Managing High School Stress

High School StressHigh school is extremely stressful. There is no sugar coating the fact that students are forced to sit for hours and study their brains out yet still be expected to do numerous extra-curricular activities just so their college application could sparkle in the eyes of the admission counselor. As I look back at my three years in high school, I find it hard to recall a moment that was not filled with stress. Even if I was on vacation, there were SAT tests looming in the distance and volunteer hours that were waiting to be completed.

Although there come times where I regret loading myself up with hard courses and filling my free time with copious amounts of activities, I know that every little thing I did contributed to not only my college admission but my roundness as a person. So because I believe I can’t reduce my workload, I came up with a list of stress-relievers that I found helpful during my most difficult times.

1. Go for a ten minute walk
Don’t know how to fit studying for the SAT with the upcoming midterm? Is math homework, the english essay, and the lab all due on the same day? During our busy lives, we are often faced with challenges that we feel like we cannot accomplish. Our minds get clogged with all the information we need to store and all the tasks we need to remember to do. One of the best things to do in order to clear up the internal confusion is to simply go on a walk. Those ten minutes where you are forced to leave your room and step away from the computer screen will help you organize your thoughts without any distractions.

2. Do yoga
Yoga is a super fun way to relieve stress and get toned. It’s something you can do easily at home and at your own pace. Yoga has been clinically proven to reduce stress and coming from personal experience I can tell you that it has definitely helped. I started doing yoga during my junior year of high school and ever since then I have been obsessed. I was so impressed with the results I was getting, I created an entire spread on it in my high school newspaper. There are a number of ways to practice yoga: you can go to classes at a local community center, try a session at a yoga studio or simply look up poses online and try them out at home.

3. Listen to music
Music is incredible because it can give you so many feelings. You can get angry, sad, happy, loved, lonely, pumped and even (believe it or not) de-stressed! There is nothing better than lying in your bed and listening to a one-hour playlist of your favorite songs. You can create a playlist of all your favorite songs on iTunes and listen to it every time you feel like you need to relieve some tension.

High school is not ever lasting. If you ever feel overwhelmed and/or stressed, just remember that those ephemeral feelings will be replaced with relief as you make your way to the end of your 12-year education career. The sad truth is that there is no way to get rid of the amount of work that is required during high school and that amount will only grow as the competition becomes worse. There will be many moments of stress and anxiety during school but there are also many ways to help relieve those feelings. Walks, yoga and music are only three of many ways to help reduce the amount of stress, so it’s important to find something that you enjoy and that will help clear your mind and make you ready to face the challenges ahead.

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

Should You Work While in College?

college internThroughout high school, you were goal oriented. You enrolled in the toughest classes, earned the best grades and participated in five extracurricular activities. You knew exactly what you had to do to get into the best college possible. Although it wasn’t necessarily easy to be successful, at least you knew how to do it.

Now, you’re a freshman in college and the path isn’t quite so clear anymore. Do your grades really matter? Is your course selection important? Is it essential to do an internship during college?

According to a recent article in Business Insider, the top attributes that potential employers look for in recent college grads is involvement in internships and employment during college. College GPA and school reputation were near the bottom of considerations.

So, what does that mean for you, as an incoming college student? Obviously, you should by no means disregard your academic success. It’s always important to do your best academically, not just for the grade, but also for the sake of your education.

However, academics aren’t everything. Sure, a hardworking student is a good sign, but it’s not always indicative of a good employee. Employers want to see that you’re able to succeed in a work environment and perhaps even get an idea of how you function on the job.

Besides, beyond being a desirable job candidate, your internships and college employment will imbue you with valuable skills that you can use on the job and for the rest of your life. You’ll form useful organizational habits, use specialized computer programs and learn to work as part of a professional team. In short, working or interning during college will give you a head start in adjusting to and understanding the details of the workplace environment.

And most importantly, working and interning during college will give you a more solid sense of your own interests, and a better idea of your desired career path.

But of course, it can be tough to juggle everything. Between school, sports, extra-curricular activities and your social life, it might seem like there’s no time left to fit a job. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day.

Lucky for you, you don’t have to do it all at once. Even a summer internship will help you form those highly valued connections and put some work experience on your resume.

Bottom line: It’s great to give it your all in the classroom—but that’s not the only thing that counts. Kickstart your career by working or interning during college, and you’ll find it much easier to navigate the job market once you graduate.

Good Habits to Start at the Beginning of your Freshman Year

college workoutThe beginning of your college career is always an exciting time. You’ll meet people from all over the country, get to explore your academic horizons and discover new passions. However, the dawn of this era in your life is also the time to form some fresh habits. Make sure to start your university life off on the right foot, and establish good habits from the get-go. Here are six aspects to pay careful attention to in order to get your best start possible.

1. Keep your grades up. It’s easier to graduate with a high GPA if you make your grades a priority at the beginning of your college career. Not to mention, it’s very difficult to recover your GPA if you start off on the wrong foot.

2. Start studying right away. Often, students won’t open their books for the first few weeks of class. But the semester moves quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be in the midst of midterms. Make it a priority to study (and keep up with the required reading) for a few hours every day even if you don’t have any upcoming tests. Because once you do reach test season, you’ll not only find studying a lot less stressful, but since cramming material decreases overall retention of information, you’ll probably earn a higher grade by learning in low doses.

3. Keep a planner. Get a handle on your schedule by writing down your obligations. Plan out your engagements, homework and to-do lists. Your college life may not be so busy at the start, but by getting in the habit of tracking your schedule, you’ll be sure not to forget any of your obligations when life does get hectic.

4. Hit the gym. Everyone worries about the dreaded ‘Freshman 15.’ Instead of waiting to gain weight then work hard to lose it, prevent this unfortunate side-effect of freshman year. Work out at your university’s fitness center starting from day one and you’ll never find yourself suddenly out of shape. Plus, you’ll be forming lifelong healthy habits.

5. Eat healthfully. Another way to prevent the Freshman 15, while simultaneously forming healthy habits for the rest of college (and, for the rest of your life).

6. Limit the partying. Sure, the movies make college look like one giant party. But in reality, you go to college to study. So party in moderation, and make sure that your social life doesn’t get in between you and your books.

Heading off to college is a fun and memorable experience. Make sure to improve your long-term college life by starting freshman year forming helpful, healthy, and smart habits.

9 Ways to Finish College Debt-Free

Avoid Student DebtAs the cost of college tuition continues to rise, it sometimes seems nearly impossible to keep your head above the water. However, though it may be difficult, it is not entirely impossible; there are many things you can do to mitigate the cost of college. Here are nine ways to stay on top of your expenses so you can graduate debt-free.

1. Choose your school with your finances in mind. According to the College Board, the average annual tuition at a private school is over $30,000, while the average price for in-state schools stands at just below $9,000. That means you could save over $21,000 per year by electing to study at a state university instead of choosing a pricier private college, which will add up to a total of more than $84,000 over your four years in school.

2. Do your best in high school. Most colleges give out significant academic scholarships. By giving your all in high school, you’ll increase your chances of getting a little (or a lot) of extra help from the university of your choice.

3. Work during high school. Sure, summers and weekends are for fun, but it’s wise to divide up your off time between fun and productivity. By working part-time in high school, you can save up thousands of dollars to put towards your college tuition, which will help you to save even more by avoiding insurmountable debt in the form of loans with interest.

4. Work during college. Pay your tuition and pad your resume at the same time. Get a part-time job to help you stay on top of your expenses and help you stay debt-free come graduation.

5. Start at a two-year college, then transfer to a four-year university. Tuition at your local community college is going to be significantly lower than that of a four-year university. And in the end, you’ll wind up with the exact same degree as the kids who paid the extra two years worth of tuition.

6. Be frugal. Instead of spending your money on a night out, put what you earn toward tuition. In the end, all your little savings will add up to a helpful sum.

7. Find alternative housing options. Instead of following the crowd and settling in a dorm, look for a cheaper way. If you’re going to school close to home, you can live with your parents. If you’re studying in a new city, you can live a bit further from campus and save a lot.

8. Search for grants and scholarships. There are all kinds of organizations that will give out scholarships and grants, both large and small. However, it may take some effort to find a scholarship or grant suited to you. Put the work into seeking out these philanthropic organizations and using them to your advantage.

9. Spend less time in school. It’s quite possible to earn your degree in less than four years, especially if you plan ahead. Make your four-year plan at the beginning of freshman year, and you could save at least a semester’s tuition.

Three Tips for Improving Your SAT Score

Studying for SATOne of the hardest things that students have to go through in high school is the SAT. This one standardized test can make or break your college dreams and unfortunately, the standards for many schools today have risen so much that it’s nearly impossible to achieve the scores they’re looking for.

The options for preparing for the SAT are minimal. Some choose to spend thousands of dollars on private tutors and extravagant lessons while some decide that the best way to prepare is to just purchase many study books and go through each and every one of them.

Throughout my studying as well as my friends’, I have seen certain strategies and behaviors that have helped achieve a higher score far more than the classic studying techniques. Here are my tips for improving your SAT score:

1. The first tip, and perhaps the most important one, is to study one section at a time. The SAT is divided into three sections: Math, critical reading and writing. I originally started studying for my SAT by just taking whole practice tests over and over again until I realized that my score never went up by more than 100 points. Many tutors will tell you that it’s good practice to repeatedly take the SAT because it will help you get used to the long time period but in fact this method will only trick you into thinking that you’ve studied.

First, take one diagnostic test; see what your strengths and weaknesses are. After you have discovered what section you need most improvement on, begin to practice it. By working on only one section at a time, you are allowing your mind to absorb the techniques instead of just quickly brushing them off and jumping to the next section.

My critical reading score was the lowest out of the three so I decided to focus on that one first. I would take about three to four section tests a day and I began to see that my critical reading score went up tremendously. The same went for my writing and math scores. By dividing them, I got the chance to focus my attention on what I really needed to improve rather than just glide through the test only partly understanding.

2. Learn vocabulary. I cannot stress this enough: vocabulary will be useful way more than you think when you are taking the SAT. Don’t limit yourself to the set of words that your tutor or your textbook gave you. I have collected words from English classes, movies, TV shows, books and just by going outside. Dedicate at least ten minutes a day to just studying vocabulary words because they will be like free points during the test. But not only will your multiple choice score increase, so will your essay. Collect a solid list of about 20 big words that you can use in many different ways and so when you are writing your essay on any topic, you will be able to just incorporate those words with ease.

3. The final tip is to read every critical reading passage as if it’s the most important thing that you will ever read. I know that many of the passages will be almost torturous to sit through, most of us are not amused by the elaborate stories and descriptions of little girls seeing grasshoppers for the first time and the SAT writers know that. The point of the long and often boring passages is to check the test taker’s endurance. Fight the urge to fall asleep and focus as hard as you can on the passage. A helpful trick to get used to the long passages is to read old news articles online (my personal favorites are science and technology articles).

There is hope for all of us to achieve that high score on the SAT and with the right practice, we can all do it. Don’t limit yourself to one method of studying and be ready to spend hours preparing because the unfortunate truth is that no matter what method you will end up choosing, it will take a long time to truly see its effects.

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

What to Bring to College

Moving to collegeAs the summer winds down, students of all ages are beginning to get to work on their back-to-school shopping lists. But if you’re an incoming college freshman, your tentative list probably contains a dozen of expensive gadgets that you’d like to think are necessary.

As you expectantly await a new, exciting chapter in your life, you might look for ways to make the days go by faster. One of the most popular ways to pass the time until your highly anticipated new life is via consumerism. And though there are many things you will need to survive college, there are even more things that are probably just a waste of time, money and valuable packing space.

Personally, I bought a lot more than I used my first year of college (everything looks really useful in the ads!). Here are the five essential school supplies that got me through school and dorm life during my freshman year.

1. A laptop. In this day in age, a computer is practically a necessity, and it does everything. I used my laptop to read, write, research, take notes, plan and document my freshman year (thank you Facebook). By my senior year, I even downloaded a few of my textbooks as eBooks, which were both cheaper and lighter than their paper counterparts.

2. Kitchen utensils & a plate / bowl. You’ll mostly be eating in the dining halls (which as you can imagine, provide you with the necessary dining accouterments), but you might want to eat the occasional bowl of cereal or slice an apple, which will be a heck of a lot easier with eating utensils.

3. Storage. In an overcrowded dorm room, you’ll want to make the most of the little space you have. Closet shelves, under the bed containers, and shoe racks will help you fit all of your stuff into your shoebox of a room.

4. Bathrobe. In a classic college dorm, you will have very little privacy. Besides having to squeeze into a small space with two or three other people, you may very well have to trek down a long hallway filled with people every time you take a shower. It’ll be very useful to have a reliable way to cover up.

5. Personalized room decorations. Now this may not sound necessary at all, but being able to customize your room to look more fun will make your living space a lot more livable. Whether it’s pictures, posters, curtains, comforters or all of the above, you’ll enjoy this extra effort.

Learning in College

College LearningAlthough you wouldn’t guess it from the media, college is about learning. Learning in the classroom, learning outside and learning internally. And while it’s true that all of life is really a learning experience, a college campus is essentially a giant petri dish containing rapidly multiplying academic and life lessons.  From math to literature to how to feed yourself, you’ll find that there’s a lot to learn in college.

As with any experience, it’s easy to engage in the all-around academic environment, but easier to squander this once in a lifetime opportunity.  Here are five ways you can make the most of your time on campus.

1.    Go to office hours. When you live and study on campus, you’re surrounded by an excess of knowledgeable people. To get the most out of your classes, pick your professors’ brains in office hours. The smaller groups will help you focus better and you’ll have the chance to ask any and all of your burgeoning questions (about both school and life). It may require a little extra time, but you’ll make new friends, get to know your teacher and probably even improve your grade.

2.    Go to on-campus lectures and events. There is always something happening on a college campus.  Speakers from all over the world come to speak on every topic you could ever imagine, and large-scale events are always happening.  Take advantage of your years as part of the campus community by listening to on-campus speakers and participating in campus events, because educating yourself will never again be so accessible.

3.    Learn to cook. Don’t just heat up frozen meals and order take-out. College is likely your first experience living alone, and though it may be hard not to have your parents serve you dinner every night, this is the perfect sink-or-swim moment for some self-teaching.  Take some time to cook or bake something from scratch—not only will you be able to feed yourself whole and healthy dishes, but you’ll also be able to put together something impressive for all future potluck dinners.

4.    Take a class for fun. Sure, you need to take classes to fulfill your major requirements, but most likely, you’ll have time to take something off the course list. It’s important to enjoy school, and it’s even more important that you feel like you have control over your education. Rather than letting your final degree dictate your coursework, take a class for the sole purpose of your personal enjoyment.

5.    Get out of your comfort zone. There is a vast array of opportunities on campus, and many of these are activities that you’ve never even considered. As a student, most of these opportunities come at little to no cost. You can go on a hike with the rec center, join a running club, play Quiddich and much, much more. By trying new things, you’ll open yourself up to finding new hobbies and passions that you can enjoy for the rest of your life.