Showing posts with label GPA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label GPA. Show all posts

Monday, December 2, 2013

Task-oriented or Time-oriented?

How do you do school work when you get home? Are you task-oriented or time oriented? What does that even mean?

Being task-oriented simply means that you focus on the tasks at hand and work off of that list:

  1. History: Complete the worksheet
  2. Math: Answer problems 21-39, odd
  3. English: Read chapters 3-4 and write sentences for this week's vocab list
  4. Spanish: conjugate the verbs on this week's list
  5. Science: study for TOMORROW's test!
And how long does it take to complete the tasks on your to-do list? 45 minutes? 60 minutes? What does it really mean to study? Why would you stop at the odd problems? How did you do on the last test? Will that information ever be on any other tests to come?

Have you considered becoming more...

Being time-oriented means that you focus on the time that you spend, devoting your efforts to one content at a time.

  • Your parents tell you that being a student is your full time job: You're in class 45 minutes x 7 periods = 315 minutes per day x 5 week days = 1575 minutes per week / 60 minutes = 26.25 hours per week.
  • A full-time job is approximately 40 hours per week.
  • How should you spend the remaining 14 hours?
  • 14 hours / 5 days = 2 3/4 hours per day
How can you spend 2 hours and 45 minutes on school work each day after school?

  • Arrive home at 3:15, grab a snack
  • 3:30-4:00: spend 30 minutes on your hardest class, while you have the most energy
  • 4:00-4:30: spend 30 minutes on an easier class for a mental break
  • 4:30-5:00: spend 30 minutes on a harder class before dinner
  • 6:00-6:30: eat dinner (including your veggies) and ask your family about their day
  • 6:30-7:00: spend 30 minutes on a challenging class
  • 7:00-7:30: spend 30 minutes on a challenging class
  • 7:30-8:00: spend 30 minutes on the class where you're currently earning your best grades
  • 8:00-10:00: watch the TV shows you've DVR'ed all afternoon, check in on social media, tweet/post something positive
  • 10:00 shower (if that's your thing at night) and GO TO BED!
MAJOR CAVEAT: Honors and AP classes usually need closer to 60 minutes to ensure greater success.

Now, how should you spend the time that you are devoting to each class? Take your pick:

  • Complete the assigned homework
  • Re-write today's notes
  • Re-read today's notes
  • Pre-read for tomorrow's topic
  • Re-read old assessments
  • If you were assigned odd problems, try the even ones
  • Look up words that confuse(d) you
  • Check YouTube/Khan Academy for reviews of topics that confuse(d) you
  • If you still have time, do some practice problems for the SAT and ACT
  • If you still have time, read for pleasure.
Sorry; simply passing is not good enough. You need to do the best that you can do in order to maximize options for after high school.
It's fine to make a mistake once in a while; that's part of life, and a big part of adolescence. But you mustn't let your mistakes define you, and what you learn from your mistakes are a greater measure of your character than any achievement that came without effort.

By the way, this post - and the concept - was inspired by an inspiring book - Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

College Trailblazers

Do you represent the first generation in your family to attend college?
Did you know that there is an increasingly visible movement to advocate for students who are among the first in their family to attend - or graduate from - college?
There is even a hashtag devoted to supporting College Trailblazers - #firstgen.
There is also  documentary on the topic - First Generation.

So who are our College Trailblazers, or first generation college students?
With each passing month, the definition appears to acquiesce around a simple concept: First Generation college students are those students whose parents did not attend college. The idea of clearly defining and articulating who is included in this group is to break down barriers to higher education, since the process seems to grow more complex and challenging every year, although the new common app is trying to remedy that. There have historically been clear gaps in access to higher education, along racial, gender, and class lines, and when a student is the first in their family to apply to college, certain tasks that are necessary to the process become overwhelming, especially without parents who have been through it before.

Which is why we need to expand the definition beyond simply "students whose parents didn't attend college" to include:
  • Students whose parents didn't finish college - perhaps the parents weren't equipped with the proper infrastructure prior to college, and are possibly not informed enough to prepare their children for the multitude of developmental tasks critical for college completion.
  • Students whose "parents" may have attended or finished college, but are being raised by family members who didn't attend, or who even so far as completed colleges, but well over 40 years ago when the process was entirely different from how it works now.
  • Students who are under the care of institutional systems, and therefore whose adult supervision is often too inconsistent to give daily support and guidance throughout the process, not to mention the added challenge of needing to defer to bureaucracy when having forms co-signed and paying for things like transportation and college visits.
  • Students whose parents may have attended college, but did so in other countries, where the admissions process is entirely different - some international college admissions processes are as simple as using one test score to dictate whether - and where - a student attends college. The American system is so nuanced that it is often overwhelming to parents who emigrated to the United States. Add to that the "American Dream" of taking advantage of this newfound opportunity by giving one's child the chance to go to the "best" college in the "best" country in the world, and students are caught in a quagmire.
So what do all of these College Trailblazers have in common? Drive. Determination. The will to transcend their current situation, with the understanding that they need to work to do so, but often without the resources to help navigate. ...Right up until admissions counselors review the applications. Thankfully, school counselors and admissions committees are there to advocate for our College Trailblazers. These two groups of professionals understand the obstacles facing such an underrepresented group of students, and keep looking for ways to support them through the process.

So if you are a College Trailblazer or first generation student (by any definition), the first and most critical thing to do is to identify yourself accordingly. Meet with your school counselor and discuss the challenges you face. When you interact with admissions counselors on college visits or information sessions at school, ask them what their college does to support first generation college students. Find ways on your application and essay to remind them of how being #firstgen shapes both your dreams and your experiences chasing those dreams.

Then, follow these ten steps to college attendance, in their simplest form:

  1. Do your best in high school classes that suit both your interests and skills.
  2. Study for the SAT and ACT, and take each one at least once - register before the deadline in spring of junior year.
  3. Visit colleges in sophomore year to get a sense of what you like and dislike about college campuses, then meet with your school counselor to process those priorities.
  4. Meet with your school counselor during junior year to evaluate your transcript and make a plan for visiting college campuses that meet your priorities and academic needs.
  5. Prepare your essay during the summer prior to senior year.
  6. Apply to 4-8 colleges that you and your school counselor agree are a good fit for your interests and needs. "Apply" oversimplifies the process, but school counselors can help if you meet with them regularly.
  7. Ensure that your applications (including high school transcript, letters of recommendation, and SAT/ACT scores) arrive to the colleges to which you are applying arrive by the stated deadlines.
  8. In December, request your PIN from and do the same with whichever parent you have lived with for the majority of that calendar year.
  9. In January, complete the FAFSA at using your income and the income of the parent who requested their PIN as early in January as possible.
  10. Aid letters should go out by the end of March, and commit to the college of your choice by May 1 by sending your deposit.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges through all this is the misconception that you are alone. Once you own your #firstgen status, you can begin to identify and associate with others who share your experience. Then, it's just a matter of finding mentors and peers who support you. No one is truly alone.

If you'd like to comment on being first generation, don't hesitate to tweet with the #firstgen and/or #PHSfit hashtag!

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.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Putting it together

As we have distributed and explained the ReadiStep score reports to nearly all of the freshmen, some salient moments have occurred.

During the class session, we discuss how the ReadiStep scores are merely indicators of test-taking and problem solving skills, and help students estimate and predict their likely SAT ranges. We remind the students of the GPAs that we helped them calculate just prior to Thanksgiving based on their first quarter grades. Finally, we assist the students in activating their College Board accounts on the MyRoad module and familiarize themselves with the college search and other functions of the College Board website.

With their individualized data in-hand, students are empowered to find colleges that offer an appropriate educational fit for them. At this early stage in high school, ninth graders have the chance to either proceed as they have been for the past three months, satisfied with the post secondary choices that they see, or make changes to their work and study habits in order to meet more lofty goals.

Sophomores and juniors are also getting their PSAT scores and activating their College Board accounts, and are equally empowered to find colleges that provide a good academic fit. Please encourage all students to be proactive and schedule appointments with their school counselor so we can help them narrow or build that list of "fit" schools to about ten, to which they'll end up applying to about five.

Another interesting development in the PSAT Quickstart module is that this year, the College Board has added a pink square with a link to the students' AP Potential recommendations. This offers an excellent chance for students to take one or two courses with more rigor, to better prepare students for the challenges of college. Please consult with teachers and school counselors to find course selections for next year that make the most overall sense for each individual.

Monday, December 17, 2012

College Pathways

We took 18 sophomores to CCBC today to participate in the College Pathways Program, one of the many partnerships between CCBC and BCPS.

During this program, sophomores

  • discuss the expectations of college admissions, including the average GPA and SAT/ACT scores that students have to be admitted to colleges that are popular in this region
  • identify resources that help students find academic success in high school and in college
  • tour the campus
  • visit specific classrooms (today, we toured the allied health and nursing practical labs - including a mannequin that told us that it felt sick - as well as the automotive shop, where we saw vehicles from next year's GM model line for students to practice)
  • take a short Holland code career interest inventory and learn the value of finding a good career fit
  • stop in and see the large gymnasium that's on campus (with reminders of the March 5 college fair)
  • have lunch provided in the dining hall
This program is incredibly valuable, as it shows students what college actually "looks like," instead of being some abstract concept that the adults in their lives keep talking about, or however "college" is portrayed in popular culture. In addition, students get to see the many opportunities that CCBC offers as a means of getting their college education started with the ability to transfer to four-year colleges to complete their bachelor's degrees.

As a bonus, today's program resulted in our scheduling a Parallel Enrollment Program information session for February 7, from 6:30 to 7, immediately following the #PHSfit college fair.
The students returned in time for 7th period, and promised to check with their teachers to get caught up on what they missed in their classes!