Delia, a bright-eyed high school junior, sat in my office.

“You saw my transcript?” she asked in a cringing tone. “I’m trying harder. I’m working on that.”

I had reviewed her transcript. She clearly had the best of intentions. Her freshman year, though, was killing her confidence, not to mention her GPA. One B, 3 Cs, and 2 Ds. She had a 2.3, brought up only by a solid B in an elective. Her sophomore year she had brought up her average to a 2.6. As Delia planned on applying to highly competitive nursing programs, this would need to come up even more.

Now what? I’ll share with you what I told her. The rest was up to her. And, you know what, it worked.  

Continue if you want to read the back story. Click here.  if you want to jump to how Delia brought up her GPA and a hefty scholarship at not one, but three nursing programs.

I started with my standard, a truth many students forget: “Remember, you are so much more than any grade.” Then I asked the question that invariably elicits one of two responses. “How have you changed your studying strategy?” Delia gave up a nervous chuckle… and customary response number one. (The “I’m trying to study more” is customary response number two.) In case you were wondering, neither one of these strategies brings up a GPA. There is, however, one simple strategy that does.

During the winter of 2008, I discovered Yogi tea. The tea is a delight, but the paper squares with typed intentions are even better. As I looped the string under the mug’s handle, I would read and sometimes reflect on the snippets of wisdom. I still do.

Every smile is a direct achievement.

When the mind is backed by will, miracles happen.

Keep up.

Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.

Truth is everlasting.

There is one Yogi paper square I’ve carried on my keychain, in a tiny photo holder, since the day it found its way to me; it has been there for the nine years, reminding me day in and day out to-

“Act, don’t react.”

Here’s the thing: Our children, our adolescents, our teens, and our young adults are being raised in a perpetual state of reaction, and often with a visceral fear that they will miss out or be excluded if they don’t respond, and respond appropriately.

Our days are cut into such tiny slivers with competing agendas, so when do we complete a thought? When was the last time we started and completed a task in one sitting?

As a parent, I have racked up the miles and spent a significant sum availing my children with extracurriculars. Guitar, soccer, travel soccer, soccer camp, robotics, gymnastics, story hour, Brownies, sketching, piano, basketball, alpine ski racing, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, karate, pottery. You get the idea. What happened to hide and seek in the neighborhood and The Hardy Boys? Then I found this piece of research that helped me to reconcile with the above efforts.

            That’s why signing kids up for piano lessons or sports is so important. It has nothing do with creating a good musician or a 5-year-old soccer star. When you learn to force yourself to practice for an hour or run fifteen laps, you start building self-regulatory strength. A 5-year-old who can follow the bar for ten minutes becomes a sixth grader who can start his homework on time.
-Todd Heatherton, The Power of Habit

And this child becomes a student who can study one subject in a concentrated manner. And this same child eventually becomes a 17-year-old who reaches out and follows up with thoughtful, grammatically correct emails to an admissions officer. Guitar lessons it is. And while we’re at it, how about completing a thought? Having a conversation? Yes, let’s do that.

Read about how Delia took action. Brought up her GPA and landed a hefty scholarship at not one, but three nursing programs. Click here.