California Learning Strategies Center

Dear Parent,  
Is your child (8th-11th grade) interested in attending a selective college? 
Top grades, high SAT scores, and leadership in school activities are no longer enough to get your son or daughter accepted.
Selective colleges are looking for students with the initiative and passion to pursue their talents and interests well beyond this level. 
This newsletter addresses the many opportunities summer offers to help students do just that.
Please feel free to pass this newsletter on to interested families, and to contact me with any questions, comments or suggestions.
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Susan Goodkin,
Executive Director
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college graduates

Students can improve their chance of admission to selective colleges by using the summer to. . . 

Find a national competition related to their strengths or interests.
Performing very well in a national competition will help your child stand out from the college applicant pack.

National competitions for high school students cover nearly every subject and interest.  Along with the major math and science competitions (see below), you can find competitions involving the environment, vocabulary, economics and finance, mythology, robotics, computer programming, debate, writing, journalism, languages, and more.   
For example, is your child fascinated by philosophy?  Check out the Kids Philosophy Slam competition,  Does you child love mythology? Look into the Medusa Mythology Exam,
Summer is a good time for students to determine which competitions they might want to enter, to learn about the requirements and deadlines, and to start preparing for the competitions.  
Find a mentor
Is your child an aspiring writer, a young entrepreneur, a theoretical math whiz, an inventor, a budding scientist. . .   Students who have interests beyond the standard curriculum often need outside help to pursue them.  
Mentors can advise students on projects such as writing a novel or screenplay, working on high-level math challenges (including problems to be used as science fair projects), carrying out scientific research, developing a business plan, etc. 
Universities, professional groups, and community groups are all potential sources of mentors.  Young writers should consider asking a local author or journalist to be their mentor. On-line long-distance mentoring is also an option if local mentors can't be found. 
Mentors can be particularly critical for students working on science fair projects. Virtually all the finalists in the Intel Science competition have mentors. For an excellent article on finding a science fair mentor, go to  
Search out opportunities to publish their writing
Many college applicants are interested in writing; few have been published.  Students can distinguish themselves by showing that they have the talent and initiative to get their work published.  
Students can start their research by looking at Writer's Digest, which provides a comprehensive listing of publications and their requirements for writing submissions.  Libraries generally have reference copies of Writer's Digest, or for a small monthly fee it can be viewed on-line at   Students can also find advice and encouragement from a successful young author at    
Study for one of the major math or science competitions
Placing near the top in one of the prestigious national math or science competitions, including those listed below, strongly increases a student's chances of being admitted to an elite college.  Interested students should start studying for these competitions during the summer. 
There are some excellent on-line programs to help students prepare for national math competitions.  Additionally, students can see past science Olympiad tests on some of the websites below.
American Mathematics Competitions
Chemistry Olympiad
Start working on a science fair project 
To create a winning science project, it helps to find a mentor (see above), pick a topic, and start researching during the summer, rather than starting during the school year. 

For very helpful advice about competing in science fairs, check out "How To Be Successful at a Top Science Competition,", written by a student who has won awards at many prestigious science competitions.

Attend summer programs offered by colleges
Colleges across the country offer summer programs for high school students, providing the opportunity to further pursue academic interests or a passion for acting, dancing, art, etc.  
Residential academic programs are also available through organizations such as the Summer Institute for the Gifted,  SIG offers programs on college campuses nationwide, including Berkeley, Amherst, Vassar, Bryn Mawr and UCLA.  Students who have qualified for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth can participate in summer programs on various college campuses as well.
Students can research a host of summer opportunities, including academic programs, at the National Association for Gifted Children's website,
Need Help?
  • We help students locate mentors, arrange for internships and volunteer positions, and find opportunities to engage in scientific research.
  • We help students draft essays for college applications, as well as applications for scholarships, fellowships, summer programs, etc.
  • We advise aspiring writers about publication opportunities, and help students through the process of editing and submitting their work.
  • We advise students about state and national competitions in their areas of interest, and help them prepare to compete.
  • We help students find colleges that are right for them. 
Consulations available by phone or in person. Call Susan Goodkin at 805-642-6686 to arrange for consulting, or to find out more about our college consulting services.  $125/hr.
Special offer: $95 for one hour of consulting reserved before June 1st.
About our consultants:
Susan Goodkin is a graduate of Harvard University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.  Susan is Executive Director of the California Learning Strategies Center,, which helps parents meet the needs of gifted students from kindergarten through college planning.  Susan is a national writer on education issues, including the college application process.
For more information about our consultants, please go to
For more more information about our products and services, please go to 
Permission is granted to republish this newsletter in its entirety.  Individual portions may also be republished, as long as the following statement is included: "This information provided by Susan Goodkin, Executive Director of the California Learning Strategies Center, The Centerhelps parents meet the need of gifted and advanced students from kindergarten through college planning."