College Admission

How to Get a Great Teacher Recommendation

teacher and student Whether you’re in a meeting, a college lecture or a high school classroom, making a good impression on the ‘boss’ is crucial. If you’re seeking a promotion or looking for a recommendation to either college or graduate school, there’s a one hundred percent chance you’ll need to suck up to your superior in some form or another.

There are many wrong ways that people tend to do so, and that usually only backfires. For instance, getting your boss or teacher coffee everyday and complimenting them is clear sign that you’re not actually interested in learning from him or her, and that you’re only looking for a recommendation. While obtaining a good recommendation is obviously ideal, there are smart ways to do so where your superior will appreciate you and will want to help you succeed.

Here are several ways that helped me get strong teacher recommendations for college:

Be prepared for class

Although this may seem obvious, many people come to class without being prepared. From things as simple as bringing paper and pens to being prepared to present projects with organized power-points and a memorized script. I can’t stress enough how much teachers and professors take note of how prepared their students are in class. A couple of weeks ago I had an in-class essay exam in my English class based on a novel we are currently reading. Being an online class, the classroom we were in was not our normal classroom. One of the students who came to take the exam went to our professor and asked him for paper since she forgot hers at home. I caught a glimpse of his disappointment in his college-level student, and realized that something as simple as bringing paper to class can determine whether or not your professor, teacher, or boss will respect you.

Make eye contact

Many studies show that making eye contact with those you’re talking with will increase your chances of connecting with them. If you’re making eye contact with your teacher, professor or boss during his or her lectures, they’ll notice your attentiveness and develop a better connection with you. This may seem silly but it truly works. Make sure you appear interested, nod and make facial expressions as well as use eye contact. Even if you don’t end up talking in class or in the meeting, your superior will see that you were engaged and absorbed all the information that was presented.

Take notes (even if you don’t necessarily need to)

Usually, we only jot things down that we know we’ll forget, but if your teacher, professor or boss sees you taking notes throughout a lecture or a meeting, it will make you seem much more focused. Obviously you don’t have to write everything they say, but it won’t hurt to have some extra notes for the long-term reward. Thanks to my note taking, my teacher mentioned in my recommendation that I care about what I’m learning and that I deem what I learn as important.

Bring up related subjects outside of class material

This is one of the best ways to seem smarter in a classroom or office. By listening to the radio for thirty minutes a day (I recommend the NPR app, it’s easy to use and provides information in a way that’s easy and interesting to absorb), you’ll have relevant and current news to share during discussion. The second way to make connections is by bringing up novels or classic films. This will not only make you seem smarter, but will also show that you care about learning outside of what you’re required to learn.

Ask questions you know the answers to

When you ask questions you already know the answers, you can form better questions that will impress your teacher. It might seem a little ridiculous at first and you may be a little uncomfortable in the beginning, but give it a try and you’ll find that it works extremely well. Your teachers will be impressed that you’re able to form your thoughts coherently and ‘understand’ their explanations. Not only will it be easier to participate in class, but your recommendation letter will be full of great notes about how important it is for you to understand the material thoroughly.

This was a guest post by Noa Livneh, a college freshman in the San Francisco Bay Area.

College Life

College Holiday Savings Tips

college holiday savingsTime to hang up your costume, clean up the pumpkins, and break out your winter jacket. As October closes with a bang (as it always does), so many of us are getting geared up for another holiday season.

While the family, spirit, and food of the holidays are undeniably special, between the price of trips home and gifts to friends and family members, this time of year can make money feel a whole lot like water.

And with college tuition to pay, money slipping through your fingers is really the last thing that you need. But on the other hand, it’s quite difficult (and very un-fun) to sit out the holiday season.

Thankfully, there are ways to ease the money squeeze. Here are a few things to do to make sure you don’t stretch your budget too far this holiday season.

1. Plan a Secret Santa or another gift exchange for your group of friends. Instead of buying holiday gifts for everyone in your life, plan a party and organize a gift exchange, where each person in the group buys a gift for one other person. That way, everyone can feel appreciated and enjoy the holiday spirit without the burden of buying gifts for every single person who is important to them.

2. Do a Friendsgiving potluck. Rather than spend hundreds of dollars to head home for the always-too-short Thanksgiving Day weekend, stick around your campus and celebrate this classic American holiday with friends. You can hold on to the homemade tastes by asking everyone to bring a staple of their Thanksgiving meal. Though this may not compare to your traditional family meal, it doesn’t have to. A Friendsgiving feast will be an entirely different experience that leaves you with a different set of memories from your annual family get-together—and at only a fraction of the price.

3. Book your tickets in advance. Last minute tickets are a serious headache. Not only will procrastinating on your travel plans make your ideal flight much more difficult to book, but it will also cost you financially—up to 40 percent more if you book less than two weeks before Christmas. Book your ticket as soon as you know the dates of your fall semester finals. If you think that your travel is subject to change, fly with an airline that has a flexible date change policy.

Experiencing the happiness and high spirits of the holiday season shouldn’t be financially out of reach for anyone. With these simple tips, hopefully it won’t be out of reach for you.

College Life

How To Develop a Great Morning Routine

yogaFor many of us, morning classes can be extremely tough to get through. You’re not fully awake, yet you need to absorb all this new information. But for both high school as well as college students, there are several things to do in order to get the mind ready for the day ahead. Studies show that having a set routine is useful for absorbing and creating new ideas. Whether it’s a routine at the gym, work or studying, it will help keep you focused and in control.

I don’t believe in having your entire life planned out minute by minute, but a general morning routine can help stimulate your body and brain and keep you energized for the entire day.

There are several activities I do before I go to class that help me maintain balance in my life and make me feel better all day long. I’ve listed the two things I do on a day-to-day basis. They’re both extremely important to me and by working them into my daily routine, I feel so much better and healthier.

1. Workout
This is perhaps the most popular form of a routine. Having a simple workout to do every morning will freshen you up and make you more energized for the rest of the day. I use a guide composed of daily thirty-minute workouts that change everyday. As someone who doesn’t start school until noon, not having a routine will hurt me since I can easily sleep until 11 AM.

By forcing myself to wake up everyday at 9AM (Early for me) and doing my thirty minute workout, I have much more time to complete my homework and help around the house. Many of my friends who didn’t work out in high school and just started to do so in college, also claim to have major improvements in their days. Whether you’re going on a walk or doing yoga, you will start to feel an elevation in your mood and wellbeing almost immediately.

2. Mental Activities
The second warm-up I do on a daily basis is mental. Although most people choose coffee as their go-to mental energizer, I’ve found that solving problems in the morning is actually much more useful. Just like stretching before a workout, solving some problems for fun will actually make your day go by easier and more productively. I change this up constantly and try to come up with new mental activities to do everyday. My favorite thing to do is to solve puzzles. There are plenty of puzzles to do, ranging from crossword puzzles to Sudoku. It’s definitely not an original idea, but it’s one of the best ways to wake up the old noodle.

Another great activity is to work on your vocabulary. There are countless sites that offer free vocabulary flashcards (try This is one of the most productive ways to not only mentally prepare for the day, but to also advance your diction. A useful tip for learning a new word is that in order for it to be fully incorporated into your vocabulary, you must use it at least three times. Make it your daily goal to use one of your new words at least three times for the rest of the day.

Another mental activity is to read poetry. You can read poems written yesterday, or 400 years ago (although those may be a bit more challenging). There are great poetry resources online where you can find any genre you’re looking for. By reading a poem and thinking about its meaning and impact, you will expose yourself to countless more experiences and learn about places in time and in the world that you might have never thought about, all in about 15 minutes a day.

Probably the easiest way to warm-up mentally is to simply draw. It’ll exercise your control muscles and help you learn to maintain focus.

I think it’s so important for students, both college and high school, to have a morning routine other than put on your clothes, grab some coffee and rush out the door. Preparing for the day ahead is crucial for having a productive workday. By physically and mentally preparing yourself, you will be energized and more open to creativity later on. By working your brain before you’re forced to, you’ll learn and absorb much more and retain the information for much longer. You don’t need fancy coffee drinks or expensive gym memberships to get ready; you just need a routine.

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