Summer Programs for “Undecided” College-bound Teens

It’s perfectly OK if a high school student doesn’t know what they want to major in during college! The most popular major for college freshmen is “Undecided”. In fact, when a high school student is so fixated on a particular major, that’s when I start to worry.


Anyone who has researched summer programs knows there are plenty of options for students interested in medicine, pre-engineering students, and those interested in business majors. Well, if you’re not so sure about which major interests you or just plain want to explore different fields, there are many summer programs that cover a range of topic areas through courses, cultural immersion, and community service.


For my high school students who are unsure of a major for college, I recommend that they try something totally new to get an idea of what they like or don’t like. We set basic program criteria, like the length of program, location, or extracurricular activities to focus our search for summer programs. Whether we focus on academic courses or community service depends on whether there are gaps to fill on their activities resume. The key is finding a summer program that’s a good match for exploring and discovering new interests.


Here are several summer programs that have different program options to choose:


Wake Forest Summer Immersion Institute – while Wake Forest offers many programs focused on specific future majors, there are also ones that are more general, such as health & well-being, leadership, technology and writing for life.

Putney Student Travel – whether a student wants to study abroad or do community service, this program has a range of options. Students may choose to do community service, or language learning, in addition to studying on a college campus.

Northwestern College Prep Program – available in two formats (IN FOCUS for in-person and E FOCUS for virtual) participants get access to professors during a variety of 2-week programs. 

LEAD Global Summer Institute – in this 3-week hybrid program (one week online and two weeks in person) participants will end the program equipped to “think differently” about how they learn and how to apply it. 


What general summer programs have you found to spark new interests?


Top 5 Checklist for college-bound 10th graders

Sophomore year is a great time to jumpstart the college admissions process. If you have taken any standardized test by this point or submitted your contact information online, then it’s highly likely that you have started receiving college brochures. Yes, those glossy brochures can be very enticing. However before you get too excited about those beautiful campus pics, follow this top 5 checklist to get into your top colleges that are a good fit for you!



1. Take courses that challenge you.

Don’t worry about what your friends are taking or the rumors about a teacher to avoid. Colleges will consider how well you took advantage of the curriculum that your high school offers. Your success in these courses can also lead to merit scholarships from colleges.


Blue lights are everywhere on college campuses.
Blue lights are everywhere on college campuses.

2. Get involved in extra-curricular activities that interest you.

If there’s a club that you can see yourself leading, consider getting involved during sophomore year. Perhaps you could see yourself as yearbook editor, student council president, or secretary of 4-H. Then, sophomore year can be the time to learn more about those roles, as well as whether you enjoy participating. Please remember depth, instead of breadth. Focus on the few activities that you enjoy and excel in, rather than participating in 10 different clubs just for the sake of including on your resume.


3. Get to know your teachers and let them get to know you.

Your teacher recommendations will be an important aspect of your college applications. Set a goal to meet with 1-2 teachers on a monthly or bimonthly basis. Be sincere in your efforts by meeting with those teachers that you want to know better and/or have an interest in their subject area.


4. Read outside of school assignments.

Believe it or not, your local library has some fun ways for you to enjoy reading! If you have a library card, use it regularly and get involved with the teen events. If you don’t have a library card, get one right away . . . it’s free and easy to use. You can also take advantage of winter and spring breaks to read a book that you enjoy. Now, how does this relate to college?? Reading for pleasure will help with getting higher test scores, developing your intellectual curiosity, and writing your college application essays.


5. Own your online persona.

If you have any social media accounts, make sure that they are updated to protect your privacy and represent you well. Delete any questionable or unfavorable comments. (Do the “grandma check”: if you would be embarrassed by your grandmother seeing it, then delete.) More and more colleges are reviewing prospective students’ social media presence, so be careful!


Which of these action items is at the top of your to-do list?


Where’s the money for college? Case studies of how students earned big scholarships

Big college scholarships: Do they exist as readily as you might have heard or are they unattainable for the “average” student? I often hear from prospective students and their families who are convinced there aren’t as many scholarships out there as they’ve been told, or they just have no idea how to find them. 

As college-bound high school students finalize their lists and begin the application process, their parents may be left wondering: “Where’s the money for college?” 

One of the places that parents start their search for extra money for college is on websites that provide a list of scholarships, including niche scholarships for things like athletics or particular areas of study.

There are several websites to choose from, and I especially like for its variety of options. As parents are looking through these options, they may end up thinking, “Wow, we could have been applying for these scholarships a long time ago.” And yes, that’s true! In fact, many there are many scholarship applications available for students as young as 13 years old. 

So parents shouldn’t wait until junior or senior year to start asking “Where’s the money for college scholarships?”

Lottery scholarships.

When I’m counseling students each year, I don’t want families to leave any money on the table. 

Some students apply to these “lottery” scholarships (I refer to them with this term because of the low chances of “winning” the scholarships.) 

When you look at the fine print text of the instructions, you’ll learn that the chances of winning are often based on the number of submissions. These scholarships are indeed quite competitive. Even for a prestigious scholarship like the Coca-Cola Scholarship, there are thousands of students with strong ACT/SAT scores and perfect GPAs.

Instead of putting all your eggs in the outside scholarship basket, students should consider scholarships directly from colleges. That’s where the real big money for college is found. 

Don’t believe me? My students have received scholarship awards ranging from $40,000 to $300,000. These scholarships came directly from their colleges.

Now, let’s go over how they did it. 

How my students earned big scholarships.

Colleges are recruiting students who will contribute to their campus community in a myriad of ways. 

Here are five real-world examples of merit scholarships that my students have received and what they did to earn these awards:

CASE STUDY 1: Scholarship for fine and visual arts. 

To obtain these awards, students submitted a portfolio as part of the application process. Much of their portfolio preparation was completed during the summer before senior year. 

I also encouraged them to attend a National Portfolio Day as a way to get feedback on their portfolios before they submitted it to colleges. Students also took advantage of the National Portfolio Day to learn about potential colleges they wanted to visit. 

The subsequent campus visit reinforced their interest in some colleges and further helped with securing scholarship awards.

By the way, campus visits don’t have to be agonizing for students or their parents. Here are 5 tips for a stress-free campus visit.

CASE STUDY 2: Scholarships to travel abroad. 

There are a number of college scholarships that are posted on a college’s website and listed in my firm’s online portal

My students have applied for a number of these scholarships. Several of them have been for travel funds to study abroad. Students submit an essay discussing how they would benefit from traveling abroad as part of the application process. In most cases, these were short essays, which I think are harder to write!
claremont colleges

CASE STUDY 3: Scholarships to do research with faculty mentors. 

There are several colleges that seek students who are interested in research. (One of the colleges that I found particularly advanced in its research scholarship offerings is Clark University.)

My students who received these college scholarships had all demonstrated their interest in research through summer experiences. The summer experiences included working in a laboratory, conducting research through a formal summer program offered at a university, or continuing a project with a high school teacher.

CASE STUDY 4: $100K+ scholarships.  

These awards went to students who expressed interest in a specific department or program featured at that college. 

Students wrote about their interests in supplemental essays and had also demonstrated interest in that particular area through a summer experience. Their interests ranged from departments of business to natural sciences to engineering

Several colleges required essays for a particular named niche scholarship and a few offered invitation-only interviews. Colleges are seeking different types of students and will offer niche scholarships to attract THAT student.

Want to learn more about writing essays for college? Don’t miss this podcast where I break down the best practices. 

CASE STUDY 5: Scholarships for being MALE.  

I don’t know how else to say this, but there’s been a trend over the years where my male students get awarded more money. 

This is the only common attribute that I’ve found…some of them didn’t even have the strongest GPA or high school resume. (Go figure, right?) A college admissions officer from a well-known Florida university even stated at a professional conference that:

“We gather all the applications from males first, review their credentials, award scholarships, send their offers and wait on their response. Then we look at the female application pool…Frankly, we need more males on our campuses.”

Yes—I was shocked to hear this too! But the fact that more women are enrolling in college means that a number of campuses have more women. Colleges that seek to reach a 50/50 gender balance will continue to award these scholarships.

Okay, now tell me what you’re thinking. What have you been doing to find more money for college?

Are you looking for one-on-one guidance for how to get into (or pay for) college? Click here for help. 

If you enjoyed this post, don’t miss these either: 

Living Off-Campus: Pros and Cons

College Application Checklist

Colleges with Free Laundry: A Time and Money Saving Consideration 

This article was updated from the original post from 19th September 2016

4 Hot Tips To Make the Most of 10th Grade

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1569254267795{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]As the parent of a 10th grader, you may recall the heartaches of this awkward year of high school and how challenging it can be. What can make this year awkward from a college-readiness standpoint is that your teen isn’t quite fully in the college admissions phase. To make the most of this year, here are four tips that I have learned over the years:

#1 – Develop Self-awareness

This is a great year for your teen to get in touch with who they are and what they want . . . not just being who their parents say they are or imitating their friends’ interests.

Developing self-awareness can be done through taking some initial inventories and interest surveys that can help with figuring out likes and dislikes. Your school counselor may have access to some really great tools that your teen can take. The key will be making sure that they review the results with their counselor and you should get a copy as well to discuss with your teen. Perhaps interpreting the results can lead your teen to consider certain careers or help with building their interpersonal skills, depending on the survey instrument taken.

#2 – Re-evaluate friend groups

This second tip may sound a bit harsh in some way, but 10th grade is a good time for your teen to really reassess their friend groups. When I say reassess friend groups, it’s really about your teen thinking about who is a friend and who is not a friend. And if it’s someone that’s really not a good friend to them, then it’s okay to exit that relationship and not be in a place where they feel bad about themselves or unwanted.

I’ve seen a number of teens go through this experience and it’s been one that’s really been valuable for them in 10th grade. During 9th grade, they may have made some friends that weren’t the best choices. Because 11th grade will likely be a bit more intense, managing toxic relationships at school could be even more challenging. Sophomore year can be a good time to join a new group because it’s likely that there are some other classmates who are also open to new friendships.

#3 – Pursue interests

Your teen should consider pursuing what interests them . . . whether it’s a particular club at school or community service activity. The key is that whichever activity they pursue, make sure that it’s not about doing what their friends are doing or participating because mom/dad suggested. BTW, I understand that this may sound easier than it is in practice, especially if your teen does not want to be involved. A parent shared recently that they forced their teen to choose one club to join. Although I don’t recommend “forcing” a teen to do anything, you, the parent, would know best what will motivate your teen to take action.

What have you done when your teen has been reluctant to participate at school?

#4 – Spend summer wisely

Encourage your sophomore to spend their summer in a productive, intentional way.

For example, let’s say that your teen completes an interest inventory and the results show that they may be a fit for business. Then they could consider a summer internship, parrt-time job and/or countless summer business programs. These summer experiences could help them determine whether business really is an area that interest them. One of my students attended a summer business program after his sophomre year and realized that marketing interested him far more than finance. That’s an important distinction to make because business is such a broad field. (With an interest an marketing, then that could lead to getting involved with DECA during junior year.)

Whatever the experience your teen pursues during the summer, remember to be intentional about the summer and not just let the summer happen to your teen.

For more insights and tips for sophomore year, check out our 10th grade roadmap which includes specific month-by-month suggested actions, colleges worth considering and scholarships![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

4 Top Tips to Make The Most of Ninth Grade

Ninth Grade

Ninth grade is a very big deal! It’s a transitional year that can set the tone for the rest of high school and beyond.

While parents may be tempted to “back off” in terms of involvement, it’s really the time to step up your engagement. Granted, your engagement may not be as hands-on as helping in the classroom, your assistance with guiding your teen to make the most of high school is important.

Here are 4 key tips to help your teen navigate ninth grade successfully and launch into a wonderful high school experience:

Practice good organizational and study skills. These are foundational skills that your teen will continue to rely upon each and every year.

Although courses may be a bit more challenging in ninth grade, they will get even more challenging for 10th, 11th and 12th Grade. So ninth grade is a great time to start practicing those good organizational and study skills. If your teen’s skills are weak in these areas, then 9th grade is an ideal time to figure out what works. There are any number of books and/or digital tools/apps that your teen can use to develop these skills.

Get involved with only one or two activities at school. During 9th grade, there’ll be so many new things happening. . . new teachers. . . perhaps new friend groups, and more. It will be all too easy to participate in the same activities as friends. Rather than follow the crown, I would suggest that your teen figures out their own you and focus on participating in only one or two clubs (including sports). Getting involved in too many activities at once may add too much undue stress and slow down their adjustment to high school.

Map courses forward. Courses taken in 9th grade play a role in the course selection for the remainder of high school. So, rather than considering 9th grade only, you can determine the core courses for 10th 11th and 12th grade as well (includes foreign language). This can help your teen see where there may be gaps in their course schedule and plan ahead for creative ways to fill any gaps.

Be intentional about summer. Gone are the days of only “hanging out” in the summer. Having fun and going on family vacations are important. However, there are typically many more other weeks for participating in a summer program, interning, reading several books, even focusing on a creative project. Whatever it is your teen does during the summer, be intentional about it, i.e. have a reason for participating!

Check out my 9th-grade roadmap for more timely tips to navigate each month of this year! (Choose “9th Grade” with the blue button here on this page.)

Private College vs. Public: Important Differences You Need to Know

Private college vs. public college

Are you stuck deciding between a public college and a private college?

Many students and their families face this dilemma.

Maybe you’ve decided you’ll never be able to afford a private college. Or you think a public university or state school won’t have the course offerings you need.

Each has its own benefits, but there are considerations about private colleges and public universities that could make either one a better choice for you.

Either way, there are plenty of misconceptions about post-secondary institutions.

Whether you’re a prospective student or the parent of one, this post should help clarify differences between public universities and private colleges, to help you make the most informed decision.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is a private college?

Private colleges are privately funded institutions that rely on tuition, endowments, and donations for their funding.

However, these schools may still receive tax breaks, grants, and loans from the government.

Private colleges can often dictate their own policies, but depending on where they’re located, they may still be subject to government regulation.

Private colleges almost always have fewer students. The average enrollment at a private college is 1,900 students or less.

It’s also estimated that about 20 percent of post-secondary students in the United States attend private colleges.

What is a public university?

Unlike a private college, a public university is publicly funded, which means tax dollars are the primary source of income for these schools. Usually, they are operated by state government entities.

When you hear of “state schools”, they’re almost always referring to public universities. Some states have more than 30 of these institutions, and each state has at least one.

So, now that we know the fundamental definitions of public universities and private colleges, let’s dive into some other important differences.


State-funded schools were largely built to offer an affordable post-secondary option to its residents. After all, the taxes they pay go toward funding public universities. For that reason, public universities often have lower tuition rates for residents from that state than a private college would.

That being said, there are often bigger scholarship opportunities available to private college students, so don’t count them out just yet if you’re worried about cost!

Financial aid, grants, and scholarships.

If you compare the sticker price of private college tuition to public university tuition, the private college will be higher.

Just look at this data from the US Department of Education for average total tuition, fees, and room and board rates charged for full-time, four-year undergraduate students in degree-granting institutions for 2015/2016:

Private college: $48,510
Public university (in-state): $21,370
Public university (out-of-state): $37,430

If you look only at those numbers, you might make up your mind right then and there that a private college is too expensive for you.

But wait till you hear what I have to tell you next.

There are some very sizable financial aid options available to eligible students who go to a private university!

So sizable, in fact, these financial aid packages and grants often offset tuition cost enough that attending a private college could be comparable to—or even less expensive than—attending a public university.

Scholarship opportunities for private college students may also be much greater than they are for public university students.

While we’re on the topic, take a look at this post I wrote about not letting the college sticker price fool you at first glance.


Another important distinction between public universities and private colleges is the student body and class size at each.

As I mentioned, most private colleges have an undergraduate class of around 1,900. Public universities, on the other hand, may have an undergraduate class at least ten times that size.

Understandably, with bigger student bodies there tend to be bigger class sizes.

For students who prefer a smaller class size and more individualized learning experiences, this factor may draw them to a private college.

But a larger student body population can also have its advantages, including a broader selection of course offerings.

Course offerings.

As I mentioned, bigger schools often offer more course selections for their students because they have the student body to fill those courses.

For students who want a wide selection of courses and degree options to try, a public university might be the ideal choice.

When a student has a particular focus (liberal arts, for example) a private college may be the perfect choice.

If you happen to be one of those students looking for a private college with a liberal arts focus, I recommend you have a look at this post where I outline why Williams is the #1 liberal arts college in the country. 

Choosing between a public or private school.

There’s no doubt that choosing the right school for you is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. To help you with this decision, we’ve outlined some key differences between public and private post-secondary schools.

The best choice for you often comes down to price, location, where you’re accepted, and course offerings.

It’s important to remember not to write a college off at first glance without doing research into available options to help with tuition and other costs.

I offer plenty of other free resources for help with choosing a college—you’ll find those right here.

Need a little more guidance?

For one-on-one support and other resources to help you or your child get into (or pay) for college click here.

If you’d like to learn more about getting into college and getting money for college, don’t miss these articles either:

How to Save Time When Seeking Money for College
7 Ways to Support Your Child During the College Application Process
How to Avoid Overpaying for College

Five Tips for Teaching Your Child to Love Reading (and How This Can Help Them Get Into College!)

Summer reading for teens who hate reading

What if I told you helping your child develop a love for reading is one of the best gifts you can give?

It will benefit your child throughout her life—teens who love reading have a better likelihood of getting into the college of their choice. (More on that later.)

One of the first questions I ask college-bound students is, “Tell me about the last book you read for pleasure.” 

Usually, there’s a pause. Then they mention a book that’s clearly from a school reading list like “Catcher in the Rye” or “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

“Really? For pleasure?” I ask. 

Once I call them out on it, they usually confess that the last one was a Harry Potter novel from several years ago. 

My bolder students will come out and admit that they “hate” reading.

Over the years, about 25 percent of the students I’ve worked with have been avid readers who truly love diving into a good book. 

Those are the students who’ve been admitted to the most selective colleges, like Stanford, Harvard, University of Chicago, MIT, and similar.

What’s interesting is that when I ask parents if their child is a reader, about 75 percent say their teen “used to be” a reader. 

When I then ask them when their child stopped reading, the most common response is: “Sixth grade.”

Why teens stop reading in grade 6.

There are several reasons why teens stop reading:

  • Screen time
  • Pressure to “be cool”
  • Friends don’t read or talk about books
  • Parents stop reading aloud to them

Yes, I did suggest that parents should continue reading aloud even through high school! 

Why parents should read aloud to their children (even when they’re teenagers!)

Reading aloud to your teen is a great way to model reading and expose your teen to an expanded vocabulary and important ideas. 

It goes back to the James Baldwin quote: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

Middle School Reading List

To help your child develop a love of reading in middle school, try offering the following books.

[mk_table style=”style2″ el_class=”mytable”]

6th Inkheart
Cornelia Funke
The Cay
Theodore Taylor
Gary Paulsen
Among the Hidden
Margaret Peterson Haddix and Cliff Nielsen
  Mysterious Benedict Society
Trenton Lee Stewart
7th Chains
Laurie Halse Anderson
Chasing Vermeer
Blue Balliett
  Al Capone Does My Shirts
Gennifer Choldenko
Eoin Colfer
  Code Orange
Caroline B. Cooney
8th The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Red Kayak
Priscilla Cummings
  Hattie Big Sky
Kirby Larson
Scott Westerfeld
  To Be A Slave
Julius Lester


What is your teen reading this summer?

I understand that the school year is busy and your teen has a lot of homework. 

That means summer break is a good time for your teen to read! 

Many studies, including this article from The School Library Journal, have shown that students who don’t read consistently over the summer see their reading abilities stagnate. 

Even worse, this effect grows more prominent as they advance into high school.

Not every child naturally loves reading. Sometimes you might need to help them along, and summer is a great time to do so!

Here are 5 tips to help your child learn to love reading this summer:

  1. Have your teen set a summer reading goal and keep them accountable.
  2. Have your teen choose their own book to read, whether it’s graphic novels, cookbooks, or romance novels about vampires. . .reading is reading.
  3. Encourage your teen to read a book they enjoy for at least thirty minutes a day.
  4. Model reading for your teen. The more they see you reading, the more likely they are to follow your example.
  5. Have your teen sign up for the summer reading challenge at a local library. This could be a fun form of competition and a way to meet other teen readers.

It’s not too late! To help your teen pick out books to read this summer, we’ve compiled this list from several libraries and organized them by grade. 

High School Reading List

[mk_table style=”style2″ el_class=”mytable”]

9th Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina
and New Orleans
Don Brown
We Were Liars
E. Lockhart
Marcus Sedgwick
Between Shades of Gray
Ruta Sepetys
  Code Name Verity
Elizabeth Wein
10th Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
The Last Lecture
Randy Pausch
  Into Thin Air
Jon Krakauer
Six of Crows
Leigh Bardugo
  Bone Gap
Laura Ruby
11th I’ll Give You the Sun
Jandy Nelson
Debunk It!: How To Stay Sane in a World of Misinformation
John Grant
  Defy the Stars
Claudia Gray
The May Queen Murders
Sarah Jude
  In the Shadow of Blackbirds
Cat Winters
12th The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
Jeff Hobbs
Enter Title Here
Rahul Kanakia
  American Girls
Alison Umminger
Dirt Bikes, Drones, & Other Ways to Fly
Conrad Wesselhoeft
  Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports History
Molly Schiot


Becoming a real reader can improve your teen’s vocabulary, make them a better writer, help them get into college, and enlarge their breadth of understanding of the world around them. 

What books would you add to these lists? Let me know in the comments below. 

Need a little more guidance?

For one-on-one support and other resources to help you or your child get into (or pay) for college click here.

If you’d like to learn more about helping your teen get into college, don’t miss these posts:

How to Save Time When Seeking Money for College
College Essay How-to: Who is someone you admire?
Get In and Get Money: 5 Tips for College-Bound Juniors


How to get School Records Organized in 2 easy steps

parents of middle schoolers school records

For parents of middle-schoolers, midway through the academic year is a good time to set up your organization system for school records.

All of my new client meetings begin with a review of school records, like their transcripts, teacher comments and achievement tests. I realize that it’s no small task to keep track of numerous odd-sized bits of paper, sometimes carbon-copied with faded dates and scores. And what do you do with those colorful guides with rows of achievement scores and percentile rankings?

As a mom of 3, I understand how overwhelming it can be to keep track of all the information that comes home from school. When you combine the physical documents with email notifications, it gets even messier . . .

1. Set up filing system first

Using the term “filing system” may sound a bit intimidating. However, once you set it up, it will be easy to maintain. You can begin your child’s academic file with a manila folder labeled with their name.

What to Keep in Manila Folder

Your child’s academic folder at home should hold:

  • all classroom-based assessment reports for each testing year
  • standardized test reports, such as EXPLORE, PSAT, SAT
  • letters on district scoring
  • copies of individual education plans (IEPs)
  • records on gifted and talent qualifications
  • copy of most recent forms submitted at the beginning of the school year
  • grade reports with teacher comments
  • any other email communications related to assessments
  • profiles/inventories conducted at school

In short this folder should, at a minimum, include a copy of any records/reports that your school has on file about your child. Keeping track of these documents will facilitate parent-teacher conferences and help you with understanding how you can best support their academic success.

2. Organize personal projects in a Binder

Separately, you can prepare a thick, 3-ring binder labeled with their name, school year, and grade level.

This binder can be used to hold assignments and writings that your child produced during the school year. I’m not suggesting that you have to keep every scrap of paper that they colored. I do recommend that you keep any journal entries and assignments that demonstrate their creative thinking/problem solving skills development.

These are helpful for reviewing your child’s progress over the academic year and again being able to support them in areas where they may need more assistance. Likewise, these organized assignments can be used to encourage and congratulate your child on all their efforts during that grade year. You will also be surprised how much children enjoy looking through these past assignments and marveling at their development.

Your child may accumulate a lot of paper during the year. I collect their assignments regularly in a hanging file folder then put in the binder as I make time. (There’s no such thing as “having” time for this, so you’ll have to “make” the time.) Be careful not to wait too long before placing in the binder, because otherwise it will seem too overwhelming to even bother.

Why these steps will pay off in high school

I strongly encourage middle school parents to get these school records in order because in the high school years you should transfer these files to your teen!

Yes . . . I said it . . . Your teen owns their high school experience.

Throughout high school, the key attribute that your teen should develop is self-advocacy. If the parent holds all of their documents, then whenever a teen needs to answer for him/herself or request help, it will be filtered through their parents. Likewise, if your teen is college-bound, they own the college admissions process. Do you really want your teen to ask you for their PSAT score?

If you relocate, keeping these school records organized will save you a lot of time and stress with transitioning to a new school. When you’re considering any enrichment opportunities for your child, having these records on hand can save you time in knowing whether your child qualifies for consideration. The same is true for college planning, which always comes sooner than you think. In each of these cases, you will be asked to show academic records and it’s too easy to miss deadlines if you have to gather too much background information.

How are you organizing your child’s school records? Do you have an attic full of loose papers or a file cabinet of labeled folders and binders for each child? Please share any tips you have for staying organized with academic records.

5 tips for college-bound 9th graders: What parents must know

college-bound tips for 9th graders

School is back in session!

The transition from middle school to high school is a critical point in your teen’s educational journey. 9th graders are part of a new community, and their teachers, school counselor, and administrators are there to help them explore this new journey!

As a parent, you may notice some of the emotional ups and downs that come with navigating a new school, making new friends, learning from new teachers, balancing new time and academic demands. I have been there with my own teens and go through it each year with my students . . . in other words, “I feel you”.

Freshmen may not understand the importance of 9th grade in the overall college admissions process yet, but it doesn’t hurt for parents to be informed. Parents can be helpful to their college-bound freshman without “taking over” or being accused of helicoptering. Here are my top 5 tips that parents can follow and still look good.

  1. Start a file of important papers such as test scores, report cards, articles, scholarship opportunities, etc. Although you are starting the file, please remember to give it to your teen well before junior year so that they can be accountable for tracking their progress.cornell campus


  1. Set aside time to meet with your 9th grader to develop their 4-year course plan. Mapping their courses for each year of high school will challenge them to set realistic goals and balance academic rigor with interests. Sign up for our monthly freshman roadmap and you will receive our Compass ReadiGuide for Course Planning.


  1. Emphasize the importance of building positive relationships with ALL of their teachers. Your teen will need teacher recommendations for summer programs, scholarships, and college applications. A challenging goal for your 9th grader may be to meet with 1-2 teachers each month. Taking these consistent small steps can lead to a positive relationship where your teen gets to know the teacher and the teacher gets to know your teen.


  1. Encourage your 9th grader to schedule a meeting with their school counselor. School counselors may have interest/career inventories, ACT/SAT practice tests, as well as information about summer programs or scholarships.


  1. Assist your 9th grader in finding fun and interesting ways to volunteer. Volunteering in the community provides an opportunity to develop a sense of care for others, learn your capabilities, broaden experiences, and grow interpersonal skills.


This brief checklist highlights what parents can do this school year. However, if you’re a busy parent like me, you may not remember these tips in winter. Perhaps a regular “check-in” reminder would help you stay on top. . .

What other tips for 9th-grade success would you suggest? Please post in comments below.

Vanderbilt beyond beautiful campus: A great fit for engineering, research, community, study abroad and foodies

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University, the smallest and only private college in SEC conference, offers 68 undergraduate majors across four schools and colleges: the College of Arts and Science, School of Engineering, Peabody School of Education and Human Development, and Blair School of Music. Students apply to a school. Each school is special in its own way and worth highlighting further. Students in the College of Arts and Science can design their own major. There are 8 tracks in the School of Engineering and students choose 3 of those tracks in which to take courses during their freshman year. The Organization Development major in the Peabody School requires an off-campus internship either in 2nd semester junior year or first semester of senior year. Since the Blair School only has an undergraduate program and is NOT a conservatory, students earn their degree through another school.

Prospective students usually fall in love with the Vanderbilt campus. Its park-like campus is located in the heart of Midtown, surrounded by restaurants, shops, and cultural destinations. There are, in fact, over 80 restaurants within walking distance of the campus. (Foodies beware!) On the main campus, art and sculptures dot the landscape and architectural styles range from Gothic to modern glass and brick.

Vanderbilt University

Don’t let the beautiful campus fool you, though. . . .Vanderbilt is still one of the most selective colleges in the US. Check out their acceptance rate and these additional quick facts about Vanderbilt:

Acceptance: 8.8%

Freshmen from out of state: 89%

Most popular majors: social sciences, engineering, interdisciplinary studies (No wonder with the flexibility students have to double-major across schools.)

Housing: 86% of undergraduates live in the dorms. All freshman live together which can be a plus for meeting new friends and building a tighter class community.

4-year Graduation rate: 84%

Academics: Vanderbilt’s study abroad program attracts 35 percent of students and offers the chance to spend a summer, a semester, or a year on one of six continents through 130 programs. There’s even a May-mester option to study abroad, so no excuse for students not to take advantage of this amazing opportunity. An interdisciplinary approach to learning is embraced and undergrads are encouraged to take classes across all four schools. From their first year, undergraduates can get involved with cutting-edge research with world-renowned faculty and participate in internships. Keep in mind, though, Vanderbilt does not offer a “co-op” program.

Social: Vanderbilt students have remarked that “Nashville is so much fun,” and “The list of excellent restaurants, bars, shopping, and live music venues is endless.” In addition to the 500+ student clubs, over half of undergraduate women participate in sororities and 30% of the guys. Although many Greek parties are open to the entire campus, the strong participation in Greek life may suggest that Vanderbilt is not be the best fit if a teen is not interested in Greek life.

Vanderbilt has a long tradition of community service, starting an “alternative spring break” as far back as the 70s. Today, an impressive 75% of students participate in community service.

Financial: Vanderbilt offers university grants and need-based financial aid, with 100% of need fully met.  Their financial packages do not include loans (hooray!). Thus, Vanderbilt’s offers include only gift monies and a small amount of expected student employment.

What do you think of Vanderbilt? What about this college is a good fit? Please post your comments below.