MAY 2015
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida Read the Editor's Blog. By Nitish Rele Classifieds Motoring Cuisine Astrology Art/Youth Books Fashion Movies Finance Immigration Health Editorial News Content Find us on Facebook!


The Importance of Recommendations

By Robert A.G. LeVine

Many selective colleges require recommendation letters as part of their applications. Unfortunately, few students appreciate the importance of recommendations, and they often neglect to request the help of their teachers and counselors until it’s too late.

The recommendations of adults are a primary source of information about applicants. While everything a student writes is biased, the observations of adults are more reliable. Teachers and counselors are well-positioned to help an applicant because they can compare and contrast the applicant to his or her classmates.

For this reason, highly-selective colleges place great weight on recommendation letters. For example, Duke admissions representatives give numeric grades to each applicant’s recommendations, and in its roundtable decision meetings, George Washington University discusses teacher recommendations first, even before a student’s own materials.

As you might imagine, recommendation letters directly impact an applicant’s chances of admissions to a favorite university. Great letters lead to college offers. Lackluster letters lead nowhere.

The first thing a student must recognize is to give teachers and counselors enough time to write their recommendations. Educators are busy, and teaching – not writing recommendations – is their primary job duty. We advise students to approach their teachers for recommendations during the spring of the junior year. Those who wait until the fall often find that their teachers are too rushed to write a great letter or simply do not have time to write any recommendation at all for the student. Having a fifth-choice teacher write a recommendation is a sure path to disaster.

The second “rule” is to select teachers who know you well. The best way to appear unique is to utilize teachers who can write something from their personal knowledge of the applicant. Recounting a story or observation – instead of merely copying from a student’s resume – adds significant value to an application. Talking about high achievement in class does not really provide new information, but talking about HOW a student achieves and interacts with others provides insight into the all-important human aspects of the applicant.

Third, consider providing teachers with additional insight about you. Give them more than what is requested by the school, and be selective about what you provide. Try this technique: present your recommenders with a letter from a parent which explains why the parent is proud of the student, perhaps even telling a short story to illustrate the applicant’s personal qualities. The goal is to prompt the teacher to remember similar moments observed in the classroom, which can then be included in the recommendation to make it more personal. In addition, consider giving the teachers an explanation of your college, career and life goals. This allows them to put classroom performance into a different perspective.

Fourth, ask the teacher if he or she would be willing to let you see and perhaps edit the letter before it’s submitted. Often, simple re-organization of a recommendation can make it demonstrably more powerful. In the end, the teachers are the ones who signs and upload recommendation letters, so they have final control over the finished product, but constructive editing can be extremely valuable.

Finally, be courteous enough to write personal thank-you notes to your recommenders. You never know; a well-phrased and well-timed thank-you might inspire a teacher or counselor to put in some extra effort on your behalf.

Robert A.G. Levine, president of Selective College Consulting Inc., can be reached at (813) 391-3760, email or visit


Insider’s Guide to a Successful Summer Bridge

Kimberly Wilson

bY kimberly wilson

As Floridians, we enjoy “summer” almost all year long. In fact, the only real way those of us in the Sunshine State can tell summer is truly here is when school lets out for summer break. With summer fast approaching, this means more time with our children is on the horizon. Whether your summer is booked solid with family trips, summer camps or stay-cations, chances are you will want to infuse your time with educational activities to bridge the gap between your child’s academic programs. Here are a few creative ways to keep your child’s brain engaged:

  1. Make every moment a “learning moment”: Whether you are exploring a new adventure or involved in the everyday routine, keep critical thinking at its peak by asking your child to exercise their skills in logic. Use all 5 “w” words: What, why, where, when and how. By asking these type questions of your child, and then discussing it, you are actively putting their mind in motion.

  1. Harness the power of “the game”: Everyone loves a challenge. Armed with an understanding of the academic concepts you want to keep fresh, seek them out with your child by issuing a challenge. “I bet I can be the first to find all the factors of the number 3 from the time we get in the car until the time it arrives at the grocery.” Or: “I have hidden 51 objects in the backyard that begin with the same first letter as each of our state capitals, who can find them all?”

  1. Keep the creative juices flowing: We all know readers are leaders and as the summer pace slows down a bit, capitalize on reading activities to push comprehension to the next level. Rather than requiring your bookworm to crank out a full book report, challenge them to illustrate a favorite scene from the story or even request an impromptu skit of the rising or falling action in the plot.

Your biggest key in keeping your child’s mind in peak form is to find creative and enjoyable ways to engage in learning. For more tips, tricks, and specific learning activities, feel free to visit my blog post “Creative Thinking Activities to survive the Summer Bridge” at

Enjoy the journey, the future in in your hands!

Kimberly Wilson is the Director of Innovation at Lutz Learning Center. She can be reached at (813) 949-3484 or visit 


Breathing peace into parenting: three life lessons from yoga

By Anu Varma Panchal

When my friend Aditi convinced me to start yoga, I thought it would be the perfect way to hang out with her and crack jokes while lying around on a yoga mat, and maybe get some exercise while I was at it. Nearly four years later, I am hooked. Beyond the increased flexibility and strength and an energy and well-being that come from spending time on myself, an added bonus has been how the lessons of yoga translate beautifully into the daily life of parenting.

Breathe. Focus. Live in the moment.

In yoga — as in life — my instinct was to multitask. Holding a goddess pose? Great time to mentally go over my Publix list. Playing a board game with my kids? I’m also tidying up clutter between turns and responding to text messages. As a result, not only was I not fully committed or benefiting from any of the activities I was doing, I was also always tired, edgy and rushed.

However, one of the first things that my wonderful yoga teacher Supriya Bellur taught us was how to breathe: deep inhalations and forceful exhalations, which, when coupled with a visual focus on a particular point, enable us to settle fully and deeply into a pose. Doing yoga this way left me energized, not tired — probably because I was feeling the euphoria of committing to one thing and doing it well.

I realized the benefits of taking that wisdom home: to mute my phone when I take my kids for a walk; to color with them without interrupting to constantly check email or prep dinner. Now, I make a conscious decision to look at the mess, breathe deeply and pay complete attention to that board game because in one blink, that child sitting across from me in braids and bows will have turned into a college-bound senior with her own phone and BFFs to text, and while I may never remember the mess, I know the loss will linger.

Challenge yourself; but accept help

Once you find that sweet spot where something that was hard becomes easy, it’s tempting to stay there. If it wasn’t for Supriya Bellur patiently encouraging and nudging a knee or arm a little higher and farther, I wouldn’t challenge myself to make those incremental changes that can result in momentous shifts over time.

As parents, we need that steadying hand that pushes us a little further: the spouse that nags you to do the work you love so you can be a happier parent; that friend who will absorb your kids into her day at a moment’s notice; the family that will fly across the country and the world to help out. We have to trust those who are close to us to help push us further, but we also have to listen when they tell us to slow down and back off, because if we overextend ourselves, we also push the effects of our strain on our loved ones and cause irreparable damage.

The three C’s to NOT do: Criticize, Compare, Compete.

There’s one woman in my yoga class who defies the laws of human anatomy by gracefully curving her limbs and torso into every imaginable configuration while I grunt with effort across the room, unable to touch my head to the floor. Am I cool with our vast disparity? Totally, because Bellur has firmly told us to never indulge in the three C’s: criticism, comparison, competition.

Nowhere else is this lesson more worthwhile than in the racecourse of parenting. Some wretched days, it seems as though everyone else’s kid is begging for broccoli and more household chores after finishing a week’s worth of homework by Tuesday while you’re force feeding your gagging 10-year-old in a home that looks like Toys ‘R Us at the end of Black Friday.

It’s tempting to compare our imperfect rugrats with the seemingly saintlier offspring of others, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from yoga, it’s that we have unique capabilities. Criticizing a child’s apparent failings, comparing them to their friends and engaging in best-parent competitions is not only demoralizing for the children, but deprives us of seeing the incredible qualities of the unique individuals we are blessed to have holding our hands for a few years.

Anu Varma Panchal is a mother of two and owner of

homeeventsbiz directorysubscribecontact uscontent newseditor's notehealthimmigration
financemindbody/ayurveda/NUTRITIONmoviesfashionmusic/art/dancebooks/getawaysUS-Indo businessbeat
IIFA 2014astrologyyouthcuisinemotoringplaces of worshipclassifiedsarchivesBLOGFACEBOOK