Never stop DREAMing

One must remember who we are and where we came from in order to move forward. The United States was built on the back of immigrants. The U.S. is successful because of the migration of many different people throughout the years. The kids deserve that shot and shouldn’t be held back because of lack of funding and support. For many, this is the only country they know as home even if they were born somewhere else.

I tell people I am from “here” because I was born here. My history did not start in Los Angeles, California. It started many generations ago, across many borders, most of which I have yet to trace. But, I ask people to remember the history of California and the history of the United States. We are an awesome powerhouse because of your immigrant ancestors and my immigrant descendants. Are we potentially saying “no entry” or “go home” to the future president of the United States because we are afraid of the future?

Dare to DREAM….just like those before you.

The following is a video from a blog I found while searching the net. Women like this one are furthering their education to make the U.S. a better place. They are “aspiring to be productive citizens and help the country they know as home.”

An Unfinished Dream….

A DREAM A Part from Asian Law Caucus on Vimeo.

Just food for thought, please watch and listen with an open heart.

Read on (click here) for more information about the DREAM Act.


Separation Anxiety?

Being the parent of an adult.

When does the transition begin? Is it in kindergarten when parents drop their children off to school for the first time? Or does it begin when child gets his or her first heart break? Does it begin when children enter high school for the first time or when the family takes the first college visit? When does the realization occur for both parents and students that the parent is becoming the parent of an adult and not a child? When does the teenage rebellion turn into mature decision making and when are parents ready for their child to make decisions on their own?

I could think back to my own family, but leaving home at fifteen, I think my situation leaves me as an anomaly. Twelve years ago, I did not notice this happening at my Orientation or at any welcome session I attended. My dad attended one yield event with me. I feel like there has been a shift in the short time from my high school days to me working as a high school counselor. There seem to be many more parent advocates, parents are speaking up more often on behalf of their children, and parents are making decisions in the child’s best interest up until the student is in college. Parents want the best for their child and want to be sure their child is in no way jilted by the “system” or anyone that steps in their way. I recognize that and I get it.

After working with parents of high school children for the last five years I have noticed that fewer students have learned how to develop their “voice” when interacting with authority or in the decision-making processes. Parents and students are in constant contact and if something goes wrong at school, the parents are at their child’s side in a second. I wonder if the same interaction happened when the world had no texting or skype or when students were unable to call their parents to “save” them? With parents stepping in every time a student gets in trouble, where does the child learn how to represent themselves or any negotiation tactics?

When I worked in the college counseling office at UCLA, I even had some parents impersonate their children to make changes or to find out more information about their child’s academic record. I understand parents mean well, I am so curious as to what parents think this teaches the child? Colleges have created events and programs specifically to say good-bye to parents during Orientation, so why do parents think their child cannot make academic decisions independently?

How does a family help the child develop their voice without parents overpowering the decision making or without the child being left alone in this scary world? Does it begin when the child decides on the college of their choice?

A family in constant communication must discuss this idea of independence before the first day of college orientation. Once the student is enrolled in a college, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act prohibits parents to make educational decisions for their college aged children-even if the parents are footing the bill for college. I know it seems unfair but thanks to the feds, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

It would be wise to help the student/child find his or her own voice before moving off to college. Making the choice to take Human Geography over Environmental Science or Statistics over Calculus is a start. I had a nice conversation with a parent last year about her child making decisions while in college and the safety of large campus environments. She says, “I’ve taught my child to be street-smart, so I’m not worried when she goes off to college.” That made me so happy I had to hold back tears (I know I get emotional with all this college stuff). It is my hope that parents find the strength to let their children be their own person, fall when they have to, and get back up without unnecessarily stepping in.

Students, you need to start letting your voice be heard too. You won’t be young forever.

I don’t know what to major in!

Did you know that students in college change their major on average 3-4 times throughout their college career? Did you also know that 80% of students change their major at least once?

The most popular major for first time freshman at UCLA is UNDECLARED. I know it’s funny, but it’s true.


Keep in mind that choosing a major is not going to determine your lifelong career, especially since most adults change careers multiple times in their lifetime. Find a major or course of study that best interests you and that you enjoy studying.

Need help with finding what makes you happy?
Read some really cool stuff from Johns Hopkins University’s Career Center.

Are you seeing a trend in my themes?

Be You!

Oh…and read about Major Myths about college majors power point created by UCLA Extension College Counseling instructor Anita Crawley.

"Will that class/activity/sport look good for college?"

The above question is just one more VERY popular question I hear, over and over again. Students and parents alike want to know whether this class or that activity will “look good” for college. The answer carries way more weight than a YES or NO.

Let me explain.

Schools like my alma mater and the cross-town rival will tell you that competition gets tougher and tougher every year and that students are applying with increasing GPA’s and even more extra-curricular activities every year. While that is true, not everyone is cut out for UCLA, USC, or even Harvard. There I said it. And not everyone should apply there. There I said that too.

But, not every school has an admissions rate of 22% or 8%. There are so many schools that have an admissions rate of 4o-70% and they are the schools that may even look at more than numbers (SAT, GPA, ranking, HS statistics) to determine whether they should admit you.

Before I get to the details about what “looks good” I must say this, stop trying to make yourself fit into admissions requirements for “this school” or “that school.” Be YOU! Once you find out who YOU are, then the rest will come. The schools will be easier to look for because you will be trying to determine whether the school is a good fit for who you are as a person.

I’m not the only one who says this.

Truth is, too many students are applying to these schools NOT because they are a good fit but because mom or dad wants them to go there and/or because that’s where everyone applies. That is true, but that also means that even if you have a 4.2 GPA and 14 AP classes on your transcript, you are STILL going to look just average to that college.

These schools may read your essay, look at extracurricular activities, and read letters of recommendation to determine if you as a student fit with the school. But they could just play it by the numbers. You, the student should be doing the same for the school-doing your homework. Determine whether the school fits what you stand for and what makes you, you.

Find schools that make you happy, that offer the class like “Harry Potter as literature” or “biochemical warfare” or “sustainable living” or whatever floats your boat. Find dorms that have other students with similar interests as you or that want to study/party as much (or as little) as you.

Find the school with kids who will join you and nature while living for two weeks in the wilderness during intercession or who are just as excited as you are taking a class on the History of the Beatles.

Know WHY you are applying to the school…..don’t just apply because your friends are doing it or just to see if you will get accepted. That’s a waste of money. Once you know what makes you happy, then the other stuff will fall into place. Your parents will be proud of you no matter what (as long as you have a plan/idea/vision for your future).

Now….many words later, I will answer the question “Will it look good for college?” I hear all the time.

It will look good for college if it makes you happy and not drive you crazy.

If you are doing what you love (like playing baseball, coaching baseball and volunteering to teach kids baseball fundamentals), then yes that looks good for college. If you are also doing beach clean up but you can’t say why or how that impacts your life, then no….it does not look good. And you are wasting your time.

Colleges want to see that you not only are making a meaningful contribution to your school and community, but that you are also getting something out of that contribution. And if you know how to balance your classes along with the extra-curricular activities and can do more than one or two things at a time, well that is good too. But don’t jeopardize your academic career (and GPA) because you decided to join too many clubs. Channel surfing does not count as an extracurricular activity.

You only have three years to create the best package to send out to college. Make it a good one that best defines who you are as a person. Balance is key but laziness and missed opportunities will make you look like a weak sauce.

On to classes.

Not only must students learn to balance their time with extracurricular activities but also with your classes. Taking 5 Advanced Placement classes and getting C’s on all of them doesn’t make you “look good” it makes you look like you’re trying too hard. Find a balance between the rigor and what you can handle. And read my other posting.

I know this is not what you want to hear. That’s OK.

There is no secret to getting in to Harvard. Harvard decides that. There is a secret to getting in to the college that best fits YOU… is to JUST BE YOU!

"My counselor messed up my schedule!"

Yes, yes, yes.

That’s what I hear far too often around this time through the halls of Hamilton and on the walls of FB. Since most students will pick up their schedules Tuesday and Wednesday and plan on meeting with their counselor, here are a few tips from a counselor to make your trip go much more smoothly (and you may not have to wait in line).

But first, let me explain something….

Each counselor inputs a student’s schedule at least TWICE into a computer, once in the Spring with each students’ class preferences and then again in the summer when your counselor gets the computer generated schedules. Most students lack a full schedule of classes after the computer generates your schedule. Yes, you read right. You are not the only one.

This happens because the computer is a machine that runs off a set of numbers that we input and off a master schedule that created by a room full of teachers, counselors and administrators. Each person (teacher, student, administration) plays a crucial role in creating the best master schedule in hopes that will eventually produce an individual schedule that is the most ideal for each student.

That doesn’t always happen. The computer generates the rough draft. And that usually sucks.

And it’s not always your counselors fault. In fact, most of the time, it’s not your counselors fault. First off, each class during each period has a set capacity that counselors are not to surpass. This means we can’t add you to a class that already has 45 students enrolled. Call me crazy, but who would want to be in a class with that many students anyway?

I can’t tell you how many requests I get to “just make an exception” for one student. One student for each counselor….turns into 7 students making the enrollment hit 52 for that class. Not going to happen. Hami does not have lecture halls. These are classrooms that were built to hold about 30 students.

But I digress.

When a class is capped, the computer will not automatically enroll students into the class, and most of the time counselors cannot manually add you to the class if the enrollment has reached capacity. So we have to wait. Wait until someone drops the class, or wait until another student changes their mind about taking the class. Because you do change your mind. Quite. Frequently.

So what do you do when you realize your schedule sucks and is not what you envisioned in the summer? Take a deep breath. Count to ten. Breathe. Life will go on. And we can fix most issues.

If you are one of the few that would like to brave the lines and meet with your counselor in the next couple of days, remember your counselors are human. They/We have feelings and being mean does not help because chances are they gave you as best a schedule as they could. Remember that, unlike teachers, we cut our vacation short to come in and get your schedules situated before school starts so you’re in class, and not in a line, on the first day of school.

If you need to make schedule changes, here are some tips to tackle the lines and stress that comes with picking up your schedule (not in numerical order):

  • Take a deep breath and pick up a schedule change request form. Write down EXACTLY what you would like changed. (ex. you have AP Bio and would like Honors Bio or you currently have Auto Shop and would prefer another elective). We can’t read your mind. When you’re in the office with your counselor, this form can serve as your notes for explaining your requests.
  • Give a reasonable explanation for the schedule change. There is not always room to write down the entire reason on the form, but this certainly helps your counselor understand your request if you are not sitting in front of them. In addition, this can serve as a reminder for your counselor why you are such an awesome student.
  • Be flexible. Not every class is offered in the exact time of the day you need to take it. Offer additional suggestions (ex. “I’d like to take one these three classes” instead of only “I don’t want to take this class”).
  • Write down your phone number and/or email address on your form. We may have questions or can update you on the schedule request if what you wanted was not accommodated in your visit.
  • As a counselor, my goal is ALWAYS to ensure that you satisfy your high school graduation requirements and complete the necessary courses to be eligible (and oftentimes competitive) for a college or university. I don’t speak for everyone, but this is the sentiment for most counselors.

We will do our best to get you what you need because we want you to succeed.

Patience is key.

Don’t forget to say thank you!

Which college best fits me?

Starting the College Search Process
With nearly 4,000 colleges and universities to choose from, one searching for the best fit college would wonder, where do I start? Finding the right college for each student can seem daunting as so much changes year to year in the planning process. No fret, there are many people who can help guide you in the correct direction.

Students of all GPA’s can make it to college, if they want to. Colleges and Universities accept a wide range of students with GPA’s ranging from 4.50 to 2.30….the trick is finding the schools where you qualify and stand out amidst the competition. If you meet the criteria, chances are you are also a good candidate for admissions. We all read news stories about the “competition” and the difficulty of acceptance to schools like the Ivy Leagues and “Top-Tiered” or whatever title reporters want to give the schools with a less than 30% admissions rate.

The fact is, there are 800 colleges and universities that accept students with a 2.5 GPA….more if you are a California resident who meets the A-G requirements for University of California and California State Universities.

Where to start.

Talk to your family. This is a big decision. Kids, you actually have to talk to your parents! Discuss what you as a student want to get out of college and listen to parents ideas of what they envision for your future. This may seem silly, but you’d be surprised how many families come in to my office without having any discussion at home about this whole college thing. Once the student and parents have heard each others’ perspective on the issue, the process can become a bit easier.

Here are some things to think about and perhaps discuss as a family. Remember, this is about four years of your life….as a student. Your input in this process is crucial.

What are some of your interests?

(Sports, community service, internships, religion). In addition to finding the right major, finding the right campus with appropriate extra-curricular activities and social networking is very important and must fit the student’s wants and needs.

What do you, the student, enjoy studying?
Remember, this is about your future. You have to actually like what you’re studying!

List ALL subjects of interest (Art, cooking, engineering technology, etc).
Students may have the opportunity to major or specialize in myriad of topics, limiting the search or discussions on the traditional majors may hinder the process.

Where do you, the student, see yourself living after high school?

Distance from home?
Urban area? rural?
Large school or small school?
Where does the parent see their child living/studying while in college?

Once parents and students have discussed these points (and may disagree on the answers) we can begin to discuss compromises and set the direction for the college planning and preparation. This makes the subsequent meetings with the counselor much easier.

Still curious about where else to start?
This article may also help you.

The College Board website
has several articles that I use and can be of use to parents and students in the college search process.

The College Board website can be useful as a starting point on articles to read, topics to cover, and where to start. You may even be able to “Start Your College Search” from the College Board site as long as you remember that these searches are only a starting point. More information can be obtained from the universities and from attending the workshops and sessions held at Hamilton High School or by asking your wonderful counselor. 🙂

A word from the wise:
There are several online resources to assist parents and students with the college application process….let “Google” be your friend, but be weary of which websites you choose as a valid resource. Before you type in “College Admissions” or “College Application” into the Google search engine, know that there are thousands of “resources” on the web that may help or confuse you even more.

Stick to some of the major sites:,, Make every attempt to avoid any online service that requires a fee without fully investigating the sites’ validity.

To take AP class or not to take AP class, that is the question!

This is the time of the year for many, many questions-most of them have to do with taking Advanced Placement classes. What should students do? What should you do?

With the many suggestions, recommendations and demands and perceptions of the AP program the question always remains….SHOULD you take that AP class?

Here are my two cents. Feel free to give change.

Let me start with explaining AP. AP courses are taught on the college level, students who take AP courses and receive a A, B or C in the course are granted an augmented point in the GPA and can earn undergraduate college credit for passing the AP test offered in May. Taking a course and passing a test that costs less than $90 (less if there is a fee waiver involved) can be a better decision financially than taking a course in college that may cost upwards of $1500. But, the student has to take and pass that AP test!

Students must not only master the content of the test, but master the test itself. Homework in AP classes is usually three times more than students have ever been accustomed to taking home. Class time is not only discussing material but it includes practicing particular parts of the test so students are familiar with the structure. Details are very important. Independent studying is crucial!

Research has indicated that students taking more rigorous courses in high school tend to graduate college within four years at a higher rate than students who did not complete the most rigorous coursework in high school.

But, what is rigorous for one student may be too much for the next person. Students (and parents) must be realistic with the students abilities and not force the child into more than the student can handle. Two AP courses may be too much for one student and not enough for the next student. From my experience, students also tend to score/perform better in AP courses with material that they enjoy studying….I’m just saying.

Students, know what you can handle, not what you think will look good for college. Here’s the thing. Students must have a healthy balance of rigor and ability. A college may “look down” on a student who took 5 AP classes and only maintained C’s in those classes but can look favorably on a student who took two AP courses, got B’s in them and took honors/non honors to balance out the rigor and keep the grades in the A/B range. Studying for 5 AP courses can also mean that you will not have a high school social life, either.

Although a student’s GPA and academic rigor are the most important aspect of a college application, colleges want to see how well a student can balance their time and commitments. There are other components to an application considered in the admissions process.

Are you still confused? Take the AP course! Try it out for a couple of weeks. If it’s too much then change your classes! Seek recommendations from teachers and counselors. The AP program has an inclusive policy so all students should have the opportunity to take AP courses, if they want to. Despite an unfavorable recommendation from a counselor or teacher, if you really want to take the course, and believe you can do well, then take the class! But be real with yourself and your capabilities.

Here’s another document that may be of interest:
Research on students taking advanced level math classes

First post of the school year

Hello all!

The school year has just begun for me. I start “work” this Wednesday. This means that scheduling for the new year will begin as will the questions about college, the application process and all things academic counseling.

Although there are some pretty cool articles posted on the Hami website, I will be able to explain links and posts better than one would on Twitter or on the Hami website.

And since we are in the college application/essay writing season, here is the weekly article for thought on College Application Essays from the New York Times:

Shortcuts – When being edited, make sure the result is still you