• Graduation 2020

    Graduation is a rite of passage that you have no doubt been looking forward to for some time.   And while Spring 2020 has brought a season of disappointments, canceling graduations seems particularly egregious.  This is the culminating celebration for years of hard work.  It should be a day that is celebrated with teachers, family and friends, and hugs, handshakes and high-fives.  Unfortunately, for most students that’s not possible right now.   

    Perhaps it is precisely because we know nothing can replace standing next to your friends and throwing your cap in the air, communities around the country have come together to devise creative ways to mark the importance of this occasion.  There have been graduation car parades, ceremonies held at drive-in theaters, individual graduations hosted in living rooms, and virtual ceremonies featuring special guests.   

    Speaking of special guests – celebrities, CEOs, pro athletes, and entertainers are all getting in on the act.  In response to a viral tweet by Eagle Rock High School senior, Lincoln Debenham, Barack and Michelle Obama announced last week that they would participate in multiple commencement ceremonies.  The first is this Saturday, May 16.  Called #GraduateTogether, it features the Obamas along with Lebron James, Pharrell Williams, the Jonas Brothers, Megan Rapinoe and others.  The event will be broadcast by ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC beginning at 8pm ET/PT, 7pm CT/MT.  This Forbes article details a number of other celebrity ceremonies including a May 15 Facebook event headlined by Oprah and a May 16 iHeart Media podcast of celebrity commencement addresses.   

    We love you Class of 2020!  Our hearts break for the disappointments you have been handed this spring and yet we celebrate you all the same.  You deserve to be recognized and we will do that in whatever way possible.  We are so proud of your accomplishments and especially proud of the grace you have shown in adapting to these final weeks of your senior year.   

    read more

  • Where will you fit in?

    “Warm, welcoming, smart, and unpretentious– our university is filled with students who are driven to be the best they can be without striving to do so at the expense of others. They excel at allowing everyone to be comfortable with who they are, and not having to be a certain type of person in order to fit in.” 

    Does this describe the type of college environment you want to be in?  Where do you fit in?  Which statement below describes you the most? 

    • I want a college where most of the students share my background and viewpoints. 
    • I want a college where some students have viewpoints and experiences different from my own. 
    • I want a college where many students have viewpoints and experiences which are unlike my own. 

    Using your answer, look for the following when researching colleges: 

    1. What is the mix of undergraduate geographic diversity?  How many students are instate?  Outofstate?  International? 
    2. What is the racial/ethnic make-up of the student population?  Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Black, Native American, White, other? 
    3. Where would you find students who share your spiritual beliefs/values?  Colleges have Hillel for Jewish students, MSA for Muslim students, Institutes for LDS (Mormon) students, and worship opportunities or spiritual centers for many other students.  Where will you find your group? 
    4. Is there Greek life?  How many students join fraternities and sororities?  Are there Greek houses on campus to live in?  Or not? 
    5. Do students play sports?  Varsity, club, or intramural?  Are other recreation sports (biking, running, hiking, fitness classes) offered/available 
    6. Do students share a common passion or commitment?  Does the campus lean toward a particular political culture?  Are there any unifying values that define the campus climate? 
    7. How is your living arranged?  Do all freshmen live on campus?  Are there special living/learning communities you can choose from, like sustainability, international studies, arts, engineering, etc.? 

    As you read about colleges, review their websites, and take virtual tours, be sure to ask these questions.   Learn as much as you can about the student body of the college.  After all, you will spend the next four years closely connected to the students in your classes and the community you in which you live 

    Learn More 

    GuidedPath offers a great way to look at the social life of a college.  

    • Check out the Social Experience section of each college profile.  What are the influential groups on campus?  What is the international diversity?  What events are popular on campus Where do students hang out?  
    • Review the Fiske Guide description (if available).  How does it describe the student body?  What is the Fiske social rating? 
    • Search for schools where you would feel comfortable.  In the Guided Search, you can search by undergraduate size, freshman and all students in housing, international student population, the Fiske Social and Quality of Life ratings. 
    • View the ready-made lists.  Looking for a school with a sizable Jewish population? Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) There are social tagged lists for these categories. 

    Take Action 

    Make notes in the Discussion section of each college about the social atmosphere.  What do you like or not like?  The ultimate question is, “Would I fit in here?  If the answer is a resounding YES then you should add it to your My Colleges list. 

    read more

  • What’s in a location?

    How do you describe where you live?  City?  Suburb?  Country?  What aspects of your current location do you like or not like – and how far are you willing to go from home?  As you explore colleges, one thing to consider is the location of the college.  Location can make a significant impact on your college experience.  Think about where you want to go to school.   

    Here are terms and definitions used in college “locations”: 

    • Major City: Population 300,000 or more: or within a 25-mile radius of a metro area. 
    • Small-Medium City: Population 75,000-299,999 or within 15 to 25 miles of a metro area. 
    • Large Town: Population 25,000-74,999 or within 10mile radius of a large town. 
    • Small Town: Population 5,000-24,999 or within 5mile radius of a small town. 
    • Rural: Population under 5,000, in or near a rural community. 

    Things to consider related to location: 

    • Distance from home 
    • Nearest airport
    • Nearest large city 
    • Nearest outdoor experiences (beach, mountains, etc.)
    • Popular student gathering places on campus
    • Popular student gathering places off campus 
    • Nearest tourist attractions
    • Movies, shopping, restaurants, or other entertainment nearby
    • Employment/Internship opportunities
    • Your faith communityon or off campus

    Be sure to explore all the options.  View the college website for virtual tours.  Check for info on the surrounding community   Most importantly, look it up on a map. 

    Take Action 

    Use the Guided Search to explore the location of colleges you are interested in.  GuidedPath offers search on location types.  Also check out: 

    • How many freshmen live on campus? 
    • Fiske Social Rating 
    • Fiske Quality Rating

    read more

  • College Budget

    Admission offers received – check! 

    Enrollment decision made – check! 

    What’s next?  You’ll be getting a lot of information about next steps from your college for registration and orientation.  Meanwhile, you might want to start a conversation with your parents about a spending money budget for college.

    Here are 6 money management tips for you to consider.

    1. Open a bank account and get an ATM card (if you don’t already have one).  You may want to research the local banking options at the school you will attend.  Many colleges have a bank or credit union on campus.  Make it a joint account (you and a parent).  That way you can access your money when away from home (in college). 
    2. Learn how to check your bank balance from your phone It’s a good practice to check your bank balance before you get gas or stop by Starbucks to be sure you have money in your account for the purchase. 
    3. Learn how to deposit checks.  Most bank mobile apps will allow you to deposit checks right from your phone.  Great for those graduation checks you will receive. 
    4. Create a budget.  A spending plan is essential.  Know how much money you will have each month from your financial aid, a campus job, or from your family.  With your parents, create a realistic monthly budget.  Then, your biggest task will be to stick to your budget. 
    5. Learn how to schedule & pay bills from your account.  You might have a phone bill or other bills you are responsible for.  Learn how to pay on time and keep within a budget. 
    6. Decide with your parents and if you choose, open a credit card account BEFORE leaving for college Credit card companies will offer many promotions for new students on campus – free shirts, new tech gear, etc.  Don’t be tempted by free stuff!  Open ONLY oncredit card and use this card as a “backup” (if you don’t have cash) to help establish good credit.  

    Start practicing good money management skills now so that you have one less thing to worry about freshman year. 

    Take Action 

    Use the Cost of Attendance in GuidedPath to calculate your college budget.  Here you can find the amount listed as “Personal Expenses”.  Use this to calculate your college budget.  Divide the number by 9 months to determine your monthly budget. 

    read more

  • Building teacher/counselor relationships

    Hoping to get a great recommendation letter for your college or scholarship applications?  It’s hard to write a recommendation for someone you don’t know.  It’s especially important to have strong relationships with your teachers and counselor but it might seem difficult to cultivate those relationships in the era of “home learning”.  How can you reach out to your teachers?  Here are 3 tips to building good relationships no matter what your school situation is.   

    1. Show Up!   Get to know your teachers/counselor and give them opportunities to get to know you.  Be sure to show up for required class meetings (online or in-person) and also take advantage of “office hours” or other chances to interact with your teachers.    
    2. Speak Up!  Make your voice heard by asking questions during class or after hours by email.  Share thoughts and ideas, ask for clarification if needed, and be an active participant.  Use your voice, even by email.  This lets the teacher know you are engaged and interested in their class.   
    3. Stand Out!  Make yourself known.  Let teachers know your interests and get to know theirs; you may find common ground.  Although many extracurriculars are currently suspended, stay connected with activity advisors and collaborate on new ways to be involved even when school is closed.  Teachers will take notice when you take initiative.      

    Take Action 

    • Update your Activity Record in GuidedPath.  Be sure to list all your activities.  Who are the advisors for each activity?  Focus on getting to know your advisors better. 
    • Start adding teachers’ names to the Letters of Recommendation form in GuidedPath.   

    read more

  • Saying Thank You


    This week, May 1 specifically, is traditionally the official end of the college application process – the finish line!  And although this year it may seem like a lot remains up in the air, hopefully you can find some happiness in knowing that at least the applications are behind you.   

    As you wind down senior year, now is the time to acknowledge the people who have made a difference in your high school experience.  Teachers, counselors, coaches and others have all helped shaped the person you have become.  Take some time to let them know the impact they have made.  A heartfelt thank you note can make all the difference to a teacher or advisor, especially at a time when many of them are also struggling to adapt to these new circumstances.  Here are the top DO’s for saying “Thank you”. 


    1. Say “Thank You” in writing.  Although a card is great, email will work as well.   
    2. Write the note yourself.  Don’t let your parent write these notes.  They should come from you.  
    3. Be specific in your expression of gratitude.  Include a favorite memory of class, or a game, or a moment that stands out to you in your relationship.   
    4. Tell this person how they made a difference in your life. 
    5. Set a deadline and write your notes/emails before graduation. 

    Your teachers, counselors and others who have helped you through high school, rarely get a thank you from the students they served.  Especially this year, many will be missing the in-person hugs and high fives on the last day of school.  Make their day by remembering and acknowledging their contributions.  

    “None of us got to where we are alone.  Whether the assistance we received was obvious or subtle, acknowledging someone’s help is a big part of understanding the importance saying thank you.”  Harvey Mackay 

    Take Action 

    Create a task and deadline for yourself to get your thankyou cards completed.  Use your Letters of Recommendation or Course Plan (in Surveys) to review all your teachers, counselors and community people who might need a personalized thank you. 

    read more