A Textbook Shopping Program – Hooray!

SMU student Christian Genco’s website, www.textbooksplease.com,  offers college students a chance to compare prices for textbooks with a series of computer clicks.  Boy, do I wish this existed four years ago.  With both of my kids starting grad school this fall, I can’t wait to see how it works.

Read more in this article from the Star-Telegram.

July 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm Leave a comment

Not accepted by Harvard? You’re in good company.

Here’s an excellent case study on what lengths parents have to go to in order to find appropriate educational opportunities for their profoundly gifted children by Susan Freinkel, titled “IQ like Einstein:  What is it really like to parent a profoundly gifted child?

If your own student isn’t getting into Harvard, take heart.  The profoundly gifted kids from Davidson Academy often don’t go there either.

“A diploma from Davidson doesn’t translate into automatic admission to Harvard or Yale, says Melissa Lance, communications manager for Davidson Institute. Indeed, with a handful of exceptions, the list of schools that graduates are attending is surprisingly middle-tier. Lance offers several explanations: students may not have that well-rounded resume admissions officers are seeking; they may not have high GPAs; or they may not be seduced by the prestige of a top-tier school, preferring to find a place that simply feels to them like a good fit. Whatever the reason, “not a lot of our students apply to the Ivies,” she says.”

If you’ve agonized about accelerating your student’s education, take heart from this research:

“Studies suggest that most highly gifted kids fit in just fine with older students and thrive when allowed to learn at an accelerated place. For instance, Australian researcher Miraca Gross followed a group of 60 students with very high IQs for two decades. She found that those who were allowed to skip ahead at least three grade levels tended to do well academically and socially; most got PhDs, settled into professional careers, formed relationships, and developed good friends. The 33 who were not allowed to accelerate in school had less charmed lives. Most ended up at less rigorous colleges and several never graduated high school or college. They also had more trouble forming social relationships. Having spent so many years feeling alienated, they had no practice connecting with people, Gross speculated.”

July 9, 2013 at 6:39 pm Leave a comment

Scholarships for Students from Rural Counties

Need money for college?  If you fit this profile, you might apply for a $5000-per-semester 4 year scholarship from the Hagan Scholarship Foundation:

  • High achievers (3.5 GPA)
  • with high financial need (FAFSA expected family contribution less than $7500)
  • from rural counties (less than 50,000 population)
  • in 10 states (AR, KS, IA, IL,IN,MO,NE, OK, KY,TN)

There are more criteria, but I love the idea of targeting high achievers from rural areas with financial need, as, from what I’ve seen in Montana, many of these students have been shortchanged on the kinds of high school classes and experiences that their big city counterparts enjoy.

Apparently, these scholarships have been awarded only in the last 3 years.  Last year, 114 students won awards.

Good luck!

May 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm Leave a comment

Why I Now Like Research Universities

I wrote this prophetic sentence in 2009:

“The book also helped me rethink my bias towards sending my son to an liberal arts college rather than a research university.  I now think it would be good for him to get to know grad students informally and see what is expected of them, before he makes up his mind about grad school.”

Up until then, I had a bias towards liberal arts colleges, like the ones my husband and I attended, for their small size.  But both of my kids ended up at research universities.  (In my daughter’s case, she’s at the smallest research university in the country.)  But both of them had the opportunity to take graduate level courses while they were still undergrads.  They gained the confidence that they could excel even in higher level classes.  Plus, they could state on their graduate school applications that they had already excelled in graduate level courses, which was a great predictor of their probability of success.

Another advantage is that research university professors win grants, which often cover stipends for their students to do (paid!) research or internships.  That research can then result in the student getting published, which is another key to resume building.

March 30, 2013 at 5:43 pm Leave a comment

Where Will Their Lights Shine?

In middle school, gifted girls commonly “dumb down” because they believe that smart girls won’t be popular or get boyfriends.  It may take the boys a while to catch on, but by high school gifted kids of both sexes commonly hide their smarts.  After all, other kids may resent them or be jealous if they get all A’s, and if they fail or get a C, other kids will laugh at them.

What happens in college?

Sometimes gifted kids can bloom in college, finding a more intellectual environment and others with similar interests.

But if a gifted student goes to a school with lots of “average” college students, the same rules may apply.  I was reminded of this when reading the book, Gifted Grown Ups, when I came across this passage:

Gifted Grownups“…the school [Nora] originally attended featured large doses of boredom with weak courses and resentment from both students and faculty of her academic standards for herself.  “I liked asking questions in class.  I think people got hostile because the prof and I seem to be having a good time.   After a while, it got to me and I just shut up.  My sociology prof didn’t call on me deliberately because he said I did too much work for the level of the course.  When I came to him with my term project all planned in advance, he was actually nasty.  Social life?  I have to be careful about dates.   The last person was angry with me for using big words – and he had a master’s degree in business!”

“An intense student at a highly respected Catholic university, Bob enjoys discussing serious issues, but he finds it very lonely at parties because, he theorizes, bright girls have fallen for the myth that to be popular you have to cover your brain.  “To go to parties you have to do without discussin things you really care about and be more trivial.  I have begun interesting conversations with girls I know are very smart, only to have them turn it off if they think someone else may be listening.”‘

I wonder…does this happen at Harvard, MIT and Stanford, too?  Or can we truly find colleges for our gifted kids where they can let their lights shine?

March 24, 2013 at 5:32 pm Leave a comment

Who is On The Hook for College Loans?

Other than home and auto insurance, I generally don’t buy insurance, whether it is on appliances or mortgages or life.  Instead of paying premiums, I “self insure”, meaning I have enough money saved up to cover the occasional crisis.  But a recent article on bankrate.com made me realize that college loans was an area where this was not a conscious decision on my part.

The article explains that, if my children take out a federal student loan – which my daughter has done – there is a “death discharge” clause if – heaven forbid – the child dies.  “That means the borrower’s survivors can complete paperwork releasing them and the estate from any responsibility for the debt.”

But a private loan such as many students and parents take out from a bank to pay for college probably does not have a “death discharge”, meaning that the parents could be on the hook to pay back the full loan, even if the child died and would never generate any income.

So, (a) check the paperwork on your loan to see if there is a death discharge and (b), if not, consider whether you should take out a life insurance policy on the student in an amount big enough to pay off the loan.   If having to pay off those loans out of your savings would break the bank, then you need insurance.  Luckily, term life insurance on a young person is pretty cheap.  And the more your child borrows, the more this becomes an issue, so if the kid is heading off to medical school or plans to take out lots of loans, you’ll want to read the full article.

March 24, 2013 at 5:16 pm Leave a comment

Top 30 Grad School Blogs

Both of my kids are entering grad school in the fall.  Although I have a MBA, I feel like a fish out of water when it comes to advising them about grad school, so I was happy to find some resources they might use today:  a list of the Top 30 Grad School Blogs.  The list includes blogs about particular curriculum areas (math, law, science, psychology) and specific universities.  I thought some of the most intriguing ones were focused on the grad school process:

“22. My Graduate School publishes content on successful methods for applying to and preparing for graduate school. Articles range in topics from selecting the perfect school taking both price and quality into consideration, to avoiding major pitfalls that can hurt your chances for acceptance even after you’ve submitted your applications.
Highlight: Letters of Recommendation for Grad School: Beware the Bad Letter-Writer

“21. The Professor is In focuses on helping graduate students make a successful transition from grad student to professor, especially those who are still grad students when they begin taking on teaching responsibilities.
Highlight: Addressing Search Committee Members

Getting What You Came ForThe My Graduate School blog led me to an article I wish my kids had read a year or so ago, on How to Get In to Grad School.   Oh well, at least I had purchased them a copy of Getting What You Came For several years ago, which is recommended in that article as being “brutally honest”.

March 16, 2013 at 3:15 pm Leave a comment

Getting Around Coverdell ESA Limits

A friend told me that the contribution limit on Coverdell Education Savings Accounts had been reduced from $2000 to $500 annually.   That seemed strange, so I started searching for articles about it.  Motley Fool reminded me that there is an income limit.  (Hmm, I didn’t know my friend was making that much money in retirement.  Good for her.)

But the Fool has an interesting twist:  the $2000 per year contribution limit is for everyone contributing to the Coverdell, so “gift” the money to someone with lower income….e.g., the kid…and have him contribute it to the Coverdell account.

Great idea, Motley Fool.


January 29, 2013 at 7:20 am Leave a comment

Having Skin in the Game

The Associated Press reports that students who have to earn part of the money for college have higher GPAs:

“Parents who are footing more of the college tuition bill for their children give them a better chance of graduating. But a surprising new study finds they may not be doing them any favors in another area — generous financial support appears to lead to lower grades.

“The study, published in this month’s American Sociological Review, suggests students with some of their own “skin in the game” may work harder, and that students with parents picking up more of the tab are free to take on a more active social and extracurricular life. That may be fun and even worthwhile, but comes at a cost to GPA.”

A gifted student who is receiving scholarships and/or whose parents are wealthy likely won’t qualify for work-study jobs, but there are still on-campus jobs that are awarded based upon “merit”.

My son was asked to be a math tutor.  He works 5 hours a week for $1000 per semester. Why did he get the job?  Probably because he has all As in math, the faculty know he wants to be a math professor so this is developing essential skills, and they would like him to get his Ph.D. there.  The workload isn’t bad and it comes with a few perks.   The first and last weeks of the semester almost no one comes for tutoring, so it becomes study time for him.  And tutoring others on subjects he has studied in previous years became a form of forced review for the GRE, which he needed to take for graduate school.

My daughter has been a Resident Assistant (RA) in the dorms for 2 years. It took an extensive interview and application process to land the job, and the work has some drawbacks:

  • As an enforcer of the rules, you feel like a narc.
  • Therefore, some of your residents resent you.
  • If you don’t follow the rules yourself, you’re a hypocrite and lose credibility, so it’s not a good fit for partiers or rule breakers.
  • For a morning person, like my daughter, having to be “on duty” until midnight or 2 a.m. can be tiring.  Plus, on a night with multiple “incidents”, the reporting process can keep her up long past the scheduled duty hours….even on a school night.

On the other hand, she now has many RA friends.  She’s earning a paltry $400/semester for 5-7 hours a week (and sometimes 10-15 hours per week).  But she gets a free room (worth $6300/year) and it’s a coveted single room.

“Hamilton found grants, scholarships, work-study, student employment and veterans benefits don’t have similar negative effects on GPA, though loans do, along with direct parental aid. She suggests that’s because loans and unconditional parental grants have no immediate strings attached, whereas scholarships and grants often carry GPA requirements. There may also be a psychological effect. With grants, “students feel like they’ve earned them in some way” and want to justify them.”

So don’t feel guilty about encouraging your college students to have a part-time job.  You are helping them boost their GPAs!  And that GPA is important in their search for a permanent job, which will keep them from boomeranging back to your house.

Read the complete AP article here.

January 22, 2013 at 7:15 am 1 comment

Early Birds Win

Pardon me while I brag on my daughter.  She requested an appointment this week with the grad school advisor, even though her application isn’t due for 5 months.  His reaction: “This is why I teach at Clark University, so I can have students like you!”

He says he gets inundated with calls and emails the week before grad school applications are due.  Funny how we worry about our students stressing out about their applications, but never think about what it is like for the people who receive the applications.

I’m betting my early bird daughter gets accepted.

October 29, 2011 at 12:22 pm 1 comment

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Insights and advice from a parent of two gifted teenagers



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