Well, my younger daughter, Sawyer, is a high school senior. And it's November. Which means that we're in the midst of the college application process. It's exciting. It's also very stressful. So, I thought I'd share a few tips that I've recently learned in the hope you'll find them useful. But first a disclaimer!


I'm definitely not a college admissions expert and it's been decades since I applied to college. (I used a typewriter to complete my applications!) And even though this list isn't definitive, I think these items alone could make a big difference.

  1. LEAVE AMPLE TIME – Even if you can write an award-winning essay the night before it's due, you can't expect others to do the same.
  2. BE STRATEGIC – This critical first step is often overlooked. Decide what you want to highlight (experience, skills, personal traits, etc.), write them down, and then identify people who can talk about that side of you.
  3. SELECT PEOPLE WHO KNOW YOU WELL –The wider the range of people, the better. You're looking for people who know you so well, they can talk about your qualities in a way that brings you and your personal story (we all have one) "to life."
  4. REVIEW THE REQUIREMENTS – Letters of recommendation usually fall into two categories – Teachers and Other. However, different schools have different parameters, so check the instructions carefully.
  5. MAKE THE "ASK" – Let them know why you picked them, why you value their insight, what you'd love for them to focus on (most people appreciate some guidance vs. staring at a blank sheet of paper) and last, but not least, make sure you properly thank them!
  6. TRACK AND, IF NECESSARY, FOLLOW UP (nicely, of course) – Ok, please tell me this is self-explanatory.
  7. YOU'RE ACCEPTED INTO COLLEGE! – Send a thank you to everyone who took the time to write a letter for you. It can be a short note, but let them know they were an important part of the admissions process. Trust me, it will only take you a few minutes but it will be remembered by them for a very long time.

I wondered what Black thought about Letters of Recommendation, so I asked her. As always, she had a different perspective and provided insight as the person either writing or reviewing recommendation letters. She then commented that her thoughts might help you create a better "ask."

  • It should be clear that the author of the letter knows the student and WHY they were selected to provide a recommendation.
  • Academic achievements and technical skills are important, but emphasis should also be placed on soft skills (things like communication skills, leadership, problem solving, teamwork).
  • Visually, the letter should be easy to skim and still identity key points.

True

Events in our lives (both personally and in the world around us) may change from year to year, but amidst the joy and festiveness of the holidays, there’s always a certain amount of stress and challenges to get everything done. This year’s no different, and I’m sure Black would suggest (sarcastically, of course) I might want to reread my tried-and-true holiday survival list …

It's official! The holiday "silly season" (as I call it) is now underway and before I know it, it will be New Year's Day and I'll be looking back and asking, "Where did December go?!" This year's holiday goals …

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People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".

It may be Health Literacy Month, but it may take more than a month for you to become comfortable with the concept of “health literacy". Red found it both intimidating and boring, while Black thought the term was off-putting and might prevent people from realizing it simply means having a basic understanding of health matters, including how to Q-I-D (ask Questions, gather Information, make smart, conscious Decisions). But we both know it’s critical for all of us, and even more important than eating that proverbial apple a day.


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

As a mom, over the years, I've had to become familiar with various children's health issues and basic healthcare (and don't get me started on health insurance). But whenever it was something more than the common cold or flu, a stomach ache, or the usual scrapes and bruises, I felt like I was back in school. And between the terminology and trying to understand how the body works, I often felt like I needed a nursing degree. Not to mention, there's so much information on the internet, it can be overwhelming as well as confusing and sometimes scary.

Over the years, I've also had to deal with my aging parent's more serious health issues, and I've lost count of the pages of notes I've taken and questions I've asked. Or the conversations discussing risks vs. benefits that I've had with medical professionals and my sister. (I'm glad Black finds statistics "fun" and can look at them unemotionally because they give me a headache.)


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

Until recently, I had never heard the term "health literacy," and when I first did, I initially thought about general literacy skills such as the ability to read and understand numbers. Skills that are essential if you are sick and need health information and services, but also impact health decisions that should be simple, like filling out forms, taking over-the-counter drugs (aspirin, cold and flu remedies, etc.), and learning about the things we should (or should not) do to live a healthier life and reduce the chances of serious illness.

But then, I thought about how anytime I had to deal with a health issue, especially ones that could potentially be serious, it was a tedious, complicated, and technical challenge. And, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I like to consider myself well-read, pragmatic, and comfortable with numbers and research documents. In other words, although it impacts some people more than others, the issue of "health literacy" affects us all. (And, that does not even address what it does to the cost of healthcare.)

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • Before now, have you ever thought about "health literacy"? How would you describe it? What impact does it have on your life? How can it impact your ability to be successful in the workplace?
  • Why do health and healthcare topics seem so daunting?
  • Does health literacy only impact you when you are facing health issues? Explain your answer.
  • Have you ever had a medical situation or condition that required you to learn more about it? Where did you seek information? Did you have any problems learning about it? Explain your answers.
P.S. – You might be interested in our Conversation Starters for Financial Literacy and Digital Literacy.

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

It's funny, given my love of history and being a straight-A student, I still feel that I know very little about the U.S. Constitution. Except for the obvious. That after we declared independence from England, the original “constitution” was the Articles of Confederation (don’t ask me why I remember this, although I probably memorized it for a test). But even though we called ourselves the United States of America, it gave the states too much power, and once it became obvious that it wasn’t working, was replaced by the Constitution.

And I know that it begins with what’s probably the most famous three words in this country’s history, “We the People,” and provides for a stronger federal government, with three branches (executive, legislative, and judicial) specifically designed to have checks and balances, so that no single branch would have too much power. But until recently, with all the focus on abortion and gun rights, not to mention the controversy about the Supreme Court, I had never really thought about the Constitution. Especially not the bigger picture, and how things seem to have gotten out of hand with government officials focusing on politics and positioning and forgetting those three incredibly important words … We the People.


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

Yes, not “We the Democratic Party,” not “We The Republican Party,” … We the People.

And, for someone who self-proclaimed a lack of knowledge, you gave an excellent overview. However, I will admit I am more intrigued by constitutional law than the history of the Constitution, but you cannot separate those two things. Anyway, for the same reasons you mentioned, I did some research (“homework never ends”) and was surprised to learn that the original document was only four pages long. Of course, that was hundreds of years and 27 amendments ago. But, proves it was designed to be a living document, not just history.

Unfortunately, although conceived with checks and balances, and to represent the will of the people, the Constitution and its amendments seem to have become an assortment of political powerplays, “convenient” interpretations, and polarizing arguments. All with easy-to-quote sound bites. I cannot imagine our forefathers envisioned their words would be used to manipulate or “divide and conquer” when they said, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union …”

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • What do you know about the Constitution? Have you ever really thought about what it means in terms of the United States? Or how it impacts you personally? Explain your answers.
  • Take a current major issue (abortion, gun control, same-sex marriage, etc.) that concerns you. Do you know what the Constitution has to say about it or, perhaps, more importantly, doesn’t say about it? How do we find consensus on the issue to clarify the situation?
  • Do you think a document originally created in the 1700s can still be relevant today? Explain your answer.
  • What does “We the People of the United States in Order to form a more perfect Union” mean to you? Why do you think it is the opening of the U.S. Constitution?