Surviving Junior Year in High School: 7 Tips for Success

surviving-junior-year-in-high-schoolJunior year is an imperative time in a high school student’s life—and, of course, it’s a stressful one. It is known as the most important year for college applications, making your college readiness and commitment to your studies essential to your future success. No pressure, right? If you’re looking to alleviate some of the inevitable stress you may face—and why wouldn’t you?—We have seven tips that may do the trick.

How to prepare for your junior year in high school

Tip #1: Stay organized.

Since junior year is the official start of AP courses, college brochures, and standardized-test prep material, you’ll be happy you started organizing this important information as soon as it arrives. To do so, make sure you have all the school supplies you need, and then some. In addition to keeping external materials straight, your binder may be bursting with class assignments. If it gets too full, transfer old material to a binder you can keep at home. And remember, organization doesn’t stop at the tangible. Be sure to create email tabs and folders on your computer to avoid misplacing important documents.

Tip #2: Stay focused on your studies.

While finding a date for junior prom may feel like the most important task to accomplish, it’s important to stay focused on your future. And since junior year is such an important time in your high school career, it’s easy to fall behind in your academics. If you find yourself struggling in your courses, seek help immediately. Getting the academic support you need will help you stay focused on your present and future success.

Tip #3: Maintain balance.

When it comes to your transcript, it’s important that you demonstrate balance. Have you participated in extracurricular activities? How about community projects? Were you committed to a few specific activities, or did you just dabble in lots of different programs? While variety is essential, your commitment to a few activities can demonstrate leadership more effectively than participating in too many activities for a short period of time.

Tip #4: Start preparing for college.

Junior year is a perfect time to get serious about your college search. Start by outlining your goals for the future and research what types of colleges can help you fulfill those goals. Once you have a couple of ideas in mind, set up a meeting with your high school counselor to review your interests. CollegeBoard is also a great resource for college planning, research, and much more.

Tip #5: Start your SAT and/or ACT prep.

The SAT and ACT are designed to evaluate your academic readiness for higher education, and some students take them as early as January. Good news: You have all fall to prepare, and there are many ways you can do so. CollegeBoard offers both free and affordable ways to practice. It’s also a good idea to check with your school counselor about any test-prep workshops available at your school.

Tip #6: Don’t procrastinate.

Procrastinating is one of the most dangerous habits you can acquire in school; don’t let it get the best of you. In most cases, teachers will hand out a syllabus on the first day of class, outlining important dates, deadlines, and grading criteria. Be sure to mark assignment due dates on your calendar so that you can stay on top of your coursework. Remember that it will be much harder to overcome the time you lost procrastinating than just motivating yourself to complete your work on schedule.

Tip #7: Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses.

This is a paramount time in your academic career and the perfect opportunity to hone in on your interests, whether they involve extracurricular activities or additional AP courses. Use your junior year to strengthen your skills and minimize your weaknesses. For instance, if you’re struggling in a course you know you’ll need in college, get help now so that you won’t need to catch up later, when your schedule may be even more challenging.

Do High School Athletes Have an Advantage in College Admissions?

high-school-athletes-college-admissionsShoot, score, acceptance? While it’s not as easy as a one, two, three, it’s true that sports can help to shape a well-rounded character—a trait that is certainly important to admissions. That said, can participating in a sport affect your college application more than other extracurricular activities? Read on to find out.

The lowdown on extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities are a great way for students to develop new skills, friendships, and, of course, demonstrate commitment. However, when it comes down to the activity, the content isn’t as important as the level of involvement. And the same rings true for the number of activities you participate in. While it’s important for you to take part, college admissions committees are much more concerned with quality than quantity. At the same time, participating in a sport such as varsity soccer does carry with it an intense level of commitment, which admissions officers look for. Plus, the time-management skills you gain from participating in a varsity sport are unparalleled. Between extra course requirements, maintaining a strong GPA, attending away games, and attending practice at odd hours, high school athletes have their work cut out for them.

High school athletes can experience a number of benefits

Besides the potential to earn sports-specific scholarships, high school athletes don’t have any distinct advantage over other students, especially those with the same academic merit or extracurricular involvement. Still, they do benefit from their experience. The personal traits and skills an athlete can develop are vast and include a depth of commitment, perseverance, and leadership, among other qualities. In fact, according to Kevin Kniffin in a contribution to The New York Times: “…there are clear and robust individual and societal benefits that appear to be generated through the current system of school support for participation in competitive youth athletics.”

The pros and cons

Of course, there are risks related to sports, such as injury, and sports participation is time consuming and can present a number of challenges. For instance, if you commit to playing for 10 to 20 hours per week, you still have to be sure that you have time to dedicate to your studies, especially since your GPA has an impact on whether you can participate in games and be admitted to your dream school.

But as noted earlier in the post, being part of a sports team in high school can lead to a number of advantages. If you participate in sports solely for college acceptance, keep in mind that it’s not about the activity, but the commitment you demonstrate to your team and on your college application. If you have a passion for a sport, maintain that commitment and think about the benefits your participation has already brought you.

15 Questions You Should Ask on Admitted Students Day

admitted-students-dayNow that the stress of the application process has subsided, you can get to the more exciting part of your future: going to college. But if you’re still weighing pros and cons of the colleges to which you were accepted, there may be a better way to decide than making a list. Why not attend Admitted Students Day?

Admitted Students Day is a perfect opportunity for you to explore the campus and learn about the courses offered. It’s also a chance to meet other accepted and current students, mingle with faculty members, and participate in activities. Before you attend, it’s important that you’re prepared to make the most of your experience, and that means asking the right questions. After all, this is your time to find a college that will not only support you academically, but also help shape the person you’ll be in the future.

Want to make the most of your visit? Here are 15 questions to ask on Admitted Students Day.

Campus and the community culture

  • What are the dates, location, and agenda for orientation?
  • Can you tell me more about campus safety?
  • Where can I learn about community-based service projects?
  • What extracurricular activities are available to me?
  • What are my options for housing?
  • Are there any student ambassadors I can speak with?
  • What is the best way to get around campus?

Academics

  • Is it possible to receive credit for the AP, IB, and/or college-level courses I have completed?
  • What will happen if I decide to change my major?
  • Will I be assigned an academic advisor?
  • When do I register for classes?

Cost of college

  • Are there any hidden costs?
  • When will I receive my financial-aid award?
  • When will I hear about scholarships?
  • What percentage of students have lost their financial-aid awards in the past year or two?

Of course, Admitted Students Day is only one piece to the puzzle. Continue to talk through your experience with your parents and school counselor to be sure you’re making the best decision. Good luck!

10 Fun College Majors You May Not Have Considered

fun-college-majorsIf you’re in the midst of sorting through college marketing materials and applications, you’ve likely heard one very important question: “Have you decided on a major yet?” For some students, their major has been something they’ve been thinking about since freshman year of high school. However, that’s not always the case. Selecting a major may be one of the most important decisions you’ve had to make thus far, so why should it be easy?

To help, we’ve selected 10 fun college majors that you may not have considered, pulled directly from the University of Vermont website:

Community Entrepreneurship

Successful entrepreneurship is fundamental to a healthy community. Students majoring in Community Entrepreneurship can test the entrepreneurial waters in courses designed to give them first-hand experience in launching or strengthening a product or service.

Potential careers: Business consultant, not-for-profit fundraiser, and operations manager.

Individually Designed Program

The Individually Designed program offers very capable, imaginative students the chance to create their own educational program sequence and to accept the risks and challenges inherent in self-determined learning.

Potential careers: You choose your own career path, based on your interests and talents.

Athletic Training

The Athletic Training program provides students with the knowledge and skills required to work closely with physicians and other healthcare professionals in the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of injuries incurred by athletes and others engaged in physical activity.

Potential careers: Clinical instructor, performing-arts trainer, and professional-sports athletic trainer.

Zoology

The Biology Department has a strong reputation among medical schools, dental schools, veterinary medical schools, and private industries. Our seniors, by graduation day, typically have several offers for professional positions or admission to postgraduate education.

One of the many areas of biology is zoology, the study of animal life. Zoology studies range from the cellular level to the whole animal, and zoologists are biological scientists concerned with behavior, origins, and life processes of animals.

Potential careers: Zookeeper, wildlife rehabilitator, and wildlife educator.

Film and Television Studies

Film and Television Studies courses explore all aspects of film and television, from production to history and theory. Introductory courses expose students to the concepts needed to begin studying film and television, as well as its historical and theoretical concerns. Intermediate-level courses concentrate on contemporary issues, genre history, and theory, as well as film and video production.

Potential careers: Director or producer, journalist, and TV or radio broadcaster.

Early Childhood Special Education

The Early Childhood Special Education program provides students with the perspectives and skills needed to work with young children and their families in a range of family-centered, culturally responsive, inclusionary, and developmentally appropriate settings.

Potential careers: Special-education teacher, preschool teacher, and kindergarten teacher.

Exercise and Movement Science

The Exercise and Movement Science program engages students in the theory and application of movement science in health, fitness, and disease prevention in diverse populations.

Potential careers: Fitness specialist, strength and conditioning specialist, and exercise physiologist.

Natural Resources

Students can choose to concentrate their studies in one of three natural-resources concentrations: Resource Ecology, Resource Planning, or an individualized program of study in integrated Natural Resources.

Potential careers: Field researcher, environmental educator, and forest ecologist.

Human Development and Family Studies

The Human Development and Family Studies program provides students with the academic and practical opportunities to become lifelong learners who are committed to addressing the educational and human-service needs of Vermont and the nation.

Potential careers: Mental-health counselor, social worker, and psychologist

Political Science

The Political Science Department at UVM offers courses across the discipline, taught by scholar-teachers with outstanding research records and national reputations. Whether you are interested in American politics, law, women’s issues, political theory, international relations, or the politics of different world regions, you’ll find department members teaching courses and doing cutting-edge research in your field of interest.

Potential careers: Communications coordinator, public-relations coordinator, and government-affairs professional.

Don’t worry if you can’t decide on a major right away. Stay tuned for more on preparing for college and finding the major that’s right for you.

What to Do If You Didn’t Get Into College

what-to-do-if-you-didint-get-into-collegeCollege rejection letters can be a shock. But even if you didn’t get into your dream college—or any of the colleges you applied to—don’t lose sight of your goal. College can still be an option in your near future.

How to handle disappointment if you didn’t get into college

Before you panic, reach out to your high-school counselor to discuss your options. Because the competition for admission is growing every year, your school counselor is likely well-versed in supporting students through this process. And, fortunately, many colleges and universities have late-admission policies, as well as rolling admission deadlines. Work with your counselor to determine your next steps.

Another option to consider is to take a gap semester, enroll in a non-degree program, or apply to a two-year school. If you have your heart set on one school in particular, you may get accepted the second time around, if you can prove your commitment to your academics and your future. You can also speak with your counselor to see if you can re-apply or write a letter of appeal. While it’s rare for colleges to reconsider admissions decisions, it may be worth writing the letter so that you know that you’ve done your best to get into your dream school.

Looking to the future

Many students get so excited about one college that they forget about all of their options. While disappointment is normal, it’s important to stay positive and not take rejection personally. Lawrence J. Momo, in his New York Times article on the “Joys of Not Getting What You Want,” discusses not getting into his dream school: “I would have missed the curriculum my college required and its books, many of which are still dear to me. I would most likely not have chosen my profession, lived where I do or valued the same engagements. I would not have met my wife.” So while you may have your heart set on one college, remember that there are so many other opportunities out there. Stay focused on your goal and take action to determine the path that’s right for you.

Combatting Sleep Deprivation in Teens

sleep-deprivation-in-teens

Teenagers are notorious for staying up late. As a result, they often aren’t logging enough hours of sleep each night. And with the growing number of personal devices, the increasing weight of homework assignments, and the temptation to catch up on sleep over the weekend, sleep deprivation shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, according to Jane E. Brody, a contributing author at The New York Times, “Researchers report that the average adolescent needs eight and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep each night. But in a poll taken in 2006 by the National Sleep Foundation, less than 20 percent reported getting that much rest on school nights.”

So how much sleep does your teen need? According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, adolescents need nine to nine-and-a-half hours of sleep every night.

The risks of sleep deprivation in teens…

Insufficient sleep can create a number of health and behavioral issues in teens, such as mood swings, depression and suicidal thoughts, high blood pressure, and obesity. Studies also show that sleep-deprived teens are at a higher risk for car accidents. But with schoolwork, extracurricular activities, social activities, and a part-time job, how can your teen keep up and get enough sleep to stay healthy and happy?

…and how to cope as a family

One important thing to remember is that while school is a top priority, it’s not everything. If busy schedules are costing your teen a good night’s sleep, it may be time to re-evaluate. The difficult part is alleviating some of the stress of schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Often, your child is experiencing stress from activities and events that are inevitable, such as a required course load. So while teens may have to take that challenging AP course, you can take action to ensure that they get the sleep they need. Here are some ideas:

  • Next time you sit down to plan your week, schedule time to relax and have fun as a family, whether that time is spent watching a movie, cooking dinner, or going on a short walk. Recognize that stress can come from your child’s schedule, and take action so that it doesn’t lead to unhealthy habits.
  • If technology is the issue, consider enforcing a lights-out rule on weeknights. While teens may be tempted to stay up late texting or catching up on the latest trends on social media, remind them that lack of shut-eye can have a negative impact on their health and academic performance—something they may not consider when choosing technology over sleep.
  • And if they think they can catch up on sleep over the weekends, they may be wrong: “Trying to compensate for sleep deprivation on weekends can further compromise an adolescent’s sleep-wake cycle by inducing permanent jet lag,” says Brody. “Sleeping late on weekends shifts their internal clock, making it even harder to get to sleep Sunday night and wake up on time for school Monday morning.” Discuss the consequences that may result from sleep deprivation and help your teen make getting enough sleep a priority.

 

6 College Campus Safety Tips to Share with Your Child

college-campus-safetyFor many students, the first year of college represents the first time they’ll be off on their own. This is a time for personal growth, but as a parent, you want to ensure that your child embarks on this new academic journey safely. Before your son or daughter ventures off to college, share and discuss few essential pointers to keep your child safe and happy all school year long.

6 college campus safety tips

Be aware of your surroundings.

One of the most essential tips you can share with your children is to be conscious of their surroundings. And, if traveling at night, to use the old-fashioned buddy system. While college campuses can be relatively safe environments, it’s important to educate your child on the importance of using well-lit travel routes and public transportation after dark. And, of course, they should always walk with confidence; that way other people will know they are in control and aware of their surroundings. If your children find themselves in a troubling situation, make sure they know to find an occupied area and report any suspicious behavior or circumstances to campus safety and the police.

Lock your dorm room and your car.

One of the best ways to stay safe on campus is to use basic safety precautions, such as locking the door. Your children may be tempted to leave the door unlocked if they are expecting a friend to visit, but just to be safe, encourage them to always lock up—and to take the same precaution if they have a car on campus.

Add campus security numbers to your cell phone.

All colleges and universities have emergency and non-emergency contact numbers. Advise your child to import those numbers into his or her cell phone. Some campuses even have emergency units that provide instant two-way communication to the police or campus safety. So even if students lose or misplace a cell phone, they can still get in touch with an emergency contact.

Share your schedule.

Advise your children to share their schedules and a reliable contact number with you, friends, roommates, and significant others. This will be especially helpful in the event of an emergency.

Never walk alone at night.

This is especially important if your child plans to travel off-campus. Not only will your child feel more comfortable traveling back to the dorm, but he or she will also increase safety on and off campus. In addition to the buddy-system, many colleges offer free campus area transportation systems—a safe and convenient way for students to travel.

Reach out to those around you.

If your child feels stressed out—or perhaps has a question about safety—encourage him or her to reach out to you, campus safety officials, or a trusted adult on campus, such as a professor or advisor. Finally, look into self-defense courses or classes. Many colleges and universities offer such courses, which are not only an opportunity to learn to importance of safety, but also a chance to build a number of other skills. Contact your child’s school for more information.

7 Popular Apps for High-School Students

apps-for-high-school-studentsIn today’s age of technology, it’s no surprise that high school students are using apps on their smartphones and tablets to fuel their college searches. But with millions of apps at your fingertips, how can you choose the right one to help you free up your time to have more fun?

7 apps for high-school students that will help with the college search and daily activities

Organize your schedule and homework assignments:

Evernote

When it comes to managing your academic schedule, your tasks, and your social schedule, you’re bound to become overwhelmed. With Evernote—a free app—you can stay organized and even improve your productivity. Capture important information in an instant and review what you have documented on the go.

iStudiez Pro

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your current and upcoming assignments and tasks? Stressed about your grades and overall GPA? Well, there’s an app for that. This unique app lets you calculate and track your GPA, share your schedule with other calendar apps on your device, and manage all your assignments in one place.

Graphing Calculator

A graphing calculator can be a hefty investment, so turn your phone in to one—at least for the duration of your algebra homework. Selected as one of the top 10 back-to-school iPhone apps by Time Magazine, the Graphing Calculator is designed for multiple equations on one graph and speeds up entry with a custom keyboard. What’s more, this graphing calculator supports polar and parametric equations.

Organize your college prep and search:

Naviance

Naviance is defined on its website as a comprehensive college- and career-readiness solution for middle and high schools that helps align student strengths and interests to post-secondary goals and improve student outcomes. This mobile student app helps you organize everything from college stats to important dates and deadlines.

EssayEdge

EssayEdge by Peterson’s can help alleviate some of the pressure you may feel when it comes time to craft your position statement. Whether you need assistance with proofreading or guidance, this mobile app can do all of that and more.

The SAT Question of the Day

What’s just as difficult—if not more—than taking the SATs? Preparing, of course. With The Official SAT Question of the Day, you can prepare yourself daily. And it’s all on-the-go.

ScholarshipAdvisor

It’s without question that college is a huge investment. With ScholarshipAdvisor, you can find scholarships to help you offset the cost of your investment. The best part? You can apply for scholarships right from your device.

High-School Organizations that Boost Your College Application

high-school-organizationsIt’s no secret that extracurricular activities can make a positive impact on the college application. Like volunteering, they demonstrate to admissions officers that you are committed to an activity and organization. Perhaps more important is the personal experience you will gain and grow from, which can ultimately help you when it comes time to craft your position statement.

While the position statement is an important part of the application, it often deters students from getting an early start on their essay. Why? Through a holistic admissions review, colleges and universities look for candidates who demonstrate personal growth, dedication and leadership, among other important skills. But illustrating that in 650 words or less can be intimidating. Thus, the essay often causes delays.

High-school organizations and clubs, however, can help students focus the essay on just that: personal growth, dedication, and leadership. Furthermore, this personal growth can be used to fuel success for years to come.

So how can you get started? Let’s take a closer look:

High-school organizations and clubs help students gain skills that have a positive impact on their future.

“Realistically, there are some activities that do tend to stand out more than others,” says experts at Peterson’s, a resource for college-bound students. “If your accomplishments are a little more on the unusual side, putting together a proper presentation can help admission officers see those debate awards or rock-climbing activities more clearly.” And when it comes to extracurricular activities, colleges are more interested in the depth of involvement than the actual content. So don’t worry about holding the title as the class president if you’ve made a contribution in other ways, like a commitment to the theater, debate team, or school paper.

Where can students acquire these skills?

So what type of skills will you gain from joining a high-school organization or club? More important, will certain clubs and organizations help you gain specific skills? Here are some ways to start thinking about these questions.

  • If you’re looking to improve leadership or communication skills, you may want to consider running for student government or working as a peer tutor or volunteer.
  • Colleges also look for students who have made a difference, so if you’re passionate about sustainability and the environment, consider joining the environmental club.
  • Find an activity that you care deeply about. Whether it’s captain of your varsity soccer team or editor of your school newspaper, as long as you demonstrate initiative and commitment to the activity you’re involved in, you’ll be that much closer to distinguishing yourself on your application.

How to Answer 5 of the Most Common College Application Questions

common-college-application-questionsAsk prospective students what the most stressful part of the college application process is, and likely they’ll answer with the following: writing the essay. And as hundreds of thousands of high-school seniors begin to polish their college applications, they will struggle with just that. So why does the essay trigger so much pressure? It’s simple: The college essay is the first opportunity to showcase an applicant’s personality to the admissions committee.

And while the essay is a paramount part of your application, it’s important to stay confident and start drafting different approaches to common essay prompts. To get you started, here are five of the essay prompts from the Common Application.

5 college application essay questions used on the Common App…

The 2016–2017 Common Application essay prompts are listed below. While not every college or university requires you to use the Common App, this will give you a general idea of what schools are looking for in the application essay.

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

…And How to Answer Them

For these particular essay questions, you may have to touch on subjects that you never thought of sharing with anyone—especially the college you’re applying to. But the truth is, reflecting on a failure and how you have overcome it demonstrates personal strength—among other skills—to admissions committees. In another example, if you can identify an event where you have made a noteworthy turning point in your life, admission officers want to hear about that. Whether it was a time where you took initiative in the classroom or in the community, your answer to these questions can reveal academic or intellectual strengths that colleges are looking for in applicants.

Please note that regardless of the prompt you choose, the length has already been predetermined at 650 words maximum. Be sure to abide by this guideline when you’re writing your essay. For a full list of writing guidelines, visit the Common Application website.

How to Craft a College Essay That Stands Out

While there are many elements of the college application, the admissions essay is your opportunity to humanize your application and let your personality come alive. Embrace it! In order to ensure that you have truly gone above and beyond, leave yourself enough time to brainstorm, write, revisit and, of course, edit your essay.

If possible, demonstrate knowledge and passion for the college you’re applying to. For example, if one of these schools promotes sustainability initiatives every year—and that’s something you’re passionate about as well—illustrate that in the essay. Colleges and universities of all sizes want to send acceptance letters to prospective students who can contribute to and grow the campus community. So if you share similar values, you may have an advantage when it comes time to craft your essay.

Finally, be confident. “It’s important to write as though you deserve gaining acceptance,” says Jeannie Borin, a college admissions consultant and contributor at The Huffington Post. Regardless of the topic you choose, if you demonstrate confidence in your writing and knowledge for the college and program, you’re bound to impress the admissions officer who has the pleasure of reviewing your application. Good luck!