Tag 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 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.


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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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.


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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A Better Option


Ever heard this advice, “If you don’t know what major you want, go as an undeclared student. You can decide on your major after a few basic courses.”? Sounds like an “okay” idea doesn’t it? It seems like a pretty harmless plan and I suppose if you are going for an “okay” plan then it will suffice.

But you don’t want an “okay” plan. You want a remarkable plan.  You want a clear and intentional plan and being undeclared has no place in your plan.  The idea that you can take a few 101 courses and suddenly “find yourself” is just plain dumb and it is unnecessarily expensive.

If you are absolutely certain that college is a part of your plan, then a better option is to audit a college course while you are still in high school. A lot of high schools have dual enrollment with colleges.  Earning college credits while still in high school is an excellent way to go. If you are closer to graduation or don’t have the previous options available, you could also attend a community college and take a few courses without living on campus or accruing big expenses from a larger university.  Sometimes it is a good idea to take a gap year as well. Taking a year off after high school can often help you realize what you like, and often more importantly, what you don’t like. Of course when I say “taking a year off” I do not mean staying at home and bumming off of mom and dad. Taking a year off involves working, volunteering, and engaging in serious self-development.

Going to college undeclared is an option, but in my opinion it is rarely the best one.

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Don’t Judge a Plan by its Overalls

The year is 2002; the beginning of my senior year. I remember sitting in my high school career prep class with my guidance counselor and listening to the statistics about those individuals who went to college versus those who did not.  She said that if I were to go to college I would make on average $50,000 a year more than someone who went straight into the work force out of high school.  I would have a lot more job flexibility and I would be more desirable to all employers. It was implied that if you were able to go to college that you were supposed to go to college, it would make you elite.

I then remember looking over at the student next to me who was going to a mechanic work program half days and school the other half and I thought, “ you poor pimply faced soul, you are going to lose at life before you even begin. He had already been promised a job at the shop he was working at and was planning on working there for the foreseeable future.  He was wearing bib overalls and his fingernails were always greasy. That didn’t seem very prestigious to me.   College it is I said, “Sign me up.”

My bachelor’s degree is in education. When I chose that degree I closed my eyes and said “if I could do anything in the world and money wasn’t a factor what would I do?” I chose teaching. I like teaching. I have nothing but respect for teachers. However, the problem is that money is a factor when it comes to career planning. The night of my college graduation I found myself at 22 with a passion to teach and the potential to make a very modest $30,000 a year.  You see, what my guidance counselor failed to tell me is that at the end of those four years of education I would have a new high maintenance girlfriend named Sallie Mae.  Now I’m not blaming her for my woes. My guidance counselor was a nice lady who really seemed to care about her students. I’m also not saying I’m an idiot.  I was just a little unaware of what I was getting into. I knew that college was expensive and I knew that I would have to pay it back someday, but those ever growing numbers on my loan seemed so far away, until the morning after graduation.

I hesitate to play the “If I could go back would I do it the same?” game.  But I will, and I would not have done it the same. I would have done things much smarter and more intentionally.  The transition from high school to college can feel like a conveyor belt sometimes and you may find yourself on it heading full speed in a direction you’re not even sure you want to go. Looking back, I realize that I would have greatly benefited by having had a better plan right from the start.  It is my goal with this blog to help you access the resources you need and to spark the ideas that will help you develop a clear and intentional plan for the future.

By the way, that young mechanic with overalls and greasy fingernails that I mentioned earlier did have a plan. While I was accruing four years of debt at a private university, he was working. After high school he did a series of paid apprenticeships and learned some very specific skills. He received several raises and moved up the ranks at his shop. His salary four years after high school was over $60,000. He did all this while getting paid, not while paying someone else.

He had a plan.

Turns out it was a good one.

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