rush to submit a résumé of too many things.
The typical application for college today has eight to 10 spaces for students’ activities outside class, and parents and students have become convinced that the more spaces filled, the better. Long lists cultivate busy mediocrity rather than sustained excellence. To get into college or to earn scholarships, it is much more effective to be very good at a small set of things than to check off a long list.
MIT recently revised its application to include only four spaces for extracurricular activities, and admissions officials there are evaluating whether they can move to three. Brilliantly, the school also removed the space for students to put any activities from ninth grade on their application. From MIT’s point of view, ninth grade is a safe harbor—a year to change your mind, to try different things without regard to your track record.
MIT is not alone. “Not only at Maryland, but broadly across the admissions community we’re more interested in the few things students are devoted to over a sustained period of time rather than a long list,” says Barbara Gill, associate vice president of enrollment management at the University of Maryland.
Time is one of the great inequalities in our society. The Harvard researcher Richard Weissbourd is right to demand that college applications honor the work some students do to support their families. For lower-income students, it is defeating to ask them for a long list of activities outside class. We need to do all we can to ensure that they have the time, resources, and space to pursue passions in-depth outside class—but also not penalize them if work and family obligations get in the way.
In wealthier communities, the scramble for credentials often leads to premature professionalism and intensive regimentation. These artificial structures we invent to fill applications hinder the development of genuine interest and commitment. Young people become less authors of their own fate than soldiers enacting the battle plans of their parents.
Personally, I was lucky. In high school, I began debating and found that I loved it. (My parents didn’t share my enthusiasm—after debate practice, I was too argumentative—but they left me to it.) I didn’t have much else going on outside class, so I could fill my time researching evidence and practicing for the next fight. But I wonder how today’s overscheduled students find time to explore any one extracurricular—whether it’s a sport, a musical instrument, or anything else worth doing—in any depth. The key challenge for our young people is not to master more activities, but to learn that mastery requires doing one thing at a time.
3. Learn to love ideas, even when it hurts.
The luckiest people in life develop enduring fascinations and spend time honing their skills and learning new ones. They experience regularly the internal satisfaction that arises from encountering new ideas. With its focus on external measures of success, such as grades and test scores, the college-admissions scramble does little to communicate the importance of growth and exploration. For young people to be happy in college—and to excel there and the rest of their lives—they need to open themselves to new subjects and ideas that can captivate and motivate them. That process necessarily includes doing things they might not immediately like.
Most of the time, we misunderstand how students learn to love a subject. Listen to parents talk: My child loves math. My child loves to read. When parents say this, they mean their child enjoys something and is good at it. It sounds harmless and encouraging, but it excludes the possibility that children might someday find meaning in ideas and subjects that do not come easy to them. Difficulty can be the starting point of love, rather than a signal to abandon the subject matter entirely. To say I hate math is to say that you retreated too quickly. The question is not whether you like or excel at a subject from the outset, but whether the subject is lovely and worth knowing. Loving to learn requires that you move beyond your initial distaste to discover a subject’s power.
Particularly destructive for aspiring college students is the myth of the “numbers person” or the “word lover,” ignoring the fact that we all have minds and hearts capable of both. (Feeling at home in both domains also makes tests such as the SAT and ACT much easier.) If you don’t at first like math, seek out a better teacher, practice harder, find a connection to something else that interests you. The paradox of loving to learn is that it requires managing pain.
Being a good learner does not require that you keep doing everything without any regard to whether you enjoy it; pleasure must emerge as an essential dimension to those areas to which we devote ourselves. But even when you are engaged with a subject you love, it too can be difficult and forbidding at times. Yet even when you love something at first and are drawn to it, devotion sustains you when it becomes difficult and forbidding. We know that people love to read when they are first defeated by a book, and then reread it to see what they missed.
We need to dispense with platitudes such as “Learning is fun,” and instead admit that learning is often painful. A real love of ideas begins when students stop doing only what they are good at and realize that through practice they can discover new worlds of understanding and joy.
Even without federal indictments of parents who sought an unfair advantage, it’s clear that the American college-admissions system has created unproductive anxiety among families while doing little to foster the kind of devotion to learning that makes an education meaningful. All of us who are involved in this system—including the College Board—should reconsider what we can do to stop the madness.
Advanced Placement can help students discover and pursue a passion, but not if too many courses suffocate their time. Some students cram their schedules with AP courses to burnish their applications. While data show that taking up to five AP classes over the course of high school helps students succeed in college, there is no evidence that more than that is better. We therefore recently announced that taking more than five AP courses should provide no advantage in admissions. Students can take more AP if they want, but not to get into college.
And we need a far humbler view of the SAT. When the SAT began, it was an aptitude measure designed to gauge intellectual potential. We revised the exam in 2014, and the era of trying to measure aptitude is finally over. The new SAT assesses nothing tricky or mysterious: a focused set of reading, writing, and math skills students learn in school and use widely in college. The new SAT does not tell students or anyone else how smart students are, or how capable they are of learning new things. It only says something about whether students have yet attained the reading, writing, and math skills they will use to gain knowledge in college or career training; it makes no statement about what they are capable of learning.
We need to change the culture around exams such as the SAT. They should never be more than one factor in an admissions decision. Low scores should never be a veto on a student’s life. Students should have confidence that if they practice their math and reading skills, they will improve, which is exactly what we are seeing when students practice for free on Khan Academy. Students should take an exam once and, if they don’t like their scores, practice and take the test once more. If they still don’t like their scores, we should offer many other ways for them to show their strengths to admissions officers.
Let’s fashion a new invitation to higher education. We must invite families to invest in durable excellence rather than fragile perfectionism. Students should sacrifice far less for the sake of getting into college and do much more to thrive within and beyond it.
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First-Year College Students: Answers to Frequently Asked Mental Health Questions
from the Grown & Flown blog
We had the privilege of interviewing Stan Possick, M.D. who is a board-certified psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, clinical teacher, and an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. Mental health is such a huge issue on college campuses and we are grateful to him for answering our questions.
How does a parent identify mental health issues in college student?(@raisazwart via Twenty20)
College Students and Mental Health
What can parents of first-year students do to help prepare their children for college?
The preparation has probably been going on for years. The transition from high school to college is difficult for both students and parents. There is usually a sense of excitement about the future, but also some fears experienced by parents and students. This is natural. I think it is helpful for parents to understand the mixed feelings that everyone has about the transition, and to try to be appropriately encouraging and supportive of the student.
If the parent is aware of difficulties that the student is likely to have starting college, then these matters should be addressed in a forthright manner. For example, if the student has a history of a learning problem and requires untimed tests, then the college needs to be aware of this, and the appropriate student support services need to be put in place.
Are there common issues raised by first-years?
Entering college as a first-year student is also associated with a new level of freedom and responsibility for oneself. Students may experience social and/or internal demands to become engaged in activities that they may not be ready to handle.
Drinking and increased sexual activity are two common concerns here. Often the student is just not ready to cope with such activities but is fearful that not getting involved will lead to one’s feeling ostracized by new peers. These are both issues with which parents can be quite helpful to their children.
Many colleges now send along pamphlets about alcohol use along with their pre-matriculation packages to incoming first year students and their parents to review and discuss together. Once students arrive at college, discussions about sexual concerns, alcohol and other drugs are part of their orientation. In addition, faculty advisors help with planning courses as well as with helping the beginning student access any needed assistance relating to all aspects of their college experience.
Although first year college students may present to college mental health clinics for assistance for a plethora of reasons, a few situations are common triggers for them to seek assistance. These include: the first set of mid-term exams about six or seven weeks into the semester
the first set of final exams, usually in December
genuine academic difficulties
romantic concerns, especially the break-up of a relationship, which can feel devastating to both people in the couple
Parents may be most helpful by listening to their first-year college students in a sympathetic, supportive and problem-solving manner.
What are the signs that a first-year student may not be thriving? What should parents look for? What should parents ask?
It is important to remember that the first-year college student is usually faced with many new challenges during the early weeks at school. The following symptoms may be signs that a student is having some difficulty:
significant change in appetite or sleeping habits, level of energy, or mood
decreased interest in school and other activities
lack of motivation or difficulty focusing on academic work
If parents notice anything that seems different in a concerning way when speaking, e-mailing or connecting with a child, parents should point out their observations to their child. If the child seems willing to discuss parental concerns, that is a good sign. This creates an atmosphere in which it becomes possible to assess the significance of each person’s observations and heightens the possibility of developing a strategy for helping the student deal with whatever problem may have arisen.
If a parent is deeply concerned about unusual changes in their child, especially if there is worry about the student’s safety, then it is incumbent upon the parent to notify the appropriate person at the school about one’s concerns. This might mean contacting the student’s dean, an advisor, or, if the person in being treated for any type of mental health problem, the student’s mental health provider. Any of these people will welcome parental observations and concerns.
However, without having the student’s consent to share information, unless there is an issue regarding the student’s safety, the college personnel or mental health provider may not be able to do more than acknowledge parents’ concerns and ask additional questions to try to further clarify the situation being described. Parents should, however, expect that their concerns and observations will be looked-into quickly and competently. Typically, the person with whom the parent has spoken will try to get the student’s permission to speak with the concerned parents and will also ask the student to do so as well.
Some students feel unhappy with their college choice or feel that they really aren’t ready to begin college. If this occurs, the student, college personnel and the parents need to try to work out the most beneficial way of dealing with the student’s concern that considers the student’s wishes and possible distress.
What is the best way for first year college students to find out about mental health services on their college campuses?
Colleges usually send out material about their student health, including mental health, services prior to the student’s arrival on campus. This material may be included with forms for the student’s pre-matriculation physical exam, which is most often completed by the student’s physician at home.
Usually colleges will send a brochure at that time which describes the specific medical and mental health services offered to students. Typically, the brochure will list phone numbers to call to set up appointments for each type of service desired.
If students need ongoing mental health treatment when they are not on campus, for example when they are home for the summer, how is that situation best addressed by the student and their parents?
The discussion about the student’s need for ongoing mental health treatment during the summer or during other long periods away from school ideally would take place, at least initially, between the student and the clinician. The most important questions are: “Does the student have a need to be in treatment while away from school?” and “Does the student wish to be in treatment during this period of time?”
If possible, it would make sense for the parents to speak with the mental health clinician working with their child during the academic year so that the parents might obtain a full and accurate a picture of what type of mental health services their child might need and why. I mention this because the parents will most likely play a central role in finding a mental health provider for their child when the child is at home.
If it is clear by the student’s spring vacation that ongoing mental health care will be necessary during the summer, setting up a few meetings with local practitioners during that vacation time would be useful.
This allows the student to decide which clinician will be the best fit, and it will also give the clinician treating the student who is away at school a chance to speak with the clinician in the student’s home town well before the summer vacation period. Again, the parents will need their child’s permission to undertake referrals to new clinicians.
What have you observed from students seeking treatment?
There has been a significant increase in the number of college students seeking mental health services at colleges throughout the country during the past several years. First-year students and seniors in college seem to seek mental health services more often than sophomores and juniors. This may be linked to the fact that one’s first and last years at college are most associated with major life transitions, e.g. leaving home for school as a first-year student, and then preparing to leave college upon graduation.
Feelings of sadness or anxiety are the most common presenting symptoms, and many students feel better quickly as they sort out whatever is causing them to feel off kilter. Alcohol use is a significant issue for many college students, but this group of students is not likely to seek help unless they are required to do so.
If a first-year student has never been in counseling, or other mental health treatment, prior to college, what do you recommend as the first steps towards getting help? How can the student be involved in finding a caregiver who is competent and a “good fit?”
If a student has never had to utilize mental health services or counseling prior to college matriculation and decides at some point after arriving at college that it would be wise to meet with a mental health professional, then contacting the college’s student health service would be the first step for the student to take.
Typically, psychological evaluations are provided by the college’s mental health center or clinic. The first issue they will try to determine with the student is “Why now?” That is, what is going on in the student’s life that makes the student feel it is necessary to talk with a mental health clinician at that time?
Most often, the student is trying to adjust to life away from home and to the various academic and social pressures felt at school. Often if the student can discuss these concerns with a knowledgeable clinician, a meaningful approach to the student’s worries can be developed by the clinician and the student over the course of a few meetings.
Some college mental health and counseling centers may offer extended treatment, especially if the student requires medication. Other college mental health clinics may offer each student a limited number of meetings there, e.g. six, and, if additional mental health services are needed, then refer the student out to mental health services in the community. Typically, the mental health counselors will know which community practitioners are both skilled and experienced mental health practitioners with college-age students.
Should parents expect to be in touch with the student’s mental health provider? What should parents expect their level of involvement to be in their college-age child’s mental health care?
A student’s involvement with one’s therapist, psychiatrist or other mental health provider is privileged. That means that the provider cannot talk with parents about their child unless the clinician has been given permission by the student to do so. It is not unusual for clinicians to ask the student for permission to talk with parents during the evaluation process.
In my experience, students generally comply with such a request. The clinician would like to learn as much about the students’ history to place current concerns in their proper context. If a clinician feels that a student is not safe for any reason, a decision can be made to get the parents involved against the expressed wishes of the student.
Have the concerns frequently raised by first-year students changed?
Some of them have. More students talk openly about their gender identity and sexual orientation. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and transgender individuals talk more freely about their lives, relationships and feelings of acceptance or non-acceptance in the college community.
Students from a variety of different racial and ethnic groups talk more frankly about their sense of alienation, a feeling that they don’t fit in. The sense of not belonging because of gender, ethnic, socioeconomic and racial differences is a topic first year students often bring to their mental health clinicians.
Stan Possick, M.D. is a board certified psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, who is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine.An expert in mental health and developmental issues confronting late adolescents and young adults, he treated a wide range of college students for four decades.Dr. Possick has remained active as a teacher, and has been recognized by Yale, by the American Psychiatric Association and by the American Psychoanalytic Association for his excellence in teaching.