Monday, April 13, 2015

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: Book Giveaway

Frank Bruni College Book Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be
Shortly after lingering over Frank Bruni's Where You Go Is not Who You'll Be (affiliate link) I received an email offering me a review copy and a chance to give away up to 5 copies of the book. I jumped at both. Frank Bruni's new book is a hot topic among my friends who are in the midst of or getting ready for the college admissions process. The book is like a reassuring hug for those who easily get sucked into feeling like their child has to go to a big-name, high-prestige college or university.

Rather than spotlight big name schools, Bruni highlights our national obsession with them. Think about it, how often do you read or hear a business leader being referred to as "Harvard-educated" as opposed to being called out as a graduate of, say, Northern Michigan University (which is where Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz went)? The less well-known schools do not get their due. Further, Bruni drives the point home that a less well-known school is not a lesser institution.

He rips into the college rating system that's currently dominated by US News and World Report, sharing examples of their flawed rating processes.

As Bruni provides a detailed overview of the modern admissions process, he lays out application trends. I didn't realize the Common Application has been around for decades. It only recently caught on like wildfire, though, likely because of the ease of modern communication. Today's student typically applies to more schools than my age peers did. He notes the rise of international students coming to college in the US and its impact on admission rates for US students. In addition, he examines the impact of legacy admissions and other political aspects of the admissions process.

He also shines a light on the rapidly growing business of college admissions consulting. Affluent families set on top tier schools may spend as much as $50,000 for coaching and consulting from middle-school until their child matriculates. Bruni notes that although many counselors stress their role in finding the right fit for a given student, they also tend to boast about the number of their clients who head off to highly selective schools.

I'm about 2/3 of the way through the book right now and even though we're not eyeing the Ivy League schools for my boys Bruni has given me a lot to think about and discuss with my family. His book is an informative, but easy, read. I think you'll like it.

Win a copy of
Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be!

To enter, leave a comment below and a way to contact you (email or Twitter or just your name if I know you in real life), so I can get in touch if you win. If you have any tips on the admissions process share them in your comment. Also let me know if you have any questions about the admissions process that I can address in a future post since that's pretty much the recurring theme of this blog now. Leave a comment until 11:30 PM on Friday April 17, 2015. I'll notify the winners next week. Books will be shipped from a PR company.

Monday, March 09, 2015

College Road Trip: Cancelled

The whole college thing is a complicated dance. You want your kids to lead because in the end this largely about your child and his choice. But on the other hand, if you simply relegate yourself to the role of follower, your child might might miss out on certain opportunities, like actually being organized enough to apply to college the fall of his senior year of high school.

The college counselor at our high school is a big advocate of campus visits. So with Spring Break on the horizon we started planning an epic college visit road trips: 4-5 schools in as many states with brief stop in Canada to see some family. My son made the requisite school tour reservations (I'm told admissions offices do not appreciate working through parents) and we checked the dates with our dog sitter.

Last Friday I assured my husband that our trip was a go before he left town last weekend, but I changed my mind by the time I picked him up at the airport on Sunday.

We didn't cancel as a punishment to my son. And it's not that we feared the "fun" of the four of us being packed into my sedan for a nearly a week, knowing that at least 50% of our children would be tired/bored/hungry/grumpy. We didn't back out because of the thought of 4 near-adults sharing a single hotel room (not to mention bathroom) made us twitchy.

We cancelled because I was the driving force behind the trip. We planned to see an urban liberal arts school, an urban highly selective technical school and a technical school in a small city. All good possibilities, my son agreed, but all schools of my choosing.

My son didn't oppose any of the schools. He remains open to the thought of someday attending any one of them, but he didn't express a passion for any of them. I wouldn't say that our trip would have been a total waste of money, but I also don't think it would have been money wisely spent at this time.

If he wants to get a sense of different campuses there are plenty we can see in Chicagoland. And when he decides he wants to see a school that's far from home, we can make a visit. (Or, in the case of a certain highly selective school or two, we might wait until he gets accepted before planning a campus tour.) Maybe it won't be a big family trip--chances are it won't. In fact, maybe he'll head off alone to a university that one of his friends attends--that's how I made my college visits.

How are you handling the college review and admissions process? How do you encourage your child to take an active role in it? And doesn't this seem so much more intense than when we went through it?







Thursday, March 05, 2015

Why Your Kid Should Apply to Harvard

First off, I'm hosting a  #STEMchat tonight (3/5) on Twitter. The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is sponsoring this chat on the science of everyday life. If you have a middle schooler, encourage them to participate in fabulous competition (click the link for entry details). Things are set for the chat and I've finished up a few other projects which means my mind has room to wander again and college admissions is one of the first places it goes.

The college recruitment mail has been showing up at our house since my oldest son took the PSAT as a sophomore. This means that a steady stream has been arriving for over a year, much of it in the form of glossy brochures. Shout-out to Harvey Mudd College for a cool GIF-worthy piece with a lenticular image.

Most of the colorful pieces blur together, ultimately landing in pile like the one pictured. Maybe he's saving them for a big bonfire after he commits to a school? Only a few are actually opened and examined.

The other day he received mail from Northwestern, some school in Michigan claiming to be a perfect fit, and Harvard. The Harvard piece stood out because it didn't look slick or glossy, but did resemble the kind of large envelope one might equate with a college acceptance package.

I admit, my curiosity was piqued and I opened it. I mean, A) I knew it wasn't an acceptance letter and B) he opens almost none of this stuff; it was doomed to be ignored like the rest. Wait, did I just confess to a federal crime?

Let me tell you about the contents before the fed take me away. There was a letter, addressed to  Mr. Moldofsky (so fancy!), encouraging him to explore what Harvard has to offer. It shared a few highlights and noted their "revolutionary financial aid." That hooked me.

I moved on to the enclosed brochures. "Wow," I thought. "Their brochure features students of color." Oh wait, it's the financial aid brochure.

(I mentioned this on Facebook, which led to a friend posting this piece about colleges relying on Photoshop tools to accentuate their diversity.)

It wasn't really a brochure, so much as a fancy, full-color fold-out flyer. What was really impressive was what was inside. Check out these fun and encouraging facts about financial aid at Harvard. These are pulled straight from the piece:

  • If your family income is below $65,000 your parents are expected to contribute nothing to the cost of your education.
  • Families with incomes from $65,000 to $150,000 normally contribute between 0-10% of their income. Those with higher incomes often find that need-based aid is still available.
  • Your financial aid award accounts for the total cost of attending including tuition, books, and allowances toward personal and travel expenses.
  • Students are not expected to take out loans, and most students graduate debt-free.
  • Applying for financial aid does not negatively affect your chance for admission.
The letter noted that nearly 60% of students at Harvard receive financial aid and that their families pay an average of $12,000 per year and their students don't take out loans.

I don't know how this plays out on campus in terms of the haves and have-nots, but this seems like a big step in trying to level the playing field for low-income and, what do we call it, low-upper-middle class-income families.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Updates

I know things have been pretty quiet around here. You can keep up with me over at The Maker Mom blog and TMM Facebook page, where I post at least one interesting item a day, usually at 10 AM.

I'm hosting a #STEMchat this Thursday evening, 2/12, at 9 PM Eastern. Join us! We're talking engineering with a fabulous panel thanks to sponsor Georgia-Pacific. Look at the cool graphic they made for the chat.

Speaking of graphics, I'm trying to stay on trend by including more graphics in my posts. I love this quote I pulled from a recent STEM Girl Friday feature, though I might have gone a bit heavy on the pink.


And check this out: it's the fab new logo for STEM Kids Chicago. I'm building up the site in fits and starts and hope to hit my stride with it by April.



And I have a great idea for a podcast, but need to school myself on the fine art of podcasting before I jump in.

So it's not that I've disappeared, it's just that I'm elsewhere. What are you up to?


Friday, January 23, 2015

Wonder Wheel 1.0

The Older Maker Teen created a nice interactive bit of code for me to share on The Maker Mom for the Year of Wonder, but Wordpress keeps messing with it, so I'm posting it here.

Drum roll please.

Introducing the digital Wonder Wheel 1.0.

Read more about the Wonder Wheel and download a printable version here.

Scroll down and click on the box that says "click me" and a question will appear to spur your scientific or creative exploration. Of course, you need to complete the question with a few thoughts of your own.

How might I..?
What if we...?










TheMakerMom.com's Wheel of Wonder 1.0







Monday, January 12, 2015

Illinois Underage Drinking Social Host Laws 2015

Happy new year! If you follow me on social media, you've likely seen that I started writing for The Alcohol Talk. I'm one of a handful of writers sharing information, advice, and conversation starters for parents on having the alcohol talk. That is, talking to their tween and teen children about the dangers of underage drinking. One of my December posts focused on social host laws. These laws dictate penalties for serving alcohol to underage children in the home.

As I researched my piece, I learned about laws in different states. For example, Illinois laws are pretty strict compared to those in Texas.

Okay that's not such a surprise, but I learned that starting this month, January 2015, the Illinois social host laws became even broader. In the past, parents and guardians who allowed underage drinking in their house faced liability issues. Now, quoting from an AP article,
[They] can be fined up to $2,000 if they allow those under 21 to drink in vehicles, trailers, campers or boats under their ownership or control. And if a death occurs as a result, parents or guardians can be charged with a felony.
#TheMoreYouKnow  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Blood on My Office Walls

Sad Tesla in the rain.
As I headed from my desk toward the kitchen, I noticed smattering of specks on my office floor. I asked Son #2 to fetch me a damp rag. As I swiped at the small spots, it dawned on me that these brick red speckles were dried blood. Blood!

"Remember that time Tesla was bleeding from his neck?" Son #2 asked.

"Yes, that was weeks ago and I cleaned it up." We never did figure out how the dog was injured, only that there was a little blood that dripped from a small mysterious spot on his neck. It stopped as quickly as it started.

I may be a slob when it comes to things like piles of papers and stuff, but when it comes to slime, mold or bodily fluids, I don't mess around. Sh*t gets cleaned.

Literally.

So I'm wiping up the mess. What seemed like a small spatter actually covered a few square feet. Gross, right?

As I'm down on my hands and knees working my way across the floor, the floor meets the wall. And then I notice blood on the wall!

And the back of my offce door!

Just to cover my bases, I asked the boys if they'd performed any satanic rituals or slaughtered any goats in my office recently.

You never know just what crazy things teens are up to these days.

And then fit the pieces together as best I could.

There's a bed in my office/theoretical guest room. Last night I slept in the bed with the dog because he'd been interrupting our sleep for the last few nights. You see the dog is not allowed to sleep in DH's and my bed, but he sleeps next to it on the floor. Covered by a blanket.

Sometimes he gets up, oh, around 2:00 AM, takes a few steps, gives a shockingly loud whole body shake (it's loud and he doesn't even wear tags on his collar) during which his blanket comes off. If the shake doesn't wake us, the dog's reminder that his blanket is off does. It's a very gentle "woof," not a full-on bark. "Excuse me, Mom and Dad, but I can't get back to sleep without my blanket. By the way, maybe if you turned up the heat above 66 this might not be a problem."

Lately he's been waking and shaking a lot. We thought it was because he's feeling itchy in the cold, dry weather.

So last night Tesla and slept down in my office where he is allowed in the bed. DH would get a good night's sleep and, in theory I would, too, because he generally sleeps pretty soundly when he's in bed with one of us. Of course, that's soundly in the manner of toddlers in which you start out all snuggly and wake up to find his feet or butt in your face.

At any rate, Tesla slept soundly but only for a few hours. He woke at 3:00 AM and wanted to leave my office. He stood at the door, something he'll do this if he needs to pee or poop, but this rarely happens n the middle of the night anymore (thank goodness!). Experience has taught me that he might pretend he has to pee, but will really run up to our bedroom as soon as I open the door. He's done this when DH sleeps downstairs with him and I'm upstairs.

Of course, the dog running up to our bedroom in the wee hours of the morning ruins the whole "at least one of us getting a solid night's sleep" thing.

So I didn't let Tesla out. He was doing a lot of his full body shakes and from what I could tell by sound alone in the dark room, some odd head shakes as well. Nothing seizure-like. Just not his normal shake.

Dogs shake when they're itchy. They also tend to shake, especially their heads, when they have ear infections. In the space between 3:00 and 3:30 I was just lucid enough to think to check his ears. Sure enough, his right ear was full of crud.

Somewhere in his 20 or so minutes of shaking, he must have also scratched himself leaving that creepy smattering of blood, which, of course, escaped my notice in the dark room.

Today we went to the vet (we wind up at the vet every month for some reason and the reason is not, despite what some friends think, Muchausen's by Puppy) and he confirmed the ear infection. Tesla has had his first round of treatment and I'm hoping we'll all get a good night's sleep tonight. My brain's fried and really needs it.

Also, our back porch was torn down this week and the backyard is a mess. When Tesla needs to do his business, we need to leash him and take him out front. Even if that weren't the case, we're not keen on just letting him out at night these days because a neighbor's dog (two houses away!) lost a leg to a coyote a few weeks ago. Yes, the dog was in a fenced in area. (And actually it happened during daylight hours, which means maybe there's, like a rabid coyote on the prowl. Which means even though we don't walk in the woods much it the very cold weather, it might behoove me to pick up a can of mace.)

So anyway, life with Tesla is always an adventure.


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