A free webinar for student athletes

Student athletes, are you interested in playing sports in college? Would you like some advice on navigating the recruiting process, assessing your chances, and promoting yourself to coaches? Join Collegewise counselors and athletic recruiting experts Matt Musico and Rahsaan Burroughs at our upcoming free webinar.

Athletic Recruiting: Scoring the Right Offer
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
5 p.m. – 6 p.m. PDT

All the information and the form to reserve your spaces can be found here. We hope you can join us.

Bests and worsts

The arrival of college decisions is a mixture of the best and worst of times. All the work, all the tension, all the drama and waiting and hoping comes to a close with a yes, a no, or in the case of waitlisted students, a non-committal maybe.

Some students will be overcome with joy about their outcomes. They’ll take to social media to share their news and their emotions. Others will shed tears, finding it difficult to imagine themselves at any other place than the one that just told them it wasn’t meant to be.

These reactions are the best and worst of college admissions outcomes. Best and worst are at opposite ends of a very long spectrum. Best and worst are not normal. They are the extremes.

It would be easy for younger students to view all of this as the standard college application experience, to believe that all the angst and eventual victory or defeat are what they’ll need to steel themselves for soon. Please don’t make that assumption.

The truth is that the best and worst of anything gets disproportionate attention. Plenty of students apply to a reasonable number of realistic colleges and subsequently enjoy plenty of good news without all the tension and high stakes.

Plenty of students apply to a list of colleges without a clear first choice.

Plenty of students bounce back nearly immediately from their denials and instead choose to focus on the schools that said yes.

And plenty of students view their acceptances as exactly what they are—exciting and worthy of celebration, but ultimately just the beginning of an experience that will have plenty of future bests and worsts of its own.

Don’t assume that any other senior’s experience will be reflective of your impending experience. You get to decide how to approach your college application process. As you observe the seniors reacting, as you hear their tales of the journey that led them to this point, consider if that’s an experience you’d like to duplicate. Not just the outcome, but the work and stress and emotion that led to it.

Your college admissions experience is an important time in your life. Make a conscious choice about how to spend it and you’ll have a lot more bests than worsts.

Phone breaks?

Kliff Kingsbury, the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, revealed recently that he’s introduced “cell phone breaks” every 20-30 minutes during team meetings. Why? According to Kingsbury, “You start to see kind of hands twitching and legs shaking, and you know they need to get that social media fix, so we’ll let them hop over there and then get back in the meeting and refocus.”

Professor and study skills expert Cal Newport is also the author of Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. In his recent post responding to this story, Newport questioned the necessity of cell phone breaks, pointing out that the players somehow summon the strength to be without their phones during the entirety of each NFL game. His recommendation:

“Instead of accommodating his player’s twitching hands, therefore, perhaps Kingsbury should see this reaction as a crisis. Elite level sports require phenomenal concentration. Even a small epsilon degradation in this ability can be the difference between a cornerback disrupting a play or being burned on a slant, which itself can be the difference-maker in a game… Most coaches would never tolerate a habit that was clearly harming their players’ physical fitness, regardless of how popular it was in the general public. The same standards should hold for their players’ cognitive fitness.”

It’s easy to dismiss the ubiquity of cell phones as “just the way it is today.” But maybe we should encourage kids–and ourselves–to take fewer breaks to use our cell phones, and more breaks from using them.

Best apologies, best intentions

What should a major airline do when they mistakenly send their customers an email promoting flights to Columbus along with a beautiful photo of…Cincinnati?

Hope nobody notices?

Blame it on a technological snafu?

Hide behind language like “we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused”?

If you’re Alaska Airlines (or more specifically, if you work in the communications department at Alaska Airlines), you own up to the mistake like a human.

It’s a good reminder for students (and parents). Honest mistakes can happen despite best intentions. But honest apologies happen because of them.

Your contribution track record

“How will you contribute to the campus community?”

Colleges wonder this when considering every applicant. In fact, many colleges outright ask that question as an essay prompt within the application. As you progress through high school, it’s worth considering the examples you’re setting that show your potential to contribute as a college student.

What is “the campus community”? It’s the students, the faculty, even the residents who live near the school.  The football team, the classmates in your French Lit 201 class, your French Lit 201 professor, the members of a club or organization, the residents in your dorm, and your roommate are all part of the campus community.

In the college admissions sense, any effort you make that benefits one or more members of that community besides just yourself counts as a contribution. Volunteering, playing in the marching band, leading campus organizations, helping your roommate pass calculus, playing intramural sports, raising your hand in class—every one of those actions has an effect on those around you. It may or may not be an act of pure service. But your effort still amounts to a contribution.

And the best way to show colleges your potential to contribute to their campus community? Contribute to your current campus community.

Accolades, awards, and recognition are all effective ways to demonstrate your level of achievement. But contributions don’t necessitate formal recognition. Even the slowest runner on the cross country team can still find a way to contribute. In fact, the ability to make an impact even when you’re not the smartest or the fastest or best is an even stronger sign of your potential to contribute. It shows colleges that no matter where you choose to involve yourself, you’ll always find a way to make something happen.

As you consider ways to boost your chances of admission to the colleges that interest you, look for opportunities to get even more involved in whatever it is you choose to do. You’ll show plenty of potential with a strong contribution track record.

Passion will reveal itself

For students who are fretting (or parents who are fretting on their students’ behalves) over trying to identify their passion so they can select a career and choose an appropriate college major, consider giving Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love a read. Newport makes a convincing argument that (1) “follow your passion” is actually bad advice, and (2) passion comes after you put in the effort to become excellent at something valuable, not before.

Yes, you should listen to your interests and strengths as you know them today (a student who’s always struggled in math is less likely to find joy and career success as an accountant). But you don’t yet know what your passion will be when you’re 22 or 32 or 42. Don’t rush it.

Put in the time, effort, and interest as you find your way through subjects, opportunities, and work that make sense at the time. The passion will eventually reveal itself.

What you don’t yet know

Students, four years ago, who were you and what did you know? It doesn’t matter whether you’re 18 or 14 today. Chances are that when you scan back four years, you’ll do some serious head-shaking. You likely felt at the time like you’d grown wise beyond your years. But the benefit of four years of hindsight points out that much of that confidence came from simply not yet knowing what you didn’t yet know.

Now, imagine yourself in the future walking across the stage at your college graduation.

Compared to today, how much will you know then? How much will you have learned, seen, and experienced? How many people will you have met, how much fun will you have enjoyed, and how many opportunities will you have had to learn from your successes and mistakes?

What will you have learned about yourself and the world around you? How much will you know then that you don’t yet know today?

No matter how knowledgeable and confident you may be now, how do you imagine the you on that stage in the future will view the you of today?

And most importantly, do you honestly believe that only a prestigious college can usher in those wonderful insights and changes?

You don’t yet know what you don’t know today. But there are plenty of colleges beyond the famous ones to help you make the wonderful leap from not knowing to knowing.

Good. Enough.

Projects, papers, college applications—how do you know when it’s time to stop polishing and time to start shipping it out the door?

Something worth doing is worth doing well. But sometimes the quest for perfection just becomes a stall, another day or week to hide instead of a day or week to improve whatever it is you’re working on.

“Good enough” has a pejorative connotation, like you stopped short of making something as good as it possibly could have been. Instead, try for a new outcome using the same two words.

“Good. Enough.”

You can make something great, and avoid unnecessary stalling, when you give up “perfect” (which it never is) and replace it with “Good. Enough.”

Responding vs. correcting

Counselors, how do you respond when a student or parent makes a statement as if it’s a fact?

That college is a lot easier to get into if you apply in the liberal arts.

Without a great SAT score, the best colleges won’t even look at you.

That school gives preference to ______ (alumni/athletes/minorities, etc.).

They’re not asking you a question. They’re not seeking your opinion. But you also have a professional responsibility. To let a factually inaccurate statement go unchecked, especially one that could affect the student’s college planning, is a tacit endorsement of the statement.

Here’s a non-confrontational way to consider responding:

“Oh, really? That hasn’t been my experience.”

Tone is everything here. Say it as if you’re simply curious, not combative. Use the same voice you’d use if responding, “Really? That’s interesting.”

Many students and parents will then choose to engage further, especially if the topic is one that affects decisions they’re making. And then you’re in the role of responding to their inquiry, not correcting their misinformation.

Competing collaboratively

Another great share from Wharton’s Adam Grant. In his podcast episode this week, “Become friends with your rivals,” Grant explores how even in those competitions that are zero sum, like Olympic marathon races, where there can only be one winner, rivals actually perform better when they help each other. My favorite clip:

“Some competitions are zero sum. But our feelings about competing don’t have to be. Supportive rivalries click into place when you’re working towards something larger than your own success. Find a rival you admire. Tell them why you respect them. Explore what you can accomplish together. And then bring on the friendly competition. And bring it on as hard as you can.”

If you’re a high school student with someone in your circle you identify as a rival–a fellow student who shares the top spot in the class with you, the actress with whom you always compete for lead roles, or a competitive runner on another school’s cross country team–what would happen if you found a way to help each other be better? Not at the expense of your own progress and success, but in support of it?

Imagine the student at the top of the class going to her rival and suggesting they pair up to help each other prepare for their most difficult exams, while simultaneously tutoring their fellow students who were struggling in those courses. Neither would refrain from trying to best the other on exam day. But they’d make each other—and their classmates—even better. And there’s not a single college that wouldn’t take notice of their commitment to competing collaboratively.