NS College Consulting Blog

It's hard to believe but 2019 is here which means your children are one year closer to going off to college. As exciting as this might be, it is also bittersweet and for many, foreboding. As we start 2019, we wanted to share some of our favorite New Year’s Resolutions which we hope will reduce the angst and keep your homelife calm and stress-free (or at least, as stress-free as possible considering you're raising teenagers).  Read more

By Gena Khodos, North Shore College Consulting Essay Coach

As worried as you were about your child getting into college, we know you are equally as worried about his success once he actually gets there. This worry is not without merit: college will be a new challenge and you want to make sure that your child has all the tools he needs to ensure academic achievement. There are numerous things that can be done to prepare students for entering a post-secondary institution, but luckily one of the most helpful ones is also the easiest: expansive reading.  This is because your propensity for “deep reading,” may be one of the strongest indicators of post high school success.

The number of studies highlighting the benefits of reading is innumerable. Work by Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown illustrated that reading for pleasure produces important benefits across a variety of academic disciplines (including math) and that “reading is actually linked to increased cognitive progress over time.” French sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron found that the influence of language skills developed through reading, conversation, and family life “never ceases to be felt” across an individual’s life span. And the benefits go much deeper than vocabulary: “Language is not simply an instrument of communication: it also provides, together with a richer or poorer vocabulary, a more or less complex system of categories, so that the capacity to decipher and manipulate complex structures, whether logical or aesthetic,” depends partly on the complexity of the language a student possesses.

All that can be boiled down into a very simple piece of advice: if kids want to be well prepared for college, they need to read more books! Voracious readers are better writers, better thinkers, and better communicators. Additionally, your son or daughter will be hard pressed to find a college professor who will expect anything less than careful and critical reading.

At first glance you may consider outside reading less important than your child’s other obligations, however, high level reading is crucial for the college prep process and deserving of their effort and attention.

So what am I recommending? I recommend that you start to find a way right now to incorporate reading and to make it an important part of your and their life. A great deal of research has been done on the importance of free choice in building engagement with reading, so choosing what your child is interested in is a great way for him or her to start. They can read whatever books or articles they want. But I would caution away from texts focusing on celebrity gossip or the latest fashion trends. While they are, indubitably interesting, they may not present much of a challenge or a cognitive stretch. Fiction is a great place to start. Fiction books are great because they allow us to imagine a life other than our own which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of Twitter friendly thinking, and staying within the world of a book gives us the ability to be quiet and focused.  So go ahead and help your child choose a meaty novel. This kind of reading requires sustained concentration that will help them develop a number of important cognitive skills, including the capacity to focus their attention for longer periods of time and the ability to monitor and direct their reading processes (metacognition). These skills will be vitally important to them in college and beyond.

Not sure where to find the book that will be both engaging and challenging? My recommendation is to start with the award winners. Prize winning books are important because they encapsulate the pulse of American popular and literary conscience. They are also likely to pop up as required reading in class, giving your child a leg up on his classmates!

Most respected literary prizes in the world:

1.  Man Booker Prize is awarded to writers of full-length novels from the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe.

4321 by Paul Auster

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Elmet by Fiona Mozley

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Winner)

Autumn by Ali Smith

2.  The Pulitzer Prize is given to those in newspaper or online journalism, literature, or music.

Imagine me Gone by Adam Haslett

The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Winner)

3.  Hugo Award is given to writers of science fiction or fantasy and categories include Best Novel, Best Graphic Story and Best Fan Writer.

The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Winner)

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

4.  National Book Award is one of the most prestigious US literature prizes, with four categories available - fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people's literature, as well as two lifetime awards.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Winner)

Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

So grab your Kindle or head over to library and help your child find his next favorite book!

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By Gena Khodos, North Shore College Consulting Essay Coach    Read more

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Declared major, or not?

As parents, we can get very worried about the major our son or daughter chooses. This worry is not without merit: what major your son or daughter picks, and whether or not your child sticks with it, may impact not only his or her college experience, but also your wallet, as longer extended college experiences lead to extended tuition payments. However, there is no need to panic: if your child doesn’t know what she wants to do, she is not alone. Going in undecided is hardly an uncommon phenomenon.  

Several years ago, in an issue of Black Issues In Higher Education E. St. John suggested that, “There is, perhaps, no college decision that is more thought-provoking, gut wrenching and rest-of-your-life oriented—or disoriented—than the choice of a major” (St. John, 2000, p. 22). While this may seem slightly hyperbolic, there is some truth in it: choosing a major is a choice that should be intentional and based on knowledge of one’s self, and when the wrong choice is made, the implications can be harsh. From the perspective of parents footing the bill for a four year institution the key to graduating in four years may be picking a major early and sticking with it. College and university administrators have begun implementing various types of institutional resources to assist undecided students when choosing a major, however, not all students are likely to come to college prepared to choose a major. An estimated 20 to 50 percent of students enter college as “undecided”.  In fact, a new report suggests students who change their major as late as senior year are more likely to graduate from college than students who settle on one the second they set foot on campus.

The report, published by the Education Advisory Board, a research and consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., questions the suggestion that changing majors is keeping students in college past their intended graduation date and driving up their debt. Instead of looking at when students first declared a major, the EAB's study explored the connection between students' final declaration and how it affected their time to degree and graduation rates. Most students -- as many as 80 percent in some surveys -- will switch majors at one point during their time in college. According to the report, students who made a final decision as late as the fifth term they were enrolled did not see their time to graduation increase. Even one-quarter of the students who landed on a final major during senior year graduated in four years, the EAB found. Settling on a final major during the second through eighth terms of enrollment did not influence students’ graduation rates, either. Students who declared a new major during any of those terms posted a graduation rate of between 82 and 84 percent.

A better explanation of these numbers can be found by looking at the College Student Journal survey.  More than 800 students who were asked to elaborate on their major decision-making process. Factors that played a role included a (1) general interest the student had in the subject he or she chose, (2) family and peer influence,  and (3) assumptions about introductory courses, potential job characteristics, and characteristics of the major. While these may seem like valid reasons at first glance, the study ultimately implied that students are choosing a major based on external influence and unfounded assumption rather than a thorough understanding of their own personal goals and values.

It might be worthwhile to acknowledge that most students will not be developmentally ready to make effective decisions such as choosing a major. If choosing a major actually means choosing one’s goals, values, and interests based on intentional self-reflection and understanding of one’s self, then first-year students may simply not be ready.

Fortunately, it is not all bad news; there are practical solutions to address this inherent disconnect. The simplest is to take some summer school classes at a local community college or apply for an internship in the area of prospective interest. Both of these will immerse the student in the course work or career in which they anticipate interests and allow for an accurate assessment of actual fit.  Prospective freshmen, be they ready or not to choose a major before or in the first year of school will still benefit from undergoing a structured period of self-reflection. Ultimately, a student who makes an informed decision based on personal goals and values will be more engaged in the college experience and more successful academically, personally, and professionally.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

How to Pick a College

Friday, February 16, 2018

Relax. It's Your First Job.

Your first job. It’s been built up in your mind for a very long time. The mere concept elicits a wide range of emotions from excitement about being done with school and in the “real world” to utter panic because you’re done with school and in the “real world.”  As a result of this dichotomy, soon-to-be college graduates feel incredible pressure, thinking everything they’ve done in school all the way from kindergarten up to college led to this critical milestone. The notion of a “first job” can send even the most confident accomplished student into utter panic. But I’m here to allay those concerns and try to bring some perspective and calm anxious nerves.   Read more

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Beware of the High School Whirlpool

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Happy New Year. Now Get Going.

By Robin Legator
North Shore Career Consulting
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It's hard to believe but 2017 is about to come to an end which means your children are one year closer to going off to college. As exciting as this might be, it is also bittersweet and for many, foreboding. As we start 2018, we wanted to share some of our favorite New Year’s Resolutions which we hope will reduce the angst and keep your homelife calm and stress-free (or at least, as stress-free as possible considering you're raising teenagers).   Read more

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Highland Park, IL 60035


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