Five Ways to Have the Best Academic Year Ever


As summer vacation begins to come to a close and Back to School time is slowly approaching us. I’ve decided to compose a list of 5 tips on how to take this school by its horns (metaphorically, of course) and ride off into the sunset of academic success.

Tip #1: Start Getting Mentally in Shape

In between your busy summer schedule, make sure to set time aside for remedial practice of your core subjects, such as math and science, this will help you retain vital information that you may forget during your summer break and kept your brain active and functioning.

Begin to take advantage of the world around you, there are plenty resources for math, science, English and social studies on the internet, such as Khan Academy, which allows you to learn just about anything for free online, you can even download their mobile app for quick and easy learning on the go. Love Khan Academy?, but not into watching long videos? Try Cool Math where there are thousands of math games at your fingertips, where you can play video games, learn math and have fun, all at the same time, it’s a win-win situation.

If you're taking a language next school year and you want a head start, or you're already learning one and you want more practice? Try out Duolingo, and easy way to learn and practice any language you want. They have a mobile app you can download and the program is very interactive and easy to use, not only can you learn how to speak a new language, but you can also learn how to write it simultaneously.

Tip #2: Finish Any Summer Assignments or Homework That Are Due the First Week of School

Everyone knows that daunting feeling you get when you have a deadline, also the stress and anxiety that comes with it. Sometimes it just feels like school is the dark cloud, putting a damper on your summer fun and it's incredibly easy to push any academic responsibility to the back of your mind and put it off till the last minute, we’ve all done it at some point, so there's no shaming. Luckily for you there is a simple and easy way to avoid procrastinating…. JUST DON’T PROCRASTINATE.  I won't talk much about it here, but I will address it later on in the article.

By completing all your assignments as soon as possible, it allows you to focus more on the fun plans you have with your family and friends. Also, while you're having a stress free summer, your friends won't be so lucky, because they've decided to hold on and do it during the end of summer .

Tip #3: Create a List of Goals

Creating a list of short term and long term goals for this school year is a great way to motivate you to do your best in school and it also helps you to get a clear target to focus and work towards.

If your goal is to maintain all A’s you have to put in the work, if your goal is to get an A or B in a particular class you struggle in you must be willing to push yourself. That's just what it comes down to, you must have that kind of mentality. In life, nothing will ever be given to you, you must earn it and when you do the rewards will be worthwhile.

A’s are a great goal to aim for and you should always push yourself, but if you are having a hard time achieving them, that doesn't make you any less of a person or student. I can't stress it enough, GRADES AREN'T EVERYTHING, a number cannot and does not define you or predict your success in life, only you can. That's why you should always strive to do your best because your best is and will always be enough. You are your own dictator of your future.

“The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them. " -Michelle Obama

Tip #4: Start Setting Your Priorities

We all know that high school can be a place where you make some of the best memories, such as going to football games with your friends, getting invited to parties, meeting tons new people and also a place to get an education, but let's not get carried away.

Don't get me wrong, high school will be one of the best experience you’ll ever have, but all of that won't matter unless you have priorities set in place. That means you knowing what matters in your life and what doesn't and as an inexperienced, impressionable teen that can be crucial to your academic success.

High school can sometimes feel like a juggling act, as you try balancing extracurricular activities, academics, jobs, friends and family, all at the same time. You can sometimes feel burnt out at the end of the day. That's why prioritizing can help you keep focused on what matters and what you can afford to compromise. No two persons are alike, that's why not everyone’s priorities align.

Sometimes finding what matters to you can be difficult because you might have friends who want to go out on a Sunday night, but you know you have a test to study for the next day. But by knowing your priorities, it can help you make the right and best decision for yourself.


I will be the first person to raise my hand when it comes to suffering from the blow of procrastination. I can't tell you how many times I've been caught up in its web. That's why my last and final tip to you is that when you get any kind of assignment (homework, class work, project, essay, etc.) start working on them ASAP. I'm not saying go crazy and complete it all in one day, but strategically break your workload into chunks to refrain from overwhelming yourself with a swarm of deadlines and assignments.

It's time to start holding yourself accountable.This is just something you must teach yourself to do because it is a vital skill you will use for no matter what in your life.

The amount of pressure that has been put on this generation regarding academic success has reached new heights and no matter if you're a freshman in high school or senior in college, school can be stressful on everybody. But, before your first day, just take a moment to breathe and remember you've got this. Good luck!




Five Apps Every Student Should Have


Apps every student should have…or at least know about. We all have those apps that are just fun to have but aren’t really useful education wise. You know exactly what I’m talking about: Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. You might say that we use them for education, but I think teachers would beg to differ. I will give you a total of five apps that you need to download this school year.

  1. myHomework (13.5 MB, free)

Hate handwriting all of your assignments that you need to complete? No problem, the myHomework Student Planner is here for you. This app not only works without internet connection, but it can also go in your notifications bar to help keep you on track. If your teacher has an account with, then your assignments will be uploaded automatically, but if they don’t then you can manually upload them. Swipe right when completed, swipe left to delete. Simple right? Definitely.

  1. Google Drive (105 MB, free)

Teacher: “Okay class, turn in your paper on Shakespeare”.

You: *Frantically searches for essay* “Um, Mr. Harshknuckle, I left my paper at home”.

Teacher: “Well you better get it to me fast. I’m not accepting it after noon”.

Clock: “Tick Tock”. *Reads 11:56 A.M.*

How many of us have been in that situation? I’m going to save you the shame of getting a failing grade on a paper you wrote because you left it at home. The Google Drive app allows you to access all of your items done within any Google software (Docs, Sheets, and Slides). You can share the items from your phone with anyone. Another benefit is that you can set a document to “available offline” so you can still access it even without WiFi.


  1. Khan Academy (140 MB, free)

I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s the teacher’s voice. Maybe it’s me. No, it’s definitely the teacher, she sucks. No more thinking like that anymore because we now have Khan Academy. Khan Academy is an online classroom, basically, that aids you in any subject you can possibly think of. It all started from a little YouTube channel; which is still active today. You can find help in subjects from Math to Arts and Humanities. You can also type keywords into the search engine  to pinpoint specific videos. They also offer test prep for the SAT, NCLEX-RN, AP Art History, and more. Extra help, total win.

  1. Duolingo (26 MB, free)

Did you know that if you speak more than one language, you have a higher chance of earning a bigger paycheck (CNN)? Well, you do, that’s why your school requires you to take a foreign language course such as French or Spanish. “But I’m not good at Spanish!” You are, you just need more practice; that’s where Duolingo comes in. It teaches you the basics first then helps you advance. When you first choose one of the fifteen languages offered to English speakers, they’ll give you a pre-test to see where your skills are. You also get to set up a daily goal that you need to reach; trust me, you’ll know if you miss one.


  1. Voice Memos (Depends on the phone)

You don’t have to download all apps. Just use the voice memos or recorder on your phone and voilá, you can go to sleep now. No, I’m kidding, do not go to sleep in class. But if you need to take a little five-minute brain break in the middle of a lecture or if you are an auditory learner, just turn on your voice memos or recorder and record what your teacher says. Simple.




What You Should Be Doing Each Year in High School to Have a Successful College Admissions Experience


Growing up, I used to watch a lot of TV. Even though the heat didn’t work in my basement and the room gave me shivers that went to the balls of my feet, a show or two was always on my daily agenda. With age, the shows I was interested in shifted from wanting to watch the PBS Kids nightly specials to recording every Disney Channel and Nickelodeon original movie that was ever mentioned on a commercial. I was one of those that can still sing both the Camp Rock and Camp Rock 2 soundtracks by heart. Still can, actually, and still with no shame. With my introduction to Nickelodeon and Disney Channel shows, my different visions of the high school life became brightened like Christmas lights, and I was becoming more than excited to go. While I knew I would never be acting at (the fake) Hollywood Arts High School or living on a Cruise Ship, I wanted to know how I could make my years of high school as productive and entertaining as possible within a more traditional high school experience.

Because of the lack of older siblings or other family to help give me advice, I turned to YouTube. At the time, I had already learned a lot through the site, like that cats can do absolutely anything and oranges are extremely annoying when they talk. However, when I tried to do research on how my four years had to go in order to have a competitive college application, I was only able to salvage a few genuine responses, as 95% of the knowledge I gained from the videos were identical advice regurgitated with different wording, advice as common and bland as a saltine cracker. With the help of some exceptions, including YouTubers (Katherout, Annemarie Chase, and Joi Wade), I was inspired to try some things for myself, and found what worked and when I needed to start things.  I worked for you to avoid the mistakes that I’ve made during high school, and a good timeline to follow to prepare yourself for the college admissions process.

Freshman year


Academically, freshman year of high school is an adjustment period. Some people, like myself, find the adjustment easy, and others find it more difficult. However, it is a year that goes on your transcript so it’s important to start the year focused and stay focused throughout the year.

Extracurricular Activities:

Get overly involved in activities. If you have any slight interest, sign up to get alerts and go to the first couple of meetings. It’s easier to join some activities then quit them after freshman year, if you don’t like them, than to try to join clubs, sports, etc. as an upperclassman.


This should be an area you are least concerned with. Because most of you won’t have the math skills or have built up the English language skills that are crucial to the ACT/SAT. Don’t do more than the practice tests your school may require you to take.


  1. One of the best ways of getting through the stresses of high school and the college admission process is having friends or a community that will support you through both your successes and failures. Freshman year is a great time to establish your “crew” that will be there for you. While these people may not stay with you throughout your entire high school journey, at least having a past connection is a great support mechanism to make the high school experience both fun and rewarding.
  2. Set both short and long-term goals for yourself academically, within your extra-curricular activities and socially. These goals can range from making the varsity lacrosse team, to getting a 3.8 unweighted GPA, to getting into your state school. Writing these goals down and keeping them somewhere where you’ll read them often can help you maintain your focus throughout the school year.

Sophomore Year


Keep grinding. Stay focused. If you slipped into bad habits freshman year or were not happy with your academic performance, don’t dwell on those mistakes. Use them as motivation and a learning experience for this year and going forward.


By the summer, talk to your parents/guardians and determine how you’ll be preparing for your standardized tests (the ACT/SAT), whether that’s with prep courses, private tutors, or self-studying, in order to get ahead of your peers. If you think prep courses or private tutoring are paths you’ll need to go on, it may be a good thing to pursue during the summer as you have more free time to do the practice.

Extracurricular Activities:

By sophomore year, continue to search for the extracurricular activities you really enjoy. There is no shame in quitting or joining activities this year. If you want to have the possibility to gain leadership in one of these activities, make sure to attend as many of the events/practices/meetings for the activity, in order to show dedication to the advisor or coach.


If you’re interested in doing some more unique things during college, like playing a sport, joining an ROTC program (which you can read about here or studying the performing arts, talk to your guidance counselor and see what sort of preparations you’ll have to do before-hand. The last thing you want is to find out when you’re applying that these programs aren’t available to you because you waited too long.

Junior Year  

Junior year is the year you’ve got to get your head in the game. This is the most looked at year by admissions committees on a college application, so you need to.

If this year is getting too stressful, make short-term goals. Sometimes it’s easier to look at getting through a stressful week than a well-known stressful week.


  1. For those of you who decide to apply to colleges at the early deadlines in November, the end of this year is the last impression colleges will have of you when you apply, so you need to push yourself academically. Try to do the absolute best that you can academically.
  2. Since you most likely got all of your graduation requirements done with, this is a year to establish a schedule in areas of interest. For example, if you want to be pre-med, it would be beneficial to double up on science classes, to show your dedication to your major to your colleges of choice.


Try to get all of your testing out of the way as early into junior year as possible. Start doing prep and taking actual exams by December to give an adequate amount of time to improve your score. If you believe you are going to be applying to a college that requires or recommends SAT subject tests, make sure to plan for those as well.

Extracurricular Activities:

  1. If by this point you have found a few activities that you really enjoy, try to dedicate a bunch of time to them. If you love playing the trumpet, you can play in a myriad of bands, mentor beginner trumpet players, and go to intensives in the summer to help you improve your craft. This sort of strategy allows you not only for tremendous improvement in what you do, but shows colleges your dedication to the activities you involve yourself with.
  2. Look into possibly pursuing leadership in the things that you’ve been involved in. No matter how much you doubt yourself about getting a leadership position, just do it. While one of your volleyball teammates with an ego bigger than the Pacific thought they were guaranteed being captain BS’ their speech and is basically not going to be considered, you’ll wish that you had written a speech yourself.


  1. If affordable, try to visit some of the colleges that you are interested in. If the visit list is still limited, maybe take a week and go to a couple of concentrated areas with lots of colleges, such as Boston or LA, because there are a variety of different colleges that you can visit in order to get a feel for the type of environment that you would like in a particular college.
  2. Stay sane and socialize. Go to a couple of football games. Go to Homecoming, prom, girls ask guys dance. Go to a party, even if you have a lot of homework due on Monday. It will keep your mind clear and sane. You’d be surprised by how much screaming the lyrics of your favorite song can take you out of the stresses of the world and into a happy place.

Senior Year


  1. If you end up applying to any regular decision deadlines, you will have one-two marking period grades that will be sent to colleges. Just like junior year, it’s another time to impress colleges and show another strong academic record.
  2. Remember that even after a college accepts you, they can take back their acceptance if your academic performance is not where they would like it to be, so try to stay focused enough where you can achieve grades of a level that is near your highest performance in high school.


If your standardized testing is not already completed, work on getting it completed in the September and October dates.

Extracurricular Activities:

Enjoy being on your sports teams, orchestras, and unique clubs while you can. If you aren’t interested in pursuing these at a collegiate level, this year will be the last that you’ll be able to experience them. Make that last year count.


  1. Make sure to dedicate time nightly for your college applications. You don’t want to fall behind on these and not have them at the quality that you like.
  2. Visit the colleges that you got accepted to if possible, to help make your final decision of where you’ll be attending college easier.
  3. Have fun! Treat yourself for the hard work put in you put in the past 3 ½ years.



The Summer Senior Slump: Getting Ready for Senioritis and the College Application Process


Defining the Slump

The day I am writing this article is the day that I had my first interview for an internship. The day I am writing this article is the day I had a summer meeting for a club that I am an officer for. The day I am writing this article is the day that I truly sat myself down and thought to myself, the summer is almost over, and I have no idea what I am doing with my life. Yes, it is quite melodramatic and cliche for a seventeen year old high school senior like me to say, but I don’t think any other group of words could sum up what most high school seniors feel the summer before consecutive months of worry lines and sleepless nights.

Recognizing the Slump

I woke up this morning earlier and more alert than most. Today was a big day for me and it required a different mindset than most of my summer morning yawns. I needed my mind focused on current events, political awareness, my future endeavors - this list could go on about what I thought the people at the internship I was getting interviewed for wanted to hear. I should have realized sooner that my own personal interests and qualities are the main reason why I would get hired as an intern in the first place.

Before going to the interview, I met up with my fellow club officers at our high school to discuss possible events and opportunities for our club this school year. Our discussion quickly took a different turn, and soon enough we were discussing our worries and stresses about newly released AP test scores, last minute SAT testing, and of course, the he-who-shall-not-be-named of incoming high school seniors. College applications. I didn’t realize, that until that moment when I heard my classmates spill out their college related confessions, that time was not slowing down. In other words, I needed to get my act together, and fast.

Attacking the Slump

On my way back home from the meeting and getting ready for my interview at 12:20 PM, my mind was juggling between the “could be’s” and the “what if’s”. What if I don’t improve my SAT score by the time applications roll around? Could I actually get into a good college with my mediocre transcript? Instead of coming to my senses that moment when I was stressing out, it is only dawning upon me while I am writing this article that instead of thinking, I should be doing. I have my fair share of regrets and I have always thought about doing something I will not regret, but when will the time come when I actually do it? If you’re reading this, you probably find yourself in a slump, feeling regretful, but not actually doing something about it. This new and last school year is not even starting yet, but the weight of responsibilities and worries are already bringing us down. What we need to do is stop concerning ourselves with the “if’s” and “but’s” of our worries, and start focusing our mindsets on kicking our senior year in the butt - in the best way possible.


No, I don’t mean the exercise where you sit still and let small chants run out of your mouth, but hey you could do that too if you want. By meditating, I mean do whatever you can to not stress (yet). The first thing you should do before taking on the grind of getting out of this slump is to take a significant amount of time to relax and not worry. Let your mind think thoughtfully, and not angrily, on your mistakes you might have made in the past school years. Reminisce on the enjoyable moments, but recognize your regrets. The first step of tackling a problem is finding and recognizing the root of it.

Although you may be hard on yourself for your mistakes, take this time to also think about any dreams or wishes you have always had. I am a firm believer of second chances and the ‘it’s never too late’ mentality. Have any long or short term goals in your mind? Never lose sight of them and write them down, you could seize the day at any moment. Taking this time to recognize and organize all your thoughts will make it easier once you actually start doing something about them.


Now that you have mentally assorted all the things you have been meaning and wanting to do, it’s time to get those phalanges and femurs moving. Get excited! This next step is the part that requires the most optimism, patience, but most of all open mindedness and fun. Bust out your computer, or any other device that gives you access to Google, and your favorite snacks, because the next amount of hours or days will be your creative research period.

After establishing your mistakes and goals, you need to find a way to tackle them. Need to retake a science class? Find out if your school offers summer courses, or if you can find a college nearby that allows you to take a class for credit. Want to start finding out different career paths? Research related volunteer work that fits your ideal job, or any internship opportunities nearby. Use this time to actually start taking action on what you want to do with your life. The great thing about this step is that it does not even have to be boring or impulsive. Let your creativity flow during this research period and really focus on finding what screams at you and makes you want to drop everything and do it at that moment.


So you figured out you want to stop being lazy and found some stuff that actually interests you. Now what? After narrowing down your options and choices, here comes the hard part. It is time to actually do it. Interviews, workshops, and applications may be rolling like an avalanche towards you, and it may be stressful and take a toll on your brain. You need to readjust your mindset out of summer lazy mode, and flip the switch to summer productive mode. The key words to this step are practice makes better, not perfect. This is the time for you to get better.

Get better at presenting yourself, get better at a certain field of study, get better at a particular hobby or interest. There is no need to be perfect at anything yet, because that will come later. The point of getting out of this slump during the summer is to improve and prepare you for the school year, when the even harder parts make an appearance. Perfect is an overrated term and state of being in the first place, and overrated is definitely boring. Remember what I said earlier? This is a time to have fun and be creative, there is no room for being boring.


Congratulations! You don’t have everything figured out yet, but you are one step ahead of accomplishing what you initially set your mind on doing. This last step is even vaguer than the previous ones. After focusing your time on isolating your problems and goals, to celebrate may mean differently to each person. You could celebrate by actually throwing a party and using the summer’s heat and your swimming pool to practical use. Or celebrating may mean landing the job or internship you wanted, and actually enjoying yourself doing something new and exciting.

This is the time to do things for yourself, because once August or September rolls around, school will be creeping up on you again. Whichever way of celebrating you take on, you should be proud of yourself for stepping up to the plate, and batting out your problems or goals that have always been following you around. It takes one to talk about their dreams, but it takes an even greater one to do something about them.

During the Slump, and Afterwards

Some of you may be wondering, what happened with that internship? Even if you are not that curious, I will tell you anyways because it is a prime example of the steps I just listed to you. I found out about the internship through one of my closest friends, and it only took a matter of two days to research, apply, and take on my worst fear - getting interviewed. I spent the past two days researching about the internship position and the campaign I was hoping to work for. I had practically all of my older cousins review my resume and do trial interviews with me. I had the general information about this campaign down, and I knew my resume was at its best presentation, even if the only other time I actually touched it was freshman year in our required business class.

Whilst driving in the car to my interview, I already knew I wouldn’t arrive at the recommended time of 15 minutes prior. Additionally, I forgot my cover letter and I wore heels that I could barely walk in. I parked in the parking lot of the campaign headquarters by 12:18, and I walked through the glass doors by 12:20. The office was pretty barren, with groups of desks in one corner and campaign posters in the other. The people were dressed casually, and my internship coordinator could pass as my sister. I was standing in the middle of the open office in a thick black blazer and uncomfortable heels. I could tell you how the interview went, and how I felt afterwards. But I could also tell you that the day I’m writing this paragraph is the day after my interview. The day I’m writing this paragraph is the day I started my internship. The day I’m writing this paragraph is the day my boss recognized me for my superb phone duties, and how I went over the average number of phone calls on my first day (which is a pretty big deal). I wore jeans to the internship today and ate pizza while making survey phone calls. I defined the Slump, but am still yet to conquering it. Cheers, anyone?



Tips for Picking High School Electives


It's that time of year again. Just as high school students have become completely settled into the new school year, the time comes to choose their electives for the next school year. While picking electives in itself isn't exactly the hardest thing in the world, it's picking the right ones that requires a bit of forethought. Here are some tips to help you make these choices.

Know Your Requirements

Before you decide on any electives, make sure you have all your required classes accounted for. If you failed a course in the past, plan to graduate early, or just live in a school district that requires a semester of art you have yet to take, brushing up on your school's requirements could save you from some serious stress senior year. Whether you want to turn up the heat a little or just relax for your last year of high school, it's better not to have an unfulfilled requirement hanging over your head before you head off to college. In addition, think about what classes you may want to take in the future as well; if your school offers an interesting class that you have to be a junior or senior to take, check if you need to take a prerequisite course first.

Identify Your Likes...and Dislikes

If you already know what school you want to go to and what you want to study there that's great; you can pick electives related to that field. If you're like me, however, and are a bit more indecisive, it might help to simply know what you like--and what you don't. It's often easier to identify ourselves by what we like than what we are, and knowing what you dislike is just as important as what you like. Your school may have dozens of options for electives, but many can easily be weeded about by saying "I hate math" or "I really don't like history." Now, obviously you are not going to choose an elective in a subject you hate; if you are unsure of your feelings, however, selecting a certain elective can feel like a leap of faith, which is where an outside opinion can become essential.


Talk to Upperclassmen

High schoolers love to complain about school. You can deny it all you want, but there's always one class that gives too much homework or is taught by a teacher that could put coffee drinking six-year-olds to sleep, and for every one of those classes, there are a plethora of students willing and eager to talk about it. If you're on the fence about taking a class, ask around for kids who have taken it or have had another class with the teacher. At the least, you'll probably get an "I heard they give a lot of group projects," or "the tests are really easy," and if you're lucky, you may get a five minute rant with the input of three passing strangers (yes, I speak from experience).

Know Your Limits

If you're taking four AP classes, on the swim team, belong to the drama club, and have a part time job, taking a study hall might beneficial to your mental health. Before choosing any electives, consider the other courses you're taking and whether you'll be able to handle another class. Staying sharp in your classes is just as important as choosing them, and as invincible as you think you are at times, we all have limitations. I have friends taking the same classes as me but without a study hall they often stay up until 2am to finish all their homework because they also have jobs and extra-curricular activities until late at night. On the other hand, there are some people I know with even heavier class loads than I without a study hall that are doing just fine, it all depends on the person. Take some time to self reflect and figure out what's best for you.


Utilize Your Guidance Counselors

More often than not, the most helpful resource for choosing electives is the one your school provides you. Guidance counselors are your best friends when it comes to the subject; they already know what courses your school requires and often can give great advice about a plan not only for the next school year but for the rest of high school and beyond. While seeking out your counselor may seem annoying or intimidating at first, they're usually your best bet when it comes anything regarding you and high school; it's kind of their job.



Tips and Tricks: High School Life Hacks


High school is hard. Point blank.We have to wake up early, go to school all day, and then go home and study. None of these things are particularly easy; however, there are a few things that may change that. Here are a few life hacks that can make high school a bit less of a struggle. Having trouble getting up in the morning for school?


Hack #1: Use Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle is an app for Apple and Android that serves as an alarm clock and a sleep tracker. Basically, how it works is you set an alarm on the app and it tracks your sleep, which then allows it to wake you up in your lightest phase of sleep, enabling you to feel more awake and refreshed in the morning. For example, I set the alarm for 6:00 a.m. and place my phone on my bedside table. It tracks my sleep and will wake me up any time between 5:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. when I am in my lightest phase of sleep.

At first, I was a bit skeptical of this app. How could I be more awake waking up at 5:30 than if I slept for an extra 30 minutes and woke up at 6:00? It describes it best on the app, but basically you will be more refreshed if you wake up at the end of a sleep cycle, rather than in the middle of one. By using this app, you will definitely have an easier time getting up early during the school week!


Hack #2: Use

If Sleep Cycle isn’t your thing, try using the website ( This website allows you to enter the time that you need to wake up, and it then suggest optimal times for you to fall asleep in order to wake up the most refreshed. Similarly to Sleep Cycle, this website is based on the idea that you will be most refreshed if you wake up at the end of a sleep cycle, rather than in the middle. This website is perfect if you still want to use a conventional alarm clock, but still need help feeling more rested in the mornings.

Have a difficult time focusing in class?

Hack #3: Chew Mint Gum

Chewing mint gum or eating mints while you’re in class has been scientifically proven to increase memory and focus. Basically, the scent of mint increases blood pressure and the amount of oxygen in the blood, which ultimately allows more blood to go to your brain, resulting in increased focus and memory. A more natural alternative to gum or mints is peppermint essential oil. This will serve the same basic purpose as mints or gum if you simply put the essential oil on different pressure points on your body before school, so you can smell the peppermint throughout the day.

Have a difficult time focusing while studying?

Hack #4: Try the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a technique that was invented to prevent burnout and increase productivity. The basic structure of this method is that you work for fifteen minutes at a time, taking five minutes breaks in between the fifteen-minute work periods. You would then repeat this until you’re done with your task. However, you can adapt this to fit your best interest. I personally like to work in one-hour chunks, taking fifteen to twenty minute breaks in between. Go to for more information about the Pomodoro Technique.


Hack #5: Study in a Different Way

Look at the way you’re studying and consider why you can’t focus. If the reason is because you’re bored, consider using a different method to study. Textbooks and notes aren’t the best or most interesting way to study, which is probably why it is difficult to focus. However, there are different ways to study, such as using mind maps, graphic organizers, or even just writing in a different color pen. This will create diversity and interest, which should make it easier to focus. Now go and conquer high school!



Three Ways to Reduce the Stress of Classes


“Without struggle, there is no progress.”-Unknown

We’ve all been there. The one class that you just can’t seem to understand. No matter how much you study for the class, the best grade you might get is a C. Any math class I took, I struggled. It wasn’t that I wasn’t paying attention or didn’t understand the material, there was just something that I couldn’t wrap my head around that prevented me from being as successful as I wanted to be. However, throughout my struggle, I have found ways that have helped me achieve much more than I could if I hadn’t followed these tips. Here are three ways to help you in the class you are struggling in.

1. Attend your class and Get to know your Instructor.

Even though this might seem obvious, I know I’ve skipped a class that I couldn’t stand because I couldn’t understand what was going on in class. But to earn those good grades, you need to attend not just the classes you struggle in, but all of your classes. In class, you have a chance to learn the material better than just reading from the textbook. Often, teachers or professors will add individual notes to emphasize an idea while working with the textbook, which you might miss if you don’t attend class. Participating and listening to lectures also help you understand the material much better than reading in the textbook. In addition to learning exponentially better, going to class allows you to learn about your teacher. Teachers have their own systems and expectations in their class and getting to know what they want would save you one or two points. You have no idea how many times I’ve missed points because I didn’t format things the way my teacher likes. Even if it might not be correct, following what your professors want will help your grade.


2. Let your Instructor know you’re struggling.

If you’re struggling and looking for some extra help in class, don’t overlook the resources that are right in front of you. Teachers are the best resource if you require help. They teach the material so they have background knowledge and they are there to help you. Teachers need to know if you are struggling because they can help you get back on track. Coming after school or during a free period/study hall is a great time to get some extra help; as long as you don’t get help when it’s too late. Trying to get help late is not only frustrating to the teacher, but it wouldn’t benefit you because teachers won’t be able to go in depth in the topics you are struggling with. So let your teachers know early that you need help and set up a time that works for the both of you so you can succeed in your class.

3. Study!!!

Earlier, I said that studying is sometimes a hassle when it doesn’t seem to help you understand the material. However, when you follow the steps above, studying can help you achieve the highest possible grade. Sometimes developing a study habit is all that you need in order to succeed. Personally, I like to spend at least an hour a day to look over the new material that I have learned from the school day in order to make sure that I understand the material. Studying early on and as much as possible allows for you to feel less stressed out and gives you more time to learn the material. Finding an area you know you won’t be distracted is a way to maximize your learning. And if you need to study with a group, do not be afraid to form a study group because you probably aren’t the only one struggling with a class. However, make sure that it isn’t a social event (like all my study groups) and that you actually get your work done.

I hope these tips will help you out this upcoming year. Leave a comment down below if you have any questions. And as always make sure you follow us on Instagram and Facebook.




Guide to Acing the ACT English Section


{How I got a 35 on the English ACT}

“I admire people who dare to take the language English, and understand it and understand it’s melody.” –Maya Angelou

Let me clue you in on a little secret: I hate studying. Especially mechanical things like historical dates, math equations, or grammar rules. With that being said, around 60% of the English section of the ACT is exactly what I just described: mechanical things like grammar rules.

I definitely have to work on staying focused and paying attention during that 60% of questions, and the other 40% too. Below are some tips and tricks to aid you while taking the English section of the ACT, but first, let’s break the test down.


The English test consists of 75 questions to be answered in a 45-minute time span. The questions are:

Usage and Mechanics

Punctuation: 7-11 q’s

Grammar and usage: 11-15 q’s

Sentence structure: 15-19 q’s

Rhetorical Skills

Strategy: 11-15 q’s

Organization: 7-11 q’s

Style: 11-15 q’s

Tips for Usage and Mechanics:

  • Use Practice Questions to Your Advantage. There are so many practice tests and worksheets out there. Try to do a couple each day, and at the end of the week grade them. The ones you had trouble on the most, practice the next week.
  • The 4 C’s. Make your sentences Complete, Clear, Concise and Competent. Read sentences out loud to yourself and make sure they sound accurate.
  • Cross out answers that are obviously wrong immediately. Instead of trying to choose between four answers, choosing between two or three is a lot easier.
  • Know the W’s. Who and Whom. Who goes with he, she and it. Whom goes with Them.
  • Commas go in pairs. (Unless separating two independent clauses)


Tips for Rhetoric Questions:

  • I cannot stress it enough how much reading helps. When reading, you are constantly being exposed to new vocabulary and correct sentence structure and grammar. Make sure what you are reading is officially published, so it is edited correctly.
  • Read above and below the sentence the question is on. Know the style and tone of the paragraph you are answering the question in.
  • Focus on the NOT. A lot of people miss simple questions because they do not notice a question that say which is NOT right, compared to the contrary.

Know the basics of English. If you have been taking Literature or British Storytelling for two years, you might need to review the basics!




Early Graduation: Things to Consider Before Making a Decision


"High school sucks." Some variation of this phrase has been uttered at one point by most high school students. The homework, the tests, the drama, and having to wake up before the sunrises all culminate to form a generally stressful environment for all those who enter. But if you had the chance to shorten this stressful time from 4 years to 3, would you?

There are a growing number of students who, for one reason or another, are deciding to skip their senior year and head straight for college. Juniors who have enough credits and have taken the courses required to graduate have the option to graduate early, usually with the condition that they provide a list of the colleges they are applying/have applied to or have already been accepted to a school. This idea may peak the interest of some, but is missing your senior year really worth it? Here are some things to consider:

The High School Experience

Whether it’s its ability to relate or just some odd cultural fascination with teenagers, cheesy movies set to the backdrop of high school have become a genre in their own right. These movies showcase all the events seniors participate in a light that could convince someone who life the rest of life is pretty lackluster in comparison to those wonderful memories of prom and football games. Despite the exaggeration of these clichéd stories, they do pose an interesting question to those looking to graduate early; do you want to miss out on a final year of high school memories? The freedoms senior year provides makes many former students look back on it as their favorite year of high school, as it was an opportunity to let go and have fun before going off to college. Even if for those who aren't as keen on the whole "high school experience" as others, it’s still worth considering the benefits (or lack thereof) of having an extra year before entering the chaos of work that is college.



For many, the hardest part about going to college, especially out-of-state, is leaving their friends. Sure, it's easy to stay connected through social media, but by graduating early, you are, some ways, leaving your friends in high school for college. Even if you are going to a community college, your experiences will be largely different from those of your high schooler friends, so it may be more difficult to connect with them than when you saw each other every day and could commiserate over the English homework. This is, however, all dependent on the individual; graduating early could also have a positive effect on your friendships. Spending too much time together can oftentimes strain a relationship, so time apart could be just you need; every person is different. Maybe all your friends are seniors or you just never really got along with anyone while in high school; college is the perfect place to find people you actually connect with.



Anyone who has searched for scholarships, online or otherwise, will tell you it is quite the process. The process becomes even more complicated for those graduating early. While you are graduating the same year as the seniors in your school, you technically aren't a senior, so the wording of scholarships becomes more important than ever. If the scholarship says "open to those graduating in ___ year" or "for student who are going into their freshmen year of college"  then you're in the clear, but when it says "open to all seniors in high school," the waters become murky.  Luckily, this technicality isn't fatal to one's chances of getting scholarships; it is more of a nuisance that can usually be resolved with an email to the provider of the scholarship. In addition, there are also some scholarships specifically for early graduates, though they tend to be specific to individual states.


High school is a time of great exploration, not only of the world but of the self. It's a time of refining tastes, changing value and new experiences that leave you, more often than not, much different from who you once were. Think about yourself in your freshmen year of high school; how much did you change in the time span of one or two years? If one or two years can you change you so dramatically, what can another year do? An extra year of high school could give you some well needed time to prepare. There are some students, however, who are much more mature than those the same age as them who have outgrown the high school curriculum, and those tend to be the students that should graduate early. In the end, however, the decision of whether or not to graduate early is all up the individual. Everyone is different and there is no one formula that can decide who should and who should not skip senior year. If you are considering early graduation, the best advice I can give you is to talk to your guidance counselor and your parents to find out what path is right for you.



What the Heck is a Collegiate High School?



What is an Early College High School?


Most students have never heard of a collegiate high school but it is an education route that can eventually be considered a normal high school experience in America in less than 10 years. If you have ever known or heard about a high school student taking dual credit courses, then you already have an idea of what a Collegiate High School is! First and foremost, it is a public school that gives students the opportunity to graduate with their associate's degree almost a whole month before they even receive their high school diploma. Students have actual college professors from a local community college that their school district partners with. Depending on which school a student attends, you may be on that campus all four years of high school or just two years like my school.

Because of the growing number of these schools, I believe it is difficult to have an actual number of how many exist but according to an article on the Great!Kids website they stated “  There are currently 75,000 students in 28 states attending early college high schools. No two early college high schools are alike.” (Tynan-Wood, 2016)

My Story

Before Fall 2012: 8th Grade Decisions

Once 8th grade year started for me I thought I knew exactly where I was going to high school. At the time attended a private school so I didn’t have to go there for high school. I felt that I could see into the future at the time and I saw myself at a magnet school in my school district and after getting wait listed by both of the schools within the magnet school I thought that mother was going to have to struggle putting me through private school for the next four years. I mean I was kind of happy with the idea of staying at the same school with people I knew and the variety of classes and extracurricular activities I could experience. But by the time I go to spring semester of 8th grade it had been decided that I would apply to a school called Kathryn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy and then a few months later Cedar Hill Collegiate High School. Well after applying and getting in to Kathryn Gilliam High School was a little excited because I had never gone to public school before but was also not so sure about this. I mean I knew taking college classes wouldn’t be a breeze but it’s not something that I can’t do either. Then after interviewing with Cedar Hill Collegiate I was little less worried mostly because at this point I would have to watch my mom struggle just to send me to school. A few weeks went by of me thinking “Wow! I am going to attend Kathryn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy and taking college courses” Like I stated before college courses weren’t the thing I was afraid of; I actually recall having a few thoughts of somehow getting ahead so that I could knock off a few college courses. But I was still worried see this school wasn’t in the best part of town and I had never been around kids from the area or my neighborhood so it would be so very new to me. I was also worried about wearing a boring repetitive uniform for the next four years again! Ugh!


After these few weeks passed by and all of these thoughts were had, I finally received and envelope from Cedar Hill Collegiate High School but there was one problem with this envelope. It wasn’t a large one. It was a normal sized one and there wasn’t a thick pack of papers folded up in it. But I just took the biggest gulp I could take and opened it. I opened it and I had been excepted, I could now wear a normal uniform and I would still be attending school with a few people who I know. So, for the rest of eighth-grade, I was happy that I was going to a different school with so many new benefits.

That summer I had to attend two weeks of school, which they called “Summer Bridge”. Even though I had school in the middle of the summer I wasn’t too upset (surprisingly). I knew that this was a fresh new start. Yay!

Fall 2012: My Freshman Year and Beyond!

At the end of the Summer Bridge Camp, we had to take a test in order for us to take our college classes and I honestly was not too worried about it. It was basic reading and I’m like I got into this school so this shouldn’t be too hard. Boy oh boy…was I wrong I failed the test by 2 points. In that moment all I could think was woe is me. I got over it and August came and I could officially say that I was a student of Cedar Hill Collegiate High School in Cedar Hill, TX ( a suburb city in the Dallas Area) But it was not uncommon for people to fail the test so I was able to take health as my college course that first semester and we retook the test in October and I passed. We then had to take a grammar and writing one to be able to take our classes for a sophomore year and this test was an actual breeze like I expected the first one to be. So basically with this program or at least at my school we take all of our basics, a few electives, and maybe some intro courses to receive our associate's degree. So now when I reach my University in a few weeks I will be taking courses that are geared towards my actual degree.

Anyways, let’s get back to walking down memory lane. So I took health and a course called CR Study Skills. CR Study Skills is a course that teaches you about yourself and how to handle college courses a with the different things that you learn in that class. This is a Dallas County Community Colleges Courses which means that it would be named something completely different at any other college you attend. In the summer we were allowed to take college classes that were actually on the Cedar Valley College campus and that summer I took government because the other classes were full and the teacher I had been a “legit” professor in a sense. By this I mean he meant business and he required you to truly do your part. This class was total hell compared to the two easy classes I had taken. I did not do that great in his class and thought that my life at collegiate was over because I had received a D! I had never received a grade like that in my life…I was so ashamed of myself I lied to mother and told her I had received a C. I’m not quite sure how long I waited but I know I waited a really long time before I told her the truth. See when you’re enrolled at these colleges only you have access to your grades and your parents can too IF YOU give them the password. They don’t give you and your parents two separate accounts.


Speaking of Parents! I think you all should know this if you consider attending a school like this that your parents CANNOT go and talk to your college professors. They will not talk to them and probably will be offended if your parents did attempt to get in contact with them. You have to remember that the whole point of this program is not only to receive your associate's degree but also to gain good study habits and really fight for your education.

This was something that was taught to us by our biology teacher she later became our dean of instruction sophomore year. When we got to our junior year she was the person that protected us and watched out for us when we got to the Cedar Valley campus. She truly taught us that we are in control of our education we have to fight for it even if we messed up things for ourselves. She wanted to make sure we understood this because there was only so much she could do for use and she most definitely wouldn’t be able to help us in college.



AP Overload: 5 Tips On How To Push Through A Rigorous Course Load


TIP #1: Learn How to Properly Manage Your Time

Begin to follow a strict study schedule and set a certain time each day for each class and stick to it. If you want to begin seeing a change in your grades, it's vital that you make sure you study each week (no one said making good grades would be easy).

  • Taking on a more rigorous course load does have its major drawbacks. You will have to cut some activities out of your schedule to accommodate study time. You can’t do it all and expect to be on top of your classes unless you want to feel exhausted and drained everyday. There are only have so many hours in a day, be very selective on how you use them.
  • Avoid distractions (TV, phones, friends, parties etc.)
  • Always stay on top of your notes, try to be ahead always so if you miss a day you won't be as far behind.

TIP #2: Know Your GPA… but Don’t Focus On It

First off, no, you didn't read that wrong and second off, I know what you're thinking, “The reason I'm reading this article is to learn how to do well in my AP classes and you're telling me to not focus on my grades?!?!?!” School is more than just numbers. It's about the actual process of learning, to educate yourself and somewhere down the road benefit others.  Don't get caught up in the numbers and forget about the actual process of learning.

  • Don't focus on that one C or D. Think about what you think you could have done better. Maybe put aside more study time or take better notes. There is always something you could have improved on.
  • During the beginning of the year it's ok if your grades are low. It takes some time getting used to AP classes, especially if it's your first time taking one. So don't stress out, nobody learned how to ride a bike on the first try.
  • Don't drop the course, no matter how tired, irritated, annoyed or discouraged you feel. You can't always give up every time you make a bad grade or don't understand something, buckle down and fight through it. You can pass that course if you are willing to work hard and study to improve your grade.


TIP #3: Conquer Together

Who better to help you succeed, than your peers who are taking the same classes as you? Grouping with your peers can be an extra boost in studying. Sometimes two heads or more are better than one. There are plenty of benefits of this. Studying in a group can be more fun than studying alone, but it can be very easy to get distracted and not get any studying done.

  • Remember your study buddies can be your friends, but not all friends make good study buddies.
  • Be strategic in choosing the people you study with.  Find people who are as motivated about school as you and are performing generally well in their classes. You should surround yourself with people who are already succeeding, so you can learn and benefit from them.
    • For example: If you struggle in math, you shouldn’t create an entire study group of people who are also not doing as well as you, include some people who are doing really well in math and can help explain confusing concepts to you and others.

Tip #4: Develop Good Studying and Note Taking Habits

You could be reading your textbook front and back every night and still be making less than ideal grades on quizzes and test. Here’s some advice based on personal experience: You shouldn’t be studying harder, but studying smarter. Now, what that means is you need to learn how to read a text, analyze it, and decide which parts are important and which aren't.

  • Every night you should sit down and review your notes from class, even if there’s no test or quiz. This helps you retain current and new information to build on the previous knowledge you have.

Here’s some advice I’ve received from one of my teachers about how to take notes (he’s a history teacher):

“Form and format are up to you, but they must be useful (search the almighty Google to find several note taking methods and models (outline, Cornell, etc)-- pick whichever works best or experiment with different ones on different chapters to see which one you like). There is no benefit in taking notes if you can't make sense of them, or if you just copy notes from a classmate. The whole point of taking notes is to process what you read, rearrange it in a way that makes sense to you, and then use it as a reference for review and study.”

“When taking notes you should not focus on the trivial, but rather on items of significance and change. Your notes should focus on how things change over time and cause and effect relationships.”


Tip #5: Ask For Help

This is something that is so simple, but lots of students don’t take advantage of resources available to them. If you're struggling in a class, ask your teacher for help. Teachers are there to be a resource to you and many stay extra hours after school everyday.  So why don’t you just stop by and ask about that question you didn’t understand on the homework or ask for more clarification about today’s lesson?

  • Don’t feel ashamed!  Believe it or not your teachers actually care about your success and are willing to go the extra mile for you.
  • If you feel like you're struggling with your course, stop by your teacher’s class and let them know your concerns, you have nothing but good things to gain from it.




Khan Academy: The Guide to Academic Success


Khan Academy is a website and phone application that offers a wide range of academic assistance. The program was created in 2006 by Salman Khan as a non-profit educational organization to provide "free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere".  Students all over the world use Khan Academy, not just for the regular studying, but even for test prep! Here is what Khan Academy can offer you to improve your grades and understanding:


Khan Academy contains educational help on not just subjects, but sub-subjects of the subject. Their services vary from Math (by subject and grade) to Computing to Arts and Humanities. Recently, they implemented a new program dedicated to college admissions assistance, aptly titled College Admission!

Learning and Practicing

Now that you know what is offered, you may be asking, “How exactly does one learn in Khan Academy?” The answer? Through the old school saying: practice makes perfect!

Khan Academy contains video lesson on every sub-subject, like Arithmetic in Math. In Arithmetic you can see videos on different topics like negative numbers and fractions. Once you have selected a topic, you instantly have access to a multitude of videos! For example, if you choose the topic “fractions”, you would come to a page that displays video titles like “Intro to fractions” or “Fractions on number lines”.

These videos are usually less than 10 minutes long and provide examples and practices to help you understand the content better.

After finishing a lesson or video you can also do practice tests!

When you finish you can take a short quiz to practice the material you just learned. Khan Academy offers hints and an explanation to an answer if you get it wrong on the quiz.

Through the video lessons and practice tests you are able to expand on your understanding of a subject and can apply your new knowledge to you academics.


Test Prep

One of the most useful content available at Khan Academy is the test prep, especially when it comes to the SAT.

College Board partnered with Khan Academy in order to provide FREE SAT practice to all students. Khan Academy filters your PSAT score and analyzes the areas where you weren’t as strong in and provides practice session on those areas.

There is even a routine you can set where you can study reading and writing or math for 30 minutes a day for three days to keep a consistent study routine, and once you’re done with that, they provide four full practice tests!

They also fill you in on details about the new SAT you might be not be sure about and they also give tips and strategies for the SAT. You can also choose to review your study practices and see what questions you get wrong and which sections you have a harder time on.

Beyond SAT prep, Khan Academy also offers test prep on the MCAT, GMAT, IIT JEE, NCLEX-RN, CHASEE, and even AP Art History.

You know what they say, practice makes perfect, and with Khan Academy, you can certainly get plenty of practice. In fact, with a resource like that, you could even reach perfection!



How to Get Through the ACT/SAT By the End of Junior Year!


If you were to hasten towards a graduated high school senior during their graduation party and quickly ask them about their one regret during college applications, don’t expect a hesitated answer. Almost anyone that recently went through the college admission process will give advice lines of starting something earlier, whether that’s their essays, extra-curricular activities, or getting focused in school. A quick “congratulations” and a thank you for the Target gift card you gave them, and sadly one of your only resources to learn from the best is gone. Now while you may have more follow-up questions to ask, a quick call from their parents for them to start cutting the cake leaves you alone and empty-handed with a bunch of little pieces of advice you don’t know how to execute. Until now…

Your scores on the ACT and SAT, two standardized tests required by a large majority of colleges in the United States, is one of the biggest factors in a collegiate acceptance, wait-listing, or denial in the admissions process. Since test scores, a number on a page that although easily countable to six-year old’s but is a tiring task for anyone, holds near as much weight as your grades and courses, it’s a number that you really want to perfect.

Many high schools’ recommended track for testing, which is taking your test with the school in the spring of your junior year, puts many students on a track that leaves little to no time for improvement. First generation students, the first child in a family, or anyone who’s just naive to the college admission process may fall into this trap, and may be the same senior giving a speech about starting early before quickly diving into your graduation cake.


While not having the tests scores you want not only adds stress to your junior year, it completely delays the rest of the college application process. Since your practice test scores can’t be sent to your colleges, and thus you’re practice test improvements aren’t official, you can’t create a college lists with accurate safety, match, and reach schools based off of your profile, as you don’t know if your test scores are an accurate representation of match, safety, and reach schools based off of your academic profile. This results in you either having to send in scores blindly, which no one wants to do, or not having the flexibility to apply to colleges and universities early action or early decision, both deadlines that require you to submit your application earlier than in January when most regular decision deadlines are. The timeline below is one that can (almost) guarantee all of your testing is done by the end of your junior year, allowing you to get a good amount of sleep each night.

September-December: Introduction to the testing life

The beginning of junior year is the best time to get exposure to the SAT and/or ACT, as you’ll have plenty of time to get practice tests. While some high schools and school districts have the PSAT and practice ACT requirements for their students, it’s also good to take the extra initiative and take a real version of this test on your own, to gain more exposure and experience. Once you get the scores back from the test(s) taken in these few months, you can see if your satisfied with that score if you’re going to put in some additional practice, if that means doing self-studying or private tutoring, which you can read about in the article here:


January-April: The testing grind continues

The cold and rainy months are a great time to do more work when you need it. This is the time to have the work ethic push you did in the fall and beginning of Christmas months show in the scores for the tests for these months. You can either schedule the test on your own, wait until you take the test with your school, or both. Just make sure you pace out when you take each tests so you can balance out your school work, extra-curricular activities, and everything else you have going on.

If after your extra studying, you found that you found your score didn’t move as much as you would’ve liked, this is a great time to possibly take the SAT instead of your normal go-to of the ACT (or vice versa) to see if you do better on one than the other naturally. You may find one test easier than the other, and thus find improving your score easier to do as well. At this point, you could’ve taken full length practice and/or real exams upwards to four times, which will hopefully have you at the score that you’d like.

May: AP Season 

If you are taking AP classes, and are taking the exam, May is the one month you want to take a break on the SAT and/or ACT and focus on AP exams. While AP exams are heavily rumored to not have near as much weight as your regular test scores, it’s important to make sure you focus on AP exams if you're already registered for them, as they do cost a lot of money per exam.

June: The Last Attempt-SAT subject tests and the last time taking the SAT/ACT

Some more selective colleges either recommend or require SAT subject tests also known as SAT IIs. These tests are one hour exams on one specific subjects. SAT subject tests are offered in a myriad of foreign languages, US and World History, two levels of math, English literature, biology, chemistry, and physics. You can take three of these subject tests on the same date.

I found the easiest way to end the school year stress free and to not worry about these exams is to take the subject tests in the corresponding honors, or AP and IB courses as applicable. So if you took AP Spanish and Honors English Lit during your junior year, and studied hard for the AP exam and the final exam at school, you’ll be more than ready than the subject test in June.


They’re a plethora of colleges, including but not limited to Duke, the eight colleges in the Ivy League, Northwestern, and the University of Michigan, that require or recommend two SAT Subject tests. It’s important to check with the schools you may have slight interest in to see if they recommend or require them, so you can sign up! To check your testing schedule availability and registration dates, click here:

Standardized testing is one of the most stressed portions of the college admission process. With much weight that it can hold in your acceptance, or how adding one point to a score can be the difference between a half and whole tuition to your dream school, you want to be able to have the best shot as anyone else. This timeline allows just that, with a schedule that gives you many opportunities to improve your score to your maximum potential!




6 Steps to Having the Best I.B Personal Project


The I.B MYP personal project is a seemingly complicated project that is due at the end of your sophomore year in high school. This is completed as a part of the International Baccalaureate Middle School Years Programme.The MYP personal project is a project an I.B student does to achieve a certain product or outcome, over the course of many months. You are required to do your project on a topic of your choosing. The topic you choose can be virtually anything, but it must relate to an “Area of Interaction.” During the process, you must complete a process journal of your thoughts and procedures. Alongside the process journal, you must complete a 1500-word report to summarize your feelings of your outcome and your experience doing the MYP personal project.


Start Early

The key to a successful MYP personal project is time management. It is ideal to start thinking about your MYP personal project during the summer before your sophomore year. That way once school starts, you can be ready to start the actual project. To begin your MYP personal project, you must select a research topic and a supervisor to assist you during the duration of your sophomore year.

Selecting a Topic

Choosing a topic can seem daunting at first since there are so many possible topics you can choose from. So how do you choose one? A key tip would be to choose a topic that you’re actually passionate about, because you are going to be working on it for an extended amount of time. For example, since I’ve always loved music, I decided to do my MYP personal project on learning to play the guitar. It was something I’ve always wanted to do. So when it came down to the long hours of practice, I actually enjoyed it.

Finding a Supervisor

Even though some schools assign a supervisor to a student, some do not. So, this is a crucial step in completing your MYP personal project since a good supervisor can help you in many different ways. Their sole role is to guide and support you throughout your project. But they may also provide feedback on your work, help you with deadlines, and ensure that your project is meeting the criteria. Even though it may seem like a good idea to choose your favorite teacher to be your supervisor, if he or she isn’t a teacher that specializes in your project topic, you may not want to ask them to be your supervisor. For example, if your favorite teacher teaches music, you may not want to ask them to be your supervisor if your topic is about science. Instead, maybe ask your science teacher since they can probably give the most accurate feedback. Also keep in mind that you are required to meet with this person often to discuss your progress. You should follow your school’s guidelines on how many times you have to meet with your supervisor.



Once you have discussed your topic with your supervisor, then it’s time to get started. Start by gathering the needed materials for your project. Then, research background information to give you a better understanding of what you’re researching. For instance, I researched how to read music. Creating an outline or monthly to-do list can also help you in managing your time well. Make sure to include appointments with your supervisor. Once you have done that, begin your project.

The Process Journal

Once you begin your project, you will begin to accumulate a lot of information. You may also make mistakes or have to make changes. This is where your process journal will come into place. In this journal, you will write about the procedures you took to create your product or outcome. You may write about anything that occurred with working on your project. Be sure to include dates and write legibly since you will be revisiting this journal at the end. It’s completely okay to include mistakes that you made or unfortunate events pertaining to the project. Also include any information you learned through researching. In my process journal, I wrote about my difficulty with playing at a steady beat when I was just starting. I also included how I was going to fix my problem by using a metronome and practicing more.

Write the Essay

Now it’s time to reflect on what you have done. Your report is a time to evaluate how your product came out versus what you set out to do. Your overall report must be at least 1500 words and be printed out. Even though it seems like a rather long essay, it is relatively easy to write if you use your process journal entries to help you. This is why it’s important to write useful information in it. Gradually writing small paragraphs instead of writing them all at once can also make the process easier. All in all, The MYP personal project is a time to explore your passions and demonstrate all the useful information you have learned during the MYP Program. If you follow these steps and tips, you’ll be well on your way to achieving a high score!



Pros and Cons of Taking Online Virtual Classes aka "Distance Learning"


Distance  Learning, or Virtual Classes, is quickly becoming a valid option for many prospective university students because of it's many positive aspects, but do those factors apply to every student wishing to pursue secondary school?

The Plus Side of Online Learning

Convenience is something that everyone in our modern world looks for, and most online courses offer an out-standing opportunity to 'create' your own schedule. At the very least, earning an education with Distance Learning is efficient time-wise.

With a traditional MBA, or in-class education, everything must revolve about the time of your classes. That includes work, social interaction, and any other daily events.

However, with Distance Learning, self motivation is a huge key factor. Although the thought of gaining a degree with minimal strict guidelines, or a solid schedule, may sound like the better option, it's harder than it seems.

Online learning requires excellent time management skills, motivation, new-found computer literacy, discipline and definitely forms an adult-like independence that'll get you ready for the real world with a dramatic wake up call. Everything depends on you (Yes, that means class material, completed assignments, book readings, and even self-taught information), so be prepared.

Evangeline Hanson, a senior high-school student who successfully completed a secondary-language course online, says, "I think students who work better at their own pace, and in a quiet environment, would get the most out of this (online) course. It allows the student to get full understanding before moving onto the next task and although there are no teachers standing in the same room, there are always people in the course who are only an email away."

"Some students learn better in a classroom environment rather than one on one, but I think both options should be available to all students," she told; "Online courses take patience and Independence because sometimes if help is needed, you'll have to wait for a response. Where as in a classroom, help is always available nearly instantly."

Is Distance Learning a legitimate education?

One of the most asked questions about earning a degree online is: Will future companies look at my education the same as someone with an MBA?

The answer is yes, absolutely.

Society has geared up into a fast-paced, technology run environment, and employers are not longer holding a stigma around online graduates. In fact, a survey conducted in 2012 by Society for Human Resource Management concluded that 79% of employers hired a candidate with an online degree.

"The recruiters who look at our hybrid EMBA really don't differentiate between the two, " Robert Bruner, Business Administration professor at University of Virginia, states; "I would say the online program, even the hybrids, require a higher level of maturity and determination to make the online components a meaningful and successful learning experience."

A Distance Education course can be completely valid as the in-class course, but that also depends on if your program is accredited.

Make sure that your university, and chosen course, is accredited by the U.S Department of Education. This makes your education legit in the eyes of your future employer, and can give you reassurance on your decision.

"Education doesn't only happen in the classroom," Hanson points out.

With Distance Learning, the idea of taking classroom material outside of class is tried and true.

Young woman with laptop computer.

Most online courses require one-on-one meetings with instructors every so often, and some even offer iClass sessions. iClass is a collection of students taking the same online course who meet via internet to discuss classroom topics.

Online gatherings, like iClass, offer students a chance to interact with students from different areas while ensuring that each student maintains a relevant understanding of the subject being learnt.

Education has changed in many ways, for the better.

Distance Education was first invented for the average middle-class family member who wanted to enhance their education, or change careers, while remaining in the same area with family.

A lot has changed since those times, and largely accredited universities like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT are now offering the same excellence in an MBA, though online courses.

Whether you decide to experience the full university experience on campus, or if you decide to conveniently earn your full education online, there are now an abundance of options at your fingertips! Good luck choosing a course that suits your needs, and hopefully the information above will be of good use.

References used:

  1. Franklin EDU
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The Juggling Act: Advice On Selecting High School Courses


Deciding on what classes to take in high school can be a daunting and intimidating process. It seems like any wrong choice can come back and haunt you when it comes time for college applications. Truth is, there's no secret formula into getting into college. Not even a perfect score on the SAT or a GPA or a 4.0 GPA can guarantee admittance to the nation’s top schools.

So, if even being in the top 1% of test takers can't guarantee you admittance to Harvard and Stanford, then what are college admission officers looking for?

Here's some advice on how to take classes that interest and challenge you, while still being a competitive applicant in the eyes of an admission officer.


What Does The Holistic Approach Mean Anyways?

Your high school transcript is one of the most important parts of your application, but let's not forget, it's not the only thing admission officers take into consideration when deciding whether you’re a right fit for their college. They look at everything from test scores, extracurriculars, grades, teacher recommendations, GPA, class percentile, essays, extenuating circumstances and many other factors when deciding to admit or reject students.

According to College Board, you should aim to take:

  • 4 years of English
  • 4 years of Math
  • 3 years of a lab Science (4 for the most competitive colleges)
  • 2+ years of Social science/ History (4 for the most competitive colleges)
  • 2+ years of a Foreign language (4 for the most competitive colleges)

Keep in mind that these requirements are the bare minimum for high school, but depending on the specific colleges you intend to apply to, they may change. Regardless, even if you're not sure where you want to go to college, you should strive to take the most classes in each core subject if you can.

If you're not sure if you're on track toward your goals, it's a great idea to visit your guidance counselor to help map out your high school plan. This can help you meet your high school and college requirements and also see if you need to take any prerequisites for certain classes.

So What Classes Do Colleges Like?

Colleges want to see you taking the most rigorous course load within the context of your high school. So whether if you go to an inner city high school that only provides 3 AP courses with no IB (International Baccalaureate) program or a top-notch private school with 15+ AP classes and strong IB program, colleges will focus on what resources were available to you and if you took advantage of them or not.

For example, Yale's admission Q&A page stresses how much they take context into account, when they view your high school transcript: “We know you did not design your school’s curriculum... Different schools have different requirements that may restrict what courses you can take. Again, we only expect that you will excel in the opportunities to which you have access.”

You should be spending your time in high school challenging yourself more and more each year with an increasingly load of honors and AP classes. Each year you should try to push yourself a little farther in the context of your abilities, keeping in mind your extracurriculars and time availability.

Better Grades VS Harder Classes

When it comes down to taking better grades or harder classes, harder classes should always win. Colleges can tell when you're not pushing yourself if on your transcript all they see are standard classes. The best advice I can give you (from personal experience) is that it looks way better to push yourself and take an honors class and get a B or an AP and receive a C, than a standard class and receive an A. Why? It shows that you're taking initiative and not afraid of a challenge, it also shows that you love to learn for the sake of learning and that's something you want colleges to notice about you.

When it comes to the number of AP classes you should take, think QUALITY over QUANTITY. There is no magic number of AP’s you should take during your high school career. YOU have to decide what YOU can handle. Remember, every high school is different, as is every applicant, so they will access your rigor based on the context of your high school, community and circumstances.

What If Your School Lacks Rigorous Classes?

If your school lacks rigorous courses, try to look into a dual enrollment program at your nearest community college. Classes and books usually are free, but check with your guidance counselor to make sure. Another option is to take online classes during the school year or summer classes during vacation.

If you’re given the opportunity to explain your circumstances on the application, TAKE IT. Communicate to your colleges that you came from a low-performing high school and explain the lack of course selections and programs available, to explain any holes in your application. Believe it or not, college admission officers play close attention to details like these it’s part of the holistic process.

Choosing Electives

You should take classes that interest you and not what you think colleges want to see you take. If you enjoy math or a foreign language, take the most classes you can in that subject. The reason for this is that admission officers want to see you begin to develop interests and passions, during high school because it gives them an idea of who the student/person is that they are admitting.

Your electives are a place on your transcript to demonstrate strengths and should show interest and passion. If you're taking challenging classes in your core subjects, then you can have more freedom when it comes to choosing your electives.

Whether you decide to take classes such as theatre, psychology, computer science and the visual arts, you should find what you enjoy, show commitment in that area and pursue that interest to the highest level of your ability.

What Extracurriculars Should I Take?

One of the best advice I've ever heard about the college admission process, went something along these lines:

“Colleges don’t want well-rounded students, they really want a well-rounded class of individual people, but in order to make that class they need people who are highly specialized in a certain field or area”

This is basically motivation for you to do what you love, whether it’s swimming, traveling, double-dutch, coding or parkour. You should pursue whatever it is that makes you happy. Remember, there might be 30,000 applicants, but no one has your experiences and insights.  It’s your job (and to your benefit) to show the admissions committee how unique you are and why they need you on their campus.

There's no guarantees when applying to college, because each university is looking for different types of people who they believe will thrive at their school and bring something special to campus. But if you try your best and be true to yourself and who you are when you apply, it’ll make all the difference and your authenticity and talent will shine through in your applications.



Note Taking: High School vs. College


When it came to my first semester of college, I was a little bit frazzled by vastly different being in class was.  My professors seemed to talk at the speed of light, I never wrote down everything I needed fast enough, and it was difficult to get down anything concrete before they were moving onto the next power point slide. College can be like that a lot – especially in classes where the subject is your weak point. It was different from any of the classes I’d taken in high school because I was expecting what I'd already been used to. Here, I’m going to break down just exactly how note taking in college is different from high school, as well as a guide you on the right path to excellence in note taking.


In high school -  even most AP classes – a teacher can only go so quickly with the notes. A good teacher makes sure everyone’s gotten what they needed from the slide before switching up. A good professor will probably give you an extra five seconds before moving on.

It’s the nature of the classes, really. College classes (specifically the humanities) tend to be shorter, with more talking necessary to get complex ideas across in a linear fashion. There’s also a large volume of material necessary to cover before the next test, be they every few weeks, or every few months. STEM classes go on longer, but are still just as information packed and speedy on note taking days. Your professor expects you to be jotting down those differential equations at the speed of light, quite frankly.

It’s important to be prepared for the speed, and to adjust to it. It might be tough if you’re a naturally slow writer, or if you put time into the neatness of your notes, but it’s definitely possible. Even if you're typing but enjoy spending time in properly formatting what you'd just jotted down, you might have to make sacrifices. It works in your favor if your notes are disorganized and cluttered enough to warrant a rewrite: take it as an extra studying opportunity.

Volume of Work

As I said earlier, your classes will be jam packed with information. Though, that’s kind of expected. It’s tough covering thousands of years of civilization into four months.

After all that note taking, you’ll start to realize how much work will be going into studying. There might be dozens of pages of information that you’ll have to memorize to pass your midterm, final, and all the in-betweens (if any). Many of us have the bad habit of typing down every single thing that comes out the professor’s mouth verbatim, but that’s not very conductive when you go back into your Google Docs to see a thousand words of your necessary information, littered with unnecessary fluff.

The real difficult part comes with studying. Vast amounts of knowledge are forced into your brain for several months before you spew them out onto a test paper, but most of the time, you’ll be forced to interpret that information in a coherent fashion. It doesn’t matter that you know that Alexander the Great conquered Greece – what effect did it have?

Becoming comfortable with your memorization skill takes time, especially with so much pressure put on passing your tests, but not impossible. Finding methods that work best for you is the most important part. And remember that your professor is always there to help.


You’ll hear this a lot, but college is test based. Most of the time, you’ll have very little outside assignments. Sometimes, all you’ll be left with for the semester is an email address, a syllabus, and a date for your final. (Honestly, nightmares have an awful way of finding their way into real life).

High school classes mostly grade as an relatively even amalgamation of your grades. Classwork, homework, tests, quizzes, and other arbitrary sections are calculated and graded up. If you didn’t do so well with your classwork, but aced your homework and the test, you could still end up getting an A for the semester. It goes both ways. Usually (athis rings especially true in AP classes) the most important part was getting your work done.

The most important part of a college class is passing your test(s). That’s about it. And all semester, you’re taking notes, studying, and gearing up for them.

This is where a lot of freshman in college make their mistakes. Since they have little to occupy themselves with aside from studying, they slack off all semester, only zeroing back in on their work when a sudden essay or project is assigned. That’s how it worked in high school for them, except those errant assignments are much less frequent and routine.

If you can’t take tests, and at least pass them, you won’t pass your classes. That’s sort of a terrifying fact when you either hate tests or just aren’t very good at taking them, but have no fear. If you study right, you’ll be fine. Your professors are there to help you along the way, as well as your fellow classmates, so the important part is to kick your but into gear.

Using Your Notes

Personally, the studying I did for my first semester of college was like how I studied for my SAT’s my whole year of junior year. Constantly reviewing, revising, and rewriting – although, I was an honest slacker as a high schooler, so maybe that doesn’t hold much weight. None of my classes were engaging or challenging enough for me to study at that level. Keeping up with the classwork and homework was study enough for me on most days.

Your notes in college are your literal lifeline in college for some classes. That’s why skipping a day or two can end up being detrimental. You think it’s cool to miss that Romeo & Juliet discussion for Thursday in your Early Shakesperian Literature class? Good luck writing a decent essay on the play when the prompt is “free will vs. fate” because you expected something simple like “love vs. lust”.

You have to seriously engage with the notes you take in college, and study them more than once. They have to be neatly rewritten, clear, and easy for you to digest.

And also, probably cute looking, since you’ll be looking at them a lot.

Transitioning from High School to College Note Taking

It’s tough, honestly, and you might struggle a little in the beginning. Experimentation is important. If you feel like a certain method isn’t working for you, then feel free to change it. Switch from typing to hand writing, or from a study partner to a study group. College is about exploring who you are, even things as mundane as what type of learner you are, and how to capitalize off your strengths.

So get to studying. You have A’s to collect.

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The Wizardry of Junior Year: A Guide to Managing Your Priorities


SAT testing, extracurriculars, AP courses, prom, applying for jobs, volunteer work, getting your driver’s license, and maintaining friendships. All of these things combine to create the most bittersweet era of the high school experience: the dreaded junior year. As you may know, it’s a lot to handle for one person within just ten months, and it is hands-down, the most difficult year, especially considering you are only a year away from sending in applications to your dream schools.

It almost seems impossible, doesn’t it? Staying involved in sports, clubs and work, while still managing your GPA and preparing yourself to receive good scores on all of your exams to keep yourself as “well-rounded” as possible seems like a task designed just for Wonder Woman. Well as challenging as it is, it is also the most critical era, since several of the decisions that you make as well as the outcomes of this school year will have an essential impact on your near future in regards to your college admissions process. As Ben Marcus once wrote, “The impossible is just a blind spot that dissolves if we move our heads fast enough.” So move your heads quickly and learn to master the wizardry of junior year.


Setting Goals for the School Year

A skill that will doubtlessly help you through the rigorous year as well as through the rest of your college admissions journey is setting specific goals for yourself. If you are reading this as a sophomore or as someone about to enter junior year, then you’re right on time to give yourself a head start. Before you start the year, you should try to prepare yourself a “game plan” on what you intend to do and accomplish within the year. You should make a list of all the classes you’ll take and what grades you hope to get in them, the extracurriculars you’ll be participating in and how much time you think you’ll dedicate to them, standardized testing (SATs and ACTs) dates and how much time you’ll devote to studying, and other things that you plan on doing throughout the course of the ten months (such as applying for jobs, volunteer hours, etc). Keep this plan for when you actually attend school in the fall and begin to keep track of what you accomplish and what you don’t. This will help you manage your time and your tasks. Having a clear physical plan for what you want to do will keep you much more organized and relieve the stress and panic of procrastinating to complete things. However, this idea of a plan/agenda will only work effectively if you are totally consistent and determined to do well, so it is absolutely essential to stay focused.


Course Selection

Choosing the right courses in junior year may seem very difficult at first, since a whole new span of options will be made available to you, and you might not know which ones you’ll need. In terms of electives, you should first think about your high school’s graduation requirements, and check to see if you haven’t yet fulfilled some of the required classes. Those classes are the ones you should definitely make sure you enroll in. You should then consider the possible career field that you might want to work with in the future, and select a class or two that correlate with that field. If you’re not sure about the career path you want to follow yet, try signing up for classes that seem interesting to you; definitely do not choose electives that you think you won’t enjoy or be interested in. Now in terms of the levels of difficulty of your classes, you absolutely want to make sure you make the right decisions. You may feel pressured to take 4-5 honors and AP courses, but in most cases, this probably won’t be the right thing to do. Taking challenging classes is obviously something that you should consider in your junior year, as it is something that college admission offices pay close attention to. However, there is always a limit to the amount of rigor that one can handle. Keep in mind when selecting your courses that you’ll need time throughout your days to do other things such as sports or other extracurricular activities. A good amount of AP classes for junior year might be 2-3, depending on your daily schedule and academic interests. When you’re up at 2:00am finishing your AP Bio paper, there’s no doubt that you’ll thank yourself for not taking on that extra AP course.

Big Future

Beginning the College Search

If you’re a junior and still don’t know what kinds of colleges and schools you want to go to/ apply to, now is the perfect time to start looking. It’s extremely important that you have, at the very least, a general idea of what schools you are looking for before senior year comes around, as you’ll spend the majority of your first semester and the summer before you’re a senior preparing your applications. It may seem slightly difficult to decide what you want to do with your future when it seems so far away in time, but once you’ve indulged yourself in research, you’ll have a much more distinct image of what you want, and your search will become much simpler. You should start by considering all of the contributing elements: location (in-state or out-of-state), type of school (private/public), size, academic programs, intended major(s), cost, financial aid, etc. Many of these you’ll be able to decide yourself, but some may have to be discussed with your counselor or your family before anything is set in stone. It is important that you take as much time as you need to deeply consider which colleges you’ll apply to so that you’ll make the right decision when choosing which one you’ll attend after you graduate. Do not make any impulsive decisions to apply for a school without doing plenty of research beforehand, and do not wait to start looking.

Time Management

As you’re experiencing your junior year adventure, you’ll realize that time management will become more and more difficult to maintain. One thing to keep in mind in order to avoid this from interfering with your grades and academic performance is to not procrastinate. So be efficient, put all distractions aside, complete your work on time, get your projects out of the way, and have all the leisure time you need when you're finished. Trust me on this; it's a lot more satisfying to relax knowing that you've finished all your school work for the day. Try your best to balance school work, extracurriculars, and personal free time. A great tool to keep track of all of your assignments is The HW App, which is available in the Apple Store.


Your Best Friends: Your Counselor and Teachers

Keeping in contact with your counselor and your teachers throughout this year is crucial to your application journey, since these are the people that will be writing your recommendation letters required in your college and scholarship applications. Frequently visiting your counselor to discuss college plans will show him/her that you are serious about getting a higher education, and will give him/her more great things to write about if they decide to write you a letter. Counselors are also one of the best college and education resources that you'll ever have, they'll tell you anything that you need to know about the schools you want to attend, the careers you intend on pursuing, and the classes you'll need to take in high school to get where you want to be. So never be afraid to consult with them and build relationships with them! It's also important that you stay on your teachers’ good sides, since they are the people that observe your dedication and hard work in the classroom, which is something colleges really consider when looking through applications. Remember that although it may not always seem like it, your school’s faculty is always on your side, and will do anything to help you become what you aspire to be.

Self-Motivation and Effort

You will only succeed as far as you’ll allow yourself to be pushed. Being your own number one supporter and motivator is a major key to tackling obstacles such as junior year. You must make yourself want to do well and want to succeed; you won’t get as far as you are able to by telling yourself that you need to do things. You have to want to do them. Put all the effort that you have into each and every one of your assignments, and constantly remind yourself that you’ll succeed if you try your best. Yes, it will be very tiring and time-consuming, and sometimes you’ll want to just BS all of your assignments and take a nap. But keep in mind that hard work will always pay off. Not only will self-dedication help you through the year, it will help you to strive to do better in all of your life obstacles that await your future. You do not want to look back your senior year regretting your grade in a class that lowered your GPA, or disrespecting a potential recommendation letter writer.

So Maybe it’s Not that Hard

Maybe referring to this year as some mysterious sorcery is a bit of an exaggeration. It may seem that way at first, but trust me, you’ll get through it. It’s all a matter of consistency, perseverance, and hard work. As long as you stay focused and keep your goals in mind, you won’t need a magic wand to keep you sane.

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