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.

ACT or SAT?

What made you choose the test that you would have to take? I think the best advice is to take a practice test for each and see which you do better at. There are books to check out with practice tests and books you can purchase as well.

You could also just go in to each test and take official ones just to see how you score, but you have to pay for the actual tests. You may do so well in one that you could find this the fastest way to be done with it.

You could also decide based off researching each test. There are four sections in the ACT and three in the SAT. The ACT is described as being more heavily a reading comprehension test. You have a reading, writing, and science section and the science section does not require a lot of outside scientific knowledge, just the ability to read the questions and answer based on what they present on the test. This makes it another reading section, in effect. The SAT just has the traditional Reading, writing, and math. This makes math worth 33% of your grade where on the ACT math is 25% of your grade. This can help kids make the decision as well.

The UC schools, like UCLA, UCI, etc., no longer look at these test scores which makes your GPA and extracurriculars more important. If you are only planning for these schools, I wonder if you will even bother with these tests anymore. If you want to keep options open, many schools either require the scores or list them as optional.

Best of luck as you make decisions on your future.

Reviewing Advanced Placement Classes

As the we approach Spring Break, the long awaited and very much dreaded AP season has begun. It’s time to bring out the Princeton and Barron’s review books and cram the last eight months of knowledge into our brains. As a high school junior, those feelings of stress, panic, and anxiety that accompany the months of April and May have become very familiar. I have taken a total of eight Advanced Placement classes, four of which I am currently taking. As the school year comes to a close and incoming students are deciding on their course selections for the following schools year, I would like to review some of the Advanced Placement classes that I have taken in hopes of aiding some of you in your decisions.

Human Geography

This class was by far the most eye-opening and useful AP class that I have ever taken. I took this class my freshman year, as most students do. This course is the foundation for all AP history courses. So, if you’re thinking about taking European, United States, or World history, I would highly recommend taking Human Geography. The books used for European, U.S, and World History assume that the reader has taken Human Geography or has knowledge of the terms and concepts that are central to the course. All in all, this class was super interesting and was fairly easy. The AP exam is one of the easiest that College Board offers since it is mostly taken by freshman. If you are an incoming freshman and want to try out AP classes, I would highly recommend taking Human Geography.

European History

European History has been my favorite history class so far. Not only is the history of Europe itself extremely fascinating, but I had an excellent teacher. Unlike U.S. history, the time periods and units in the European History are easily distinguishable and easy to remember. The course covers a variety of areas, including a study of European art and literature. Because the course has a strong emphasis on European art, I would highly recommend taking Europe History in the same year as Art History. The two go hand in hand and expand on the curriculum taught in each course. Because of he Documents Based Question, Long Essay Question, and Short Answer Questions, European History is definitely a huge step up from Human Geography. I enjoyed the challenge that it presented; however; if you’re not a fan of writing and reading, I would not recommend this class. Due to the pandemic, I did not take the European History exam as normal. Instead, we were given a single DBQ, which was fairly. Overall, I would recommend this class if you like to read, write, and are excited about history.

Art History

Art History was a very interesting class. My teacher formatted the class very differently from most art history teachers; however, his method was much more engaging and fun. To be completely blunt, I am not artistically inclined and have never been. I’m sure others love to appreciate art for its beauty and meaning, but I found the material somewhat boring at times. I felt that this class was somewhat useless for me. On the bright side, I can now identify works of art when I am out in public and can tell you the school of art, artist, and the materials that the artist used. I would recommend this class to anyone looking to boost their GPA or to those that need to fulfill their VAPA requirement but are artistically challenged. It is a fairly easy class that mostly requires memorization.

Chemistry

AP Chemistry is by far the hardest class I have ever taken. Up until this class, there had never been a class that I truly thought was impossible at times. Although it may seem impossible, AP Chemistry is totally doable with great deal of studying and hard work. I would recommend this class to those that are more mathematically and logically gifted. If you performed well in Honors Chemistry and are looking for a challenge, I would definietly recommend this class; however, do be warned that Chapter 17 is horrible.

Spanish Literature and Culture (Spanish 5)

Unlike Spanish 4, this class is primarily reading and writing. Basically, every week, we are assigned a new story, discuss the story, respond to questions, and write and essay on the story, all in Spanish. I would recommend this class to you if you have very strong skills in Spanish, specifically in writing and reading. As the year progresses, the stories become increasingly more challenging and complex in language and meaning. Even as a Spanish speaker, sometimes these stories seem a bit difficult to comprehend. However, if you dedicate time to understand these stories, you can definitely do well in this class.

All in all, I have had a great experience with with Advanced Placement classes and would recommend them to anyone looking to challenge themselves. They are a great way to learn, obtain college credit, boost your GPA, and look great on transcripts for college applications in the future.

-Yvette C.