What if I don’t want to go to college, how do I prepare for other options?

As a teenager in high school it can seem like the only thing anyone talks about is college, and how to get into college is, and should be, the number one priority in your life. All plans should revolve around college. You choose your school classes around that, you spend your weekends preparing for the SAT or ACT, etc. The fact is preparing for college is sort of the focus of the last year of high school. However, not everyone is cut out for college, or even wants to go to college. So, what can you do if you do not want to go to college? What can you do to prepare for other options? Try the following:

Get a job. Sometimes the best thing you can do if you do not want to go to college is to get a job. Either it will get you some job experience which will help you in the real world once you are out of high school, or it will convince you that college is worth it, despite your inclination not to go. Of course, there are some career paths that going to college does little to help you. For example, a mechanic might get more out of getting a job in an oil change shop while he or she learns more about cars, then being in college learning basic grammar, and stuff about the environment.

Join the military: If you are not wanting to go to college, but are worried about being stuck in a dead end job, or not having a path for your future, one of the best things you can do is join the military. There are several different divisions, which means it can appeal to many different people. You can be in the army, the navy, the air force, the marines. You can learn how to fly, how to use computers, how to use a gun, and several other skills. Prepare for this option by joining ROTC, and learning about the different branches of the military.

Vocational schools: If a formal college is not your thing, you could always go to a vocational school. There are many different kinds of vocational schools. You can go to hair school, to culinary arts school, computer programming, or many other kinds of schools, or informal trainings. Sometimes learning a skill is much more rewarding than reading books and writing papers. So, if you just aren’t the traditional studier type vocational school might be for you, so prepare for that option by choosing what you are interested in.

Travel: If you do not want to go to college right out of high school, one good option is to travel. Traveling gives you a chance to be exposed to different cultures, ways of life, and places. It teaches you things, and gives you real world experiences. In addition, it is a great way to explore your adventurous side, and get it out of your system before you decide what to do for your life.

What extra curricular activities should I do?

There are a lot of extra-curricular activities offered to high school students now-a-day. The wide variety of choice is wonderful in that it allows you to involve yourself in, and pursue things you are passionate about, however, it can also make it difficult to choose or to limit the activities you are a part of. The following is a look at what extra-curricular activities all teens should participate in and why.

  1. A sport. Being involved in a sport while you are in high school is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Not only will it help keep you physically healthy and more attractive, but it also gives you the opportunity to be part of a team. This is an invaluable experience, and one you can never fully appreciate or have again unless you are an exceptional athlete and play in college. The fact is, high school sports, while competitive, are forgiving, and are a great place to meet people, make friends, and expand your comfort zone. In addition, the added benefit of daily exercise, and a scheduled activity is going to enrich your life.

Obviously not everyone is talented at sports, but there are sports anyone can join. Anyone can be part of the track team, or cross country, for that matter. If you find that softball, volleyball, football, soccer, swimming, etc. are not for you, maybe you can long jump, high jump, throw a shot put, or a discus, or run. The fact is, if you want to be part of a team, you can be, even if you are not very good.

  1. An art. Being part of an art based extra-curricular activity is a fantastic way to learn culture, to give yourself a plethora of experiences, and to add character to yourself. Art requires people to express themselves, often in ways they are not used to, are uncomfortable with, etc. So, no matter who you are, or what your interests, you can show them through you art form. Being involved in art of some kind is great for high school students, whether that art is dance, cheer, theater, music, etc. Find something that works for you, and do it!
  2. A club. Every high school student should join at least one club. It gives you a chance to interact socially with a purpose. It may be Spanish Club where you learn more about Spanish culture, and visit an impoverished Spanish city or country, etc. It could be comic book club, where you interact with others with a similar interest, and debate the merits of various authors, artists, etc. It does not matter what the club is, but get involved in one club.

If you involve yourself in one sport, one art, and one club, you will stay very busy, meet several people, and have a fulfilling high school experience.

Taking advantage of the counseling center

Every high school that is public in America has a counseling center of some sort. The counseling center has counselors assigned to the students, and each counselor is charged with helping their assigned students in various ways. However, most students either do not realize, or do not know how to utilize the counseling center to take the fullest advantage of it possible. The following are some tips for taking advantage of the counseling center:

Tip one: Use it for class scheduling and help. Your counselor is invaluable when it comes to getting into the classes you want, and getting the schedule that will be manageable and something that meets the requirements for graduation. Take the time to talk to them about your goals, and desires. The more they know you, the more willing they are to help you get what you want.

Tip two: Use it for college preparation and selection help. Counselors often know a lot about colleges, both local and far away. They can tell you what schools are known for what programs, what is going to be required of you academically and with your extra-curricular in order to get in, and they are going to be able to help you narrow down your choices and decide where you may want to apply, and how to work during high school to ensure acceptance at those schools.

Tip three: Use it for aptitude and future path help. Most high school aged kids do not know what it is they enjoy most, or what they want to be or do when they leave high school. Most are money driven, so paths like doctors, lawyers, and international business persons are appealing, but they are not always right. So, a counselor can help you find what you will enjoy. They can administer aptitude tests, introduce you to programs to help you see what your interests are, etc.

Tip four: Use it to get scholarships. The counselors at your school should have a file of potential scholarship opportunities, and should make you aware of when new scholarships are available, the requirements to attempt to secure one, and the deadlines to do so. Ask, they do not make this as public as they maybe should, as it is a lot of work. So, if you want money for school, get your counselor to help you find it!

Tip five: Use it to deal with social or academic problems. A counselor is not just there to help you with getting into classes and colleges, but to make it easy for you to get through high school. They are there to guide you, advise you, etc. So, if you are having trouble with other students, with a teacher, with a subject matter, etc. they can step in and help. So, use them if you need to.

The best thing you can do to make high school smooth, and get on the future path that is right for you is to get to know your counselor and have them get to know you.

Staying awake during class

High school is a fun time, but it is also hard on the body. You wake up early to be to school, and stay up late socializing, doing homework etc. And, to top it off, during the day you are usually busy, involved in rigorous physical activity, etc. So, sometimes it can be difficult to stay awake during class. The following are some tips for things you can do to stay awake during class, because if you don’t, there is a good chance you will get behind.

Tip one: Stay hydrated. Believe it or not, your body will function better, and be at a more alert state if it is properly hydrated. Do not try to hydrate yourself with carbonated, and sugar laden beverages however, a good old fashioned water bottle is certainly the way to go. Be sure to sip it frequently throughout the day. If your teacher allows it, be sure to sip it during class as well. If not, get plenty before and after.

Tip two: Sit up front. If you find that staying awake in class is difficult for you, or at the very least, paying attention, then sit up front. It is much harder to ignore the teacher and fall asleep if you are right in front of them. Sometimes being in the back corner can have advantages, but usually it simply means not paying nearly enough attention, and getting away with it.

Tip three: Go to class prepared. If you did the reading, can participate in discussions, or know what things you have questions on because you did the homework, or studied the chapter, or whatever the case may be, you will be far less likely to fall asleep. Those who can be involved are not going to sleep. If you need questions answered, such as not understanding a certain theorem or conjugation, etc. So, have a list of your questions, or topics of discussion, etc. prepared for the class, and you will find that it will keep your interest far better.

Tip five: Keep your blood sugar levels under control. Sometimes falling asleep in class has nothing to do with your disinterest, etc. it has everything to do with your body. If you have not eaten, or have indulged too heavily in junk food, etc. and your blood sugar is out of whack, and it drops, it can cause you to feel fatigued, tired, listless, and unfocused, all things which lead to falling asleep in class. So, eat a good breakfast, make sure you have a few healthy snacks to get you through the day, do not skip lunch, and avoid too much sweets, sodas, etc. as they can cause spikes and falls in blood sugar.

If this is not enough, consult with your doctor or parent and ask for some help to remedy the problem of falling asleep, or at the very least, being unable to pay attention in class.

Preparing for the ACT or SAT

The ACT and SAT are tests that you take in order to let college acceptance boards know how you compare in your foundational knowledge to your peers. They are given in a monitored format, with strict rules and timetables, and scored in a way that makes them comparable to all other versions of the test. The score you get on these tests, combined with your academic history, plays a large role in what colleges you get accepted to, as well as to how much scholarship money you can get, etc. These are not just some silly standardized tests, rather they have a big impact on your future. So, how should you prepare for them?

First, you have to know which one you are taking. The tests are scored differently, and thus your preparation should be different. The biggest difference is that when you take the ACT, your wrong answers do not count against you. However in the SAT, any multiple choice questions answered incorrectly result in negative points off your total score. So, if there are 50 questions, you get 30 right, and 20 wrong, you do not get 30 points, you get that 30 reduced by the total value of wrong answers. So, every wrong answer is worth ¼ to ½ a point negation. So, at best if you got 20 wrong and 30 right, you would get 25 points. At worst, 20. So, when taking this test, it is best to leave an answer blank if you do not know it, rather than guess.

Second, it is wise to take a class, or get a book to help direct your focus and give you a good overall review of the materials you will find on the test. These tests are comprehensive, and deal with science, math, English, reading comprehension, etc. So, because they are comprehensive, it becomes rather difficult to study for them as they can cover such a wide spectrum of things. The classes and books help you focus that study, and cover the fundamentals, as well as open your eyes to the things you should study further.

Third, take a practice exam or two. One of the hardest things about these tests is that they are given in a room full of other kids, with a timer going, and silence. It can be unnerving, even if you are confident in your knowledge, the pressure associate can make you blank on things, misread questions, etc. So, to help prepare yourself for these factors, which affect your overall score, it is best to simulate the conditions of the SAT and ACT as best as possible, while taking a past or practice test, and then see how you score. This helps you know what you need to work on as well, so that you can be prepared for the test, score well, and get to attend the college of your dreams.

Preparing for AP exams

The AP classes in high school are more rigorous then regular, high school level classes, but many students still feel unprepared for the advanced placement tests they take at the end of the year to earn college credits. So, beyond going to class, and doing your work through the year, what are some things you can do to prepare for the AP exam?

First, you can take some practice exams. There is a good chance your teacher will have you do this, but if they do not, be sure to do this on your own. Taking some practice AP tests not only helps you overcome the fears generally associated with the unknown, but it can give you confidence in your ability to handle the format of the test, as well as the material. Test taking is an effective way to expose the holes in your understanding. So, taking some past tests, or practice tests will help you see what areas you should study more, and which you can simply do a refresh on a day or two before the test. This helps you focus your study.

Second, prepare a general outline of the material studied over the course of the year, and go over it each day, filling in details, and refreshing your knowledge on any areas you have forgotten, or are not all the way clear on. If you are taking a US History test, for example, you can cover each time period, and identify major events, movements and people in that time period. Then ask yourself if you feel familiar enough with each to write an essay, or defend your position in an essay. If not, study those things harder. This same approach can be taken in math, science, etc. Have a good overall picture of what you should know will help you feel more confident, and you can go in with a finer tooth comb, and relearn, or delve deeper into any areas you feel less than comfortable with your knowledge.

Third, consider supplemental study help. There are several guides, books, and courses designed to help students with preparing for AP exams. These are often unnecessary, but can give you the confidence you need to go into the exam. They also serve as a great place to start if you feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information you need to know. If you do not, or cannot, spend the money for these, then make flash cards, notes, etc. of your own to study.

Last, but certainly not least, make sure you have a friend or study partner to prepare with. You want someone to quiz you, and someone you can quiz. This can be effective for learning, it also gives you a support system, and most importantly, a different view point for points of discussion, etc. If you are asked to write an essay in your AP exam, having other people’s perspectives, etc. can be an invaluable tool.

Making the college decision alone, not based on where your friends are going

When you are a teenager, your friends can be your life. It is easy to make the mistake of choosing where you go to school based on where your friends are going to attend. While having some friends in college can be nice, it is also not wise to base your college decision on where your friends are going. The following is a guide to why you should make the college decision alone:

  1. College often determines a large portion of your future. The college you pick can have a great bearing on where you live after graduating, what career path you choose, what your political views are, etc. A large portion of people meet their future spouse during the college years. In other words, the place you attend college will impact much of the rest of your life, and you should never make such a monumental decision based on what your friends want and think, rather what you want and think. If you pick a school because that is where your friends are, you short change yourself so many opportunities for growth, and the potential of going to a better school, whether educationally, or just better for you!
  2. College friends tend to last far longer than high school friends, and you might stunt your social growth if you have friends there. If you go to the same college as your friends, you will likely end up living with them, and spending your free time with them. A huge part of the college experience is about networking, meeting new people, and expanding and growing, both socially and intellectually. It is platform for people of all different races, backgrounds, and cultures to come together and learn. If you stick with your comfortable little group, you never expand.
  3. You and your friends may not have the same future goals. Colleges all offer different strengths. Some are very academic, some inspire free thinking, some are party schools, some are great for certain areas, like arts, others sciences, math, or language. The point is, not every college has everything. So, you have to choose the college that best suits your future goals. If you intend to run a large corporation, attending an Ivy League school might be better for you than say a State school. Your friend’s ambition may simply be to enjoy college and meet someone to marry. So, because you and your friends’ future goals can’t, and shouldn’t be identical, the college that best suits you is likely to be different as well.
  4. You really do not get a clean slate. One of the great things about college is escaping the high school drama and becoming who you are, regardless of what other people and experiences you have. So, it gives you a chance to be your true self, remake yourself if you want, etc. If you go with your friends, instead of where you want to go, you may not get this chance.
  5. People change. College is a time where parents are not there guiding your decisions, so people become more of their true selves, their priorities become clear, and people change. While many friendships last, many others grow apart. Do not base a large decision on someone else, as there is a high probability that you will grow apart within the first year of college anyway, and by sophomore year you will have your own, individual social circles, even if you do still hang out.

Keeping your grades up and still having a social life

As a teenager one of the hardest things to balance is that of school and social interaction. Being able to get your school work done, study for tests, learn material, do the required reading, attend classes and after school functions, all while having a social life can be difficult. Especially if you add in things like spending time with your family, going to church, having a job to provide you with some money, etc. So, how can you keep your grades up and still have a social life? Try the following:

  1. First you have to choose your class schedule wisely. You do not want to fill your schedule with easy classes that are going to do you little good, but you also need to remember you are a teenager, in high school. So, if you have room to take 7 classes, do not take more than 4 AP, or difficult for you classes. This does not mean the other 3 should be things like PE. However, they should be enjoyable, not so mentally taxing, or homework laden. A poetry class, a class on typing, or photography, etc. are all good choices.
  2. Do not over-involve yourself. It can be tempting to get involved in numerous things, but it can also overwhelm your schedule, and leave you with little free time. While involvement keeps you social, it also renders you unable to have freedom in that social life. So, choose a sport you enjoy, a club you want to join, and an extra-curricular activity that interests you such as dance, marching band, or theater, but do not try to do them all. If you do, you will have no time for anything else.
  3. Learn to be efficient and organized. Even someone taking 5 or 6 advanced placement courses, or concurrent enrollment, and who is doing a sport, can have a social life if they plan well and manage their time efficiently. So, if you are sitting outside the school after football practice, waiting for your ride home, do some of your reading, or get started on your math assignment. It is wise to never waste a minute of your time, instead be continuously productive. Have a game plan for each day so that you have the ability and time to go with friends to the mall if they call. A small notebook is a great tool, as it allows you to write down the tasks you need to complete, and when you intend to do so. If you have a math assignment, a chemistry lab report, and a paper on a book, you might work on your math assignment during lunch at school, with your friends in the class, then take notes about the book, and what you intend to write on, while you wait for rides, or if you get to a class early, and then write it and your lab report as soon as you get home so that you have the rest of the evening to enjoy yourself.

Is college in high school a good idea?

These days most high schools offer options for taking college classes in high school. This might be through a concurrent enrollment, AP classes, or actually taking your classes at a local college or junior college, and getting high school credits for the classes taken. So, with the option to get a jump start on college, the question is whether or not you should? After all you are only young once! The teenage and high school years are fraught with opportunities for fun, social experiences, and learning, so should you fill them with college classes, or should you enjoy the lack of responsibility and take college when the time comes? The answer is simple. If you can take college classes in high school, and you can handle it, DO IT, DO IT, DO IT.

Being efficient is the goal of most people. Multi-tasking, biting off more than you can chew, and always juggling a million and one things seems to be the life of most Americans. So, if you can do one thing and have it count for two, you should certainly do it. In order to graduate from high school you have to fulfill certain requirements. If in filling those requirements you also get college credits, and get a jump start on college, you have nothing to lose, other than a little social time, but frankly, you will make up for that by having that time during your college years.

In addition to killing two birds with one stone, taking college in high school is awesome because it allows you to ease into the college life. You are still living at home, you still have some high school classes, and you are not juggling as many responsibilities, so learning how to take harder, more demanding classes without the added stress of taking care of yourself is a great opportunity.

Another great reason that taking college classes while in high school is that because you are getting high school credit for it, you get some subsidized tuition cost.  In other words, college credits for cheap or free is always great. The average semester of college costs $10,000 in tuition, not to mention books, housing, etc. If you can get one semester ahead while living at home, and in high school, that is a significant savings. By taking a few AP classes each year, or doing concurrent enrollment your last year of school, you can get a semester or more under your belt before actually being accepted, or going to college. This is wonderful! You may not realize it now, but the faster you graduate, the faster you move on to doing something you really want to do, or something that interests you a lot.  So, when given the opportunity to take college classes in high school, evaluate your ability to manage time and juggle things, and if you can handle it, do it.

How to get help when you fall behind in school

Sometimes life happens, even when you are in high school, and you get behind in school. You break up with your significant other, you get sick, you just can’t concentrate, or the class simply moves too fast. Whatever the reason, on occasion, everyone gets behind in school. So, if you fall behind in a class, or in all of your classes, what can you do to get help? Most students are too afraid to ask, or to admit that they are so far behind they need help, and so instead of getting help, they find themselves in a bad situation getting worse. Before you let things spiral out of control, consider the following tactics for how to get help when you fall behind in school:

  1. Your first option is simply to talk directly to your teacher. You do not have to give them you sob story, but you do need to let them know you are behind, and that it is your desire to get caught up. Ask them what they can do to help you, or how they would be willing to work with you. Most teachers will be reasonable, they will extend deadlines, offer help during lunch or after school, or will help you find a tutor, or someone to help you catch up. In most cases, this is all you will need to do to get the help you need. Of course, you will need to follow through, use the tutor, get the work done by the extended deadline, and show up for their help during lunch or after school.
  2. If talking to your teacher is not enough, or if they are unwilling to work with you to get you caught up, your next option is to visit your counselor. Explain the situation and the steps you have taken. Even if your reason for getting behind is stupid, the fact that you are trying to get back on track should warrant you some help. Your counselor can go to your teachers and work out some sort of arrangement where they will accept work late, and you can still get the credit, or they may let you make-up a test, or retake one, etc. They may provide a place and supervised study for you. They may arrange for a peer tutor, or some other help. Their job is to help you get through high school the best you can, and get you into higher education, so if you show you are willing to make an effort, they will respond in kind.
  3. If the counselor is unwilling to help you, or does not help you, the you move up the ladder once more and contact the principal directly. Let them know that you want to make efforts to get caught up. That you have fallen behind, and you do not want your future to be jeopardized, and would like to work out a way to get caught up and make-up work. This might mean summer school, or after school session for several weeks on end, but usually the principal will be willing to help you arrange some way to get caught up, get your grades up, and help you graduate, etc.