Important News from Counseling and Guidance


Complete your FAFSA as soon as possible…all financial aid begins with the FAFSA.  FAFSA due dates:  Jan 1st-March 2nd

Be sure to check your e-mail frequently and keep careful track of dates.  College acceptance “letters” (e-mails) are continuing to arrive.  Read the instructions that come with these notices and keep a file and calendar of deadlines.


As you review your acceptances, consider the Financial Aid Award Package that will be sent in April.  Consult the financial aid officer at the college of choice if you have questions or special circumstances regarding your ability to pay.  These officials are in a position to consider, verify, and help you with special financial needs.

College Placement Tests:  The CSU’s will be sending information to students in the spring about their English and Math placement tests (ELM & EPT).  They will be given on a Saturday in March, April, or May. You may register for the test at any CSU, including Monterey Bay.  The slots fill quickly, so register as soon as you get the notice to take it.

The UC’s will have a “Subject A” writing exam in May.  You will receive further information with your acceptance.

Scholarship information and deadlines are posted on the counseling window and announced as they come in during morning announcements.   The information will also go directly to seniors via their Sharks email and through RenWeb email. Seniors should be checking-in with Mrs. Green regularly to obtain new scholarship information.

Acceptance Notices: Please remember to forward a copy of any college acceptance notice to Mrs. Green so that they can be acknowledged for Graduation and at our All School Assemblies.   It is important that we celebrate our students’ successes!

Juniors and parents are given the opportunity to sign up for a date for their individual pre-college appointments during the PSAT score review (Jan 28/29th) and at the Junior Parent Night (Jan 25th).  If you haven’t signed up yet, please see Mrs. Green to schedule an appointment.   At this appointment, we will discuss the college admissions process, summer school considerations, and other pre-college admission needs for each individual student.

Juniors have been asked to go into their “Naviance” account to complete their Do What You Are Interest Inventory and their Career Interest Inventory before they come to their scheduled appointment with Ms. Green.  Parents are invited and encouraged to attend. Note that date/time changes may be possible if a parent has a scheduling conflict; however, the size of this year’s junior class means that there are limited after-school appointment times available.

If your junior hasn’t begun the college search process, now is the time to begin.  The and,,, and a variety of resources to begin your college search.  If you are planning a vacation during the summer or during any break this year, be sure to check out the colleges in that area.

The following article is about the latest brain research. It makes interesting reading.

  • New ways to keep kids healthy
  • Our recent understanding of the teen brain
  • The idea of plasticity
  • Getting plasticity into our heads
  • Neuroplasticity in the healthy teen brain
  • Neuroplasticity, addiction and recovery
  • · Always learning, always growing

New ways to keep kids healthy

New scientific research improves current understanding of the adolescent brain in relation to alcohol and other drugs. At FCD, we are passionate about bringing the most relevant information into our work to keep healthy kids healthy. With a commitment to this work, and therefore to our own professional development, FCD will engage our Prevention Specialists in a multi-week in-house training series this winter to strengthen our collective understanding of the teen brain and substances. A focus of this extensive training will be one of the most important contributions neuroscience now offers us in our prevention work together with schools and communities - the idea of teen brain plasticity.

As an adult working with teens, you may be excited about how the principle of plasticity has reshaped our ideas about how the brain is organized, as well as how it develops, functions, and changes throughout the life span.

We already know that the teenage brain is far more susceptible to addiction than the adult brain. The principle of brain plasticity helps to explain why that is. This FCD e-Journal will provide a basic definition of brain plasticity, how it functions in the healthy teen brain, and its role in both addiction and recovery from addiction.



Neuroplasticity in the healthy teen brain

We know that many skills may be most readily acquired in a general sequence of brain development. For example, it is easier to learn languages during the infant and toddler years than it is even in early childhood. Such periods of easy acquisition are called sensitive periods.


Adolescence itself is a sensitive period for multiple key life skills, including:

Adaptation to social environments
Emotional regulation and stress management
Delayed gratification
Risk assessment and risk-benefit analysis.

Life skills acquired in adolescence are important protective factors against substance use. For instance, some FCD students define "fitting in" as "being popular," while others talk about "finding out where you belong," or "where you can be accepted for who you are." Whatever a student's own definition, fitting in is a major developmental task for adolescents. How students accomplish this task shapes their brains moving forward. If a teen's brain is shaped by a feeling of acceptance for who she is and a sense of belonging to groups that values her, her brain in this regard will easily build a layer of protection against substance abuse. Other layers of protection can be also added - by the ability to identify the significant risk involved in one-time substance use, the ability to weigh that risk against any potential benefits, and the ability to delay any gratification substance use might bring to the student until she is able to identify and choose between healthier alternatives that fulfill those same wants or needs.

During adolescence, the brain is the most plastic it will ever be again. All of the experiences, patterns of behavior, peer bonds, and self-perceptions teens develop during this time can mold the brain - like Silly Putty - into the shape of the adult to come. The teen with a passion for music develops a finer ear for pitch and tone, while the teen athlete's brain becomes efficient at producing the hormones necessary for peak performance. These easily-acquired, healthy changes in adolescence also become more difficult to lose into adulthood for the learning teen than for the adult who attempts to build similar skillsets or capacities at a later age. The more healthy neural adaptations to reality a teen can acquire, the healthier her adulthood is positioned to be. The more protective factors against risky behaviors like substance abuse teens can acquire - and the earlier they can do so - the more easily the brain can withstand the lure of unhealthy behaviors throughout life.

Neuroplasticity, addiction, and recovery

Consider again the Silly Putty egg with its mirror-image newsprint. Though it was quite easy to make the imprint, removing the image will take more work. This illustrates another principle of brain plasticity: especially as we age, changes that came from plastic adaptations to the outside influences of our lived realities are harder to unmake than they were to make in the first place.

Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is one such adaptation. Alcohol and other drugs affect the parts of our brains responsible for motivating and reinforcing behavior. When a teen uses substances, the teen brain rewires itself in response by lessening its own natural ability to motivate us toward healthy alternatives and to reinforce healthy behaviors that do not include use. Unfortunately, while the brain naturally reinforces and motivates many behaviors, substance abuse mostly reinforces and motivates further use. This chain reaction produces addiction.

Given the plasticity of the adolescent brain, this unhealthy adaptation is particularly easy to make. Adolescent capacities for risk assessment, emotional regulation, and delayed gratification are still developing. Therefore, the adolescent capacity to resist the cravings and impulses created when alcohol and other drugs motivate the brain toward continued, progressive use is low.

From the perspective of brain plasticity, recovery is the ongoing effort to over-write the changes made to brain chemistry during addiction. Both the signal router and Silly Putty versions of brain change occur in addiction and again in recovery. The teen brain in particular has some strong capacity to create new information pathways and make new uses of pre-existing ones.

Have you ever tried to replace a habit you were trying to break with one you thought was healthier? It was a bit of a struggle, wasn't it? Your process may have been similar to the processes begun by those who enter recovery. Over time and with consistent practice of new behaviors and healthy lived experiences, healthier pathways are more easily accessed and the old addiction-fueled pathways begin to atrophy. The ongoing result is newer, healthier motivational pathways with an increasingly powerful influence on behavior. The brain, even in healthy recovery unfortunately, is still shaped by teen addiction to substances before recovery began. You can rub the newspaper imprint from the Silly Putty, but some vestige of it will remain; you cannot remove all of the ink entirely.

Just as addiction is easier to develop during adolescence, long-term recovery that begins during adolescence can also take advantage of the greater plasticity to facilitate this over-writing process. Adults, on the other hand, may have a more difficult time with this process. This is one of the many reasons we at FCD urge intervention as early as possible in the case of a young person making increasingly risky decisions about alcohol and other drug use.

Always learning, always growing

The many sciences studying the brain are in a constant state of frontier expansion. The results of this exploration can shift our understanding of the ground already covered. At FCD, we are committed to incorporating the relevant aspects of such game-changing research into our understanding of teen substance abuse and the many factors that protect against it. We welcome you to join us in growing your understanding of the teen brain for the prevention benefit of the healthy kids you know!

For further reading on brain plasticity as it applies to these issues as well as those beyond substance abuse and addiction, we recommend The Brain That Changes Itself, by Dr. Norman Doidge.



David Sherrell joined FCD in 2009 and is currently a Senior Prevention Specialist. He was educated at independent schools and Vassar College, where his studies included Developmental Psychology and Political Science. David has experience as a chemical dependency counseling intern and a mental health worker, in addition to certification as an alcohol and drug studies specialist. He holds a BS in Psychology from the University of Phoenix, and is pursuing a Master's degree in Psychology at Rutgers University.


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