Why Every High School Student Needs a Reading List

A few weeks ago I shared why I believe reading is the key to getting into college. I briefly wrote about the importance of having a strong reading list. I’d like to go into that a bit more.

Summer is the perfect time for reading. You’ve probably got a little more free time than normal and can devote a little more time to reading. I understand that summers do fill up quick and go by fast, but try to take some time out to work on your reading list.

Maybe you are a “reader”, maybe not. For those of you who love reading this will be easy. For those of you who don’t love reading, this will be important. file000777035782

Readers

Readers read a lot. It’s what they do right? But, what readers don’t always do is remember. That’s why the reading list is so important for them. You need to create a document, spreadsheet, or a list that keeps track of all the books you’ve read and a very brief description of each of them. This will help you a lot when it comes time to start applying for scholarships and colleges.

Non-Readers

For those of you who don’t like to read, and you know who you are, the reading list is even more important. If reading isn’t your thing then you need to make sure that you don’t forget to record each book you read so that you aren’t “wasting” any of your time.

The List

The reading list is simple. It should include a lot of classic literature and great novels. Just include the name of the book, the author, the date you read the book, and a brief description. If a book impacted you in a big way, share more about it. Write about how the book impacted you, a mini book report. You don’t need to do that for every book, just your favorites. Try to read a little from a variety of subjects and genres.

How to Use it

The list can be used in two major ways. First, use it to help you write application essays. Scholarship applications and college admission applications usually include essays. Some even ask about books that impacted you. Having the list handy makes those essays a breeze.

The second way to use the list is to share with college admission staff additional information about you. Colleges what to know that you are focused on academics and that you can succeed in their program. Showing them a well-established pattern of reading through your reading list is an excellent way to do that.

Colleges ask for certain documents, but that doesn’t mean that that is all you are allowed to show them. Bringing some additional information about you is usually allowed and even encouraged. If you haven’t already, get started making your reading list today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Interesting College Stats

How you approach this whole “college” thing is a big deal. The decisions you will make are some of the biggest ones you have had the opportunity to make so far. They will also stick with you for a long time to come. How you think about college is important.

Here are some quick but interesting stats about what others think about college.

The Most Popular Degree

1. According to Pew Research most people are choosing to study business, 20.5% to be exact. Business has been the most popular bachelor’s degree since 1980. Before that it was education.

How Long You Go

2. Another interesting fact is that most students are choosing to attend college longer. 60% of students are taking 6 years to complete their bachelor’s degree rather than 4 years.  Less than 40% of students graduate “on time.”

What You Major In

3. Students who choose to major in science or engineering are the most likely to say that their degree prepared them for the job they really wanted.

That’s it, short and sweet. I’ll let you interpret the data however you like. In fact what do you think? I have some ideas but I’d really love to hear what you think these stats can tell us if anything.

 

 

Source: http://www.pewresearch.org/

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Is it Really that Important to be Well Rounded?

Why are we so obsessed with being well-rounded? Round is boring. When we think of all the interesting and fascinating people in the world how often do we say,

“Wow, that person is a really well-rounded individual; I mean just look at how incredibly mediocre they are in everything!” 

Let me ask you. Which would you rather be: average in everything or freaking awesome in one or two things?

I’m guessing you chose the second option. I would too.

Mediocre Round is boring

You don’t become awesome by focusing on your weaknesses. You don’t become great by correcting all your faults. You become awesome by focusing on your strengths. You become great by figuring out what you’re pretty good at and then working on that one thing endlessly.

As a high school or college student this is a very important concept to grasp. It’s tempting to focus all of your time and energy on improving the things you aren’t very good at. The problem is that when you do this you are neglecting the areas of your greatest potential.  For example,

Let’s say you’re a great writer. You’re an amateur, but you’ve got serious talent. You’re imaginative and articulate. You have the potential to become a phenomenal writer, but because you are already pretty good at it and you pass all your writing classes with ease; you don’t spend nearly as much time studying literature or writing as you do studying biology. You don’t even like biology, but you do your best. Nevertheless, all you’re efforts go into studying biology and thanks to all your hard work you become good enough in that class to pass with an A-. You do the same thing with some of your other classes: statistics, French, economy, and world history. Unfortunately, by the end of the school year you didn’t really advance much at all in writing because you were already pretty good in it. Now you are pretty good in lots of great subjects you don’t care two cents about.

This is how we become mediocre.

So What Can We Do?

I know, I know, you can’t just skip all the general education classes you don’t like (as awesome as that would be) so what else can you do?

Focus where you can.

A lot of your high school and college schedule is made up for you. You have to take certain classes and you have to fulfill certain responsibilities, but not all of your time is spent for you. We all have a limited amount of time and energy. Focusing your free time and energy on the things you love, your passions, seems like a good place to start in the journey to becoming awesome.

Let’s take the following four things for example. Do they line up with your passions?

  1. Your volunteering positions
  2. Your evening and weekend activities
  3. How you kill time or procrastinate
  4. How you spend your time online

If you start with those four things you’re off to a good start. Make sure that the themes of your life center around the things you are naturally talented at. Simply put, do what you want to be doing.

 Take Away

Don’t neglect the things you’re already good at, those might just be the keys to your success.

3 Reasons Reading is the Key to Getting into College

Everybody knows that reading is really important once you’re in college. Most college classes typically involve lectures followed by massive reading assignments. If you don’t like to read, college is going to be a struggle.

Most people know this, but did you know that reading is actually the key to getting into college in the first place?

Here are three reasons reading is the key to getting into college:

1. Admission Tests

Your high school grades are important to colleges, but admission test scores are equally important.

Why?file0001494750257

SAT and ACT scores are important because they are consistent.  Grades can vary from school to school. An A+ at one school may not equal an A+ at another school. Some teachers require more out of their students. For example, getting a B+ in a challenging chemistry class may mean that you have learned and can apply more knowledge than a student who received an A+ in a chemistry class with a teacher who wasn’t challenging at all.

The bottom line is that if you want to get into college you will need to demonstrate your knowledge and ability through a good score on the SAT or ACT.

So what does any of this have to do with reading?

Reading drastically improves SAT and ACT scores. It’s all about vocabulary and comprehension. To do well on either the SAT or ACT you have to have excellent reading comprehension and vocabulary.  Being able to read (and understand what you are reading) will help you in every section of the admission tests. You will save a lot of precious time if you don’t have to stop and think about what words mean and what the questions are asking.

Reading is the single best way to improve vocabulary and comprehension. You can prepare for the admission tests by studying vocabulary specifically, but honestly, how long can you study the dictionary? Reading is a much more natural and effective way to improve your vocabulary. The earlier you start the better. Reading should be a part of your daily routine.

 2. Essays

When it comes time to start applying for college, students will need to be able to write. Essays are a crucial part of the college admission process as well as the scholarship process. Colleges want to find out about who you are and what better way is there than through your essays.

But wait, I thought this article was about reading not writing? It is, I promise.

Consistent and regular reading is one of the best ways for you to develop your own voice, your storytelling voice. Reading great books, magazines, blogs or anything else that interests you will help you learn how compelling stories are told. As you read you will naturally and effortlessly absorb great writing skills. You’ll learn more about writing from reading your favorite sci-fi series than you could possibly imagine and it won’t even feel like studying.

3. The Reading List

Are you smart? Prove it. Colleges want to know if you are smart enough to handle their most challenging courses. After all, colleges are all about academics. A lot of students will only submit the required information to colleges when applying, but you can do more.

Submit a copy of your reading list.

Show admission officers that you are self-motivated and that reading is a part of who you are. They know that reading is crucial to your success at college and this will go a long way in helping them see that you are ready.

So what are you waiting for? Set some goals for yourself this summer to read more than ever before. You’ll be glad you did.

What About You?

Now I’d like to hear from you. What’s your reading list look like? Do you even like to read?

Share your favorite book(s) of all time below. Maybe we can all find some great books to add to our reading list. Thanks so much.

 

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How to Graduate College Debt Free

Disclosure

In full disclosure let me start this post by saying I did not graduate college debt free. I didn’t learn this stuff until it was too late. The advice I’m about to give you is the advice I wish I would have been given in high school.

You don’t need to follow the herd. You’re not a sheep. Break out of the mold. A lifetime of student loan debt is not mandatory for a successful career.  I want you to be fully informed so that you can make the best possible choices for your future. So here goes, 3 simple ways to graduate debt free.

InsanityMoney

Student loan debt is a real problem. It’s crazy. It’s out of control. At 18 years of age I had no business taking out tens of thousands of dollars going into debt for a private college education I really couldn’t afford. But this is happening every day to a bunch of people across the country.

Close your eyes and imagine this scenario with me (wait, you’re reading this, so don’t close your eyes… just imagine).

An 18 year old guy walks into a bank and asks for a loan, we’ll call him Jimmy.

Jimmy: Hello Mr. Banker, I’d like to borrow some money.

Banker: Alright, how much would you like to take out?

Jimmy: Hmmm…. how about $75,000?

Banker: Okay, let’s see what we can do for you.  Do you have a job?

Jimmy: Nope.

Banker: Do you have any assets?

Jimmy: Nope.

 Banker: Do you have a high credit score?

Jimmy: Maybe, what’s a credit score?

Banker: Well Jimmy, a credit score is a 3 digit number generated by a mathematical algorithm using information from your credit report. It helps us predict risk and determine the likelihood that you will be able to fulfill your credit obligations and pay back your debt.

Jimmy: Oh. Then no, no I don’t.

Banker: Okay Jimmy, let me just run some numbers here…. alright finished. Congratulations Jimmy! You’re approved.

Absurd, right? Of course you wouldn’t loan some 18 year old bum with no job, no assets, and no credit score that kind of money.  But it happens every day, and it’s called student loans.

With massive amounts of students taking on massive amounts of debts each year, it’s no wonder we’re in the midst of a student loan crisis. Our nation currently has over 1 trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt. That is a lot of money. Now combine that with the fact that the cost of college is consistently increasing way beyond normal inflation rates and hopefully you’re starting to understand the gravity of the situation.

Student loans are becoming a rather large problem.

Graduating College Debt Free

So what can we do about it? More importantly, what can you do about it? Well, let me make three simple suggestions on how you can make a stand against student loans and graduate debt free or at least with significantly less debt than most.

 

1. Selection

Where you go to college is important. A lot of people are willing to enter into a life time of debt all for the sake of going to a prestigious university. Let’s be real. You’re not rich (yet) and it’s not worth it. Go to a college you can afford.

Trust me.

It might not be as glamorous, but employers don’t care where you went; plus what’s more glamorous than not being broke and having to live in your parents’ basement after graduation?

2. Work

Work is good. Having a job in college will not cause you flunk out. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true. A study done in 2012 by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics found that students who worked up to 20 hours a week got better grades than students who did not work at all.

College is not adolescence continued. It’s a new chapter in your life.  The college experience is not a transition into adulthood, it is adulthood. It’s time to grow up.  Working is a part of adulthood, therefore work should be a part of the college experience.

Working in college will help you with developing a consistent schedule and it will teach you incredibly important things like balance, time management, prioritization, and other real world skills.

But, in this post we are talking about graduating debt free, so let’s not forget the fact that working throughout college will significantly lower the amount of aid you will need. Just pretend that free loan money was not available to you and that working was your only option.

3. Scholarships

While you are still in high school scholarships, should be your main focus. Treat scholarship searching like a part-time time job. Spending just 10 hours a week completing scholarships could yield a whole lot more money than working at the local fast food restaurant. During summer vacation kick it up a notch. Work on scholarships 20 hours a week and that still leaves you plenty of time for volunteering, vacations, or working.

Just a quick example of how working on scholarships can easily pay more than a summer job…

A student working 20 hours a week for 10 weeks (average summer vacation) at $7.50 an hour will make approximately $1,500 over the course of the summer. (20 x 7.5 x 10 = $1,500)

A student working 20 hours a week for 10 weeks could easily complete 40 (or more) scholarship applications. If the student was awarded only 10% of those scholarships and if those scholarships were a modest $1000 each the student would make $4,000 over the summer.

This example is a very conservative example. With that amount of time the student could have easily looked up a lot of high potential scholarships and devoted a lot of effort into them. Remember, scholarships can range from $100 up to a full ride. If you spent your whole summer working on scholarships and could earn a full ride, you would be making considerably more than a part-time fast food job.

There are a lot of other unique and creative ways to avoid racking up big student loans, share your ideas below.

 

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Why Being a Poser will leave you Broke

Honesty

Can we be really honest for just a minute? I have a question for you.

Are you a poser?

I’m guessing most of you know what a poser is, but if not, here’s what Google says…

Poser

Posers

So by Google’s definition, I’m guessing we’re all posers from time to time. Honestly, who doesn’t try to use money to impress others in some way or another? We buy clothes that may be just a little out of our price range. We drive nicer cars than we can afford so we lease them or take out loans. We buy dinner for our friends knowing that it’s going hurt later. Heck, even our cell phones say something about our status so we pay whatever we have to for them even if it costs us an arm and a leg.

Impressing other people isn’t cheap.

Sometimes we even feel such a strong need to impress others that we do it at great financial harm to ourselves. Take college selection for example.

As students start looking at colleges and begin to decide where they want to go, they have to process a lot of important school information: location, transportation, degrees offered, tuition costs, room and board costs, financial aid packages, work opportunities, etc.

The Elusive Prestige

Of course these are all really important and really smart things to be thinking about. But here’s the deal, 18 year olds aren’t only thinking about those things. If you’re going to college soon, chances are you’re thinking about less tangible, less quantifiable things; things like the culture of the school, the “fun-factor”, and how prestigious the school is.

A lot of high school seniors (and their families especially) are really concerned about that last one; prestige. Again, we turn to Google…

Prestige

Prestige is really, really important to a lot of students and their families when choosing a college. It’s as if certain colleges seem to be able to offer a higher level of esteem, respect, and status to their graduates. Highly esteemed colleges produce better quality graduates that are more desirable in the marketplace, right?

Certainly if employers knew you went to one of these highly respected schools they would be much more likely to offer you a job over the common shmuck that went to the community college down the road, right… right?

Well, probably not.

Honestly, employers are really not all that concerned with where you went to college. There are of course some careers that are an exception to this rule, but they are certainly not the norm. The truth is after you graduate college the only person who cares about where you went to school is you.

“Only the Best” Mentality

You’ve probably heard that you have to get into the best possible school that you can. This is taught to students all the time from teachers, counselors, and family members. Let me be the first to tell you, It’s not true. It sounds great but its horrible advice.

Better advice would be that you have to get into the best possible school you can realistically afford and that offers the best return on investment.

Just because you get accept to a prestigious school doesn’t mean you can afford it. It also doesn’t mean you should take out a life time of student loans to go there.

You really have to think these things through.

The kindergarten teacher who graduated with $150,000 in student loans isn’t going to be getting paid any better than the teacher who graduated with $10,000 in student loans. Remember, the only person who cares where you went to school is you.

So before you decide to sign on the dotted line and agree to take out a massive student loan in order to get into that super cool school, think about your motives. Who are you really trying to impress? Is their brief and passing admiration worth it? How super cool will it be when you have to pay $600 a month in student loans until you’re 40? How prestigious will it be when you have to move back into your parent’s basement after graduation because you’re broke?

Think about it. That’s all I’m asking.

As a guy who graduated from a rather expensive private university with a degree in education, I feel like I have a pretty decent understanding of this whole idea of getting a good return on investment for a college degree. I learned the hard way though. I spent too much plain and simple. I didn’t learn that until years later though.

So tell me your story. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Comment below to share.

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I Hate Snakes

Irrational Fear

I don’t have a lot of irrational fears, just 3.

  1. Speaking in front of large groups
  2. Flying (or rather crashing)
  3. Snakes

I hate snakes, I really do. Out of the three above listed fears, snakes are the biggest. I don’t know how this fear developed, but it did. And now I cringe at even the thought of them. When I’m flipping through a picture book with one of my kids, and I unexpectedly turn the page to BAM, a picture of a King Cobra staring back at me; I’ll jump. It’s a stupid fear I know, but I’m just being honest.

Now that you know my biggest fear, let me tell you a little story.Snake

Learning to Hate Snakes

Last week I was pulling weeds around my house. My 3 year old daughter was helping me. She’s a lot of fun to pull weeds with. To date I don’t think she’s pulled a single weed, but she sings me songs and tells me funny stories. I love it.

Like I was saying, last week we were pulling weeds. I reached down and grabbed a particularly big handful of thistles and pulled them up. I glanced down at the great big hand full of weeds and I noticed that one of the weeds was wiggling and writhing in my hand.

That’s odd. I didn’t think weeds were supposed to wiggle. You of course see where I’m going with this. Eventually my brain caught up with my eyes and registered what was going on.

I had a pretty decent sized snake in my hand.

I immediately dropped the thing, looked down, and to my utter horror I saw even more snakes crawling around the exact spot I had just been working on.  I let out a yell.   Not a scream or a shriek, just a little yell of surprise. I leaped up and grabbed my daughter, and jumped way, way back from the snakes. My adrenaline was surging.

I then noticed my daughter’s face. She was horrified, but not of the snakes. She was scared of my reaction. I’m pretty sure she saw the snakes, but wasn’t afraid of them in the slightest. She didn’t know she was supposed to be. She hadn’t learned that yet.

It wasn’t until I freaked out that she got scared. Now she knows. I taught her to fear snakes. In a quick 10 second blip of time I forever altered her interactions and views of an entire class of animals. In fact, that’s probably how I learned to fear snakes myself.

That’s scary.

Enough of my irrational fear of snakes, let’s get to the point.

The Point

Last week I shared some quotes about the importance of learning from others. This week I wanted to share how that looks practically.

Like most children, my daughter learned through observation. But, let me broaden that statement a bit. We all learn through observation. Basically, every interaction we have teaches us and every interaction we have teaches others about us. If that is true, than we must be careful of two things:

  1. Who we observe
  2. How we respond

The first is pretty simple; who we observe. Like it or not, you will become like the people you spend the most time with. I happen to like that idea because I have some pretty awesome friends. The people I hang out with I do so in part because I wouldn’t mind being more like them. How about you? Do the people you spend time with raise you up and inspire you? They should.

The second is a bit harder; how we respond.  I wish I could give you some awesome advice on how to respond appropriately in every situation, but I can’t. I haven’t figured this out just yet. I will say this though, people are watching you. What you say and do matters immensely. You have the power to build up or to destroy with what you say and how you respond. Take that for what it is.

…and be careful next time you pull weeds.

 

 

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Are you Learning from Others?

Learning happens constantly and continually. Yes, even during summer vacation!

Every person you meet is your teacher and every environment your classroom. Regardless of where your summer plans have taken you, you have the opportunity to learn from those around you. I don’t care if you are flipping burgers at McDonalds this summer, or if you are on a mission trip to Haiti, you are learning from those around you; at least you should be.

Everybody is smarter than you in some area and they are just waiting to share with you everything they know; you just have to ask. People like to talk about themselves and they love to talk about what they love. If you take the time to listen not only will you learn, but you will be seen as caring, considerate, and an all-around great person.

I’m going to leave it at that; short and sweet.  I just wanted to leave you with these three thought provoking quotes about learning from others and to challenge you to intentionally learn from others this summer.

Here they are, enjoy:

 

“Every person you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.” – H. Jackson Brown

“If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.”  – Confucius

“We meet no ordinary people in our lives.” – C.S. Lewis

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20 Summer Vacation Ideas for High School Students

Making the most of Your Summer Vacation

Ah summer vacation; that magical time of the year when you can set aside all the deadlines and demands of the school year. Finally, you get to kick back and relax. You worked hard all year long, you deserve a break from the routine. So what are you going to do with all your newfound free time?

I’d like to make a few suggestions.

  1. Get a Job
  2. Do an Internship
  3. Job Shadow Different People
  4. Volunteer
  5. Go on a Missions Trip
  6. Start a Blog
  7. Start a Business
  8. Participate in a University Program
  9. Learn a New Skill
  10. Read –A Lot
  11. Sports
  12. Computer Courses
  13. Online Education
  14. Clubs
  15. Hobbies
  16. National Programs
  17. Take an SAT Prep Course
  18. Community Service
  19. Summer Camp
  20. Take Lessons

 Focus

There are a thousand great things you could be doing this summer to ensure you have a meaningful and worthwhile summer vacation; but, you can’t do it all. My recommendation to you is that you focus. Pursue only those things that align with your passions and talents. College admission officers want to see a theme not a hodgepodge of activities. Think laser beam, not shot gun. They want to be able to look at your transcript, extracurricular activities, and summer vacations and get a very clear picture of who you are and what you are all about.

So what are you doing this summer? Have any plans? If you do, share them here. I’d love to hear from you.

Have a great summer vacation!

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When Do I Start Preparing for College?

The best time to plant a tree

You’ve probably heard this quote a million times, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

Well as it turns out, this principle applies to more than the casual arborist.

I believe that there’s no such thing as planning too early for college. Let me say right off the bat that I am not endorsing that every student should go to college. College is awesome; but, it is not for everyone.

That being said, I do believe that everyone should prepare for college. Regardless of if you decide to go to college or not, you need to have the option available to you and in order to have this option available you need to plan early.

So back to the question at hand, when should you start planning for college? Well, the earlier the better. In fact, college planning shouldn’t be something you wait until high school for.

Pre-K College Prep

College prep starts before kindergarten. No you aren’t practicing the SAT in pre-K, but you are exploring the world and discovering new and exciting things each day. All throughout elementary school you are learning about the world around you and more importantly you are learning how you fit into that world. You’re learning what you like and what you don’t like. You’re learning what your good at and what you love to do. That is some of the most important college prep you can do!file0001034424148

The Exploratory Middle School Years

By middle school, you’ve probably already figured out what kinds of things you’re good at. You know what you like and you know what you don’t. You’ve starting to think more about what kind of adult you will be. By the end of middle school, you’ve probably had a chance to learn about different careers through observation, shadowing, studies, or some other influence.

High School – Crunch Time

High school is when the more traditional college prep takes place. For a lot of students the light bulb doesn’t click until late in their junior year or even the beginning of their senior year. It’s about this time that the realization sets in that there’s a lot of work that goes along with getting into college. The truth is the earlier you start the less stressful it will be. As a freshman you can start preparing for college by doing a lot of simple things over the course of the next few years. Some examples include:

  • Take the required courses early.
  • Take the PSAT early and often to try for valuable scholarships.
  • Learn how to take the SAT and/or ACT and take it as early as possible and as often as necessary to obtain a high score.
  • Get involved in projects and take leadership roles in those projects.
  • Visit colleges, attend college event, s and talk to admissions staff and students.
  • Start saving money.

The list could go on and on but I think you get the point. College preparations don’t just take place your last two years of high school. So if you haven’t started yet, you need to.

“The best time to prepare for college is 20 months ago. The second best time is now.”

If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. I want to hear from you. What are you doing to prepare for college? When did you start preparing? Was the process stressful, simple, fun, nerve-wracking? Parents, are there any pressing college prep concerns you’re facing? Let’s start the conversation.

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