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What It Takes

Stanford Magazine recently published an article by Ivan Maisel entitled "What It Takes," to shed some light on what it takes to get accepted into Stanford.  It seems everyone thinks (or perhaps wishes) there was some formula that, if you successfully discover and execute, will deliver you that highly-anticipated college acceptance email.

If you think of the metrics that colleges use to gauge success, you can see that it's not that easy to put into a formula.  I believe that colleges and universities emphasis the following three priorities :

  1. Students accepted will finish their degrees within 5 years.
  2. Upon graduation, students will go on to do amazing things, thus increasing the reputation of the college.
  3. Each accepted class represents a diverse population.

In the article Maisel says "Stanford, in addition to wanting superior scholars, also wants to bring in a pre-built community populated by kids from every stop on the geographic, socioeconomic and talent spectrums."

To further make the point, this statistic was shocking: "Even perfect test scores don't guarantee admission. Far from it: 69 percent of Stanford's applicants over the past five years with SATs of 2400—the highest score possible—didn't get in."

So while SATs are an indicator of the ability to handle the coursework found in college, getting a perfect score isn't the ticket in. There is something more. The article quotes the dean of admission Richard Shaw, "[o]f course academic credentials are important, but we're also looking for evidence that this young person has a passion, that he or she will bring something to our community that is unique. We want to hear a 'voice'—that's a critical component." I found this to be true in my cohort during my time at Stanford. Our small group represented more than ten countries and people from very different backgrounds, all with unique voices that enriched my experience and added to my development.

The idea of developing your 'voice' is exactly what we're trying to do at Summit Writing: we want to develop students into confident writers who can share their voice, their worldview. This isn't something that is unique to Stanford, every school wants to hear the unique voices from their students.  They know that there are amazing students out there, with so much to offer, and they want to build a community that brings these people together. Successful employers know this as well: when creative, confident people add their voice to their organization, it gets stronger, and they do go on to do amazing things in the world.

Finding the Time

How do you come up with a regular chunk of time to write? 

Check out a couple of on-the-go writing habits as well as a way to create some stress-free time for your child to write regularly. 

→ Notebooks

Give your child a notebook so they can build a habit of writing a variety of things while you're out and about. It won't be formal writing, but they'll be writing. 

→ Grocery Lists

When you have a grocery list to make, dictate it to your child. They'll learn how to take dictation, and it'll help improve their spelling. Again, not formal writing, but a valuable, practical writing skill. 


Creating Stress-Free Dedicated Writing Time

If you've ever had the pressure of coming up with an idea in a set period of time, you know that it is challenging and it seems like your brain locks up, and there's no getting those ideas out, which creates stress and tension, and then they're not going to come out at all. 


When your child is learning the art of writing, they're also learning the art of thinking, and thinking takes time distraction-free time. 


→ Create a Buffer

If you have a regular 30-minute block where you have them do some writing, build it out into an hour. 


It could be that following snack time your child is going to write for 30 minutes. If snack time at your home is like snack time at our home, some snacks take longer to eat than others. If writing time is at 10:30 am but snack time all of a sudden bleeds into 10:45 am, now they only have 15 minutes to write. 


They need time to get organized. Your child going to get very little done, they're going to be frustrated, you're going to be frustrated, and most likely no thoughts worth capturing are going to end up on the page. 


However, if you've built in a buffer, they get their stuff together after their late snack, and now they can get focused for 30 minutes. Even if they're starting at 10:45 am, and you need to leave at 11:30 am, you've got some breathing room. 


When their timer beeps, they still have 15 minutes before the next activity. They have time to tidy up their area, or if they're right in the middle of an idea, they'll have time to finish writing down that idea before moving on to the next activity. 


Reflect

How much time have you set aside for your child to formally write down their ideas? How much time have you left for them to engage their brain and to think through their ideas so that they can write them down in a cohesive and logical manner? Have you allowed time for their brain to relax into a writing mode? 

Writing Has Consequences

From college entrance essays to pre-written presidential speeches the written word has the power to change lives. 


Love letters, angry letters, words well chosen, careless words thrown on a page - they all have consequences. Lives change. 


Getting words down on a page is easy. Getting the right words down is hard.  

For that reason, encouraging your student to get words on a page each day is important. 

Making space in your student's schedule for unhurried thoughts leads to better writing.

And good writing changes the trajectory of a life. 


Think of what a difference one degree of change makes. 

Build in the time to think and write words that matter.

Letters to friends, family correspondence, job applications, essays, blogs and journal entries. 

And the words of every day; grocery lists, emails, texts, social media posts. 

The regular writing of anything and everything opens doors to opportunities. 


How are you helping your student create time for the habit of writing?