Free Periods in School

Class schedules can be something that make or break how good someone’s year can be. If they have a list of really hard classes all in a row, they can get really stressed out. On the other hand however, if someone has classes that are of no challenge to them, they could often find themselves getting bored. 

I’ve found something out my senior year with my schedule. When I entered this year, I was originally in 7 classes and 4 of those were APs. I decided that math wasn’t the class for me, and bumped down to just 6 classes total, 4 APs. This was the first year that I have ever had a free period. Now that I’ve realized just how useful those can be, I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.

With my free period, I am able to get homework done as well as hang out with friends and help my favorite teachers. Not only that, but when I’m done with my work, I can take naps. Now while that isn’t the best use of time, those naps are always helpful in keeping me awake when I have practice. 

My free period this year has made me happier overall. Now that I can get most of my work done in school, after practice I have much more time to relax when I get home. I highly recommend if you can take a free period, do it. It is much better for both mental health and overall stress. With a slightly less packed schedule and more free time after school, I am able to connect more with friends and family as well as catch up on much needed sleep. 

School schedules often cause stress that really shouldn’t be there. So the next time you have to plan a schedule, try to squeeze in a free period so that you also have time to catch up on sleep, with friends, and just overall try to improve stress levels.

-Danielle B. 

Summer Programs for Current Juniors

As a junior in high school, the college application season is right around the corner. Although applying to college may seem like a daunting and overwhelming tasks, there are many resources and programs designed to help students achieve their dreams and be accepted to their top schools. Personally, as a first-generation student, I had no guidance from my parents or siblings on how to apply to college or what to do in order to be seen as a competitive applicants. As a result, I would like to share some of the programs that have helped me through this difficult process and even boosted my college applications.

Hispanic Scholarship Fund Youth Leadership Institute

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Hispanic-American students succeed in college and beyond. As a junior, one is given the opportunity to be a part of this amazing organization by applying to their Youth Leadership Institute, which is a five day program that takes place over the summer. The requirements for this programs are that the applicant must have at least a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, be of Hispanic Heritage, be a current junior, and plan on applying applying and attending a 4-year university after high school. The program is a highly selective one given that it has around a 10% acceptance rate and has a national pool of applications every year. The program selects students that have demonstrated amazing academic achievement and leadership in their communities. The YLI is currently sponsored by two schools, the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California.

I had the amazing opportunity of attending the YLI at the University of Chicago this past summer and met many incredibly driven and talented individuals. Although the program is usually in-person at the sponsored colleges, because of COVID, the program was online this year. Nevertheless, the spirit of the YLI was definitely felt. I was able to receive invaluable guidance and information regarding the college application process through my mentor as well as the various presentations given throughout the program. My favorite part of the program, however, was being able to speak with high-achieving Latinx leaders, executives, and professionals. Their stories were very inspirational and allowed me to see people with similar backgrounds as me that have been very successful. Overall, this program was life-changing and allowed me to see myself as a competitive applicant at top institutions. I highly recommend that any ambitious Latinx juniors apply to the program.

UCI High School Institute in Law

The UCI HS Institute in Law is a 5 day program designed to introduce high school students to the profession and study of law. The program is somewhat expensive ($1100); however, if you are really interested in attending and are unable to pay the full price, UCI has an application for a full scholarship. The program itself does not require an application. The only requirement is that one must be currently in high school.

Due to COVID and other complications, the program was unfortunately cancelled. They replaced it with a one-day preview of law school. However, I’m sure that the in-person and full program is very informational and have heard that it is great for those aspiring to pursue a career in law.

I completed both of these programs the summer before my senior year; however, there are many other programs that I wish I would have known about and would have loved to have attended. To name a few there is the USC Bovard Scholar program, Dartmouth Bound program, and College Prep Scholar program among others. I highly recommend applying to these programs and researching some do your own if you are interested in applying to top institutions. They are very inspirational, informative, and look great on college applications.

-Yvette C.

Cough and Cold Season: How do I Avoid it?

It is officially a cough and cold season everybody! With the new stands of covid spreading along with the yearly flu, it is very important to know how to stay safe in a time like this. Unlike normal flu seasons, Covid-19 is still as apparent as ever, making the process of taking precautions even more serious. Here I am going to let the public know, or remind them, of the important precautions that should be taken to accommodate the flowing viruses.

First and foremost, wash your hands!! Whenever you get home from school, work, or an event, the first thing you should think of doing is washing your hands. I know that saying this sounds like a no-brainer, but most people do not wash their hands when they get home. To put into perspective, all of the bacteria from all the different places you touched that others have also touched are all on your hands. If you were to eat, all that bacteria that may carry viruses will go into your system, which is not good! By consistently washing your hands, you are minimizing the chance of exposure.

My next precautionary step is something most people do not think of, which is disinfecting your phone. For most, their phone is like an extension of their body, meaning it travels everywhere with them. People also tend to always place their phones on tables, bags, and other dirty surfaces. When doing this, your phone picks up more bacteria than you could think of and is dirtier than a toilet seat. Now that you are thinking about all the places you have left your phone at today, think about how viruses could be on your phone, which you touch every day. To prevent your phone from causing a cold, always keep it when you get home. This means taking a disinfectant wipe and cleaning off your phone, killing all of the bacteria that had collected on your phone throughout the day. This way the bacteria is not transferring from your phone to your hands, which could cause you to get sick.

My last step may be the most important, that is to get the flu or covid vaccines. I am fully aware that vaccination has become politicized, but I am merely speaking from a neutral perspective, a health perspective. If you can find your local CVS or Walgreens, make an appointment to get the flu or cold vaccine. This way if you are exposed to either of the viruses, your body will have some immunity, and either you will not get sick, or you will experience symptoms that are a fraction as bad as they would have been without the vaccine. This way your immune system is built up and ready to face the virus that may enter your body. 

These are my helpful tips to keep you guys safe during this fall season!

-Lilly G.

You CAN Handle that Workload!

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Now that most high schools have returned to in-person school everyone is feeling the academic and social pressure. The teachers were not hesitant to give a large workload for all students. I want to share some tips for time management that helps me manage my time while still taking 8 classes. 

My first tip is for those procrastinators out there taking many AP classes, feeling the work pile up faster than imaginable. This first tip is very helpful but may seem crazy to some. Personally, I set screen time on my phone from 5pm to 10pm. I get home from school around 4, I give myself a little mental break but once it hits 5 my phone blocks entertainment. I first thought this idea was going too far, but after several months it has really helped my procrastination. If I want to open instagram or tiktok I get a reminder that I should not be on my phone. This way I have a 5 hour window to sit down at my desk and simply work.

My next tip is to create a google sheet to plan both your homework and reminders for the day. Make a column for each of your classes on the top. On the right put each date and fill in the homework for each class. Whenever you finish an assignment turn the cell block green to show that you completed that task. This is a simple way to keep organized that does not require buying a planner. Also, personally I find motivation to turn all of the blocks green as soon as I can.

My next tip is to know your limit of classes. Some people, especially as they enter their junior and senior years, attempt to take as many AP, IB, and honors classes as possible. But, I would recommend taking the workload you know you can handle while still pushing yourself. This way you are not overexerting yourself to a point where you are not doing well in any classes.

My last tip is to take advantage of given class time and homework times during class! Oftentimes teachers leave 10-15 minutes to work on assignments. Many people tend to spend that time talking to their friends. I say get as much done as possible, your future self will thank you for it. During this time you are often more productive, have the teacher to ask any questions, and can get some of that work done before you even reach home. 

Overall my tip is find the best time management plan for yourself, as it differs from person to person. Once you find that schedule that fits your workload and personality perfectly, you will find dealing with all of the assignments will no longer be as daunting.

-Lilly G.

Ways to Increase Productivity

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As the school year continues in earnest, many of us may find ourselves struggling to keep up with workloads and stay productive, especially after online school for the last year and a half. So here are five tips to help you boost your productivity and keep accomplishing great things!

1. Write It Down

No, you will not ‘remember it.’ Write every task you have to do down somewhere, like a calendar or daily list, and check it often so you don’t forget anything!

2. Habits and Patience

Start creating productive daily habits for yourself. This way, you won’t have to consciously think about doing tasks- your brain will go on autopilot and get things done. For example, you could get into the habit of studying for two hours every day after school by setting a timer while studying for at least one month. Stay patient- habits take time to develop, but they’re great tools to keep you productive!

3. Take Care of Yourself

You can only be productive if your body is physically equipped to work. Eat well, hydrate all day, and get the recommended amount of sleep every night. This will do wonders for helping you feel more ready to tackle the day!

4. Inspire Yourself

Be cautious about what you choose to fill your mind with. Take some time off from your phone and hang out with your friends, read a book, or go for a walk. This will help recharge you and inspire you to get work done!

5. Reward Yourself

Don’t be too harsh on yourself! Make sure to give yourself a little reward, or mental pat on the back, after each successful day. This will help you keep your momentum going throughout the year!

-Vaidehi B.

Applying to Colleges

As I head into my senior year, the college application season is no longer a far off thought. Though you are somewhat prepared for it when you start high school, I have found the actual thing is very different from what you imagine. Though you see your friends and family apply and discuss whether or not they got in, having to do it for your own future takes on a whole new perspective. I have personally found the experience exciting, yet somewhat overwhelming. Though I am getting to select my own future and the place that I want to spend the next part of my life, I am also having to worry about grades, getting in, and moving away from family. 

A lot of people when looking into colleges, never truly talk about how much their senior year was affected by applying for colleges. Some people I’ve spoken to have said that senior year was super easy, but as I start this fall, I don’t quite feel that way. Not only am I taking my most challenging classes yet, I am also trying to balance hanging out with all my friends before we go our separate ways as well as applying to multiple colleges and get in. 

Now the application and search process has been quite fun so far. I have been able to look at schools in places I can see myself living past college as well as ones that are good for what I am looking into. I have also been able to see how what I am going into as a career can help others besides myself. This is the part where you can explore different passions outside of a major, with the wide array of classes so many schools offer. And every school is different, not every school is the one for you and that is okay. What I found I struggled with was that I didn’t like some of the schools offered to me and felt like I was letting someone down. Everyone is different and so is your search, so not fitting into one school or another is okay.

I think that college searching can be fun because you are able to look into the more superficial things such as dorm life and things to do when you aren’t in classes. College also allows you a sense of freedom you often don’t get while still in high school, in the fact that you are mostly depending on yourself to wake up, eat, get to class, and so on. The search is a way for you to see how you will be when you are off on your own and starting your own job and life away from home. 

Now while I have talked about being overwhelmed with this endeavor, I also urge you high schoolers, seniors especially, to not get too caught up in the stress of it all. Enjoy the time with your friends and family before you all go and do your own things. We will never be in a time quite like we are now, which is something a lot of my older friends who are now in college agree with. Though college application season is now, so is senior year and we should bask in that. 

-Danielle B.

Ways to Avoid Procrastination

As the school year ramps up, many of us are still trying to get back into the school ‘zone’- and figure out how to kick bad procrastination habits that may have formed over the last year and a half of quarantine. Below are five ways to avoid procrastinating during the school year!

1. Get Organized

If you don’t have set goals or an idea of what you want to accomplish every day, it’s easy to forget things and procrastinate things until the last minute. Invest in a planner or a calendar to track all your assignments and extracurriculars- it will provide a strong framework to work with.

2. Eliminate Distractions

Procrastination happens mostly when we have easy distractions in front of us. Make sure you have a quiet, set place where you work, and put away your phone and other devices while studying. This will help you get everything you need to do done.

3. Set Goals

Many of us procrastinate when the work ahead of us seems overwhelming. By breaking the work into sizeable chunks and setting a measurable goal for yourself, you can make your work more manageable and eliminate procrastination.

4. Positive Reinforcement

Make sure to keep rewarding yourself for completing your goals or tasks. Even something as simple as “after this assignment, I’ll take a five-minute break” can help reward you and create a positive feedback loop.

5. HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE!

None of the above tips will work unless you hold yourself accountable! It’s easy to find excuses to go on your phone, check texts, or take an extra-long break, but you have to catch yourself before these thoughts take hold. An easy rule to avoid this is- start working or doing your task no more than 5 seconds after the thought pops into your head. Any more than that gives your brain time to come up with excuses.

-Vaidehi B.

Advice from a Rising Senior

As junior year came to an end, the long awaited college application season was just around the corner. I began to research the various aspects of the application and selection process for colleges, and I realized that my application was lacking in various areas. As a first generation student, I have navigated high school largely on my own without the advice of my parents or older siblings. As I approach the college application season, there are many things that I wish people had told me my freshman year of high school that would have greatly boosted my college applications. I would like to share these with others who are in high school and in need of guidance.

Join Clubs Freshman Year

Throughout my first two years of high school, I mostly focused on sports as my main extracurricular activities. I played soccer and ran cross country and track my freshman and sophomore years, which left me with almost no time for other actives or clubs. As an underclassman, I did not realize the importance and necessity of joining clubs that pertained to my interests. Last year, my junior year, I joined many clubs such as CSF, NHS, Mock Trial, and my school’s debate club. Although now I have many clubs and activities to write about on my college applications, I have only been involved in each club for around a year. In the college application process, the deans of admission look for consistency in a student’s applications. This is why I recommend joining clubs during your freshman year and remaining a part of them throughout your four years of high school. Moreover, not only will joining clubs your freshman year demonstrate consistency, but it will also allow you to have more leadership opportunities as an upperclassman, which is very important when applying to college.

Stick With Your Sport

Whether you’ve been playing a sport since you were five or decided to join a sport in high school, it is very important to be consistent and stick to at least one sport throughout high school. My freshman year, I played soccer and ran cross county and track. The next year, my sophomore year, I ran cross country and played soccer. Lastly, my junior year, I ran track and field. Although I have always played a sport in high school, jumping back and forth between sports does not demonstrate consistency to a dean of admissions. Despite having my personal reasons for making these decisions regarding sports, a dean of admissions will probably see it as a lack of dedication and consistency. To any underclassman, I suggest sticking to one sport throughout high school.

Challenge Yourself

Before high school, I had always been very hesitant to try new things or step outside of my comfort zone. Luckily, I had some very good mentors and teachers that pushed me to challenges myself and step outside of my comfort zone. They pushed me to take on challenging classes, some of which I never would have thought of taking. Sometimes, my fear of failing or of not receiving an A in a course would stop me from challenging myself. However, I learned that with hardworking, persistence, and dedication, any class in high school is doable. When looking at your application, the dean of admissions will look at the rigor of the courses that you took in high school. More often than not, a transcript with difficult classes and lower grades is much more impressive than a transcript with easy classes and higher grades. For those entering their sophomore year, I suggest taking on a more rigorous course load in order to boost their future applications.

Always Try Your Best

Despite being first in my class and having nearly all A’s throat high school, I will always be plagued by the two Bs I received in math during my freshman and sophomore years. During my first two years in high school, I was always very preoccupied with sports and oftentimes I would end up not finishing my school work because I was too tired to put in the work. Had I dedicated just another hour of my time to trust understand and master the concepts, I know I could have easily received an A in both courses. However, at the time, I did not think much of it and since I had been accustomed to receiving As without too much effort, I did not put as much effort as I should have. Although there are only two Bs on my transcript, I do wish that I would have put in just a little more effort in order to have a perfect transcript. These two Bs might not have as much as an impact on my college decisions as I may think, but it has affected my confidence level when applying.

All in all, high school is a time to find your interests and passions in order to pursue them in college and beyond, which is why I suggest immersing yourself in as many new activities and hobbies as possible. The goal should be to have fun and enjoy your time in high school, while building up your future college applications.

-Yvette C.

Preparing for school?

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The much dreaded back to school season has finally arrived. Although it is a disappointing time for most, the best way to enter the new school year is to be prepared. By setting yourself up for success before the school year starts, your future self will be thanking you once the workload begins to pile up. 

One tip I would recommend is to get a daily planner before the school year starts. One of the hardest parts of being a student is keeping track of assignments, test days, and extracurriculars all at once. Finding yourself a planner that works before the school year starts will help boost your efficiency and time management. I would recommend looking on amazon to find cheap and durable planners. They have a wide variety of options where you can even choose which month the planner starts and ends on.

Although this tip seems simple it is important. Most students neglect to check if there is ever summer homework and it always comes back to bite them in the butt. So, before school starts make sure to check your high school’s website to ensure you have all the summer work you need to do. This way the first tests on the summer information will not cause your grade to drop as soon as school starts. 

Another tip I would recommend is refreshing up on your previous year’s math concepts. One of the most difficult parts of returning to school with math is carrying over the skills you learned. Unlike other subjects, math tacks on the cumulative information that you have been learning since middle school. Going to Khan Academy or simply watching review videos on YouTube will help tremendously in starting the school year off strong and with a high grade.

For those taking AP classes, another huge tip I would recommend is buying test prep books at the beginning of the school year, along with reading the basics of the class which is available on the college board website. AP classes throw so much information at you all at once. Having a very simple basic understanding of what you are going to learn will help. Also with review books, you can make sure you understand each concept as you learn it by trying the practice questions.

Although these tips are simple and seem quite basic or unnecessary, they will be very beneficial once you begin receiving 2 assignments for each of your 7 classes. These small changes and advancements will put you ahead and will helps you receive that strong starting grade that is crucial in determining how you will success in a class. 

–Lilly G.

Staying Focused During Summer

Making sure to stay focused and on task is hard during the school year, but it can be especially hard over the summer. With little to no daily structure to keep us in check, we often fall into the pattern of waking up late, doing little with our days, going to bed late, and repeat. I find myself falling into this routine every summer, then finding it hard to bounce back when the school year starts again. So I’m setting goals for myself this summer and I urge you to do the same. 

One of the big things that I think helps is to make sure that the routine we keep during the school year stays around the same during the summer. Sure, waking up at 4:45 A.M. is unreasonable to ask of anyone, but maybe being awake by 8:30 A.M. is more manageable. By getting up at the same time every day, we are training our bodies to make sure that we have a schedule for the day. The same goes for going to bed. Try to go to bed at 11 P.M. rather than 1:30 A.M. With a solid schedule in place, you might find yourself with more free time than you thought. This then creates not only more time to do any summer school or reading that needs to be done, but also more time for hanging out with friends. 

Also making sure our brains stay engaged is important. Making sure that we are doing little things to stay on top of our learning, such as finding a book or topic that interests us and learning more about it, can help us as we go into the next school year. I have found in years past, and this year with summer starting out, that I am able to ease back into the school year much better with a routine and something to keep my brain focused during this break. So in between sleeping in more than usual and hanging out with friends, make sure to take the time to create your own routine and keep engaged. 

-Danielle B.