Educating at Home? Remote Learning to the Rescue! Interview with Hafeez Lakhani

Remote learning has quickly become a necessary service and using it well is now a valuable skill. Hafeez Lakhani provides remote learning services to students through Lakhani Coaching. He is a twenty-year veteran in one-on-one education, Hafeez has mastered an approach to teaching where he infuses instruction with powerful elements of motivation. His passion for coaching manifests in its mastery—having honed the Lakhani Coaching method to serve a growing population of high achievers.

Who better to learn from to get the most out of remote learning for your young learner.
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Hafeez Lakhani:   We want to do our best to achieve at our best level, regardless of the adversity, to overcome the adversity. So, you mentioned virtual learning. It's unfortunate, there are going to be problems where for example, internet access is a problem for some families and in those cases, it's a lot harder to get your work done and perform highly, even in a virtual learning setting.

Liz Weaver:   Hi, this is Liz Weaver and you are listening to the Learning Success podcast, an information-packed podcast with the latest news, information, and tips to help you overcome a learning difficulty.

For anyone suffering from a reading difficulty, writing difficulty, a math difficulty, a focus problem, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, or ADHD, this is the place for you. The Learning Success podcast is brought to you by

Phil Weaver:   Hello and welcome to the Learning Success podcast where we help you learn to embrace your child's brilliance and unleash their true potential. Today we have Hafeez Lakhani. Hafeez Lakhani is the founder and president of Lakhani Coaching.

Hafeez is a graduate of Yale University with a BA in mathematics and economics and he scored a perfect score on the SAT and ACT. He is a former nonprofit field worker in India and a commodities trader on Wall Street.

Phil Weaver:   Hafeez has a natural ability to see potential and opportunity. For him reaching that potential is simply a matter of structure, dedication, and character. He is a 20 year veteran in one on one education.

Hafeez has mastered an approach to teaching where he infuses instruction with powerful elements of motivation. His passion for coaching manifests and its mastery, having honed the Lakhani Coaching method to serve a growing population of high achievers. Welcome, Hafeez.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Thank you, Phil. Thanks for having me.

Phil Weaver:   It's great to have you here. So let's start off by telling us about what you do. What do you do at Lakhani Consulting?

Hafeez Lakhani:   Sure. We work as a sort of a large mission. We always say our goal is to help students turn desire into ambition, and ambition into success. The key here is that ambition is going to be defined differently for every student.

So we work one on one with students across the US and across the world, clients in 12 countries worldwide, essentially on four key areas. Admissions, that could be admissions to Harvard, or it could be admissions simply to a school that matters to you that happens to have a program that you love.

Hafeez Lakhani:   It doesn't have to be the most selective admissions but across the board, we want to know, how do we get into the most narrow funnels or how do we help a student find a place at a place that really matters to him or her. So admissions, standardized testing, academic skills, and character growth.

Phil Weaver:   Fantastic. So in your mission statement there, desire into ambition. I know a lot of people have desires but don't necessarily get up off the couch to make them. What's that transition from desire to ambition?

Hafeez Lakhani:   Sure. So it recognizes that it's a step by step process. So for example, we work with students from middle school to graduate school.

So a great story that I witnessed is a student who came to me around 24, 25 years old, had just left the job working in finance, and was very uncertain about his future. He knew that he had aspirations to do something in business. So I got to know him and I learned that even at 25, the most meaningful thing he ever did was a volunteer with Basketball Without Borders, in Senegal, Africa, when he was a teenager.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Basketball was his lifelong sport, played in high school, college, just a passion of his but of course, it's not possible for everyone to become a professional. So he kind of closed that chapter for himself at the end of college. I said, hey, you're not sure what you want to do with your future. Why don't we see if we can get you back to Africa to sort of work with young athletes there to create opportunities through basketball?

Hafeez Lakhani:   So we got to work and this is all sort of fueled by what he confessed as his desires and his ambitions. Over time, we were able to put pieces in place and fast forward a year, he landed a position at a great nonprofit that helps athletes get educational opportunities in The US. So helping athletes in Africa, through their basketball skills get recruited for education opportunities in the US. Loved the role, and saw himself doing it for a long time.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Decided to apply to Harvard Business School, which would have been reached for him based on his grades and his test scores, but we decided that it was a worthwhile reach because he had committed so sincerely to what we call his character, pursuing something that mattered to him.

Again, fast forward several months, COVID dependent, he'll be starting at Harvard Business School. So it's really a step by step process, Phil, of helping someone understand what his or her ambitions are, and how to move toward those ambitions one step at a time.

Phil Weaver:   So is that a typical structure is finding a passion, and then moving on from there?

Hafeez Lakhani:   Sure and the goals for each student can be different. So sometimes we have students come to us who have learning challenges, learning differences, who maybe don't have a great academic track record as a result of those differences.

I'm thinking about, for example, a student several years ago, really sincere young lady, just, I think she had a certain, if I remember correctly, phonetic dyslexia. A certain processing disorder, and had always been a terrible tester.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Test optional is out there as a possibility for students who are in this bucket where testing is just not their forte, but frankly, if you dig into the research, your chances of acceptance at a given university, even if it's a test optional University are higher if you submit testing and lower if you don't, because test optional is reserved for cultivating low-income students, first-generation students, and for good reason.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Those students have a lot of disadvantage and so test-optional is helping those students get over that adversity. So in this case, the student wouldn't qualify for financial aid or be seen as a first-generation type of student. She just happened to be, testing wasn't her forte. So in this case, we got to know the student, we understood there was a certain level of test anxiety, which we've had a lot of success overcoming. That comes from building confidence in skills.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So in this case, her goal was to drastically improve her standardized testing ability. So she came in with a PSAT score in the ballpark of 900, which is just below the average. I think the average is in the ballpark of 1,100.

So she was probably coming in somewhere in the, I don't know, 35th or 40th percentile. We identified where were the sort of gaps and we also identified Where were the goals, and she had really aspirational goals.

Hafeez Lakhani:   She said, look, actually, I see myself as a great academic student. I just can't pull it together and test. I always make the analogy with something like testing. Think of it like any other skill in your life, if you happen to be great at tennis, well, guess what? I haven't played a lot of tennis in my life. I asked the student, "Hey, Sarah, do you think I can become a great tennis player? If I really wanted to?"

Hafeez Lakhani:   She'll say, "Sure." I say, "Hey, do you think I can become exceptional?" She'll say, "Sure." I'll say, "Hey, Sarah, do you think I can study all night tonight and be a great tennis player tomorrow?" That's hopefully when she laughs and says, no, that's insane. Just like it's insane to become a great violinist overnight. It's insane to learn German overnight. So we're talking about building a school over time.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So once we understand that framework, again, we turn desire into ambition by putting the steps in place, and we work one on one to address the specific nuts and bolts. So you might be familiar with the SAT or ACT. There's going to be elements of like, do you know your formulas, the 30, 60, 90 triangles. How comfortable are you with finding the vertex of a parabola, that sort of thing.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Then it's about using these skills to build problem-solving ability over time, and that confidence pays off in the long run. So six months down the road, it didn't take two years, didn't take four years, six months, nine months down the road, we have dramatic increases, and the student I'm thinking of was actually the largest SCT increase we ever coached. 600 points.

Moved from 900 to 1,500. So she jumped from about the 35th or 40th percentile to the 99th percentile. It was just a matter of building confidence over time.

Phil Weaver:   That's pretty amazing. Amazing story. So building confidence and building skills, obviously building skills slowly over time is going to build confidence in itself. What other things are going to be beneficial and building confidence?

Hafeez Lakhani:   Repetition. So for example, let's go back to the tennis analogy. If I had a world-class tennis coach, let's suppose Roger Federer is coaching me intensely. Do I want to take only a lesson or two lessons with Federer in a week, and then in between, sit on my couch, pat myself on the back and say, hey, I got great lessons. I'm just going to watch TV now. We want to get out there and practice. We want to get out there and approach it like we approach any skill.

Hafeez Lakhani:   The problem is a lot of times these skills, whether it's standardized testing, or something more academic-related, it may not be the most fun skills for us. So we need to channel the confidence from other skills in our lives that we have enjoyed, that we've sort of taken on voluntary and found success in, and the key there is to put in that sort of repetition and focus to build the confidence slowly and then don't be too hard on yourself.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So let's extend the analogy. Let's suppose, say I become a great tennis player, and I have a big tournament. Do I want only one match to determine whether I succeed or don't succeed at tennis?

Or would I like to say, hey, wouldn't it be nice to have two or three tries to say, which one is going to be my personal best performance? So, standardized testing is, obviously, it's not something that anyone really enjoys, but the fact is, the colleges are really great if you want to submit testing, to say we're going to look at your best score over multiple sittings.

Hafeez Lakhani:   That's a great way to relieve the test anxiety element for any student to say, hey, you have a few shots if you want it to do your personal best. Lets you build the skills, gain confidence, and then say, hey, there's not too much pressure here on anyone sitting.

Phil Weaver:   That makes a lot of sense. You mentioned transferring confidence from one activity to another. I know there's actually research behind that if you're putting together a list of things that a person is confident at, and then actually reading that list out just before another activity, as if confidence is a hormone running through our body. Gets that going.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Positivity has enormous effects, Phil, absolutely. It's been a pillar of our work. In fact, one quick anecdote is I have a team of about a dozen coaches that work under me. Part of our training is we send a session note to the student and family after each of our meetings and part of our requirements for the session note includes include at least one positive.

So it's as simple as saying, you know what, today we worked on grammar strategies, we covered subject-verb and who whom, and I was really impressed that we talked about who whom about six weeks ago last and we went back to our notes on five drill problems, Sarah answered four out of five correctly on the first try. So a really good job at retention there. Just helping someone realize that, hey, it's a long journey here, but on the little steps, you're doing a good job.

Phil Weaver:   So the small successes are really, it's a pillar of something we do is getting them to recognize those small successes, because there's also research behind that says, it's the number of successes not the size, the tends to build the confidence.

So that makes a lot of sense. It's wonderful. So we talk a lot about remote learning today, obviously, but can you tell us the difference is, so you work with high performing students, students that may not be so high performing. Are there differences in remote learning, and if so, what are strategies around that?

Hafeez Lakhani:   Sure. The conversation I had with a parent just 15 minutes ago, the first thing I said is for anybody junior especially, because a lot is riding on junior year. Suddenly this has been a heavily interrupted year for the junior class. I feel a ton of sympathy. I want to say I'm sorry. It's not that anyone can take responsibility for what's happening here, but I'm just sorry.

Hafeez Lakhani:   I'm sorry for them that they have so much interruption relative to what their older peers or younger peers have had to experience. It stinks, and not to mention on top of that, there are people with financial hardships in their family and health hardships in their family. It really stinks. All of that being said, for those people so fortunate to be healthy, and to be able to keep the lights on and so forth, we don't want to make excuses.

Hafeez Lakhani:   We want to do our best to achieve at our best level, regardless of the adversity, to overcome the adversity. So, you mentioned virtual learning. It's unfortunate, there are going to be problems where for example, internet access is a problem for some families and in those cases, it's a lot harder to get your work done and perform highly, even in a virtual learning setting.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Generally speaking, if you're so fortunate to have internet access, and so forth, what I'm telling students is this is not a snow day. Yes, there will be some forgiveness for the adversity of this time, but the people who are able to work hard and stick to their goals despite the adversity, they're going to shine. College applications are coming up in five and a half months.

Hafeez Lakhani:   In just five and a half to six months, these students are going to be saying, oh, submit, I hope this college appreciates what I have to offer. Well, if it's a giant blank from this spring, how are we supposed to determine if you're a great fit for a given university, whereas if you found a way to somehow keep your grades high, to somehow impress your teachers with your contributions to virtual class discussions that they're going to write about in their letters of recommendation this fall.

Hafeez Lakhani:   If you find a way to do well in your AP exams, which are still scheduled to be held virtually, you found a way to continue to build your skills in SAT or ACT, it's going to pay off for you.

Phil Weaver:   Yeah, it seems like it could be a real opportunity to shine at this moment.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Sure, and of course contingent upon people being healthy and safe.

Phil Weaver:   Of course. So students, in general, can get anxious over learning in general. Are they more anxious with remote learning or are there reasons for that remote learning will cause anxiety?

Hafeez Lakhani:   Yeah, and the single greatest cause of that anxiety, Phil, that I've seen is I have to say, shame on you to every a school district that went pass-fail this term.

Because if you go pass-fail, effectively, you're telling the students who are actually trying that their work is not worth anything. So the anxiety that I'm seeing is whether it's high achievers or not high achievers, the students who care, the students who are actually trying to complete the work.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Imagine every day getting out of bed, not going to school, but just trying to stick to a routine, logging in to your Zoom homeroom class, and trying to stick to your assignments all day. Your parents are seeing you and are saying, oh, wow, it's impressive how much you're self motivating despite the obstacles, and then you suddenly find out, hey, guess what, everything's going to be kind of erased from this term, all the work you're doing is not worth anything.

Hafeez Lakhani:   By the way, students are telling me they have friends or peers are totally blowing this whole virtual learning thing off. So for instance, one of my students told me his friend figured out away on Zoom to set up an avatar, so just an image instead of living video that looks like he's sitting at his desk, listening to whatever's going on.

Phil Weaver:   I've actually seen that mentioned quite a few times on social media. It's not uncommon.

Hafeez Lakhani:   It's terrible. So this student is sort of pulling a fast one, so he can escape from virtual class and go play video games or whatever and guess what, at the end of the term, there'll be no difference between the student goofing off and the student literally putting in the work every single day. So that's a huge cause of anxiety. Now, that being said, I'm not one to ever fall back on excuses.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So I say, look, again, I'm very sorry for the class, especially the junior class who's experiencing so much anxiety right now. It's not fair and you know what, hopefully, one day we can all sort of growth from this.

That being said, again, those people who are able to overcome that anxiety, overcome the adversity, through the help of mentors, podcasts, things that help them regain their focus, parents who are sort of staying involved, teachers who are reaching out, it's going to pay off many fold for these students.

Hafeez Lakhani:   We're all going to experience tempt and adversity in our lives. 9/11 happened when I was in college. It was a huge shock. It was a really scary time, but we had to find a way to move forward from it. In the same way, I hope students are able to find the right resources to stay motivated and come out of this stronger.

Phil Weaver:   What other things would you say when you have that student that is, their peers are going to get that pass or the same pass or fail. What other benefits would you tell him he's going to get from just sticking to it and working as hard as possible?

Hafeez Lakhani:   One very specific benefit is teacher recommendations. So when you apply to college, you typically ask for two academic references and for the most part, it'll be teachers who taught you a junior year, not a senior year because the teachers in the senior year will have a very limited time to get to know you before having to submit those letters. Whereas junior year teachers theoretically had the whole year but part of the year was virtual.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So can you imagine you're teaching a class of let's said it's precalculus, you have 30 students, 15 of them are goofing off and you sort of noticed one or two of those students are actually really putting in the work.

They're submitting homework assignments, they're actually trying and then it comes time to write teacher recommendations, you're going to remember the ones who actually care are the ones who actually prepared for class discussion, for English class, who actually did the reading and had interesting thoughts to share.

Phil Weaver:   Fantastic. Okay. So what do you see is the benefits of remote learning?

Hafeez Lakhani:   One of the benefits and I'm big on silver lining, Phil, one of the real benefits is that schools, whether we're talking about everything from early childhood to graduate school, they are refining their tools. So this semester, of course, was a giant ad hoc experiment in going virtual.

Even within a given school, I'm told from students that some teachers are like, they're on it, they have it figured out. The learning is tremendous and other teachers even at the same school just can't figure it out.

Hafeez Lakhani:   It's just not working. So this is sort of a learning experiment for all these teachers, schools, districts, so that and I really hope there's no other lockdown like this in the future, but generally speaking, online education has been growing for a long time.

How am I able to serve clients across 12 countries? By the virtues of technology, and make an enormous impact, including that student with a 600 point essay to increase.

Hafeez Lakhani:   90% of those lessons were done by Skype. So, online education, as you know, especially at the graduate level, especially at the MBA level, has been growing for many years. The online degree programs have been jumping up in terms of percentage increases in enrollment, while full-time MBAs for example, have been dipping for five years straight.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So essentially, what this whole emergency has done is helped everyone across the board make their online experience better. It doesn't mean that we want to have all of our entire degree online, it doesn't mean it should be forced upon people, but what it means is that it creates good options.

So maybe it creates more low-cost options that are really effective online versions of the degree that are not quite the same as in-person degree, but still quite good. It just helps us sharpen our tools.

Phil Weaver:   I see it as taking advantage of a lot of advantages that existed before, but nobody wanted to jump into it. I'm seeing that happening a lot. I actually teach kung fu online.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Wow.

Phil Weaver:   Yeah, that's what everyone says. They didn't know that was possible. I've been doing it for six years, and I've been telling everyone, hey, this is possible. It's a little bit different, but it's entirely possible.

Now, I've been preaching it. Nobody listened except for the few students that I've been experimenting with and now all of a sudden, people are in it and just really, really enjoying it. So if you can teach physical art like that, I think you can teach anything.

Hafeez Lakhani:   I mean, it's part of the big paradigm shift. I mean, even two years from now, hopefully, we will have forgotten about COVID, but some of the lessons will remain. How much we can harness the power of technology.

For example, there may be people in a town that don't have a physical kung fu space where they can go to, or maybe the instructors available aren't at the same level of excellence that you're at. So it creates optionality for people.

Phil Weaver:   Yeah, it is. I'm the only one that teaches what I teach. One of the benefits that we found is one being asynchronous. So a little bit of a lesson here, they reply back and forth and that really changed lifestyles because people could fit it into the other day, any part of the day. Then storage capacity. I mean, everything can be recorded, students can go back to it. So those are massive, positive changes.

Hafeez Lakhani:   I'll give you a quick example, Phil. When we work, especially on academics and standardized testing. So for example, in New York City, we'll have students and they'll say, okay, Hafeez, I want to have a lesson with you.

I'll say, okay, well, I'm not able to come to your home because my schedule doesn't permit it. We can meet on Skype, or we can meet at my office and they'll say, it'll take me 20 minutes to get your office, 20 minutes to get home. High school students today, you know how busy they are.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So some of my students are eating dinner while we're on Skype lessons. So I'll say, hey, let's try a Skype lesson. See how you like it and I've never had anyone in 20 years go back after trying a virtual lesson and going back.

Here's a quick example of how it's even better. So like I said earlier, working on rules for something like who whom, something that people sometimes don't know so well, and they can forget the rules easily.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So let's suppose we're building a notes file with a student that I'm working with virtually. That notes file over time might be 80 pages long. Let's suppose with another student that I'm working with in-person that students putting notes into a notebook and sort of flipping pages as we go.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So four weeks after we first covered who whom, a problem comes up, and a student stumbles. I say, okay, open note. I want you to go back and look at your notes, and then try the question again.

Well, in a virtual setting, we're on an 80 page Google Doc, quick, Command F, who whom, join me on page 15. Physical notebook, you're flipping through, where are my notes on who whom? I don't know if I can find them. Why don't we just write them down again? It's a waste of time and resources.

Phil Weaver:   Exactly. The same thing in the kung fu. If you're making this mistake, go reference this lesson where we covered these notes-

Hafeez Lakhani:   Yeah, go watch lesson number three. Refresh your memory.

Phil Weaver:   Yeah. It really saves everyone's time and just levels of efficiency. So what do you see as these changes sticking around, what are they going to be the long term changes? There's a lot of realms of that, but you mentioned the MBA schools becoming more virtual. Talking about that, and especially like public school.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Public school at the high school level or you mean university?

Phil Weaver:   Yeah, is that going to change do you think or we're going to go right back to where it was?

Hafeez Lakhani:   I really hope we go at least close to right-back, Phil. I very commonly tell my students and families I work with, 90% of my education in college came from my peers.

I'm a huge believer in pure education, and that applies at every level. So let's talk about the high school experience. I think it is really important to have the social learning that takes place in high school.

Hafeez Lakhani:   If I didn't have two or three of my closest peers in high school, all of us really caring about excellence, all of us really challenging ourselves, maybe I wouldn't have challenged myself to the same degree.

Now, yes, if you have virtual classrooms can you keep up with friends and peers who are also challenging yourself? Sure, you can but it's not quite the same as that in personal motivation.

Hafeez Lakhani:   On a college campus. I'm well known for this analogy I make Phil, where I say, let's imagine that a given college, let's say Columbia University, is a dinner table with a limited number of seats. When we ask a student to work on his or her candidacy, what we're saying is, well, what makes you, Sarah, the most interesting person to deserve one last spot at that dinner table?

Hafeez Lakhani:   What do you add to the dinner table conversation? So, I really do hope that we get back to at least some form of in-person education because that dinner table conversation is really special. It inspires lifelong motivation and ideas and curiosities.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Now, I do see some good things sticking around. So for example, we're going to have no choice, for example, let's say at the university setting, large lectures. I'm not sure if large lectures will live on the same form five years from now.

So a lecture hall, let's say at a state university, packed with 450 students and sitting shoulder to shoulder with each other. I'm just not sure even though, young people are at lower risk, just not sure that's the right setup for the medium term.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Then you ask yourself, okay, well, how did we learn from this period of how to utilize online learning? Well, if you have a 20 person seminar, I think that could work.

You could sit one seat apart from other people and keep enough distance from everyone in the classroom. That I think should be fine, but for that 500 person lecture, we might need to figure out, okay, maybe half or a quarter of the students are sort of as a lottery allowed to attend the lecture.

Hafeez Lakhani:   The other three quarters will watch the lecture via zoom and be able to submit questions via the chatroom. Now that's where there are some benefits. So the chat feature on zoom or Skype or what have you, you could put the questions in, a stream of questions come through over the course of the lecture and a TA picks and chooses which three or four are the most worth addressing at the end of the lecture.

Hafeez Lakhani:   That's where with a show of hands at the end of a lecture, you may or may not get great questions.

So this is a way where sometimes virtual tools can lead us to even a better outcome, and then maybe the next class period, you rotate, and the next quarter of the students are allowed to come in person and you sort of doing a little bit of a rotation in that way. I think there's a way that high schools and colleges could start to adapt and even improve the experience of using some of these virtual tools.

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Phil Weaver:   So what would you see in a post COVID-19 world, and we're back and now we have learned from using remote education so much and what you've just said about being around your peers, whether it be in high school or college. What do you see as the ideal educational setting after this is all behind us? Some hybrid approach.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Without any bias, every student has different preferences and every student has different things that he or she can access. I'm always going to be a fan. I'm going to continue to be a fan of an educational environment with a low faculty-student ratio.

I do think that individual attention pays enormous dividends. We're so fortunate to work one on one with students. I don't think you can achieve a 600 point SAT improvement if you're sitting in a class of 20 people, because that class is going to be catered to everyone's needs, not one people.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Frankly, classes often have to move at the pace of the lower end of everyone's speed, just to make sure that we don't leave anyone behind. So I think in a post COVID world, an ideal setting would be one where you can continue to have these really powerful class discussions.

Really powerful moments where you're not only learning from your professor, but you're sort of being inspired by your peers. That doesn't mean that large settings are not going to be fruitful and then frankly, there's going to be more, it's one of the great things about America.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Options are shaken out from this sort of thing. So I do support a system where more low cost, virtual options are presented to students. So what's been happening for the last five years, especially in graduate education? Why not scale it to everybody?

Instead of telling a student or family, hey, in order to get a high-quality education, you've got to spend $30,000 a year. Well, guess what, what if we gave you a pretty good education for $2,000 a year? Wouldn't that be great? I want people to have that option. Let them choose what's right for them.

Phil Weaver:   Fantastic. Good. So is that the biggest the disadvantage of not having all of your peers around with or what other disadvantages of remote learning do you see?

Hafeez Lakhani:   In terms of if you talk about college students, I worry about recruiting. College students who are looking to land internships and job offers, that whole system has been interrupted pretty heavily.

Yes, interviews can happen by Zoom and by Skype, but sort of the access to the network and so forth, or being able to sit down with a professor and saying, hey, can you give me some ideas about how to help me stand out in this competitive applicant pool? Some of those opportunities diminish, and engagement.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So, for a long time, there's been a question of whether, especially at the university level, does a four year college education has economic sensibility. Especially as education has gotten more expensive. The answer that, so if you look at enrollment numbers, they are clear indicators that, for example, there are far more female applicants to college than they are male.

Hafeez Lakhani:   You might say, well, why? We don't know why. I can't really tell you why, but that's a clear data point that's out there.

You might say, well, when you start looking at like, if college education costs $250,000 if you're going to a private institution and not getting much financial aid, you might say, well, maybe trade school makes more economic sense. Maybe it makes sense to become a highly-skilled electrical worker or a highly skilled someone in other trades.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So my point is, as the value of that education is sort of more put into question, I think you're going to see more people say, hey, these lower-cost alternatives will make more sense for me, and then I'll only pay the higher cost if I can still get that incredible education from my peers.

Phil Weaver:   I see. Good. Okay. So let's talk about all these parents now, the big question they're all thrust into homeschooling their kids, what advice do you have for those parents?

Hafeez Lakhani:   Let's focus first on high school, which is sort of my expertise. I will say that it goes back to what we said earlier. There will be enormous rewards in the six-month timeframe for those who are able to stay on task during this period.

Now I know it's not a simple thing, and some students are going to be incredible at independently staying on task, and others are going to need a lot of parental help. I think it's a tough time for everybody.

Hafeez Lakhani:   We have a four-year-old, a three-year-old and a one-year-old and it is not easy for one parent or both parents to juggle in and try to keep education moving. I will say that all of us are making sacrifices right now. It's not a time to throw in the towel or to say, hey, this is all going to be sort of ignored later on anyway.

I worry, especially for math. So one thing I see, especially working with high school students trying to achieve highly in math, is I can see the legacy of either poor math education or poor execution in math from many years back.

Hafeez Lakhani:   For instance, if I come across a student who's not confident in math, I want to get a sense of, is it a matter of execution or is it like some, there are gaps. Order of operations, PEMDAS, something we all typically learned in sixth or seventh grade, maybe a little earlier in some cases. If that wasn't taught sufficiently in sixth or seventh grade, how is a student expected to retain it down the road?

Hafeez Lakhani:   I worry, especially about math because it's cumulative. In order to do algebra well, we need to make sure all the skills before algebra are built at a high level. So in this case, this is all the more reason to put in the sacrifice as a parent, and help your child stay on task because gaps that are left right now, maybe gaps that persist over many years.

Phil Weaver:   Do you think that parents are kind of now being awakened to gaps that their students may have been before they were more relying on the school system to find them? Maybe something is being revealed more?

Hafeez Lakhani:   Sure. Absolutely. I hope we all hope we're all learning from this. I've learned honestly about early childhood education. That's a field I wasn't involved in before. Just in terms of our small kids, how is confidence built on just basic execution of tasks?

Even the simplest thing like putting together a book by stapling pieces of paper together and cutting and pasting things in, developing confidence with cutting with scissors. These are little things that motor skill confidence can lead to academic confidence down the road.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So it's a good thing for all of us to re examine parts of our lives that we didn't question before, and start to understand those better, and it all boils down to wanting to get something out of the education that we're putting our kids through.

Phil Weaver:   What do you see as long term effects for the younger generations? What's going to happen down the road here?

Hafeez Lakhani:   I worry about those gaps persisting. Some people say, well, everyone's going to start next year with one step behind and I say no, actually, I think some kids are going to start next year being right on course, and the other kids are going to be one step behind.

So that actually creates a larger gap in any given class. So if before you already had the challenge in every educational setting, like I said, a classroom of 20 students taking SAT prep, you already have a challenge of, do you pace yourself for the strongest students or for the weakest students or somewhere in the middle?

Hafeez Lakhani:   No right or wrong, but we need to figure out how to move this class forward, but suddenly now next year, you're going to start every class, every school, every grade, is going to have a larger the disparity between those who are able to grasp concepts and those who are one step behind and how do we deal with that gap? It's almost as problematic as the wealth gap in our country.

Hafeez Lakhani:   We always worry about Okay, the rich can get richer and what opportunities do the low income have? This is a pretty direct analogy. Those who have been on task, those whose parents have been so fortunate to be able to help keep kids on task, they're going to be progressing forward and those who lack internet access.

Those whose parents can't afford to not go to work, those who have screaming siblings around and can't focus on their schoolwork because they don't have a door to close, I feel a tremendous amount of sympathy for how are those students going to keep up?

Hafeez Lakhani:   Which would be the appropriate time Phil, to mention our scholarship Lakhani Coaching. Lakhani Scholars is a scholarship. So most of our clients are fee-paying and have the means to afford premium fees and premium sort of one on one attention. Well, we've made a commitment two years ago to give back to the other end of the spectrum. So Lakhani Scholars is specifically for high achieving low-income students.

Hafeez Lakhani:   You can apply in the spring of your 10th grade. This year, we're allowing those same students to apply as late as October 1, at the beginning of their junior year, to receive $10,000 worth of our coaching services for free. So we have a commitment to do what we can to help the other on the spectrum as well.

Phil Weaver:   That's amazing. Good for you guys. It's really fantastic to hear. That gap is troubling. I can see that it's creating a lot of problems. So we heard the term helicopter parenting and now we're hearing helicopter teachers. Can you talk about what that is?

Hafeez Lakhani:   It's desperation. So, helicopter teachers, I think that term is trying to refer teachers who are trying so hard to keep their students on a task that they may be going overboard. Helicopter parents, even in a virtual teaching world, they might be micromanaging their kids and sort of almost creating a draconian schedule at home to start virtual school and so forth. I have no judgment on different people's parenting styles or even teaching styles.

Hafeez Lakhani:   What I think I'm really highly encouraging right now is that everyone just makes that extra effort to stay committed to education right now, because I worry about all the like we talked about all these scary repercussions and gaps that can exist down the road if we don't. It would be a real loss. We've already suffered a huge economic loss due to COVID. I hope we don't suffer a big educational loss of the same magnitude.

Phil Weaver:   I agree. I agree. Tell us about the resources that parents might tap into. Apps, that sort of thing.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Sure. So I can't speak highly enough of Khan Academy. Khan Academy has early math modules that I do with me, just turned four.

So mainly when she was three, we were doing them and she comes to me almost every day and says, "Can we have math time? Can we have math time?" We use Khan Academy as one of our resources even for high school students preparing for the SAT. Honestly, there is no book you can buy that has better resources and practice problems than the Khan Academy modules that are available for free online.

Hafeez Lakhani:   The resources on there are so incredible honestly, Phil, if Sal Khan doesn't win a Nobel Prize in the next decade, it would be a travesty. He's giving the world for free, world-class educational resources.

The onus is on us and on students to use them. Scholastics has incredible resources available for free online as well. A number of other great sites exist, it's just a matter of filtering. The internet has a lot of noise. It's about filtering through the noise of finding good sources of material for enrichment.

Phil Weaver:   So for, say juniors that are looking to go to college, are the virtual tours, how are they I mean, they can't get out and visit a college now. Virtually tours useful?

Hafeez Lakhani:   So virtual tours are fine, they're fine and colleges are doing a good job of trying to make more material available to get to know a campus virtually. Even better than virtual tours, I think are conversations.

So when I advise, in a normal world, when I advise students on-campus visits, I always say what can you do to go beyond the information session and tour. The first thing I recommend is, strike up a conversation with a stranger. If you're so willing, imagine if you were at school.

Hafeez Lakhani:   It's a normal day, you're in between classes and a student stopped you and said, hey, I'm thinking about coming to the school next year. Do you have two minutes to tell me what do you like about this place? Would you say no, sorry, I'm too busy, bye? No, you would actually stop and say, thanks for asking. Sure. I'll tell you, and I'll even tell you what maybe I don't like and you could judge for yourself.

Hafeez Lakhani:   You're going to be honest. You're going to make an effort. The same way, you wouldn't believe the stories I hear, Phil, of students following through on this recommendation, this is in a pre-COVID world, going to a campus and having these conversations with strangers having amazing stories to show for them, including once, for example, a student visiting Brown.

A young lady not only talk to him for 10 or 15 minutes but said, "Hey, I'm really friendly with my professor whose class starts in 10 minutes. I think he'd be open to a visitor joining, would you like to come?"

Hafeez Lakhani:   The student said, "Sure." He went to the class, professor, of course, welcomed him in and then ask questions and even teased him a little bit during the class. At the end of the class, the class of about 20 students gave him a standing ovation and he really got a sense of this sort of feeling of camaraderie. So situations like that, great stories. In a virtual world, we don't have the opportunity to necessarily just sort of exploring campus in person, but that one on one conversations go a long way.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So even the virtual tours are fine, but I think even better is, find a handful of students who are current students at that university or alumni and have sincere on one conversation. Ask them, what do you think makes your experience here different than it would be at another school? Or what's been your greatest experience here? What's been your greatest gripe with being a student here?

Hafeez Lakhani:   I think, I always say one of the greatest ways to know if a place is for you is, do you have that feeling of this is my tribe? The people, do you feel like these are the people you want to be inspired by? Like the dinner table conversation. You're going to have a few one on one conversations. You can't know the whole campus, but you're going to get a feel and I think that feel in some ways is even more powerful than an online tour.

Phil Weaver:   Where would they find students like that? Online forums?

Hafeez Lakhani:   Usually online forums are fine. I think the number one best way is through friends and family. So just put some feelers out and say, is there anyone you can introduce me to? I've introduced numerous students to former students and said, hey, who's going to say no? Hey, would you spend mind just talking for 10 minutes on the phone, this person has some questions for you.

No one says no to that. So teachers, mentors, all of us have enormous networks of former students, we'd be happy to connect you. The second best resource is the admissions office. If you write an email to the admissions office, I promise you, they will write you right back and introduce you to students, you can talk to.

Phil Weaver:   Very nice. Great. How do students deal with the cancellation of standardized testing?

Hafeez Lakhani:   A huge challenge. So colleges have done a great job in terms of adjusting. So by now, the count is probably well over 100 or 200 colleges that have gone temporarily test-optional for this fall.

Not every college has done that and I don't expect that every college will, because frankly, problem-solving abilities, what standardized testing indicates, and it is an important ingredient in understanding someone's candidacy, especially for selective university.

Hafeez Lakhani:   That being said, some of us have our hands tied. So right now it's waiting to see, but I would take every test date available very seriously. So for example, right now the June 13 ACT is not yet canceled.

It may very well get canceled, especially in some regions but not others but if you're a student, a junior, especially who has not yet had a chance to record your problem-solving ability, I would get registered for that date.

Hafeez Lakhani:   In fact, the deadline is in two days, May 8. I would get registered and just be aware that it might get canceled, but take whatever opportunities you get. ACT and SAT are both planning to add test dates in the fall to give students more opportunities.

I would take those opportunities seriously including, Phil, suppose I'm applying to Cornell University. Cornell is the first Ivy League and only Ivy League so far, who has done this temporary test-optional route.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Well, the numbers are out there. It's clear that in the past, schools that are test-optional have a higher acceptance of the rate for those who submit testing than those who don't. This year may be an exception because of course there are health and economic extremes out there right now.

That being said, if you are so fortunate to be able to prepare for a test and show your strong problem-solving ability, I think it will be an asset to you in the admission cycle.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So Cornell is allowing students to apply without submitting testing. Good for Cornell. If you're the student, I think the onus is still on you to say, if I am able to show strong problem-solving ability, I should still submit testing even if it's optional.

Just like many of us, if extra credit is offered in class we take it. So really just for nuts and bolts for your listeners, Phil, the next The SAT date officially offered now is August 29. They've added a September 26 test date behind that.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Then behind that, I believe it's October 3. So those are the dates you want to mark if you're taking the SAT. If you have not yet taken any sitting of either, you should probably take the ACT because ACT currently Has not canceled the June 13 test date.

It may get canceled, but just keep an eye on that date. There's a July 18 test date. So there are two sooner test dates of the ACT available. That's what I'm recommending for students who have not yet had a chance to test. Then September 12, I believe is the one after that.

Phil Weaver:   Okay. What would you say to a student that was ready to head off to college and now is going to be virtual?

Hafeez Lakhani:   So the fall is a giant question mark. All of us are eagerly awaiting and sort of nervous about what universities will decide for the fall. Based on my many conversations, what I'm seeing is that universities are extremely reluctant to go virtual in the fall.

They will do everything they can to not go virtual, assuming they can keep everyone safe on a health basis. The reason for that is, frankly, universities are going through a huge financial turmoil right now.

Hafeez Lakhani:   So for this semester, they were able to go virtual and everyone paid more or less the same tuition they would have normally paid. It's not fair, frankly, to ask students to pay full in person tuition and have another virtual semester and a lot of students and parents are sort of crying foul about this. Now, it's not as simple as them just lowering the tuition and saying, okay, fine, it's only fair we lower tuition.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Universities won't be solvent if they don't receive certain amounts of tuition dollars. They will have to fire faculty, close apartments, cancel renovations of dorms and they've already made major budget cuts, but they can only do so much.

So the bottom line is, universities are holding out all hope to be able to keep students on campus in the fall and have tuition sort of met on a normal target basis.

Hafeez Lakhani:   If public health circumstances don't permit that to happen, the next plan is to delay the start of the fall semester. So basically, some universities are talking about starting in October or even November, instead of on September 1. That way, they can wait out a little bit of the health emergency and start a little bit later on normal circumstances and there are other hybrid models that are being floated.

Hafeez Lakhani:   If you're a student, suppose you're a senior right now you've just gotten in and you've just committed, May 1 was the original commitment date. A lot of colleges have extended that to June 1. So we're in this period right now, where students have either just committed to where they're going to college, or they're making their final decisions.

A number of people are talking about requesting gap years. I think that's perfectly fine, and if a college that you've been admitted to is willing to grant you a gap year, and you've got interesting plans for that gap year, fine, but that interesting plan component is really important.

Hafeez Lakhani:   I don't want students taking a gap year if they have no idea what they're going to do or if they think they'll just bum around for a year. I want students saying, hey, in this gap year, I'm going to volunteer for the 2020 elections.

In this gap year, I'm going to sign up for the program to go volunteer and teach at a school in Afghanistan. I want students to really make this a productive, impactful time for them, rather than just fearing that, oh, I'll be virtual.

Hafeez Lakhani:   In all likelihood, and I don't know the future. I'm not a public health expert, but if the fall is virtual, I really don't think it'll be beyond one semester at most and you have four years of college.

So, I think still you can take great advantage of this great the college experience, but sure, if you've got an idea for a gap year and if your school is willing to grant one, that's a perfectly fine option.

Phil Weaver:   Okay, fantastic. So we've covered a whole lot here. Is there anything that we haven't that's important for parents to know?

Hafeez Lakhani:   Waitlist, for those students who are still waiting to hear back from the waitlist, my recommendation is that waitlists this year is probably more important than they've been in 20 years.

So yes, you will probably have to commit to a school that you've been accepted to and maybe even put down a deposit, but if you've been put on a waitlist to a school that is really meaningful to you, one, I would stay on the waitlist.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Two is I would write a letter of continued interest, and this we've been advising a lot of our students to do and many of them have already been successful in that some waitlists have already received a response that says, yes, you're actually accepted now. So a letter of continued interest is not just a form letter. If you Google it, you'll see form letters, those are not a good idea.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Your letter should be specific and it should cover two things. One, and you can only say this honestly for one school, I would absolutely attend if I was given the opportunity. So give an assurance that if you were extended an offer off the waitlist, you would take it.

Number two is to give them an update on what you've been up to since your application back on November 1 or January 1.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Now, five, six months have passed. Give them an update on obviously, we've all been going through covert, but what additions have you made to your character story? What additions would you make to what you can contribute to that dinner table conversation? So sharing with colleges an update on your candidacy is a good idea to maybe help you turn that waitlist into an acceptance.

Phil Weaver:   Okay. Very good. Can you tell us about your website? Where would people go to find you?

Hafeez Lakhani:   Sure. We're at Lakhani is spelled L-A-K-H-A-N-I. So and you can learn a lot about our methodology on there, our rates, our coaches, and probably most interesting for parents, you'll see a link to our blog.

So our monthly newsletters are all published on there and you can get free advice on anything from how to choose your recommenders for college applications to making a plan for SAT and ACT as well as our press page.

Phil Weaver:   Very good, and we'll make sure to put those links in the resources there.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Oh, that'd be great. Thank you, Phil.

Phil Weaver:   Yeah, very good. Well, thank you Hafeez for coming on. This has been a really informative interview. I've learned a lot, and I hope our listeners have as well.

Hafeez Lakhani:   My pleasure, Phil. I'll be happy to come back anytime. All right?

Phil Weaver:   All right. Great.

Hafeez Lakhani:   Okay, thank you.

Liz Weaver:   Thank you for listening to the Learning Success podcast. We hope you have enjoyed it. We also hope you have learned something useful, something that you can take back and improve your life with today.

If you would like to say thank you, the best way for you to do that is to share this podcast with a friend. Help us help others along this journey, and if you haven't already, please rate and comment on the podcast.

Liz Weaver:   Every rating helps us and helps this podcast to get out to more people. We appreciate it and we appreciate you. Thank you again and make today a great day. No one should have to live with a learning difficulty.


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