How Should You Deal With High School Competition?

High School CompetitionThe social dynamics of high school have never been simple. No matter who you are, or when you went to high school, there have always been more than enough things to make a person incredibly self conscious. From your looks to your actions, a high school setting is basically brimming with people who are ready to pick you apart—including yourself.

And in addition to the classic troupe of 80’s pop culture—where the academically inclined “losers” vie for acceptance from the pretty, cool athletes who rule the school—you’ve probably dealt with the intense academic competition if you graduated from high school within the last 10 years or so. There’s a pervading pressure to be “the whole package,” a sporty, attractive, straight-A genius, both to earn respect from peers and teachers and to gain admittance to the most prestigious colleges.

Obviously, such high expectations yield a lot of pressure, and a lot of pressure can break a person, particularly a developing, teenage, high school-person.

The competition can be crushing. And besides feeling an incredible internal drive to be the best, you’re probably even more annoyed by the endless competitive talk among your peers. Privacy is not a commodity in high school, and there are really no secrets amongst your classmates.

Conversations are frequently dominated by talk of test scores, grade points and leadership accomplishments. Everyone and their mother (literally) want to size you up by the numbers.

And though impressive stats are certainly no small feat, every day I’m astonished by how all the data that seemed to define my classmates in high school has thus far turned out to be a very poor indicator of success. At the time, it seemed like being an academically well-rounded individual was the holy grail. But ultimately, high scores in all sections of the SAT won’t carry you far in life—only a legitimate passion can do that.

I know, that sounds so cheesy. And I know that you’ve heard it before. Passion is a pretty prominent buzzword when it comes to the college game. But the passion that I’m referring to doesn’t have to be a great love from the day one, nor should it be. All passion starts as an interest, which is carefully and painstakingly developed over a long period of time.

So don’t stress too much and don’t waste your time comparing yourself, your grades or your resume to those around you, but simply strive to be the best version of yourself that you can be. Though high test scores and grade points will look great on your college application, they won’t carry you far in life. Instead, learn, live and actively involve yourself in the world around you. Your actions in the real world will comprise a much more essential piece of your identity, and earn you much more, than any standardized test ever could.

Paying for College [Infographic]

Paying for College infographic

Don’t Miss Your College’s FAFSA Priority Deadline

Many colleges award financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis so the earlier you apply, the better. Check the dates below for the priority dates and FAFSA school codes for South Dakota colleges, universities and technical institutes. Be sure to submit your FAFSA to every college you’re applying to, well before their priority deadlines. Get started with your FAFSA if you haven’t already.

School FAFSA Priority Date FAFSA School Code
Augustana College March 1 003458
Black Hills State University March 1 003459
Colorado Technical University March 1 003458
Dakota State University March 1 003463
Dakota Wesleyan University April 1 003461
Kilian Community College None 015000
Lake Area Technical Institute April 1 005309
Lower Brule Community College March 1 014303
Mitchell Technical Institute April 15 008284
Mount Marty College March 1 003465
National American University – Rapid City April 15 004057
National American University – Sioux Falls April 15 E00641
Northern State University March 1 003466
Oglala Lakota College April 20 014659
Presentation College March 1 003467
Sinte Gleska University April 15 014303
Sioux Falls Seminary April 30 G04056
Sisseton Wahpeton College March 1 016080
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology None 003470
South Dakota State University March 15 003471
Southeast Technical Institute March 31 008285
University of Sioux Falls March 1 003469
University of South Dakota April 15 003474
Southeast Technical Institute March 31 008285
Western Dakota Technical Institute April 20 010170


Should You Attend College Right After High School?

Delaying CollegeDelaying college – I used to be so against it. I used to think that not going to college right after high school was a waste of precious time. I mean, why do something with your life if it won’t benefit you in the future? But this mindset was everything but the truth. Over the past couple of months, I have gone through the college application process, witnessed many of my friends going through the college path as well as choosing alternative paths, and I’ve come to the conclusion that both paths are completely valid.

My entire life, I’ve grown with the idea that going to college right after high school is the only right choice. By enlisting in the military I would be working hard for a job that I barely trained for, not get to experience much and come back home tired and with nothing to offer. By traveling for a year, I would be using young brain-power and energy on a trip I could take as an adult. Even not attending college and pursuing work was never an option.

It was only recently that I discovered that there is nothing wrong with alternate paths. After graduating from college, a student will come into the job market not only with a degree, but with an average of $26,000 in debt. While research shows that a college degree is worth it in the long term, one might argue that it’s better to work for a year, saving money and thus reducing the need for a loan AND gaining valuable experience, before attending college.

While college is the choice many people make, it doesn’t have to be made right after graduation from high school. After meeting up with several of my friends who had taken different paths after high school, I came to this conclusion: it makes no difference. The friend that went to college, USC to be exact, is extremely pleased and excitedly told me about all the things she’s involved in. From philanthropies in her sorority to the compelling professors she’s met. Another friend had decided to delay college (University of Michigan) for a year, and travel around the world. His instagram account doesn’t even begin to illustrate the incredible adventures he’s experienced, the people he’s met and the education he’s acquired. And although his trip was only half-over when we met, I learned so much more about the world by talking with him for a couple hours.

Life is short. And it’s yours. Choose the path that will make YOU happy, because the last thing you want is to be successful and miserable. If you believe that college can wait, that it’s worthwhile to gain other experiences first, maybe save up some money along the way, know that this is a completely valid option.

This is a guest post by Noa Livneh, a high school senior in the San Francisco Bay Area.

7 Ways to Eat Healthy on a College Student’s Budget

Eating Healthy in CollegeWhether you’re meeting your financial needs with a part time job or with a monthly allowance, it can be difficult to properly budget while you’re in college. And when you’re living outside the dorms, you’ll have to include the very basic expense of food.

Healthy food has, unfortunately, rightly earned its reputation as an expensive option. But then again, proper nutrition is essential to your energy levels, school work and of course, your life. And let’s face it, no one really wants to subsist on ramen noodles. So, here are seven tips to help you keep both your body and your bank account healthy, sans ramen.

1. Buy in small batches. One of the most heartbreaking ways to lose money is by literally throwing it in the trash. So instead of buying everything that you probably, might or could possibly eat, stick to your regular grocery list. Buy less and increase the likelihood of using your perishable purchases.

2. Plan your meals before stepping foot in the grocery store. Writing up your weekly menu may take a bit more time and thought at the outset, but you’ll make it up throughout the week. Choose meals that reuse the same ingredients and/or repeat the same three or four meals throughout the week. Knowing your meals ahead of time will (a) save you time spent deliberating about what to eat for your next meal and (b) reduce your food waste, and hence, financial waste.

3. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and veggies can pretty much drain your bank account. Yet, they provide essential nutrients that you shouldn’t skip. By buying frozen produce, you’ll be able to strike that fine balance between price and nutrition.

4. Give yourself a spending limit. Decide on a realistic amount for you to spend on groceries on a weekly or monthly basis. This will help you gauge whether you’re overbuying, overspending or overindulging. Of course, you shouldn’t regard this limit as law; it should be a flexible target point to help manage your life and finances.

5. Brew your own coffee. A coffee a day can add up to more than $90 per month. So instead of picking up a “fresh” brew from your local Starbucks, make your own coffee at home.

6. Have snacks ready. Nothing will get you to spend like being stuck on campus without food. Bringing portable snacks and/or a meal with you to classes will help prevent you from that all-encompassing intense hunger that so often causes poor financial and health decisions. Have a bag of almonds, whole fruit, cut veggies or anything else handy to avoid buying that (very average tasting) $6 croissant at the campus coffee shop.

7. Limit your meals out. Going out to eat with friends is a fun way to spend an evening, but those meals add up quickly. Refrain from going out for food on a daily basis, but don’t hold back completely—give yourself one or two meals out per week.

Enjoy Your High School Experience!

High School TipsAs my high school experience is drawing to a close, I feel like I should reflect on my four years, and make sure that the next generation of high schoolers will know how to make the most out of their years in high school.

Today, a student in my school committed suicide. It’s the third suicide this year and more than the tenth over the last six years at my school alone. I live in an extremely high-achieving, competitive area, where schools, parents and the students themselves push students to their very limits.

To me, there is something fundamentally wrong with the way high schoolers here are living their lives. There is this notion that while in high school, a student needs to devote her entire life to school, in order to enter the best college. But while I do think that education is the most important gift that anyone can receive, I don’t believe that school alone can provide that, and those who believe so will end up learning less. Most of my knowledge about the world comes from my experiences outside of school, and my overall well-being is from my insistence to do what makes me happy.

So today, I’m going to talk about some of the experiences I’ve had during my years in high school that have shaped me into who I am today. I think these are just as important as studying!

1. Midnight movie watching and Denny’s. Some of my fondest memories come from what my friends and I call the “perfect night.” During said weekend night, we would start watching a movie at midnight, then take a drive to the closest Denny’s (it’s open 24/7) and talk for hours about anything that comes to mind. While this has nothing to do with school work, those nights helped me remember that it’s okay to enjoy life and take things slow. It was also a great time to rant about anything going on in our lives and give one another totally unqualified advice.

2. Day trips to San Francisco. I’m so grateful that I have had the chance to live so close to such a great city. I took every opportunity I got to go there. If you live near a big city, dedicate at least one day a month to take a train to the city and just go exploring. I’ve had days where my friend and I took a train to the city and had a challenge where we tried to spend as little money as possible throughout the whole day. We ended up walking all over the city and found an amazing, cheap deli and only spent 20 dollars total that whole day! I think part of being a teenager is opening your eyes to the world and by leaving your town and exploring a city with your friends, you’ll be exposed to so much more culture and gain valuable independence.

3. Hiking. Hiking is one of those things you will never regret doing. I try to go hiking as often as I can, and if you go with friends it will end up being one of the funnest things you will ever do. I have learned about so many interesting places and discovered so many cool things about my area that I would’ve never learned about if I hadn’t gone hiking. I have hiked through creeks, volcanoes, caves, and mountains while not leaving the Bay Area. It’s such a fun and healthful way to spend time with your friends and I promise you that your mind will clear and you’ll come home energized and ready to tackle your responsibilities.

4. After school lunch specials. Sometimes if I or one of my friends are having a bad day or just want a distraction, we would all congregate in a certain household, find random recipe and cook. We have created almost anything there is to create. And while those meals sometimes weren’t necessarily edible, we had so much fun collecting ingredients and making things together. After school hours are not only for homework!

5. Watching TV. This may sound silly, but I’ve actually learned so much from watching TV. Lost, Breaking Bad, Friends, That 70’s Show, The Office, The Wonder Years, Scrubs, Weeds and so many other shows have really contributed to my cultural knowledge. It’s one of my favorite things to do alone and with others and I do think that it’s really important for my well-being. Yes, watching excessive TV isn’t a good idea, but there is nothing wrong with watching a TV show after a long day or just vegging out sometimes. In fact, it may actually be beneficial.

This is just a short list of the things I love to do that don’t contribute to my school education directly, yet impact me in a major way. Don’t think that your life is only composed of the things you can write down in a college application or a resume, because it’s so much more. Each experience you have, whether it’s “educational” or not, will benefit you, even if it’s as small as just spending time with your family and friends. Don’t compromise your teenagerhood for the best GPA because you’ll end up missing the best parts in life. I have known too many peers who have ended their lives because they felt like they were trapped and I want to let you know that you are not trapped, and in fact, your world has just opened. You will be stressed in high school and you will have to work hard, but please take time to do the things you want to do.

This is a guest post by Noa Livneh, a high school senior in the San Francisco Bay Area.

5 Tips For How To Write the “Why Do You Want To Go To Our College” Essay

College Essay TipsMost of the college application questions yield some research-free, albeit very well thought out answers about who you are and what you love. But by far the most tedious and difficult question to answer is the oft asked, “Why us?”

This question is tedious not only because it is rather difficult to strike a balance between obvious flattery and earnest admiration in your answer, but also because it requires strategic research and thoughtful answers. So, here are five tips to help you answer the dreaded “why do you want to attend this college?” question.

1. Be honest. If you simply list several points from the university website or paraphrase an article you read online, the admission committee will probably understand that you’re just regurgitating more of the same information that they’ve just read in a thousand other essays. Instead, come up with unique arguments that truly matter to you.

2. Don’t be too honest. If your main reason for applying is that you’ve heard great things about the frat parties or because the weather is warm, you should definitely omit those truths. Keep your essay topics strictly academic and/or intellectual.

3. Be specific. Do some in-depth research to find exactly where and how you would aspire to involve yourself in campus life. Look into student groups, student government, academic research or specific classes and professors. This will show that you have a very real interest in this particular college and that you’ve taken the time and energy to learn about it.

4. Explain what you can contribute to campus life. Make it known that you plan not to simply be a passive participant in student activities, but an active member (and perhaps even a leader) in the campus community. If you love writing, explain that you intend to write for the student newspaper. If you love making art, explain that you intend to take part in student art activities. Whatever it is that you love, make it known that you intend to translate that passion to your life on campus.

5. Talk to a current student. If you know any students at said university, don’t be shy about getting in touch with them. They will give you a realistic view of life on campus and provide you with a perspective that you can’t find online.

Be honest, do research and plan your essay well. If you do these things, not only will you produce a convincing essay, but you’ll also get the opportunity to explore the university and all it has to offer before even setting foot on campus.