Senioritis Rubbing Off on Us Juniors?
March 15, 2006
There is only one more quarter left of school before I am officially a senior. After seeing all of the seniors slowly fade out of the school regime, I do not know whether they are just extremely burnt out from doing homework and attending classes or whether they feel that since they have already been accepted to college, what is the point of going to school? It is hard to be a junior and watch the seniors take school so lightly. Junior year is such an important year, and the seniors are starting to rub off on us juniors. Graduation and college feel so close, and I am ready for all my hard work for the past two and a half years of high school to pay off already.
The college freshmen who graduated high school last year are in town right now for their spring break. Now, I get to hear all of the positives and negatives about being in college. Most of them seem pretty excited about the college partying lifestyle. Also, a lot of people say college is so easy, but what I have recently been hearing is that college is as easy as a person makes it. If someone wants to challenge herself, then college can truly be as difficult as she would like.
I think the hardest thing when facing the new college life will be organizing my time wisely. As my high school career progresses, I have more time off during the school day to either be productive and do my homework or just hang out with my friends. Freshman year, I would have been in the library, finishing my math homework, making sure I did not have to take home all seven of my textbooks in one night. Now, I find it harder and harder to force myself into that library when it is not vital. After listening to all of the freshmen college students, I hope that when I come home from my first spring break from college, I have extremely positive feedback for all of the searching juniors.
A New Way of Preparing for College
February 17, 2006
A couple of weeks ago, my school had a college night to really ignite the college process. Parents came and learned about all of the aspects of the college admissions process. Parents who were going through this process for the first time were anxiously taking notes over all of the slide show topics, nervous that if they missed one sentence, their child may never get into college. Most of the meeting was concerned with different courses students could take for SATs and with a new course about writing college essays.
I sat there wondering what in the world my parents were doing still coming to these college meetings. They have already sent seven children to college. You would think they finally had the hang of the whole process. But, I then began to realize the difference between applying to college in 2006 and applying to college in 1988. There are far more people going to college now, and therefore colleges can be more selective. So, high schools around the country are trying to devise systems to make the college process as painless as possible and to prepare their students for what lies ahead.
At the meeting the college counselors introduced a new website called Naviance. Technology is not one of my parents' strong points, but the website is pretty self-explanatory to make it easier for the technologically challenged. The website offers many valuable tools such as a place to keep track of my resume, so I am not jamming it together a week before my applications are due. There are scattergrams that show the GPAs and SAT scores of students who got accepted or rejected from all kinds of colleges. This helps give us an idea of where our academics have to be to get into a certain college. There are also applications to help a student decide what types of colleges would fit their personalities and interests. The website has been very interesting to wander around and hopefully will make my college process that much simpler.
The College Process Has Officially Begun
January 23, 2006
No matter how much I try to avoid thinking about college, someone always seems to bring it up. Now, in the second semester of my junior year, I finally had to meet my college counselor. Up until this point, the main focus had been on the senior class. Now that most of the seniors have picked out their colleges and are just waiting anxiously for their acceptance letters, the focus has shifted toward the junior class. We had our first college counseling meeting last week to determine our small groups and find out who our counselors are. We were split into groups of about 7 students to talk about our feelings and get to know more about the college process. At the first meeting, my counselor mainly asked us what types of careers we want to pursue, what types of colleges we are looking for, and what our interests are. He told us that we need to be building strong relationships with our teachers, so they can write our college recommendations. And to think, I thought grades and extracurricular activities were all a student needed to get into college. It turns out there are so many more behind-the-scenes aspects to the college process.
Our school is having a parent-student meeting in February. The school sent home a letter to my parents basically asking them to praise me as much as possible. This praise letter will help the college counselors write my college recommendation letter. The whole process seems so contrived because, honestly, what kind of parents are not going to give their child the most incredible recommendation letter, maybe even exaggerating a little? The recommendations letters are probably all so similar in their descriptions of the students that it is not even worth it to worry about them at all. It is just an added stress on top of all of my school work, essays, and sports activities. I know it is important to build good relationships with teachers, but it seems so easy to find a teacher that will write an excellent recommendation whether he/she actually knows the student well or not. Obviously, I'm not going to pick a teacher to write a recommendation letter that I do not get along with. Therefore, the college is not going to get an objective view of who I am as a student and as a person.
I feel a little like I'm being asked to suck up to a teacher for a couple of years to convince the teacher to write a good recommendation. Another problem with the recommendation process is that some teachers at my school have a limited number of recommendations they will write. So if I have spent 3 years building a relationship with a teacher, I am not even be guaranteed he/she will write my letter. I worry about ending up asking a teacher who barely knows who I am to write mine.
Most of my teachers have been working at my school for on average of 15 years or so. That means they have been writing college recommendations for probably around 14 of those years. It seems like once they have written 50 recommendation letters, all of them would start to blend in a little bit. Every once in a while they probably get a student who is extremely outstanding, but for the most part, I'd imagine that the recommendations look a lot alike. To make their lives a little easier, maybe the teachers will just form a rough outline for all of their recommendation letters and add a few adjectives here and there to describe each student. All I can hope for is that I get lucky and my favorite teacher will not have filled up her quota on the number of letters she will write.
Juggling My Life in High School... and Finding a Balance
December 15, 2005
Sometimes in high school, you can get swallowed up in all of the homework and tests. You feel like you do not have enough time to do the other stuff that you love. Like instead of going to the school basketball game, you have to stay at home and finish up your history project. It is easy to forgo the opportunity to participate in school sports because they are so time consuming. Time is a huge issue in high school, especially around finals.
Right now I'm on my school's dance team, which performs at a number of events including at halftime of basketball games. We only practice twice a week so it doesn't take up too much time. However, since basketball season takes place in the winter, most of our performances come around finals time. Then, there are those times when you have to make a tough decision about prioritization— choosing whether to skip practice one day to get in a few extra hours of studying before a chemistry quiz or practice with the dance team (obviously the more enjoyable option).
Colleges seem to expect students to do a ton of extracurricular activities while still maintaining a 4.0 GPA. This expectation is impossible for 99% of students in high school. It is important for me to find a balance between doing what I love to do and making sure I maintain my grades. I do not expect to participate in every single club or sport in school. There just isn't enough time in my lifetime to do that. I have started to learn how to organize my time effectively. However, sometimes I find myself begging for just a few more hours in the day. A 27-hour day would make my life so much easier. Since that will never happen, I have to make sacrifices.
High school is a time of learning who you are. If all I did all day was study, I would learn a lot about books but not very much about myself. That is why it is important for me to try out new activities and discover what I enjoy doing. As a freshman, I tried out for cross country. I had never run a day in my life. It was a lot of hard work and big investment of time, but I enjoyed being in the best shape of my life and meeting new people. I, however, was not a very talented runner, but, at least, I can say I tried it.
I want to make sure that I get the most out of my high school years. I do not want to look back and say that I wish I had played this sport or participated in this club. I want to participate in what I like doing without the stress of not finishing my chemistry lab. Even though I have not found the perfect balance yet, I am pretty certain that I will look back on high school without any regrets.
Can Test Prep Classes Really Help?
November 15, 2005
As I was entering school two weeks before we were to take the PSATs, a friend of mine asked me if I would like to take a class with her before we take the test. I thought to myself, "How can you take a class to prepare yourself for a standardized test? Isn't taking the test supposed to prove where you stand academically compared to students my age around the country?" It seems a little unfair that a class can help me improve my test-taking abilities. The situation seems contradictory in that if a student can take a class to learn how to crack the standardized test code, then the test is not accurately representing how much knowledge the student has accumulated over the course of his or her studies. If a 10-hour class can improve a students test scores to the point where almost every school across the country offers these classes, then it seems like all students should be required to take it. Classes in my town ranged from $20 a class to $62.50. Some students cannot necessarily afford to spend an extra $80 on classes to help them learn to take a standardized test.
I have never been the greatest test taker and I feel like it may be hindering my chances of getting into the colleges I want to go to. I am not saying that I completely bomb the tests; it is just that I usually do not live up to my own standards. As I sat in my PSAT class, along with three of my close friends, I wondered if the class could actually help me with my problem.
We did several practice problems ranging from critical reading to geometry and algebra. As we reviewed the problems, it occurred to me how careless I can be while taking the test. I always feel like I am crunched for time, and I start to lose track of what I am doing. I find myself constantly staring at the clock, calculating how much time I have left. The thought of reading a bunch of stories and then answering 30 questions in only 20 minutes really makes me anxious. I have never thought of myself as a fast reader, so usually I just skim the article and try to answer the questions by going back and basically re-reading it for each question.
By going to the class, the teacher taught me to read the articles carefully the first time, underline important parts so I can find them easily, and after each paragraph write a one sentence summary of that paragraph. These tips helped keep me organized and made me more confident that I knew what I was doing and could finally conquer the critical reading section. Math is my stronger point; however I never really excel at it on standardized tests. I found out that it is usually because I am overconfident with my abilities and tend to try and go too fast for my own good. If I just slow down, read the question more carefully, and stay organized with my work, I do much better. I am not sure yet if these tips really can improve my scores for the PSAT, but I guess I will find out soon enough.
October 17, 2005
Sometimes as high school students we get so caught up in the future. All of our attention is focused on what school we're going to go to or what our career will be. I feel like I need to just relax and be a kid right now. That does not mean I'm going to disregard my schoolwork. It just means I cannot get consumed by homework and tests. At some point, I have to just stop myself and take a break. If I do not, I think I may go insane.
It's important to be a diligent student, but trying to accomplish too many tasks at once can lead to sensory overload. It is vital to organize time wisely. Right now, I'm learning this the hard way. My history teacher was assigning optional worksheets every night to guide us through the material. As soon as I heard the word "optional" I immediately put the assignment at the bottom of my to-do list. Then, the night before the test, I frantically tried to understand and memorize 150 years of U.S. History.
I know that one history test won't determine my future, but the habits I build now will definitely determine my success throughout life. One way I try to organize my time is by taking a half hour after school, if I have no other activities, just to relax and give my mind a break. I'll start my homework and once I complete one subject, I'll take another break.
My biggest flaw in organization is procrastination. I have no motivation to do homework if it is not due immediately. I learned my lesson from my first history test, and I am now doing a section a night, so the information will make more sense, and studying for the next test will be easier. One way that I try to avoid procrastination is by telling myself that the assignment is due sooner than it really is.
September 16, 2005
Where do you want to go to college? What do you want to major in? These are just a few of the questions I receive on a daily basis from my parents, their friends, my teachers, and relatives. "I am only a junior in high school" is how I respond to most of those questions. I'm not ready to think that far in advance. It seems like hundreds of light years away from the point I am at in my life right now.
I feel like I was a freshman just yesterday. How can I already be ready to look at colleges? I just began my junior year 3 weeks ago and the buzz around school is about how many AP classes people are taking or what colleges they are thinking of applying to.
Junior year is the year where teachers stop treating their students like children and start treating them like college students. Every day during one of my AP classes my teacher says that we are in a college course and she is going to start treating us like college students. Instead of the teachers spoon-feeding us the material that will be on the test, they give us the chapters to read, and it is our responsibility to understand the material. In the past, I usually waited until the night before to do my homework or study for a test. At this point in high school, it is almost impossible to procrastinate. Instead of just memorizing a ton of information, I have to memorize it and be able to analyze and manipulate all of the data.
My life up to this point has always been pretty simple. The biggest decision I have ever had to make is which local high school I wanted to attend. It is unbelievable that I will soon have to choose the path I want to take to determine my future. The responsibilities just keep building up. First, it is what classes I want to take to finish off high school. Then, I must decide what college I will attend. Once in college, I have to determine a major. Right now I am just focusing all of my attention on my school work and putting off looking at colleges until it is closer to crunch time. I do not think I am ready to decide the next 4 years of my life quite yet. On the one hand, I want to go to Indiana University and be with all of my friends that I have known forever. On the other hand, I want to branch out and broaden my horizons by putting myself in that vulnerable position of not knowing many people. My indecisive days are coming to an end, and I need to grow up and take responsibility for my choices.