Friday, April 16, 2010

Guess Who's Going to College -- Letting Go

On Monday, May 3 from 6:30-8:00 PM, Bill Dingledine, President of the Southern Association for College Admission Counseling (SACAC), and Harry Shucker, former Vice-President for Student Affairs at Furman University, will discuss the nature of the transition, characteristics of students and parents, roles and responsibilities of each and how parents can help their students (and themselves) move successfully into this next important developmental stage in their lives. The presentation will be held at the Main Branch of the Greenville Public Library and is free and open to the public. Please call 864.467.1838 for more information.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stand and Deliver Hero

Jaime Escalante passed away yesterday. He was an inspiration not only to his many students but to educators world-wide. His legacy is proof that it is not family background, economic status, "ranking" of one's school or college, fancy facilities or any other extraneous factor that leads to successful learning and thus successful students -- it is inspired teachers who believe in their students' ability to learn and do not allow students to not believe in themselves.

He took students who had been written off not only by society, but unfortunately even by teachers and the school system. He took students from one of THE worst schools in America and produced learners whose accomplishments on the AP exam were exceeded by only a small handful of exclusive high schools in the country -- Andover, Exeter, and New Trier being three of them.

His accomplishments fly in the face of comments (made to my face by Senate aids in 2009) that many students should not go to college. This country can only be its best when we educate all students and we do not discriminate on potential based on prejudices that are either socio-economic, racial, or intellectually elitist.

Imagine if we all fought for and believed in our students as Jamie Escalante did in his. May he be an inspiration to all of us in the years to come. Long live "Kimo"!

Note: If you have never seen the movie "Stand and Deliver", you should!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ted Sizer was an innovative thinker about high school education but his premise was simple -- respect students. That didn't mean coddling them; it meant having high expectations for them. It meant acknowledging that these young people have talents and abilities and want and need guidance and direction, but they also want to be respected. He felt that when teachers approached students more as mentors then positive learning could take place. Read more about this remarkable and dedicated educator at the NY Times.

It should also be noted that Ted Sizer had a learning disability and when he was a student he was told by his teacher that he should not plan on going to college. Thankfully, Sizer did not listen to that teacher and went on to become one of the nation's most influential educational leaders, and in particular was Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Headmaster of Phillips Academy, Andover.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Advice to College Freshmen

As students head off to college for their freshman year, there is/will be a mass of advice coming from all angles -- how to manage your money, how to select your courses, how to survive a roommate, how to deal with being away from home, how to manage your time, and on and on about how to "survive" college.

There is some is some valuable advice that is not always included as to how to make your carefully chosen college a successful venture. These few suggestions are ones that I have witnessed that have enabled other students to have happy and successful college experiences. These are not listed in any order of importance, since they are all important:

Regardless of whether you are at a "large" university or a "small" school, the best way to become integrated into a community, make associations, and feel committed is by becoming a part of something that interests you. Join whatever group you might have a passion for, or one that you would like to learn more about. (Please note, though fraternities and sororities may provide a source of social belonging, they are generally "social" and may not necessarily provide a link for you to specific interests or talents).

A second recommendation, almost a "requirement" or "assignment", that I would make to you, is that each semester you get to know one faculty member well, and likewise, he or she you. This will take an effort on your part, but I promise that it is one that will pay more dividends than anything else you do in your four years. Though there may be some professors who do not reciprocate, you will find that most faculty members are eager for the relationships that develop with their students. It is one of the great rewards of teaching; so give the faculty the opportunity to share your educational experience. In order for this to happen you will most likely have to make an appointment to go to the faculty member's office; you may also want to invite him or her for a coffee or to a sporting event. These “profs” love being a part of their institutions and will eagerly share that with you. Do it! These will be people who not only will be mentors but will be friends, and possible writers of recommendations.

Third you should participate in some sort of volunteer, internships, or community activity that will give you useful “experience” that could be transferable to a job or career. Those students in business, engineering, or other "pre-professional" programs may have a built-in advantage here, but there are also many who believe that a liberal arts degree is the best preparation for one's future career or profession. You will find businesses, medical schools, law schools, etc. stating that they are more eager to enroll students who have not specialized too much. What employers and graduate schools like to see along with a sound education is experience, regardless of whether you were pre-professional or liberal arts. If you pursue opportunities to share or develop talents by participating in campus life, you will gain the invaluable experience that will help you land employment or acceptance into grad school (very important four years from now!). This experience may very well help direct the later part of your educational experience in college -- foreign study, research, self-designed major, internships, etc.

These opportunities add a richness to the academic experience that is invaluable to making your college "education" much more than just the classes you take by providing a cultural enrichment not generally available to the public.

So there it is, my advice – INVOLVEMENT, FACULTY FRIENDSHIP, EXPERIENCE, AND ENRICHMENT. Not much to remember, but these few things will enhance your collegiate experience well beyond what you would get from four years just going to class. Best wishes for a great year!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Making the Best College Choice for Your Life

As another school year begins, juniors and seniors become increasingly focused on college. With today’s costs, more and more students and families are looking to insure that their money is well-spent. They want to feel that those tuition dollars help lead to a satisfying experience as well as to the ability to be employed following graduation.

To insure this, it is more critical than ever that students make a good match for themselves, both academically and financially. Failure to take either of these into account could involve additional expense and lead to unfullfillment and frustration.

In the early ‘70s, a NY Times reporter, Loren Pope, began writing about colleges and the disastrous choices and high dropout rates he was seeing. His research led him to publish “Colleges That Change Lives”, a book about 40 colleges across the country that do an outstanding job of educating students and preparing them for future success.

This perspective on what constitutes a “good” college turns the concept of “rankings”, as fostered by other national publications, upside-down. Over the past half dozen years, a group of the colleges described in his book have been traveling the country presenting information sessions and fairs at events call “The Colleges that Change Lives Fair”. Though these colleges are presenting themselves as excellent options and opportunities, their over-arching theme and message of what makes for a quality college education is universal.

This concept has been borne out in research studies through the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Center for Inquiry Study in the Liberal Arts, and has been heralded by the Educational Conservancy. All of these groups point to the fact that it is the engagement between students and faculty that is at the crux of an effective and worthwhile college education. It is not name, ranking, size, or any other “popular” factor that makes for an outstanding college education and success in life; it is instead the quality of the teaching-learning experience.

The “College That Change Lives Fair” is one of the best opportunities for students and parents to get a good picture of what educational quality can look and feel like. I encourage all students, whether they are considering one of these specific colleges or not, to attend this fair and get a fresh perspective on what makes for a great college experience.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The ‘Tour d’Admission’: Guidance Counselors Seeing Colleges by Bicycle - The Choice Blog -

Here is a blog article written by a reporter from the NY Times about the College Bike Tour:
The ‘Tour d’Admission’: Guidance Counselors Seeing Colleges by Bicycle - The Choice Blog -
I had spoken with Jacques Steinberg, author of "The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Office of a Premier College" (, about two weeks ago on another topic and was sorry I could be there for to ride this leg with him! By the way, he's been to Greenville and thinks it is a great city -- That's pretty good praise coming from someone from NYC!