How to choose my electives

In high school you have courses that you have to take, such as math, English, science, and PE, but from there you have some free reign on what classes you take. Most school districts will have stipulations on how many credits of each subject matter you need to fulfill. In other words, you may have to take at least 2 fine arts classes, or 2 language classes, but it is up to you which ones you take. These days schools offer electives in a wide variety of subject matters. You can learn sewing, pottery, dance, Chinese, painting, print design, yearbook, wood shop, photography, metal working, mechanics, sign language, theater arts, poetry, fencing, cooking, water aerobics, and all sorts of other things. With the wide variety of options, how should you go about choosing your electives?

  1. Consider your future goals. If you want to go to an Ivy League college, filling your schedule with fluffy electives like ceramics and cooking classes, is not going to be helpful. However, taking poetry, graphic arts, and French could really benefit you. So, your first thought should be to the future. While there is selection, and you should choose stuff you are interested in, do not have a schedule full of “easy” or “non-academic” classes. Unless you really learn a skill, they do not benefit you in the long term.
  2. What are your interests? Too many high school students choose their electives based on what classes their friends are taking. The fact of the matter is that high school is one of the only chances in your life to take a class on something you are interested in without paying extra money to do it. So, if you want to learn about computers, but your friends are taking sewing, do not go with the social, instead do what interests you. It is going to keep your attention better, benefit you more, and be a great opportunity to develop a skill you actually want to develop.
  3. Unfortunately availability is going to play a role in how you choose your electives. If you want to take AP English, and you also want a Photography class, but they are both only offered in the same period, choose a different elective is typically the smarter move, as AP courses will often benefit you more. So, if your slots mean you have to choose between an Environmental Science class, a home economics class, a typing class, and wood shop, then even though your choices are limited, you should choose the one of the available classes that most interests you.

The best way to pick your electives is to simply make a list of your must have classes, and then a list of the electives you are interested in, prioritized, then talk to your counselor to have them help you find a schedule that best fits your future goals, your interests, fills the school requirements, and helps you enjoy the school year!

How many times should you take the SAT or ACT?

To understand how many times you should take the SAT and ACT you have to understand the tests in general. The SAT or ACT are the standardized tests that students take to get into college. The way the tests are scored is on a point basis.  You can get up to a 36 on the ACT and on the SAT.

The ACT has four parts, English, math, reading, and science. Then each test is scored, and you are given a composite score. The way this works is first the number of questions you answer correctly on each portion of the test are counted. There is no subtraction for incorrect answers. Then the number of answers that are correct are converted into “scale scores”, which are given a rating between 1 and 36. Then they take the average of your four “scale scores” and that is your composite score. In other words, to get a 36 on the ACT to you have to get a perfect score in all four tests, but to get a 26, you could get perfect in reading and science, and not do as well in math and English. This way the test accounts for people’s strengths and weaknesses.

The SAT is not scored the same way as the ACT. With the SAT you get points taken away for incorrect answers. So, you get 1 point for each correct answer, and then for multiple choice questions answered incorrectly you get negative fraction of points based on how many possible answers there were. Once that is calculated, it is called the raw score. The raw score is then converted to a scaled score. The scaled score goes from 200-800. This is done to help make comparing student scores from various versions of the tests. There are three sections of the test. You are given a scaled score for each section. There is a potential for 2400 total points.

So, why does taking the test more than once help? It helps in that you can become more comfortable with the testing style and format, and may score better. The higher the score, the better the chance at getting into college and getting scholarships. However, if you score well, there is no real need to retake it. Most college boards recommend you take it two to three times, any more than that is excessive. So, most recommend taking it for the first time your sophomore year to get a feel for it, then again your junior year, and again your senior. If your score greatly improves, consider taking it one last time to try and get a bigger improvement, but unless you improve significantly, it is not going to do a whole lot of good to retake it again, and can actually reflect somewhat negatively on you.

How do I find college scholarships?

While most teens would rather not put much thought into how they are going to pay for college, if you need to rely on scholarships, and help from places other than your parents or your part time job, high school is the time to look. There are numerous scholarships available to high school students, some only available during certain years of high school. There are essay contests, pageants, and all sorts of other ways to get college scholarships in high school. The following is a guide to finding college scholarships while you are in high school:

  1. The first and most important thing to do when in high school if you want college scholarships is go into your counselor’s office, and meet with your counselor. Do this your freshman year of high school. Tell them that you are interested in applying for any and all college scholarships that come available, and enlist their help. That is what they are there for, but unless you make sure they know you and what you want, there is a good chance you won’t get it. They should get some information about you so that they know which scholarships will apply to you when they do come available. For example, some are specifically for low income families, families of certain races, etc.  From this point, your counselor should make you aware when they hear of or find any scholarships you can apply for, and should get you all the necessary forms, and make sure you hit the deadlines. Of course, counselors are busy and have a lot of kids they are over, so check back in with them every couple of months, and stay on them to look for scholarship opportunities for you.
  2. The second thing you must do is not just leave your fate in the hands of your high school counselor, but take the time to do your own research. If you type “college scholarships” into a search engine online you will find hundreds of opportunities. Spend an hour a week or so browsing these opportunities and determining which ones you could, and should apply for. Some will require you to write essays, etc. Do it. Do not let the prospect of a little work keep you from trying for a scholarship. Think of it this way, an essay may take you a few hours to write, but if it gets you a $2500 college scholarship, even if it took you 25 hours to write, you are making $100/hour, which is way more than you would make working in a job to earn money for college. So, the time and effort is worth it, even if you do not get every scholarship you apply for.
  3. If you know what college you want to attend, and have the grades, test scores, etc. to get in, contact the school directly to find out what scholarship opportunities they offer, and what you would need to do to be considered. For example, they may offer academic scholarships, so you can work hard to get your scores and grades up enough to qualify for one.

Cheating in school

Cheating is done in several different ways, and is never going to be helpful. While it may seem at the time that it helps, it is a short-term solution to a long term problem. Let’s take a look at cheating in high school, and what it is going to mean for you:

  1. Let’s look at common ways people cheat in high school: One common way is to copy someone else’s homework. You went to a party and never got around to doing your homework, so you hurry and copy some one else’s so you have something to turn in. Another common cheating occurrence is that of copying reports, papers, etc. off the internet and taking credit, in other words plagiarizing. You run out of time, or do not want to make an effort so you copy and paste off a website, stick your name at the top and print. Another form of cheating in high school is that of looking at the test of your neighbor, or writing on your hand, etc. for tests, or sneaking a peak at answer books, etc. The point is, if you do not learn the material, copy someone, and not do your work yourself, that is cheating.
  2. So, let’s look at the positive and negatives of cheating in high school. The positive is that you free up your time and mental space for other things because you do not learn the material.

The negatives are numerous:

You do not learn the material, which means when you move on to the next area of study, which builds on the current area, you are behind, and you either fail, do some catch up studying (which eliminates the only positive to cheating), or you continue to cheat. No matter which option you choose it is going to have negative consequences of some kind.

If you cheat, there is the risk of being caught. Cheating is very common in high schools across America, which may mean you are not the only one, but it also means that teachers are aware it happens and watch for it, thus there is a high probability if you cheat often you will get caught. This can lead to severe problems like being held back a year in school, losing credit for a course, or less severe like detention, problems with your parents, and lack of trust from ALL teachers in the future.

Cheating is a tempting option, especially when you are in a difficult place, but the fact of the matter is that cheating may make difficult things seem easily initially, but it does not, and cannot solve the problem of you not knowing the material. So, it is a slippery slope. If you cheat once, there is a high likelihood you will cheat again. If you use cheating as a crutch, what are you going to do once you are in college? What are you going to do when you actually need to know the material? For example, if you take an AP class and cheat your way through, what do you do when test time comes up?

Are AP classes worth the stress?

One of the biggest decisions you have to make in high school is whether or not to fill your schedule with advanced placement classes, or to just take the minimum courses required of you and enjoy your youth. This can be a tough decision, there is a lot of pressure to get into good schools, to impress acceptance boards, and to cram in as much learning as you can. However, high school is stressful enough as it is with social pressures, puberty, and discovering yourself, so the question comes up, are AP classes worth the stress?

Most AP classes have a much heavier workload than the average class. They require more reading, more writing, more class participation, are often graded harder, have more homework assignments, and of course, the big test at the end of the school year. So, is all that work worth it?

The answer is simply yes. An AP class does require a lot of work, however, it is worth it for the following reasons:

  1. It gives you a chance to develop necessary skills in a laid back environment. The work done in those classes sets a foundation and habits for the type of work load you will have once you move on to higher education. However, it is less stress than a college class, less is expected of you, and thus it gives you a chance to take stepping stones to that higher level of learning.
  2. The worst that can happen is you do not pass the test, so you do not get college credits, but you do get high school credit for the class. In other words, you have a lot to gain, and other than some time and effort, you have very little to lose by enrolling in an AP course.
  3. Low cost is the next big reason AP classes are worth the stress. College tuition is expensive, but when you take an AP class the course is paid for through your tax dollars, and your enrollment fees, and so your cost is simply that to take the test, usually around $100. This means that you have the opportunity to get college credits are a significant discount per credit. Saving money is a good thing, especially if you are looking at 4 years of undergraduate study, 3 of post-graduate study, and potentially doctorate study as well. The point is, if you can shorten that time, or eliminate some classes while fulfilling your required time in high school, you should. You will appreciate it greatly later when you do not have to take a college entry level history, math, or English class and can get right into the stuff you don’t already know, because you passed a test in high school.

If you are worried about being under too much pressure or stress, be selective about which AP classes you take, and do not load your schedule too full. But if you can manage your time, social life, and learning ability, you could go into college with a semester or more already in credits, which lightens your load significantly there.

When to put a stop to too many extracurricular activities

girl sleeping on her booksPart of the fun of school is the ability to participate in extracurricular activities. Clubs, sports, volunteer activities, and committees are all great ways to enrich your high school experience while making new friends, staying in shape, and learning and developing important skills. Extracurricular activities can also give you an edge when it comes to college applications, as colleges like students who are well-rounded.

However, just as with most things in life, moderation is key. Too many extracurricular activities can actually jeopardize other areas of your life and schooling. Overdoing it when it comes to outside activities can result in a number of problems, including:

  • Poor performance in school. While extracurricular activities are definitely important, your main reason for being in school is to learn. If you are taking on too many activities with practices or meetings that end up leaving you with little time to study or do your homework, your grades will suffer as a result. And if you’re planning on going to college, poor grades – no matter how many extracurricular activities you were involved in – will make it much harder to be accepted.
  • Physical health. If you’re so busy with your various activities that you find you have little time to eat or sleep, your physical health becomes compromised. You won’t be as alert in class, and over-exhaustion can lead to a weakened immune system.
  • Emotional health. Your extracurricular activities should be fun. They should be providing you with opportunities to be social, to learn, and to develop skills you can use now and later in life. But when your extracurricular activities are causing you more stress than enjoyment, you could end up moody, irritable, stressed, and worn out.

So how do you know if you’re taking on too much? Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • Are my extracurricular activities causing me stress rather than enjoyment?
  • When I’m finished with meetings, practices, and clubs, do I end up having to stay up late to finish my homework?
  • Do I have to skip out on time with my family and friends because of my responsibilities?
  • Am I losing sleep because I’m always so busy?
  • Is my schoolwork suffering because I’m always tired or too involved with practices or meetings to finish my homework or study?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may be putting too much emphasis on your extracurricular activities.

Striking a balance
If you feel you have taken on too many extracurricular activities, or if your activities are starting to cause you stress or are compromising your grades, you may want to cut back on the activities.

One thing you can do is pick one or two activities you are interested in and you think you can handle. Keep in mind that some activities, such as sports teams, take up a great deal of time when you figure in practices, games, and travel. If you play a sport, you may want to focus on jus the sport and schoolwork during that season, or join a club that doesn’t require a great deal of time.

Another helpful thing to do is make a schedule. Schedule out how much time you need for school, family, free time, homework, etc. and then determine which extracurricular activities you have time for. Extracurricular activities can be beneficial and enjoyable as long as you don’t neglect other areas of your life.

Tips for studying effectively so you have more time to play

girl leaning on her pile of booksHigh school is a fun time. But friends, sports, and social activities sometimes make it difficult to concentrate on the real reason you’re there – to learn. Studying and getting good grades is important and the ticket to a good future; studies show that people who graduate from college earn up to three times more than those who don’t.

However, you don’t have to sacrifice play time for study time. By adopting a few effective study habits, you can still play while earning good grades and studying at the same time.

Take advantage of study hall.
Most schools offer a period that allows you to study of do homework. Instead of writing notes or catching up on late homework, use this time to get ahead. Study for an upcoming test, or start on the homework that was handed out in earlier periods. This is an entire hour you can use to study or do homework-take advantage of the time, and you’ll have more time to play when school is done.

Take good notes in class.
Many people find they learn better when they take good notes in class. This is a skill you will need in college as well, and developing it now will make studying for your classes in high school as well as college easier, as the information will be fresh in your mind. Keep a separate notebook or section for notes in your binder for each class. Make sure you write down all of the main ideas the teacher discusses, and make sure to date each entry. Review your notes each day in order to keep them fresh in your mind.

Make flash cards
Flash cards are an excellent study tool and a great way to study effectively. You can study your flashcards anywhere, from study hall to the library. Or, you can mute the TV during commercials and review your flash cards. That’s at least 10 minutes of studying for one 30-minute program!

Establish a schedule
One way to study effectively is to establish a schedule. You can revise it as necessary to make it work for you, but set aside a certain amount of time that is devoted to studying and studying only. This could be right after school, in the evening, or early in the morning. Once you get into this habit, you’ll be able to schedule other activities around your studying schedule.

Eliminate distractions
You should not be sending text messages, talking on the phone, or watching TV while you study. Focus all of your attention on your studying and your homework. It’s also a good idea to have a designated area for studying in which distractions are minimal. This can be a quiet spot in your house, a library, or an empty classroom.

Form a study group
If you can actually focus on studying, forming a study group with friends and classmates is a great way to study effectively. Have each member write out questions to ask the others, or go over study guides together. Quiz each other and make flash cards. Once you’re finished with your studying, reward yourselves by going out to play!

Studying effectively is an important tool you should learn now. By maximizing your study time, you have more time to enjoy playing with your friends.

What to do when your teacher-student chemistry is off and you have something strong to say.

student standing against a wallChemistry, language – they’re school subjects, but they are not necessarily limited to just classroom topics. The chemistry you feel between you and those around you and the language you use to express yourself are important factors in dealing with conflict and difficult personalities in a mature, reasonable way.

What if you don’t get along with your teacher?
Sometimes, the student-teacher chemistry just isn’t there and personalities clash. Inevitably, this will happen at some point in your life. Learning to deal with it now in a positive, appropriate manner will help you not only now, but later on as you deal with people in the workplace and community that you don’t necessarily get along with.

Sometimes, you may be tempted to say something strong to the teacher. This can include talking back or arguing in class, insulting the teacher, or simply blurting out your angry feelings. None of these are good things to do. For one thing, it can result in disciplinary action, including detentions and suspensions. Too many of these can adversely affect your record and make it difficult to get into college and even graduate from high school. Not only that, but teachers are only human – if you insult them or make their job difficult, they may be harder on you than other students.

In some cases, personality clashes result from you feeling like you’ve been wronged or embarrassed in class. Perhaps you feel like you received an unfair grade, or maybe your teacher said something in front of everyone that embarrassed you. In cases such as these, you should talk to the teacher in a calm manner to get the differences resolved so you can get on with learning.

How to talk to a teacher when the teacher-student chemistry is off
If you are having personality conflicts with your teacher, the following tips will help you to resolve your conflicts instead of bursting out in class:

  • Request a meeting with the teacher. Ask the teacher, in a calm manner, after class or before, if you can talk to him or her. He or she may agree to talk with you there or at a later time. Once you have the teacher’s attention, you can then try and communicate what you’re feeling. It may be, “It embarrasses me when you call me out on my wrong answers,” or “It’s hard for me to learn when I feel like you only call on or focus your attention on one or two students.” Avoid being accusatory or angry.
  • Request a meeting with the counselor. If you try to talk to your teacher and still feel like nothing has changed, consider talking to your school counselor. He or she may have some tips to help you better get along with your teacher as well as helping you control yourself before you say something that could get you in trouble.
  • Talk to your parents. If you’ve tried the above and nothing seems to be working, your parents may need to meet with the teacher, counselor, or principal and try to work something out. If your personality differences can’t be solved peacefully, you may be transferred to a different class and teacher so you can focus on school.

Keeping your back healthy when lugging around all those books

Backpack hanging on open locker doorSchool means books, and lugging around half a dozen or more heavy textbooks can be a great workout. However, it can also be a strain on the back.

Studies actually show that up to a third of high school students have lower back pain that they shouldn’t be getting until they’re adults. Many experts believe the culprits are the large, overstuffed backpacks students use to cart their books around in. While carrying heavy backpacks doesn’t mean you will end up with a serious deformity, there are problems that go along with carrying too heavy backpacks or books.

The main trouble with backpacks and book bags that are too heavy is muscle strain. This is especially true for those who carry backpacks without using both straps, or who use satchels or shoulder bags over one shoulder. As a result, the muscles strain to make up for the uneven weight. The spine bends to the opposite side, placing stress on the back and ribs, leading to back pain and muscle spasms. In addition, the weight also strains the neck and can lead to headaches and neck aches as well.

So how can you keep your back healthy when you have to lug around a ton of books? The following tips will help you alleviate potential back and problems caused from heavy back packs and books:

  • Use a backpack. When choosing a backpack, make sure you get one that has two straps, instead of a shoulder bag or messenger bag. Bags with just one strap that are designed to be worn on the shoulder cause more pain and strain than backpacks that have two straps.
  • Always use both shoulder straps. Now that you know how important it is to have a backpack with two shoulder straps, make sure you always use both of them instead of slinging just one strap over the shoulder. A heavy backpack on one shoulder causes the same problems as a messenger or shoulder bag.
  • Pack your backpack correctly. How you pack your bag also makes an impact on the health of your back. Put the heaviest books and items closer to the back, centering everything in the middle. It’s also important to distribute the weight evenly, and don’t pack your back pack so that there are sharp corners from books or folders poking into your back.
  • Choose the right backpack. The type of backpack you purchase should depend on how heavy of a load you’ll be carrying. A regular back pack with two straps is fine for books that aren’t too heavy. But if you plan on hauling around a lot of heavy books or materials, consider getting a backpack that has a hip belt. This helps take the load off the shoulders. In addition, make sure the backpack is well padded in the shoulder and back area to protect you from the books’ hard and sharp edges.

If you notice that your backpack is causing you pain, it might be a good idea to replace it. Lugging your books around is not only annoying sometimes, but it can also be damaging to your back by causing muscle strain and back aches. You can keep your back healthy and still cart your books around by getting a back pack with two straps instead of one that distributes the weight properly and by using both straps.