Thursday, July 30, 2009

Letters of recommendation!

Your Gen Yer needs a letter(s) of recommendation. Whether it's for college applications, grad school apps or a job. Here are a few tips on the subject:

College app. recs. from teachers:
Hopefully, as a junior, your kid asked their teacher(s) before summer started. If not, quick, it's the beginning of senior year, get this high up on their list of things to do. Brainstorm with them which of their teachers really knows them. Ideally, one from a math/science teacher and one from a social science teacher. Contrary to popular belief, not necessarily the teacher that gave them the 'A'. The teacher that really knows them; that may have witnessed them going the extra mile, asking for help, working really hard to get their grade up, taking a real interest in their subject. Then have them personally ask that teacher(s) if they'd be willing to write them a letter of rec. for their college application. Suggest that your kid put a resume together so they have something to give the teacher to help them write their letter. Assume that the teacher doesn't know all of the other things your child is involved in outside of their class. Also assume that this teacher has been or will be asked by many other students to write on their behalf. It's much better to be at the beginning of their pile than towards the end.

Note: Assume that neither you nor your child, will ever read this letter. So encourage your kid to really sit down and talk to their teacher, almost like an interview. This is for your kid to do, NOT YOU! These letters are important. Make no mistake, a letter of recommendation can tip the "accept or reject" scale in either direction.
*I know of a young man that was told by a college coach that he was "in." Come college acceptance time, the coach got a call from Admissions, and Admissions told him that a letter of rec. for this young man said they didn't think the student could cut it at this highly selective school. Well, the coach was shocked, called the student, told him the turn of events and to the student's credit, the student spent Thanksgiving, writing a letter to the Dean of Admissions trying to convince him otherwise. That he could "cut it." The Dean gave this kid "the nod" and this young man just matriculated from this highly selective school AND was a Division 1 athlete to boot. But I bet if you were to ask this young man his take-away from this? It was a lesson he'll never forget! The other lesson: a coach is not the deciding factor, Admissions is.

Grad school app recs from Professors:
BEFORE your student graduates from college, have this conversation. Ideally before your kid's senior year. In general, once your child has declared a major, their class sizes have gotten smaller, they may have to write a thesis, and the reality of having a relationship with a professor or two is pretty high.
This is the person that your child should have write a letter of recommendation, when the time comes. Be sure your kid asks this professor if they'd be willing to before they graduate. Some professors actually will write the letter of recommendation and give it to the student, to be used in the future, so they don't have to worry about remembering them. Otherwise, here's the kicker, remind your son/daughter to shoot that professor an email to update them on what they're doing. At least once a year. They want their professor to remember them and it will probably be two, three or more years before they apply to grad school and that's a lot of students that have sat through their lectures.
A resume is also helpful in this instance, but by now, your Gen Yer knows this.

Job app recs. from teachers or profs:
Same as above applies.

Other letters of rec. from summer employers or employers: same rules as above apply.

And last but not least.....BE SURE TO SEND A THANK YOU NOTE!
Regardless of whether or not they were accepted or rejected, got the job or not, these people took the time to write! "Thank you" goes a long way!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I want to come back as one of my kids!

Has anyone else in the Boomer generation noticed the incredible opportunities available for our Gen Yers? Have you heard what some of these kids have gotten to do? Maybe your own have done some neat things!? Please don't misunderstand, I had a terrific upbringing with all kinds of great adventures along the way (both educational and experiential) but our kids, these days, have it pretty darn great! When else do they have a chance to try different things out? No mortgage to pay. No mouths to feed except theirs. No real responsibilities. (Except, maybe they've got loans to pay back.) And best of all, Mom and Dad are picking up the tab, or at least a portion of it. Sound familiar? These Gen Y kids have got the "marketing" thing down, they sure do know how to spin / persuade us that it's OK to do these things!

From language immersion programs in Italy, to volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica, to playing soccer in living on a Kibbutz, to building a violin in England, to competitively skiing in the summer in building reef balls on Eleuthera, marine biology in the Galapagos, summer school in New Zealand...the list goes on and on!

OK, OK, maybe there's been some adjustment in the last year due to our economy, but not much. I've read several articles related to this topic and because kids are having a tough time finding jobs or internships, these programs are hanging in there. Our kids have convinced us that if they can't find summer employment or a permanent job, then these things are "great for the resume" or "this will really broaden my perspective", whatever, loads of us are buying into this, or even suggesting this! These opportunities have been available for years and lots of our kids have been able to take advantage of them. I know mine have. They've had some incredible experiences! I, of course, am totally envious and thus the title of this blog post.

I've had numerous conversations lately with friends that have Gen Y kids and each of us are having to have "reality talks" with our kids. Especially those kids that have recently graduated from college and they're trying to figure out what they're going to do with their life. Some's approach is much like it was while in college, find a program or research a trip online and figure, "this is it! Mom and Dad will definitely go for this." And then reality sets in or "the talk" happens, who's going to pay for this? Or maybe, who's going to pay for this to continue? Maybe the summer between soph. and junior year, but now? as a recent college grad?
A couple of my favorite comments by friends were:
"I've told my son he'd better find an insurance salesman and ask him if he sells 'status quo insurance' and buy a boat load of it!" ~a Dad.
"I've told my kids by 30 they need to have a real job with benefits and a 401k, because the gravy train will be over! This train will be traveling a different track!" ~a Mom

Reality. Sometimes a tough thing. But the experiences these kids are having before "getting there", pretty incredible! And I must admit, these experiences have indeed broadened their horizons, heck, I want to go to New Zealand! :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer, they're pushing the envelope!

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but this summer in the northeast has gotten off to a very soggy start, we've been growing webs between our toes! But the rain hasn't curtailed the behavior of our Gen Yers. "School's out for the summer!" It's almost a mantra, and when it comes to the "rules of the school year" it seems to be the summer when the envelope gets pushed the most, and the rules seem to be pushed right out the window! Or at least there's a serious attempt to throw them out. :) This isn't just about kids who've just graduated from high school, this is also about college age kids and even kids who are living at home after college.

For those of you parents that have been through this, you know exactly what I'm talking about. For those yet to get there, trust me, you will!

Kids and curfews. Kids waking you when they get in to let you know they're home (as requested). How do these apply on a "school night?" A work night? The weekends? Over the fourth? And I'm afraid this is a debated topic when they come home for Thanksgiving, for the holidays, for any of their breaks!

You've got rules in your home regarding curfews. Maybe it's midnight, maybe it's a phone call at midnight to let you know where they are. And then you ask them to wake you when they get home, because if they don't, when you wake up to pee you can't help but go check their bedroom to be sure they're safe and sound. Then of course YOUR REM sleep has been interrupted and if they're not home, then you're worried; you're texting, or calling....Does that curfew stand every night of the week? After seven days of midnights, or one, two, three in the mornings, I don't know about you, but that gets exhausting! Not for them particularly, for you! Maybe you can reach a 'weekend understanding' and the weekdays they're in at a more reasonable hour, say 10. My mother had this saying, "nothing good happens after midnight." That's another one of those things I've adopted, to my kids' chagrin.

Well, something's gotta give, the proverbial 'you know what' hits the fan...and one thing I think many of us can agree on, it's not pretty when Mom blows her gasket. Usually this happens after Mom has had virtually no sleep or at least no continuous sleep and she's been working, keeping the house running smoothly, getting meals on the table, doing the laundry and she feels that she's doing everything and the kid, feeling or acting ever so entitled (or at least it seems that way to you), isn't doing anything but staying out til all hours, sleeping in until noon (if there's no job to get up for....) Does this sound familiar?

If it does, communication is key! Communication between you and your kid. Be upfront! Don't get to the "gasket blowing stage" if you can avoid it. Let them know what your expectations are, they'll let you know what theirs are, and then come to consensus or a compromise.

As your high school graduate is stretching, feeling their oats, saying their "good byes," working on their independence, etc. they tend to push these buttons the most. The second runner up is the kid home from college, having experienced independence and making decisions on their own, they're not used to parents and their rules, and then comes the kid that's been living on their own, 21 and over, and they can't understand why you need to be woken up or why it matters what time they come in at night? Hello?! (Just wait until their parents).

I have to confess, that I was surprised to hear my mother's words come out of my mouth when I first experienced this as a Mom, summer-days run into nights-run into days-curfew vs. no curfew-discussion: "as long as you're living under our roof, it's our rules..." YIKES! I'll also confess that I didn't quite come down that hard, we worked out compromise and consensus. When I was able to articulate how I felt, how rude I thought they were being and how I felt taken advantage of, that though they may not need a lot of sleep, some of us do...and the guilt started to set in (their guilt), they got the's improved dramatically! They don't hear their mother's wrath or maybe they were hearing nagging or as I re-read this, whining...Sleep! Sleep is key! But more importantly, communication, it tends to work things out!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

First time college go-ers

For those of you that have kids heading off to college for the first time, the summer tends to be made up of lots of planning, certainly from Mom's perspective. The logistics of getting from home to college are probably the most covered topics. How are you going to get Johnny and all of his stuff to college? How is Susie going to get all of those shoes there? Do you ship everything? Ship some? Buy some there? Will everything pack into the back of the car? Do you ship the bike? Buy a clunker? Us mothers are doing all of this stuff in our heads, trying to figure this all out. Your kid is thinking about their roommate, maybe about the room set-up, should they "loft" their bed? If you're anything like me, I needed a "visual" so I could help my kids think about storage, after all, everything that they bring to school has to fit in this approx. 9 X 12 foot space. Good news: More and more schools are providing pictures online of the residence and even the dorm rooms, some are providing measurements too. All very helpful information. This is much better than when you got the visual the day of arrival.

But there are some other things to think about. Here are suggestions of a few things that are some of my takeaways that you don't hear much about:
1) Look into tuition insurance. You never know what life brings: mono, death of a loved one, depression, the list goes on and on, so if a child has to "stop out" for a period of time, like a semester or quarter, you're covered! Having that insurance is a safety net.
2) Money conversation BEFORE they go. Most likely it's the first time they've had to budget. Discuss allowance, what you as parents think that should cover. Who's paying for books, dry cleaning, entertainment, their vacations...
The colleges have meal plans and "cards" (like credit cards) that take care of basics. Every college is different, some have you write a lump sum check and your kid uses it as a debit card kind of program, others charge you for the meal plan up front and whether or not your child has eaten all meals they have paid for, you don't get the money back (some have programs where the leftover money rolls into the next semester, but may not roll into the next year,) read the fine print. Some of the cards take care of laundry, others you need good old fashioned quarters. Fine print!
3) Now that your child is 18 they're considered an adult, but you as a parent have expectations. Discuss with them checking off the box with their college that you as a parent get sent their grades, if that's included in some of your expectations. No joke. You may be picking up the tab or some of it, but as far as the school is concerned that's a privacy issue. I know several kids who started struggling with college and all of that freedom and if their parents weren't getting their grades they had no way of knowing there'd been a's not high school.

I'm sure you'll hear loads of tips from your network of friends that cover Twin XLs, buying storage bins there or shipping them, going online and ordering and then picking up at Bed Bath and Beyond or WalMart, wherever, at the store close to the college, rather than paying for shipping. Computer/ printer conversation, telephone plans...
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