Aug 31, 2009

College Relief

For the last few weeks, we’ve been going through some of things students must think about when it comes time to apply to college. From picking the right school to dealing with senior year issues, anyone looking to take their education on to the next level will certainly have a lot on their plate. Fortunately, this post won’t give you any more to worry about- this week we’re giving you short cuts to college relief!

Depending on your goals, admissions can come at a variety of times. There are many different types of admission plans, such as early decision, early action, and rolling enrollment. If you can’t seem to stop stressing about getting into college, consider applying for early action or rolling admissions. These types of enrollment do not require a commitment if you happen to get in, and allow more anxious students the opportunity to get a school “under their belt” should they choose to get things done early. Once you know you have at least one option available to you, those other acceptance/rejections letters coming in the mail won’t seem nearly as scary!

Dorm life could also make things pretty stressful. Maybe you’re not used to living with another person, or maybe your roommate doesn’t have the same study habits as you. One way to make integration into this new lifestyle a bit more relaxed is taking some time to get to know your future roommate. First, get some kind of contact information from your school prior to the move-in date. Then, be the first to engage him or her in a “get-to-know-you” conversation. This could mean a phone call, email, or even a Facebook wall post. A simple “hello” could make the shock of your first day on campus much more easy going.

One final note on tests- practice won’t always make perfect, but it certainly makes it a lot easier! If you are worried about an upcoming exam, such as the SAT, take a quick practice test. Seeing the multiple choice answers, the bubbles waiting to be filled, the wording and phrasing of the questions, and the pressure of a ticking clock could make even the most battle-hardened test-taker choke. Take a second to familiarize yourself, and you won’t get that “deer-in-the-headlights” look when your proctor hands you the workbook.

Aug 24, 2009

Some Real College Goals

There are plenty of parents out there who seem obsessed with the multitude of college application numbers: SAT scores, acceptance rates, grade point averages…the list goes on and on. And sure, there are many topics to consider when going through the drawn-out process of applying to college (such as picking the right school for you, what to do during senior year, and writing the application essay). But while all these things are important, too often the end result is a lack of vision for the future. We aren’t talking about next summer, or next year, or even halfway through your college career. At the end of the day, all the hard work you put towards going to college should be for one thing: happiness.

Take this example- say there’s a student who is thinking about becoming a doctor. Let’s call her Mary. Perhaps Mary’s parents have encouraged her to go to med school and start her own practice. As high school starts to wind down and the college application process looms larger on the horizon, Mary isn’t sure about what direction she should go in, so she decides to take her parents’ advice and become a doctor. Mary begins to search for the ideal pre-med program, she researches acceptance rates for graduates at the top medical schools, and she even writes her college essay on how she wants to be a doctor.

But when the time comes for admission interviews, Mary is asked over and over why she wants to be a doctor. She may answer generically about ambitions to help people and having a curiosity about human anatomy, but when peppered for specifics, she draws a blank. Mary has never volunteered at a hospital, never taken any classes on medicine, and suddenly, her ambitions seem more like a passing interest than a passion. Even if she is accepted, she may find that her new path towards becoming a doctor isn’t quite what she expected. Unless you truly have a deep commitment to an endeavor as grueling as becoming an MD, chances are you won’t want to actually to go through the process of becoming one.

That long-winded example hopefully illustrated the following point: it’s important to follow your own interests before anyone else’s. If you don’t have a good idea what those interests are, that’s OK! There is time to figure it out if you plan properly. The summertime is a perfect opportunity to pursue potential interests. Volunteer or intern in the fields you may want to work in one day. Try new and exciting things and find out ways to make money by doing what’s fun. Even in college there is time- many people change their major, occasionally multiple times.

The more things you try, the better. Additionally, the earlier you try them, the higher your chances will be for success. The more experiences you have, the more likely you are to find the perfect fit for you. And as the old adage goes, if your profession is something you love, you won’t work a day in your life!

Aug 17, 2009

Picking the Right College

Last week we took a look at senior year and the process of applying to college. This week, we’re going a bit backwards and taking a look at what to look for when the moment comes to start picking out the college for you.

A lot goes into the decision-making process for something this important, and many consider price to be one of the most narrowing aspects of college choice. Prestige, public vs. private, and popularity are all contributors to the bottom line of annual tuition. However, it’s important to remember that financial aid is in place to help those in need get to college. The more in need a student is, the more likely they are to receive aid. If you think you qualify for this kind of support, do as much research as you can into the types of financial aid available. Although application processes are often lengthy and exhaustive, the reward could be a free ride to the school of your

Many people believe that community colleges are a viable alternative to a full stint at a four-year institution. Getting a bargain price on that pricey diploma may sound tempting, but take the advice of Beth Pickett, host of “Countdown to College Radio”: "Community colleges are inexpensive, but many also have a surprisingly low rate of sending students on to a four-year college. Many students who start out at community college never get their bachelor's degree.” Getting all the classes you need is often challenging, and could take much more than the 2-year allotment you give it. However, this is still an option that is possible, but you must be highly motivated to pull it off.

Next, consider where you would like to live. Do you like sun and sand, or snowboards and scarves? Big-city lights or wide-open country? Down the road from Mom and Dad, or several states in-between? Location really is everything when you think about the amount of time you will spend doing things other than studying. Try to imagine all the fun activities that might encompass.

Size is also a critical part to choosing the right school. While some prefer small classes, with a tight professor-student connection, others like giant lecture halls and massive crowds. The smaller you go, the more intimate your relationships will be, both with the faculty and other students. With bigger student populations comes more diversity and experiences. Those with an independent streak may prefer a larger school, while individuals who prefer contact might want to stick with something smaller. Beth delved a bit deeper into this particular topic in a previous "Countdown to College Radio" broadcast, which can be found here.

So much has to go into picking the right school that a lot of students forget one of the most crucial parts to the whole process- your intuition. While objectivity is great, your gut should also have a say. And remember, the best choice is always going to be one that you make.

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Aug 10, 2009

Going to College and Senior Year

Ahh, senior year- the top of the food chain, the peak of the high school pile. It’s a year when normal students are transformed into outbound travelers; ready to take the next step, wherever it may lead. For many, that next step is college, and even for the most ambitious student in the world, it can be quite tempting to take a little break. After all, you just went through three tough years of school, and now that it’s coming to a close, you deserve a vacation, right? The answer is a definitive yes. But if you want to go off to college, that vacation shouldn’t kick into high gear until the summer months start rolling around.

Teachers, parents, and councilors alike will lecture on and on about the dreaded “senioritis”- an awful affliction that stuns otherwise normal students into total academic paralysis. While some of these stories may be a bit exaggerated, the truth is most college-bound seniors are simply overwhelmed by the time consuming, energy expending, exhaustion inducing process that is the college application process. Standardized testing, credit transfers, financial aid… the list goes on and on. Pile on top of this the responsibility of choosing where you want to spend the next several years of your life studying, and it’s no wonder seniors are finding their normal course load coming second on the to do list.

Taking care of all these different requirements in the course of one academic school year comes down to one thing- planning. Thankfully, the same principles for regular time management apply. Get a big calendar and start writing down due dates, test dates, and any other important deadline you may have. This will help keep you on track and minimize last-minute stress sessions.

Another important tip is to apply to many schools, not just a few. There should be three tiers to consider- reach schools, ideal schools, and safety schools. These tiers coincide with your odds of gaining admittance, from low to high, respectively. This is where research becomes so important- every school you apply to must be a place you want to go to, otherwise, why apply?

One place to find a plethora of information on this subject comes from "Countdown to College" radio host Beth Pickett. In this timely interview, Beth picks the brain of Fred Zuker, President of Lambuth University in Jackson, TN, and covers just about everything there is to know about this crucial moment in a student's career.

As you work your way towards that high school diploma, don’t lose sight of your goals, both in the long and short term. Picking the right college is a tremendous opportunity for personal growth and independence. With just a little bit of planning and sustained effort, you won’t stumble with the next step.

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Aug 3, 2009

Socializing, Emotion, and the Brain

It should come as no surprise that we here at HippoCampus love the brain. We love how flexible it is, the amount of stuff it can learn, and just how powerful each and every individual can be when using his or her brain correctly. There has been plenty of talk on this blog about the many ways someone can go about making their brain as good as it can be (such as with diet or exercise). In continuation of this cognitive improvement theme, we’ll make another brief foray into what researchers are learning about the way we learn.

According to a recent Science Daily article, social interaction plays a much more major role in learning than previously thought. The subtle nuances of learning from another person, face-to-face, helps facilitate the connections needed to synthesize information. This includes things like eye direction, or when gaze is lead by another who is looking at something.

The article goes on to explain the utilization of social technologies. Interactions that occur on Facebook or Twitter are not the same as sitting down with an experienced tutor, however, social networking tools remain crucial to understanding the application of technology to learning. The ubiquitous nature of these applications is a testament to their social importance and ease of use, and if used correctly, would teach much about how technology could fit into the learning environments of tomorrow. The key is creating something that incorporates the benefits of technology (such as accessibility and power of integration) with the benefits of face-to-face interaction (such as gaze direction).

Another fascinating article, this time published by eSchool News, outlines recent developments in the understanding of emotion in learning. Assistant professor Mary Helen Immordino-Yang has worked with the latest brain imaging technology to discover that when there is an emotional trigger of admiration, the body responds generally with a positive overall performance. This counters the argument that decisions are best made with cold, hard rationality alone.

The discovery coincides with previous advice to eat well and exercise. Exam preparation should include general and mental health alongside studying. If you feel good and healthy, chances are you’ll learn better as a result.

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