Jun 062019
 

Why write my essay now?  It’s summer!

What rising high school senior hasn’t asked this question at the end of the highly pressured junior year?  Completing high level courses, perhaps AP or honors, taking ACT or SAT tests, visiting colleges… add in a sport or school play, community service:  this has been a busy year.

Can’t I take a break?

Of course, a breather is important and should be part of a college-bound student’s summer.  Spending some time with friends and enjoying a break from schoolwork are necessary to recharge a student’s batteries.

But targeting the brainstorming, organization and writing of the Comm App essay and the supplemental essays should be part of a rising senior’s summer activities, — even if it’s done under a beach umbrella with a cold soda.

As I mentioned in two previous articles (see below) the essay on the Common Application can make a critical difference in a student being admitted to college:  college admissions officers do read these essays.  This is an opportunity to stand out and become a singular individual, much more than grades, standardized test scores and extracurricular activities.  A student who reveals his/her thoughts, beliefs or personal history in an essay becomes more than the numbers on a transcript.

Crafting a personal essay in a thoughtful, creative way takes time:  time for reflection, brainstorming, writing and careful editing.  Trying to cram the Comm App essay and the supplemental essays into the fall of senior year will likely add pressure to a generally hectic time.

The age-old adage “the early bird gets the worm” really applies in this situation.  Completing the major essay and supplements during the summer frees up the fall for college visits, early admissions or rolling admissions — and can make the critical difference for a student finding a place in a college of his/her choice.

Write the essays this summer and increase your odds — maybe even win the jackpot!

Do College Admissions Officers Really Read the Common Application Essay?

Finding the “Authentic” Voice in a College Admissions Essay

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Check back soon for new articles on writing, speech coaching, executive function skills and speech pathology.

Jan 182019
 

Technology has broken barriers in speech coaching and therapy

Not only has technology revolutionized the work environment for millions of executives, but it has also introduced alternatives for speech coaching, executive skills training and traditional speech language therapy.

In my practice I have incorporated remote therapy using Skype or FaceTime to help clients in all parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester and Rockland counties, as well as other areas of the United States.  Technology has allowed me to assist clients in Israel and various countries in Europe. 

Virtual platforms have broken down the barriers for communication in revolutionary ways. Busy executives can now utilize my services from their home or office, rather than spending valuable time commuting to an appointment.  

Skype and FaceTime works well for adults and adolescents who have active lives and for whom travel makes coaching and therapy difficult or impossible.

My office in Tarrytown, New York still allows clients to meet in person — which may be preferable in some cases.  Phone conferences can augment face-to-face meetings as well.  

Whether you live in Soho, the east or west side of Manhattan, or as far away as Israel, you can access the services of an experienced speech-language pathologist, communications coach and speech writer.

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Check back soon for more articles on communication coaching, executive function, speech pathology and speech writing.

 

Apr 022018
 

Whether speaking or writing the following key points apply for effective business communications:

  • Tailor your message to your audience

If you’re trying to create a dialogue with another individual, consider the interests of the person you’re interacting with: are they receptive to what you have to say?  Do you need to capture their interest?  What expectations will they bring to your message?

  • Be clear and direct in your language

Choose your words carefully to carry your message.  Consider the different ways some words can be misunderstood: semantics matter!  If you mean to convey a humorous tone, make that clear by the words you use.  Avoid sarcasm which can easily be misunderstood and taken negatively.

  • Avoid slang

 Unless you intend to use a “breezy” tone,  utilize standard English words that will not be misunderstood, especially if you are conveying serious information.  In casual conversation slang expressions may be more appropriate, but generally not in business communication.

  • Use the technical vocabulary of your field

 If you want to be perceived as knowledgeable in a particular area, learn the terms specific to the field and use them appropriately in your message.  Avoid generic terms if you can use more specific vocabulary.

  • Avoid flowery, verbose language

Your audience will appreciate language that gets to the point and doesn’t waste time. Remove ambiguity that can occur with extra words or sentences that are vague or repetitive.

  • Always be socially appropriate

 Be gracious in your communications.  Thank people for their time and attention and make it sound like you mean it by choosing socially appropriate language.  Try to personalize your communication by avoiding overused (throwaway) phrases.

  • In face to face speech, match body language with your words

As specific as you may be with your words, be sure you “look” like what you are saying by showing appropriate affect in your facial expression, gestures and posture.  Body language conveys meaning all by itself and can enhance “what” you say.  How” you say it counts as well! 

Polished language in business communication creates successful interactions — the key to success!

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Check back soon for more articles on language, communication, speech pathology, writing and executive function

 

 

 

Sep 122017
 

literate

[lit-er-it]

adjective
1. able to read and write
2. having or showing knowledge of literature, writing, etc.; literary; well-read
3. characterized by skill, lucidity, polish, or the like
4. having knowledge or skill in a specified field
5. having an education; educated; learned
  
Fundamentally, the literate person is a “learned person.”

Computer literate, social media literate, etc.  What does it mean to be “learned” these days?

We live in a constantly changing world. Technology has altered our society in ways as profound as the industrial revolution and the invention of the printing press in previous centuries.  To be literate these days means to have skills that allow for cognitive flexibility, to be able to acquire knowledge in order to change professions at any point in a person’s life.  It also means being able to learn new methods or applications in your field since change will happen in so many areas that formerly were static.

How do we educate our students, as well as our adult selves to deal with this fluid world?

The process begins in the early years of education where critical skills of literacy should be developed. Becoming a fluid reader, thoroughly mastering written and verbal communication and acquiring fundamental math skills should be the basics of education throughout the first 12 years of a student’s life. From the springboard of these skills a student can continue a lifetime of learning in the sciences and humanities.

Despite the trend toward specialized learning, commitment to a career path should not be emphasized in high school.  The curriculum at this point should be developing those skills that will allow a student to continue learning and adapting to a changing environment.  

While the definition of “literacy” includes “having knowledge or skill in a specified field,” the ability to learn and maintain that specialized knowledge requires prerequisites that will foster lifetime learning. Since the technological revolution of computers and the internet, few people will continue to work using the same methods or even engage in the same careers they expect to pursue.

How can adult learners keep up with the changing times?

Maintaining or developing the skills necessary to keep up with innovations in your field or taking a new career path remain essential.  In these changing times the executive function skills of organization, time management, mental flexibility and memory have become necessary tools to maintain “literacy” in our society.

Perhaps the key to this goal of lifetime literacy is fostering and pursuing curiosity about the world and the initiative to explore new areas of knowledge and innovation.  

The cognitive flexibility to continue learning requires a basis: the prerequisites of “literacy” as we now know it so it we can grow with the times and continue to be “literate” in the future.

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Check back soon for more articles on executive function skills, communication, writing and speech pathology.

 

 

Jul 102017
 
  • Isn’t the essay on the Comm App just a formality?

  • Admissions officers can’t possibly read the essay on every application, can they?

Many students and their parents believe that the most important criteria for admission to college are grades and standardized test scores, SAT or ACT.  These are still the most important factors considered by a college admissions office, but more and more students have high grades and strong test scores, the latter thanks to standardized test prep services offered by high schools and private services.  What distinguishes one good student from another?  Extracurricular activities?  True.  But perhaps more importantly, the essay a student writes can grab the attention of a college admissions officer and make the critical difference.

I wrote an earlier article about capturing the authentic voice in a college admissions essay: Finding the”Authentic” Voice in a College Admissions Essay. In that article I quoted an external admissions reader for the University of California at Berkley who wrote about being told to find essays that “express a sense of self and character.”

When a selective college receives applications from many equally qualified students, what will tip the scale for admission?  If you come from a rural community in a less populated state, you may be more appealing to a college seeking geographical “diversity” in its student body. However, given several good students from a concentrated pool in the same geographical location, an admissions officer will try to find mature, committed students who can succeed in the college experience. 

Admissions officers do read the essay on each Common Application, as well as the supplemental essays their school may require, especially when a student has good grades and scores.  

How else will they be able to make a decision between the many qualified students who apply to a select number of well-rated schools? The personal “voice” in the student’s application essay can be the tipping point for admission — as well as financial aid.  

The more similar a student’s profile compared to others in the same geographical area, the more important the Common Application essay and supplements become in the selection process.

For students who may not have the best grades across all subjects or slightly lower standardized test scores, the essays can become the critical factor to draw attention to their personal history, obstacles they may have faced in their lives, as well as their other talents.  Convincing an admissions reader that you can succeed at college and become an asset to their institution may hinge on the “authentic” essay you write.

Far from being a mere formality, a well-crafted, authentic essay can become the key to admission.

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Check back soon for more articles on writing, executive function skills, effective speaking and speech pathology.

 

 

 

Jul 012015
 

TRUE OR FALSE?

  • Writing reports and essays are just requirements for school.
  • Emails don’t count as writing
  • All the grammar and punctuation you learn at school doesn’t apply in today’s technological world.
  • Computer programs and apps can correct mistakes in my writing.

If you believe any of the statements above are “true”, you’re in for a surprise.

Even though a great deal of  business correspondence takes place in the form of email, the fundamentals remain unchanged from the way things have been done for more than a century.  In today’s “real” world, resumes, letters and the traditional forms of business communication that previously took place by snail mail still remain the means for job application and information sharing.

If you apply for a job through an online portal you still need to write a convincing cover letter that makes you a desirable candidate to a potential employer.

If you write a report and email it to your boss, a clearly written document, proofread and without errors, remains the gold standard.

Spell check and grammar check frequently miss errors because the programs fail to identify “real” words (homonyms or homophones) that do not fit appropriately in a particular context.  For example, “There” is a real word, but you may mean “their” and spell check will not make the substitution for you.  The contraction “it’s” is not the same as the possessive pronoun “its” but an app will not catch the error.  Many Android and iPhone users of word prediction can relate embarrassing stories of sending an email that conveyed an entirely different meaning than intended because they didn’t catch the word the app inserted.

Fundamentally, technology functions assistively but computers do not infer a writer’s intention or the logic of an argument.  No computer program creates the sentences that describe a person’s experience or the results of a piece of research.  Technology may even sabotage a well-constructed sentence or paragraph by applying a generic form of spelling or a grammar principle that does not function appropriately in your writing.

In the end, there is no foolproof tool for standard spelling and grammar rules or an assistive device to carefully proofread a document.  Whether mailing a letter or hitting the “send” button, all those sometimes tedious rules of grammar and spelling still count.  In today’s highly competitive world, they count even more.

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Check back soon for more articles on writing, public speaking, speech pathology and executive function skills.

 

 

Jun 022015
 
  • Are the 3 r’s,”reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic” the basics of what one needs to know?

For many years, educators have emphasized “the 3 r’s” as the cornerstone of skills students must have for academic success.  While these remain critical skills, the fourth part of the cornerstone has rarely been given appropriate focus but remains essential for students and later in adulthood. Speaking, the other half of reading/writing, remains a neglected skill in education — but has major significance for students and adults.

Acquiring the ability to find words to express oneself, string them together in phrases and sentences, and articulate these complex sounds with the standard production within one’s spoken language is a process we take for granted.  Only when the process becomes disrupted do we question what is truly a miraculous feature of the human brain and nervous system.

When children have difficulty with developing speech and language — for a variety of reasons — we may come to understand how unique speaking is among all the living species.  So too, only when an adult has an injury or illness that disrupts the normal process of speech and language do we come to realize that these are skills usually taken for granted.

  • What about healthy, educated adults who find expressing themselves difficult?

To those individuals who have difficulty speaking — especially where they’re being judged or evaluated — it may appear that everyone else speaks fluently and easily.  This isn’t the reality, however.  More people have difficulty expressing their thoughts in formal settings than they will admit.  Adding to the pressure to speak well, the contexts for speaking/presenting occur more frequently as one progresses up the professional ladder.

  • Do poor speaking and/or writing skills make a difference in a world where technical knowledge remains most important?

In my practice I have worked with educated, intelligent individuals who need to express their ideas to clients and present their work in public forums.  Even further, they need to create reports and written documents to summarize and illustrate their expertise.

The critical abilities for organizing information and presenting in front of other professionals in a variety of contexts becomes a stumbling block for many people seeking professional development.  The link between the organization of material — focusing on key features (critical for any presentation) — and making a strong verbal presentation involves both writing and speaking skills.

  • Even in our technologically-oriented world, the twin verbal skills of speaking and writing remain critical life skills.

It seems clear that in the 21st century, the “3’r’s” need to be modified to the cornerstone of “3 plus 1”: “reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, and speaking.”  Technology has become an important tool for information management and presentation, but the spoken/written word remains essential.

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Check back soon for more articles on public speaking, writing, speech pathology and executive function skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 132015
 

Winter Lake George.edit

Individualized, corporate workshops can be developed for your company or school.  Feel free to contact me by phone or email: [email protected], or 914-631-5082.

There are no upcoming public workshops scheduled during the winter of 2015 but I frequently post my articles on public speaking, writing, language, cognitive function and speech pathology on the Blog section of the website.

Dec 122014
 
  • Can improving your skills for public speaking make you a better writer?
  • Can improving your writing skills make you a better speaker?

Surprisingly, the answer to both of these questions is YES!

Leaving aside the vocal features and body language critical for public speakers (I’ve written about this topic in previous blog articles), the choice of material, organization and pacing of a presentation — the core of a speech — can be significantly improved by developing one’s writing abilities.  Surprisingly, the reverse is true as well. Becoming more proficient in one aspect of communication can impact positively on another.

The reciprocal gains from this process were tangibly demonstrated to me by a client I’ve been working with for the past year.  In fact, he suggested I write this article as a case study in the crossover effects of improved skills as a speaker and as a writer.

When I work with clients to improve their public speaking, I begin by emphasizing the need to consider the point of view in a speech.  Every presentation (even a report) should forward the speaker’s argument.  A presentation that captures and holds an audience’s attention contains a persuasive  viewpoint.  Good speakers never lose track of their goal and continually ask themselves, “What is the main idea I want to convey?”

Similarly, when writing an article, report, or letter of application, a good writer begins with a “thesis statement.”  As a writer you should be able to answer the question, “What is the theme of my writing — what do I want the reader to learn or understand?”  Following this theme (usually in the first paragraph), every paragraph that follows should be a notch that fits into the whole framework to complete the writer’s thesis, or in other words, the writer’s persuasive argument.

Too many speakers and writers lose this key perspective and never fully develop their speech or piece of writing.    What’s the result?  The audience loses interest and tunes out, while the reader either scans the rest of the piece or stops reading.  In either case, what you have to say or what you’ve written does not succeed.

In the process of working on my client’s presentation skills, the link between gaining proficiency in speaking and writing became evident to him.  I’m pleased to say that he’s received extremely positive reviews on his presentations and numerous invitations to write articles for publications within his field, both of which continue to advance his career.

Some good speakers, as well as good writers, may be born that way, but most of us have to work at perfecting those skills.  Luckily, this seems to be an interactive process!

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Check back soon for more articles on public speaking, writing, executive function skills and speech pathology.

Aug 072014
 

In an article published in the Education Life section of the New York Times last year,  an external admissions reader for University of California at Berkeley wrote:

“…we had been told to read for the “authentic” voice over students whose writing bragged of volunteer trips to exotic places or anything that “smacks of privilege… fortunately, that authentic voice articulated itself abundantly.  Many essays lucidly expressed a sense of self and character…”

The personal statement for the Common App looms over the summer for rising high school seniors and carries over into first semester.  650 words to describe oneself in a meaningful way, a creative, well-written essay that can make the difference in distinguishing one worthy student from another — and perhaps the deciding factor in a student’s admission to a college of choice.

The New York Times article goes on to describe some of the essays as “canny attempts to catch some sympathy with a personal story of generalized misery… the torrent of woe could make a reader numb: not another student suffering from parents’ divorce, a learning difference, a rare disease…”

So how does the average 17 year old find an event or personal philosophy so unique that it will capture the attention of an admissions counselor reading through thousands of applications?

In my work with high school seniors preparing the Comm App essay, the question of what to write about provides the major stumbling point, although the actual writing and editing becomes equally challenging for many students.

Brainstorming for a topic is actually an important process for many students and can lead them to evaluating who they are, what they care about and importantly, what they want to accomplish during their four years of college.

Many students have been blessed by having relatively peaceful years growing up, unmarred by illness, economic problems, catastrophic events.  Does this mean that a student won’t have something relevant to write about in a personal statement?

My advice for a starting point includes these considerations:

  • What do you care about — in your personal life or the larger world around you?
  • Who has influenced you the most as you’ve grown up?
  • Has anything occurred in your life that shook your personal world?  An incident that made you question your thinking about what you believe in or value?
  • What do you feel is unique about yourself? What are you proud of? What has shaped your thinking?

The process of reflection usually generates some ideas and I work with students to shape and organize a written statement.  Only at this point does their writing begin, resulting in a thoughtful essay through several drafts, or even more than one essay so they have a choice.

It may seem like a difficult process — and it is — but it’s not without value.  As a high school student goes off in the world, considering these questions may be an unexpected benefit of this process:  What is it you want to do; what do you care about; who do you want to become? Defining one’s interests and goals at 17, on the brink of starting off in the world, should perhaps be in every student’s personal curriculum.