Weighing the Pressures of Preparing for the “Next Level”

“They have no study skills.”

“They’re so unprepared for college studying, like organizing lecture notes.”

“Those high school teachers are letting my kids retake tests, and it’s making them lazy.”

These were a few sentiments I heard among a few other parents (one of whom was a college professor) while waiting to pick up our kids. That teachers just aren’t sufficiently preparing students for the next level.

This has had me asking myself tough questions ever since. A lot of them.

Like this one: Amid all my soap-box preaching about student ownership, what if, after all we do to teach our children to own their learning, they find that somewhere down the line, ownership is impossible?

When we try to focus more on powerful learning & less on “doing school,” are we doing our students a disservice for later expectations?

Where’s the line between building our kids up for what’s coming, and focusing on all their developmental needs now?

Or even, if I want my 1st grader to someday get into the university of her dreams, shouldn’t I do all I can to help her get “ahead of the curve” starting now? 

But then…

I see articles like this that suggest that kids who wait to start kindergarten for a year have fewer problems with ADHD & hyperactivity. Which makes me think (especially since kindergarten is the new first grade) that all this prep for the next level is perhaps taking its toll already.

And I see posts like Taryn Bond-Clegg’s sharing her dream of a system that supports rather than hinders a culture of student agency. Which makes me think that every action that focuses more on the here-&-now of our student’s needs helps us move closer toward a better system.

And then I see articles like this that remind us all that best practices are always the bottom line for the present:

We do not sacrifice good instruction because those in upper levels are not there yet. Instead, we employ what we know works, and we spend time mentoring those above us in what we do.

 

I still don’t have all the answers. But in the end, maybe college level study-skills can just — wait until college…

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

2016 Scholarship Awardees

The time has come to announce the 2016 multimedia scholarship winners!

The Winners:

  • Creative Writing: Rebekah Albach, accepted
  • Music: Collin Anderson, accepted
  • Video: Lucy Devin, accepted
  • Art: Jane Shallcross, accepted
  • Photography: Brooke Wright, accepted

Each prize consists of a $1,000 check to their college in their name. To see their beautiful work, visit our Past Winners page!

If You Didn’t Win:

Try again next year! Watch for the 2017 scholarship requirements this summer!

Please know that we were impressed by the tremendous passion and creativity displayed this year!  We had over 5 times the number of submissions from the 2015 year, and are grateful to everyone for making our multimedia scholarship a success. For more of the statistics on this year’s submissions, click here.

Thank you everyone for your participation!

featured image: deathtothestockphoto

Financial Aid: Helpful Advice from the HGU Team

Across the country, high school seniors are receiving their letters of acceptance to their chosen colleges.  Next up: financial aid.  Check out some advice from a few of us at HonorsGradU (most of us aren’t too far removed from that game, and some are still there) as you consider your college financing plan!


 

Scholarships

Ashley: Apply for everything!

“I never applied for any [scholarships] because I was always under the impression that you had to maintain a certain GPA or be some kind of genius to qualify for any scholarship. Turns out, I could have been earning scholarship money every year, just because my parents never went to college. Being a first generation college student can get you a scholarship. Who knew?”

Mary: Follow up with your scholarship donors!

I got a scholarship from my city’s rotary club.  Six months later, I found out that they were willing to offer additional funds if my college GPA met their standard, and I ended up getting my books unexpectedly paid for that semester!”

Ashley: Think outside the GPA/ACT’s box

“There are scholarships like ours, where you apply with an essay or a project, there are scholarships for students with specific ethnic or cultural backgrounds, scholarships for being an honor student with a great GPA, all kinds of options. All you have to do is apply, and even a tiny $50 scholarship for being a red-head would be helpful in financing someone’s education. I had a friend who spend all summer every year just scouring the web for any scholarship he could apply to. ”

Loans

Brittany: Don’t wait for graduation to start paying back

“If you can’t afford [college], take out student loans and get done as quickly as possible. Besides that, I’d say that you should pay off your interest even while you’re going to school if you can afford it! My sister has done that and says it makes a world of difference as far as how much they will owe once she’s graduated.”

Jared: Finish faster with loans instead of dragging out school

“It recently hit me that I will not be able to go to school full time without financial aid in the form of loans. Unless I get married and can get money from the FAFSA, I will have to take out student loans. It kind of still upsets me when I think about having thousands of dollars of debt after school, but I figure that I will have a good job, and I won’t have to go through school slowly. I think I prefer being able to graduate in 4 years instead of dragging it out and trying to pay for it all myself.”

Long-term Thinking

Jared: Start with a junior college & use academic advisers!

“Another option is to go to a junior college to get your associates degree. This can help you save a lot of money. If you work with an academic adviser they can help you prepare to enter a 4 year university and make sure that your credits will transfer. Community colleges are very affordable and even have programs that can help you get jobs after a 2 year degree.”

Bart: Get your finances–and your true passion–in order before you start school!

“If you think you can’t afford college, have you considered putting it off for a year, getting some real experience, and finding out what you are passionate about?”

Working During School

Bart: Find authentic job experiences during college

“Try as hard as you can to have your work while at school mean something. Find a job that has something to do with what you might want to do with your life…frankly, your work experience might be the only thing you have going for you in the job search after you graduate.”

Bart: Prioritize physical and mental health over graduating a semester earlier

I worked a job full time at night (9pm to 6am) while going to school full time. That went ok for about a year until I crashed and suddenly couldn’t function at all, and had to learn how to adjust my life to handle work and school in a more healthy manner (I cut back on classes and switched to working during the day until graduation). (see more about Bart’s story in our post on studying).

Heard of any other awesome financial advice? Share in the comments below!

Photo Credit

What Teaching Study Skills REALLY Involves

The long term effects of learning to study can stretch much further than than the average high school sophomore may think.


Bart’s Story

When Bart started school with a half-tuition scholarship that would renew yearly pending his GPA performance, his college career future looked bright.  Once classes began, however, he says he “blew off” his classes and lost the scholarship after two semesters.  This required him to get a part time job on campus, and eventually a full time job–ultimately extending the time until graduation as he had to cut back on classes in order to function.  He hadn’t realized the thousands of dollars he could lose–beyond just the scholarship itself–until it was too late.

Declining Studying Stats

Bart’s story is becoming an increasingly familiar one for college students.  Research shows a significant decline in time students are devoting to their studies.  Until the 1960’s, undergraduates spent about 40 hours per week academically.  Today, that number is down to 27 hours each week–which includes both class time and studying.  The time spent on studying alone is comparable; in 1961, it was 25 hours per week–by 2003, it had whittled down to 13 hours.

The Math and Money of Study Time

Bart urges other students to carefully examine the monetary value of their time spent studying.  Below are some figures to consider:

  • $19 per hour: studying 13 hours per week over a 16-week, $4,000 tuition semester
  • $10 per hour: studying 25 hours per week over a 16-week, $4,000 tuition semester
  • $67 per hour: studying 13 hours per week over a 16-week, $14,000 tuition semester
  • $35 per hour: studying 25 hours per week over a 16-week, $14,000 tuition semester

Whatever the tuition rate, the value of time spent studying to keep up grades and scholarships is worth more than the $7.25 minimum wage jobs students would otherwise need to work.

Genuine Preparation for the Future

University of the Fraser Valley students and teachers. Rick Collins Photography - UFV 1-604-799-0219
University of the Fraser Valley students and teachers.

Informing our students of the numbers listed above is just one small step in preparing them for the realities of college and beyond.  We believe that it is paramount that students cultivate intrinsic motivation if we hope they will dedicate every effort required to succeed in their desired field as adults.  What do the child who has always been denied sugar and the student who always been denied opportunities for self-directed learning have in common?  Both are likely to spend their time and resources unwisely the moment they gain autonomy.

That said, we also find value in encouraging “college and career readiness” strategies to help students view the long term effects of developing study skills.  An example might be teaching a third grader to develop stamina in reading a book without distraction.

As we empower students to develop such motivation and skills, our expectations of them should remain high–not out of pressure-inducing fear that they could otherwise fail in the “real world,” but out of belief in their ability succeed.  This is key in fostering the kind of love of learning now that will truly prepare them prepare them for the future.

What are some ways you prepare students for the future while still encouraging them to live and learn with passion now?  Share in comments below!

Sources:

Campo, Carlos. Jan. 29, 2013. “A Challenge to College Students for 2013: Don’t Waste Your 6,570.” Huffington Post.

Photo Credit:

Featured Image: Francois de Halleux

University of the Fraser Valley

 

 

How To Get Good Grades

Success in school is often measured by the grades you get. For some of us, getting good grades is more than difficult–it seems like no matter how we try, we can’t follow through. With this list on getting good grades (that applies to all levels), maybe we can change that and get on the path to good grades…


Five steps to getting good grades

I. Get Organized

If you’re anything like any of us at HGU, we sometimes get caught up in the organization and forget to move past the step. We sometimes find ourselves lost in endless check-lists and to-dos that never get done. Don’t get us wrong, organization is important (hence why it’s on the list), but don’t get lost in it!

  • Get a planner. Most phones have calendars, and smartphones have apps you can download for daily checklists. (See our top smartphone apps post here). At the beginning of every semester, get your syllabus and go through your calendar/planner and mark all the due dates, tests, and projects. You can even color code if you’re feeling crazy.
  • Organize your workspace. This helps avoid losing things, and it helps our minds feel in order if our space is in order. Don’t believe us? Try it out!
  • Schedule time for study. Decide how much time you need to devote to each class and pick specific times at which you will buckle down and study.

II. Learn the Information

They key to getting good grades is learning the information. This seems obvious, but so many people try to get by with cramming and learning just enough to get through each test. That method is more stressful and less predictable. Sure and steady is the way to go! As a similar warning from the organization section, don’t let your desire for perfect flash cards take you so long that you don’t actually get to study them.

  • Figure out your learning style. Are you a visual learner? Auditory? Hands-on? A combination? Figure it out, then apply those methods to your study and your in-class note-taking.
  • Read the texts. Everyone hates this, everyone tries to avoid this and most people don’t make it past this point on the list. Why? Because college reading is hard, we totally understand. That’s why we made a post with tips for college reading. If you’re not in college yet, this is still incredibly helpful and it can’t hurt to prepare.
  • Take good notes. Notes are critical to good grades, because the things that are taught in class are what you’re going to be tested on. Like we said at the first bullet of this section, your learning style demands you take notes in a certain way. If you’re an auditory learner, don’t spend the class time with your head in a notebook; instead, listen and during breaks or lulls, take a moment to write/type the things you remember from class. Write in the margins of your books. Place sticky-notes in important places. Clearly mark them.
  • Study your notes. If study guides aren’t provided by your teacher, find out what will be on the test and make your own. Review your class notes during specific study times that you’ve set apart for the day or week, even if the next test isn’t for weeks. This helps cement the information and you’ll find yourself actually learning!
  • Get friends involved. Friends or classmates are great for helping you learn the material. Ask them to quiz you. It’s important to say your answers aloud. This forces you to form your thoughts into sentences and makes concepts turn into more concrete statements.
  • Participate in class. There’s a reason participation is usually part of your grade. Those that participate in discussions, activities, and study groups are more likely to understand the information from multiple perspectives. Also, this is a great skill to practice for situations outside of school. Being able to discuss respectfully and maturely are great qualities.
  • Ask for help. If you don’t understand, ask. Teachers are there to help you. It’s literally what they get paid for. Ask the questions. If you’re not comfortable doing it in class, ask for a meeting, but sometimes you asking a question in class will help other students who might also have that same question. A lot of schools offer free tutors to students, so check out those options at your learning institutions and take advantage of them.

III. Do. your. homework. Seriously. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

The hardest part for most people is doing the assignments or readings that feel like busy work. Well, whether you like them or not, agree with them or don’t, if you want to get good grades, you have to do them. It’s important to realize we’re not entitled to good grades. You have to work for them, and like most things in life, that sometimes means doing things you think are stupid, dumb, or of no use. Good grades get you to good colleges which give you more opportunities–and then you can make the rules!

  • Do assignments ASAP. Starting assignments right after they’re assigned will help you remember and apply what you learned in class. Even if the assignment isn’t due for two weeks, do it right away. Nip that procrastination flower right in the bud.
  • Do extra credit. Yes, it is more work that isn’t required, so why would you do it? Here’s a great life lesson: people are separated in life by whether or not they choose to go the extra steps by doing more than is required of them. Boom.
  • Make homework a top priority. There’s a story of a man who has a to-do list. He prioritizes activities for the day by assigning them a number. 1’s have to get done ASAP. 3’s should be done today, but are optional. He finds he would rather start with the 3’s because they seem more fun. Don’t fall into that trap. Make priorities and stick to them. True discipline is doing the dirty work before indulgence.
  • Have study parties. If you really just need your friend-fix, invite a few friends over to work on homework. The only stipulation is that everyone must bring assignments to work on, or else conversations will spring up and no one will get anything done. Great excuse to order a pizza, too.
  • Don’t plagiarize. Just don’t. Do your own work. You might be able to fake it for a while, but no one can fake knowing things for very long–not to mention getting caught could put an end to your college career. Some schools won’t accept students who have been disciplined for plagiarism.

IV. Prepare for your Tests

  • Stop cramming. As was mentioned before, cramming is stressful and will likely make you frustrated. Some students take pride in staying up all night before a test to cram all the information they can. Wouldn’t you rather be the one who has learned the information over a long period of time, and the day before the test is simply a review of the most important information? Wouldn’t you rather approach a test calmly and with confidence? Confidence comes from a solid foundation built over time, not scrambled together all at once.
  • Get sleep. Being well-rested, eating a good breakfast, and being relaxed are great tips for life in general–especially for tests. If you have to choose between staying up to study and sleep, pick sleep. It’s much better to go to bed early and wake up early. You’ll feel better.

V. Make Good Decisions

If you want good grades, you have to make decisions of a Grade-A person. You have to be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t handle.

  • Choose the right classes. This doesn’t mean choose the easiest classes, but maybe don’t schedule your whole semester with the hardest teachers. Balance out your schedule with the hard, impressive classes AND the simpler ones. Don’t take 25 credits in one semester. Heck, don’t even take 18 unless you want to hate yourself! (Or have your grades suffer). Know your limits. Be honest with yourself.
  • ATTEND YOUR CLASSES. Does it matter how well you choose your classes if you don’t go? No. So go. Even if you don’t feel like it. With some teachers, just showing up to class is enough to earn extra points–not to mention the stress it will be to try and catch up.
  • Keep track of your grades. See how you do on tests and learn from it. Ask teachers for clarification if you don’t understand.
  • Manage your time. Be wise, young grasshopper. It’s important to be well-rounded and have a well-rounded schedule. Don’t spend 100% of your time on any one thing, or you will go insane.
  • Haters gonna hate. People might look down on you for prioritizing your studies. Who cares, do whatever feels best for you.

In conclusion, there will always be sacrifices. You may have to sacrifice a night out for a night in to finish a paper; however, if you find yourself sacrificing a social life in general, maybe you’ve given yourself too big of a workload. It’s all about balance! Have confidence in yourself! You can do it!

 

Featured Image: Stefano Montagner

Sourcehttp://www.wikihow.com/Get-Good-Grades

15 Tips for Understanding College Reading

Academic reading is hard.

We all know it, and we all have struggled at some point with the intense rhetoric. Some of us push through until we understand. Most of us throw our books down, give up, and resign ourselves to the idea that we’ll never graduate.

Luckily for those of us that have a hard time, the fine folk over at Texas State University posted some helpful hints on how to get through the reading and come away with better comprehension. See it below, modified by the Honors Grad team:

Continue reading “15 Tips for Understanding College Reading”