Tag Archives: education

College Search–Round 2

Now that Big Sister is well through her second semester of her freshman year, we’re gearing up for our next college search.  But this one’s different.

Big Sister KNEW with absolute certainty that she wanted to go to a big school–until she realized, fairly late in the game, that she wanted the sense of community that comes with a small school.  Little Sister, who is now in her junior year of high school, KNOWS she wants a fairly small school, believing she’ll feel more comfortable and secure.

Big Sister spent years playing club and high school volleyball, but heading off to school last August she was clear that she did not plan to play in college as a freshman; she thought she might walk on as a sophomore–which seemed reasonable at her new, small (Division III) home.  Plans change:  Less than 2 weeks later, she was on the school team.  Little Sister is a swimmer.  In fact, she is never happier
than when she is in the pool.  Missing practice makes her cranky.  She knows she wants to swim in college.

She also knows that while with her current times she could get picked up by a Division I team, she would be near the bottom of the team roster and might not be included on the travel team for every meet.  But her times would place her firmly in the top half of quite a few Division II teams the day she arrives on campus.  (She also knows several Division I schools have dropped swimming in the last few years to save money….which is another worry.)

It is worth mentioning that Little Sister has learned from 2 local swimmers that the Division I vs. Division II choice is important–and personal.  She knows an exceptional swimmer who went to the most competitive Division I school (s)he could, and who was completely happy to be included on the roster for only some of the travel meets.  On the other hand, she knows another talented swimmer who chose the Division II route, also completely happy, starting a college career solidly in the middle of the roster this year as a freshman, participating every time the team is in the pool.  Little Sister knows that to her, swimming trumps status (Division I, big conference school, etc.), so she wants to find a school where she will be guaranteed the opportunity to swim full-time for her entire 4 years if she chooses.  She has created a long list of mostly D-II schools.

So–at least for now, knowing that the search could change as we go–we are looking for a school where 1) she will feel safe  2) she will get a good education, and 3) she can compete in the pool.

I am looking forward to going with her on this ride.

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Filed under Activities & Sports, College, Education, School

How Much Homework?

An ordinary night in September:  54 math problems.  Convert the fraction to a decimal–which is basically long division, right?  So how long should a long division problem take a reasonably capable 11 year old.  Maybe 2 minutes?  SO that means 108 minutes for one night’s homework for one class.

As a dad and as an educator, I have to ask, “WHY?”

  • Practice?  What benefit is there in 54 problems that would not be in 15, or even 20?
  • Different types of problems?  It has been a while since I took middle school math, but I don’t remember several dozen different types of fractions to divide.  (Sorry–Watching my son get frustrated and discouraged by a wave of homework tends to make me uncharacteristically bitter.)homeworkspace2

And that’s just one class.  Toss in some work for English.  And then some social studies.  Definitions and illustrations for science.  Don’t forget the 6th grade ‘research’ class.  If the perfect storm of homework hits, the boy may be looking at 3 hours or more.  Plus cello practice.  If it happens to be a soccer night, we’re probably headed for an email to Coach:  Sorry–too much homework.  We can’t get there tonight.

Once again–he’s 11.

I had a professor 25+ years ago who firmly believed homework was an antiquated, ineffective part of K-12 education.  His philosophy was that if the work were meaningful it deserved time during the school day, with support from a teacher.  To be honest, he was on the very short list of professors I found less than….inspiring.  But now, at a point in my life when I celebrate the rare announcement of “No homework tonight!” from my son, I may not completely agree with that, but I think there is more truth there than I saw when I was an undergrad.


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Filed under Finding Peace, School

The Great College Search–Part One

Our oldest child is a junior in high school, so by this time next year we will know where she will be heading for college.  College has been a major goal since before she was born, so it’s amazing to all of us that she is so close.  But even though my wife and I are college grads, and even though I have spent 25 years as an educator, the process she is jumping into….of choosing a school, navigating admissions, applying for financial aid, and selecting the place that will be part of her identity for the rest of your life…is BIG.

A College Visit

A College Visit

Safety First.  The only limit I’ve imposed upon her search is safety:  Whether she decides to stay close to home or to move a plane ride away, to go in-state public or out-of-state private, my main concern is that she is as safe as possible on campus.  That means Google searches about crime and safety on campuses, and consideration of whether a campus is its own world or blends into a town or city.

Her Priorities.  Our daughter’s approach to the college search has been interesting–she is mostly interested in larger schools, but she is wary of colleges that she considers “party schools.”  Otherwise, her pool of schools has been relatively easy to fill, as her intended majors are offered almost everywhere, and “study abroad”–one of her plans since she was very young–has become far more common than it was when I was and undergrad in the ’80s.

College Visits.  So far we have only dabbled in college visits.  Her rigorous junior year course work and club volleyball schedule mean it is hard to take a weekend away.  But we have started to mix the volleyball tournament schedule with the college search–resulting in the surprising but definitive elimination of what had been one of her short-list schools a few weeks ago.  And summer is coming…

Admission Mystery?  Trusting in the consistent messages from college admissions staff, the keys to modern college admissions are solid test scores, good grades, and–the easiest factor to control–a RIGOROUS high school schedule.  The days of padding a GPA by taking an easier path are gone, with many colleges actually re-calculating each applicant’s GPA according to their own standards–focusing on academic classes and adding weight for honors and Advanced Placement.  But time will tell.

A City Campus

A City Campus

As we work through the next year, there will be plenty to learn about applications, financial aid, and scholarships, and our daughter will have to make a big decision.  It’s going to be an interesting year with one clear goal:  that she winds up in the right school…wherever that is.

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Filed under College, School