Four Tips for Getting Into a Great College

college tipsAs I wrap up my time in my hometown, I can’t help but write about my experience in high school as a whole.

Being the oldest, I had to learn almost everything myself. Oh, how I wished that I had an older sister to guide me through the jungles of high school, and how jealous I am of my two little sisters who have me :). After sitting with my sister, who is about to enter her Freshman year, for almost three hours, teaching her everything there is to know about getting by, I realized that I should share my experience with others who feel as lost as I once felt.

Here’s what I told my sister:

Okay, maybe not EVERYTHING, but they’re definitely the most important component of your college application. When I first got to high school, so many people told me that it’s okay to take the hardest classes and not do as well because colleges admire that you tried. While this thought is nice, it’s completely untrue. Yes, universities want to make sure that you challenge yourself, but if it comprises your GPA, it’s not worth it. The number one thing you should make sure you have by the end of high school is a high GPA. A 4.0 would be ideal. It will open up doors for you such as scholarships, top-ranked universities, exclusive summer programs and valuable internships. I unfortunately only learned that grades were this important at the end of my Junior year, and at that point it was too late to raise them up significantly. In conclusion, only take courses that you know you can get an A in.

The pressures of stereotyping are real. It’s easy to just label this person as nerdy and that one as boring. I told my sister that everyone appreciates a genuinely nice person. One that doesn’t judge others and enjoys whatever company he or she is surrounded by. By judging people or talking behind their backs, you are putting a label on yourself that marks “gossiper” or “the mean one,” even though you probably aren’t. Don’t be the person people go to in order to get the latest gossip because while you get attention in the short run, people will not appreciate it in the long run and will have a hard time trusting you. Be nice to everyone you meet right off the bat and you’ll have a much better experience in school. You’ll be invited to more social events and others will truly want to be your friends because they know that you won’t judge them or talk about them later.

This piece of advice may sounds crazy but I believe it with all my heart. I used to be the girl who thought that those kids who studied for their SATs their freshman year were a little crazy. But the truth is they all got 2400s and are now in UPenn or Harvard. I think the best way to be well-prepared for standardized exams is to study a little freshman year, get accustomed to the test and know what you’re going to have to take. Then study intensely your sophomore year and take the first official test at the end of that year. That way you have enough time to retake it and get the scores you want, and you won’t be stressed to take it (like I was) during the first semester of your senior year.

This is something I didn’t even know until I got to my senior year of high school: your junior year teachers are the ones who will be writing your recommendations for college. Make sure that you are involved in your junior year classes and that the at least two of the teachers know you on a personal level. Try to participate in class as much as possible, exchange emails with the teachers and go to their after-class hours if they have any. By sucking up, I don’t mean getting them coffee and donuts, I mean truly trying to learn their material and showing them that you care about your studies.

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

College Life

Four College Culture Shocks

college culture shockAs summer comes to a close, college freshmen are starting to gear up for a new school year. But this isn’t just a new school year: it’s a new home, new friends and new studies. You may not be moving to another country (or even another state), but the college culture is entirely different from what you knew in high school. Here are four things that you should be mentally prepared for.

1.     Class attendance won’t be mandatory. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to go. College courses will require you to pay attention, learn and retain information even more so than your high school classes. Instead of assigned grade-boosting busywork and credit for attendance, you’ll have to earn nearly every point of your grade on tests, quizzes and papers. So, just because no one is docking points for absences doesn’t meant that playing hooky won’t affect your grade. Go to class, pay attention and actively learn to achieve university-level success.

2.     Your own schedule, your choice. You might have some academic requirements to fill, but you probably won’t have required courses. For the next few years, what you learn is up to you. So instead of dutifully working with your eye on the prized four-point-oh, like you did in high school, it’s time to formulate concrete goals that will help you find new interests and prepare you for life after college.

3.     Pick your friends and spare the “frienemies.” Although making new friends can be scary, the college campus facilitates budding friendships, making this often anxiety-provoking process fun and easy. For the first time in your life, you’re on your own in a new place where no one (or few) people know you. You don’t have to keep any friends to appease your parents or to spare someone’s feelings, and there won’t be any “cool kids” ruling the school. Instead, you get to create your own community, so you can hang out with whom you like, when you like.

4.     Eat whatever your heart desires in the dining hall (but stay healthy). The food isn’t free, but it feels like it. Whatever prepaid system your school is on, whether it’s swipes or points, will free you from the psychological tethers of paying for food without an income. Plus, your new independent life means it’s time to make some new independent decisions, so you get to decide what and when you want to eat. No one is going to make you eat your vegetables or tell you that you can’t drink soda. But at this point, you should probably understand that those rules have good reasons—now is the time to put those hard-earned good eating habits to use.

Going off to college throws you right into a beginner’s version of adulthood. No one is holding your hand, but you’ll have all the help you need. So have fun, enjoy the ride and learn as much as you can.


Getting Ready for the Big Move to College

Moving to CollegeIt’s time to move to college! Whether you’re only moving ten miles away from home or three thousand miles away, you will feel the change nonetheless. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the excitement of going to college and therefore overlook some crucial aspects that should be taken care of beforehand.

There is a long list of things the school will ask you to complete before coming to campus (i.e. registering for classes, getting a room, signing up for orientation, choosing a meal plan). While all those things are important, there are several other tasks that you should accomplish before making the big move to college.

Since I haven’t yet moved to college myself, I have collected some tips from close friends who’ve experienced the move themselves.

1. Find a great roommate. Remember, the first priority in finding a roommate is to find someone compatible for a living arrangement, the second priority is to find a friend. A very close acquaintance of mine lost one of her closest friends as well as a roommate due to an argument about food in the room. So instead of browsing your class page hoping to find your best friend who will eventually become your roommate, try to find a perfect roommate who could possibly become your next best friend. You will get every opportunity to get to know people in college, and rooming with them is only one way to do so.

2. Get insider tips. Get in touch with a student already attending the university. I found this tip exceptionally helpful. While getting questions answered at orientation is great, the real answers come from the random students you will come across. I managed to get in touch with two current freshman girls, through facebook, who answered so many of my questions and gave me some amazing advice. They told me which elective classes I should take, who to talk to if I wanted to switch majors, the best dining halls to eat in, and which professors to avoid.

3. Don’t shop too early. Avoid buying things for your dorm room before you get to campus. A lot of students get really excited about having the ability to decorate a new bedroom and like to get a head-start; don’t do it! I know it’s tempting to pick a color scheme and purchase half of Target as soon as you’ve picked a theme, but the trouble it’ll take to get everything to your college is not worth the hassle. Wait until you’ve seen your dorm, know what you’re missing (such as a microwave or a mini-fridge), and then plan out your decor. Also, unless you’ve pre-coordinated with your roommate, you might wind up with half an orange room and half a teal room. There will most likely be a big store to get all you need for your room near your university, so don’t panic and purchase anything unnecessary prematurely.

4. Plan your visits home early. This last tip is mostly for students living more than a car-ride away from home. It’s often cheaper to buy plane tickets a couple of months in advance, so if you know you’re going to be home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, buy the plane tickets in the summer. A dollar saved is a dollar earned and there is no need to rush and get an overpriced last minute ticket during the holiday season, when those tickets are much more reasonably priced now.

Moving to college is one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do. Whatever happens, don’t forget to enjoy the experience!

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