What Classes You Should Take

girl flying with the booksSometimes in high school it can be difficult to decide what classes you should take, especially if there are a lot of electives and fun classes that are offered!  Even though it’s always fun to take classes with your friends and your crush, there are a few things to consider before you sign up for your classes.  The most important thing is to make sure that you are taking all of the classes which are required for graduation – you don’t want to be left behind in high school because you didn’t take the required classes!  Check with your school counselor or adviser to make sure you know all of the classes that are required for graduation at your school.  Getting a list of these classes can help in your schedule planning.

Required Classes for Colleges:
Another good idea is to make sure you are taking classes which will look good on college applications.  Most colleges require two years of natural science classes, two years of history/social science, three years of math courses, and four years of English.  Most schools require two years of foreign language credit, but some more competitive schools can require up to three to four years of foreign language.  It is always best to check with potential colleges to see if you are fulfilling their requirements.

Another thing to consider is taking AP or honors classes, which also can look good on a college application.  While deciding what classes you should take, it is also a good idea to plan out your classes for future semesters and years as well.  Even though your interests in electives may change, your basic plan with these required classes probably won’t change much over the school years.

Classes with Friends:
It is always a good idea to make sure that you are taking these important classes for graduation and college requirements before signing up for school electives.  Many of your friends might be required to take these same classes, so check with them if you want to have a friend in class with you!  Sometimes friends make great study buddies, especially in important classes for college and graduation requirements.  Just make sure that you aren’t too chatty with your friends in class though – if you know you won’t be able to stop talking in class to your friends, it might be a better idea to take a different class than them!  Make sure that you take classes with friends that will help you to study and concentrate in class.

Electives: When deciding what electives you should take, there are a lot of things to look at!  First of all, it is a good idea to take classes which you might use in your future career, or possibly something that will relate to your future college experience and degree.  For example, if you are really dedicated to art or music, it is a good idea to be involved with those kinds of classes throughout your time in high school.  Colleges like to see your dedication to certain subjects throughout the different years of your high school.  If you’re serious about something, show that on your college application by taking those classes!  Show colleges what you’re passionate about!

Electives are also a great opportunity to develop your different talents and abilities.  Sometimes you don’t even know you’re good at doing something until you try, so don’t be afraid to sign up for an elective which you think you might be good at.  If you’re planning on trying something new, it’s best to first take the introductory class to the subject and then move on to more advanced classes afterwards.

Tips for Preparing for the ACT or SAT

student studying in a libraryAre you getting ready to take the ACT or SAT before applying to college?  Don’t stress out – there are a lot of things that you can do to prepare well for these tests!  Taking standardized tests like the ACT or SAT can seem a little scary, but the more you are prepared, the less nervous you’ll be (and the better you’ll do on the tests!).  Start preparing to take the ACT or SAT as early as possible, so that you can achieve the high score that you deserve!  Usually, it is recommended that you start studying for the these tests the summer after your sophomore year in high school  Here are a couple of tips to help you get ready to ace these tests:

  1. Practice Writing Essays: The new SAT format includes a persuasive writing section, where you will need to select one side of an issue and give examples to support your argument.  You will need to rely on your writing skills and the real examples that you give to help you form a strong essay.  Practice writing essays where you defend an issue completely.  The best outline form for these essays is with five paragraphs: the first paragraph should be your introduction, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th paragraphs should each discuss one of your examples to support your argument, and the 5th paragraph should be your conclusion.  The organization and clear format of your essay is very important.  You will have 25 minutes during the actual test, so time yourself as you practice at home.  Make sure that your practice essays don’t discuss the other side of the issue – this could make you appear too wishy-washy and unsure of your own standpoint.  Remember – the more you practice this section, the easier and better it will get!
  2. Math tips: While preparing for the ACT or SAT, it is a good idea to go over your math vocabulary.  Words like integer, absolute value, congruent, mode, and prime number often can appear on these kinds of standardized tests.  Also, practice using the FOIL method while forming quadratic equations.  FOIL stands for “first, outer, inner, last,” and it describes the method that you take while forming quadratic equations.  It also is a good idea to be familiar with simple fraction-to-decimal conversions (0.75 = _ = 75%).  Although you can use your calculator, being aware of these simple conversions can help you to save time while taking this portion of the test.
  3. Reading tips: One of the best ways that you can prepare for standardized tests like the ACT or SAT is by memorizing vocabulary words.  The Princeton Review’s Hit Parade has a list of the frequently tested vocabulary words, and we’ve listed a couple of them here for you: abstract, aesthetic, alleviate, ambivalent, apathetic, auspicious, benevolent, candor, comprehensive, diligent, dubious, eclectic, egregious, exculpate, florid, gratuitous, hackneyed, idealize, impartial, imperious, inherent, innovative, inveterate, laudatory, maverick, mollify, novel, obdurate, ornate, ostentatious, paramount, penitent, pervasive, plausible, prosaic, quandary, rancorous, spurious, stoic, superfluous, tenuous, timorous, transitory, vindicated.
    One of the best ways to study vocabulary words is by making flashcards.  Also, another tip is to try and use these vocabulary words in your every day conversation – that will help you to remember the words better.
  4. Study and Practice! It is important that you study as much as possible for the ACT and SAT.  There are also SAT and ACT prep classes that are offered through different prep companies, such as The Princeton Review.  You also could check with your high school, to see if any prep classes will be offered after school.  Other helpful ACT and SAT study guides can also be bought at bookstores or checked out from your library.  Not only to these guides have helpful tips, but they also have practice tests that you can take before the big test day!  These guides are updated often, so that you can read about the current information that will be on your test!

Money Matters, Apply for College Scholarships

swimmer swimmingEveryone likes to have a little extra money in their pocket, especially when they are in college!  When you are in college, every single bit of money matters and helps you out.  Having a college scholarship is really smart, because the money often allows you to focus on your schoolwork without having to hold a job at the same time.  If you are getting ready for college or even in college, it is a good idea to apply for college scholarships!
Remember, the best way to guarantee that you’ll receive college scholarships and money is to maintain the good grades throughout high school.  If you have a stellar academic record, you will be eligible to apply for a lot of different merit scholarships.  Some high schools offer college scholarships to their graduating seniors.  Your school counselor or advisor will be able to let you know if there are any scholarships available at your school and what the requirements are for those scholarships.  Academic scholarships are usually also offered by most colleges.  You can find out about different scholarships that are offered by the college of your choice by asking at their financial aid office.  College scholarships are also available through independent groups, such as philanthropic foundations like the Coca Cola Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In addition, a lot of college scholarships are available for athletic abilities or talent.  Athletic scholarships are often highly competitive and the applications usually require a lot of work to fill out.  The best place to look for more information on athletic scholarships is the website for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).  Another good starting point for interested athletes is www.collegesportsscholarships.com.
Talent scholarships are available at many colleges, and they are also very diverse.  For example, you can receive money for artistic talent, music talent, and drama talent.  Contact the department of the college that you are interested in attending if you are interested in getting extra money for your talents!  Remember, a lot of departments require you to major in the area of your talent in order to be eligible for scholarship funding.
If you are not interested in specifically getting a talent scholarship, it is a good idea to contact the future (or current) department of your college.  Departments often offer scholarships for their students, as a way of attracting or keeping students in their program.  These scholarships often are based on academic merit, but not always.  It is always worth your time to contact your department and see how you can apply for their scholarships.
College scholarships are also available through corporate organizations.  These corporate scholarships are ways for companies to retain their employees, support the local communities of the business, and give the company public exposure.  You can look for these scholarships by researching businesses in your local area or looking at the places where your parents work.
Religious groups also offer scholarships for college.  If you or your family is affiliated with a religious group, contact them to see if they have any money set aside for scholarships.  Other private organizations also offer scholarship funding.  There are thousands of these private scholarships available to individuals.  These scholarships can range from $50 to $20,000 – and some scholarships are for even more than that!  The best way to begin to get familiar with these private organizations is by looking online through search engines.
As you start to look into college scholarships, remember that money matters!  If the application process looks really long or difficult, don’t be discouraged.  Getting a full-tuition scholarship for taking an hour to fill out paperwork is definitely worth your time!

Fun and Effective College Prep

girl in a hallwayGetting ready to go to college can be a lot of fun, especially if you plan ahead!  The earlier you start to plan for college, the more effective you’ll be and fun you’ll have.  Then, when the college apps are due, you’ll be able to be stress-free!  There are a lot of fun things that you can do to stand out on a college application and get ready for college.  Here are a couple examples:

Clubs and Activities: Get involved in a lot of clubs and activities at your high school and in your community!  Not only are these fun for socializing and meeting peeps, but you can also strengthen you college app this way.  These activities and interests will show college application reviewers your passions and interests!  If you’re not sure what you’re interested in yet, try out a couple different activities and see what you like best.  There are lots of fun activities that can help you get involved.  After you find what’s most interesting to you, stick with it as long as possible!  Colleges really like to look for applicants that have several years of involvement with clubs and groups.  Plus, if you have a chance for some type of leadership in your club – go for it!  Colleges are always looking for people with leadership skills.

Start Saving Money: Managing and saving your money effectively can actually allow you to have more fun in the future!  Start saving your money as soon as you can by creating a savings account that you won’t touch until after you graduate.  Look into getting a summer, weekend, or after-school job.  If you start early and put at least 10-20% of your paycheck into savings, you’ll still have enough money for shopping fun while you’re still in high school!  Remember though, that the more money you save, the less you’ll be stressed about money when you actually start college.

Start Looking at Different Colleges: Sometimes looking at different colleges is like dating – you have to look around a lot before you can really decide works best for you.  Just like dating, looking at different colleges can be fun!  One effective way to start finding out about colleges is by visiting their websites or visiting their campus.  Start looking early at different colleges to find out what is most interesting to you.  Be sure to look at the admission requirements for colleges too, so that you can get a heads-up on the requirements for applying.

Challenge and Push Yourself: Sometimes challenging yourself can be the most fun and rewarding experience while you prepare for college.  In order to be a competitive applicant, check out what college prep classes are available your school, and take a couple of the courses offered!  The earlier you start, the more effective and prepared you’ll be!  Most colleges require two years of natural science classes, two years of history/social science, three years of math courses, and four years of English.  Look into taking one or two years of foreign language classes too – many colleges also will look for this in your application!  Doing well in these kinds of courses are often very fun and rewarding to the serious college applicant.  Always try to do your very best and study hard to get good grades, but don’t stress too much if your GPA is a little less-than-perfect.  Colleges are looking for applicants that are ready to challenge themselves!

Getting ready for college can be a lot of work, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun along the way!  Remember, the earlier you start, the more fun you’ll be able to have as you get ready to start college!