How to Utilize Your High School Counselor

Many students travel through their high school years without ever making use of one of the best resources available–their high school guidance counselor. Guidance counselors can be a wonderful resource for students and it’s worth finding out early on all of the ways that they can help. By the very nature of their job, high school guidance counselors wear many different hats and can help you with a number of different things.

Information at High School
Guidance counselors can be your one-stop for information as you plan out your high school years. They can answer questions about scheduling and classes, suggest activities, and help you to manage your schedule. One of the best things you can do is make an appointment to meet with your counselor just to get to know each other. The more your guidance counselor knows about you and your interests, the better equipped he or she will be to offer you assistance and make you aware of opportunities.

College Information
Your guidance counselor can be a big help in your college search process–from the very beginning through the day your acceptance letter arrives in the mail. He or she can help you to narrow your college choices and identify top schools, contact admissions offices and arrange for visits and interviews, and provide assistance answering questions as you prepare your applications. The guidance office can also be helpful when it comes to finding financial aid opportunities. They can help to answer questions about eligibility, help prepare applications and paperwork, and suggest things you may miss. High school guidance counselors have the benefit of experience–many have helped class after class of seniors to find their perfect college. This can be a great way to quickly learn about the process and feel prepared as you move through the application process.

Counseling
Guidance counselors can also provide counseling and help you with any number of challenges during the high school years. They can help to mediate conflicts, be there for you to talk through problems at school or at home, and refer you to a psychologist or specialist outside of school if you need more assistance than they can offer. Guidance counselors are experts at the high school age group and familiar with the many challenges facing young people today. Taking advantage of this resource can help you learn coping skills, work through problems, and enjoy a healthy and happy high school career.

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Resolving Conflict with a Teacher

Having a conflict with one of your teachers can make the school day seem to last forever. It can also have a negative impact on your academic work–making it difficult to focus and do well in class. A conflict with a teacher can also be stressful and take a toll on your general well being. It’s important to take steps to resolve a conflict so that you can do your best work and the conflict does not interfere with your performance at school.

Talk it Out
In most cases, you will want to set up a time to speak with your teacher one-on-one. Explain how you feel and how you want to make things better. Be honest, but avoid assigning blame or getting upset. It is important to show that you want to smooth out the conflict and are willing to make the time to work through the problem. If you need to apologize, be clear and let your teacher know you are sorry and want to move forward. If you feel that the teacher is the one at fault, try to explain your feelings.

Write it Down
If you are nervous about speaking to the teacher, you may want to write out how you are feeling in a letter. Take your time and be careful with your words so that you spell out exactly what you want to say and avoid further misunderstandings. In your letter, explain how you are feeling and what you want to happen next. A letter can be a good way to open the door to a conversation or smooth things out when you need time to get your words right.

Ask for Help
Going to a guidance counselor can be another way to resolve a conflict with a teacher. Your guidance counselor can help you to talk through the situation and plan how you will work with the teacher. A counselor may also be able to mediate a conversation with the teacher if it’s a trickier situation or you would be more comfortable with another person in the room. Guidance counselors are trained to help facilitate positive conflict resolution and can help you and your teacher reach an understanding.

If you’ve had a conflict with a teacher, the best thing to do is handle it right away. Letting things drag out will only lead to unnecessary stress and risk hurting your academic record and peace of mind at school.

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Getting the Most Out of a College Fair

College fairs can be a wonderful opportunity to gather information, speak with admissions office staff members, and get answers to your questions all in one place. Plan to attend at least one college fair during your college search process and you will walk away with plenty of new information and resources to aid in your search.

Do your Homework
Plan to attend college fairs well in advance so you can select fairs that have many of your top choice schools in attendance. Find out which schools will be there and make a list of the schools whose tables you want to be sure to visit, as well as schools on a second tier list if you have time to check out more of the tables at the fair.

Be Prepared on College Fair Day
Dress neatly and professionally for the college fair–you don’t have to be formal, but you want to be neat. You can’t go wrong with business casual. Bring along a bag large enough to carry materials you collect at the college fair, a pen, and a notepad to write down things you find out. When you arrive at the college fair, find a map right away and plot out where you want to go first and your plan for the day. Many college fairs can be busy and hectic, so taking a moment to plan ahead will make a big difference.

Ask Good Questions
Spend some time looking at college websites before attending and prepare a list of questions that you have about each of your top choices. You want to ask good questions that you could not answer from the website or admissions materials. This will help you to gather information as you make decisions about college and also help you to stand out to potential colleges. Subjective questions can provide more interesting information than objective questions, like class size, which can often be answered from admissions booklets. Ask the people representing the school about the things that makes their college unique, their favorite traditions, and what college freshmen would say about their first year on campus.

Keep an Open Mind
While you want to be sure to get to all of your top schools, allow some time tat the college fair just to wander and see the other school’s displays. If something catches your attention, stop and ask questions. College fairs can be a great time to add schools to your list and explore options you may have not heard of in the past.

Overcoming Testing Anxiety

Testing anxiety can affect even the best students and have a strong impact on students’ abilities to perform well on tests. Finding ways to overcome testing anxiety will help you to do better in school, stay calm before exams, and perform better on big tests like the SAT too.

There are many causes of testing anxiety. Some students become anxious during the hours before a test fearing that they have not studied enough. The best way to combat this is to start studying early and not leave anything to the last minute. When you feel comfortable with the material, its easier to put the books and notes away knowing that you’ve done everything you can to prepare. When preparing for bigger tests, like the SAT. It is even more important to start early and stay calm. A solid SAT test prep schedule will help you to budget your time and know that you have done all that you can to prepare.

The more tests you take, the better you will become at keeping calm before a big exam. When preparing for the SAT, taking practice tests as part of your online test prep can be a big help to students who are anxious. Similarly, if your textbooks have practice tests or questions to check your work, go back and look at them before a test. This is a good way to anticipate potential questions and identify trouble areas. Answering questions about test material can also help you to feel confident going into the test.

If you have questions, make the time to talk with your teacher. Similarly, if you find yourself experiencing severe anxiety, it may be worthwhile to talk with a parent or guidance counselor about ways to feel better, handle your emotions, and find ways to lessen your anxiety.

The day before the test, read over summaries of the material and then put your books and prep work away. Take some time to relax and be sure to get to sleep at a decent hour the night before a test. Feeling well rested and not spending the evening cramming for the test will help you to relax. Going into the exam calm and confident counts for a lot and will help you to recall information and follow directions on the test.

If you feel yourself getting anxious, try taking deep breaths and reminding yourself of the work you put into studying. Learning how to calm yourself down before a test is a skill that will be useful throughout your academic career.

Is My SAT Score Good Enough?

Looking at your SAT scores can be puzzling for many high school students, especially the first time taking the test. It can be tough to know whether your scores are good enough for your colleges and whether you need to take the test again. What qualifies as a good score on the SAT will be different for every student and very dependent on your future goals for college.

As you go along in your college search process, you want to pay attention to the numbers that you see in college ranking and admissions materials. You’re looking for the 25-75th percentile SAT scores for each college. These will give you a good idea of where most students fall. While there will always be exceptions, both extremely high scores and students who get in on other qualifications even with lower scores, this is a good guideline. You may also inquire about perks for higher scores, such as merit-based grants or being able to test-out of required classes during your freshman year of college.

For example, Harvard University’s 25-75th percentile scores are 2100 – 2380 and Stanford University’s 25-75th percentile scores are 2000-2310. University of California San Diego‘s 25-75th percentile scores are 1700 – 2030. Identifying these numbers before you have to decipher your scores will help you to understand where you need to be to attend your top choice schools. If you have goals in mind, it will be easier to decide if your SAT scores are good enough to be your final scores, or if you need to take the test a second or a third time and try to improve.

If your scores fall right in the average for your top choice schools, you may still wish to improve them in order to increase your chances of acceptance. If you’re well above the scores you need, you may feel comfortable with your current scores and choose to be done taking the SAT.

It’s also worth paying attention to the breakdown between subject areas. Colleges generally want to see people with balanced scores, not extremely high scores in one section and significantly lower scores in another. Some variation between the scores is normal, especially if you have a much stronger interest and talent in one area. If the scores are too lopsided, however, you may want to spend some time studying for your weaker subject and take the test again to improve your scores.

Team Sports and Learning Life Skills

Being part of a team in high school can be a good way to learn many skills that will be applicable down the road in college and in your career. Team sports provide a great way to stay active and be social at the same time, giving teams a built-in social circle that can be extremely helpful to high school freshmen and provide a great way to meet people throughout the four years.

Team sports offer leadership opportunities and give high school students the chance to take charge and be responsible for their own group. Serving as a captain or co-caption teaches planning, cooperation, and the skills necessary to be a fair and skilled leader.

Participating in sports also give high school students experience planning out their own schedules and making time for multiple commitments. Learning to balance extracurricular activities with academic work is a skill that will be critical to your success in college. College students must create schedules that allow for plenty of study time, along with extracurriculars, part-time jobs, and other responsibilities. Having a busy schedule in high school can be the start of a lifetime of involvement in things that you enjoy.

Even the closest and most compatible teams will have occasional conflicts. Teammates may disagree about something on or off the field and need to work through a difference of opinions for the good of the group. This is a valuable learning experience that is applicable in many areas of life. Friendships, study groups, and relationships are all built on the ability to disagree amicably and solve problems as a group to move past conflicts.

Teams experience wonderful wins and disappointing losses together. No matter which side is most common for your team, you’ll learn a lot in the process and develop skills to help you celebrate in the good times and handle losses with dignity. These skills will be valuable far beyond high school and help you to become a mature and adaptable person.

Sports not exactly your thing? There are plenty of teams out there for you. Consider joining an academic-based team like debate or the school paper. School musical organizations also provide a similar setting that teaches cooperation, leadership, and commitment to participants. There’s a team out there for everyone to match each individual’s interests and preferred time commitment.

Being part of a team in high school is a valuable experience that will stick with you throughout your life. There are many options to choose from and many ways to get involved and enjoy being part of something special.

The Value of the SAT

Everyone knows that the SAT is important, but in recent years, its value has only increased. Close to 1.6 million students graduating from high school in 2010 took the SAT, this is a higher percentage of graduates than ever before. Minority participation in the SAT is also up compared to past years. The SAT is increasingly becoming an assumed part of the high school to college transition and can be a valuable resource for college admissions.

Studies have revealed that performance on the SAT is an excellent predictor of college readiness. High school grade point average and SAT scores are of equal value in predicting students’ first year college grade point average. By looking at the combination of the two, colleges can get a fairly accurate reading of how prepared a student is for college coursework.

While having a strong knowledge base from high school classes is certainly part of good SAT scores and being prepared for the college, the SAT tests a lot more than that. By taking time to study for the SAT through SAT prep and online classes, students can demonstrate their ability to prepare for a big test and retain information. These are skills that will continue to serve students well in college and contribute to better grades and a higher likelihood that they will finish college.

SAT scores matter, now more than ever, and college admissions offices will be looking at them for a glimpse into how well a student will handle college-level work and how well students can budget their time, follow directions, and prepare material for a test.

In 2010, 80.8% of the students graduating who took the SAT also took the PSAT. The PSAT can provide an opportunity for students to see how the test day will work so that they feel comfortable for the SAT. PSAT scores are also a good way to get a better idea of which areas of the test will need the most work during SAT prep.

The College Board anticipates that upcoming studies will reveal the impact that SAT scores have on college performance after the first year and college retention for all four years. This is valuable information that can be gleamed from test performance early in student’s academic careers.

Getting Back on Track After the Holidays

Going back to school after having time off for the holidays can be a tough readjustment for many students. Going back to the school day schedule and back to responsibilities like homework and SAT preparation can be overwhelming after vacation. A few simple tricks can help you to better segue way back into your routine.

Readjust Your Time
Try not to get too far off your normal sleep schedule over winter break. This means trying to wake up no more than an hour later than you normally would for school. Keeping yourself close to your routine will prevent the shock to your system when you have to start waking up at your normal time again. If you do get off schedule, start the transition a couple days before you go back to school, waking up a little earlier each day to help you adjust to the hour.

Think Through Your Schedule
It’s smart to spend some time working out a schedule while you’re on break and have some extra free time. Map out your planner for the next few months, setting goals and filling in all of your information. If you use a calendar on your computer and one on the wall or in a planner, be sure they are all up to date. Take an afternoon to clean your room, clean out your backpack, and organize your school files. This will help you to go back to your school routine feeling prepared for another semester.

Cross Some Things Off Your List
Whether its finally finishing up the last of your college applications or getting through some extra SAT prep work, winter break can be a time to get ahead of schedule. Having some things checked off your to-do list will make the transition back to the school day a lot easier. Plus the extra time is a great way to devote extra hours to your study plan. Anything you can do over break to help relieve some stress later on is well worth the time and effort.

Plan Some Fun
Make plans to get together with friends the first weekend after you go back to school or plan a shopping trip or dinner for one night during the first week. Having some things to look forward to in that first week back to school will make the last few days of break a lot less painful. You can focus on schoolwork again while knowing you have fun things planned on the horizon.

How Do I Choose a College From My Accepted List?

It’s a great thing to know that you’ve been accepted to multiple colleges. After years of researching colleges, preparing for the SAT, and keeping your high school transcript strong, you can relax and know that you have some real options for next year. For some students, choosing the top college from the accepted list is easy, one has stood out all along. For many high school students, however, choosing a college from the accepted list can be a challenging and nerve wracking process. There are several factors that can help you to narrow your list down to the perfect college.

Financial Aid
One important factor that high school students should discuss with their parents is the financial aid packages that have been offered by each college. If one stands out as a great deal, it may be too good to pass up. College is expensive and being given a significant financial aid package or scholarship from one of your top-choice schools can be a huge relief for the family.

Location
Once you have visited the colleges on your list, you can think about how their locations will affect your college experience. Maybe you always anticipated going to school far away, but as the time draws nearer, that school one-hour away seems like a much better choice. For other students, proximity to a favorite city or a certain landscape may make the next four years seem a lot better. Location is important and it’s okay to factor that in when you choose a school. Remember, you’re also choosing a new temporary home.

Campus Visits
Thinking back to campus visits can be a deciding factor in the college decision process. Was there one school that felt like home from the beginning or a place where you really saw yourself fitting in with the current students on campus? If you can’t remember details from a college, you may not have been very impressed with the school. If professors stand out in your mind as being great teachers or you really had a great day during your tour, that can help to make your decision a lot easier.

Don’t Stress!
Remember, while it’s tempting to think that you are searching for that one perfect school, chances are you will be happy on any number of college campuses. You have already put in the effort and narrowed schools down from your original list to come up with the very best fits for you. In the end, it’s all about making an informed decision.

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Junior Year SAT Prep Plan

Junior year is often the most busy and challenging year of high school. Many juniors have the most rigorous class schedule that they have had so far in their academic career. They are also balancing leadership positions in extracurricular activities, choices about colleges, and responsibilities both inside and outside of the classroom.

This is also the best year for students to get serious about SAT preparation. Juniors should plan out their schedule well in advance to allow plenty of time to study for the SAT and plan to take the test multiple times during the year.

Juniors have the luxury of plenty of time for preparation. They can take the test as many times as possible without worrying about deadlines for college applications. Juniors can space out the tests throughout the year so that they are able to study and focus on trouble areas in between taking the test. Many students will enjoy having the extra time to study and knowing that they are well prepared and even ahead of schedule on their SAT preparation.

Many high school seniors will have college applications due in November of their senior year. With many students opting to apply early decision to a college, applications are often due sooner than ever before. For these students, it is important to have their final SAT scores done by early in the fall.

Juniors can take an online SAT course that will allow them to study on their own schedule and work at a pace that feels right for them. With each SAT practice test, students will feel more comfortable with the format of the SAT and the material that they will need to know for the test.

Having SAT scores before senior year gives students a lot of relief and flexibility. They can focus entirely on preparing their college applications and choosing the right school without lingering questions about their SAT scores. Having SAT scores in hand will also ensure that students are applying to the right schools and choosing safety schools that are best suited to their performance on the SAT.

Junior year is a time to work hard and build strong time management and study skills. Solid efforts junior year will allow students to breathe a sigh of relief and enter senior year feeling prepared to complete the college application process.

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