Tag Archives: Mod Squad Linc

Two notes on colleges, from way, way, behind the front lines

This blog is currently on hiatus. I have a demanding day job, and our family is enjoying a welcome two-year respite between application years. (Quick personal update on our pseudonymous students: Mod Squad Pete is in his fourth year at U.Va., M.S. Julie is in her second year at U.Va., and M.S. Linc is a high school junior.)

However. Every now and then I see something I want to share and today is one of those days.Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 1.24.41 PM

Something current. In today’s New York Times Frank Bruni wrote How to Measure a College’s Value. I encourage you to read the column, which includes this result from an ongoing research project:

What else augurs well for success after college? Graduates fared better if, during college, they did any one of these: developed a relationship with a mentor; took on a project that lasted a semester or more; did a job or internship directly connected to their chosen field; or became deeply involved in a campus organization or activity (as opposed to minimally involved in a range of things).

Bruni’s conclusion could be my mantra:

What college gives you hinges almost entirely on what you give it.

Something older. Also from the NYT, here’s a November 2014 Q&A from the Social Qs advice column, written by Philip Galanes:

Admissions Gantlet

Our son is in the throes of college applications. Well-meaning family and friends ask us where he is applying. But no matter how comprehensive a list we give them, they invariably say: “Yale? What a terrible place. Don’t let him apply there.” Or: “Why not Duke?” Our son’s list was developed in consultation with his school counselors, who know his interests and scores, and we all feel good about it. Still, people are very strident and opinionated. How can we respond politely? Sonja, San Francisco

Nearly everyone (including me) supports the idea of personal autonomy — right up to the moment when the other guy is about to do something we wouldn’t. It’s a world of busybodies, Sonja. Surely this can’t be your first encounter with us? Still, college admissions are a sensitive area for many families, especially the competitive and lovers of status. (Again, pretty much all of us, no?)

The next time someone butts into your son’s college plans, just say: “What an interesting perspective. We’ll be sure to let Jake’s college adviser know.” No further words required — except maybe “plastics.” (Note to readers under 40: watch “The Graduate.”)

For any parents and students new to this game, consider carefully whose process this is and who should hear about the details. Many parents I know have had experiences similar to Sonja’s.

If you’re not comfortable just saying, “plastics,” try this from the first season of Gotham. In response to an unwelcome recommendation from James Gordon, the mayor said, “Thank you, my friend. Valuable input. Most refreshing.”

Good luck to all the students and families on the front lines this year.


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The girl is going to college.

There came a day in mid April when I stopped our daughter, known here as Mod Squad Julie, on her way out the door and said, “You haven’t sent in your commitment yet, have you?” She shook her head and left.

A day or so later, Julie said, “Right. College. What is it exactly that I need to do?” I was distracted by work, she was starting a new internship. We let a few more days go by.

Julie may not know all the words to "The Good Old Song," but she's knows the choreography for the chant at the end.

Julie may not know all the words to UVa’s “The Good Old Song,” but she knows the choreography for the chant at the end. (Click to enlarge)

By the last week of April, Julie had chosen her college, attended the admitted students day, chatted (face to face) with future classmates, and chatted (via messages and texts) with many more, and found a roommate. She just hadn’t gotten around to passing on the news to the school.

The Lawn at night

The Lawn at night, via Cavalier Daily (click to enlarge)

One night last week, Julie logged on to the SIS, clicked the “Accept” button, and paid her deposit to the University of Virginia, which had offered her a place in its Echols Scholars Program.

Halloween, 1999

Halloween, 1999

Julie’s excited and her older brother Pete is thrilled that she will join him there; her younger brother Linc just surfaced from the spring high school musical, so I’m not sure he’s even paying attention yet.

She also registered for orientation this summer before turning back to the high school assignments at hand. Soon (read:  after AP exams), she will start digging through the course selections for the fall semester.

The girl’s got wings.





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This just in: summer vacation!

Yesterday was the final day of school for the local school district, but the summer break launched in stages for our household.

Mod Squad Pete’s first year of college ended May 10th. He came home for a night, then headed off to South Carolina for Beach Week with friends from school.

South Carolina

South Carolina

M.S. Linc graduated from middle school at the end of May. Four days later he traveled solo to visit family in the Midwest.

The farm

The farm

M.S. Julie completed her junior year on June 6th and left for the North Carolina beaches the following day.

North Carolina

North Carolina

All that to say:  happy summer! Turn up the volume! (We’ll deal with reading requirements, internships, camps, and application essays soon enough. Next week, right, Julie?)

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No more Middle School, and a new High School, for the Mod Squad.


It’s not just the graduation that’s a blur. What the heck happened to the last fourteen years?

Last night Linc, the youngest member of our Mod Squad, graduated from 8th grade. Like his older siblings at the same age, he is more than ready to move on to high school.

While our oldest child, M.S. Pete, continues to push us into new realms of parenting (Hello, college — whoa, where did that first year go!), the third child closes doors on familiar territories.

Walking down the aisle, moving the tassle from one side of his cap to the other, Linc ushered us out of middle school. He will also usher us into a new high school experience, since Linc will attend a STEM-related academy in the fall. The Math, Engineering, and Science Academy is hosted by a high school in our division, just not the same HS Pete attended and Julie will be a senior at this August. Ahem. In June.

In preparation for an academic schedule we anticipate will be demanding, Linc will take a couple of courses this summer — PE via summer school and Health via an online course — and open up time in his schedule for study hall.

For now, though, we’ll celebrate rather than anticipate.

Congratulations, Linc!

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4 Summer Tasks for College Prep.

Mia finds shade for the dog days of summer.

It’s fairly easy to find lists of what high school and middle school students should be doing to prepare for college admissions. Some include studying for SATs, embellishing the resume, taking summer courses. You can see such lists…

Last summer I wrote about the to-do lists Mod Squad Pete faced as we encouraged him to work through essay drafts and more before his senior year started. See Is it rough being a HS senior? He might agree that was helpful. (Then again, he might not.)

But our suggestions (read: requirements) for the younger teens in the household are fairly basic:

  1. Learn something (anything) new.
  2. Read.
  3. Get really good at something you enjoy.
  4. Work (for the household, as a volunteer, and/or for pay).

It’s important to us that they learn and grow. Sure, some of this translates into college admissions prep. More important than that, however, is life prep:  choosing to get better at something, learning how much effort it takes to get better, finding new interests, adding new skills, and working in support of the family, the community, and a paycheck.

Mod Squad Linc is a rising 8th grader. Here’s a glimpse of his summer tasks.

Learn something new.  He chose the guitar.

The first Calvin and Hobbes treasury.

Preferred reading.

Work at something you enjoy so you get really good at it.  He chose piano and voice, basketball, and soccer.

Read. He chose collections of Foxtrot, Calvin & Hobbes and numerous thick YA novels. We chose Steinbeck, T H White, James Fenimore Cooper.

Work. Linc has to do minimal (my word, not his) chores each day and a few hours now and then on larger chores. The time spent on these was minimal compared to hours spent honing computer game skills and cooling off at the pool (usually post-basketball).

M.S. Julie is a rising junior and paying closer attention each month to what she might do to prepare for college admissions. Here’s what her summer has included:

Learn something new. We recommended some form of coding; Julie has done that as well as spending hours designing earrings.

Required reading.

Work at something you enjoy so you get really good at it. She chose basketball and graphic design, including doing pro bono work for a cousin’s start-up to build her design portfolio.

Read. High school required John Lewis’s memoir Walking with the Wind, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and a Spanish novel, San Manuel Bueno, Martir, plus writing responses to questions on the books and creating audio recordings in Spanish about a number of topics. She added her own very long list of books for fun, including some Foxtrot volumes.

Work. Julie covered all the options. 1) Same as her brothers, she has a number of regular household chores. 2) As a volunteer, she worked with her Chem teacher on developing the curriculum for a flipped classroom and assisted an elementary school teacher with summer school students. 3) For pay, Julie is tutoring two students in math; they don’t need remedial work, but their parents didn’t want them to lose ground over the summer break. Finally, she is awaiting word on a restaurant job, which may not happen until Pete leaves for college, opening up a position.

Linc and Julie are likely to face the same required tasks next summer, though we’ll probably suggest she work on essay drafts, too. Maybe she can work Foxtrot into an essay.

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Happy 1st Birthday, Dr. StrangeCollege!

A year ago today I launched this blog with Counting Down to College.

Katie Couric at the Tony Bennett Birthday Gala...

I’m sure Katie Couric would call with birthday wishes if only she weren’t busy giving a speech today. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After a full year of following Mod Squad Pete through writing essays, asking for recommendations, working through applications, and waiting for news, today we know where he will attend college. (As it turns out, today is also the day his college, the University of Virginia, is holding the 2012 Final Exercises with one very famous alum, Katie Couric, giving the commencement address.)

Next week Pete will graduate from high school; his work there is done. He has already shifted his focus mostly to summer, but also, in response to correspondence from UVa, to applying for housing, registering for summer orientation, scanning the course catalog, and tagging some courses for his SIS-based academic planner.

I’ll expand the focus of this blog to learning and writing about having an adult child in college. Since, as I’ve said all along: this is about our journey.

Next week M.S. Linc will become a rising 8th grader. A number of his 8th grade courses will show up on his HS transcript. The first week of June M.S. Julie becomes a rising 11th grader, with the added emphasis on college prep and academic rigor the junior year brings. Fortunately for both of them, they have about ten weeks of summer first.

Finally, I’ve updated the website and blog links in the right-hand column. These changes reflect connections I pay attention to as well as the new college student focus. (Hello, College Parent Central!) I’ve also added a few college-prep sites I think are helpful, that is, if I can ever get the Mod Squad to check them out:  DIY College Prep, SAT Dude, and Khan Academy (though I have seen Julie use Khan videos for test prep).

Thank you to the visitors, viewers, and subscribers who’ve come along for the ride. I truly appreciate your readership and your comments. I have learned so much by writing DrStrangeCollege; your response has made it even more fun for me. Thanks!

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