Thursday, April 11, 2019

Advice From Senior Parents

by Amanda Padden

On April 11th the Guidance Department hosted a parent coffee for junior parents where a panel of senior parents shared advice about supporting their child through the college application process. Thank you to Faith Bannister, Monica Bushnell, Tina Caro, and Erica Reilly for being a part of the panel!

Below is a summary of the advice that was shared based on what worked best for each family.

Organizing the college application process

  • One strategy is to pick one day a week to talk about college so as not to overwhelm your child with college talk- especially if they aren’t much of a talker.
  • Keep a spreadsheet of the colleges and their deadlines
  • The Fiske Guide to Colleges and Demystifying College Admissions are great books to refer to.
  • Let your child drive the process and know that not everything will be done in the most efficient way. Yes, it’s helpful to have the college essay written before senior year begins, but if your child isn’t feeling inspired and in the mindset to write at that time it might not turn out to be the best essay.
College visits
  • Build some fun into it. Find the best consignment store in town or enjoy fun things to do in the area. Eat in the dining hall.
  • Keep it casual. Your child doesn’t have to decide if they are going to apply right after the visit. Think of it as simply gathering information about likes and dislikes
  • Know that there’s no perfect school for anyone. Instead, think about what qualities each school on your child’s list has that would help them to be happy and successful. 
  • After the college tour don’t say anything. Let your child talk first about their thoughts
  • One parent referred to a daunting part of the college info sessions called “the slide” where the admissions counselor brings up a slide with statistics about the number of AP courses, GPAs, and standardized test scores for their applicants. This can feel defeating to your child, but just because they don’t meet all that criteria it doesn’t mean that they won’t be accepted. Colleges are marketing themselves and want to appear selective.
Applying and deadlines
  • Apply where you want to go. It can’t hurt to try even if it’s a reach. Just make sure there are matches and likelys on your list.
  • Keep your blinders on. Social media and talk in the community can make things difficult. Do what you feel is right for your family and your child. 
  • Keep in mind that many Medfield students apply early action and will hear back in December. It can be difficult if your child hasn’t sent in any applications while their peers already have decisions in hand. Applying to a few likely schools early if your child is ready may be helpful. At the same time, applying regular decision can be nice because everything feels less rushed in the fall. 
  • There comes a point with the SATs or ACTs where the scores don’t change much. Taking one or both tests twice was the common number. At some point students should focus their energy on something else they have more control over.
  • Interviews- if you can, consider not interviewing the same day you do the campus tour and info session. It will be easier to go into an interview after you’ve had time to process your thoughts from the visit. If a college offers an optional interview and it’s one of your child’s top choices definitely take advantage of it. A lot of the big schools don’t provide it as an option. 
  • Whether or not interviews are offered have your child get to know the regional rep for each college. They can be a great source of information and an ally in the process. It can almost turn into an informal interview. 
  • ED is tricky as some students have a first choice early on in the process and then change their mind later on as they learn about more schools. You also may not have as many opportunities for merit scholarships and you are saying “yes” to a school before knowing what the financial aid looks like. The plus side is that if it’s truly the first choice and financially it works for the family, it might help to give the student a bit of an edge in the admissions process.
  • Don’t not apply to a school because of the price tag. One parent said that they would be paying less to go to a private school than UMASS because the private school offered merit scholarships. You never know what you will be asked to pay.
  • A great tip about the college essay- “If your child’s college essay fell out of their notebook while walking down the hallway at school and their name wasn’t on it, would people know it was theirs?” 
After decisions are released:
  • Know that you can only control so much. Help your child understand how to “separate the decision outcome from their own self worth”. Your child’s application could be amazing in every way, but you never know what the admissions committee’s priorities are that year. They are building a class.
  • Be open to unexpected outcomes. There may be disappointment with one school but a surprise yes at another school. One child was accepted to a college but was asked to go abroad for the first semester. It’s possible your child could get into their dream school but then realize when they get there it’s not what they expected. Sometimes the “nos” can lead to something else great. 
  • There are going to be “speed bumps and potholes” along the way, so expect that going into it. In the realm of life, your child is going to get nos- not getting the job they interviewed for or the promotion they want, etc. That’s your biggest role as a parent is to support them through the nos they will inevitably experience in life. 
  • Social media during decision release can be tough. There are group chats for colleges and oftentimes students are alerted about the date and time decisions will be released. Students immediately post their outcomes to the group chats and this can be overwhelming. Consider making a plan about how your child will manage this before decisions are released.
  • Tell your child “I don’t care what the sweatshirt says, I’m going to wear it with pride” whether its a selective school or not.

Monday, February 11, 2019

College Panel Highlights


by Amanda Padden

Last Thursday, the Guidance Department hosted a college panel where juniors and their parents heard about the admissions process from Bentley University, Boston College, Hobart and William Smith, UMASS Amherst, The University of New Hampshire, and Westfield State University. Here are a few highlights for those who were unable to make it:



Academic Supports at the College Level
  • The Banacos program at Westfield State offers support for students with Learning Disabilities and ADHD. Students who are accepted into the program are placed in classes with professors who are a good match for their learning style, get priority course registration for the first two years, and are assigned a program advisor who is a point person for any accommodations they may need. Students must submit cognitive and achievement testing, have a minimum GPA of 2.5, and interview with the program staff.
  • There are many different academic supports offered to all students at the college level including resources like tutoring and writing centers and peer tutors. Check with the colleges on your list to make sure that they offer the kinds of supports you will need to access. 
How colleges view students who apply undecided as a major
  • All six colleges say that being undecided is ok. Hobart said that they love undecided students. Students take an academic survey over the summer that help the deans place students with an advisor who is a good match and select freshman year classes that will be of interest to them.
  • Although being undecided is ok, there are certain majors that students cannot transfer into later. Often times these majors are Engineering, Nursing, and sometimes Business. BC for example says that students can’t transfer into the school of management, so they should apply to that academic division first and transfer out later.
  • UMASS made the point that if a student selects a competitive first choice major (like Nursing, Management, Engineering, or Computer Science) that they should pick a second choice major outside of that competitive college so they still have a chance to be admitted to the university if not admitted to their top choice major.
  • Students will want to check with their colleges to see if there are any majors or academic divisions that they can’t transfer into later
Is it better to have a high grade in a C1 or C2 course or a lower grade in an Honors or AP course?
  • UMASS and Westfield ad a .5 bump to the GPA for an Honors course and a 1.0 bump to the gpa for an AP course. 
  • In general the admissions counselors agreed that students should take courses that are an appropriate challenge for them. If you have all As in C1 classes and never take an honors course, that’s not a good thing. If a student earns all Cs in all Honors and AP courses then that’s not helping them either. Students should get feedback from their teachers, guidance counselor, and parents, and think about balance. 
  • Some colleges recalculate their own GPA. BC looks at the average grades in core subjects for every grade level. Hobart doesn’t recalculate, they take note of the rigor of the high school, strength of courses, and standardized tests if submitted. 
The college essay
  • Admissions counselors read the same stories over and over again like, “the day i got cut from the basketball team” or “the time I scored the last goal at my soccer game”. One of the most memorable stories was an essay about a pair of sneakers that a student loved.
  • Remember, this is not a writing assignment. It’s a chance to get to know you as a person. Write in your own voice and write about something important to you. Ask yourself “what do I want the essay to achieve and how will I do that?” or “What quality about myself do I want admissions to know about and how will I illustrate that quality?”
Interviews
  • If you have a first choice college make sure you reach out and ask if there’s an opportunity for an interview. For Hobart, it’s a red flag if a Medfield student hasn’t met with her because she lives locally and is very accessible.
  • If interviews are optional, it’s important to ask how important it is. Are they simply informational for the student or are they part of the admissions process?
  • Make sure you ask about the deadline to have an interview. Summer or fall of senior year is typically a good time. 
Volunteering vs. working?
  • No activity is more valuable than another. Admissions counselors simply want to know how each student spends their time outside of the classroom. Make sure to list any hobbies, jobs, or family responsibilities!
  • If a student is working 30 hours a week to support their family and takes no advanced classes because of that, they will take note of that in the admissions process.
Testing
  • There is a minimum standard set by board of higher ed for Westfield. SATs can be waived if the student has a documented disability. Admission decisions based on GPA and SAT.
  • Most schools agree that the SAT score can’t replace a student’s courses and grades. They also said that test prep can be a helpful resource, but it’s not essential or expected.
Deadlines
  • Admission deadlines and rates vary per college. For some colleges there’s a slightly higher admissions rate for Early Decision (binding) candidates. ED can help students who would be on the fence during regular admission get accepted. 
  • The colleges agreed that if it’s important to compare financial aid packages hat the student should not apply ED.
  • An advantage for regular decision is that admissions can see the first semester of senior year grades, so if students are unhappy with their 9th-11th grade grades, they may want to apply regular decision. 
Letters of recommendation
  • Ask a teacher from a core subject area. It doesn’t have to be the teacher who gave you the best grade. Oftentimes a teacher letter isn’t the “game changer”, but instead confirms what the admissions counselor is already perceiving from the application. Teacher letters can help make decisions about special invitations to honors programs (UMASS)
  • Counselor letters can be really helpful to give context or explain a transcript. Be sure you get to know your counselor so they can write a detailed letter for you
Pieces of advice for students and families:
  • Westfield- make sure you visit! Go to college fairs, see if junior visit days are offered, see if far away colleges have a regional rep you can talk to if you can’t get to campus. 
  • Bentley- Make an effort to know admissions counselor who is reading for your territory
  • UMASS- there’s no one school for you that you have to get into and all is lost. Keep an open mind. It’s all about what you make of it, the opportunities and the people you meet. 
  • BC- trust the process and just focus on what you’re doing in school. Don’t worry too much about the admissions process and how decisions are made.
  • Hobart- let the student be the driver. We want to hear from students not parents. Set aside one day a week to talk about college and not have it be a constant conversation. 

As you can see, there are different policies for every school, so be sure you are asking questions as you narrow down your list. The Guidance Department believes that there is a school for everyone and we will be here to individualize the process for every student and their family. Please reach out to us if you need anything and we hope that those of you who attended enjoyed the event!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Welcome Mrs. DiLuzio!


We are pleased to share that Mrs. Kathy Mahoney had a baby boy on Monday, January 21, 2019! Mrs. Mahoney will be out on maternity leave until May 28, 2019. Mrs. Alyse DiLuzio will be covering Mrs. Mahoney's leave. Mrs. DiLuzio is an experienced guidance counselor, having worked for many years with the students at Framingham High School. Most recently, Mrs. DiLuzio worked at Boston College as a program manager for their City Connects program. Mrs. DiLuzio earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Providence College, and her Master of Arts in School Counseling from Boston College. 

Please welcome Mrs. DiLuzio to MHS! She can be reached at adiluzio@email.medfield.net

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Nature's Classroom


by Jen Dondero


The 7th grade traveled to Nature's Classroom on October 23rd. We arrived in Silver Bay, New York to rainy and cold temperatures but we were greeted by very excited Nature's Classroom teachers. The students stepped off the bus and into team building activities. The week was spent learning about nature and how to reduce our impact on the environment by reducing food waste, water waste and using environmentally friendly products. The 7th graders also learned to navigate sharing spaces and social situations. They grew in their independence and self-sufficiency. It was great to see our students grow and demonstrate our 4Rs especially responsibility, respect and resourcefulness.




Thursday, October 18, 2018

Declining Resilience in College Students

By Kathy Mahoney
Resilience. It’s a word that pops up often when talking about youth, so much so that it is the theme of our Advisory program at MHS this year. What is resilience and why should we, as educators and parents, care? Definitions include the ability to recover quickly from difficulties, or being able to bounce back when faced with adversity. Research has shown that this trait is linked to future success and happiness.

A recent article from Psychology Today reports that colleges are seeing an increasing number of students that lack this quality. Counseling services are overwhelmed, professors are frustrated with students’ inability to solve even the simplest problems, and students are not learning to become responsible adults. How did we get here? And what can we do about it?

Dan Jones, former president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, says, “[Students] haven’t developed skills in how to soothe themselves, because their parents have solved all their problems and removed the obstacles. They don’t seem to have as much grit as previous generations.”

Dan goes on to say that he’s not trying to throw parents under the bus, as parents face many societal pressures raising kids in today’s world. These pressures have led them to manage and structure their kids’ lives in order to keep them safe, and to help them reach their potential, both noble goals. The downside, however, has been a “decline in opportunities [for kids] to play, explore, and pursue their own interests away from adults.” Anxiety and depression are up, and kids have less sense of control over their lives. When young people are not given opportunities to learn how to solve their own problems, get into trouble and find their way out, experience failure and realize they will survive, they become college-aged students that don’t know how to take responsibility for themselves, needing adult intervention when a problem arises.

In today’s world, a balance between structure and independence is needed if we are to build resilience. “If we want to prepare our kids for college—or for anything else in life—we have to counter these social forces. We have to give our children the freedom, which children have always enjoyed in the past, to get away from adults so they can practice being adults—that is, practice taking responsibility for themselves.”

Visit this link to read the article.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Financial Aid Process


by Amanda Padden

Last Thursday Justin Munio, Financial Aid Officer at Harvard, talked with Medfield families about the financial aid process. The presentation was offered through the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA), which is a not-for-profit organization that helps families plan, save and pay for college. You can view the powerpoint on the guidance website to see the presentation, but I’ve included some main highlights and take away points below:
  • Check the financial aid website for all colleges you are applying to. Deadlines are very important. If you are applying early to colleges then financial aid documents may be due early as well.
  • The FAFSA and the CSS profile are the two forms that families typically have to complete. The FAFSA is free, but the CSS profile is not. Not all colleges require the CSS profile.
  • There are multiple sources of financial aid:
    • Federal Aid: You can get this by completing the FAFSA. This aid comes in the form of grants, loans, tax incentives and work study
    • Massachusetts Aid: Grants, scholarships, tuition waivers, and loans. (John and Abigail Adams scholarship determined by MCAS scores)
    • Institutional aid- offered by the individual colleges in the form of grants, work study, and scholarships.
    • Merit scholarships- some schools offer merit scholarships based on academics, athletics, the arts, etc. Many highly selective colleges (like the Ivys) don’t offer it because everyone is high achieving in the applicant pool.
    • Scholarships- local scholarships (Medfield students will get information about these in March) and scholarships from other agencies.
    • Of note- parent loans are NOT financial aid. You’ll want to look for grants, scholarships and student loans on the financial aid award letter.
  • Cost of Attendance
    • Direct expenses- tuition, fees, room/board
    • Personal expenses: books, travel, etc.
  • Cost of Attendance
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC)- This is the minimum amount a family should be expected to pay for one student for one year. This is redetermined every year. An increase in income increases a family’s EFC. Savings does increase it, but only slightly.
  • Financial Aid Eligibility (need) is calculated by taking the COA and subtracting the EFC. Every college has a net price calculator on their website. Families can enter their personal information on each college’s website and get an estimate of their EFC.
  • Many colleges offer payment plans throughout the year so you do not have to pay your EFC in one lump sum.
The financial aid process can feel overwhelming for many families, but there are a lot of resources available that can help. Check out the following:

  • FAFSA Day is November 4th- families can get free assistance with filling out the FAFSA from a financial aid officer. Click here to view FAFSA day locations and to register: https://www.masfaa.org/fafsa-day-register/
  • MEFA offers After the College Acceptance seminars where families can get assistance with reviewing award letters and discuss loans, payment plans and questions that families should ask the financial aid office. These seminars are in March and April.
Always feel free to contact financial aid offices directly to ask questions. They are there to help!