Double Take

Taking a second look at life experiences

Archive for the tag “teenagers”

For college bound teens: 5 tips to ace that essay

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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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“This is not Camp!” How Parents Can Be More Welcoming

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If your child is returning home from overnight camp, expect that your laundry room will be filled with the dirtiest, grimiest piles of clothing you’ve ever seen since—well, never. Is it a surprise that you’re contemplating just chucking the whole lot and starting over for the coming school year? After all, do you really want to put the items with stained evidence of sleep-outs, mud slides, s’mores and who-knows-what else into your nice, shiny, clean washing machine? Though it is a formidable machine (which in some cases ought to pay rent for the space it takes up in your home) clearly intended to do the job of cleaning all manner of dirty clothing, you just don’t believe these clothes will ever be clean, no matter what the ads say.

Maybe you’ve decided years ago that the only way to deal with this mess is to shlep the whole lot to a laundromat, spending hours there as an active participant in the tedious decontamination process, so as not to sully your washing machine.  Or maybe you’ve decided to feel like a queen for a day (and who could fault you for this, would that person want to do the laundry?) and indulge in the laundromat’s service to conveniently wash, dry, and fold those items into straight-edged piles which they then place in sanitary over-sized plastic bags so they’ll look presentable again? (and you might ask how would I know all the details about this? shhhh…)

No matter what route you take, after you deal with the clothing, you’ll need to deal with the camper.

Welcome Home!

Coming back home for your child will be part of a transition toward (sounding quite social-worky, pop psychologist here), integration into life at home. It will happen slowly for most.

So, how can you help your child move from camper [“we did it this way at camp”, “things were better at camp”, “I was on my own at camp”, “I can’t wait to go back to camp” (not necessarily a bad thing), and possibly the worst thing to hear: “being home sucks!”] to home dweller?

Here are some tips to consider:

1. Adjust your thinking and expectations. Though only a few weeks have passed for you, camp has already, in that relatively short amount of time, contributed to a life changing experience for her (or him. I’ll switch off from here on…).

2. Get involved in his experience by asking him to talk about it….but not at first. Give your child some much needed personal space and some time. Take cues from him about when to broach the subject. Wait for him to open up the conversation. Ask questions with some depth, beyond the typical: “Did you have fun?” How about instead: “What’s one neat thing you learned this summer?” “Tell me about an interaction you had with your counselor/friend/staff member that was important to you”, “What activity did you look forward to the least, or wish you could be excused from?”

3. Depending on the age of your child, be ready for heavy social media use, especially in the weeks after camp. The camp might have a presence on several platforms, and it’s in the best interest of the camp to engage their campers after the summer’s end.

4. Beyond the virtual, go out of your way to drive your child to camp friends’ houses for special celebrations, hang-outs, reunions. It’s important that her network remains her own, because it just might give her a reprieve from school friends who are not behaving in the kindest ways, or if they are, she suddenly may find that they’re “shallow” and “not all that interesting” compared to her friends at camp.

5. Overnight camp is an exhilarating time for teenagers. For most, living with others 24/7 gives them many opportunities to see their strengths and weaknesses in ways they hadn’t before. The camp environment usually stresses peer leadership, something that might be rare on home turf but occurs regularly at camp. It would help for you to think of ways to step up leadership opportunities at home as well, to build upon what he learned at camp, and provide coping skills for more time away when he leaves home.

And depending on your laundry skills, you may wish for that sooner rather than later.

Related Posts:

Seven Things To Do When Teens Come Home From Summer Camp

A Guide to Sending  Your Child The Very Best Letters at Summer Camp

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