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Monday, May 27, 2024

Campus Readiness Quiz


by Katherine O'Brien, ThD Cand., Certified College Planning Specialist

Founder, Celtic College Consultants

 Helping teens be ready for success on campus entails more than helping them develop good study skills and the ability to perform well on tests, oral presentations, and group projects. Numerous personal responsibility skills, interpersonal communication skills, and practical skills are also important as students adapt to independent life on a college campus. This quiz helps teens evaluate their strengths and identify their weaknesses, so they can target their efforts as they finish their preparations to move onto campus.

As I work with teens, I help  them develop these skills. To meet and discuss your teen's college readiness, email me at and request a consultation.

Personal/life skills

Can you regulate your emotions? Calm yourself when you are afraid or irritated? Settle yourself when you are angry or disappointed? Motivate yourself when you feel discouraged?

Can you manage your time well? Exercise self-discipline regarding eating, sleeping, studying, working, having fun, relaxing?

Can you organize large, complex tasks?

Can you resist temptation?

Can you navigate public transportation, uber/lyft, airports, etc. to get where you need to go to get toiletries, medicine, home to visit, etc.?

Can you manage your health needs? Eat well, take prescribed medicines, handle over the counter medical needs like colds, allergies, and the flu? Exercise adequately and regularly? Take meditation and prayer breaks to lower stress?

Can you motivate yourself when you don't "feel like" doing what needs to be done?

Can you adequately reward yourself for successes?

Do you know when to ask for help?

Are you able to manage a minor emergency?

Do you have a stable, effective night routine so you can get to sleep? Do you have the discipline needed to get yourself to bed in time to get enough sleep to be ready for the next day?

Do you have a plan for handling a major crisis, especially if you attend a college more than a couple of hours away from home or your parents travel, have other responsibilities, etc.?

Can you limit texting, etc. adequately in order to be present where you are, able to meet and interact with those near you, not just those not near you?

Interpersonal skills

Can you handle interpersonal conflict well? Compromise or negotiate respectfully in order to settle a dispute? 

Can you set boundaries with people, setting the stage for being treated with respect?

Can you say you are sorry when you need to? Make necessary amends? Let go of grievances?

Do you have a plan to regularly communicate with your parents so they aren't dropping by or calling and texting constantly and so you don't get too lonesome?

Can you advocate for yourself as needed? 

Are you welcoming? Can you make friends?

Practical skills

Can you do laundry? Treat common stains? Take care of specialty garments and fabrics?

Can you budget your money? Track your expenditures and your bank balance(s)? Can you say no to impulse spending opportunities, be they pizza, events, or online specials?

Do you know how to present yourself? In an interview? Informally with a professor in order to give a good impression, gain trust, and build a mentor/mentee relationship? 

Can you ask for help when you need it? Whether a lost student ID or key (contact security) or mental health crisis (for yourself or another), a medical need of some sort (when to go to the clinic, urgent care, or the ER), go to the writing center, seek out a tutor, get directions, or some other need?

Can you keep your things organized and your room tidy? Can you clean a bathroom? a kitchen?

Can you decorate your living space in a way that invites people to feel welcome, and yourself to rest and relax? Your room is your oasis on campus, can you utilize it well?

Do you know where to find the library, counseling center, health clinic, gym, professors' offices, classrooms, printing center(s), tutoring center(s), writing center(s) on campus? 

If you need support services, can you self-advocate to arrange for them?

Do you read your emails regularly? Colleges communicate important information yet many students don't read it. This can cause you from not being registered for classes, not getting credit for your courses, getting kicked off campus for non-payment, and many other headaches.

Do you know what a bursar's office is? It's the place you pay for your tuition and other bills from the college/university.

Do you know what the registrar's office is?

What is a syllabus? Why does it matter?

What are the dining options on your campus and how do you plan to use your flex dollars so you don't run out nor go hungry?

Where can you go on campus to get some time alone, some time to recharge, rest your mind, de-stress?

What does an academic advisor do? 

Why should you go to the career office starting your freshman year? What help can they offer you?

Where do you get specialty advising (like double major, honors college, or pre-professional) on your campus?

Do you have reading and assignments due before your first class meets? How do you find out?

What do you do if your laptop breaks?

Where do you go to get medicine? Is there a pharmacy on campus or nearby?

What are the best places to study on your campus?

How do you learn whether your paper is up to college standards?

How and when do you need to re-file a FAFSA or other aid application forms for subsequent years of college?

How can campus security help you? Are you wise enough to call for a night security escort when needed?

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Know the Signs of College Preparedness

by Katherine O'Brien ThD Candidate, Certified College Planning Specialist, & Founder, Celtic College Consultants


There are signs that the water is rising and a river will overflow its banks. My friend, who has lived on a river for several years, had to learn those signs. Over the years, during our conversations, I hear occasional comments about the level of the river. This morning, after many storms this past week, I heard about having to move the benches away from the river bank. The river is expect to flood today, hopefully not all the way up to my friend's house. Even so, preparations have been made because the signs were known, watched for, and responded to.



Do you know the signs of college preparedness for your teen? Your family? Do you know what needs to happen and when it needs to happen so your teen is ready for college?


Campus Visits

As I spoke with a sophomore this week, we planned his second round of campus visits and how he and his parents can best prepare for them.


Course Selection

As I met with my 8th - 11th grade clients recently, we have discussed class schedules for next year, to meet the requirements of their top choice schools and programs, develop and show their interests, and show the level of academic challenge that they are capable of handling well.


College Funding

With the FAFSA changes, college funding strategies have changed. Have you refined your plans? Have you estimated your college costs and put together a cash flow strategy to meet them? Do you know your SAI?



College selection significantly influences scholarship eligibility. So does student preparedness. Hoping for scholarships is nowhere near as effective as planning for them. Do you know what types of scholarships might best contribute to your college funding plan? Is your student researching and applying to them? Considering that in college searches?


Life Skills

Life skills are sorely lacking in many young people, leading some to drop out of college, change their majors, transfer schools, and fail classes, all of which negatively impact their self-image and future prospects. Are you parenting in such a way that your teen is learning by steadily taking more responsibility, having opportunities to succeed, and to fail, while being mentored, rather than sheltered?



One of my clients and I discussed his options for developing relationships with key teachers so they will know him well and be able to write top notch recommendations for him in a year. Demonstrating leadership, inside and outside the classroom not only helps teens become strong adults, it also boosts their sense of self, and enables key adults in their lives to get to know them, mentor them, then write strong recommendations for them.



These are a few of the signs of college preparedness. I invite you to increase your awareness of the signs. Schedule a family consultation with Katherine, a trained, seasoned professional with 20 years’ experience. Hear your teen discuss his or her accomplishments, ideas, hopes, and dreams. Ask your questions. Know what the signs are that you are track. Learn what next steps will move you and your teen toward college success. Be affirmed for the work you have done so far and mentored for continued progress. Email Katherine: today to schedule your consultation so you know the signs of college preparedness and what the next right steps toward college success are for your family.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Human Flourishing Among Teens


by Katherine O'Brien, ThD Candidate

So much of the news about teens is full of darkness, stories replete with examples of loneliness, distress, anxiety, and other ills. Most teens, it seems, are not flourishing in our modern American culture.

Recent studies done by Harvard and the Wall Street Journal show signs of hope. In 2021, a study was released by Harvard researchers Brendan Case and Ying Chen. They concluded that home-schooled students were flourishing in ways significantly different from their public school peers. This contrasts the well publicized critiques of homeschooling, including at least one call for a ban on homeschooling (Elizabeth Bartholet). Criticizers have cast aspersions on homeschooled students, stereotyping such students as socially awkward and generally ignorant. In the past few years, critiques of teens has expanded, noting various adverse impacts social media and extensive phone and other electronics use has had on them.

The picture of the home-schooled student can serve as an inspiration as well as an example of flourishing among teens. So, what did the researchers discover?

"...homeschooled children generally develop into well-adjusted, responsible and socially engaged young adults," wrote Case and Chen in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. The researches noted that homeschooled children were about one-third more likely to engage in volunteer activities. This means they are outward focused, making substantive contributions to their communities. They also noticed that these youth had "higher levels of forgiveness in early adulthood." Over the course of their eleven year study of over 12,000 students, they noticed this trait. Being able to forgive is a complex ability. It requires one to recognize weakness in oneself and others, to have developed some conflict resolution skills, and to be able to let go of wounds. The researchers also found that homeschooled children were more likely to attend religious services as adults than their publicly educated peers. Attending services correlates to lower risks of alcohol and drug abuse, depression, and suicide. Sadly, the avoidance of these negatives are significant factors in defining what flourishing means these days.

It was also noted that homeschooled students were less likely to attend college than their public school peers. While some might find that problematic, I do not. Given the relatively high rate of college non-completion, having students identify whether college is the best step for them after high school is a boon, not a problem. In the past, there were moderate to significant obstacles to college admission. That has changed in recent years, with many colleges now defining clear admissions paths for home schooled students. In fact, some have noted that the flexibility of homeschooling can make it an ideal path to top tier schools since students can focus their program on their areas of interest. In 2018, Harvard highlighted some of its homeschooled students.

With the nearly ubiquitous and extensive use of phones among teens, huge spikes have been observed in adolescent depression, anxiety, loneliness, and increased instances of suicidal ideation. While causation cannot be proven, the correlation between these two increases is undeniable. Cyberbullying, sexting, and "phubbing" (ignoring the people around you, choosing to focus on your phone instead) have all become common in young people's lives. These experiences wound their hearts, rather than contributing to their flourishing. It is expected that these issues are less common among homeschoolers. My personal and professional observations concur with that expectation.

Ways to Help Teens Flourish

The Harvard data should encourage families who have chosen to homeschool. They also provide some indicators of ways other youth can be helped to flourish. Limiting screen time. Increasing interpersonal interactions. Teaching personal responsibility. Encouraging participation in religious and volunteer activities. Tailoring educational activities to enable deeper exploration of areas of interest. Increased time with parents, communicating well, learning conflict resolution skills, and fostering personal responsibility. All these and more can be gleaned from the research as ways parents can help their teens flourish.

(For Kerry McDonald's full article about Case and Chen's research, see )

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Boost Happiness and College Success


by Katherine O'Brien, ThD, Certified College Planning Specialist, Founder, Celtic College Consultants

We all want the same thing for ourselves and our kids, college bound or not. We want to:

  • Do our best work!
  • Live intentionally!
  • Be successful! (good grades, work promotions, etc.)
  • Have less stress in your life!
  • Be able to enjoy life (take care of responsibilities, and actually relax when it’s time to have fun!)
  • Gain clarity about what’s most important in your life!
  • Have a clear reason to get out of bed in the morning
  • Be able to make the world a better place, make a difference!
  • Be less stressed and grumpy
  • Keep your commitments!
  • Make good decisions about opportunities that come up. (Do I have time for this? Can I make the time and take care of my responsibilities?)

Learning to manage our time and complete our work by deadlines is a critical skill we all need to be successful in high school, college, and in life. This is one of those practices generally referred to as self-discipline.

A deadline tells us what needs to be done, and in what time frame, to have positive outcomes in our life. Deadlines are also signals that there are negative consequences ahead which can be avoided. Late fees on bills, cancelled services, lower grades, these are examples of possible negative consequences.


Know Your Deadlines & Create Your Own Mini-Deadlines


Be aware of Deadlines – the first step is acknowledging the existence of deadlines


For larger projects is to break it down into steps and assign them deadlines. This will help you make steady progress, avoiding the situation of having “everything” need to be done quickly just before the deadline. When that happens, cutting corners to get the work done on time is inevitable, as is increased stress. Both degraded performance and intense stress can be avoided.


Some people argue that they do their best work in the rush of the last moment. They are kidding themselves. What I think they really mean is that the pressure of a looming deadline is necessary for them to put forth effort and that they are unaware of how much better their work and life could be.


Stepping through a project offers numerous small deadlines/ pressure points to complete the various tasks that “forces” you to complete the work, bit by bit. These deadlines also serve as markers that you are making progress, so you need to improve, when you are falling behind, or can relax a bit, if you are ahead. This process also allows you to focus on one portion of a large task at a time, and do it well. As you become experienced with this, you can schedule in “extra” time to review and refine your work, thus enhancing the overall outcome. It is delightful to find that we can do better than we previously thought, and that our lives can be more steady, less stress filled, more enjoyable, than we’d previously experienced.

Know what Motivates You - Create an Image of Yourself Being Successful


Be aware of what motivates you, and incorporate it into your life. – remind yourself of the negative consequences, remind yourself of the positive possibilities, leave visual reminders of them, reminders on your phone, post it notes, notes on your mirror, vision boards, whatever works


Reminders of what you are working to avoid, or working to accomplish, can be highly motivating. Having a picture of yourself in a cap and gown, at a podium speaking to an audience, etc. can be such an encouragement, and a reminder of why the present toil is worth doing, and doing well. Create a "vision board" of you accomplishing your big goals, avoiding the pitfalls, being successful!


Set Reminders 


Use visible reminders of the stages, of the next deadline, to help you stay on task! Use a calendar to get things done, to step yourself through the process. Put the various steps onto your calendar, reserving time – schedule research the topic/create thesis statement, schedule write outline, schedule research Part I on outline, etc. Put reminders on your phone, sticky notes on your mirror. Whatever works for you, do it!


Allow for the Unexpected


Allow extra time for hiccups, problems, distractions, etc. So add in buffer times to handle these unexpected occurrences. This is critical to successfully completing tasks by deadlines.


In the beginning, "Frontload" Your Timeline 


If you are new at something, “frontload” your plan. Be aggressive with your goals for the first half of two-thirds of the allotted time. Plan to finish the whole project in three-quarters of the allotted time (I have school assignments in mind here.) If the teacher assigns a paper that’s due in four weeks, write your plan to have it done in three weeks. Set a week one goal, week two goal, week three goal – completion! Work hard to meet your goals. Notice what took more time than you expected. Does that task often take longer? Did you waste time? Noticing these sort of things gives you the information you need to improve your process. For example, I find pulling together a thesis statement to be challenging. To get it done with enough time to do the required research, outlining, drafting, and editing, I allot a lot of time to it and break it down even further. I might set a goal to have research done over the weekend, a thesis or two written Monday, and set a meeting with my teacher to discuss it on Tuesday. The meeting does a few things to help me along. It forces me to focus, since I don’t want to arrive at the meeting without any ideas. It also gives me the opportunity to get clarity from the teacher – yes, this is a good direction, no that’s a distraction, your focus is too broad, or too narrow. In effect, I’m getting a course correction at the start, rather than after I’ve spent lots of time researching and drafting my paper, only to realize I don’t have enough material to produce an adequate paper, or that I have far too much, both of which require me to go back to the thesis statement, revise it, and significantly revise all that I have done so far. 


One of the benefits of “frontloading” my timeline for a project is that it gives me “wiggle room.” I now have time to finish early, get feedback from others, or to let it sit for a few days, then look it over to catch any rough transitions or other little edits I can make to improve the flow (and my grade!)


Another benefit of “frontloading” the timeline is that there’s room to allot more time to a task that is requiring more time than originally expected.


You may also have the happy experience of being done, knowing your work is well done, and relaxing while others are stressed and doing a rush job just before the deadline.


Katherine O'Brien is available to help your teen prepare for college and beyond. Email to schedule a consultation.


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Inviting Teens to Become Adults - Responsibilities & Adult Paperwork

by Katherine O'Brien, ThD Candidate, Certified College Planning Specialist, Founder of Celtic College Consultants

One trait that distinguishes children from adults is that of being responsible. Age is a factor, but not a determining one.

In the US, there are a number of legal changes that happen when a person turns 18. Accepting these responsibilities is part of becoming adults. Let's look at them from the perspective of the paperwork involved. Please note that, since most of these are specific to the US state, students attending college out of their home state will need some of these documents for each state.

FERPA Release – Once you are a college student, no matter your age, you are an adult!

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal law that affords parents the right to have access to their children’s educational records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records. When a student turns 18 or enters a postsecondary school (no matter their age), FERPA rights transfer from the parents to the student.


For more information, please see:


Most colleges will invite you to sign a FERPA release. This allows parents to talk with the bursar’s office about the student’s accounts and bills. It also allows people the student designates to access certain academic information or to attend meetings with deans, professors, or advisors. It’s important


Each college or university is required to issue an annual notice, sometimes called the annual privacy notice or annual FERPA notice. These typically appear on the college’s website. These notices tell parents if and in what circumstances colleges may release some information without a student’s consent. This often includes directory information such as the student’s name, graduation year, major, and, possibly, address information. Students in therapy will not find their therapist’s treatment notes, nor law enforcement records, if they were not shared with the college. However, some colleges have a policy that parents will be notified in the event a student is felt to be a safety risk to him or herself or others.


Parents and students need to have a conversation to reach an understanding about what personal educational information students will share in college. The conversation should include grades, continued scholarship eligibility, drugs, alcohol, sex, roommates, finances and more. Students need to take responsibility for reading their email in a timely manner, asking for help as needed to handle the various tasks required of them by their college. Both students and parents need to keep in mind that, from the college’s perspective, the student is the primary person.


This might be challenging since the pandemic restrictions eliminated a number of opportunities for young people to learn and grow and make the kinds of mistakes young people learn so much from. 


HIPAA Release 

HIPAA is a federal law (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). HIPAA regulates the disclosure of patient health information. A HIPAA release is a narrow document in that it only permits healthcare providers to disclose your student’s healthcare information to you or anyone they specify.

Once a child turns 18, s/he is a legal adult. Therefore, s/he has privacy rights and healthcare providers are limited regarding their ability to share that information. In short, should your adult child have a health problem and land in the hospital, for example, without a HIPAA release, the hospital is unable to even tell you whether your child is under their care. This document alone will often suffice to get information from the healthcare institution treating your adult child. In a HIPAA authorization or release, young adults can stipulate that they don’t want to disclose information about sex, drugs, mental health, or other details that they prefer to keep private. As with the broader healthcare proxy, a HIPAA release can include a Living Will.


Living Will/ Advance Medical Directive

A living will is a legal document that details how you prefer to receive medical treatment in the event you are not able to make decisions for yourself. This document instructs healthcare providers about your wishes and shields your loved ones from having to make difficult choices about your care. Each state has a living will form or defines specifics to be included in a living will. Abiding by your state's requirements is essential in order to ensure that your living will be enforceable.


Medical Power of Attorney/Health Care Proxy


A Medical Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy authorizes someone to make medical decisions on someone else's behalf, giving the person appointed access to medical records and the ability to converse with their healthcare providers. By appointing you as their healthcare proxy, your adult child is enabling you to act on their behalf in making medical decisions in the event that they are unable to make those decisions for themselves.

Each state has different laws that govern the execution of a medical POA or healthcare proxy; for example, state laws differ on whether a medical proxy has to be notarized or merely witnessed. Therefore the legal form you sign will be specific to the state where it will be used. HIPAA authorization is rolled into the standard medical proxy form in many states. In addition, a healthcare proxy can include a Living Will, or you can execute a separate document stating your wishes for end-of-life medical treatment.


Now that your child is 18, s/he should register to vote in their state of legal residence. Should s/he choose to vote in their home state and district, register there. Students can alternatively register to vote where they live while at college. Arranging to vote by mail is important.




At age 18, a ten-year US passport can be issued. Students who hope to study abroad or go on a mission or service trip outside the US are advised to get a passport when they start college. Getting a passport takes time; it is not a task that can be completed last minute.


Wednesday, April 24, 2024