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Category: Team Insight

Insight Alma Mater: Penn State

For people who grew up in State College, Pennsylvania, applying to Penn State is a no-brainer. Like so many college towns, the university is the lifeblood of our little community. Businesses follow the beats of the semester, locals (affectionately known as “townies”) plan their weekends around avoiding game day traffic, and everyone, regardless of their enrollment status, owns something with a Nittany Lion on it. I was no different. When it came time to apply to colleges, despite my eagerness to leave my hometown, I begrudgingly added Penn State to my list.

 

Insight Alma Mater Penn State

A childhood photo of Melina playing in front of the Old Main

I had decided early on in my high school career that I had wanted to pursue a degree in music but wanted the flexibility to explore more contemporary styles in addition to a classical education. My college list reflected that. Back when recordings and pre-screenings were less ubiquitous, applying to a program meant committing to travel for an audition and preparing to stay the entire day for theory tests, sight-singing assessments, and interviews with faculty. As a result, my college list was small, but targeted, including only a handful of programs: University of Northern Texas, Westminster Choir College, Berklee College of Music, and Penn State (my safety). Armed with a fierce determination to leave Pennsylvania behind, I began working with my studio teacher to prepare and refine my repertoire ahead of auditions.

 

I hadn’t seriously considered Penn State as a viable option when I submitted my application. It was local, it was convenient, and both of my parents worked there (and still do!) as professors. In short, it was boring. I changed my mind the day I set foot on campus for my audition.

 

Penn State was one of my first auditions, but it was the most memorable. As soon as I entered the School of Music, I was greeted by a flurry of student volunteers – familiar faces, as I had gone to high school with many of them myself. The audition room was no different. Instead of feeling nervous, I looked across the row of faculty panelists and found people I had grown up with. I had seen Dr. Spivey attend our school plays and choir concerts and Professor Jayne Glocke regularly sang in the church I attended every Sunday. I had seen Professors Trost and Kennedy perform in a beautiful trio with my then voice teacher, and Dr. Kiver had led an inspiring conducting workshop at my high school’s annual Maroon and Grey concert. When it came time for my interview and mock voice lesson, I immediately felt at ease. Even though I hadn’t attended yet, Penn State was already my community.

 

Starting with a comfortable audition is the best way to gear up towards the big one. But as each subsequent audition passed, I found myself coming back to reflect on that first experience. As the weeks went on, I felt a growing sense of anxiety waiting for my decision letter. So much so that even as other acceptances rolled in (including from schools I thought I was dead set on attending), I hardly felt ready to celebrate. By the time my letter from Penn State had finally arrived in the mail, my mind was made. The sense of community I felt from the Penn State School of Music ultimately drove my decision to attend.

 

Through my many conversations with faculty and alums, I got the sense that the music program operated as a tight-knit community. This could not have been truer. Looking back on my college experience, I have always felt supported not just by the voice faculty, but the entire School of Music. The professors are friendly, approachable, and most importantly, invested in student success – you can ask any one of them a question and receive thoughtful answers and feedback. Walking into my jury at the end of each semester (the end-of-semester performance exams), I always felt excited to share what I had been working on with the dedicated team of professors who had all helped me grow as a musician.

Penn State Music Major

Melina performing in Bach’s Lunch

 

Penn State is a large school, but the music department is quite small, which lends itself well to an individualized academic experience. While at Penn State, I had the opportunity conduct independent musicological research, participate in the graduate opera scenes program, premier new music, and even help found Penn State’s first vocal jazz ensemble, a feat that would not be possible without the enthusiasm and support of the faculty. Beyond that, I made life-long friends and gained valuable mentors through close contact with graduate students and upper classmen.

 

While I was very familiar with the University Park before attending – I was practically raised at Fenske Lab – I was delighted to re-discover the campus from a student’s perspective. There’s nothing quite like staying up late studying in the stacks at Patee, meeting up with friends at the Hub, or climbing the trees at Old Main. I was very grateful for the opportunity to explore and establish my independence in the community I had grown up in but had only recently begun to appreciate.

 

While I still might complain about the upsets during THON weekend and roll my eyes when tailgaters cause traffic jams downtown, I secretly (and maybe not so secretly) love it. From townie to Penn Stater to alum, Penn State is, and always will be, my home.

 


Written by Zach Pava

This article is written by Melina Matsoukas.

Melina works as an administrative assistant for #TeamInsight. Other than helping families and making sure everything runs smoothly, she also assists Insight’s Counseling Team in reviewing college applications during admissions season. 

22 amazing years of Insight!

2021, what a year for Team Insight!

We have been so blessed to share so many milestones and journeys with Insight’s students and families over the past 22 years. While 2020 turned all our lives upside down, we have enjoyed a busy year (and some normalcy) this year. Below is a recap of all the fun we had.

 

Team Insight has all been fully vaccinated, and we held a reunion! It was wonderful to see our teammates. Our new teammates met with the Team in-person for the first time! 

 

We were honored to receive Cupertino’s Star Award for Bussiness of the Year!

 

 

Epoch News interviewed our Head of College Admissions Counseling, Purvi Mody, on what students should do to best-prepare themselves in the new college admissions landscape.

 

In the hardest year of college admissions, 8 Insight students were admitted to Stanford’s Class of 2025! While we couldn’t celebrate their excitement in person, we were just as happy to see photos of Counselor Jenny meeting up with our alumni for coffee on UCLA campus.

 

Team Insight took part in the 18th Bay Area Diwali Festival hosted by the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce on a beautiful sunny day. 

 

We also hosted our annual Summer Opportunities Fair, sharing local volunteering, internships, and research programs for high school students and their families!

 

New team members joined us at the end of 2020 as well as throughout 2021. We are so happy to have Meilin, our Senior College Admissions Counselor, and Priya, our College Admissions Counselor!

 

And through it all, we made sure to enjoy our team and spend quality time celebrating the important milestones, such as their first day back to the office!



 

From all of us at Team Insight – Happy Holidays! 

 

Insight Alma Mater: Mitchell Hamline

My decision to attend Mitchell Hamline School of Law (MH) in Saint Paul, Minnesota started out as just a marriage of convenience. When I applied, all I knew as a Bay Area native was that Minnesota was home to Jesse Ventura, who had made his way from working as a pro wrestler to being the governorAnd I knew nothing about MH; I believe I first received contact from the school among others after taking the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) 

 

Sorting through acceptances, I ultimately chose the one which made me the most generous offer, which happened to come from MH. They had offered me a full-tuition scholarship for all three years of law school and also awarded me funding for a position as a research assistant for a professor. I could not resist such a lure. Decision made, I packed my bags for a place I had never visited and did not know much about. It would change my life! 

 

Fall Color Insight Alma Mater Meilin

From the start, the faculty was very willing to share their wealth of knowledge when I would drop by during office hoursSometimes you gain the most valuable insights by simply being in the presence of others who are wise. This sort of mentoring by osmosis is valuable beyond measure. Being able to observe a master of a craft was actually one of the biggest perks of working as a research assistant. Not only did I have the pleasure of seeing how a professor prepared for publication (and I saw my name in print within a footnote for the research I did, whoo-hoo!!!) this professor shared personal advice and anecdotes which have resonated throughout my life 

 

By the way, law school involves infinite bouts of reading. As in, reading more than you might have ever imagined a human doing. And, as you may or may not know, law school classes are indeed conducted in the Socratic method; you sit in a classroom assembled around a podium as your professors alternately lecture and ask you questions about cases – you must answer based on your careful reading and analysis beforehand – to draw out your critical thinking. After the first year, I also had the opportunity to take courses which were smaller and more intimate.  

Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Meilin shares her experience in Law School

 

Active as a leader for several clubs, I also had the benefit of relying on faculty as club advisors. My club advisors were generous enough act as sounding boards and even make introductions for me so that I could recruit attorneys for events and projectsI very much appreciate not only their academic roles as professors but being able to spend time to get to know them, one by one. Due to the positive reputation of the law school, when I made partnerships beyond campus, it was very easy to build connections to ultimately provide wonderful opportunities to my club members and the law school population as a whole, since my clubs’ activities and events attracted students and faculty. 

 

My fellow classmates were an energetic, lively bunch! Most of them were from the Midwest but there were plenty of students from the coasts also. Law school students occupied graduate school housing, which was right next to campus, and very close to the law school. This might not matter much if you are in a temperature climate, but, in the middle of cold, cold winters and torrential rains, every step matters. 

 

Law school is an explicitly professional training ground. I believe MH gave me excellent preparation to work in the legal profession. The law school offered practicums and clinics. As a student attorney, I represented the interests of children in the foster system, whose parents were facing the termination of parental rights. In my practicum, I worked as an intern in local government which ultimately led to a job offer upon graduation. 

 

Personally speaking, have made use of my MH education in my work life and as a volunteer for various good causes. MH gave me the opportunity to directly immerse myself into a new professional universe. For that, I am forever grateful.  

 

P.S. Disclaimer: meeting famous people is not a sufficient reason to attend law school but…eventually, I shook Jesse Ventura’s hand at campus event!  

 


Written by Meilin Obinata

This article is written by Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Meilin Obinata.

Meilin Obinata is a Senior College Counselor who enjoys learning from her students. She believes education is a creative endeavor and creates a space that allows students to explore new ideas. As a Bay Area native who grew up in Santa Cruz, she is familiar with the local schools. Read her full bio here.

Insight Alumni Shared Their Stories

How Covid-19 Has Impacted Insight Alumni

This is a special one. At a time of uncertainty for all of us, five former Insight graduates have taken the time to share the details of their experiences in college during the pandemic. There have been highs and lows and their experiences range from adjusting to the challenges of returning home again unexpectedly during freshman year to dealing with the uncertainty that surrounds college graduation and finding a job in an evolving climate.

 

Thank you to everyone for your contributions and for sharing this invaluable information, which will be especially impactful to current high school students and to those heading to college for the first time next fall.

 

Drishaan

High School Class of 2019

University of Michigan

Major: Computer Science (declaring in Fall 2021)

 

I recently concluded my freshman year at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I returned home to the Bay Area this spring after all in-person classes were moved to remote instruction. Michigan’s administration aimed to take a proactive rather than reactive approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and began discussing online class formats before there were any confirmed cases in the state or on campus. On Wednesday after we returned from Spring Break (March 11), all students and faculty received an email that classes for the remainder of the week would be canceled, and that remote instruction would begin the following week and continue through the end of the semester. This kicked off a whirlwind of events as thousands of students and staff members on campus had to immediately adapt to the new situation. Our Housing Department kept the dorms and dining halls open for students but strongly urged that we leave campus. My friends and I all moved out of our dorm within the next 4 days and returned to our homes before online classes started that Monday.

It was definitely difficult to cut my traditional freshman year experience short and balance saying goodbye to all of my friends while also juggling packing and storing my items in a matter of hours.

Thankfully, all of my professors were very understanding in the midst of this unprecedented transition and supported me with homework extensions, updated exam formats, and truncating course syllabi. The University also offered a partial refund on housing to students who moved out of the dorms by the end of March. The biggest stress reliever for me was the introduction of a new Pass/Fail grading system that the University implemented to avoid negative penalties for students whose grades might have been affected throughout this time. Those in charge of my extracurricular activities also tried to remain active as we navigated the transition to students being off-campus. I am a part of the student government, and we began to conduct all of our meetings virtually. Similarly, I am on the Web Team of the school newspaper, and fortunately, we have been able to continue to work on individual projects remotely.

Obviously this rapid change has been confusing, scary, and unexpected, but I also feel very well supported by Michigan’s administration and faculty.

Stay healthy, and Go Blue!

 

Adam

High School Class of 2018

Case Western Reserve University

Major: Nutritional Biochemistry & Metabolism

 

Hello all! My name is Adam and I attend Case Western Reserve University, where I major in Nutritional Biochemistry and Metabolism with a minor in Business Management.  I recently finished my sophomore year and had concluded my wrestling season right before the COVID-19 outbreak.

All of my classes from that point on were online, and I was given the option of Pass/Fail or to receive grades.

This has been a challenging time as I had to adjust to working at home; typically I study in the library on campus. All of my classes resumed via Zoom meetings, which required an adjustment but ultimately was pretty laid back. One of my professors even hosted a cooking session after class, which was fun. Ultimately, everyone is in the same position right now, and I feel that my professors were very understanding.

Rather than counting down the day for things to return to normal, I used my time to be productive myself.

I have kept busy by studying for the DAT (dental admissions test), exercising, and organizing my materials and room to study.  There are various ways that students can be productive during this time, including virtual volunteering, learning something new online, and exploring a hobby like art, cooking, or exercise.

 

For any personal tips or advice, feel free to reach out!

 

Vincent 

High School Class of 2018

UCLA

Major: Computer Science

 

On the last Friday of winter quarter in early March, all students at UCLA received an email informing us that the administration had decided to give remote instruction through the entire spring quarter. I was eating dinner with my friends at the time, and while in the back of our minds we knew that this was inevitable given the circumstances, it didn’t hit us until then that we would not be seeing each other for half a year until the next school year in late September, at the earliest.

The next week was finals week, and while finals week already is almost unbearably stressful, I also had to worry about moving out on short notice and making sure that all my business was in order before leaving my dorm for the last time.

It wasn’t until I had arrived home, had taken my online finals, and had spent a few days relaxing that I could reflect and think about the impact that the Coronavirus outbreak would have on my college life. Like most students, I will be moving into an apartment during my third year. This reality meant that I would be missing the last quarter of my opportunity to live on campus in the dorms.

I would be missing my last quarter of enjoying the renowned UCLA dining hall food, living next to all my friends, the late-night work sessions in the common rooms, the conversations in the bathrooms; in essence, I would be missing part of the quintessential college experience. I wouldn’t get to finish any of the year-long projects I had worked on for my clubs, or even have a proper send-off for the graduating seniors, who have probably had the toughest experience out of all the students.

Taking a moment to think about how I’m only in college for a few short years, this realization was honestly pretty depressing. Being locked up at home during spring break instead of seeing all my high school friends as I expected did not help either. However, I am hopeful that good results will come from this experience. I know that I have invaluable time in college still to come, and I hope that I can make the most of it after learning the hard way how precious time is. As I continue to think about what has transpired, I have learned a lot about myself.

 

Uma 

High School Class of 2016

University of Southern California

Major: Accounting

 

As a senior in college, Covid-19 significantly changed the reality of my last few months in school. Leaving USC to live at home has regrettably taken away the chance to say goodbye to my friends, roommates, and professors. It also altered a number of milestone experiences that I was looking forward to. Although USC postponed in-person commencement activities in favor of a virtual celebration, it didn’t feel the same. Zoom classes during the spring were at times tricky due to connectivity issues, but what I missed most were the classroom and school spirit.

That being said, I’ve noticed that I and many other seniors have learned to adjust to our new reality. And while I understand that this was not ideal for us, it had to be done.

We’ve learned to use other means of staying in touch with our loved ones and continued to adapt throughout the spring, and now into the summer. These circumstances have brought teachers and students closer together in a way, as we all mutually shared the frustrations that came with online classes.

Although this season was rough at times and not what I anticipated, the communal effort of everyone coming together made it easier.

 

Disha

High School Class of 2015

UC Riverside

Major: Economics/Administrative Studies

I graduated in March 2020, just as COVID had started to affect schools and the workforce. I count myself incredibly lucky to have graduated when I did, though this timing definitely presented its own challenges.

UC Riverside pivoted to online instruction during finals, and hiring was slowing as I was interviewing for full-time jobs at the time. I also had to figure out how to pack up an entire apartment alone and move home for good in the matter of a few days.

During this time, I realized the importance of a support system. Isolating alone, across the state from my family, and during such a critical and anxiety-inducing time in my academic career, would not have been possible if I hadn’t reached out and asked for help when I needed it. It also showed me the value of all of the preparation that I had done throughout my college career.

I would have had a much harder time finding a job during these conditions if not for the steps I had taken months and even years in advance.

Here are a few things that I did that I believe helped me to get a job during uncertain times:

 

1. Apply for jobs before the recruiting season begins, and apply aggressively. 

I started my job applications the August before I graduated, which put me in the job applicant pool before many of my peers. When you apply for your first job out of college, only a small fraction of applications will lead to interviews. For perspective, I applied to more than 500 jobs and got around 10 interviews. During the months leading up to graduation, I had a goal to apply to at least 20 new jobs a day. This helped me hold on to my head start when COVID started to affect job prospects.

2. Don’t underestimate the power of informational interviews. 

The most valuable advice I have received at the beginning of my career has come from asking people in my industry about what they would recommend I do to set myself up to succeed.

3. Don’t be shy at your internship! 

Introduce yourself to everyone you can at your company. Ask a million questions. Set up coffee chats with people who have the kind of role you hope to have in the future. Take on challenging projects that you’re not sure you can handle – then work hard, learn lots, and meet the challenge! Your internship can be one of the most important places to grow, put your skills to work, and figure out what you want your future to look like. Take advantage of it.

 

Concluding words

Thank you so much to our wonderful former students who took the time to contribute their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, both positive and negative. This has been an unprecedented time for everyone, young and old, and your advice to younger students and to your peers is invaluable. Remember, we all have to make choices every day that impact our lives and the lives of those around us. This has been a time of growth and a time you will likely remember for the rest of your lives. Think about your choices, reflect on what has worked and what has not, and know that the team at Insight is always heard to support you.

 


Written by Zach Pava

These interviews were conducted by Insight Senior Counselor Zach Pava.

Zach has guided hundreds of students throughout the college admissions process. His extensive writing background includes essay contributions online and in print, sports blog work, and film reviews. He heads up our Boston Insight Office. Contact us to schedule an initial consultation with Zach today.

How to find your college match if you have learning challenges

Finding Your College Match If You Have Learning Challenges

Have you ever wondered how to find a good college match if you have learning challenges?  In order to answer that question and provide insight, I conducted interviews via email and phone with Gabrielle E. Miller, Ed.D., Assistant Vice Provost, Learning Services and Executive Director of the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques (SALT) Center at the University of Arizona and Julie Yindra, Director of Student Access Services at Hofstra University.  Both of these women are experts in the field of university services for students with learning challenges at two of the most highly rated and respected university programs for students with learning challenges.  Dr. Miller and Ms. Yindra provide invaluable insights into how to choose a college if you have learning challenges and offer details about their university’s programs for students with learning challenges.

 

What are some tips to find a good college match for students with learning challenges? 

Dr. Miller:  With thousands of colleges to choose from, finding the right fit can feel like an overwhelming task, especially if you don’t know where to start or what to ask. That’s why, even before diving into the college search process, I recommend that students with learning challenges spend some time asking themselves some questions to ensure they have a good sense of what they will need from a college.

As students reflect on their past educational experiences, they might start by asking themselves questions like: What types of academic support and adjustments have I found to be helpful thus far? Do I need extra test time, tutoring, study apps, regular meetings with an advisor? Do my parents or teachers have anything else to add? Write down the responses and start organizing them making special note of those things which are most important to you. Also, ask yourself about the type of college experience you would like to have. For example: Do I want to attend a school near my family or go out-of-state? Do I want to attend a school specifically for students with LDs or would I be more comfortable at a traditional college?

This self-reflection exercise will help form the basis of an individualized checklist that you can use to narrow down your selection and then take to colleges to make sure that their level of support matches up with your unique needs.

After having asked themselves some tough questions, the next step I recommend is for students to turn around and start asking probing questions of the colleges they are considering. These days, a lot of information can be gathered quickly online or with the help of college guidebooks. Other insightful details you’ll need to contact the colleges to get. You can use a spreadsheet or notebook to keep your findings organized.

knowing your needs and asking universities the right questions can help

Here are some additional questions you might find useful while remembering to adapt them to your personal circumstances.

        • How often do students meet with support staff or tutors?
        • Are the staff and tutors specifically trained or experienced in working with students with learning and attention challenges?
        • What percentage of students graduate within 6 years?
        • How many students attend this school?
        • What kind of sports and extracurricular activities are available?
        • Is support available for online classes?
        • How long has the school or support program been around?
        • What degrees does the school offer?
        • Is the school well known or ranked for my major?
        • How do you help students as they prepare to transition into the workplace or graduate school?
        • What is the average starting salary of recent graduates?
        • What is the surrounding community like?
        • Can I come and tour the campus and different programs?
        • Can I talk to students enrolled in the program or alumni to get their perspective?

Ms. Yindra:  Go visit the campus, ask to meet students, ask to meet with the office that provides accommodations—the manner in which they offer accommodations, and how, makes a big difference.  If they begrudgingly hand you a form to fill out or if they are truly interested in helping and getting to know you, makes a big difference. 

Many communities have private K-12 schools for students with learning challenges.  Take advantage of these schools as resources and ask them where they’re sending their students to college.

In addition to visiting campuses, use the Click Test. 

The Click Test is going on a university’s website and figuring out how many clicks it takes to get to the learning challenges part of the school’s website.  This can be very telling.  Is the learning challenges page of the website front and center or does it take many clicks to find it?

how many click does it take you to the information you need

Also, search for colleges that are looking for students with learning challenges.  Reach out to someone who works in the learning challenges program and they should get back to you.  The speed with which they get back to you can also be very telling.

What specifically does the SALT Center offer for students with learning challenges?

Dr. Miller:  The SALT Center offers a suite of comprehensive services designed to maximize student engagement and success at the University of Arizona.

For most of our students, this success grows out of a close relationship with their specific Student Support Specialist, an experienced professional that meets with them every week to implement an individualized learning plan, help them explore study strategies, stay organized, and navigate the complex college environment.

Students also benefit from our robust array of tutoring services. With around 100 peer tutors on staff, we’re able to offer one-on-one and small group tutoring appointments for almost any undergraduate class at convenient times throughout the week. Students can also visit our drop-in tutoring labs for help with most reading, writing, math, science, and business courses. Our CRLA certified tutors are specifically trained to help students with learning and attention challenges and endeavor to create a learning environment that facilitates independent and lifelong learning.

know what support the university can offer you

Another popular service that we offer is our educational technology support. Students can consult with a student Tech Coach or the Educational Technology Coordinator for help with a specific tech concern or explore different apps and tech tools to get better organized or study more effectively.

For students experiencing significant emotional health concerns, we’re able to offer our in-house psychological services. Generally, our psychological team assists with issues related to anxiety, depression, stress, grief and loss, substance abuse, sleep disorders, and managing life in college. These confidential meetings with qualified staff provide students with a clinical assessment, treatment plan, additional supportive strategies, and if deemed necessary, referral for outside resources.

Throughout the semester we also put on a variety of workshops designed to give students the opportunity to learn new skills and academic strategies, provide a better understanding of their learning challenges, and explore ways to adapt learning strategies to best suit their individual learning styles.

In addition to our core offerings, students are also provided with various opportunities to develop their social and leadership skills in both formal and informal settings. These include regular outings with a member of the university faculty, career readiness events provided with assistance from SALT Center alumni, small-group social skills workshops for students needing additional focused support, and opportunities for employment as a SALT Center Ambassador, Peer Tutor or Tech Coach.

What specifically does the Program for Academic Learning Skills (PALS) offer for students with learning challenges?

Ms. Yindra:  PALS is a comprehensive fee-based program.  PALS pairs students with a Learning Specialist.  Students have regular one on one meetings with their Learning Specialist to discuss better ways to write a paper, better ways to study for a test, etc.  They really do a deep dive into the student and get to know the student well.  Learning Specialists do not necessarily tutor in a particular subject per se, but it is the job of the Learning Specialist to make sure the student gets connected with a tutor from whatever particular subject the student is struggling with.  The Learning Specialist helps with learning skills and acts as the student’s caseworker and helps them coordinate all of their support team.  Learning Specialists help students organize and manage their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly schedules, etc.

What sets the SALT Center apart from other universities’ support services for students with learning challenges?

Dr. Miller:  Since our founding in 1980, our approach has been widely recognized as one of the most effective in helping undergraduates thrive in higher education. I feel that much of this success is a result of our unique position as one of the world’s only comprehensive academic support programs housed within a top tier research university.

As an integral part of the university community, we have long been at the forefront of developing and pioneering research-informed interventions. We have strong national and international research partnerships and a history of collaborating with researchers from around the globe. Bartlett Labs, our in-house research division, orchestrates these efforts and strives to ensure that our students are benefitting from the resulting discoveries.

As part of our commitment to providing students with the highest quality support, we also make it a priority to invest heavily in the professional development and continuing education of our staff. We work closely with our campus community of educational and wellness practitioners to provide relevant training and opportunities for collaboration and exchange. Additionally, we are continually evaluating our approach and processes adjusting them to ensure that we are not only in compliance with best practices but setting a new standard for excellence.

Lessons gleaned from decades of LD research inform everything we do all the way down to the design and construction of our award-winning, 21,000 square ft., building. Our center was custom built to meet the unique needs of our staff and students and integrates the latest in educational technology systems, collaborative work areas, and modular learning spaces spread over three different levels.

SALT is a program by university of arizona

Students at the SALT Center also have the benefit of attending a university filled with some of education’s brightest minds from across the academic spectrum. Most professors are keenly aware of our efforts and are eager to learn how they can enhance their instruction to better work with students who learn differently. To amplify our impact and raise awareness of our mission, we regularly meet with instructors and advisors from across campus, holding training and forging partnerships that open doors for our students to be better understood and valued as important members of the learning community.

The last thing that I would say sets our program apart is the degree to which we partner with students to foster their self-awareness, confidence, resilience, and growth.

Many of our students view the SALT Center as their second home and spend several hours a week with us where they are taught to embrace their hardships and learn from their failures. A growth mindset is at the heart of everything we do, and we often hear from alumni that their time at the SALT Center altered the trajectory of their lives giving them the self-confidence and attitude to thrive as adults.

Click Here to Learn More About SALT.

What sets PALS apart from other universities’ support services for students with learning challenges?

Ms. Yindra:  The way that PALS is structured—it is a very long-term commitment.  Many students meet with their Learning Specialist all four years, while others attend regular meetings for the first year and then feel confident enough to tackle the rest of college on their own. 

However, PALS is always there for students with learning challenges.  When you’re a junior or senior and applying for an internship or a graduate program, PALS Learning Specialists will write recommendations for students, etc.

Another thing that sets PALS apart is that it is embedded in the campus community at Hofstra, where we communicate and collaborate across all departments at Hofstra.  The Learning Specialist is not only in close communication with the student but also with tutors and all across campus.  This sets PALS apart from other programs.  Our PALS program generates an 85% success rate in terms of freshman to sophomore year retention.  The graduation rate of students in the PALS program is the same as, or sometimes slightly higher than, the graduation rate of the general population at Hofstra.

Click Here to Learn More About PALS.


Written by Jason Katz

This interview article was conducted and written by Insight Counselor Jason Katz.

Jason has helped hundreds of students gain admission to their best-fit universities. In addition, he wrote more than 170 college admissions/college life columns for the Palo Alto Daily News and the San Jose Mercury News. 

20 wonderful years of Insight!

This year, 2019, Team Insight celebrated 20 wonderful years! 

We have been so blessed to share in the pivotal moments and journeys of so many wonderful students and families over the past 20 years, and 2019 was no different! We have enjoyed a busy year, below is a small snapshot of all the fun we have had.

 

We held our first college counseling seminar in Boston, celebrating the opening of our office in Newton:

 

We also hosted two college admissions seminars for high school students at our office in Cupertino, with NBC Bay Area filming one and releasing a story about it on the nightly news: 

 

Team Insight took part in many community events including presentations at Kasier, for the YMCA and Cupertino chamber, and at the India West college fair: 

 

We also enjoyed some college visits: 

 

And celebrated student successes:

 

We had some amazing new team members join us this year, including Jenny and Jason, our new counselors and essay specialists! 

 

And through it all, we made sure to enjoy our team and spend quality time celebrating the important milestones: 

From all of us at Team Insight – Happy Holidays! We can’t wait to see where the next 20 years takes us.

Insight Alma Mater: UC Berkeley

Welcome back to Insight Alma Mater! For those of you that haven’t ready last weeks blog, written by counselor Jenny Huang, make sure you go back and read that one first as today’s story picks up right where that one left off. Insight Alma Mater – UC Santa Barbara. 

 

FLASHBACK TO TRANSFERRING
When I attended UCSB, I didn’t plan on transferring to UC Berkeley.  Really, I didn’t plan on transferring. Period.  However, in-a-blink-of-an-eye, I transferred to Berkeley, which reshaped my perception of college.

 

SO MANY NEW EXPERIENCES!
When I came to Berkeley, I was very shocked with how different it was from Santa Barbara.  Countless boba shops replaced Blenders (a fantastic smoothie shop in SB); a cool, NorCal breeze replaced the warm, SoCal sun; and the hilly, pedestrian-filled campus replace the flat, skateboard-friendly campus I was used to.  There were so many changes—how do I adapt to all of them?

 

My answer: trying my best to embrace these changes, meaning trying out unique activities offered at Berkeley.  For example, I always wanted to learn how to dance, but I never had the opportunity to; thus, one semester, I joined a dance team on Berkeley campus.  Performing during showcase was one of the most memorable memories I have at Berkeley. I heard that Berkeley offers DeCals, which are school-approved classes, run by students who are passionate about a certain subject that they would like to teach other students; for a semester, I taught a beginner language and culture class. I’ve also taken other Decal classes at Berkeley to learn more about topics I was curious about. Lastly, navigating Berkeley as a transfer student wasn’t the easiest for me, so I wanted to help prospective transfer students. Consequently, I joined Starting Point Mentorship Program, where I mentored community college students with transferring to a 4-year institution. By constantly taking advantage of the opportunities present at Cal, it reminded me to be thankful for the many avenues available that I would not have had if I didn’t attend this school.

 

In addition, one humbling lesson I’ve embraced at Cal is reaching out to those around me. Berkeley can be a pretty lonely place without a strong support system. I’m extremely grateful for the people I’ve met through the activities I was a part of. They supported me and carried me during my time at Berkeley. Ultimately, they made the campus feel warmer, despite the cool, NorCal breeze.

 

TOP FIVE TIPS/ADVICE FOR FUTURE BEARS
1. You were accepted for a reason— you are with some of the brightest minds, so it is easy to feel that you aren’t good enough.  However, remember that the admission officers chose YOU. You deserve to be at this school!!
2. Be involved (but don’t bite off more than you can chew)—There are countless clubs, Decals, research opportunities etc. at Cal. I definitely encourage you to try new activities; further your passion in activities you already enjoy etc.  However, don’t bite off more than you can chew! You’ll burn out.
3. Utilize Bear Walk or walk home with a group of friends, especially at night—Always use Bear Walk or walk with friends at night. Carry pepper spray and learn how to use it.
4. It’s a semester system school—You’re learning 15 weeks of material. That’s a lot of material.  Be sure to stay on top off it by reaching out to professors; GSIs; and classmates. Also, don’t waste your RRR week (the week before finals week, where there are no classes).  It’s a great time to reach out to professors and GSIs for last minute questions
5. Above all, build community (through clubs, res hall, classes etc.) and reach out. Your health is most important—Berkeley can be a lonely place if you don’t have a good support system.  Reach out to those people if you are struggling in any way by utilizing office hours; going to academic advising; seeking professional help if need you.

 

Jenny graduating from UC Berkeley!

 

Final Thoughts about Berkeley
While I no longer had the ocean as my backyard in Berkeley, this metaphor still extends to my time there: sometimes the waves were calm, other times the waves were rough.  However, it’s during this time that I grew stronger and became more resilient.

 

Final Thoughts about College
If you read my post about my experience at UCSB, you’ll realize that the “final thought” section is quite similar: no matter which college you attend, it won’t always be smooth-sailing. 

In addition, I tried to emphasize the importance of community. Some of my most memorable college experiences involved having a meaningful conversation with someone on the beach; going out to club events; and being present with people who I care about.  They’ve helped me become a better version of myself, so the social aspect of college is as important as the academic component of college. 

Lastly, given my experience of being an undergraduate student at two amazing yet very different colleges, I can’t stress how important it is to choose the right college for you: this means reaching out to alum and hearing about their experience; visiting the college and attending a campus tour; maybe even asking a professor if you can sit in on a class sometime.  By trying to discern this now, you’re headed in the right direction for a worthwhile college experience…Good luck, and I wish you the best!

 

Insight Alma Mater: UC Santa Barbara

Welcome back to the Insight Alma Mater blog series! The story you’re about to read is one with an unexpected ending – make sure you return to our blog this time next week to find out what happens! Below is Insight Counselor Jenny Huang’s experience at the University of Santa Barbara. 

 

FLASHBACK TO SENIOR YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL
Growing up in a competitive area, I was sucked into believing I had to attend the top universities in the nation; otherwise, I “failed” (Jenny, 4 years later: THIS IS NOT TRUE.  Regardless of which school you end up attending, make the most of your time there, and you will significantly increase your chances of having a fulfilling experience.  Anyway…let’s flash back to my senior year of high school).  Thus, I somewhat begrudgingly attended UCSB. 
 
However, when I entered the dorm room on move-in day, a mesmerizing ocean view welcomed me in–the beach was literally across the street from my dorm! That set the tone of the next two years of my time at UC Santa Barbara. 

The view outside Jenny’s dorm at UCSB

 

“I GAUCHO BACK”
If you become a Gaucho, you’ll quickly learn the schools’ motto: “I gaucho back.” If I had to sum up my UCSB experience in one phrase, it would fittingly be that phrase; the people around me generally tried their best to exemplify this statement.

Professors and TAs? I GAUCHO BACK.   While I evidently can’t speak on behalf of all the departments at SB, the professor and TAs in the Linguistics and Chinese departments were always available during office hours. They were so approachable and never belittled me for asking questions.

Mentors? I GAUCHO BACK. I’ve been blessed with an incredible mentor who has helped me in so many ways, from giving me advice to being the listening ear I needed.

Friends? I GAUCHO BACK. During my two years at SB, I was part of two organizations. These individuals have been some of the encouraging people I have met in my life. One friend, bless their soul, biked to my dorm at 3am, just to comfort me. Through the love they bestowed on me, it encouraged me to be more loving to those around me.     

Of course, my time at SB wasn’t always calm. There were definitely challenging times, where the waves were rough; however, I was able to overcome the rockier times because of the people I’ve been lucky to meet. That, above all, is what I remember about my time at SB. 

Downtown Santa Barbara

 

TOP FIVE TIPS/ADVICE FOR FUTURE GAUCHOS….
1.  Don’t be fazed by other peoples’ opinions—Unfortunately, there are some stereotypes about UCSB.  However, this is your college experience, and you can choose which activities you want to participate in. So do not be ashamed, and hold your head high, future Gaucho!  
2. Take advantage of Surfing/Sailing Lessons/Whale Watching/Kayaking—Campus Point and/or Downtown SB offer these activities; you might even get a discount if you bring a valid Student ID.  If only I had known this sooner, I could have gone whale watching! But of course, be safe!
3. It’s a quarter system school—Classes are 10 weeks, and depending on your major, it could be packed with midterms and tests. Stay on top of your work, and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
4. Blenders, McConnell’s, and Freebirds are must tries—Smoothies, ice cream, and great Mexican restaurants are close to the school. Be mindful of what you consume in your body, but these are wonderful treats after a midterm or final!
5. Be open to change, but don’t change your core values College is a time to explore your interests, passions, and character.  I was able to broaden my perspective by trying new experiences, and I became a more emphatic person by being exposed to people from diverse perspectives. At the same time, I’ve held to my core values amidst it. In doing so, I kept myself grounded.

 

Beauty all around at UC Santa Barbara!

 

Final Thoughts
My time at UCSB was like the ocean (I mean, I was literally across the ocean)…sometimes, the water was calm. Sometime, the waters were like big waves, swallowing me up.  However, I learned to reach out to those around me, and I found that people will try their best to pull me to shore.  But most all, the best thing you can do is soak it all in before it’s gone.

 

….‘Cause you know, my time at SB suddenly ended two years earlier than I expected.

 

Want to know what happens next? We’ll see you back here this time next week! 

All the best,
Team Insight

Insight Alma Mater: Seattle University

We are back with one of our favorite blog series here at Insight, the “Insight Alma Mater”! Client Operations Manager Casey Shook attended Seattle University and tells a compelling story of her journey during first semester. Read on below! You can also learn more about Seattle U on their Facebook, and Instagram

 

“Can’t you just attend a local school and live at home?” my parents replied when I told them I’d be applying to college in Seattle. I had lived my entire life (all 17 years at that point) in Silicon Valley and I knew it was time for a change of scenery. I also knew that I wanted my college experience to include small class sizes, an urban setting, and little to no focus on athletics or a Greek system. In other words, there was almost no chance I would be attending school close to home or even in this state. 

 

My high school hosted a number of university representatives during my Junior year, and by sheer luck one of them happened to be from Seattle University. I saw the city name and I added myself to the attendance list, figuring such a musically-renown city might be worth checking out. When I heard the representative discussing the school’s emphasis on social justice and the larger Jesuit Catholic values of “educating the person as a whole” and “academic curiosity as a lifelong habit,” I knew where I would be applying that Fall. In fact, I only applied to one other school but I had no intention of attending anywhere but Seattle U. 

 

What I didn’t know was how unprepared I was for such a transition. Even though I had my heart set on college for most of my life and knew that I would be the first in my family to attend a four-year school, I didn’t realize how much I had romanticized the academic rigor and the freedom of campus life. In other words, I didn’t focus enough on the impact of leaving home and the only people I had ever known. 

 

I knew that my fellow incoming Freshmen and I would hit the ground running in our classes, but my first quarter at Seattle U was more eye-opening, invigorating, and challenging (mentally and academically) than I could have ever imagined. It didn’t help that my grandmother had also lost her fight against cancer just a month after I stepped foot on campus, or that my now-husband and I were only a year into our then-long-distance relationship, so there were several occasions where my roommate would return from class to find me crying on the floor from homesickness. 

 

“Would this be it?” I thought during those dark moments. Would everything I had pursued since elementary school come to an abrupt end after just a month of college? Would my parents get to have me return home and attend a local school after all? Could I entertain the thought of dropping out of something I thought was my dream experience? 

 

Desperate to keep my dream alive, I sought out resources on campus and within my new circle of classmates and acquaintances. I took a chance and joined my school’s radio station, hoping that this small step might help me dive into the famous Seattle music scene, but it actually gave me a chance to get to know people outside of my dorm and my major. Every Friday evening I would get on the air and play whatever I wanted, which mostly consisted of me saying hi to my family and friends back home while playing music from the Bay Area’s local scene. I had started to discover my own way of bridging my past and future and it gave me something to look forward to after a long week of classes and studying.

 

I also made a point to meet with my academic advisor several times, who then referred me to the school guidance counselor for weekly meetings to discuss “directional therapy,” as I called it. Based on the counselor’s advice I took many personality and aptitude tests, did values exercises, and studied career paths of my major at the time (which I ended up changing — twice — since then).

 

My advisor and counselor also helped me find ways to double-down on my studying and I managed to recover from my first failing grade ever (on a midterm in a class I loved), and I learned how to wade my way through those first few academically intense courses that my high school classes could not have prepared me for, despite being Honors and AP-level.  After my first flight home (following my grandmother’s passing), I also realized that I was only a couple of hours away from “home” and all that it meant. With the money I saved from my summer job I saw an opportunity to fly back every quarter or more often if needed. 

 

I eventually opened up to the other students on my floor, eventually forming life-long friendships with amazing folks from across the country who gave me better advice than I thought possible of kids my age. My dorm building was on the far side of campus so my floormates-turned-friends and I would walk over to the cafeteria in a huddle every night for dinner; this helped us to not only stay warm in the frigid Fall temperatures but to provide comfort as we all adjusted to our new home away from home.

 

During our first finals week we were all packing up for our three-week winter break and I remember being asked if I was coming back in January. Without hesitation I said yes; it was in that moment I realized that by giving myself this chance to try (and very possibly fail) I finally felt like I was truly flourishing and growing. 

 

Casey at High School Graduation

College Graduation

Casey visiting the college radio station (then KSUB, now KXSU) at 10-year reunion

 

World Book Day: Team Insight’s Favorite Reads!

Team Insight is excited to be celebrating World Book Day this April 23, 2019! 

Below is a selection of our favorite books to read and recommend. 

 

Sarah’s Pick: “Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists”

I don’t think minimalism is for everyone (or is it? 😉), but I related deeply to questioning the subconscious motivations rooted in a culture of consumerism that so often drive our actions and major life decisions. When we get down to the “bones” of our life and realize how little we actually “need”, we create space to consider what we actually value in the people we surround ourselves with, the work we put out into the world, and the core values that define a life of meaning and substance.  

 

Casey’s Pick: The Giver, by Lois Lowry” 

I first read this in grade school when we were given the option of selecting from an assortment of Newberry-award winning books, and I have found myself periodically re-reading it over the years. It was my first introduction to dystopian fiction and I’ve been hooked ever since. Long before the Hunger Games or Divergent series, The Giver provided an in-depth look at a society that was painstakingly crafted to function as smoothly as possible but at an immense cost. As someone who eventually went on to study sociology/social psychology, I have always been fascinated by the ideology of the society’s founders, and this book certainly serves as a warning to anyone trying to provide blanket solutions to multilayered, intersectional social issues. 

 

Amy’s Picks: “Unlimited Memory, by Kevin Horsley” 

Think your ability to remember is just something we’re born with? Think again! Our brains are just like any other muscle, and in this book, Horsley walks us through a number of tips and techniques to show us how if we know how to work our brain properly we can remember far more than we imagine! 

 

Amy’s Picks: “Difficult Conversations, by Sheila Heen” 

This book helps us to gain empathy and insight to have better, more productive conversations with the most important people in our lives. Learn to differentiate between the words, the real meaning of the words, and the hidden needs revealed in our toughest yet most important conversations. 

 

Zach’s Pick: “Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella” 

On the surface, it’s a book about baseball, the infamous 1919 World Series, and American history. At its core, however, Shoeless Joe is about following your dreams, defining your values, and family.  It also mixes fantasy elements into an otherwise grounded story of an Iowa farmer, Ray Kinsella, who lives peacefully with his wife and daughter, until one day when he hears a voice in the distance that tells him, “If you build it, he will come.”  This mysterious message leads Ray to build a baseball diamond in his own cornfield. From there, ongoing clues lead him to meet important figures in Boston and Minnesota, before he returns home to find, much to his surprise, catharsis.  

Shoeless Joe was also the inspiration for Field of Dreams, which is its equal in many ways.  It’s one of the all-time great stories about fathers and sons.

 

Christina’s Pick: “The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S Lewis” 

This series stole my heart and mind as a child and this was the first set of books that I remember truly loving. The whimsical aspects swept me into this world of talking animals, kings, queens, war, where good conquers evil took me away into another world that I felt I was a part of. After falling in love with this series, my obsession with reading took on a whole new dimension

 

Purvi’s Picks: “The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho”

This is a beautifully written book that makes you think about your life’s journey and how where you started from can often be more important than anything. This book demonstrates that the journey is as important as the destination and life happens in the moments when we are taken “off course”.

 

Purvi’s Picks: “Becoming, by Michelle Obama” 

This book has captured by heart and I cannot put it down. The truth and vulnerability shared by the past FLOTUS reminds us that perfection is not the goal nor is it actually attainable. Obama worked hard despite the obstacles in her way and relied on her village to help her realize her dreams. I think this is a testament that any person from any background can end up anywhere, including the White House. More than that though, I love that even in all her success, she talked about her fears, her self-doubts, her need for help – hopefully giving others the confidence to believe that you don’t always have to be perfect and you don’t always have to be strong.

 

Jenny’s Picks: “Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen” 

This is a book I re-read regularly.  It shows a picture of strong women in different situations in a time when a woman having her own opinions and expressing them were not common.  It also addresses how biases and judgments can cloud your perception of another person, but also how you can change your mind and create a friendship with someone who you may not have fully understood when you first met. 

 

Jenny’s Picks: “The Chosen, by Chaim Potok” 

A book that explores how friendship can help you find and express your voice in an environment that doesn’t always encourage it.  

 

Helena’s Pick: “The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin” 

Out the outset of this book, the author is very clear that she is not trying to change the world or give someone else a “how to be happy” guide, but rather it is her experiment to see if she can get more out of her own life to be happier and feel more whole. I love the idea of measurable goals that take place within a specific time frame and then being able to evaluate how much they have or have not made a change. Often in life, we may try something once or twice maybe even for a week – and if it doesn’t create lasting change we dump it and move on to the next thing. 

 

In her book, the author demonstrates that by changing little things or in little increments we have the power to make a lasting and impactful change in our own lives, and therefore the lives of those around us. The key isn’t something that the author dictates, rather a tool to see your own life as ever evolving and adapting according to the perceptions and personal rules you allow yourself to be governed by. 

 

Happy Reading! 

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