Posts Tagged with 'Education'

A Toddler's Advice on Race Relations

Posted Sunday, December 7, 2014
In light of the recent events in Ferguson and elsewhere, I have to question why so many full-grown adults have so much trouble with a basic concept that my toddler son was able to easily explain before he reached the age of 3.

Some 22 years ago, we were visiting a couple of the more-remote Caribbean islands for the first time with our young son. We had taken a puddle-jumper flight from Barbados to Grenada and booked a multi-night stay at a local bed and breakfast. The housekeeper was a charming black lady who took an immediate liking to our son, which resulted in him getting custom-made treats when we returned after a long day's exploration. Like moms everywhere, her first instinctive duty was to spoil the visiting little tykes temporarily under her care.

While chomping down on his late-afternoon snack, my son glanced around, at us, at his host and at his treat and noted: "It's really interesting. Some people are brown on the outside and pink on the inside. Other people are pink on the outside and brown on the inside."

Yes. Yet they will all treat you right if you just give them half the chance!

Tags: travel, education, Caribbean

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How do admission officers verify college application information?

Posted Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Why would they need to?

Admissions officers have heard it all. If you are going for quantity, they won't be impressed; they are well aware of how many hours there are in a day and if you claim to be an officer in 20 clubs, it's obvious that most if not all of them rarely meet and get little accomplished. If you do something remarkable, bordering on unique, it will certainly be mentioned in one or more of your letters of recommendation. If not, that's probably a red flag and a quick call to the school's guidance counselor will either clear the matter up or place you in the reject pile.

Rest assured that any truly stand-out idea you can come up with has already been explored by high-paid "admissions consultants" working for rich families. If you claim to have co-authored peer-reviewed scientific papers, they'd probably expect to see a detailed letter of recommendation from the professor you worked with, singing your praises, or largely assume you got the opportunity through family connections. If you write about all the great things you accomplished over the summer in some Third World backwater, they will wonder why you didn't accomplish the same in your own local community and figure it was pretty much just a vacation.

The bottom line is that it's pretty easy for an experienced eye to read your transcript, your essays and your letters of recommendation and quickly see a discrepancy in the pattern being shown. It's quite probable that many applicants exaggerate slightly, but if every applicant is doing pretty much the same thing, the exaggeration can be ignored as statistical noise. If you're known to lie or cheat at school, your recommendations could directly state that or indirectly reflect it via an absence of specific praise.

Most selective colleges get so many qualified applicants that they could easily fill their class over again with the students they are forced to reject due to a shortage of available space. If you look qualified but something about your application seems just a bit off, the next applicant will get the nod in your place: You should remember that it is not the admission officer's job to give you the fairest possible hearing, but rather to create a viable and balanced incoming class in the most time-efficient way possible.

Also be aware that admissions officers have no problem whatsoever picking up the phone and talking to the guidance counselors if they feel the need to do so — and that sometimes it can be for a positive reason. One admissions officer called my son's high school guidance counselor because the college was considering sending my son an early-write admissions offer, but didn't want to do so until they saw the mid-year grade report. The lesson here: it's a good idea to keep your counselor informed of your goals and accomplishments, so that he or she can help make your case, should such a call ever come.

Tags: education, college

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How to Improve Your ACT Score

Posted Tuesday, September 30, 2014
It's that time of year again when ambitious high school students start obsessing about doing well on the ACT or SAT. Obviously you need to know the material well, but knowing some general strategies can also help your score.

Here are some general tips, courtesy of my younger son, who is currently a junior at Brown. He got a perfect 36.0 composite score on the ACT twice as well as a 240 on the PSAT. The second ACT sitting was due to a bureaucratic graduation requirement because his first effort was taken as a sophomore, which didn't "officially" count — a rant for another day!

• Know your grammar rules cold; both the ACT and the SAT delight in offering you trick answers which "sound right" to the native ear and might even be acceptable in casual conversation, but don't actually follow the formal rules.

• In the reading section, you must consider all the answers. The "correct" answer is often the least worst. Any answer that has the tiniest factual detail wrong should be eliminated, even if it sounds like the best answer. Pick the last man standing.

• In math, pause for a couple of seconds to reflect before grabbing your calculator — that calculator can often become more of a crutch and a distraction than a useful tool because it encourages you to attempt to use brute force rather than to analyze the problem to see if there is a shortcut. The math section is designed to be fully answerable in the time allotted even without the use of a calculator. My son didn't even bother to bring a calculator for his PSAT and his second ACT and still got all the answers correct.

• In ACT science, there often isn't enough time to carefully read all of the presented body text and still answer all the questions. Begin by looking at the questions presented and the charts and graphs; quickly scan the body copy for any unanswered questions. If the answer to a given question isn't immediately apparent, move on and finish the rest of the test first and then come back to review the handful of missed items. Remember the objective is to finish answering the most questions possible, regardless of sequence!

• In general, you should consider each problem holistically: the answer choices presented often offer clues. There is often a back-door shortcut, especially in the math section: keep that in mind as you take the test. And if the problem seems too difficult, take a deep breadth and try looking at it from a slightly different perspective.

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Tags: education, test prep, college

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