Friday, March 29, 2013

My Goal: To be the Thomas Menino of Independent College Counselors

Often my students answer an essay prompt about a person living or dead they would like to meet. I hadn't thought about it much myself until today when I read an article in the NY Times about Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino. He is now at the top of my "want to meet" list. Excerpts from the article might explain why.

“I am here with the people I love, to tell the city I love, that I will leave the job that I love,” Mr. Menino, 70, the city’s longest-serving mayor, told the standing-room-only crowd of well-wishers. He said essentially that he was not up to the job, at least not the way he wanted to do it. After illnesses last year that left him hospitalized for two months, he said he could not keep up his schedule of attending every ribbon-cutting, every dinner for a new homeowner, every school play — the small events that filled his days and threaded him to the city’s residents.

The Globe poll affirmed an eye-popping tidbit from previous polls -- that Mr. Menino had personally met more than half of Boston's 625,000 residents, an astounding feat for the chief executive of a major American city.

My personal goal is to be the "Thomas Menino" of independent college counselors. In the past few weeks I have watched students at the state dance competition, the national qualifying tournament of Oregon speech and debate students, and at spring jazz and choir concerts. I may not fit in every school play, every sports competition, every awards dinner, and every graduation party, but I tell students that if they invite me, I will do my best to be there. Why? Because I love the students I work with - who they are now and who they will become - and it is one way for me to show I care and appreciate the trust that they and their parents have placed in me. I have the best job in the world!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Making a College Choice: Go With Your Gut Instinct

Hopefully you did your homework before you decided which colleges to apply to. Whether you applied to three schools or nine schools, every school on your list is a good academic match. It has the programs that interest you and top-notch professors. My point is that you did the intellectual decision-making at the time of application. That means you have all good choices!

This is the week when I get a lot of calls from students and parents asking for help choosing between great options. My advice is pretty consistent. Eliminate all options that are not within your financial comfort zone. Now narrow the remaining options to three. Your criteria could be financial or geographic or any other reason that makes sense to you. Try to reduce the scope of your decision to three choices by April 1. Three seems to be a reasonable number that most psyches can juggle.

Now is the hard part for all my brilliant students to hear. It's no longer an intellectual decision. You are picking between three options that all make sense and you need to trust your gut instinct. If you can visit each of the three that is optimal (even if you saw them before), but I realize that is not possible for every student. Since you are making a decision that includes social, emotional and cultural criteria, now is the time to use subjective tools. Join the Facebook group for admitted students. Chat with current students on College Confidential. Imagine your prospective peers as your future best friends. Spend an overnight in the dorms. Sit in on a class. Talk with a professor, and if you can't do that in person ask one to Skype with you. Do you feel valued? Picture yourself there and happy for the next four years. Your college experience will be as  fabulous as you make it, so listen to your heart and pick the community that feels right!

Monday, March 25, 2013

F.W. Olin College of Engineering : Think Like an Engineer

It's been a good press week for my daughter's soon-to-be-alma-mater Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. There was a segment on WGBH-TV's Greater Boston profiling how much the school has achieved in just ten years. BostInno published an article: How Greater Boston’s Most Overlooked College Has Revolutionized Education. Product design collaboration between Olin students and area seniors was featured in a Boston Globe article about Engineering for Humanity. As a parent, do I like it when my daughter's school choice is validated by the larger community? Absolutely! Yet, my fondness for Olin runs much deeper.

My daughter wasn't the typical engineering student. She chose to go to engineering college despite the fact that she knew in advance she probably wouldn't work as an engineer. Her rationale was that she wanted to think like an engineer, since problem solving is needed in every profession. Through Olin and its partners Wellesley and Babson, she has had intellectually stimulating classes, inspirational professors, and most importantly, a circle of supportive friends I admire. When the world is run by young people like her classmates, I will feel extremely confident about our future.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Oregon Third Worst Slasher in the Nation

According to the Center On Budget and Policy Priorities, Oregon slashed budgets for public higher education by over 46% since the recession. Ouch! That makes us the third worst "slasher" in the nation - not a third place we should feel proud of.

This is a good moment for activism. Send the linked graphic to your state representative and express your outrage. Maybe he or she will get as mad as I am and do something to reverse this despicable trend.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Regnition versus Achivement

Many students I work with take a values assessment as part of the process of discussing majors and careers. We often chat about recognition (getting a pat on the back from someone else for a job well done) versus achievement (giving yourself a pat on the back for that job well done). There's no doubt that recognition is nice, but it's out of your control. A sense of achievement is a gift you give yourself. During the admissions process, at college, and afterwards, valuing achievement over recognition will probably increase your life satisfaction.

So sure, an acceptance letter from a college you applied to is great recognition for all you have accomplished so far. But regardless of whether each envelope is fat or thin (or the digital equivalent) I hope that the process of reflecting on all you have done throughout high school and sharing those stories, encouraged you to give yourself that pat on the back.