5 Fool Proof Ways to Stay Motivated to Study

5 Fool Proof Ways to Stay Motivated to Study

If you’re like me, finding the motivation to study can be hard. The slightest, most irrelevant thing can distract you, and unlike the general population that can just sit down and instantly get to studying, you need that extra push. This article is filled with tips and tricks to motivate you to stop watching the paint dry and sit down and finally get to studying.

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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!




Four Ways to Become More Efficient and Organized


 “I can’t, I have to (insert mundane task here)” We’ve all been there. Friday afternoon, just when you’re finally decompressing after a taxing week of school, you get a surprise text from one of your friends (who seemingly never have any work to do). They ask you to hang out, and suddenly everything that you planned to do over the “endless” weekend seems to pile up in front of you. Your mind gets bombarded with schoolwork and clubs and oh god, no, laundry!! You cancel, saying that you really need to get caught up on your to do list, which really means Netflix until the memories of your responsibilities disappear (but you’d feel guilty going out when you have so much to do). Luckily, there are small habits that you can build to help you optimize your time.


Month by Month to Beat the Funk

Having a big picture view of your obligations can help you get a grasp of how much you have to do and which obligations are the most important. This is the time to break out a calendar. Things like school don’t need to be marked on the calendar since they happen daily, but if April is the beginning of lacrosse season and your new SAT class, then it would be helpful to mark the days of games and classes to make sure that you have a clear idea of what activities you have to juggle.

It could be helpful to also color code your calendar, such as by having green highlighter for sports and blue highlighter for family activities. Having a color system would help you see easily whether this month is more green heavy (meaning you have many extracurricular activities) or more blue heavy (meaning your family is getting together a lot this month), showing you where your priorities should lie for this time.

This calendar would also be the place to mark any special events that happen only once, such as your sister’s dance recital or your friend’s birthday party (trust me, you do not want to suddenly remember that it’s your friend’s sweet sixteen thirty minutes before her party). Make sure to put your calendar in a very visible place, so that you can easily see your obligations.

Week to Week, Get the Free Time You Seek

Now that you know where your priorities lie, make weekly goals so that your tasks don’t seem so large and looming. If you have to read a book for English class this month, write down that you want to read at least one hundred pages this week. If you have a big piano recital coming up, say that this week you’ll learn the second half of the song or perfect that part at the end. Weekly goals are large enough so that you can see your work building up, but small enough so that they’re not overwhelming. Keep your list of weekly goals somewhere that you see daily, so that you can see if you’re really working to accomplish them.

It also helps to have a designated rest day during your week, sometime to just relax, hang out with friends and family, or just make sure that your room is clean. After reading this article, you probably will be so inspired that you’ll want to get on that grind every single day, but having a rest day will help make sure that you don’t burn out. Mani-pedi Sunday with your sister or that movie on Saturday with your friends might be the thing that gets you through a tough week of studying.


Day by Day to Keep the Stress Away

In all honesty, it really helps to have a daily plan that you never deviate from. Having one builds structure and helps prevent that “Oh my gosh, my life is falling apart!” feeling that high schoolers are so used to having. Little habits build the foundation of a really productive person. Having a set homework time (and snack time, so that you don’t die of starvation while doing calculus) may seem like an unnecessary inconvenience, but a strict schedule will help you make sure that you always have your work done and that you never find yourself in the dangerous haze of the procrastinator (aka every high school student ever).

Sample Schedule Suggestion

In the morning:

  • Eat breakfast!!!! (extra exclamation points because this one could save your life)
  • Put pajamas away in a laundry basket
  • Read over everything that you have to attend (club meetings, practices, lessons)
  • Make a list of everything that you need to get done today (homework, projects)
  • Smile and face the day!

In the evening:

  • Put clothes away in a laundry basket
  • Make sure that your room is neat (so that you don’t have to wake up to a dirty room)
  • Lay out clothes and supplies for the next day
  • Write down important events for the next day


Sometime or Another:

  • Talk to your friends and family
  • Build in at least 30 minutes of a relaxing activity (playing with a pet, reading a book, watching an episode of Friends for the third time this month)
  • Pick up objects when they’re out of place, so that you never have to do a big clean up
  • Shower and do other cleanly activities

With all of these tips in mind, it is also very important to make room for adjustments. Surprises happen to everyone, almost regularly (almost). Your mom might forget to tell you that you have to babysit your younger brother, or your laptop might break down (like mine did today). These things will happen, but all of that extra time that you’ll have because of your efficient planning will help you deal with these surprises and still have time and energy to spare!



Pros and Cons of Getting a Job In High School


I completed my final year with a class field trip to Cedar Point and my photo gallery is stuffed with photos of my friends and I in tears. High school was officially over and all of my friends were going their separate ways. Even though my pictures on graduation night said otherwise, I was excited to leave high school and get off to work. The first day of summer meant the start of accomplishing my only goals at the time: have enough money to be able to get one smoothie a day, and get a scholarship to college. With little knowledge of the college admission process, let alone financial aid options, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to be a golf caddy at my local country club. While my mommy-and-me golf lessons ended abruptly in the 5th grade (and so did my dream of being the next Tigers Woods, or as I called him, "the guy in the red shirt") due to the birth of my brother, I figured that re-learning golf vocabulary would be worth it if I was getting tipped big bucks in return, in addition to having the opportunity to get a full tuition scholarship to one of my two big state universities. It appeared that by working often, I would soon enough move up in the caddy ranks, gain a reputation between my clubs members, and be on an easy path to accomplishing my goal.

Or so I thought.

After a short summer and a majority of the fall caddying, combined with a vacation to Martha's Vineyard and a violin intensive, I quickly accepted that I was going to have to find another way to pay for college. Trudging around miles on a soggy golf course with shoes creating blisters the size of quarters was the last way I wanted to earn 60K towards college tuition. However, the experience was one that I have never regretted, as I learned lifelong skills about the workforce a lot earlier than my peers. Within my personal experiences combined with what I heard from my peers makes up the pros and cons of getting a job in high school.


1. Skills for Life When the smallest slip-ups can get you fired from your job and the smallest gestures of kindness can get you promoted, you quickly adjust to being on your best behavior. You'll learn a myriad of different skills that will be applicable to life, including punctuality, treating even the most complicated of people with respect, how to handle situations appropriately, how to think on your feet, get an introduction to the banking system, and much more.


2. The Money While this pro is probably one of the reasons you were considering getting a job in the first place, I think it’s less about the money itself and more about the freedom you have with that money. You won't have to wait until Christmas to get your Converse because your parents are buying them, because if you have the money available you can purchase them yourself. You can also put your money towards something meaningful, like to your own family that is struggling financially or even to GoFundMe campaign that’s going towards food in a developing country. Your money will also be accessible at any time, which will help you gain the responsibility to spend it wisely.

3. Your Resume While it’s never good to do extracurricular activities for the sole purpose of getting into college, having work as an experience is something that is looked highly upon on college applications because of all of the skills you learn when you have one. If you find a job that you like and can commit time to, it could become your "thing" like some play basketball or strum a guitar in a band.

4. Exposure to Future Careers While you dig a little deeper (as sung in the Disney original, Princess in the Frog) in your job search, you may come across job opportunities that can expose you to your field of interest. While they may be harder to find, it is not unheard of for doctor's offices, law firms, and jobs in other professions to hire high school students to do office work. While it may not be direct exposure to the field itself, opportunities could lead to shadowing that office or even moving up in ranks that expose you to more in that career path.



1. The Hours For most, if not every part-time position, employers will have a minimum amount of hours they want you to work in a week, and quite honestly don't care too much about how hard your classes are or how long your soccer training is. If you have to do, say 15 hours a week, but would like to sleep for six hours on a good night and have a little time to watch a weekly episode of Grey's Anatomy, you'll have to spend the majority of your weekend working. And even if you decide to work during the week, when you first start out, you're almost never guaranteed the best hours and could be working on a week-night from five to ten. Rest in peace to family dinners and watching Jimmy Fallon live.

2. The Money The extra pocket change you receive in return for your hard work is great for your movie visits as it can allow you to get the medium popcorn and a drink. However, at some jobs, it may not be all that you thought it was going to be, especially in jobs that rely heavily on tips. While dreams may consist of you 'making it rain' every day, you may quickly come to the realization that you're going to have to gain a lot of experience to be able to wait more than two tables at once or have the privilege of serving that table for 10. It's not necessarily that you won’t earn any money, but it may take some time for the funds to build to an amount you're satisfied with.

While having a job in high school is something that takes a big commitment, there are a plethora of benefits that can be gained with having one. However, some activities aren't for everyone, so it’s important to use your best judgment in deciding if adding a job to your busy schedule is right for you. If not, you can always consider getting one during the summer.

Good luck job searching!



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.


PHOTO CREDITS:            


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: https://yougotintowhere.com/2016/08/22/sat-prep-courses-what-i-learned-and-my-experience/


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: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat-subject-tests/register/test-dates-deadlines

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!




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.



High School Senior's Guide to Making Extracurriculars Extra Meaningful


Heading into my last year of high school, I’ve seen so many friends leave behind some of their longest lasting extracurriculars, add on some fun activities, and also give themselves the break they’ve always wished they could have. If you’re trying to figure out the best ways to spend free time as you deal with balancing college applications and school with real life, hopefully this will help you to prioritize and take on what really is right for you.

todoStick with what you love.

If you’ve been doing something since freshman year (or longer) and can’t imagine your last year of high school without it, there’s no doubt you should stick with it. Having things you’ve cared about for a long time looks good to colleges, but another huge benefit here is having something you truly enjoy doing.

If you’re wanting to start a club related to an interest you’ve had for quite some time or take on a leadership role in a club or sport you’ve been involved in, go for it! Now’s the time to do things you’ve wanted to do and lead the activities you’ve grown to love in high school. Make sure, though, to keep note of how time consuming your activities may be and balance them out.

Leave behind what you don’t.

If you’ve done something the past three years, but aren’t really into it anymore, don’t sweat leaving it behind. If you’ve got other activities to keep you busy, or if you need more time and the club or sport is too time consuming, it’s not a big deal. There’s always something else. I’ve seen my own friends leave behind swimming or band just because they lost interest or wanted a different type of senior year, and that’s totally fine. Even though doing four years of something does look good, freedom feels good and gives you the chance to delve even deeper into other things that look good as well as being more important to you.

Keep it reasonable. While it is common to hear about how being well rounded is really important, joining ten new clubs your senior year is probably going to make you more stressed than anything else. Like this article says, colleges value quality of your extracurriculars over quality, so opt for a few you really care about being involved in over a ton that you’re just using to look better.

Make sure you’re not overcommitting. Manage your time well, leaving some days open so you can work on homework and college applications as well as having fun. Before you fully commit to a handful of clubs, I’ve found that writing them all out can help you to understand just how much time they’re taking up. When you read over your schedule and realize that you wouldn’t be getting home until 10:00 for most of the week, you may opt to continue doing those things or you may want to let a few go.

Every person’s different in how much they can handle, how much homework they do at home versus at school, and how they balance their weeks. Just be wary of overcommitting, especially when you’ve got so much to do and your last year of high school to enjoy.

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Leave time for you.

While you may love all of your extracurriculars, make sure you leave time for yourself. Have fun during your last year of high school, both in the activities you choose to be involved in and in your everyday life at school and with friends. For a few ideas on how to enjoy yourself despite the stress, here’s a senior year bucket list perfect for making sure you’re smiling your way through the year.

Extracurriculars are meant to be fun ways to explore your interests, so don’t let them take over your life completely. By choosing wisely and making sure you really enjoy what you’re committing to, they won’t feel stressful, instead helping to take the stress of college and senior year away.






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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