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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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!
- TRACK AND, IF NECESSARY, FOLLOW UP (nicely, of course) – Ok, please tell me this is self-explanatory.
- 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.
Shortly after Rich Strike, the surprise 2022 Kentucky Derby champion won (what a Cinderella story), Red made a passing comment to Black about the need to prove that his victory wasn’t a fluke. She should’ve known she’d get a list of Black’s beloved bullet points in return, pointing out what we’ve already learned,
- Always be prepared –Rich Strike was entered less than a minute before the registration deadline
- Do not always listen to others – He started from what some would say was the worst starting gate
- Do not let interim challenges distract you from the end goal – Starting from the back gave the jockey a clear view of what he needed to do
- Just because you have not done something before does not mean you cannot do it now – The jockey had never ridden a horse in the Derby, and the trainer never had a horse in the Derby
- Tragedy can either destroy you or make you stronger – The trainer tragically lost over 20 horses in a barn fire a few years ago and lost his two assistant trainers last year to cancer
- Price is not the same as value – Rich Strike was purchased last fall for only $30,000
- Odds are only numbers and do not measure passion, determination, or heart – Rich Strike went into the race with 80:1 odds
- Believe in yourself even if others do not – Broadcasters were not even paying attention to Rich Strike until they had no choice
And Red’s response? Although not known for her brevity (and resisting the urge to say, “so I guess you should always put your best hoof forward”), she merely said,
In other words … never give up, and never stop dreaming.
Summertime can be a double-edged sword (is that expression still used?!) to parents of school-age children. We know having more and longer (yes, I’m talking sunlight, but some days seem like way more than 24 hours) days that your kids are around can be both wonderful and challenging. That’s why a little bit of thought and planning to create a simple (and realistic) list of ideas can make the difference between a summer you’ll never forget and a summer you hope never to repeat. The funny thing is that as I re-read my list, I realized it applies to kids home from college and even empty-nesters.
When I suggested to Black that we have a checklist or menu of items to amuse or, at least, occupy kids over the summer (something that almost every parent with kids home on summer break searches for every year), I thought my work was already done as I'd pull out the list I created years ago for my daughters. Except that I forgot it had been on a computer that no longer exists, and although a copy might be somewhere in a stack of filing, I'd have to start over. Which turned out to be a good thing …
Why? Because it made me stop and think about what would be the most effective – and memorable – activities to include. Please keep in mind these worked for me, and I offer them as food for thought but know there are so many fun things to do with kids over the summer …
Down & Cool Off
Some of my best summer memories (as a kid and as a parent) are the screams of happiness and fun that can only happen at a pool. There's just something about the combination of sun and water that never gets old. When my girls were growing up (in Texas, where the heat and humidity can be oppressive), we'd take advantage of the extended summer pool hours most days as it'd provide a break that the girls and I would look forward to all day. (I miss those days – not only the time with them but also because I was able to read several books every summer by the pool.)
- It's Time To Get Cooking
Most kids like to eat (even the finicky ones) and, when given the opportunity, love to "play" in the kitchen. Yes, it requires different recipes for different ages and skill levels, but just a few minutes on the internet will give you a wealth of cooking ideas as well as lists of cookbooks for kids. The best part is that besides getting the kids involved in the planning and preparation, it's a great way to "teach" them other life skills, such as putting together a shopping list and figuring out a budget.
Summer Break For Your Wallet
Great summer memories and adventures can be FREE. Most museums and historical sites have free days (or nights), and even those that charge a fee usually have reduced children's ticket prices. And every town and city has so many (FREE) places to explore or spend time – whether it's parks, gardens, libraries, farmer's markets, or even just a new area of town – that you'll need to start a list of everything you'll want to do. And for those that like to ride bikes, you can turn an ordinary bike ride around the neighborhood into an adventure by exploring someplace new (especially if you're able to transport your bikes).
Boredom Into Productive Projects
Who says you can't have fun and be productive at the same time? Almost every summer when the girls were growing up, we'd (whether all together, individually, or sometimes the girls working together insisting that mom not get involved) do a bedroom clean up and clean out. It became a summer project where they could do a little or a lot at a time, going through things to either tidy up, throw out, donate (a great way to "teach" about charity), or their favorite, sell at a garage sale. Which then became another project … such as making signs, setting up sales tables, and having a lemonade stand (ours always benefited The Make-A-Wish Foundation).
To Leave Time To … Do Nothing
I went from being a stay-at-home mom to being a single mom that worked from home, so the time I had available for the girls over the summer changed considerably over the years. And while it taught them to respect and appreciate my time, more importantly, it allowed them time to simply be kids. Whether to "chill" (sorry, couldn't resist) or learn how to amuse themselves vs. always being spoon-fed a buffet of things to do. Kids can be amazingly resilient and, if given the opportunity, will find things that they enjoy doing – whether reading, spending time with their friends, or finding creative things to do (such as when my youngest daughter made a "school room" with her stuffed animals being the students and herself as the teacher). I know from my own experience that kids can come up with things you could never dream they'd do. But without the time for them to dream, you'll never know.
This list was written with kids in mind. Initially, since my girls are now 18 and 22, it was a bittersweet reminder of summers long gone. But as I looked at activities for kids you can do this summer (both inside and outside the house) , I realized many of these things apply to kids of all ages … so, consider remembering the kid in yourself and choosing something on the list for yourself this summer..
For our general thoughts on the "mindset" of summer, check out A Summer Rerun?
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 head assets.rebelmouse.io
| I know that everyone laughs
at our “Assets and Liabilities” story and how I freaked out at the mere mention
of personal finance, saying you were the MBA and I was the theater major. So, when you first said “financial statements,”
I was intimidated. But when you said we’d
start with “assets and liabilities,” I completely lost it. I calmed down when you simplified it to “what
you own” vs. “what you owe” and knew I could do that, just not assets and
liabilities. How was I supposed to know
they were the same thing?!
Later on, I realized that it was the terminology, not the concepts, that was causing the problem. That I was creating mental roadblocks and becoming my own worst enemy. I’ll admit that understanding what previously had been intimidating words and phrases did boost my self-confidence. Although what makes it even funnier is that I had been a straight-A student and prided myself on my vocabulary.
Your vocabulary is probably larger
than mine, and you do like to use, and sometimes overuse, “50-cent words." (And, I was shocked to learn that you have never played Scrabble.)
The words we use reflect our background,
interests, and even what we like to read – you have always enjoyed historical
and biographical books, whereas I gravitate toward business and car magazines,
which may explain why I am more comfortable with terminology and technical
information that you. Not to mention, when
I first started working in the oil and gas industry and with legal contracts
and agreements, I had to learn what felt like a foreign language.
Regardless, you are never too young or too old to increase your vocabulary. And, it is about more than just new words as it also develops your communication skills because it lets you express yourself more clearly and concisely (well, maybe not you), and improves your reading and listening comprehension. And, it even helps your critical thinking and problem-solving skills as it expands your ability to process information.
THE CONVERSATION STARTERS
- Have you ever felt like Red – frustrated and overwhelmed by terminology (vs. concepts)? If so, what was the situation, and how did you handle it?
- What do you do if someone uses a word or term you do not understand? What are the advantages and disadvantages of (politely) asking them the meaning?
- Do you think a large vocabulary is a sign of intelligence or education/experience? Explain your answer.
- Why is it important to become familiar with terminology and vocabulary used in your area of interest? What is the best way to acquire that knowledge?