Double Take

Taking a second look at life experiences

Archive for the category “Life”

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For college bound teens: 5 tips to ace that essay

  1. college

If you’re an academically minded teen, I am guessing that you’re feeling intense pressure surrounding the entire college application process. I feel for you. It is rough out there, and anyone who says that “things are no different from the way they used to be” is wrong. Things are incredibly more competitive, stressful, and challenging.

You have this big task in front of you. You want to get into college. It’s about your future. However, for a minute, imagine that you’re a college admissions officer with a bunch of essays to read–and you need to get through them quickly. What will make a positive impression?

The colleges want to accept students that will add something to life on campus. You need to think of yourself as a contributor, not a user. That’s the first best tip I can give you. So,

#1: Learn about yourself.  

You need to figure out who you are. I know, years ago it seemed that college was for helping you do just that. Now, you need to know a lot about yourself and  your career goals even before you step foot onto the college campus.  What are your interests, hobbies, skills? How are you in social situations? What kinds of activities do you do? Are they indoor or outdoor? You get the idea. Be your own interviewer. Or, ask someone else to interview you and take notes!

#2: Learn how to write a resume (if you have one already, click here for tips on that).

The experience will help focus you and help you limit your words. You don’t have to write about every single thing you’ve ever done. If need be, edit out those things that don’t add meaning to your presentation. Are your interests reflected accurately? Could someone figure out what’s important to you by seeing the totality of your activities? If not, you may either have too many activities listed or too few. Being a marginal member of a group for a few years won’t add to the portrait you’re trying to paint. Also, show a commitment over a long-term to some activity, cause, youth group, camp, or educational experience, that perhaps led you to take on a leadership position. If you can articulate that, even better. For example: “participant in youth group for three years, taking on successive leadership positions and am now Vice President of Membership.”

#3: Be specific about everything. 

Make sure in your descriptions, you use action words and show results where possible. For example: “created unique fundraiser that engaged over 70% of students, raising $5,000 as the most successful event that year.” is way better than “planned or chaired school fundraiser.” Try not to list things that are general, but instead show off your specific contributions. For example, “contributed to a monthly blog for the school paper that received regular reader comments….” instead of “wrote for the school paper” or “was a reporter for the school paper”.Similarly, if you list commonplace activities that all of your peers are also listing, well, it’s just ho-hum. Think hard about what you do that others are not doing. For example, taking additional academic courses shows that you’ll be able to handle a challenging course load in college.

#4:  Think of a defining moment in your life. 

What experience can you share that will set you apart from the crowd?  What has had a strong impact on you? What changed the way you thought about something? What unique challenges have you had that you were able to overcome? What supports did you have in this process? Think about the experiences that make you unique and how you can write about it in a readable and compelling document. Make sure your language is colorful, descriptive, and not boring. Hopefully your personality will shine through.

#5: Tell them what you will be able to contribute to the college experience.  

This is highly important. Do some thinking about what you will be able to add to the college environment. College admissions process is not a one-way street. Sure, you want to ‘get in’ but why should you be accepted? What will  you offer? How will the college community gain from your participation?

By accomplishing all of the above, you will be able to write a memorable essay. Much luck in this wonderful journey you’re taking!

 

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The Special Sweetness of the Once-A-Year Holiday Party

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Do you dread or anticipate the obligatory company holiday party?

I’m surprised by how much I look forward to attending my husband’s holiday party every year. Here’s my list of some of the reasons for why I enjoy this experience so much:

  • It’s not really a holiday party, but a festive meal served for about 4o people, family style, which encourages interaction and discussions about the food. The food is absolutely delicious! (envision sautéed garlicky spinach on top of crostini; a light caesar salad with shaved parmesan, light sacchetti  pasta, filled with ricotta cheese and white truffles in a white sauce garnished with slivered almonds; lemon-infused salmon with a lightly crumbed topping; and then tiramisu on large platters, adorned with lightly filled miniature cannolis. Are you with me yet? Do you need to read the rest??)
  • There’s something special for me in checking in with everyone to see how they’ve fared over a year’s time, since we don’t see each other socially. That might be perceived as a negative, but for me, it’s having defined boundaries for a different type of relationship.
  • Hearing about their children’s accomplishments, and sharing their pride in the details about their stage of life, gives my own memories a boost as I think about my own children and where they are in life.
  • Conversations started a year ago, seem to build upon themselves a year later. It’s not like starting all over…but instead a way to delve deeper into subjects every time you meet. Over the years, the connections get just a little more solidified, and that process is fun to experience.

So, have you attended a holiday party yet? Do you love the experience or dread it? Please share  here!

 

photo courtesy of Creative Commons. http://www.torange.us 

How to tell if you’re asking good questions

spoonfeeding

by Ruth Schapira

Why can’t most media types ask thought-provoking questions?

I imagine that there must be some sort of training in reporter/host school that teaches its students to ask proper questions that engage both the viewer and participant. So why do I hear all types of reporters asking the most mundane questions, spoon-feeding their subject?

Where are the questions that instill a sense of wonder; an opportunity to gain something new from the interaction? Why is it that almost every time I hear a reporter or host ask someone a question I feel the questions are elementary and useless. I gain nothing. Seriously, is it any wonder that there is a problem today with students’ capacity to think? 

Invariably the questions are a version of these options:

  • So, how happy are you now that you’ve won……..(on a scale of 1 – 10?)
  • Please tell us how confident you feel after ……..(quite confident actually) 
  • So, how disappointed are you now that …………..(I wasn’t that disappointed until you mentioned it…..)
  • How proud are you of your son? (really, what would someone possibly say in response?)
  • How much do you love your new neighborhood? (well, actually our neighbors are really quite nasty….) 

These questions spoon-feed the subject. Asking questions that provide the answers wastes my time and insults my intelligence. We’ve gotten used to canned questions and answers, compromising everyone’s ability to think critically.  If I was a lawyer, I’d say that these questions ‘lead the witness’. So, let’s not pretend that we’re gaining new insight when we listen to these interviews.

What if different questions were asked? What if people were actually asked to think? See how these similar but altered questions might have a different response:

  • So, how are you feeling right about now? 
  • Please tell us about this experience…..
  • Share how this moment is affecting you…..
  • What is your reaction to this? 

Which interview would engage you? Which answers would grip you right away? Which ones would make the subject and the viewer think just a little bit more? Which ones would tell a better story?

 

Confession: I’m a Halloween Humbug

Happy?

Happy?

I don’t get it.

If Halloween is really Happy what’s with all the images of scary pumpkins, witches, goblins, ghosts, and ghouls?

This does not make for a Happy Holiday for me. Maybe because Halloween comes on the heels of starting the new school year in September, but that’s only part of it. The other part is that Halloween’s celebration of death-like imagery (skeletons, graveyards, blood-thirsty things, devils and more) just doesn’t appeal to my Jewish sensibility of revering life.

After years of reaping the candy rewards as a child, without so much as a second thought about any spooky connections that made that experience enjoyable, Halloween and I became only polite acquaintances once I became a parent.

It was a holiday I tolerated, because my kids were part of American culture. I gave out candy at my door, but hated the consistent door-bell ringing that peppered the few hours we had to ourselves after a day at work.

But every time I saw skeletons hanging from trees, ghosts posted by doorways, and front lawns turned into graveyards, I decided to back off from the holiday’s ghoulish behavior. Once my kids were old enough to get their candy fix in the proper way, by buying it—not by opening a bag at someone’s door, I’ve separated from it entirely.

Not even my fond memories of my mother’s creative home-made costumes can save my opinion of the Hallowed holiday now. Mind you, I am not judging your participation. I’m Happy if you’re Happy.…even if my version of Happy doesn’t involve gory costumed characters or spooky-looking carved pumpkins.

 

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This Day I’m Embracing Being Vulnerable and Human

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I wanted to write something about the end of summer, and how my beach memories of scouring for seashells and building sand castles seem so simple, while the board-hyphenated activities I saw this year took such skill: boogie-boarding, paddle-boarding, skim-boarding, and of course surf-boarding (which sounds so old school right about now).

But instead, I woke up today to the realization of 9/11 and remember how in an instant, I went into the depths of fear and vulnerability. I feel like pushing those feelings away, because it’s so scary and uncomfortable to be in that space. How is it that I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, what I was thinking? How can fleeting minutes engrave themselves permanently in my mind?

I need to hold on to my discomfort, because it makes me realize my place.

Everything around us entices us into thinking that we’re in total control of our lives, even though there are now more tools than ever that actually help us do this. And on a daily basis, we make thousands of minute, free will choices that confirms this feeling.

But we know we’re really not. Not in the big sense. Not when we start thinking about life and death.

This time of year for me tends to trigger this line of thinking, but today, on 9/11 I want to honor all the feelings I tend to push away. Instead, I want to sit in the stew of the jumbled emotions I feel….being vulnerable, not knowing all the answers, the fear of loss, and in the end, just being human. Smaller than we think.

 

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