Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Make a Strong Finish

The fourth quarter just started.
As a quick reminder, here is a tool to predict your final grades.
Even though each quarter carries equal weight, many subjects involve scaffolding, or what you learn fourth quarter depends on your mastery of what was covered third quarter, which was built on second quarter's concepts, all dependent upon a strong foundation first quarter.
Further, because your final exams will likely be cumulative, it will be imperative for you to work to firm up those fundamental skills that you've learned throughout the year. In many cases, your performance on the final exam can mean the difference between a letter grade. And, just so you know, one letter grade by the time you are applying to college is a matter of 0.04 on your GPA. So, if you only get that C in honors Chemistry but you were hoping for As and Bs like every other course, that single C is not going to destroy your chances at having college choices.
However, you can do your best to prepare. With 8 weeks before (anticipated) final exams (four for seniors), you have time to pace yourself so you aren't cramming at the end of the quarter. And you never really understand anything you cram. Commit to an extra hour each day or five hours per week of studying and preparation. Your fourth quarter grade carries more weight than the final exam, after all - and for those who hope to be eligible for fall sports like soccer and football, your eligibility counts on your fourth quarter grades.
This is also a time of many events.
We just finished the School Day SAT for juniors. Between random absences and our representation at the VEX Robotics competition, 184 of our juniors took the SAT today.
Tomorrow is the BCPS Student Town Hall, from 11 to 12:30. Be sure to tweet your questions to Dr. Dance by mentioning @BaltCoPS, and the school district will even relax the firewall to allow access twitter from student accounts in the computer labs.
On April 23, 24, and 25, we will conduct AP Preadministration after school in the cafeteria. This allows you to bubble in your name and other identifying information without having to take precious time out of your testing experience and test practice in AP classes. If you have registered for any AP exams, be sure to attend one of these sessions.
The junior prom will be held next weekend. Juniors, be sure to buy your tickets during your lunch shift. See Ms. Bauer for information.
AP exams will take place between May 6 and 17. With the exception of World History and those students approved for accommodations, these exams will be given at the Pikesville National Guard Armory. Be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the published start time. You are responsible for your own transportation since the Armory is so close to school. Like any other school day, when you are not engaged in testing (or in transit), you are expected to be in your classes. Like any other school day, if you arrive late to school or leave early from school, you must have a note from a parent/guardian to request for your tardiness or early dismissal to be considered for being excused. You can't just skip class before or after an exam and expect things to be fine.
The senior awards program is scheduled for May 21 at 5pm. All are invited, but those who will be honored will receive notification by mail at least a week in advance.
Lastly, due to Dr. Dance's aim to attend every high school's commencement ceremony, our May 29 graduation ceremony at the Towson Center will be held at 2pm. Ticket information is available from Mrs. Adess.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The College Secret

Shh, don't tell anyone, but here is the secret to going to college:

The colleges that will admit you, and even offer you some merit-based aid, are out there, and looking for you. There is a college out there that is looking for someone who earned your grades in high school. There is a college out there that is just the right fit for your ACT or SAT scores, or may even disregard scores altogether. You'll find a college that is looking for someone who was involved in exactly the quality and quantity of activities, volunteerism, and leadership that you pursued during your high school years. There is even a college that will admit - lo, value - you, despite or even because of the setbacks you've experienced.

All you need to do is make decisions.
If you choose to spend 7-15 hours per week outside of school working on homework and studying, you're likely to earn grades better than Cs. If you choose to spend your time away from school on Facebook and watching TV, Ds will be acceptable and Cs will feel amazing. Earning As will get you into one group of colleges, Bs will get you admitted to another group, and Cs would be a good fit at some colleges. Accepting Ds will not prevent you from going to a four-year college, it will just mean taking a slight detour of 1-2 years if you're successful at community college.

Do your best on standardized tests.
We can't avoid the inevitability of standardized tests, and it is common knowledge that some of us score higher on them than others. Practice and some coaching may have a slight impact on your score, but these interventions are unlikely to raise your SAT by more than 300 or your ACT by more than 5 points. The reality is that the larger the college you apply to, the more emphasis they place on these tests. Many colleges will consider your test scores, but not nearly with as much emphasis as your essays and letters of recommendation.

Get as involved as you want to be.
The larger schools really just concern themselves with your grades and test scores. However, the goal is more about college completion than college admission, and you are more apt to be successful in the long-term if you can demonstrate academic proficiency while balancing numerous responsibilities. Consider this as the colleges doing you a favor by ensuring that you are ready to handle the multitasking that is so necessary in the professional and adult world.
The most competitive colleges assume that you have the best scores and grades in your school, and any of the 90% of applicants who are rejected could probably be successful, but there is a greater chance of admission (and definitely a great chance at a scholarship anywhere) if you have done something remarkable with your time outside the classroom, like founding your own philanthropy, single-handedly raising your own siblings, or have a recording on the Billboard top 200.

Take your pick.
As unique (based on your socio-economic, racial, sexuality, parents' education, ethnic, religious, academic, geographic, or even political background!) an individual as you are, there are quite a few options available to you, many of which you may not have even heard of... yet. The trap is falling prey to societal pressure to pursue a college that is a brand name, either because of US News & World Report's or Newsweek's college rankings, the BCS Top 25, or the NCAA basketball tournament. In reality, there are hundreds of colleges (at least one in every state) where you could be successful, many of which may even offer you financial incentives to bring your unique perspective  background to their classrooms and campus cultures.

Meet with your school counselor early and often.
It is very important to come to your school counselor's office when scheduled to do so, and to schedule your own appointments proactively. This helps us get to know you in good times and bad. In ninth grade, this will give us a chance to hear your goals and advise you in ways to achieve those goals. In tenth grade, we'll give you feedback on your ninth grade performance and push you to advance your own agenda through challenge and rigor. In eleventh grade, we'll give you a copy of your transcript, listen to your priorities for college, and offer you a starter list of schools that might offer a good fit. In twelfth grade, we'll help you keep your sanity amid the chaos that is inevitable among applying to colleges and scholarships. We can't get you into a college that is not interested in offering you admission, but we can help connect you with one that is.