Tuesday, April 22, 2014

College Admissions, Financial Aid for College and More

College Admissions and Financial Aid for College
You may have noticed that I've started a monthly Google+ conversation with friend Jen and a national college consultant, Susan Goodkin of the California Learning Strategies Center. No worries if you can't attend live because they're archived on my YouTube* channel.

During our April conversation we discussed 2E Kids (gifted + a social/emotional/educational challenge), changes coming to the SAT, SAT subject tests (something that wasn't even on my radar!) and more.

Give a listen to our conversation (also, if you like it, give us a little YouTube thumbs-up and share with your friends, too). Jump below the video for a link to a few of the resources mentioned during our Hangout On Air.

  • Read up on available SAT accommodations for students with special needs and don't delay in making the College Board aware of your student's needs.
  • When it comes to your student having extracurricular activities that make your student stand out, think "outside the high school box." Activities outside of the school environment may be a better fit for your child and her interests or needs.
  • Check out edX, online courses from leading universities like MIT and Harvard. Your student doesn't need to take these for credit, but it may help to have a real-life mentor provide feedback, help answer questions, or simply keep your student accountable. The courses are free, but have add-on services, like completion certificates, for a fee.
  • Susan is a fan of the Fiske Guide to Colleges, a lengthy book that gives thorough descriptions of colleges and universities.
  •  Ah, and those SAT subject tests. No subject test does not simply refer to the portions of the SAT, these are separate tests (with separate fees, of course), and, no, it's not the same as taking an AP test. If you child's preferred school wants or requires these tests, have your student take them while his brain is fresh from the class if possible.

I've been on Susan's email list for years gleaning little tidbits about college admissions over time. You can sign up here. She also uses the list to announce upcoming webinars or teleseminars, some of fee-based and some are free.

With many friends in the thick of the college admissions process, there are a lot of related articles coming up in my Facebook feed. Not surprisingly, many of them relate to the enormous cost of college these days. Thanks to these pieces I've learned new terms like "admit-deny" and that not every college has the same definition of financial need (and even if they did it might not match my family's definition). Beyond that, I now know that even when a school promises to meet what they perceive as a student's need, "aid" may come in the form of loans. Tens of thousands of dollars in loans.


So when I saw that Susan is offering a free teleseminar on financial aid planning for college, I knew I wanted to attend. Only it's May 3, the day of Chicago's Mini-Maker Faire (featuring, in part, me and what my younger teen refers to as the lamest maker project ever). I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass, though. I had my husband sign up, which is good because he's not involved in my online conversations and has some catching up to do.

Michael Rappa will be the featured speaker. I'm not familiar with him, but Susan keeps good company, so I'm sure it's worth joining in. And it's free, so why not?

We're planning another Google Hangout for May, so if you have a question for Susan, let me know!

*Now with more than 210,000 views!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

This Cookbook is for the Dogs, Literally

Back in the day I'd roll my eyes and people who dote too much on their dogs and do silly things like buy them Halloween costumes. And then I bought my pup one two. So when I got an offer to review Dog-Gone Good Cuisine: More Healthy, Fast and Easy Recipes for You and Your Pooch I was pretty geeked out about it. How could I say no?

At first we didn't feed the dog any people food, but then we realized he liked fresh peas from our garden and used them as training treats last summer. Eventually we realized he's a true omnivore. He loves his veggies and in a complementary way to our diet preference. For example, he enjoys things like thick broccoli stalks-items that we tend to put in the compost pile. And for better or worse, he's gotten all too used to having "mix-ins" with his puppy food. It might be a spoonful of plain yogurt, a handful of diced carrots or bits of a hard-boiled egg, but he likes his real food.

So this cookbook seemed perfect. Why not make one dish for the whole family?

The book provides many people-friendly recipes and a handful just for dogs. It contains advice on what foods to share and what to avoid.

Dogs should not have onions or garlic, so some of the dishes are a little bland, but still decent. I made a tomato-lentil soup that everybody, including Tesla, lapped up. Other recipes include cream of pumpkin soup, spinach kale lasagna and pears with raspberry sauce. This cookbook is a fun addition to my collection!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Enter the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge by April 22, 2014

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge
It's been a while since I posted a look-back post, but this one is especially fun, at least for me. Back on March 31, 2011, I posted about a fun science competition for kids, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a cool competition in which a child in grades 5-8 can win $25,000, a cool trip, and the title of America's Top Young Scientist.

Today, I'm proud to count this competition among my clients!

I'm working with the folks from the challenge to spread the word about the competition. It's an easy entry only requiring a 1-2 minute video outlining out a problem they encounter in every day life and a solution to that problem; click for full details.

And don't delay! The entry deadline is April 22, 2014.

The Young Scientist Challenge is also sponsoring the April #STEMchat. Join in me, @DE3MYSC and a great group of Sci-friendly folks on Twitter on Tuesday evening, April 8 from 9-10 PM Eastern as we talk about "Raising America's Top Young Scientist." Share and learn tips for helping children develop their scientific sensibilities! Follow along with the hashtag or start off by following my stream; I'm @KimMolofsky.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

That Time I Nearly Kidnapped a Girl at the Library

Yesterday after dropping one of my boys off at the Code Phreaks meeting, I headed into the library where I planned to write while my son participated in the meet-up. A small family captured my attention as I tried to settle and jot down a few notes. A mom trying to do some work on her computer, a dad trying to search the want ads (for a job? a car? who knows?), a fussy baby and an occasionally jittery preschooler.

Tempers weren't flaring, but tensions did seem to be rising as the parents struggled to do what they were trying to do while making sure the needs of their girls were met.

Perhaps it was my procrastination speaking, or maybe it was the desperate screams of my ovaries as they're shriveling up in my aging innards, but I thought, "Oh, I'd totally give that baby her bottle and they could do their thing."

Of course, not every baby is cool being whisked into the arms of a random stranger, so I'm not sure that would even work. At any rate, I sketched out ideas for my column as the kids squirmed as kids will while I sensed the parents resigning themselves to the fact that they were not going to accomplish much that morning.

Been there, done that.

So (and this is the kind of thing I like to imagine myself doing, but typically only manage to do so in my mind) I approached their table and offered to read with their preschooler. They looked at me like I was crazy. Did it matter that we're not the same race? Really, I think it was more the shock of a random person coming up and offering to spend time with their child.

"My son is in a program here for another hour. He's older and I never get to read stories to him anymore." I explained.

I still got kind of a quizzical look.

"We'll just sit right over there, so you can see us."

I'm not sure the mom so much agreed as simply looked at her girl and then I looked at the girl and said, "Do you want me to read books with you?"

She nodded and I said, "Let's go to the corner." She brought her books over and we plopped down on the floor, effectively destroying every Stranger Danger lesson she's ever had. (I didn't think about this until later. In retrospect, I'm not even sure if I had their full consent. I was just like- let's do this.)

At any rate, just a few feet away from her family, we read an alphabet book about Illinois, talking about Abe Lincoln and our state bird, the cardinal, and other fun facts. She told me that she's five and headed to kindergarten in the fall. When we got to the letter W, she surprised me by reading the sentences all by herself. When we opened the next alphabet book, this one with a music theme, we took turns reading and naming the instruments we saw.

Alas, her baby sister had reached her limit and broke into a full cry. They needed to leave before we even made it past K.

We hastily packed up the books and I returned her to her parents. The mom tried to clarify what I was doing as a lone adult* in the children's section, but in a friendly way. "How old is your son? What is he doing?"

"A computer club that meets here on Saturdays. He's a teenager. I never get to do this kind of thing anymore." I have to admit it was a lot of fun. Once I put out of my mind the awful, obnoxious tantrums my boys had as 3-year-olds, I have to say that 3-5, the preschool years, was my favorite time with them. Kids that age are cute and curious, they have good language skills, keen observations, and vivid imaginations that flow with uncensored ideas.

I told her mom what a good reader the girl was and that I was sure she would do well in kindergarten--but also cautioned her to make sure the girl's teachers challenge her and don't just ignore her because she's quiet type who can already read. I didn't think to ask if she's headed to a magnet school or anything.

In fact, I didn't even think to introduce myself! Maybe we'll run into each other again in a few weeks. In the meantime, perhaps I should sign on as a volunteer reading budding at our local library this summer.

*I was in the children's section looking up books for my article.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Baby's First College Visit

Welcome to college! This sign was in just about every building.
At the urging of the high school counseling staff (It's never too early to start looking at colleges! Don't miss a chance to visit potential schools!) My almost-16-year-old-and-no-longer-a-baby eldest child and I took a day out of Spring Break chillaxing to visit a small college close to our home.

My son, a sophomore, has stepped foot on a handful of university and community college campuses thanks to events like Science Olympiad, but he's still pretty clueless about where and what type of school he'd like to attend. I don't think I had any ideas at that age, either. So I figure we'll take advantage of our location and plan some preliminary visits. We can see urban schools and suburban ones, small and medium-size schools, highly selective and not.

First up was a small school not that far from Chicago, but, in the middle of a small, quiet suburb. I believe the college has fewer students than my son's high school, so it was an interesting contrast for him. Instead of 1400 or so students packing into one building, this one had several dorms, a freestanding library, etc. and was spread out over dozens of acres.

Our visit included an official campus tour, as well as a meeting with a professor and an admissions officer. Everyone was very nice and I think he did great during the meetings, which were fortunately laid-back.

#ProTip: before you head off on this kind of visit, help your child prepare an elevator speech to explain who they are, their talents and educational/career ambitions. I totally did not think to do this. He still did fine, but lacked the confidence of an experienced interviewee.

I was welcome to sit in on the meetings, so I did, but I suppose when he's older and interviewing more seriously he'll go on his own. Yes?

But like I said, it all went well and we both got a sense of what to expect on these types of college visits.

My college visits involved heading down to a few schools with friends and staying with people we knew (or friends of friends) from high school. I only recall one formal interview (which did not go well) and, hmm, no official tours. No parents were involved! Nowadays, at least what I gather from the high school and my friends, parents are expected to be highly involved with the college search. When you're looking at a 4-year degree costing $60 - $150 thousand dollars, I guess it makes sense.

Looking for more information on the college selection and college admissions process? Watch or listen to this archived conversation I had with my friend Jen Hajer and admissions consultant Susan Goodkin about getting into highly selective schools.

We had so much fun we're doing it again. During our next chat on April 10 we'll talk the SAT, twice-exceptional students, and whatever else we can fit into about 30 minutes. To follow along live, "circle" me on Google+ or find an archived version on my YouTube channel.