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Don’t Procrastinate… Get Started!

“Man. It really smells like pee in here!” I said scrunching my nose, cocking my head downward and to the left, and painfully closing my eyes. My son, who at the time was five, looked up from playing with his Transformers with a look of absolute bemusement.

“AJ, any idea why?” He shrugged his shoulders and quickly went back to insuring that Megatron (not Calvin Johnson… he loves him!) and his cronies were defeated by the Autobots. I proceeded to look through every sheet, drawer, and cubby in his room. Nothing. No soiled item or area. No article of clothing stuffed into a pillow case or sheet crammed in a corner. So I did the only logical thing… I opened a window, hastily sprayed Febreze and left shaking my head.

Image result for TRANSFORMERS AND TOYS AND OPTIMUS PRIME

Three days later, while I was out of town, my wife had a similar experience. This time our son watched with the rapt interest one has while viewing an African watering hole at midnight. “Who else is coming? What might happen next?” After rifling thoroughly through his room and strewn belongings, she asked him lovingly but repeatedly why it smelled distinctly of urine.

After the third time, it apparently dawned on him. “Hmmm…wait. I know why, mommy. I think it’s because I have been peeing in my floor vent.” Silence. Stunned silence.

And then, and only because of her incredible patience and God-given restraint, she laughed and asked calmly, “You what?!”

Yep. Come to find out that for an unknown (but likely multi-week/month) period of time, my man had been using the floor vent as a urinal. I actually Googled it. It’s more common than you’d think.

Why? You might ask– and with good reason. Quite simply, “You know how when you’re playing, and you don’t want to stop, and the bathroom seems so far away…that’s when.”

Several hundred dollars and a new duct system later. Let’s put it this way– it’s a good thing she discovered it and I was out of town or we might also have had a broken window or door to put back on its hinges.

Get Started!

Why do I share this with you?  Well, if the increasing temperatures, slower schedule, and nightly baseball games were not a hint, it’s summer! A few weeks ago, we posted another blog on this: “Make it a Summer!”

In that blog, we talked about using your time to write college essays, visit schools, talk to graduated seniors or friends returning home from their first year of college, etc. But we looked at the analytics on that blog and realized that perhaps the clicks on the piece on writing  was not as high as we’d hoped.  And so I wanted to come singularly back to that part.

If you are a rising senior, I’m imploring you to use July to write your college essays and supplemental questions. You have an entire month.

Here’s how you can get started:

Week One (July 1-8): Read the prompts from Common Application and Coalition Application. Consider what you might write about. Think about them when you’re at the pool or the gym or driving (but mainly think about driving). Jot down some ideas. Who knows, you may be inspired by fireworks on July 4, so consider voice recording on your phone. That is how I start my drafts and get ideas out and recorded. Whatever works for you.

It does not have to be formal or sequential. During this week also write one supplemental essay for a school you know you are going to apply to. Georgia Tech’s are here.  Generally speaking these are shorter and most schools only require 1-3 additional short answer/supplemental writing samples. And many schools simply ask you to submit something you have already written, so consider your options if you find that to be the case for a school you’re interested in.

Week Two (July 9-16): Get your first draft done. Chip away. One paragraph at a time. One page at a time. A little bit of time each day. If you know you are applying to a school that does not accept the Common Application or Coalition Application, then you may need to write two essays this week. Not a problem. Allocate an hour a day for that entire week. You got this! Use this week to write another supplemental essay for the same college or a different one this week.

Week Three (July 17-23): Get this to an editor (not a co-author). Hint: You should ask them if they’re up for it during week two and tell them they’ll have it on July 16. Check in with them on July 20. “How’s it going?” Have you taken a look yet? Can I clear anything up for you?” Plan to meet with them or Skype/FaceTime with them by July 23. Write another supplemental essay this week.

Week Four (July 23-30): Second draft. Take the edits and make your improvements and enhancements. Consider how you can add description or make your essay more unique, personalized, authentic. Write your fourth supplemental essay this week.

July 31. Treat yourself. Ice cream, a new shirt, a movie or show. You do you, because at this point you have a long essay and four supplemental essays done. Your editor should be up for reading a few supplemental essays this week, especially if you brought them along for the double scoop or enticed them with an Amazon card.

Now use the same method in August for any additional supplementals or long essays. This way as your fall ramps up with sports, school activities, and normal homework and other papers, tests, etc., you’ll be good to go for making October or November EA/ED deadlines.

Why Do I Care?  

Last year, of our 31,500 applications, 1/3 were submitted on a deadline day or the two days prior. Now, I’m guessing that when these applications open on August 1, you are not stumped by some of the initial questions, ie. Name, Date of Birth, Address. (If you are, please call me, and we’ll discuss if college is right for you.)

So what takes so long to submit? Why is meeting an October 15 or November 1 deadline tough when you have 10-12 weeks post August 1? I’ll tell you why… “You know how when you’re playing, and you don’t want to stop, and the deadlines seem so far away…”

Trust me. Get started! You don’t want admission readers looking for Febreze after reading your essays.

We moved last year. I really like our new house. One of the features the real estate agent did not point out but I most appreciate is that the vents are in the ceiling.

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Navigating College Admissions: An UN-romantic Solution

I distinctly remember growing up and watching my parents have “Sunday night meetings.” They would bring their calendars (yep, hard copy with pencils) to the kitchen after we’d cleared the table to discuss the week ahead. When we were little, my sister and I really didn’t understand what they were doing. We were just glad they were occupied so we could pick whatever TV show we wanted to watch. In high school, I distinctly recall coming into the kitchen for a snack during study break, witnessing these logistical negotiations, and thinking, “If this is marriage, count me out.”

twain-quoteNow, however, I’m willing to concede the beauty and brilliance of the “Sunday night meeting,” because allocating that time allowed freedom. See, once they’d nailed down their own work schedules for the week and decided who was going to drive me and my sister to the games or performances or events, they didn’t have to talk about the details again. Listen, it still doesn’t sound romantic, but it gave them the rest of their week to talk about other things (presumably some of that was romantic, but these are my parents, and this is a family blog).

Application (no pun intended) to the Admission Process

As I watch more of my neighbors and friends with kids in high school (particularly during junior and senior year), it is clear that dispersed conversations and questions about scholarships, deadlines, essays, or plans to visit colleges often become a swirling, all-consuming mess. More importantly, they create unnecessary tension and division. Students feel like every time they come downstairs for a meal the “college talk” begins. Parents feel like their intelligent offspring has somehow lost the ability to string consecutive words together or convey ideas in multi-syllabic words.

Quick Quiz

Parents: Are you bringing up college options, deadlines, or test dates at a variety of unchecked times and days throughout the week?

Students: Test yourself: Do you frequently answer your parents’ sequential questions about college with: “Good,” “Okay,” “No,” “Huh?” Do you pretend like your phone is ringing and head for the car when mom asks, “Have you asked Mrs. Johnson for that rec yet?”

If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” I want to strongly encourage the implementation of the “Sunday Night Meeting.” Not necessarily on Sunday, but one consolidated time each week when college is on the proverbial– and perhaps literal– table.

 ground-rulesParents: You GET TO BRING brochures you’ve noticed in the mail. This is YOUR TIME to say, “Hey, look honey, the leaves are turning in South Bend. Isn’t it pretty?” You GET TO ASK, “Have you written your supplemental essays for SMU?” Or “Do you still want to take that trip to Maine to look at schools in November?” THIS IS YOUR TIME FOR: “Did you get your ACT results back?” Or “Is the University of Wisconsin psychology program highly ranked?” It’s all free game.

Students: You DON’T GET TO BRING your cell phone or really crunchy snacks. You DON’T GET to look at your shoes more than three times or for beyond six seconds. You have to FULLY ENGAGE in this conversation. I’m not going to be super obnoxious and give you a link to the definition of conversation or discussion in the dictionary, because you know what that looks like. ONE time a week… for only two hours (1/12 of that day!). You got this!

Outside of the “Sunday night meeting,” however, college talk is banned. Mom, dad: You drive past a car with a Princeton or Michigan State sticker. Not a peep. Sean next door gets accepted to Auburn or Colorado College, send a text in congratulations or post something online. Mute button is on at home.

Now, I get that it’s college football season. I have no problem with passionate support of your alma mater or understandable vitriol for your opponent. But that can’t transition to, “You’re not really going to apply there are you?” Or “Look at their fans. They just don’t look smart…”

Two Important Truths

  1. The reason your parents are bringing up college, asking you questions, and expressing their opinions is partly because they’re not convinced you are on it. If you answer their questions, show you have a plan, and demonstrate that you are making progress on applications and working towards deadlines, you’ll dramatically diminish the seemingly incessant nagging.
    truth
  2. It’s not nagging! It’s love. “Sunday night meetings” are not romantic. They weren’t then, and still aren’t now. But they are rooted in love. The time your parents take, the questions they ask, their desire to see things taken care of  is absolutely grounded in deep affection. They know you’re going to head off to college in the next year or two. There is some fear in that, and a lot of excitement. Every now and then they can’t believe you’re taking AP Biology or standing at over 6 feet tall. Somehow carpool lines and tricycles don’t seem like that long ago. Give ’em a break. Fear, excitement, love– these all warrant you being fully engaged. Two hours a week (1.1% of your week!): Answer the questions; look them in the eye; put down your phone—and every now and then, how about a hug?

Long live the #SNM!

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LOST in the numbers

First, sorry for the brief blog hiatus. I came down with Bronchitis and have not been able to type more than four words without coughing for a week. I will say if you’re looking for a quick way to drop 10 lbs you may want to look into acquiring this lovely condition, otherwise it pretty much stinks.

Ever seen Lost? It’s ok if you haven’t, because now you at least know what you’re doing this summer, as it’s bar none the greatest TV series of all time. In the show, Hurley (Jorge Garcia) is shown through flashbacks to have won the lottery with the numbers 4.8.15.16.23.42. Over the ensuing weeks, everyone around him suffers horribly bad luck. He then visits a mental asylum where he apparently had resided for a time, to talk to another patient who keeps repeating the same numbers. When Hurley tells him that he used the numbers, Lenny panics and shouts, “The numbers are bad! You gotta get away from them!” The numbers continue to come up throughout the show in meaningful and correlated ways, and at times in random unconnected situations. Intrigued? If not watch the trailer here.

4.8.15.16.23.42. It’s April (4) 8th, 15th, 16th, 23rd….42nd! “Ahhhh!! The numbers are bad! You gotta get away from them!” The proverbial countdown is on as we approach the May 1 National Deposit Deadline. Before coffee, picking up a toothbrush, or checking the weather, Deans, Directors, and VPs around the country are waking up each day and immediately checking deposit reports on their phones and Ipads. “Are we up from last year?…Oh man, I hope not too far up or housing is going to kill me! “Are we down in students from abroad? Is it too early to go to our waitlist?” Scroll down: “How does our SAT average compare to last year?” Scroll down: “Do we have a kid from every state and enough in every major?” “Are you sleeping with your phone?” Wait… that’s not my voice. Roll over: “Yes, sweetheart. Gotta check the numbers.” (She always tells me with a mixture of concern and confusion that I make too much of an effort to think like a 17 year old, and I know the whole sleeping with the phone thing only adds ammo to her growing arsenal.)

 

4.8.15.16.23.42. So we made you wait for months on an admission decision, and now the tables are turned. Joke is on us. I’ve been reading back over my own advice on waiting and confirmed… it sucks! It’s a maddening time because we are asked daily “how are we looking on numbers?” by our President, Provost, Deans, Boards, housing directors, student reporters, random guys at the gas station… And we try to speak with some confidence knowing that 10 days is an eternity, because like applications, hundreds of deposits will come in over the last day or two, which will change everything. Inevitably there will be many calls on April 30 asking if the deadline is midnight that day or May 1 at midnight– followed often by, “which time zone?” (Don’t be that person!) Not too long ago, when many deposits were mailed in with checks, we asked for a post-marked date of May 1. That was even more frustrating because you had to wait each day on buckets to arrive from campus mail. It was literally all hands on deck with letter openers, sorting trays, and band aids for paper cuts. Good times! I know Deans that used to go straight to the mail house around this time of year because they didn’t want to wait on Fred the mail guy to chat it up in the Chemistry department and hold up delivery.

4.8.15.16.23.42. Ultimately, we need about 2950 deposits. That way when we lose (“melt”) deposits/commitments over the summer, due to schools pulling our deposits from their waitlists, breakups, financial reasons, Visa issuance hold ups, yellow pants just don’t work in the color palette, etc., we end up at our target of 2800 in the class. So on April 8th we had 1481 deposits; on the 15th, we had 1871; on the 16th 1912.  While it scares me to report out of sequence before the 23rd, this a.m. we had 2107 deposits. Hold please. Ok, now 2112.

So that’s what’s up with me. Coughing less, sleeping less, using the word “gotta” more, but hopefully some insight from the college side. One takeaway for those of you on waitlists is this: because there is so much movement in numbers in the final week, it is rare that schools will begin to pull from their waitlists pre- May 1. If they do, they either intentionally under admitted (a tactic typically employed to reduce admit rate and impact rankings/prestige), or they truly are having an unexpected drop in yield this year. So if you’re on a wait list, expect news post- May 1 and be sure you deposit at your second choice school to hold your place.

 

 

 

The Lies We Tell Ourselves, Part 3. Parents.

I slept on the couch last night…. but I relegated myself to it. Here’s how it went down:

My son had a Taekwondo test to get to the next belt level. When they do these evaluations, you are expected to be able to perform specific Poomsaes, which are alternating offensive and defensive forms– essentially choreographed movements. The further along you go in the study of Taekwondo the more complex they become.

Currently he’s trying to go to the green belt with blue stripe, which is halfway to becoming a black belt. My wife is incredibly diligent about working with him at home, especially as the test gets closer. At last night’s test there were about 20 other students testing for various belts. That meant there were easily 30 parents watching, taking video, and being generally supportive. At some points all students of a specific belt may be on the floor, but inevitably, each student has his or her own evaluation.

Fifty people looking on as you attempt to perform a complex set of motions is tough at any age. But at seven? Definitely not easy. He was doing well overall until a particular point in the Poomsae. Surprisingly, it was not the most complex section– he actually nailed that. The Master called out the command and my son just froze. You could literally see his brain working and his body trying to carry out the movement. He just could not make it happen. Fifty people. All of them wanted him to move, to just remember. It was simultaneously encouraging and maddening.

After we put the kids to bed and I was brushing my teeth, my wife came in and said, “I should have worked with him harder on that piece of it. I just thought he had it, so we practiced the tougher parts more.” Now what I should have said was nothing. But what I actually said was, “Are you going to make this about you?” I know, I know. Even as it came out of my mouth I knew I’d screwed up. She turned around, got into bed, put in some ear plugs and rolled over. Cold, right? But also totally appropriate.

(Not actually me)So I just grabbed my pillow and a blanket and headed downstairs. Self-imposed discomfort seemed like reasonable punishment.

Don’t get me wrong, I stand by my question 100%, but I’m the first to admit that the delivery was TERRIBLE. So fresh off of that lovely experience, today we look at “The Lies Parents Tell Themselves.”

Lie 1- I’m just helping. Does the Taekwondo story sound familiar? How about some of these: “I’m just helping my sophomore daughter when I go down to the high school to see if there is extra-credit work she could do, or if the Chair of the department could take another look at her last paper. She can’t make a C in this class, so WE need to rectify this immediately.”  Or “I’m just helping here. You see my son was deferred from your college. I know that you’ve received his transcript and supplement (because I made him give me his login info) and I see from your website that you don’t use an interview or additional letters of recommendation in the process, but I’m going to have two of my business associates email on his behalf anyway.” When does the “helping” stop? Colleges are now utilizing parent bouncers at registration; we’ve had parents ask if they can come to a job fair for their student who is in class at that time. “I just want to ask some questions and deliver her resume,” they say. Some of the nation’s accounting and investment firms now offer parent orientation as their 24 year olds enter the workplace. Is this really helping? Or  is it just controlling? At what point will “helping” prohibit your son or daughter from growing and maturing through life’s inevitable decisions, successes, failures, and freeze ups in front of 50 people?

Lie 2- Where my son or daughter goes to college is a reflection on my parenting achievement.

This is a tough one to admit, but is a very common, incredibly insidious lie. We have already established (hopefully) a few key things that refute this:

  1. Admission decisions are not character judgments
  2. Holistic admission by nature means that incredible students don’t always get in to certain elite schools
  3. Where you go to college does not dictate your future success or happiness

Who wouldn’t love to put a UCLA or Northwestern bumper sticker on the back of their car? But to look back over 18 years of raising a child: the lost sleep, the countless hours in carpool line, the nail biting at dance recitals or attending marathon swim meets (the worst by the way, the absolute worst), and then say a university brand represents your love, sacrifice, and influence? That’s ridiculous. It just is.Now go sleep on the couch! In your restlessness and discomfort get up around 4 a.m. and go to your daughter’s bedroom. Kiss her on the head. Whisper that wherever she gets in and chooses to go is going to be awesome, and that you’ll proudly wear the shirt and show up excited for Parents Weekend next fall.