What to do as an Incoming Sophomore?

College Planning: Tenth Grade

For this year, you’ll want to stay on track with your high school classes and activities and begin to narrow down the plan for your future. Carefully consider your courses and grades.


Take a practice PSAT.
Taking the PSAT as a sophomore will help prepare you for the real thing next year. It also allows you to release your name to colleges so you can start receiving brochures from them.

Start getting ready for the ACT.
Ask your guidance counselor about the PLAN assessment program offered by American College Testing. This program helps determine your study habits and academic progress and interests; it will also prepare you for the ACT. Work with an ACT/SAT tutor to target the areas you need to improve. There are many online resources as well.

Stay on track with your courses.
Work with your guidance counselor to make sure you’re enrolled in the courses you need to prepare you for college. Move on to the next level of classes in the core subjects (English, math, science, history, and a foreign language).

Begin learning about the college admissions process.
Get familiar with general college entrance requirements. The guidance counselor’s office, the library, and college Web sites are all good sources of information.

Continue exploring potential careers.
Explore your career options in more detail-research possible careers to learn about the tasks, education, and training necessary for each occupation.


Take on new roles.
Stay involved with your extracurricular activities and work toward leadership positions in the activities you like best. Become involved in community service and other volunteer activities. YES,YES YES!

Read, read, read.
Developing your reading skills will help prepare you for tests and make you a well-rounded individual. Read as many books as you can and read the newspaper to learn about current affairs.

Practice your writing.
You’ll need good writing skills no matter what path you pursue, so work on those skills now to get prepared. Find a teacher or college advisor who can advise and encourage you to write well.

Get advice from your counselor.
Meet with your guidance counselor to make sure you’re staying on track. You can also discuss your PSAT scores and ask about postsecondary enrollment options and AICE and Advanced Placement (AP) courses.


Keep your grades up.
There’s probably a lot competing for your attention, but it’s important to remain focused on doing well in your classes. Remember that your grades affect your GPA and class rank-two factors that colleges consider in the admissions process.

Start your college search.
Use our college search tools to decide what factors are important to you and see a list of results that matches your criteria. Attend college fairs and read the material you get from all types of schools-you may see something you like.

Contact colleges that interest you.
Write to schools and ask for more information about their academic requirements and any programs or activities that you’re interested in. It’s especially important to start this process now if you think you want to attend a military academy.

Consider taking SAT Subject Tests.
It’s often best to take these types of tests while the material is still fresh in your mind. In May or June, you may want to take SAT Subject Tests in the courses you took this year.

Get a summer job.
Finding steady summer work will look good to prospective colleges and employers. Putting the money you earn away for college will also help you get a head start on a personal savings plan.

via https://terc.nelnetsolutions.com/frame/article/2088/3763

What to do as an Incoming Junior.

College Planning: Eleventh Grade

This is a key year in the college planning process because you’ll be taking additional standardized tests, narrowing down your college list, and learning more about financial aid. In addition, you’ll need to stay involved in your high school courses and activities and keep your grades high.


Stay on track with your classes and grades.
Meet with your counselor to see what you still need to take. Check on your class rank and your GPA. Even if your grades haven’t been that good so far, it’s never too late to improve. Colleges like to see an upward trend.

Take the PSAT.
Taking the test qualifies you for the National Merit Scholarship program, which means you could earn money for college. In addition, it’s a good way to practice for the SAT.

Evaluate your education options.
Now is the time to follow a more specific path. Decide whether you want to pursue further education or training (such as a vocational-technical school, career college, or two-year or four-year college), or a military career. If you’re interested in attending a military academy, talk to your guidance counselor about starting the application process now.

Make a college list.
Include colleges that meet your most important criteria (for example, size, location, cost, academic majors, or special programs). Weigh each of the factors according to their importance to you and develop a preliminary ranking of the schools on your list.

Continue gathering college information.
Go to college fairs, attend college nights, and speak with college representatives who visit your high school. You may be able to narrow your choices or add a school to your list.

Organize a testing plan. (Many students start in their 10th grade)
Figure out when you’ll be taking important tests like the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP exams, and mark the dates on your calendar. You’ll want to have plenty of time to prepare.

Make sure you’re meeting any special requirements.
If you want to play Division I or II sports in college, start the certification process and check with your counselor to make sure you’re taking a core curriculum that meets NCAA requirements.


Stay involved with extracurricular activities.
Colleges look for consistency and depth in the non-academic activities you pursue. Taking on leadership roles and making a commitment to the same groups are more important than trying out tons of new activities each year.

Organize your college information.
Set up a filing system with individual folders for each college’s correspondence and printed materials. This will make it easier to locate the specific information you’re looking for.

Begin narrowing down your college choices.
Make sure you have all the information you need about the colleges you’re interested in (entrance requirements, tuition, room and board costs, course offerings, student activities, financial aid, etc.). Then begin comparing the schools by the factors that are most important to you and rank your choices.

Continue to prepare for standardized tests.
Find out if the colleges you are interested in require the SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Tests. Register to take the tests you need; most juniors take them in the winter or spring. You can take them again in the fall of your senior year if you’re unhappy with your scores.

Talk to your family.
Have a discussion about the colleges you’re interested in. Your family can learn about what you want to pursue and you can hear any concerns or suggestions they might have.

Learn more about financial aid.
Examine your family’s financial resources and gather information about financial aid from the schools you’re interested in. High-school sponsored financial aid nights and college financial aid counselors are also good sources of information.


Prepare a challenging schedule for senior year.
Meet with your counselor to determine what classes you’ll take next year and to make sure you’re on track for graduation. When you pick your classes, don’t load up on easy electives. Colleges do consider your senior year courses and grades, so stick with a schedule that challenges you.

Start a scholarship search.
There are lots of scholarships out there; you just need to spend a little bit of time and effort to find them. Check with your guidance office for scholarships from local organizations and use our scholarship search tool to find a wider range of options. The sooner you start looking for scholarships, the easier it will be to select some to apply to during your senior year.

Contact your recommendation writers. Consult the Coalition or the Common Applications to see if your chosen school is a member.
Teachers and guidance counselors are often asked to write recommendations for lots of students. Consider whom you want to ask now and let them know so they’ll have time to prepare before getting tons of requests in the fall. Ask teachers who know you well and who will have positive things to say. Letters from a coach, activity leader, or adult who knows you well outside of school are also valuable.

Apply for a summer job or internship.
Summer employment and internships in fields you’re interested in will look appealing on a college application or resume. The money you earn can also be used to help pay application and testing fees in the fall.

Set up appointments at your top college choices.
You’ll often have to plan ahead when visiting colleges. Call the admissions office to set up a personal interview, tour, and a meeting with a professor or coach if you’re interested. You can also ask them to send you an application.


Visit colleges.
Visit the campuses of your top five college choices. Take a tour and speak with the admissions and financial aid staff. You may also be able to talk to students if some classes are in session. If you have an interview, be sure to send a thank-you letter to the interviewer once you return home.

Get advice from other college students.
If you have friends or relatives in college, talk to them about what college life is like, especially if they attend a school you’re interested in. Although it’s important to hear what the admissions staff has to say about a school, it’s also important to get the students’ perspective.

Organize your financial aid information.
Develop a plan that includes a list of the aid sources, requirements for each application, and a timetable for meeting the filing deadlines. Getting organized will make the process of applying a lot easier because you’ll know where to find important information.

Start working on your application essays.
Compose rough drafts of the essays you’ll need for your college applications. Have a college counselor or teacher read and discuss them with you so you can see what to work on. Make any revisions to your essays and prepare final drafts. Don’t forget to proofread your final essays a few times.

Make early decision preparations.
If you plan to apply early decision to any school, take the time to visit the school again and make sure you’re willing to commit. If you elect to apply early decision, you should start working on your application as soon as possible because its deadline will be earlier than others.

via https://terc.nelnetsolutions.com/

Top 20 Most Used ACT words

  • adhere (verb) to stick to
  • anticipate (verb) to look forward or predict.
  • characteristic (adjective) qualities of person, place or thing.
  • compose (verb) to write or create.
  • critical (adjective) express negative feelings or criticism.
  • determine (verb) make a decision based on evidence or facts.
  • differentiate(verb) find differences
  • engage (verb) to participate or attract interest.
  • glaring (adjective) reflecting a strong light, very obvious.
  • hypothesis (noun) a starting place for investigation.
  • imminent (adjective) happening right now or within a very short time.
  • inevitable (adjective) unable to avoid.
  • intuition (noun) to see or feel the future, like a gut feeling.
  • justify (verb) to uncover a good reason for the action.
  • omit (verb) to delete
  • precede (verb) to come before.
  • redundant (adjective) to do it over and over again
  • trivial (adjective) with little meaning.
  • uniform (adjective) not changing, the same and also a piece of clothing.

What’s on Your College Application?

Your application and admissions essay should work together to tell a story of who you are and where you want to go. Ideally, your academic record indicates your interest in a particular career path. Do your extracurriculars, community service and job activities point in any particular direction? It follows that if you take AP English or creative writing, you become involved in school media, volunteer at a community newspaper, or have done an internship in media that your college major might be English or Communications. Admissions officers can decipher that much.

Your personal statement should reflect your desire to use your writing talents in your future career. Your application tells a story that admissions officers can follow. Your passion and ambition make sense. If your academic record shows no direction, your extracurriculars are random, and your community service is lacking, then your personal statement will be the only way to bail yourself out. Lacking a coherent personal statement can be detrimental to your college acceptance. Colleges don’t expect high school seniors to have all the answers but they want to know if your current interests fit well with what they offer.

What’s the best Reading strategy for the ACT?

The next ACT will be given on February 9th 2019. It’s too late to register for this one but the next one is April 13, 2019.

Most of my students who are preparing for the reading portion of the ACT find that they have one of the three flaws in their test taking experiences. The first step in fixing some of these problems is to figure out where you weakness comes from. Many high school students do not enjoy reading for pleasure. It’s sad because vocabulary weaknesses come from a lack of reading.

Strategy #1 Improve your vocabulary skills by learning the most common Greek or Latin root stems to increase your vocabulary. A complete list can be found here.  

Strategy #2 Time management skills may be improved with continued practice. If you want to use the sample ACT test provided free of charge from the ACT the youtube video will help you complete the test according to the official test times. The video is here.

Strategy #3 Understand what each passage calls for. Make sure that every word in the answer is supported by the question and passage. If just one word is not supported the answer is wrong. If your answer is too specific and can’t be used to support the main idea for example then it is the wrong choice. Your answer can’t be too broad and overreach the actual passage. The true relationship in the passage might be reversed in the answer so ready carefully. The easiest type of wrong answers are the ones that have nothing to do with what is in the passage.

Strategy #4 Try to predict what the answer should be after carefully skimming the passage. Look for your passage in the answer choices. Remember that the main idea could come from the title or first few sentences. Don’t miss what is handed to you in the beginning of the passage.

Keep practicing and remember that practice makes permanent so be sure to check your answers and keep track of what concepts you are missing. Use your mistakes to show what tests you need more work on. Check if your school accepts super-scores which are the best scores from all of your tests taken. Relax and do your best!

High Dollar College Scholarships for High School Senior 2019-2020

via US News and World Report

1. GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program: The GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program celebrates students “who demonstrate exemplary leadership, drive, integrity, and citizenship,” according to the program’s website. You must have a minimum 3.0 GPA, be a U.S. citizen and be a high school senior planning to enroll full time in college in the upcoming year. Obviously higher GPAs and all of the above qualities will be attractive to the scholarship readers and staff.

Besides writing an application essay, you’ll need a strong recommendation from a community leader, such as your principal or an elected official. Each year, around 20 students are selected; winners are typically notified in February, and they receive an award of up to $10,000. The award is renewable for up to an additional three years, so each recipient could receive up to $40,000 total. The scholarship doesn’t mention need but to be on the safe side students should always fill out their 2019 FAFSA before applying for any scholarship.

2. Gates Scholarship: The Gates Scholarship offers a full ride to 300 deserving students every year. To be eligible, you must be a minority student with financial need – eligible for Pell Grants – and have a record of academic excellence. The Gates Scholarship is closed for this year but should reopen during July 2019 for rising seniors in 2019-2020.

In particular, the Gates Scholarship committee looks for high school seniors in the top 10 percent of their class who show leadership and unique personal strengths. You must also be a U.S. citizen, national or permanent resident.

If you win this selective scholarship, you’ll get funding for the full cost of attendance of your school minus your expected family contribution as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and other aid you’ve received.


via The Gates Scholarship

To apply, students must be:

  • A high school senior
  • From at least one of the following ethnicities: African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native*, Asian & Pacific Islander American, and/or Hispanic American
  • Pell-eligible
  • A US citizen, national, or permanent resident
  • In good academic standing with a minimum cumulative weighted GPA of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale (or equivalent) 

 Additionally, a student must plan to enroll full-time, in a four-year degree program, at a US accredited, not-for-profit, private or public college or university.


An ideal candidate will have:

  • An outstanding academic record in high school (in the top 10% of his/her graduating class)
  • Demonstrated leadership ability (e.g., as shown through participation in community service, extracurricular, or other activities)
  • Exceptional personal success skills (e.g., emotional maturity, motivation, perseverance, etc.)

Expanding Your Intelligence

When you learn new connections are made from your brain cells. Never stop learning.

The Five Paragraph Essay

After spending the past five years reading scholarship essays I’m convinced that students either forget or were never taught how to write an essay. I even made a fill-in-the-banks worksheet to help students stick to the five paragraph format. I had very little success with college students. If you are suddenly faced with the task of writing such an essay you can fill in the areas below and be on your way to a successful essay:

Introductory sentence and a broad statement of your essay topic. Add a transition to point #1.

Point #1 with example and end with transition to point #2.

Point #2 with an example and ending with a transition to point #3

Point #3 with . an example and ending with a transition to conclusion paragraph.

Conclusion where you tie up all the loose ends and summarize your points and examples.

I hope this might stir up some creative juices or at least give a framework for your ideas. As always be sure to send us your examples if you’d like some help.

What’s Your Learning Style?

Often a conflict occurs between the student’s teacher and their own learning style. Knowing your own learning style can help you plan how to be most effective while studying. Richard Felder and Barbara Soloman from North Carolina State University created the Learning Styles Index in order for students to see their own learning style. The questionnaire is free to fill out and see the results. The link to the questionnaire is here.

What Matters Most in College Admissions?

(via Prep Scholar)

A great college application will have most or all of the following elements:

  • A high GPA (relative to what admitted students have) and a rigorous curriculum (Points for as many AP or AICE courses as possible).
  • Strong test scores (relative to what admitted students have)
  • A specific, honest, and well-written personal statement that talks about why you have chosen their university.
  • A unique extracurricular interest or passion (a “spike,” as we like to call it). Extra points for significant awards like the Pathfinder awards in your interest field.
  • Volunteering experience with measurable impact. Extra points for self-starting a volunteer project or charity and participating all 4 years of high school.
  • Compelling letters of recommendation written on your behalf.
  • Work experience, particularly jobs related to your academic or professional interests including internships or fieldwork.

It’s OK if you don’t have every single quality listed above, but if you do, being accepted to the college of your choice will go way up!

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