Monday, November 25, 2013

The College Admissions Essays: "Do I have to Write one?"

It has been some time since I have blogged and a lot of great things have happened and are happening.  Since it is college application season, it is appropriate to write about my experience while teaching students how to write a personal statement. 

College Seminar is an elective for high school seniors.  While an ideal set up would be that ALL seniors take College Seminar, it is still an effective venue for the seniors who are currently enrolled.  I wanted the students to have experience in writing the personal statement for college.  Now, this should have happened in junior year.  Realistically, it happens during the college application season.  I took the time to create a brainstorm activity using a mind map and finding example college admissions essays.  I found example essays on the web and from the FISKE book called Real College Essays that Work. 

1st Activity:  Brainstorm, as a class, what makes a good personal statement?  This is what we came up with. 

Group Brainstorm:  Students are given two mind map graphic organizers and two personal statement examples.  The groups identified the parts of the personal statement that worked and what needed improvement. 

Individual Brainstorm:  Students are asked to choose topics that they would like to write about.  Topics should be what the student feels comfortable sharing and nothing that would get the student in trouble. 

Rough draft and Final Draft:  Students submitted a rough draft and I had individual meetings to discuss the topic.  Although I am an English teacher first, I read the personal statements from a counselor perspective.  It is great when an English teacher reads them, but colleges are looking for content.  I do not like to crush students’ dreams and tell them that their story is not good enough (yes, I have witnessed this!).  How can I tell a student that their life is not worthy?  I am counselor!  Instead, I give suggestions on how to “spin” the story.  Yes, it is wonderful that a student gets straight “A’s” but so does every student applying to College A.  One story that stands out is a story written by a student who has not experienced tragedy.  She loves and appreciates her family and helps out her mom when she can.  Her “spin” was deviating from the sad story.  It was fresh.

Students had the opportunity to choose which personal statement they would write because every student is different.  In California we have 2 public college systems.  The California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC) and many of our students will apply to California private colleges that are on the Common Application.  Students chose their personal statement based on which system they would submit applications. 

The CSU and UC application will close on Saturday, November 30th.  Every year the UC system crashes and every year I remind students to get in their application BEFORE November 30th.  Right now, I am checking that students submitted college applications (the luxury of working at a small school) and will begin writing letters of recommendation for private colleges and EOP recommendations for the CSU.  I enjoy this part of application season.  I get to brag about the student. 

Students are already receiving acceptance letters from the CSU and I can’t wait to celebrate this huge accomplishment with my caseload of students.  Usually, when I receive a copy of an acceptance letter (I require that students submit this to me) I jump up and down and scream and students look at me like I am crazy.  I always tell them that this a huge accomplishment and not everyone gets accepted to college.  They continue to look at me strangely.  I do not care because I will always jump up and down and scream for my students.  I am also a cheerleader by heart. 

I can’t wait to blog about Red Ribbon Week,  our 1st Coffee with the Counselor and the College Spotlight.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

College Counseling Bulletin Board

It’s been a little bit since I blogged, but I have been busy trying to keep my head above water.  Currently, I am notifying parents of their student’s academic progress while planning for College Seminar, Advisory, college application workshops and personal counseling sessions. The next step in the academic intervention plan is to meet with the 10th grade students who are failing 3 or more classes and their parents.  Our school provides workshops on Saturdays for parents so that helps with the intervention.  I am also planning to do a “Coffee with the Counselor” three times a year to hopefully meet and get to know the parents who need extra support.  But, I am so excited to share the bulletin board I put together!

This year, I made it a goal to put together an “interactive” bulletin board.  This means, that I add and delete information for students as the year goes on.  Right now, the counseling department has one bulletin board.  I am thinking about “creating” a bulletin board on the wall next to the counseling office to provide reminders and tips for students.

The bulletin board has the following information:
  •       Standardized testing information (SAT/ACT deadlines and test dates)
  •       College Fly-In Program information for seniors
  •       Scholarship and enrichment program information (this is switched out by deadlines)
  •       Important college deadlines
  •       College spotlight-I feature a college every month
  •       Upcoming Events-College preview days, open houses, information sessions.

 Here are some pictures.
A view of the whole bulletin board

Scholarships/Enrichment Program Pockets

College Spotlight

I love this bulletin board and how often I catch students looking at it and even taking information out of the pockets! I am thinking about putting together a bulletin board for the college standardized testing!

What types of bulletin boards do you put together?    

Monday, September 16, 2013

What Is Your Story?

The last month has been busy, busy, busy!  I am so lucky to have a job right now and so grateful that I am busy.  I mentioned in a previous post that I am teaching a College Seminar course for seniors.  It is a course that I envisioned for the entire senior class, but 17 students will have to do. 

Last week, I showed the students the Lifetime movie, Homeless to Harvard, featuring Thora Birch, which tells the story of Liz Murray.  Liz Murray grew up in poverty, and her parents’ addiction to drugs did not help the situation.  Her mother would sell whatever she could to get a fix.  In all of this, Liz wanted something more for her life.  She graduated from high school in 2 years and was accepted to Harvard University.  I show this movie to my seniors because it is a journey that many of them can relate to in one way or another.  My students are Latino and may not identify to a Caucasian girl from New York City.  I asked them to look past that and to think about their journey- where they want to go.  As an adult I am able to look toward the future and imagine their acceptance into college, how I am going to cry at their graduation and that I know what outstanding professionals they will become.  Not all teenagers can imagine their life because of roadblocks.  However, it is what they do with their obstacles that will make the difference in their lives. 

We all have our own stories and it is up to us on how we want to live them out.  Liz Murray’s teacher tells her, about Harvard University, “It’d be a reach, but not impossible.”  Liz could not imagine her life at Harvard, but her teacher did.  Then, she believed it.  She did not use her obstacles as excuses to not overcome adversity.  She was awarded a New York Times scholarship.  She graduated from Harvard in 2009 and is pursuing graduate school.   When I think about her story and the stories of my students, I believe they can be great-as long, as they want to be.  I am here to help them be great! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Supervision...the up's and down's

The new responsibility for the school counselor’s this year is supervision before school, nutrition, and lunch and after school.  These are the exact times of the day that students usually come in to see their counselor.  Although school has been in session for a month, I am still not used to the schedule.  The day goes by quickly and I do not get to see many students during the day because I do not want them to miss out on instructional time. 

The positives of supervision are being visible to students.  Even though students are very much in their own world, they do notice when an adult is around.  They do like to talk to me during my times in supervision so I feel somewhat useful.  I get to see students interact outside of the classroom, which allows me to get to know them as regular teenagers.  I get to learn about who’s birthday it is (birthdays are huge at my school site), who the couples are, and I get to chat with them about their weekend and what they plan to do after school.  Of course, I always put an academic and/or college twist to it. 

What am I doing so that this can work?

I am planning ahead!  I will have a decent amount of students on my individual counseling caseload this year, so I will email all of their teachers to work out a schedule.  The teachers appreciate the notice and I can plan better. 

I use a “Counselor Schedule” that I found in an online search.  I have changed the format of my planner yet again, but this works for me.  First, I make a “To Do” list in a form that I created in word to write down everything I need to do.  Then, on the “Counselor Schedule” I write down my tasks.  This allows me to cross off items on my list and to show what I do throughout my day.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Liebster Award Nomination for New Blogs

How cool is it to be recognized for something that I enjoy doing and sharing with others? To my surprise, Kristi from Confessions of a School Counselor nominated my blog for a Liebster Award!  I am very new to blogging and began this blog to share ideas and resources about high school counseling.  I love to read blogs about school counseling (all levels) and discover new ones as well.  It seems like a neat a idea so I'll share.

The rules are:

1. Link back to the blog that nominated you.
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers.
3. Answer the questions posted for you by your nominator.
4. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
6. Contact your nominees and let them know you nominated them.

Here are my answers to Kristi's questions:
1.  What are your favorite blogs?
Confessions of a School Counselor
One Stop Counseling
School Counselor Blog
Savvy School Counselor
Jyjoyner Counselor
Stylish School Counselor
2.  Why did you start blogging?
Towards the end of the last school year I was looking for some inspiration.  I was feeling overwhelmed with the end of the year tasks and was looking for organization and creative counseling ideas.  I came across fabulous elementary school counseling blogs which helped me get back to my happy place.  Although I have found some high school blogs since then, I didn’t see anything that focused on high school counseling and the creative ideas that I was in search of. 
3.  What would you like other bloggers to know about you?
I love what I do and my students inspire me everyday. 
4.  Why did you decide to work as a school counselor?
I started my career in education as a high school English teacher and working with students and thinking about what I wanted to do next in my career led me to school counseling.  I used to think that it was cheesy to say that I want to make a difference-because that is why we are in education, right?  However, that is what I want to do.  I want the students to know that I am on their side and I will be here to support them but also show them how to navigate a tough world.
5.  What are your favorite things to do outside of school?
Besides writing my blog, I love to spend time with family and friends.  Going to the movies, out to dinner, or just watching some reality television is a treat for me.  Another fun thing I have been doing lately is going to Disneyland!
6.  What is the best part of your job?
The best part will always be the students.  However, when a student has a breakthrough, gets accepted to college or gets the grade on a test that he has been studying for is so rewarding.  I love that students share those moments with me.
7.  How many years have you been working in a school?
This is my 8th year, but my 5th year as a counselor.
8.  If you could only have 5 books in your office which ones would you choose?
1.    Real College Admissions Essays that Work
2.    Ruggs College Guide
3.    Teen Workbook for Stress
4.    7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens
5.    Chicken Soup for the Soul
(of course all books I can use with students!)
9.If you could live any where in the world where would you live?
My answer is always Washington state.  I know, anywhere in the world.  I visited Seattle a couple of years ago and fell in love with it.  I imagine the rest of Washington is as gorgeous.
10.         What is your #1 go to resource at school?
My job is about 90% college counseling so my go to resource is Naviance! I love it.  It helps me stay organized and I can easily communicate with students.
11.  What is your favorite quote?
There are so many wonderful quotes by some very inspirational people.  However, I made up my own quote that describes my past, present and future.  It is “Follow your heart and make decisions that make you happy.  Live life with no regrets.”  I live my life in the now, keeping in mind my future, but I have learned from my past.  It’s all about remembering where you’ve been and looking to where you want to go! 

My nominations for the Liebster Award are:

Your questions to answer:
1.What are your favorite blogs?
2.Why did you start blogging?
3.Why did you become a school counselor?
4.What are five resources a new school counselor should have (can be any level)?
5. What is the best part of your job?
6. What is your #1 go to resource?
7. What is your guilty pleasure television show?
8. What if your favorite part of the school day?
9. What book are you currently reading?
10.How do you use technology in school counseling?
11.Who inspired you to become a school counselor? 

Have fun!!