Archive for the ‘Mentorship and Advice’ Category

How to Spend Your High School Summers

 

After 9th grade…

Do something interesting, something that helps you explore a world or a subject or an activity that you love or have always been curious about. Let’s say you’ve always wanted to join an a cappella group but your school doesn’t have one. Well, what would it take to get one started? How about joining a volunteer organization? Don’t have the option to just volunteer? Improve upon your customer service and time management skills by working a summer job. This is a good time to explore your interests.

After 10th grade…

This is the summer when your SAT/ACT test preparation should start. In addition, secure an internship or a job, go to a camp, or become involved in service. And if the concept of setting foot on your high school campus still gives you chills, exploring what matters to you outside of school is a great way to remain engaged with your number one priority—your own development—and can perhaps even lead to concrete improvements in your school life. Solidify the interests that you’re going to dedicate yourself to over the next few years. For example, if you have been getting into music in your first two years of high-school, turn up the heat and go to a competitive music camp. Love baseball? Consider writing and self-publishing a book on strategies or statistics using a print on-demand service like CreateSpace.

After 11th grade…

In May or June, take the SAT and some SAT subject tests. If relevant, take AP exams as well. Outside of test preparation, deepen your interests during this summer. If you’ve spent past summers volunteering at different organizations, for instance, return to your favorite and consider applying for a leadership position. You need to make sure you’re extending your college narrative through the summer by continuing with a theme that you’ve developed earlier. And no matter how terrifying the prospect, begin writing those college application essays. Senior fall can be chaotic. Get as much done in the summer as you can.

 

By Katie | Friday, April 26th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

How to Overcome Senioritis

While not listed in the latest edition of The Merck Manual, Senioritis is nevertheless a very real ailment. Its debilitating symptoms should not be underestimated. Given how hard you have worked throughout the high school ‘race’, it would be a shame to transform into a slouch during the very last lap–especially because the high school race is just one race in a series of races. And poor performance in any one race can have a negative effect on future races.

While of course you should be very happy that you have been admitted to a college, you should not stop developing your own sense of self and your own passions. Here are some tips for overcoming Senioritis:

1. Start researching the city you’ll be in next fall (if you’re leaving for college). Read the local news, check out restaurant reviews, etc. Staying excited about college may help you stay energized through the high school finish line.

2. Set aside time for reading books for pleasure. Reading books for fun–books that you have been wanting to read but have not had the time to read–will keep your mind fresh and your writing smooth.

3. If your school offers a range of electives, try one you have always wanted to take but have not taken because of AP classes, SAT prep, and other activities.

4. Use this time as a chance to get to know classmates you do not normally spend time with.

5. Join a club.

6. Reach out to teachers and see if they have any general advice on college. Most teachers will be more than happy to share some thoughts based on their own experiences and what they’ve observed in past students over the years.

7. Work hard straight through the finish so that you can truly enjoy the euphoria that is the last day of high school. On the wait-list to your dream college? Then this is even more important.

8. Even though college applications are over, keep in mind that the brain is constantly learning and changing. Keep moving forward and keep learning new things. What is your passion?

9. Use this time as a low-stakes opportunity to experiment with your study habits. Always study in the student center? Try studying in the library one afternoon. Always do your homework really late at night? Try going to sleep early and waking up early. Much better to experiment now, in your senior spring, than during midterm season next fall.

For more tips, be sure to check out the Yale Admissions Tumblr page, where current Yale students offer tips on dealing with senioritis.

 

By Katie | Monday, April 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »

How To Get Off the Wait List: Dos and Don’ts from a Former Ivy League Admissions Officer

So, you’ve been wait listed. What now?

We’ve been getting a lot of calls lately from students and parents asking us how they can get off of the wait list and into their dream school.  To get the inside perspective, I sat down last night with Lauren, one of our admissions consultants and a former admissions officer at Dartmouth and University of Michigan, to talk about what you should and shouldn’t do to give yourself the best chance at admission.

First and foremost, no two wait list cases are alike.

Here are the basic Dos and Don’ts (read on for more detail):

DO:

  • Keep your grades up
  • Follow the school’s instructions
  • Wait a month, then send a short letter that expresses your interest in the school and shares information on new and compelling accomplishments, experiences, and activities since you’ve applied
  • Use a light touch

Don’t:

  • Over-communicate, send extra materials, or visit.

To give you some perspective, you should first understand what the wait list actually means. Here are just a few reasons why you may have been put into admissions purgatory:

  • A school thinks that they are your safety: If your candidacy is stronger than most of the people that apply to a school, a school may place you on a wait list to assess whether you’re really interested.  This is the best situation to be in as a wait listed student, as you have a distinct possibility to get yourself accepted. See below for Do’s and Don’t’s.
  • A school is managing their yield: Some schools will use the wait list to manage their yield.  If they put you on the wait list and you show really strong interest after, they’ll promote you to admission.  This is a way for the school to ensure that the people they accept will attend.  If you’re in this boat, you can do something about it. See below for Do’s and Don’t’s.
  • You were really just right on the line: You are a strong applicant and fit the profile that the school is looking for.  However, given the class composition or something in your application, you’re right on the line.  You’re placed on the wait list, and, there’s a slim chance (as low as 6 out of 300) that you may be invited to join the class.  In you’re in this situation, there’s a slim chance you can do something about it. See below for Do’s and Don’t’s.
  • It’s a “soft” let-down to you: though this is an “old school” approach, some admissions deans view wait listing as a “soft” let down.  This is their way of telling you, “we liked you, but we just can’t admit you.”  If this is you, then, unfortunately, you won’t be able to do much about this.
  • It’s a “soft” let-down to your school: Let’s say you were the star of your school but, given the competition, an admissions office couldn’t grant you admission.  If your high school has a relationship with the college, the college may put you on the wait list in order to avoid saying to a school “your best person was just not good enough or us.”  If you’re in this boat, there’s really nothing you can do.

As you can see, in some cases your effort may matter, and in some cases it may make no difference whatsoever.  However, there’s absolutely no way for you to know.  First, let’s cover the Don’ts.

Being on the wait list is hard, and drives people to do whacky things.  If you’re put on the wait list, here some things that you absolutely shouldn’t do.

  • Don’t slack off. You absolutely have to keep your grades up.  Don’t drop classes and don’t let your performance slip.  If you do, you risk being disqualified from the process, as no admissions officer can advocate for a student who has a bad case of senioritis.
  • Don’t try to be clever. While you may be tempted to try to stand out by sending cookies with your face on them, or serenading the office first thing the morning after you receive your decision, don’t do it.  Being clever may get you some smiles, but it won’t get you noticed.  It’s completely and entirely irrelevant.
  • Don’t send in superfluous recommendations. While you may be tempted to try to get someone else to vouch for you, you’re your best advocate in this situation.  Extra letters just mean extra work for an admissions officer, and likely they won’t add any new and compelling information to your file.
  • Don’t send extra materials.  The time has passed for artistic supplements, athletic videos, and writing samples.  The admissions officers themselves don’t actually review these, and it just adds more work to your case.
  • Don’t communicate excessively. Don’t send lots of emails, and don’t call non-stop. The extra communications don’t add much value but add more work for the admissions office. Send a brief, sincere letter. See below for more information on how to do this effectively.
  • Don’t visit. A visit won’t do much for you, especially if your admissions officer is busy.  Again, more work for the admissions officer, little value added to your case.  Furthermore, a visit may get you more excited and invested in a risky choice, rather than helping you move forward and get excited about another school.
  • Don’t convince your counselor to call. Unless you have a great relationship with your guidance counselor, don’t have them call on your behalf.  It won’t add much, and will definitely detract if it seems insincere.

If you’re still unsure about something, call us. Our experts can look at your case and use their knowledge to offer specific advice. We’re here to help!

In order to help your chances of admissions and to cover all your bases, you should do the following:

  • Follow the school’s directions to a T. This is self explanatory and trumps everything else below.
  • Continue working hard.  Unfortunately, if you’re trying to get off the wait list, senioritis isn’t an option.  Keep your grades and academic rigor up.  Get even more involved.  Without continued rigor, you have very little chance at making a case for yourself.
  • Overall, use a light touch. Your admissions officer is completely swamped.  You need to send the right things at the right time and no more.  Every communication you have adds a bit more work to your case, so be very judicious.
  • Let the school know about your sincere interest. Though this is far from sufficient to get you off the wait list, it is necessary.  In Lauren’s experience as a counselor, no student on the wait list was granted admission without reiterating their strong interest in the school.
  • To do this, write a letter. Here are some guidelines.
    • Address it to your admissions officer. Most schools designate an admissions officer for each region and set of schools.  The admissions officer who represents your region or school–the one who read your application in the first place–is going to be your wait list best ally.  Find that person’s direct email and address and send your letter directly to that person.  You can call the admissions office to get that person’s information.  If you stick with the generic admissions@…., your letter may not make it to the person who can advocate for you.
    • Let them know where they stand. If (and only if) the school is your top choice, make sure you state that clearly near the beginning of your letter.
    • Update them on new and compelling information. If you’ve done something that’s really new and/or compelling, mention it. These are things like maintaining your high GPA through challenging coursework (compelling) or recently taking the lead in an activity (new).  Don’t bore them with irrelevant details, though.  If it wasn’t relevant enough for your application, don’t mention it here.
    • Be humble and sincere.  Understand that your admissions decision is not personal.  You are not a victim.  They did not make a mistake.  Explain to them calmly, humbly, and sincerely why you feel their school is the best fit for you.
    • Be specific. This is the time to reiterate why a school is your top choice (if it is).  What specifically about the school draws you?  Why do you want to be admitted so badly?  Why are you the right candidate to be admitted off the wait list before 100 other students?
    • Be succinct. One page, single spaced, in 12-point font is more than enough.  You need just enough to make your case, and no more.  If you go overboard, it will affect your candidacy negatively.
  • Time it right. April is when admissions officers are busy and focused on getting their clear admits to attend.  After that, in late April and early May (and even well after, sometimes) they move to evaluating their wait lists.  Though you may be tempted to show your interest immediately, replying to your admissions decision email the moment you get it will mean you’re a distant memory when it comes time to really get down to wait list evaluations.  Rather, send your email later in April or in early May to catch your admissions officer when he/she is actually thinking about advocating for people on the wait list.
  • Possibly follow up your email with a call. This is not necessary, and, in fact, may even be discouraged by some admissions offices.  However, if the school hasn’t explicitly said not to call, follow your email up with a call a few weeks after you send it.  Be prepared to humbly make your case on the phone in a calm, composed manner.  If there’ s a chance that you’ll get nervous or crazy, don’t do it.
  • Maybe…just maybe…send an extra essay. If you’ve got a really great essay–the type you would have submitted for the college app–you can send that in.  It should be short (no more than 2 pages) and should be relevant.  If you’re in doubt, don’t send it.
  • Get excited about your other options.  Getting off the wait list is a stretch.  The best thing you can do is start to get excited about your other options.  This may sound harsh, but we would rather you be pleasantly surprised than utterly dejected.

Being on the wait list isn’t easy, and, in some cases, there’s little chance that you’ll gain admission.  Realize that each school and admissions officer has an incredibly difficult job of selecting a class, and don’t take their decision personally.  Rather, get excited about the options that you do have–attend the acceptance events, buy the sweaters, meet your potential future peers.

You’re not the first wait listed student and you certainly won’t be the last. Our experts have helped before and are prepared to help you now. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at (617) 395-4160 or info@veritutors.com. We wish you the best of luck during this challenging time.

By Katie | Thursday, April 11th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

AD(H)D Case Study- Joanna: Part 3 of 3

Joanna, a 14-year-old honors student, met me when it became apparent that she was struggling with test preparation and and overall study skills. Her History class presented the most immediate issue, though her academic inconsistencies had impacted every course.

Unlike Paul, who gets lost in the abstract, Joanna is an extremely concrete learner. She has trouble seeing how moving parts of a lesson fit into the bigger picture. She tends to study material in a rote manner, rather than conceptualizing the context or asking bigger questions. Joanna also consistently struggles with expressive language; an issue that was apparent in our first few sessions, when Joanna floundered for the right words and often stopped mid-sentence.

Strengths

Joanna swims competitively and excels in math and computers. She is a hard worker who spends many hours each night completing her homework.

Interventions

  • Joanna had to begin practicing metacognitive skills. Metacognition involves stepping outside of an assignment to consider questions such as “What does this mean”, “Why does it matter”, and “How does this fit into the larger scheme of this lesson?”
  • To bolster her test preparation skills, Joanna needs to anticipate questions she thinks her teacher will ask. In tutorials, I modeled these skills by periodically stopping and asking her questions. As a more concrete learner, she prefers answering questions that have definitive empirical answers (e.g. math problems), so this was an uncomfortable exercise at first.
  • When studying for tests, Joanna needs skill- building strategies like creating timelines and making flashcards to help synthesize the material. Much of the material overlaps; it was important for her to realize that not all moving parts contain tons of new content. We made flashcards for terms that appeared in her text, review sheets, and class notes. She seemed relieved when she saw that some of the terms repeated.
  • Joanna already knew that she learns best when material is organized spatially. We needed to find a way to organize content and digest it in ways that extended beyond her previous way of study, which was to simply stare are her review sheet. To this end, we used blank pages and a ruler to create timelines of important historical events. For instance, we made a new sheet for each geographic area when she was studying imperialism in India and Africa.
  • To strengthen Joanna’s confidence in expressing herself verbally, I encouraged her to continue speaking when she stopped mid-sentence. It was important to reinforce the idea that she did not need to be perfect. I also showed Joanna how I use dictionary.com and thesaurus.com to improve my own vocabulary. By using these tactics, Joanna enhanced her language retrieval and expressive language skills.

Successes

Joanna soon began to approach her assignments with increased critical reasoning skills. She is now aware that stopping and asking herself questions about what she is reading is essential to putting the parts together to form a cohesive whole. She is also starting to convert material she needs to learn in a more spatial fashion. She almost seemed to enjoy creating timelines for her history class, and the information itself is easier to digest when she makes it consistent with her learning style. Lastly, Joanna has embraced strategies especially suited for more concrete learners, like flashcards. As a result, her grades and confidence have shown marked improvement since we began working together.

In Summary

  • People with learning differences, like Joanna, aren’t always low achieving students
  • A common strategy, used in both Paul and Joanna’s cases, is reassuring the student that overcoming a fear of imperfection is vital to success
  • By creating hands-on study materials, concrete learners can adapt their strengths in learning to any subject presented to them
  • Using a tutor can help a student permanently change their academic approach and output

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Today’s post was written by Susannah B., MA, a learning specialist, education consultant, and Veritas tutor who specializes in maximizing the success of people with Attention Defect Disorder  and learning disabilities from an elementary to post-graduate level.

By Katie | Thursday, February 14th, 2013 | No Comments »

AD(H)D Case Study- Paul: Part 2 of 3

As mentioned in the first post of this series, students present teachers with myriad learning styles and learning differences. In order to take a closer look at the ways tutorials can be customized for students, consider the following case study based on my work with a 16-year-old high school junior named Paul.

Paul initially met with me during the summer that preceded his junior year, after his parents and advisor had expressed concern. He was becoming frustrated and would often “spin” for days when he attempted to complete writing assignments.

When Paul sits down to write, he second guesses himself to the point of erasing any progress he makes. He can remain in this paralyzing loop for days. He also has little tolerance or attention to detail; he thinks abstractly and tends to see only the big picture. His ideas are strong, but his teachers note that his work lacks organization for a student of his age and high intelligence.

Strengths

Paul received a cognitive evaluation approximately two years ago to assess his strengths and weaknesses. The report states that Paul falls in the “very superior” range in his verbal reasoning ability. He is extremely intellectually curious; he loves to read and appears mature in his analysis of the world around him.

Interventions

Barf Method

As the school year loomed and my time with Paul progress, I structured our weekly sessions to include more creative writing assignments. These helped him practice being wrong, preventing what I refer to as “analysis paralysis”. He simply needed to write without fearing imperfection. I call this type of writing the ‘Barf Method” (a term coined by Harry Bauld, my former prep school advisor, and author of the book On Writing the College Application Essay). In the Barf Method. the student practices  ”free writing” about any topic for a short period of time (20 minutes or so). Instead of writing a neatly formulated list of ideas, the student writes a messy draft that allows for run-on sentences and random tangents.

Post Line vs. Outline

I have noticed in my work that to less linear-minded people like Paul, the thought of writing a traditional outline is confining and can result in procrastination. The perfectionist wants to wait until he or she has strung together the most impressive, finely crafted choice of words. With Paul, this approach was resulting in tears, frustration, anger, and feelings of incompetence.

After the free write, I asked Paul to mine what he just wrote for any raw material that might be expanded on in the first draft, or “post line” (the opposite of an outline). Following his “barf out”, I asked him to evaluate what he just wrote and then try to write a more linear, formal outline based on the raw goods.

Paul also tends to get hung up on details when he struggles to readily craft a brilliant turn of phrase while beginning to write. For both Paul and anyone who gets stuck because of perfectionist tendencies, I recommend including a sentence as a placeholder thesis; the sentence can approximate the ideas he wants to convey, but it does not have to be perfect. I reassure him that he can refine the thesis later, and rewriting the whole draft will help him refine it.

Transition statements can be equally problematic for Paul. When he fumbles for the right words, I provide starter prompts. Sometimes the prompts are as simple as “next” or “for example” or “in conclusion”. The point is to keep moving.

Paul’s challenges involved some cognitive inflexibility, such as a defiance or a patronizing attitude when we work together, so I have found it especially important to respect his process so that he does not feel overwhelmed by tutoring.

Successes

After several months of working with Paul, I received an email from him stating that he not only enjoys writing, but also wants to write for the school’s literary magazine. He is now an avid journal keeper, and this fluidity in his expressive writing makes writing his academic papers less daunting. Though he still sometimes gets “stuck” finding the perfect word, he is beginning to allow himself to start anywhere in his thought process to write the draft.

In Summary

  • Though measuring in the ‘very superior’ range in verbal reasoning ability, Paul struggled to produce when it came to writing assignments
  • Reducing the pressure of perfection through free write exercises may help students such as Paul overcome their frustration
  • Introducing  a”post line” helps some students escape the confines of a creating a traditional outline

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Today’s post was written by Susannah B., MA, a learning specialist, education consultant, and Veritas tutor who specializes in maximizing the success of people with Attention Deficit Disorder and learning disabilities from the elementary to post-graduate level.

By Katie | Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 | No Comments »

Making AD(H)D into a Strength, not a Liability: Part 1 of 3

What do you do when you feel like you are working hard, but not attaining the results you want or the results others expect? Students often seek tutoring to learn specific strategies to study for standardized tests, or for specific help troubleshooting a course with a difficult professor. But some students may have a diagnosed or undiagnosed learning disability.

In his book A Mind at a Time, education leader Dr. Mel Levin asserts, “When these children grow up, they will be able to practice their brain’s specialties. In childhood, they will be evaluated ruthlessly on how well they do everything.” Many experts in the field believe that if evaluated closely enough, everyone would have a learning difference of some sort. Some students must read their notes aloud to understand what they write, while others must draw diagrams to understand course material. These differences are what make the world full of creative people; we wouldn’t want everyone to have the same brain, right?

A learning difference becomes a disability when it interferes with academic performance. These students are not necessarily the slackers.  While they often work harder than other students, they may receive a C one day and an A the next. Teachers often instruct these students to “apply themselves” or “buckle down.”

An interference with academic performance does not predict a learning disability when a student simply dislikes a teacher or prefers geometry to literature. A learning disability by definition may be present when a student who is of average or above average intelligence is not performing in the classroom in the way that would be indicated by that student’s mental capabilities. Potentially at risk are those students who are assessed in the early grades as highly capable yet receive inconsistent grades or flounder as the work becomes more difficult..

People with learning disabilities are not to be confused with people with low cognitive functioning. When a teacher tells a student to “buckle down,” the teacher assumes that the student is capable. The teacher assumes that if the student works harder, the student’s performance will match his or her potential.  In the case of a student who does not have a learning disability, there is less of a discrepancy between potential and achievement. And the student may be capable of only C work.

If students are newly diagnosed with a learning disability, they may feel freaked out by acronyms like IEP, IDEA, and ADA, as well as education nomenclature such as “executive function” and “Attention Deficit Disorder.” In the multi-page cognitive evaluations that are provided upon diagnosis, more often than not the evaluator recommends individualized tutoring.  A tutor can demystify learning disabilities by helping a student gain awareness of how he or she learns best. Since there are thousands of subsets of learning disabilities, individualized instruction can be essential in customizing material to meet the needs of students.

Of course, not all students who begin to struggle in school have a learning disability, but inconsistent performance can be an indicator of students who are at risk. A tutor can recommend that a student receive an evaluation and make specific recommendations based on what is observed in tutorials.

Our next few posts will explore specific case studies and how a tutor was integral in the academic success of each student.

In Summary:

  • A learning difference only becomes a disability when it interferes with academic performance
  • Tutors can help a student’s academic output match their potential with individualized instruction
  • A successful tutor build his or her student’s confidence by teaching effective organization and study skills
  • Customized study sessions encourage the student to keep moving and creating in a comfortable setting, rather than a classroom with peers

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Today’s post was written by Susannah B., MA, a learning specialist, education consultant, and Veritas tutor who specializes in maximizing the success of people with Attention Deficit Disorder and learning disabilities from the elementary to the post-graduate level.

 

By Katie | Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Veritas Welcomes Former Groton Admissions Officer to Staff


Veritas Tutors is proud to announce that we are expanding the Admissions Consulting services that we provide to our clients. We will now include Secondary School Admissions Consulting, in addition to our Undergraduate and Graduate School Admissions Consulting. This is a direct response to many of our clients, who have requested assistance for their children as they apply to private boarding and day schools.

Our Secondary School Admissions Consulting efforts will be coordinated by Barbara Eghan. Barbara worked for five years as Associate Director of Admission at Groton School, a coeducational boarding school in Massachusetts that draws applicants from around the world. In her time at Groton, she interviewed hundreds of students, read thousands of applications, and worked in conjunction with several admission consultants, all the while calibrating and spending significant time analyzing key predictors of a student’s academic success. In addition to her admissions role, Barbara taught English for two years at Groton and taught the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) Verbal, Reading, and Writing sections at Brooks Summer School. With these combined experiences in admissions and teaching, Barbara has developed a strong understanding of how schools attract the best applicants to fulfill their missions and how students can best position themselves for entry into highly competitive independent schools.

In her own words:

I will provide Veritas Tutors clients with a roadmap to guide them through the complicated landscape of independent secondary school admission. Beginning with an initial consultation in which we discuss the student’s interests and goals, we will then embark on the process of researching and narrowing the list of schools that offer the right balance of fit and potential for growth. The Secondary School Admissions Consulting service will also include protocols for school visits, interview preparations and debriefs for both the student and his or her family, assistance with the application process, review of personal and supplemental essays, and, if necessary, review of the financial aid process. Where appropriate, I may contact prospective schools to advocate for the students during the reading process of the admissions cycle. Finally, we will review the school options a student has earned in the spring in order to make a well-informed decision and conclude the school search.

Barbara is now pursuing a Master’s degree at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she is concentrating in School Leadership.

Who/what inspired you to dedicate your career to education?

I chose to dedicate my career to education because schools were the places where I was most transformed as I was growing up. Especially during those formative adolescent years, I benefited from teachers and mentors who dared me to clarify my thinking, find my voice, cope with challenges, and strive to have a positive impact on the lives of others. In short, I was lucky that my own education was a source of constant inspiration throughout my journey- I was to spend my life doing work that has such tremendous power to inspire young people on the cusp of figuring out who they are what role they will play in this world.

What help do you wish you had received in your own educational journey?

As I have said, I am grateful to have some wonderful teachers throughout my life, and I could not have asked for better support.

I just wish I had had an inner judo master, someone to remind me that as important as it is to keep one’s balance, it is equally imperative to learn ways of regaining it when it is lost.

Why and when should parents and students consider applying to private schools instead of public schools?

I always acknowledge up front that my fundamental belief is not that one type of schooling is better than the other- my fundamental belief is in educational choice, and that when given the opportunity for choice, it is worthwhile to be informed about the options. Having said that, I believe that some students benefit from the educational, extracurricular, and/or developmental resources at independent schools that might not be available elsewhere. Independent schools tend to have smaller class sizes, more consistently high levels of rigor and expectation, more financial resources for student programming and support, and greater reported levels of student motivation and satisfaction with regard to the educational experience than you find at most public schools. Also, because independent schools are not beholden to state assessments and curriculum standards, they enjoy more freedom to not only support high-quality teaching and learning, but also to nurture those increasing necessary so-called “non-cognitive” skills- skills like emotional intelligence, effort, perseverance, self-discipline, leadership, and accountability, all of which enhance the entire learning community as well as each student’s ability to benefit most greatly from it. And, of course, many families credit independent schools for being able to offer their children greater opportunity- for school involvement, talent development, meaningful student-teacher relationships, and post- secondary success. These are just a few good reasons why some families choose to consider independent schools among the educational options for their children.

As for when these considerations should begin, there is no single right answer here. Some students are independent schoolers for life, whereas some public schoolers might come to find, as I once did, that there is merit to exploring other options at the critical secondary-school level. Some eager parents start the independent school search a few years before they intend for their child to attend. But it is more typical to start the school search process in the early fall of the year prior to attendance- for students seeking admission to an independent school for the 2013-14 academic year, now is a great time to start getting a feel for the different kinds of schools out there.

Why are you the right person to help parents/students achieve their goal of admission to the “right” school for them?

From an admissions perspective, I have read hundreds of successful secondary school applications, but many more hundreds of unsuccessful ones- I know what distinguishes the two in a deeply talented applicant pool. I know the questions admissions counselors ask and how they are interpreting the answers. I know what admissions committee conversations sounds like and how difficult many of their decisions are. I have had the good fortune to visit and know colleagues and students at several independent schools across the country, so, from the inside out, this is a landscape I know well.

From a family’s perspective, I know how hopeful the admissions process is, and yet how vulnerable it can make students and their parents feel. I know their hopes, their anxieties, and the questions with which they wrestle as they consider what they most value in an education. I know how much students can learn about themselves when they approach the application process with the right combination of thoughtfulness and ambition.

My admissions experience at a highly selective school provided me with a unique lens: in addition to my own experience as a student in independent schools, as an educator I have spent countless hours with parents and students who are evaluating the very question of which school is best for them, and it did not take me long to recognize why the role is often referred to as “admission counseling”. At stake for each family are big decisions about fit, ambition, development, community, opportunity- the admission process is about much more than simply “getting in”, and I take this notion seriously. I have said to nearly every student I have interviewed that the school search process is a “soul search” by a different name: it is empowering for a young person to ask questions about the interests that motivate them, the talents they seek to develop, and the environment that will allow them to grow.

What books are on your nightstand/current reading list?

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us) by Tom Vanderbilt
Difficult Conversations: How To Discuss What Matters Most by D. Stone, B. Patton, and S. Heen (for the record, I don’t have a whole lot of “difficult conversations”, but this fast read is a good reminder that in life, love and work, we should strive to understand and listen to each other- and ourselves- better).

If you are interested in learning more about Secondary School Admissions Counsulting or any of our other admissions services, please contact Adrian at (617) 395-4160 or info@veritutors.com.

By Jay | Monday, October 15th, 2012 | No Comments »

The Timbre of College Visits

For those of you in high school, the next phase of your life likely means more than just a little concern; imminent major life-change – going to college – causes stress in even the best of students.  For your parents, helping you confront this stress – this transition from high-school student into a college freshman – likely means urging you to the essential rite of passage: the college visit.  If the mere idea of spending time with your parents — particularly when “time” means a car, where nothing but your trusty iPod earbuds separate you — pushes your stress-level into the red, then you are an ordinary teenager.  With nearly toxic hormone levels, you have a biological imperative to disobey your parents.  Regarding college-visits, however, your parents are only trying to give you a glimpse of utopia…and the longer you wait to go, the less likely you are to find that campus, the one that is perfect for you.

In fact, the biggest mistake that most teens make is waiting until the Summer to make these vital college visits.  Student life is the single most important characteristic of any campus.  Though your parents may still marvel at the architecture, the curriculum, and the student-to-faculty ratio (and you may be nothing but bored at these features of a school), you as a prospective student owe yourself the marvel at real college students in their natural habitat.  Simply put, college is more than school.  It will be your home; suburban or urban, small or large, college-based or university-based, it will become your community. And, as the traits and nuances of any community cannot be found on a bland website or in empty buildings, community must be experienced.

So, when you visit a school, don’t take just the standard campus tour.  Observe how the students there behave in class, act around campus, and – especially – commune in the dining hall (the belly of every community).  Take time to linger in each new environment and imagine yourself among its vibrant crowd.  Ideally a collegiate reverie will titillate your teenage soul, inspired into an urgent sense of optimism about making this daydream a reality; ideally you’ll know that that school – that that community – is meant for you. Alternatively, if you find yourself not daydreaming but dreading a certain undergraduate experience instead, then you will still have done yourself a favor; as you begin to plot your future, you’ll have the knowledge that that experience, or at least that that community, doesn’t ring true for you. You’ll even have plenty of time to prepare for a gap year . . . but that’s a matter for another article.

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to hit the college circuit and figure out the nuanced differences between the communities of Wellesley and Wesleyan, Williams and William and Mary, for yourself.

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By admin | Wednesday, March 9th, 2011 | No Comments »

Admissions: In Summary

Wrapping up the Veritas College-Admissions series, co-founders Andrew M. and Jay B. underscore the key take-aways from their presentation, “How to Get into (Your) Harvard.” Relating the story of a past applicant, they remind us how getting into (your) Harvard is not about being involved in a million activities in high school, but rather finding what you love and pursuing excellence at it.

Intro. statistics and social-sciences students, stay tuned; next week, the Veritas Blog will premiere its new series on introductory statistics, geared for social-scientific research!

Happy Presidents’ Weekend, all!
The Veritas Team

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By admin | Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 | No Comments »

Admissions: 12th Grade

High-school Seniors, the road to college-admissions is now much shorter than it used to be when you were in 9th, 10th, and 11th grades; having already accomplished yourselves verily through academics, extracurriculars, and other narrative-building experiences, it’s time now for you to put everything together, down on paper, and then send it off to all the colleges you choose: in other words, to your Harvards. In this penultimate post in the Veritas College-Admissions series, relating “How to Get into (Your) Harvard,” co-founders Jay B. and Andrew M. discuss the expectations, processes, and senses of accomplishment that characterize every successful high-school Senior’s year.

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By admin | Tuesday, February 8th, 2011 | No Comments »
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