Life Lesson #2: Don’t be an idiot!

Ok. Where were we? Right…Don’t be an idiot.

Did you ever see the movie “Hitch” with Will Smith? It’s hilarious from beginning to end and has some pretty solid love advice themes in there too. In one scene, Hitch (Smith) is jet skiing in the New York City harbor with Sara Melas (Eva Mendes) on a first date.  His jet ski sucks up a plastic trash bag and completely dies, so he attempts to get on with her. In doing so, he swings his leg around and kicks her smack in the face (that’s not the solid love advice part). As she’s nursing her bruised eye and bloody nose, he says, “I saw that going differently in my head.”

In their acceptance letters, most colleges, in addition to mentioning grades and continued academic excellence, will also discuss character/behavior, and an expectation that you will maintain the record they reviewed when you applied. Unfortunately, every year at this time, we receive emails and calls from students, principals, counselors, “friends,” or others in the community informing us of matters we should evaluate regarding discipline infractions of varying severity.

Senior year is supposed to be fun. Especially your last semester. Lots to celebrate. Teams win, there are awards ceremonies to attend, spring break, prom, tradition upon tradition, and last upon last. I get it. I lived it. And along the way I made some pretty bad decisions, so trust, I don’t claim to be saying this from a place of perfection.

dont be an idiotWhat I have now is perspective on the risk you run when you decide to drink underage, jump off a bridge naked in the dark into water at an untested depth, cram 12 people into a hearse and blow up the principal’s mailbox, or deride and harass people on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Imagine sitting in a Principal’s, Dean of Students’, or attorney’s office saying, “I saw it going differently in my head when: my friend showed up to prom with a handle of bourbon… when we stole a farm animal for our ‘promposal’… when I posted those pictures and comments of my teammates on social media.”

I’m not trying to give you ideas here. These examples are all based tightly on reality, and all of them ended up having significant consequences. All relational, some ending in a revocation of admission, and some with long lasting legal implications. The big umbrella here continues to be “don’t be an idiot.” But I also have a few tangible tips as well.

Tip 1: Lock Down Social Media. At Tech, and most schools of similar scope, we do not have time to troll your social media accounts. But increasingly we’re sent links to those or images from them. We have had several incidents reported to us over the last few years that have led to revocation of admission, and another handful that we’ve referred to our Dean of Students for a summer conference and first semester probation. My advice is to make all of this private. Even if you are not trying to hide anything, this is just a wise move to make now. More and more employers and scholarship foundations are looking on social media, so start the practice now to insure only those you invite in have access to your life, thoughts, and comments.

Tip 2: Keep Studying. Sound familiar? As we speculated, you’ve likely already forgotten that catchy title from last week but don’t forget the concept. Not only do you need to keep working, keep your grades up, etc., but make sure YOU ARE THE ONE taking the tests and writing the papers. If you start sliding on your studying, the temptation to cheat grows. Several times recently we have been informed about egregious academic infractions in the senior spring. We have had one lead to the removal of a merit scholarship, and more than a few that have ended in revocation of admission. I know you have the integrity and drive to finish well, and I’m imploring you do engage both right now.

Tip 3: Zoom Out. Ever seen that kids book “Zoom?” It starts with a picture of a bunch of red triangles. On the next page you realize that those are really a rooster who is being watched through a window by two kids. Then you find out the children are actually toys in a set being played with by a girl but that all ends up being a cover of a magazine being read on a cruise that’s actually an ad on a side of a bus etc.  It’s an amazing book (and a great graduation gift too). I’m urging you to zoom back from these next few weeks as you close out high school. Think about your dreams and excitement for college. Consider what you might want life to look like in your early 20s once you’re out of college. It’s tough to think five years down the line as a high school student (Frankly, I did not find it all that easy in my 30s). But if you can see down into the framework you’re setting up now; if you can see how one decision (good or bad) leads to the next year, then you will think twice about going too far on the senior prank, or getting behind the wheel when you should not, and the list goes on… Basically, I’m encouraging you to turn the page from high school to college without ripping it.

 

 

 

Keep Studying. And other life lessons.

Recently, I was sitting at dinner with my family. Now you need to understand that a meal with young kids is actually more like circuit training. It’s a series of deep squats where you rarely remain in place for more than a minute or two, followed by the inevitable bend or stretch to pick up a rolling grape or a bouncing fork. There are periodically laps to the kitchen to retrieve additional napkins, and shuttle run sprints to the bathroom at unexpected moments to insure a kid “made it on time” or didn’t come up bloody after crashing down from the stool while washing hands.

They say you burn more calories than you consume when you eat celery. Due to the CrossFit workout that is dinner at my house, I’m pretty sure I’m doing that even over a meal of steak, potatoes, and a substantial side of avocados. Anyway, we’re eating and my daughter keeps saying she’s cold. Mind you—she’s wearing only underwear at the time… that’s how we roll. Finally, after the third time, I looked up and said, “If you’re cold, put on some more clothes. That’s a life lesson.” You know. The way you talk to little kids.

So consider today’s blog life advice/ admission advice (and a side of thoughtful family planning thrown in for good measure). You’ve been admitted to your dream school. Or you’ve been admitted to your second or third choice school, and you’re getting excited now to go there soon. Congratulations! That is great. Like your parents, teachers, counselors, coaches, and community, I’m very proud of you and excited for you. Now… Don’t Screw It Up! There are a few basic ways that students go off the rails in the spring of the senior year, and either have their admission decision revoked, or end up meeting with the Dean of Students prior to matriculating.

For today we’ll focus on Academics. Life Lesson: Keep working.

Schedule Changes. If you were admitted in EA/ED or you applied before your senior spring schedule was firm, and you drop classes in the spring, it is incumbent upon you to reach out to the college to inform them. Ideally, you would actually consult the admission office ahead of time to see how this may impact your admission decision or their consideration of your file. Generally speaking, if you are dropping a course that does not have graduation implications, is of similar rigor, and is not directly related to your intended major, it should not be an issue. For instance, if you plan to major in English and are proposing switching out of AP Psychology and into AP Environmental Science, we should be good. However, if you are dropping Multivariable Calculus and picking up Advanced Weight Training B, we should talk. Schedule alternations that indicate a decline in commitment to your preparation may have an impact on your admission decision, especially at schools with very low admit rates.

keep studying

Grade Decline. Check your offer of admission. After the congratulations and before the offer to visit campus or connect with a staff member, there is likely a paragraph that discusses your established pattern of excellence in grades. They may directly say they “reserve the right to revoke admission” if your final grades are not on par, or they’ll at least instruct you to contact them for consultation. The best thing you can do here is keep your grades up! Don’t take your foot off the gas. I’m sure Nike makes a lightweight, water-wicking shirt that has a pithy phrase that applies here: “Finish Strong” or “Lock In.” Put that on and wear it every day. “Keep Studying” would likely not be a big seller but that’s what I’m telling you.

Every year we have a handful of deposited students who submit final spring grades with straight Cs, or all As and two Ds. We’ve certainly had some Fs thrown in for good measure. Typically, this does not impede a student’s graduation, or it would be a non-issue (no graduation= no college). If this is the case for you, or if you “have a friend” in this situation, the best thing to do is get out in front of this. Call the admission office once those grades are official, or if you see this as inevitable, let them know the situation. If there are extenuating circumstances surrounding the precipitous drop, those are important to discuss. It will then be in their hands to evaluate the courses, speak with your counselors and teachers, and determine if that trend may continue into college, or if they believe you turn it around on their campus.

Our office has gone in multiple directions here. Sometimes we’ve rescinded admission because of the egregious grades and lack of reasonable rationale for the drop. Sometimes we’ve assigned academic counselors and RAs to monitor students in the first semester or first year to insure necessary support is in place immediately. But don’t let us find this out by reviewing your final transcript. And definitely DON’T intentionally hold sending your transcript until late summer because you know this is going to be an issue. I’ll never forget talking to a student several years ago from New Jersey who had failed two courses in the spring of his senior year. These courses were not required for graduation, but they were important to his foundation for success at Tech. I literally called him while he was packing his car to drive down to Atlanta and had to tell him to “unpack.” Not fun for anyone, especially because he had not shared any of this with his parents to that point.

Later this week we’ll delve into social media, discipline issues, character questions, etc. Life Lesson: Don’t be an idiot.