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Spotlight on Seniors

Whoa! You've made it to your Senior Year (insert thunder crashing, spooky sound effects and other goofy but fun things), and all its trials, tribulations, and triumphs, and just to think it's just the beginning of something bigger.  Congratulations are in order but... we still have some work to do so no senioritis quite yet.  We've put together a few helpful steps just for you:

1. The Time is Now so Let's Start Planning!

We know, we know, you want to ease back into it all. You've got classes to go to, people to talk to, things to get involved in and games to go to, and so much more. The last thing you want to do is to start devoting yourself, heart and soul, to work of any kind, especially the kind that makes you think such as those college applications.  Let's be honest though, the sooner you get planning and preparing, the easier this whole thing is going to be on you and your parents! So save yourself some serious stress and make your senior year a bit more enjoyable and set yourself some goals- for example- Goal 1-  Fill out first applications by...  Goal 2- Have applications essays done by... (that is if there are any)  Goal 3- Retake the ACT if needed... and so on.   Trust us, this truly will help and save you from a total meltdown later.

2. Don't forget your actual schoolwork!

There is so much to do.... we know, we get it.  Although it can be tempting to push things aside but prioritization is key.  Yes, it's your senior year but colleges are still looking at the grades you make your senior year.  They want to see if you can and will finish strong.  It's important to them so make sure it's important to you too.  Don't let your study habits slip now.  We know you're busy which is why step one is well step one- the better you plan, the more you'll be able to do! 

3. Know your limits and seek help when you need to!

From anywhere you can get it! It's a just a plain good ol' idea to find someone you can talk to about your plans, problems, frustrations, excitement- there are your parents, counselors, teachers, just to name a few that would love to and are quite capable of giving you advice and providing a listening ear if you need it.  You don't have to "climb this mountain" by yourself.  So if your worried about your essay? Ask a teacher to read it and give you their thoughts.  Stressing about the ACT? Get some friends and form a study group or find a practice test online (there are a ton of them) We know it may be out of your comfort zone but we all have our limits, and it's okay to reach out.  Besides, you're going to have to ask for help anyway if you need teacher recommendations.

4. Look at all your options!

Going into your senior year you may feel like you know exactly what school you want to go to, and exactly what you're doing. Heck, even when you do your planning, you may feel like now it's set in stone, and you can't deviate. Well, that's not true. Keep in mind that you haven't made any decisions until you have, and that you should keep exploring options, who knows what you may find that fits your fancy.  

So even if you think you know where and what you want to do be sure to check out a wide range of schools, including some that you never thought you'd be interested in.  Look to see if you should take the ACT, SAT, or both -- each option has different benefits and complications. Explore the different ways that you can apply.  Then look into all the different ways you can pay for college through scholarships, grants, loans, etc.  There are so many options out there, you don't have to feel stuck or overwhelmed either. 

5. Don't forget to Breathe!

This is your senior year and you do need to enjoy it. If you plan right, (again it goes back to step 1), you should be able to do it all and still have time to stop and smell the roses!  So after you've done step 1 and step 2, go hang out with your friends, go to the games, have some school spirit and Enjoy!!

Just for Juniors

Okay so it’s now your junior year, it can be classified as one of the toughest years but it is also one of those middle years lost between the fear and excitement of starting high school and the anticipation of that glamorous senior year of high school. When it comes to the hierarchy of importance, the junior is pretty much up there. We’ve put together some key points for you to focus on throughout this year: 

1. Classes and Grades. The courses and grades you make in them is very important because it’s the last full year of grades that college admissions will look at. Try challenging yourself a bit but be sure not to go crazy and overload yourself.  It really comes down to numbers- the grades you receive this year are super important.  If you had a rough start your first two years, it’s not too late to kick your tail into gear and start studying and improving those grade -- colleges would rather see you improve and finish strong.

Some of the teachers you’ve had or do have will be super important next year when it comes to letters of recommendations for college- so plan on spending some of the time you have getting to know at least a few of your favorite teachers.


2. Standardized Tests. The junior year, from start to end, is filled with standardized tests. Early in the year, you'll need to take the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). This test, which measures critical reading, math problem-solving, and writing skills, is important for three reasons. First, it's a good indicator and excellent preparation for the SAT test. Second, your score may qualify you for a select group of merit scholarships and finally it's one of the first chances you have to begin requesting information from colleges.

In March, you’ll take the ACT for many of you for the first time.   This is one the basic standardized tests that many colleges use as part of their admission criteria. Some of the more highly competitive colleges also require some of the five subject-specific SAT Subject exams -- so you may need to schedule the SAT Subject Tests in the late spring, although you could wait until the very beginning of your senior year.

In May, you’ll also have several EOC tests to take that count as 25% of your final grade. Also if you have been taking advanced placement classes, you'll have the AP Placement Tests. These tests are designed to test your knowledge of the subject at college level, with the results recommending that you receive advanced placement or college credit for the subject. Most colleges and universities across the U.S. recognize these exam grades.


3. College Planning. The junior year is THE time to get organized for handling the onslaught of college material that will be coming your way -- in the mail, in your email, and from college fairs and visits to your high school. The whole college search can be a little unnerving, a bit daunting, so just relax and take your time during this year and the summer that follows to really focus on finding the right mix of colleges for you. Ideally, by the end of your junior year you'll have a list of no more than 10 to 15 colleges.

Numerous print and online resources (including each college's Website) can help you learn more about colleges, including important stuff like majors and minors, academic quality and ranking, accreditation, job and graduate-school placement rates, costs, and financial aid. You'll also want to attend a few college fairs and meet with college representatives when they visit your high school. 

Many students just get a big box and start dumping all the mailed materials they receive into the box, but it probably makes sense to develop some sort of filing system so that the information from the colleges on your short list is easy to find when you need it.


4. Career Research. Your career choice(s) may have a big impact on the list of potential colleges you consider, so it's important to at least try narrowing down career possibilities. How do you discover possible career paths? Conduct research, take some career assessment tests, talk with your family and evaluate your likes and dislikes.

If at the end of this self-reflection and research you are still unsure, that's okay too. In that case, you may be looking at more comprehensive universities that offer a wide range of majors and minors. And if you conclude this step with a concrete career concept, then you can start narrowing down college possibilities.

Finally, remember that this research is just a start and you don’t have to have it all figured out. As you move to your senior year and then into college, many more career options will arise that you'll probably at least consider.


5. Start a brag sheet. It is never too soon to begin documenting your education, experience, and accomplishments. Start by listing all your high-school accomplishments, including your coursework, academic or athletic accomplishments, awards and honors, and any other achievements. Next, review any and all of your work experiences, including part-time jobs and volunteering or community service, and describe those experiences using action verbs. Showcase any leadership positions you have held. If you have room, include hobbies and interests.

Developing a resume is a pretty easy task once you have brainstormed most of the key content.

Finally, remember that the more you accomplish in your junior year, the more you can relax and truly enjoy your senior year in high school.

Something for Sophomores

There is so much to look forward to this year. You’re no longer the youngest - you guys know your way around the campus, what to expect but have some time before graduation. In fact you guys are right in the middle- like in Oreos- the best part if you ask us!!

Sophomore year might best be described as a year of opportunity and here are some nuggets of advice...


1. Be Present- don’t waste this year waiting for the next. Make the most of what each day brings you.


2. Challenge yourselves- set goals and become disciplined. Virtues are born out of habits and habits come from being more disciplined.


3. Get out there and be involved- if you want to try new things, now is the time. Go out for a sport. Join a club. Audition for a production. Any and all of these activities will not only expand your social circle and introduce you to a wider pool of friends but each experience (whether or not you make a team or get the part) will develop your character in ways you cannot do sitting on the couch.


4. Stay on top of your academics- be sure to use your agenda books, talk to your teachers, set time to review/study each night, monitor your grades on INow weekly if not more and aim to have a stellar attendance record.


5. Start Now- it’s never too early to start getting ready for college. Use a calendar to assist with organization and time management. Get involved in extra-curricular activities that you enjoy- we have something for everyone.


6. Check with 3 potential colleges websites for entrance requirements.


7. Start keeping a resume of your accomplishments, service hours, etc. Many colleges and scholarship applications ask for evidence for involvement and leadership.


8. Be proactive- We are here to help you. If you need anything at all just come by the counseling office, our doors are always open.

Finally, Don’t forget to laugh- the word “sophomore” literally means “wise fool.” If you’re smart enough to admit you don’t know it all – and to laugh at yourself often – this year will be one of your best. 


Focus onFreshman

Freshman year is a crucial time in your life. You have finally grown out of middle school, and it is now time to hang with the big kids. These simple tips will help you get through that oh-so-stressful freshman year, and maybe even have some fun.


1. Make good first impressions, especially on teachers. The impressions you make during the first week of school affect your entire high school career...with most teachers, if they get it in their heads that you're a good student early you won half the battle. Be sure to be on time for every class during this short period of judgment. When all of your teachers hand you those syllabus papers to get signed, try to bring it back the next day. (Even though it is easy to forget, TRY.) In regards to your fellow classmates; be yourself. It is important to earn the respect and companionship of your peers early on in the school year.


2. Find a group of people to sit with at lunch – as soon as possible. The lunch “break” that high-schoolers are allowed is, at first, one of the most stressful experiences of the beginning of the year. If you spot some of your middle school friends gathering together at a table, join in. Be aware, though, that these seating arrangements are often permanent. Pick your table wisely.


3. Find someone who you can follow to class. If Ashley or Josh are in both your first and second periods, then he/she can help you find your way to your next class. High Schools are big and scary at first, so it can’t hurt to have your own personal tour guide. If your classmate is as lost as you are, at least you won’t be lost alone.


4. Do not procrastinate. The sooner you get things done, the more time you will have to do the things you like to do. No matter how much you would love to plop down in front of the T.V. after a hard day, try to get to work as soon as possible.


5. You need your friends for survival. Do not let go. Friends are your lifejackets in the shipwreck of high school -- without them, you could sink. Everyone needs someone to lean on and someone who cares. Stick with those who know you best and like you for who you are.


6. Accept change. Accept change in your friends. Accept change in your school. Accept change in your teachers. Accept change in yourself. High school is a huge part of your life, and from here on out, there’s no going back. Do not try to keep things from changing, because change is good. Watch people around you become who they are going to be.


7. Study!Many people find flashcards helpful studying tools. Flashcards are one of the most efficient ways of studying because by making them, you have already begun to study. Writing down the questions and answers on note cards helps the information stick in your brain just long enough to take that pesky midterm.


8. Be involved in some sort of extracurricular activity. Fall sports that begin before school are always a plus because they allow you to meet new people and make new friends before school even begins. High school is a great time to figure out what you are interested in, and follow your interests through clubs and sports. These activities are also a crucial part of your college application. As more and more people apply to colleges every year, colleges become more and more focused on the smaller details, such as your extracurricular activities.


9. Eat lunch. Whether you eat in the cafeteria or bring your lunch your brain/body needs energy to perform.



    * Relax! Try not to get yourself too worked up about that test you bombed or the homework you left in your printer at home.

    * Use your locker. Not only do you look like a hunchback, toting all of your books around on your back, but it can’t be very comfortable either. Find which times of the day are best for you to go to your locker.

    * You've heard it a million times, but actually do it! Be Yourself! Make sure that people like you for who you are, rather than who you are pretending to be.

    * Enjoy yourself! Freshman year can be so much fun if you choose to make it so.