Category Archives: High School

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 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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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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So how does the PSAT work?

If you read my previous post then you know my experience taking the PSAT and just in case you didn’t read it I’ll give you the short version: I was completely and totally ignorant. Unfortunately, my experience is probably more common than not.

If you’re like most people out there you probably think that the P in PSAT stands for practice.

And like most people you’d be wrong.

It stands for preliminary. The PSAT is so much more than a “practice” test. The test is actually called the PSAT/NMSQT or the Preliminary SAT National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Now you know why they just call it the PSAT.

Yes, as you probably already know the PSAT does provide you an opportunity to practice for the SAT. It allows you to get a feel for how these types of tests work and it allows you to see and review what areas you need to improve on before taking the SAT. Most people know all that, unfortunately that’s about all they know about the PSAT.

But you are different. You’re reading this and you’re taking responsibility for your education and your future.  So let me share with you what the PSAT is really all about.  Here goes.

What is the PSAT?

The PSAT is a standardized test put together by College Board, the same company that creates the SAT. As I stated earlier, it is a test designed to provide you with a chance to practice taking the SAT and to provide you with valuable feedback.

Length and Format

The PSAT is a lot like the SAT with a few small differences. It’s shorter than the SAT. The PSAT is 2 hours and 20 minutes whereas the SAT is a more daunting 3 hours and 45 minutes.

The PSAT is made up of three sections:

  1. Critical Reading – 2 Sections (25 minutes)
    1. Sentence completion
    2. Passage based reading
  2. Math – 2 Sections (25 minutes)
    1. Multiple choice
    2. Grid-ins or solving problems
  3. Writing – 1 Section (30 minutes)
    1. Identifying sentence errors
    2. Improving sentences
    3. Improving paragraphs

Logic

The PSAT is a logic based test. It is not content based. Learning how to take the test is extremely important. The test is set up to trick you. It’s important that you pay very close attention to wording and that you know exactly what the question is asking.  I’ll give some more tips on this in the future.

Registration

Unlike the SAT you cannot register for this test online. You need to register for the PSAT at your local high school. Register early to ensure that you get your spot. Most people only take the PSAT once but that isn’t necessarily the best idea. You can take the test 3 times, once per year until your junior year of high school. However, the only test that counts towards your entry into the National Merit Scholarship is your junior year test.

Cost

The cost for the PSAT for 2014 is $14.00. Some schools add additional costs in the form of administrative fees. If you are unable to afford taking the test you may be able to receive a fee waiver.

Benefits of the PSAT

Scholarships:

Here it is. I’m putting this one first, because I think it is the most important. College is expensive and you need to do everything you can to get your degree without taking on a life time of debt. Graduating college with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans can seriously impair your ability to win at life. It can effect when/if you start a family, where you live, what type of job you have, how much you have to work, etc. Don’t you think spending $14.00 a year and doing some studying and research on the PSAT in order to try and get some scholarship money is worth it.

NMSP image

Taking the PSAT your junior year of high school allows you to enter the competition for prestigious scholarships and to participate in recognition programs. Juniors who take the PSAT enter NMSC competitions. NMSC adds the scores of the critical reading, mathematics, and writing skills on the PSAT and uses that information as an initial screen of program entrants and to designate groups of students to be honored in the competitions.

               Designations include:
      • Commendable
      • Semi-Finalist
      • Finalist
      • Scholar

National Merit Scholars and Finalists often have a lot of full ride scholarship packages presented to them by multiple colleges and universities. Even Semi-Finalist may be able to get full ride scholarships presented to them by numerous universities. Scoring high on this test is important.

 Practice:

Of course the PSAT provides practice for taking the SAT later on. Taking it early allows you to receive feedback on your strengths and weaknesses so that you know what areas you need to work on in the future.

Comparison:

Taking the PSAT allows you to see how your performance compares with other students who are applying to college.

Spam…um, I mean College Information:

Each time you take the PSAT you have the option of filling out a student search box which will allow colleges (specifically colleges who pay the College Board to be included in this group) to start contacting you with information about their programs. Check the box if you like but beware, you will be spammed.

 

Hopefully now you know a little bit more about the PSAT and why you need to take it seriously. Next we’ll dive into how you can improve your score on the PSAT to try for National Merit Scholar status. I’d love to hear from you. If you have any insight you’d like to share, personal experience with the PSAT, or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.

 

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The Midwest Homeschool Convention

Midwest Homeschool Convention

My wife and I just got back from an amazing three days at the Midwest Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati. We went for two reasons; well actually we went for a lot more than two reasons, but for simplicity’s sake we’ll say two.

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Walking by the river between sessions.

The first was to learn about home school curriculums for our 5 year old son who is starting kindergarten this fall. Mission accomplished. We talked with countless curriculum representatives and sat in on some great workshops on homeschool curriculum. Now we’ve got a really good idea of what’s out there and what we will be using this fall.

The second reason we went was to learn as much as humanly possible (in three days) about the current education trends in America, the college admission process , and what home school students, and high school students in general, need to be doing right now to succeed after high school.

Besides learning a ton from some fantastic authors, college admissions directors, and college counselors, I also got to listen to some great speakers such as Matt Walsh, Congressman Jim Jordan, and Ben Carson.

I won’t bore you with all the information about which curriculum we chose for our son, unless for some odd reason you’re just dying to know. But, what I do want to share with you is what I learned about the college admission process and how you can seriously improve your chances of getting into the college you’re after and getting in with less debt.

As I mentioned earlier, over the last few days I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on some great workshops led by numerous college admission directors. I’ve had the chance to learn directly from the source what colleges are looking for and what students can do to significantly increase their chances of getting into college in today’s world.  Things are changing in the college admissions world and you need to know how.

I’ve also learned some really interesting things about the SAT and PAST that I can’t wait to share with you.

Skyline

Skipping out on the gourmet hotel restaurant for a little Skyline Chili.

Juniors and seniors, I spent quite a bit of time this weekend learning about how to make your high school transcript very attractive to college admission officers.

There are a bunch of other things I learned about that I’d like to share with you but it will have to wait.  For now I’m just letting you know that the blog will focus in on some of these topics over the next few weeks.  There is going to be a lot of really valuable information being shared here so keep coming back and checking it out. If you aren’t following Live Declared yet, maybe now would be a good time to start.

Thanks for reading.

And as a side note, for any of my readers who live in Cincinnati, is your entire city always under construction? Seriously, almost every road and every other building looked like it was under construction.  Other than that it was a beautiful city and we enjoyed it immensely.

 

 

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Dual Enrollment in High School

If you know that your career path includes going to college then why not consider dual enrollment? Ever heard of it? Dual enrollment allows you to earn college credits while still in high school. It’s great for students who want to kill two birds with one stone and get both college and high school credits at the same time.  Dual Enrollment

Five Benefits of Dual Enrollment

1. Exposure to College

Dual enrollment allows you to experience what college level classes will be like. It can help you understand what to expect when you are in college full time.

2. Saves Money

Earning college credits in high school can help you to graduate faster. As an incoming freshman you may not have to take a lot of the entry level classes. College is expensive. Getting through it faster is a great way to save you money.

3. Cures Senioritis

Senioritis, if you didn’t already know, is when a senior loses interest in school and checks out mentally. One way to fight senioritis is to challenge yourself by taking college level courses. It can help you to renew your sense of purpose and increase motivation at a time when it may be a struggle for you.

4. Builds Confidence

Taking college courses in high school can help you to build confidence. Once you start passing college level courses you will feel like you are able to conquer the world.

5. Previews the School

Hope fully as a junior or senior in college you’ve already taken a few college tours. Maybe you’ve spent some time visiting campuses or even spent the night. Taking college courses gives you yet another view of the college and will help you make a better decision about which school to choose.

How to Get Started

Sounds great right? So how do you get started? Well, most of the time it’s as simple as visiting the websites of your local community colleges.  On their websites they will have a section for high school students looking to enroll in their dual enrollment programs. Usually you will have to submit your official high school transcript and fill out an application.

Share

Have you ever taken a dual enrollment class? What did you think? What did you gain from it? If you haven’t taken one and you’re in high school do you plan on taking one? Share your thoughts.

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