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Unwrapping the Gift of Gratitude: How High School Seniors can Show Gratitude in the College Process

Unwrapping the Gift of Gratitude: How High School Seniors can Show Gratitude in the College Process

Kait Long
Assistant Director of College Guidance
Sewickley Academy

A quick Google search of the word “gratitude” will give you countless results ranging from blog posts to TED Talks to scientific articles. It’s a popular topic in many fields, including education, and the importance of expressing gratitude has been discussed at length. But there is one thing many of these excellent pieces neglect to mention — expressing gratitude can be hard. And sometimes, it can be really hard, especially for high school seniors in the midst of the college process. It can also be uncomfortable, awkward, and make you feel incredibly vulnerable. And that’s how you know you’re doing it right. True, genuine gratitude takes time to understand and develop, and it takes even more practice to learn how to express it.

I’ll be the first to admit that expressing gratitude was not a priority when I was a senior in high school, especially in February when the days felt long and I was anxiously awaiting college decisions. Looking back, I wish I had taken the time to thoughtfully acknowledge all of the wonderful people in my life, instead of handing out quick “thank yous” and hugs during the final nostalgic days of school. I’m sure it would have felt awkward opening up to others in this way, but in hindsight, I know they deserved more than I offered.

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List-Making and Loving The Child You Have

 

List-Making and Loving the Child You Have

Beth Slattery
Upper School Dean
Harvard Westlake School

When my son was in 7th grade, he placed into the highest-level math group. This was a source of great pride for me…until he failed the first three tests. I distinctly remember battling in my head: do I have him move down to a more appropriate level or do I keep him where he is and hope it gets better? I wish I could say I immediately moved him down, but I did not. He stuck it out the whole year, ending with a mercy B- and having no better understanding of algebra than he had 9 months earlier.  Again, I was at a crossroads. This time, I chose the right path for my son. He repeated Algebra (meaning he was no longer in the highest-level math class) and regained his confidence in math.

This incident was about much more than math; it was about deciding to accept the child I had (one who simply didn’t belong in the highest-level course) or spend time wishing he were different, wishing he was the kind of kid who DID belong in the highest-level course. This dilemma comes up all the time for parents at independent schools and is at its worst during the college process, especially as it is time to make “the list.” How many times have kids said “My parents want me to apply to [name any school with a single digit admit rate]”?

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Stop Making Sense

Stop Making Sense

Blythe Butler
Co-Director of College Counseling
Catlin Gabel School

“...and you may ask yourself, ‘How did I get here?’”  - Talking Heads 

We are all storytellers.  Some of us use literature to make sense of the world.  We put together stories or theories based on evidence and experimentation.  We tell ourselves stories to explain why people act the way they do, or how events in the past can inform our current world.  We use stories to make sense of the nonsensical.  

As my students compile their college applications, I encourage them to find their stories, pull the threads of their experiences together to identify their values, find colleges that match those values, and share themselves.  I help a student think about why their choice to learn to play the ukulele might have a connection with their interest in engineering, and which colleges might recognize what a ukulele-playing engineer will bring to their campuses.  I watch them identify the stories a college tells to help students understand its culture and learning environment.  I assist them in imagining how their qualities might fit into the class a college is building, mapping out its story for the future.  I try to help them make order out of a process that can seem disorderly.

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