Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sending off your college freshman: Nostalgia or Celebration

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In just a few weeks, families will be traveling to colleges and universities for the freshman move-in. For many moms and dads, this moment is very suddenly upon them. Many parents feel sad while their kids are elated. I had one dad tell me that his son Brian was his best friend and they did lots of things together. How could he possibly fill this hole?

On the other hand, one mom I talked to couldn't wait to have more mental and physical space in her home now that her daughter Morgan was leaving. That's because there were constant disagreements over boyfriends and house rules.

From the students point of view, it may be best to go easy on the nostalgia. It doesn't make it any easier for the student, if mom bursts into tears when you look at family pictures for instance. This is a time to celebrate an important step of independence. So it is not helpful to label a fun event, " the last movie" or "the last picinic" or the last trip to Six Flags. You may very well feel that way but try to deal with your sadness by talking to a religious counselor, family therapist, or even a close friend. There is no point in making the child feel guilty about going to college when this has been a goal for a long time. Appreciate them, enjoy them, and then let them go.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Why the College Calendar Matters

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The college calendar can affect the student experience more than you think. The majority of colleges now use the semester system consisting of 2 semesters of about 15 weeks each. Students find that they can take a variety of classes (usually about5) where the pace is more moderate than that of the quarter system. However, when exams roll around it can be highly stressful to study so many subjects simultaneously while completing projects and papers as well.

There are still a fair number of colleges who use the quarter system including the University of Chicago, the University of Denver, Santa Clara University, and most of the University of California system. Quarters last about 10 weeks each and students tend to take 3 courses per quarter and study 3 quarters per year. College classes in the quarter system deliver material at warp speed so if you are the type of student who procrastinates, this intense study may not work well for you. Some students find that final exams and papers are much more manageable in the quarter system where you have 3 courses to worry about rather than 5 semester courses.

For an even deeper more intense educational experience you can go to the block plan where you study one course very intensely for about 3.5 weeks. One advantage of this arrangement is that you can easily take field trips or do all-consuming projects. So when the course is good... all is very, very good but when the course is bad, it can be horrid. Colorado College is known for this unique calendar.

There are also colleges that have semesters with a short January term in between. These are known as 4-1-4 calendars. The January term is for unique course offerings some even involving foreign travel. Middlebury College, Williams College, and Hartwick College all have this type of calendar.

A final factor that students may want to consider regarding the college calendar is how it relates to summer work. The colleges on the semester system usually start in late August and end in early May. This enables their students to start a summer job early which can be an advantage in the job market. On the other hand, students at colleges that begin after Labor Day may have an easier time getting jobs at summer resorts where it is important to have staffing through Labor Day.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Are Online Courses for You?

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The whole educational world of the internet has opened up opportunities for would-be students that never existed before. I know a student named Hallie who lives on Block Island and enriched her life with classes on Italian culture and language. However, distance learning is not suitable for every need. Some types of people find it difficult to learn this way and lab courses are impractical.

Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself in order to determine if these courses will work for you.

1. Are you a real extrovert who enjoys interraction with people?
If you are sitting in front of a computer for long periods may be quite
frustrating for you. The online interractions just may not be enough.

2. Are you driven to reach your goals? In other words, are you motivated to finish
projects that you start? Because the professor and students are remote there is
not as much pressure to complete the work. If you are easily distracted from
finishing work or reading, the online courses may not work well for you.

3. Are you using the online course(s) to meet academic requirements at a
traditional college? You might want to check with the college you want to
import the credits to in order to make sure that they will be accepted.

4. Are you taking a science class online? Keep in mind that labs are integrated
with many science classes and if you take a class without the lab it may not
transfer readily. Taking the lab separately can be difficult because labs are
designed demonstrate concepts in the text, lectures, and discussion groups
of the related course.

Answering these questions honestly can help you decide if online courses are for you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shopping for College Freshman

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This is not your typical packing list. This is supposed to be a list of useful but often forgotten items. Bringing some of these items may save you from standing in a gargantuan line at Target with other students waiting to pay for dorm items.

Most freshman have never shared a room so they don't think about the need for extension cords to hook up all the electronics from a few outlets. A white noise machine may never be used but if you need one it's critical and you won't find out until the middle of the night when you roommate is snoring or talking in their sleep.

Top Ten Items Freshman Wish they had brought to College

1) Extension Cords

2) Fan

3) Extra Hangars

4) Odor Eaters for Gym Bag

5) White Noise Machine

6) Sleep Mask

7) Stacking storage bins

8) Beanbag or Folding Chair

9) Rug

10) Digital Photo Frame