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LIVING WELL: Apply Yourself

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oday, high school freshmen need to think a little more about the serious side of life than about getting their learners’ permits—especially those heading for college. Experts believe that the ninth grade year is critical for families and students.

“Many families don’t even start talking about college until their teenager is in the 11th grade, and, really, they need more time,” says Bette S. Coplan, executive vice president at Wesley College in Dover, who oversees admissions. “There is much wisdom in starting early in the process, because high school should prepare a young person for college through the choice of his or her classes, starting with those taken in ninth grade.”

That’s especially important as competition for certain schools grows fiercer. The University of Delaware, for example, admitted fewer than half of its applicants last year—even as tuition continues to increase. It’s no wonder Louis L. Hirsh, director of admissions at UD, agrees with Coplan.

“Students prepare for college admission by taking the right courses in high school, and that includes a strong academic course load from ninth through 12th grade, drawn from English, mathematics, laboratory science, history, social studies and foreign languages,” he says.

Both Coplan and Hirsh say students should take the SAT more than once (unless a student has high scores the first go-round). If the PSAT is offered, that should be taken before the SAT.

“Many colleges (including the University of Delaware) will take the best critical reading, math and writing scores from all attempts,” Hirsh says. “This means that if you repeat the SAT and any of the three scores goes up, then you have helped yourself. However, I wouldn’t take it more than three times and, for many students, two attempts will suffice.”

Hirsh adds that students should consider the ACT because some students do better on it than they do on the SAT (and vice versa). Many colleges will accept scores from either test. And the SATs are very much in question right now, especially the new writing component, because the test measures how well a student performs in one day of testing, and not all students are adept at taking standardized tests.

“Colleges are seeing that perhaps a better indicator of how a student will perform over the four years of college is how they performed during the four years of high school,” Coplan says.

It is also important for a student to balance good grades with extra-curricular activities. “Colleges try to look at the whole person,” Coplan says, “but colleges are about academics. It becomes a question of tipping the scale for a student who may be marginal academically, but has been engaged as a community leader.”

A student should polish that essay, get grades up and prepare to package himself or herself to several places. Hirsh advises applying to more than one college, but fewer than 10. “If students have done their research and consulted with their guidance counselors, they can most probably identify five to six colleges that would be good choices,” he says. “It is important all of them be schools that they would be willing to attend.”

Finally, new parents should start saving now for their children’s college educations. Various tax-deferred programs can help.

Starting early should help to alleviate the stress of the application process.

“Applying to college was never without some stress, but there was a time when it was also a joyful time when students could look with excitement and anticipation,” Hirsh says. “For many of us who went through college a generation ago, it was the start of our adulthood. Nowadays, much of the joy is overwhelmed by the tension of applying to college. That’s a change for the worse, and I hope that my colleagues in admissions offices throughout the country can work together to make the process less stressful.”

 

A New Resolve on Resolutions

A new year doesn’t begin on January 1 for everyone. The Chinese New Year—4705—will begin on February 18 with the first new moon. (Diet-conscious resolution makers beware: It will be the Year of the Pig.) And the Jewish year 5768 will begin at sunset on September 12.

Though celebrating a religious new year bears little similarity to traditional American pursuits like midnight drinking, daytime football games and dinners of black-eyed peas, they do share a common trait: They are times when most people reflect on their lives, analyze their past mistakes and resolve to make changes.

Yet the new year isn’t the only time we can alter our lives.

“Every day, we can decide to take a moment to be completely in touch with the earth and universe, the renewal of life and its seasons, and make a recommitment to it all,” says teacher and healer Faith Queman.

For most of us, it is relatively easy to make resolutions. The trouble is trying to keep them.

“Most people fall into the trap of resolving to fix only the symptoms created by deeper issues,” says Sabrina O’Malone, a Christian motivational speaker, founder and president of WorkingMom.com, author of several books and a newcomer to Delaware. “This is akin to pruning a weed versus pulling it out by the roots. Long-term success can only be achieved by addressing the source or root cause of the problem.

“For example, with a little introspection, a person might realize that she usually over-spends or over-eats when she is sad or lonely. Armed with this knowledge, instead of resolving, ‘I will get in shape and get out of debt this year,’ a better resolution would be to employ beneficial alternatives such as meditation, prayer and cultivating close relationships.”

On the other hand, O’Malone says, many people can ponder the roots of their problems so much, they never get around to taking action. Such navel gazing can deter permanent, positive change.

“Cultivate a willingness to stick with things and develop a sense of compassion,” O’Malone says. “Then you won’t feel the need to force your way in life and you’ll be able to marshal and direct energy wisely.

“Conversely, you’ll want to throw out resolutions that develop out of trying to get your own way all the time. Otherwise you’ll end up with an accumulation of mental and emotional garbage and frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness.”

If you don’t have your resolutions made yet, O’Malone suggests renewing your mind-set by thinking about things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, virtuous and worthy of praise. Then make sure to cultivate characteristics such as compassion, kindness, humility, strength and discipline. And she recommends practicing thankfulness for what you have. (Ingratitude, she says, is one of the worst vices.)

Queman suggests making a commitment to peace, then to wisdom, the wholeness of earth and its life, and to the love of all beings.

And if you’re still fretting about resolutions, befriend someone born in the Year of the Pig. They’re known to be loyal, industrious, mannerly, and tend to steer toward the finer things in life. That can only bode well for you.

 

Making Happy Campers

Is it time for summer camp yet? Some parents may be asking that question when school lets out in June—which may be too late. But they’ll find plenty of options if they attend the annual free Camp Fair at Tower Hill School in Wilmington on February 1.

According to co-chair Jackie Mette, there are several ways to find a good summer camp. Some camps advertise in local media. Others, such as those at St. Anne’s Episcopal School in Middletown and St. John’s School in Dover, are actively promoted to their students. But many children want a residential experience that takes them outside their local area.

“The primary reason Tower Hill School began the Community Camp Fair was to facilitate this process,” Mette says. “By inviting over 100 residential and day camps to Camp Fair, parents and children have an opportunity to peruse so many options. Nothing compares to meeting with the directors and counselors of these programs. It gives parents and children an opportunity to ask questions and gain a general feel for the dynamics of the particular camp.”

Camps from across the country participate, including those for sports enthusiasts, artists, nature and science buffs, and kids interested in travel and adventure. In addition to day camps in Wilmington, residential programs from around the world also attend. And there will be more than 20 community service-oriented programs for students who want to make a difference. Attendees can pick up registration forms, free of commitment or obligation.

“People should bring their children—the children have a lot of fun,” says publicity chair Liza Morton. “One year the camp from Sea World was there, and the representative brought a live penguin.”

The fair will be held in the Tower Hill field house on Rising Sun Lane from 3:30 p.m. till 7:30 p.m. A complimentary shuttle will be provided from the free parking lot at the University of Delaware Goodstay Center on Pennsylvania Avenue, almost directly across from Tower Hill. Because the fair will be held during dinner time, the school’s junior class will offer several dinner and snack options.

In addition to visiting Community Camp Fair at Tower Hill, interested persons can contact the American Camp Association at www.acacamps.org, which contains a wealth of information on camps around the world. 

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