Students Should Take Advantage of All College Has to Offer

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 @ 02:59 PM

There are many words I would prefer my children not use (even though they’ve heard a few of them at home!). However, there are three words I hope I never hear them say - "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda!" (Okay, technically those aren’t words, but I’m sure you get my meaning.)

As my children begin their college years, I want them to take advantage of everything this time in their life has to offer. It’s not just about getting your money’s worth – although that’s an important lesson – whether you are paying tuition or your kids are taking out loans. This is the time to take risks. Try new things. Meet new people. Step out of your comfort zone.

There are many things I wish I had done during my college years (and maybe a few I wish I had not done!). I wish I had developed more of a relationship with teachers and sought their advice. I also wish I had taken more advantage of clubs, school organizations, and service work, but I let self-doubt and fear prevent me from taking those risks. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy with my life. I had a wonderful college experience. Hindsight is 20/20. Things happen for a reason, but I don’t want my kids to have regrets about not taking chances. Four years (or maybe five or six!) go by very quickly. It’s a great time of life to discover who you are, find friends with different opinions and passions, and transition from child to adult. So, as my second son begins this new phase, I’ve consulted the highest authorities – nostalgic parents, friends, and recent college graduates to offer their words of wisdom. Will he listen? I honestly don’t know. Maybe, though, these pearls of wisdom will remain in the back of his mind when an opportunity presents itself. And, instead of looking the other way because it might require effort and risk, he might just hear that little voice of mine and decide to go for it.

So, here’s a quick list for college students to consider as they get ready for school. If those of us that have graduated could go back, these are the things we would do differently! 

Wish Lists from the "Woulda Coulda Shoulda’s"lsutiger_stadium

1. I wish I had gone to more events...ballgames, rallies, etc.

2. I wish I had served on a student government board.

3. I wish I had spent more time meeting individually with professors to pick their brains. I view it as a missed opportunity.

4. I wish I had done more volunteering.

5. I wish I had joined an Engineering club.

6. Sometimes, I wish I had gone to school out of town.

7. I wish I had taken my undergraduate studies more seriously.

8. I wish I had understood that it wasn't about the points to get a certain grade, but that it should have been about really learning. Graduate school was a rude awakening.

9. I wish I had gone to college with a more open mind and not a specific major.

10. I wish I had switched majors.

11. I wish I had traveled abroad.

12. I wish I had gone to the Bruce Springsteen concert rather than study for an anatomy test. (Okay, I’m not advocating choosing a concert over studying. However, every student needs to take a break once in a while. It’s good to recharge! And, no, this wasn’t me.)

10 Suggestions from current students, teachers and alums:

1. Go to Class!

2. Get out there and enjoy it all. Take it seriously and always do your best.

3. Sign up for a club.

4. Utilize resources available on campus, including services like writing centers and tutoring.10264317_10152504222274744_8343547831175655741_n

5. Volunteer on campus or at local organizations. Take time to help others.

6. Develop a good relationship with your professors. They can be great mentors. Take advantage of their office hours. You want the people who determine your grades to know your name and that you're working hard. They can also clarify course material, provide guidance on papers, and offer tips on how to prepare for tests.

7. Study abroad for a full year. (If a year is too long for you, consider studying abroad for one semester, the summer, or holiday breaks.)

8. Take computer classes even if they are not required for your major.

9. Get to know the history and traditions of your school.

10. Reach out and meet new people.

What are your suggestions and tips for incoming freshmen and current college students? Did we miss anything? Share your words of wisdom here!

 

 Photo credit: Dolly Duplantier & Delta Upsilon, Global Service Initiative Trip 

Topics: back to school, education, volunteering, higher ed, service, graduates, opportunities, college major, higher education, college, involvement, College advice

Going on Tour – The College Visit: 15 Questions to Ask

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Thu, May 01, 2014 @ 11:47 AM

In part three of our series about college visits, we share questions to ask and tips to make it a memorable day.

 A Mother’s Confession – My husband and I had a far better time on the college tours than my son did. That may have been because with every question I asked, he sank deeper and deeper into his chair! Even though you may be thrilled about the next stage in your child’s life, don’t be surprised if your student isn’t as motivated as you are about these visits.

However, this is the time to ask important questions – for you and for your child.  Whether you’re footing the bill, or your student is taking out loans, it’s a costly venture. Don’t be shy about getting as much information as possible. 

In the Beginning

College tours usually begin with a general presentation in a classroom or lecture hallUniversity of Tampa on campus. If your child is not one to appreciate your eager quest for knowledge, tell him or her to sit in the back and pretend they don’t know you. Many of your basic questions will probably be addressed in this presentation. However, I always had to raise my hand. I just couldn’t help myself. Whether it was about campus security, alcohol awareness, support for out-of-state students, or just some question that my son thought was totally lame, I needed answers to calm my parental anxiety. I think it was part of the process of letting go. I never let his embarrassment bother me. I embraced it.

After the general presentation, you will be assigned to a tour guide – usually a college student.
Depending on how groups are arranged, you could ask for a student with interests similar to those of your child. That way, you can ask specific questions as you walk through campus. The tour will usually hit the highlights of the university – a few specific buildings where classes are held, the university center, the library, the quad or field where students hang out between classes, the bookstore, maybe the recreational center, and finally at least one dorm or dining hall.

You won’t see everything the school has to offer on your tour. However, use this opportunity to ask to see things “not” on the tour. For example, if your child is a swimmer, ask to see the pool, or meet with a coach. If your future college student excels in a particular subject, ask if there’s a chance you can meet with teachers or sit in on a class.

My son was interested in playing club water polo at LSU. He contacted the club's president via e-mail. While we weren’t able to meet with him that day, we were able to visit where they practiced and played - venues not on the scheduled tour.

“The better my visit was, the more I wanted to go there,” said Jane Berry, a sophomore at Brandeis University. “Whether it was the information session, or the person who gave the tour, I think it drastically impacted what I eventually ended up deciding.”

Christine Scalise, a Chicago mother of three teenage boys, agrees. She found her tour of the University of Tampa welcoming and very informative. “Going on tour and seeing the school helped make the decision.”

Reading Assignments

As you walk through campus, take note of the many school publications, flyers, etc. This is great material to review when you are waiting to meet with counselors, financial aid, or while you’re taking a coffee break. It’s also great information to look through when you return home.

“We took all relevant brochures and we picked up campus newspapers,” said Terri Stuckey, a mother of two college students and a high school junior.  “You can learn a lot from the campus publications. They provide insight into what the kids are talking about or what the campus is like. Even the ads can give you a snapshot of what life is like at school.”

Charles Basden, Jr., coordinator, special projects, for George Washington University, a member of the NobleHour Network, also suggests looking at local publications near the school, as well as relevant academic publications to gauge how the school's reputation is relative to the greater population in the city.

Take A Good Look

Encourage your son or daughter to actually look at the university students. Do they seem happy and engaged? Are they polite and informative? Give your kids time to speak with students on their own. Interaction with them can provide a wealth of information. 

Katie McKnight brought her daughter, Ellie, and two of her friends to visit William & Mary.college tours Once the girls finished their interviews and had lunch, she told them it was time for them to explore - without her! 

Dr. McKnight is a college professor of secondary education/literacy for National Louis University in Chicago. "I think it's important for students to explore a campus on their own without parents hovering over them at all times. They need to talk to other students, listen to the campus, and observe. My daughter, not me, needs to decide if a particular college is the right fit."

Mom Tips

Whether your future college student is excited or not, embrace the day. Yes, it’s about them, but it’s about you too. You’ve put in a long 16-18 years raising this wonderful teenager. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy this occasion.

No matter what your teenager says or does, just smile at them with that, “I love you and am so proud of you look.” They can’t compete with that. But, remember, even though it’s exciting, it’s still stressful for them. 

Next, wear comfortable shoes, and bring the following:

1. Sweater or sweatshirt

2. Small backpack or bag

3. Bottle of water

4. Pen and small notebook

5. Camera

6. Umbrella

7. Sunscreen

You could be on your feet for an hour or two depending on the size of the campus. Some larger universities may have shuttles, but you will still need to walk between certain areas. Remember, especially for southern schools – it may be warm and sunny outside, but airconditioning inside can feel like a walk-in cooler. You can freeze just waiting for the presentation to begin. A bottle of water comes in handy when you can’t leave the group to get something to drink.

Stash some sunscreen, a hat and even an umbrella in the car. The bookstore usually sells inexpensive rain ponchos if you get caught in a sudden storm. Be prepared for any weather. You spent a lot of money getting there and the tour goes on no matter what.  Don’t forget that this is really a wonderful milestone in your child’s life and yours. Take some pictures!

“It was good to have that one-on-one time,” said Scalise. “We could really discuss the pros and cons of going away. It helps the kids know what to do and it’s very comforting to the parents as well."

Relax. It’s Just A Few Questions!

The one thing I learned about my son is that he doesn’t like to ask questions. And, he doesn’t like his mother to do it either. If your child is embarrassed by your thoughtful and intelligent questions, seize the opportunity to tell them what they often tell you – “Relax!”  Assure them that no one at orientation will say – “Oh, you’re that boy with the mom who asked all the silly questions on the tour!”

So here’s a sampling of the questions that made my son cringe and move to the back row. 

1. How hard is it to get the classes you want? For example, if you need to take specific classes to graduate – are they only offered in the spring? If this is the case, and you can’t get in to the class, it may take you longer to graduate.

2. How big are the classes? Ask different students how many kids are in their largesst class and how many are in their smallest class.

3. What percentages of courses do professors teach versus teaching assistants? It’s normal for some classes or labs to be taught by TA’s, but when you’re shelling out all that tuition money or your child is taking on huge loans, you don’t want all of their classes taught by TA’s.

4. What is the student to professor ratio?

5. Ask about the student population – percentage of males vs. females, locals vs. out-of-state, diversity, etc.

6. What sort of transportation do they offer if your student does not have a car?

7. How many years of on-campus housing are guaranteed? Is it required?

8. When are scholarship deadlines?

9. What is the acceptance rate?

10. What are the school’s campus safety initiatives? What measures do they take regarding safety, weather emergencies, etc.?

11. Do they have an alert system? Many schools now have text alert systems. 

12. Ask about the facilities. What types of services do they offer – health center, recreation center, counseling, etc.?

13. Do they require alcohol/drug awareness seminars?

14. Do they offer career services?

15. What will be the return on investment by going to your school?

My last tip – when the tour is over, have your teenager remove her headphones and do your best to engage her in a conversation about what she liked and didn't like.

McKnight's daughter surprised her. Despite their visits to Dartmouth, Emory, and William & Mary, Ellie decided to attend Brandeis University, a school they did not visit until she was admitted and had already accepted the offer. McKnight asked Ellie if she was sure she wanted to accept before visiting the campus. "Yes," said Ellie. "I've been researching, visiting, and learning about colleges for the last year. I know what I want and even though I haven't visited Brandeis, it has what I want."

McKnight doesn't think her daughter would've been so resolute in committing to a college she had not visited if she hadn't already been on a tour. "College is about furthering one's individual identity and I think the visit is one of those first opportunities to to do so."

Please share your college tour experiences with us. What are your most important questions? 

Photo credits: Christine Scalise and Katie McKnight

Check out Part 1 and 2 of our series -

Spring Break is a Good Time to Start College Visits

Scheduling College Tours? Begin With Basic Questions. 

 

 

 

 

Topics: spring break, education, higher ed, high school, parents, graduates, college admissions, college applications, higher education, college, college tours, college visits, career, alternative spring breaks

Scheduling College Tours? Begin with Basic Questions.

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 @ 02:21 PM

In part two of our series on college visits, we discuss how to decide which schools to visit and when to schedule tours.

It’s time to face facts. You can’t put it off any longer. The little boy who held your hand whilescheduling college tours
walking into kindergarten and the sweet little girl who used to wear pigtails are in the final stages of determining where to go to college. Yes, college.

You’re ready now. You can do this. It’s time to start the college tours. While it might be easy for you as a parent to just handle it and schedule a few visits, it’s important your student is involved in the process. Before you begin booking flights or packing up the car, have your student do a little legwork.

Parameters

Have a discussion with your child. Talk about parameters. Do they want to go to a school in a big city or something more suburban or rural? Does the size of the campus matter? Consider categories – SEC versus Big Ten, small private school versus big state school, religious versus secular. Does your daughter want to go out of state? Talk about regions of the country. Does your son want to be on the west coast or the east coast, south or north? Does your student have a specific major in mind? Do they want to play sports or have a particular talent – theater, dance, music?

If you’re lucky, you might get something more than, “I don’t know.” My friend’s daughter has grown up in a very urban environment. She’s decided she wants to experience a more rural campus. We live in the Midwest. My son’s one major requirement is to be someplace warm! Keep asking questions to narrow down the list.

Have your child review college guidebooks and online sources like Fiske, Princeton ReviewBarron’s, or U.S. News and World Report.

It’s also a good idea to talk to your child’s high school counselor before you visit schools. This person should know something about your student and could offer suggestions about which schools to consider. The counselor may also personally know college admission representatives or put you in touch with recent high school alums at different universities.

“The College Board has a Campus Visit Guide that can assist families in starting the process ofcollege applications determining schools to visit," said Deborah Kammerer, associate director recruitment & yield, 
UC San Diego Office of Admissions & Relations with Schools, a member of the NobleHour Network. "It includes information on things to consider before you visit, ways to learn about schools online, a checklist for campus visits, and testimonials from students on how campus visits assisted in their college selection process.” 

Another resource that may appeal to your savvy social media student is to have them check out the Facebook pages, Twitter accounts or other forms of social media used by the universities that interest them.

As your child begins his research, encourage him or her to highlight 10-20 schools. Some kids may choose more, others far less. It’s just to get them thinking about where they want to go and to take ownership of their future. Once they have their picks, ask them why the schools are on the list. Be prepared for some lame answers, but keep digging. Maybe it’s the location. Maybe it’s the courses they offer. Maybe it’s because the football team won the national championship. Or, possibly, it’s because it’s the furthest school from you and all these questions!

“We told our kids to look through the lists and pick 20 schools that interest them,” said Terri Stuckey, a mother of two college students and a junior in high school. “Then, we went over the list and asked them why they found those schools interesting. I was into it more than my kids. The parents have to get it started though.”

“I was against visiting any schools until I had narrowed down my college options to two,” said Ellie McKnight, a senior in high school in Chicago. “My mom insisted we go on a college tour last spring break. Although I think most stuff about the school you can learn online, the visit on campus allowed the great opportunity to talk to faculty.”

McKnight said visiting the schools solidified her interest in William & Mary in Virginia, and Dartmouth in New Hampshire. It also sparked an interest in Emory University in Georgia.

Stay In Contact

If your child is like mine and doesn’t often check his e-mail, have him use your address or a new account to sign up for ACT, SAT and college information. Once my son completed the personal information sections for ACT and SAT, we started getting e-mails from universities all over the place. Some sites will also ask for a parent e-mail address, so you can keep on top of the information as well. It can be overwhelming. Stuckey said she created a college folder and moved e-mails into it every day and then reviewed them weekly. “I deleted some and responded to some, mostly asking for more information. I did the same with the paper mail too.”

Logistics

Stuckey said once they narrowed it down, she then looked at universities located inEmory cities allowing flexible travel arrangements. They looked at cities with major airports, non-stop flights, or areas where they could visit more than one college in one trip. Also, if they had to fly, they committed to visiting at least two schools to make the trip more cost-effective.

“We tried to travel when the kids were off school and took advantage of times when other high school students were in school.” Being from New Orleans, Stuckey used the Mardi Gras break to visit schools. 

Jane Berry, a sophomore at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, said her mom made a planner for their visits together. “She mapped out our road trip with cool places to stay and facts about the school. This made a huge difference for me and made me really consider some Midwest schools.”

While it may be convenient to schedule tours during holiday and summer breaks, it doesn’t always give you a true picture of the campus. “It is also nice to visit the college or university during the academic year, when school is in session, to get a true sense of the campus atmosphere,” said Kammerer.

Stuckey agrees. “The best time to do a tour is when school is in session. Summer is okay if classes are in session or if there’s a new student orientation going on.”

Another option to maximize time and minimize out-of-town expense is to wait for acceptance letters to help determine which schools to visit. “We visited schools that we didn’t get a chance to see initially and also did some second visits to help make decisions,” said Stuckey.

“UC San Diego hosts a day just for admitted students and their families called Triton Day,Triton Day said Kammerer. “It’s a great opportunity for admitted students to explore the campus and the variety of opportunities available.”

Scheduling

“Planning a visit may vary from institution to institution, but many universities including UC San Diego offer an online registration site that allows visitors to schedule their campus tour,” said Kammerer.

Stuckey said almost all schools have a “Plan Your Visit” section on their websites with information about flights, travel agencies, car rentals, and lodging. Always ask if they offer discounts for college visits.

Many schools have open house events with tours, presentations, etc. You can check each school’s website in their admission section for dates and information about attending those events or to schedule individual tours. Tours are offered throughout the week and sometimes on Saturdays. Depending on the university, you may be able to sit in on a class, visit professors, meet coaches or visit with students.

“At Emory, my tour allowed me to get in contact with the dean of admissions, which definitely impacted how I viewed the school,” said McKnight.

“The availability of group and individual tours and spending the night on a campus will vary across universities,” said Kammerer. “In terms of travel and accommodations, it is best to plan ahead. Many institutions host links to area visitor offices and hotel sites on their tour page.”

“Most times when a student is closer to making up their mind about attending a particular school, it is recommended that the student revisit if possible and perhaps stay overnight to get a more robust experience,” said Charles Basden, Jr., coordinator, special projects, for George Washington University, a member of the NobleHour Network.

Basden also suggests inquiring about potential special situation funds universities may have to help assist families with their effort to visit campus.

Stuckey advises staying as close to campus as possible. It’s a great way to learn more about the community. When I visited LSU with my son, we stayed at the Cook Hotel right on campus. We could walk through the university grounds, meet and speak with students along the way and we were able to get a feel for campus life.

Also, when making travel arrangements, consider arriving on campus early or staying a few hours after the tour. There’s nothing worse than missing a casual opportunity to visit with students, professors, financial aid representatives, or admission counselors because you have to rush off to catch a flight. Remember, if it’s a group tour, there will be other parents who want to meet with university staff also. Be prepared to wait.

Have a cup of coffee at the local café or the bookstore. Grab lunch in the dining hall or dinner at a favorite university hangout. Walk around campus on your own. It’s a great opportunity to speak with students and ask them questions about school. “Kids get a strong feeling about the campus and the people they meet on campus,” said Stuckey.

Next time - Part III - Going on Tour and questions, lots of questions!

Part I - Spring Break is a Good Time to Start College Visits

Photo credits: Dolly Duplantier, Terri Stuckey, and UC San Diego Publications/Erik Jepsen 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: education, higher ed, high school, community, parents, graduates, opportunities, college admissions, college applications, college major, higher education, college, college tours, college visits, virtual tours

Service Reflections: Tips for Faculty and Students

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 @ 09:47 AM

Empowering NobleLeaders: Service Reflections

Thank you for joining us for another “Empowering NobleLeaders” Blog with Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan.

Reflection in life, especially when positive, is almost always beneficial. The act of reflection can increase feelings of self-perception personal purpose, and community awareness, as well as increase understanding as to one's role in the greater community. We would like to share with you the importance of reflection on service experiences and offer some insight for both faculty and students on how to do service reflections.  Reflection is an integral component of volunteer service.

While a student is volunteering, the service experience can become more meaningful through constant questioning of motivations, asking why one is helping, and keeping those ideas at the forefront of their mind. A student may maintain their motivation to help by keeping track of both the work they do, as well as their initial and ongoing reactions to their service activities. Reflection before, during, and after a service experience is key, to set goals, and to remember and document observations, emotions, and activities. The most important reflection may come after when the student connects their individual experience to the bigger picture, whether it’s a wider community or national/international issue, cultural or environmental cause, or institutional motive. With reflection and further research, a student will gain deeper understanding of oneself, their community, and society. The more one reflects on their volunteer experiences, the more one knows what they like, dislike, and can identify personal strengths. Additionally, students can then use their service reflections to decide how to channel their experiences into greater action or next steps, which can be beneficial both for the individual (e.g., explore new passions or possible career choices) and the community (e.g., organizing one river clean-up to be an ongoing project with other students and community members in the area). 

How to do Service Reflections: 

For students volunteering, it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day routine. As you begin to look back on your work, here are some helpful ways to take stock and connect to the bigger picture. 

Get started with three easy questions:

What? So what? and Now what? These questions are commonly paired with community service to help participants think about how to channel their experiences into action or next steps. Answer them on your own or with other volunteers. 

What? 

How would you describe the actual work you’ve been doing? What different types of situations have you been involved in and learned from? Whether it’s playing with kids or talking to an elderly person or filing hospital records, describe your day-to-day work. 

So What? 

What did these actions mean? Who did they impact? How did they impact you? How did they affect the community you worked with? How did they contribute to the larger impact your organization (or you) is making? 

Now what? 

Now that you’ve done your service, what are you going to do next? Are there other channels of involvement? What else would you like to know about your site or issue? How will you take this experience and put it to use helping others? What ripple effect will your experiences make for yourself and others? 

How to promote service reflections and service learning for faculty: 

Reflection is a key component of service learning in and out of the classroom. It can be accomplished in many different avenues that students can choose for themselves to fit their learning and creative styles. Encourage students to explore these styles and decide how they would like to record and reflect on their volunteer experience

Each time a student volunteers, it is beneficial to take a few minutes to make notes about what they did, what they learned, and how the experience impacted them. These notes will be useful for future reflecting on experiences as well as for possible use in creating a final presentation for a class. NobleHour has an work reflection tool for students exactly for this purpose.  

Engaging in conversation with others (e.g., friends, professors, family) to explain what the student has been doing and why it is important to them is another way to reflect. With a volunteer supervisor’s permission, a student may be able to take photos and document their adventures in service (there may be strict rules requiring permission and releases) and use these visuals later for reflection and sharing. NobleHour enables students to share their photos, videos, and reflections using the Contribute and Share tool.  Faculty members should encourage student reflection.

One of the main goals of service learning is that students will continue or expand upon their community service even after the final project is done. If students are interested in learning more about their cause or organization, people at the volunteer site are great resources for other contacts and groups that are doing similar work and organizing similar events. 

To maximize the service learning curriculum, components of reflection throughout the semester for students should be interspersed in the syllabus. Class discussion, journal entry writing, online posts, article critiques on surrounding service topics, and a final demonstration or project of the students’ volunteer experiences are wonderful and diverse ways to get students engaged and thinking about their experiences.  

Teachers can guide students' reflection processes in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to: discussion, role play, and journaling

Students are encouraged to reflect on their experience and:

  • Describe what happened.
  • Examine the difference made.
  • Discuss thoughts and feelings.
  • Place experience in a larger contect.
  • Consider project improvements.
  • Generate ideas.
  • Identify questions.
  • Encourage comments from partners and recipients.
  • Receive feedback.

To fulfill one of her global health minor requirements in college, Liz took a course called Core Issues in Global Health: Community Health Practice for Refugees. The professor employed a Community Based Service Learning syllabus guideline which included student-led discussions, lectures, presentations, several community guest speakers, papers, posters, and a community engagement project. The class concluded with each student creating a material (paper, art, video, or article) that described their community refugee experience and also would benefit the organization. The professor made it a class requirement to get out into the surrounding community and see for themselves the information they learned about. Liz's work as an after school tutor with Fugee’s Family outside of Emory every week for one semester created meaning for the statistics and health disparities they were learning about for refugee populations in America. She is now able to look back over her paper and final project, and remember how engaged she felt both in class and with the young refugee soccer players at the Fugee’s school house. 

Service learning and service reflections are valuable student and teacher tools and provide numerous opportunities for personal growth and community service. The more these ideas and actions are incorporated into classrooms, from K-12 to higher education, the better students, communities, and the world will be.

Tune in next time for a discussion of the power of volunteering in diverse environments and with diverse people.

 

"Writing in the Rapids" by Julie Jordan Scott is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Topics: service learning, volunteering, experience, abroad, community engagement, outreach, higher ed, high school, community service, engaged learning, learning strategies, community connections, alternative spring breaks, reflection

Spring Break is a Good Time to Start College Visits

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Sat, Mar 08, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

college brochuresSpringtime is around the corner. That means high school seniors are eagerly awaiting
acceptance letters and juniors are in the home stretch for ACT and SAT prep. It also means that
with spring break on the horizon, and summer beyond that, now is a good time for all high school students to start planning those college visits. In this three part series, we’ll provide some guidelines and tips to make the most of your student’s college visits. We’ll start with an expert – a mom.

Terri Stuckey is no stranger to college visits. With a junior at Emory, a freshman at the University of Virginia and a junior in high school, she’s as close to an expert as they come. Stuckey has visited at least 26 schools, some of them twice, and she’s not done yet.

Start Local

Don’t let those numbers overwhelm you. Not all visits require airfare or lodgings or days away from school and work. One of the easiest places to start your journey is your local university. Even if your son or daughter is adamant about going away, this is a great place to begin. It doesn’t matter if they want to go to that particular school. Visiting different colleges lets students determine what they like and dislike. It’s just as important to take note of why they don’t want to go to a specific school.

These visits can be done on days off from school, after school or on a weekend. You can get a feel for the whole tour experience. This will help you gauge time for itineraries later if you decide to tour schools out-of-state.

In addition, attending local events on a college campus can give your son or daughter perspective and get them excited about the admission process. Catch a show put on by the theater department or cheer on the local team during a football game.

 VacationsLSU

If you’ve already planned your Spring Break vacation, find out if there’s a university near your destination. If you have the time, take a side-trip and schedule a tour. Have lunch or dinner on campus. Walk through and visit the bookstore or if you’re short on time, just drive through the university. Again, it’s a good starting point just to see what’s out there and to give them a point of comparison.

Just about every university my family visited was during a vacation. Road trips through the south brought us to the University of Alabama, Ole Miss, Tulane, LSU, Loyola, and the University of Miami. My boys are two years apart. I made sure the younger one was paying attention. Even their sister, five years younger, has fond memories of our campus visits.

Summer Camps

Stuckey also suggests enrolling your student in a weeklong, overnight, summer camp before going to the expense of scheduling out-of-state tours. Her kids did it the summer after their sophomore year in high school. “It doesn’t have to be where they want to go to college, but it’s a great way to see if they want to go away for school.”

It doesn’t necessarily have to be an academic camp. The point is to give them the experience of being on their own away from home, family and friends. It also provides them with the opportunity to live in a dorm. “Before you start looking at colleges all over the country, see if they can survive a week alone,” said Stuckey.

If they don’t enjoy the experience, then it helps narrow things down. It may not be worth it to visit universities more than a few hours away.

Many schools offer summer programs for high school students. It’s a great experience for the kids. Some offer guided tours as part of the camp, as well as meetings with admission and financial aid counselors. They may even offer college credit. Stuckey said being on campus gets them excited about going to school. “The kids also learn the vocabulary of admissions.”

It’s best to sign up as early as possible. Deadlines can be as early as March. Just search “college summer programs for high school students” and you’ll get a variety of listings. You can also check with your high school college counselors as they may have information about summer programs too.

 Multiple ToursUVA

Another option for visiting schools is to set up a group tour. Check with your high school to see if they offer any bus tours. Some may organize weeklong excursions visiting multiple schools within a specific region. “The kids see a variety of schools, but the parents aren’t with them,” said Stuckey. “The kids have fun, but they may not be looking at the things you, as a parent, want them to consider.”

There are also companies that coordinate tours of multiple universities in specific regions. This takes the hassle out of the planning and lets you concentrate on the school visits.

Stuckey said she never did more than four schools during one trip. “They start to blur in to each
other and it’s hard to keep straight.” She recommends taking lots of pictures, especially by specific landmarks and school signs so when you get back home they can help you remember the campus.

Virtual Tours and Social Media

Obviously, not everyone can afford the time or money to visit every school. Fortunately, the Internet and social media are great resources to learn about schools in the comfort of your own home. Every university has a website. Some offer virtual tours. You can also check out their Facebook page and mobile apps, as well as Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn accounts. Students often post videos of school events, tours of dorms, etc., and many student groups have their own Facebook page.

“If they cannot physically tour the school, then it is extremely important that they read all that they can from different sources about the school,” said Charles Basden, Jr., coordinator, special projects, for George Washington University, a member of the NobleHour Network.  “Many schools are developing virtual tours and online portals that seek to emulate the on campus tour feel. I would suggest creating a Google news alert for the schools they are interested in.”

In addition, Basden recommends reaching out to current students or faculty members through the directory or through student organizations to get a better sense of what campus life is about. Chatting with recent alumni can also provide a helpful perspective.

Photos by Dolly Duplantier

Next time - Part II - Deciding Where to Visit

Part III - Going on Tour – The College Visit: 15 Questions to Ask


 

Topics: spring break, education, higher ed, high school, parents, college admissions, college major, higher education, college, college tours, college visits, virtual tours, scholarships, social media

Community Service: Helping Students Understand the Benefits

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Empowering NobleLeaders: Helping Students Understand the Benefits of Community Service 

Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan come together again to help lessen the disconnect between one-time Service Plunges (like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) and long-term community service and involvement. Given that hundreds of thousands of Americans participated in service on MLK day, “A Day On, Not a Day Off,” including many college students across the nation, we thought it might be helpful to discuss some tips and strategies for how to leverage the enthusiasm of such events. 

Helping students to understand the benefits of community service can be a great way to sustain their involvement. Community engagement has has the potential for deep reciprocal benefits as students learn to create positive change in the world, and make personal changes in the process.

For example, when I was in high school, I had volunteer experience that was so impactful that it led to my career choice. When I was 17 years old, a junior in high school, I thought I wanted to go into sports medicine or be a big time athletic trainer. In order to gain more service experience and with my mother’s encouragement, I traveled to Nicaragua on a medical service trip with a local church (that I had been to before but was not a member of) for spring break. Every year, the church organizes a Spring Break Youth Medical Mission and allows anyone in the community interested to come on the trip as long as there is room. I had never been out of the country nor had any health care experience, and had no idea what to expect. We stayed in Matagalpa, Nicaragua and traveled one to three hours daily to various rural communities to set up a daily, mobile clinic that consisted of a triage area, doctor and patient tables, pharmacy, and dental clinic. Fortunately, one of my high school soccer teammates was on the trip with me. We were able to bring down soccer balls and play with the kids at the end of each clinic day.

Throughout the week, I practiced my Spanish in triage, shadowed and assisted physicians during their patient interviews, sorted and collected prescriptions in the pharmacy, and witnessed universal gestures of graciousness that transcended language and cultural barriers. The physicians, nurses, and pharmacists on the team were incredible people and role models. They encouraged all the young people to pursue their dreams always with serving others in mind, as well as opened my eyes to the wonders of medicine. When I returned home I told my parents, “I’m going to be a physician in the United States for six months and practice medicine in a developing country the other six months.” That one week in Nicaragua changed my life. It gave me perspective and knowledge about how the majority of the world lives, in poverty without access to essential resources, not only to improve their well-being, but even just to survive. I realized how fortunate I was for my family, my access to education, and to live in the United States. I felt so energized and open at the end of the week, and determined to be a doctor so I could have experiences like that for the rest of my life and hopefully improve the well-being of many diverse people.

The feelings that I experienced while helping people in a healthcare setting seemed almost addictive, I became compelled to want to do more service and to devote my professional career to serving others. Since that first trip, I have been on four medical service trips to Central America and highly recommend any type of service trip (Medical, Construction, Public Health, Education, Environmental, Microfinance, Human Rights, Water) to a developing country to all students. Week-long service trips take volunteering to the next level, in fact, in our next post, we will discuss Spring Break Service Trips (also known as “alternative Spring Breaks”), specifically focusing on encouraging students to get involved and helping them to prepare for these potentially life-changing experiences.

One of the most effective approaches to transforming one-time-volunteers into students-committed-to-service is through reflection. In future posts we will be talking about the process of service reflection in much more detail. Today, though, we'd like to offer three quick tips for faculty to share with service-plunge students, in hopes of leading to their experiencing the same compelling draw towards service, as we've had (and we assume many of you have had as well, as that's likely a big part of why you are involved in service learning as part of your career).

  1. Each time you volunteer, take a few minutes to make notes about what you did, what you learned, and how the experience impacted you. This can be done on scraps of paper, in a personal journal, on your blog (if you have one), posted on social media sites (like Facebook), and NobleHour even has a “journal” feature for students to record their reflections.
  2. Engage in conversation with others to explain what you’ve been doing and why it’s important.  If you are in to photography, ask your supervisor if it’s okay for you to take photos while volunteering (as there may be strict rules requiring permission and releases) and if permitted, enjoy documenting your adventures in service. Again, if you are given permission, you may have fun posting these photos on your own website or blog, on a social media site (like Instagram), or using the “share” tool in NobleHour.
  3. Seek to learn more! Ask people at your volunteer site or service learning faculty at your school about opportunities for you to do similar work-- seek them out and get to know the people involved (attend events, set up informational interviews, and take the leap to attend other service activities).

For more information about how to help students to transform from participants of a one-time service plunge into long-term committed volunteers, leading lives of service, can be found in Don’t Just Count Your Hours, Make Your Hours Count: The Essential Guide to Volunteering and Community Service and by continuing to read our blog. Please be on the lookout for our next post discussing how to help students get involved in and prepare for Spring Break Service Trips.

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community engagement, higher ed, engagement, community service, MLK Day, MLK Day of Service, community service programs, higher education, alternative spring breaks

Volunteering at Holiday Food Drives Can Help Many in Need

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Wed, Nov 27, 2013 @ 11:20 AM

 

The holidays are upon us. As we approach the days of festive get-togethers, parties, and dinners, we sometimes complain that we overindulge. However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), shockingly there are approximately 49 million people in the United States, including nearly 16 million children, who live at risk of hunger everyday.

According to the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD), the faces of hunger are changing. Often those in need are employed, are veterans, children, and seniors. In Cook County alone, the numbers are startling. Nearly 800,000 people are unsure of when they will receive their next meal. One in six Chicagoans faces hunger every day. Last year, the Food Depository distributed 67 million pounds food, the equivalent of 154,000 meals every day. 

It is getting harder for families to make ends meet. Some are skipping meals or cutting back on the quality or quantity of food they purchase. In fact, the GCFD reports 47% of households say they have to choose between paying for food and utilities, while another 44% report choosing between paying for food and rent or mortgage.

This time of year, there’s a big push to increase food donations for the holidays. Students in elementary and high schools, as well as universities throughout the country are coming together to collect thousands and thousands of pounds of non-perishable items.

In Chicago, the NBA Bulls, along with sponsors Vienna Beef and Midway Moving and Storage, hosted a number of food drives, including a contest for Chicago Public Schools. Over 35,000 pounds of food was collected to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The winning school, Phillip Murray Elementary Language Academy, collected over 4,000 pounds of food.

Area food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens rely heavily on the GCFD. Their campaign, No One Should Go Hungry is a simple, yet powerful message, highlighting the fact they have just 1 Goal, 1 Mission - To Fight Hunger 1 Dollar, 1 Meal, 1 Person at a Time, until the day that no one goes hungry. The One City, One Food Drive goal is to collect one million pounds of food. 

Food depositories cannot accomplish their goals alone. They need active volunteers of all ages to help in their mission. At the GCFD, volunteers are always needed to load trucks, pick up and deliver produce, check orders, help out with special events, and help pick up and deliver donations from food shows. They can also volunteer at member pantries or soup kitchens.

Food_DriveWhile students are home for break or off for the holidays, a great community service activity is to volunteer at the food depository. School groups, service clubs, and individuals can help repack bulk food products into individual/family sizes. The food depository posts their volunteer schedule four months in advance so groups can plan ahead to sign up. Participants must be at least 14. If you want to get your children involved at an early age, younger kids can participate on special “kids days” with adult supervision.

Feeding America, a leading domestic hunger-relief charity, works to feed the country’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks. In addition, the organization encourages community engagement running a number of partner promotions, and by using social media in a variety of ways. One unique option is to be a virtual volunteer.  Students can "spread the word" and promote social good and awareness through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, and YouTube.

In keeping with the virtual theme, today’s tech savvy kids and young adults, can also host virtual food drives. Whether your son or daughter needs to complete a community service project or their club wants to highlight their community engagement, the Virtual Food Drive is simple to coordinate and through the use of social media, students create awareness about the issue of hunger, as well as raise funds to support Feeding America. Just set a fundraising goal, create a page by answering a few simple questions and ask others to donate using the online tools provided.

The virtual food drive is a great way for colleges to get their students involved. For the seventh year in a row, California State University and UC San Diego students participated in the "Colleges Rock Hunger" food drive to gather money and food donations for needy families. Both universities used virtual food drives, along with traditional methods of collecting food. Last year, students donated nearly 245,000 pounds of food to the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. This year the food bank distributed 22.3 million pounds of food to San Diego County, the equivalent of 18.6 million meals.

The food drive was a great way for students to give back to the community and make a difference. Even college students can afford one can of food or a $1 donation. The California students creatively worked with different groups on campus to encourage everyone to participate. They also maximized their efforts with existing events, like homecoming, and gave students incentives for participating like “cut the line" for free food, giveaways, preferred seating, or immediate access to games and activities. In addition, student organizers reached out to the local business community for support.

If you prefer the traditional hands-on route of volunteering, Feeding America encourages volunteers to check out local community service opportunities. There are food banks in just about every city in America. The Feeding America website offers a nationwide food bank locator. You can search by zip code or state to find the nearest food bank. In addition to helping local food banks repackage donated food for use at food pantries, and transporting food to charitable agencies, you can also help tutor young children at their local Kids Café programs. 

Another great way for students to support Feeding America's efforts this holiday season is to give a donation in someone's name. It's a great gift for that hard to buy for relative, friend or teacher!  The Bank of America Give A Meal program runs through December 31. The online campaign has resulted in more than 100 million meals for families and individuals in need across the country with over 40 million meals coming in just through last year’s program. For every $1 donated through Give A Meal, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation will give $2 more, up to $1.5 million - giving donors the opportunity to triple their impact! 

As we’ve witnessed recently, disaster can strike without rhyme or reason. Feeding America also needs volunteers across the country to support survivors of disaster-affected communities. Sort, box, and repackage donated food to be directed where it's needed most.  



Whether it’s a virtual food drive or a traditional one, students have the power to make a difference. This holiday season, get involved and support your local food bank. What do you do as a family to help with the fight against hunger? Check out our recent blog about how  service learning can help you run a successful food drive!

 

 photo: Dolly Duplantier

Topics: Thanksgiving, Food Banks, Food Pantries, Food Drives., volunteering, community engagement, higher ed, community service, youth impact, engagement, high school, service, community, civic engagement, opportunities, involvement, fundraising, social media

How Service-Learning Engages Students

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Nov 14, 2013 @ 11:30 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Service-learning is something I’m involved in on a daily basis. I find that sometimes students and parents are ill-informed on the distinction between volunteerism and service-learning, and this can lead to confusion.  A common misconception is that service-learning is just an impressive way of saying volunteerism. Luckily, the concept is both easy to follow and implement once it is understood.  The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse gives a very comprehensive definition of service-learning: “Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” What sets service-learning apart is its connection to education.  Service-learning is about applying skills and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-life experiences that benefit the community.  

Accounting students at the University of Texas at Austin are engaging in service-learning by filing tax returns for low-income residents (Source: What Really Counts in a Service-Learning Accounting Class).  In Accounting 366P, students learn how federal tax codes work.  They also study issues affecting low-income residents such as “socio-economic issues, housing and immigration policy, and economic development.”  Then the practice what they have learned by partnering with a nonprofit called the Community Tax Center to help low-income families get the most out of their tax return.  Instructor Brian Lendecky says that, “The most important part of the learning process is actually applying your trade.”  In this class, students learned information vital to their careers, applying that knowledge, and helping members of the community. Business students engage in service-learning by helping with tax preparations.

Many students recount that the best lessons came from the stories they heard from their clients.  When completing their 55-hour service requirement for the course, they engaged in the very issues they’d heard about in their lectures.  One student describes a single mother who put six children through college debt-free.  This type of determination can’t be taught in books; it has to be found in experience.  Another remembers a woman who was hearing impaired and needed her mother to translate.  This prompted the student to learn sign language so he could communicate with more people.  In one year, 200 students filed 18,310 tax returns and helped get their clients over $31 million in returns.  This is much-needed money for families to pay bills, buy groceries, and pay off debts.  What the students gain from the course is not just how to file tax returns, but the power to use their knowledge to elevate others.

In Morris, Minn., students are completing a service-learning project that will help to restore local history.  These students are getting down in the dirt—literally—in some eerie places, but they are doing it for the right reasons.  Lead by University of Minnesota Morris Associate Professor of Anthropology, Rebecca Dean, students will be excavating, cataloging and restoring a local cemetery that has been destroyed.  The cemetery holds immense importance to local history.  The Boerners’ family plot of 12 graves dates back to the late 1800s.  The site ties back to the pioneers who originally settled in the area.  As part of this project, students will be using the archeological skills they have studied in class to gain hands-on experience.  Dean says the project’s close vicinity to the university also makes it an accessible project to her students, in contrast to excavations abroad she has preformed that are a larger financial and time commitment for students.  In addition to being a great lesson plan, the project will give back a historical site to the community.  Students will not only be prompted to master their skills, but also to consider carefully the implications of excavating a site and the importance of being delicate to local history.  (Source: Morris Sun Tribute)

Students helped plan a new hiking trail as part of a service-learning course.

In another service-learning project, students of Environmental Science at Tennessee Wesleyan College conducted research on local wildlife to help the community.  This project went beyond your typical lab assignment.  Students worked to assess a piece of property belonging to the City of Athens, Tenn. that will soon be developed into a new hiking trail.  Each group of students conducted observations of an area of the property and collected data about plants, insects, animals, soil, pollution and erosion.  They compiled the data and determined the effect of building the trail on the environment.  They delivered their recommendations to the city to help them in building the trail.  Assistant Professor Caroline Young described the objectives of the initiative: “It is my hope that by involving students in environmental projects through service-learning, they will see how the issues we discuss in the classroom directly impact our own city, and they will then understand that their efforts make an important difference in the world . . . I hope to foster a spirit of caring for the Earth in my students that will last long after my class is over.” These students engaged in the material in their classrooms and were able to help the community with their research.  As a follow up to the project, the students plan to plant trees in areas of the property where their data revealed a need for more plants.  (Source: Knox News)

These examples show different ways that service-learning helps engage students in their studies. Service-learning is becoming an increasingly popular tool in education because it encourages students to interact with their learning by applying their talents and knowledge to helping the community.  Check out local opportunities for ideas on how to incorporate service-learning in your classrooms. 

Topics: service learning, education, volunteering, experience, k12, community engagement, outreach, higher ed, community service, service learning

5 Back-to-School Tips for Success

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 @ 10:55 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

On the first day of kindergarten, there are always the kids crying and clinging to their parents not wanting to go inside, and then there are some who march in without a second thought.  Every year after that, it’s still the same except less tears and clinging to parents.  For some students, the first day can be nerve-racking.  They don’t know what to expect from their teachers and peers, and fill their heads with every worst-case possibility from not having anyone to play with during recess to getting lost between classes.  A little nervousness is normal, but by lunchtime most students have forgotten all their worries.  

nh backtoschool spot resized 600

When returning to school, kick some of the nervousness by being prepared.  Consider how last year went, and decide what went well and what you’d like to do differently.  Here are some tips for kicking bad habits of schooldays past, and starting the year anew ready to improve.  

  1. Hit the Ground Running: Don’t wait for the first report card to improve your habits.  A new year with new teachers and classes means a fresh start for students.  It’s the opportunity to do better and break old habits.  Each year there are courses more challenging from the last, so think ahead as to what subjects you may need to give more attention to this year.  Study and review a little each day so you know all the material so you aren’t cramming.  Pull yourself out of the ease of summer and start on homework the day you receive it—yes, even on the first day—to break any old habits of procrastination.  Don’t fall behind on the first week, or it will just become more and more difficult to catch up.

  2. Stay Organized:  One of the worst feelings is having done an assignment but having left it at home on the day it’s due.  Devise a system of organization on the first week.  Know what belongs in each binder, notebook, or folder so that by midterms you aren’t searching to find notes among a pile of papers haphazardly thrown into your backpack.  If your teacher allows it, periodically discard old papers you don’t need, but never through out notes and study materials you may need later.  Instead store those at home so you don’t have to carry around weight that you won’t need for class on a day-to-day basis, but you’ll still have them come finals.  One year my teacher had a poster reading, “Organization is the key to success” above her blackboard, and it’s true.  Instead of spending time looking for things, you can use your time on the things that really matter.  

  3. Manage Your Time:  In addition to managing books and papers you’ve got to manage your time.  If you’ve ever found yourself up at 2 a.m. gluing together a history project, regretting the time you spent not working on it earlier, you’ve learned the hard way the importance of using your time wisely.  Always keep in mind what the week ahead looks like.  Consider how your days with practices, games, meetings, or other extracurricular activities could conflict with tests or major deadlines, and get ahead on assignment or studying you won’t have time for later in the week.  This way you can keep doing your fun activities without sacrificing academics.  If your school doesn’t provide you with one, think about picking up a weekly planner to write down all your assignments, tests, and activities.  If you let assignments pile up you won’t be able to do your best. Managing your time properly alleviates stress and allows you more free time to do the things you love.  

  4. Get Involved:  At school there are many opportunities to be involved with clubs and sports.  This is the chance to do something you enjoy and meet people with similar interests.  You’ll make friends, gain experience, and get more out of you education.  It’ll also boost applications or resumes.  The hardest part for some students is knowing where to start.  Make sure you take advantage of any club fairs or interest meetings your school may host so you know what might interest you.  Talk to the teachers who help organize, coach, or advise for different clubs and athletics. If you’re still lacking some confidence, talk to another student involved or bring a friend along.  

  5. Ask Your Teachers for Help:  Teachers are there to help you, so don’t be shy to ask.  If you find yourself in a tough spot with the material, talk to your teacher after class to get advice on getting some extra help.  If on a particular week you’re stressed despite your time management with lots of assignments or tests coincidentally at the same time, explain to your teachers the situation ahead of time to see if you can get an extension, but don’t make a habit of it, and I wouldn’t advise coming the day before with excuses.  Teachers should be interested in your success, so don’t be afraid to ask for their advice and help when you need it.  

Learning is the most important part of school.  As you return to school, consider trading in bad habits from last year for better ones this year.  This process of learning about your own capabilities should continue throughout the year.  Constantly evaluate what techniques are working that you should keep up with, and what’s not helping and needs to be changed or improved.  Here are just a few tips, but each individual must understand his or her own learning style in order to achieve.  Good luck in the new school year!  

Topics: education, k12, millennials, back to school, higher ed

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