Extracurriculars That Will Boost Your College Application

By Savannah Wardle 

Healthy Lifestyle Seamless Pattern

So many extracurriculars to choose from, so little time…

Everybody knows that extracurricular activities look good on a college application. But which activities are the most impressive? And how many extracurricular activities should you aim to include? There are a few key things to remember when choosing extracurricular activities with a college application in mind.

Firstly, less is sometimes more. Dedication to a few activities you’ve engaged with for years gives colleges a much better idea of your interests and staying power than many shorter term activities that have been picked up and dropped.

Secondly, the extracurricular activities themselves don’t really matter. It’s how you use them to develop and demonstrate your skills. The single fact that you enjoy snowboarding is unlikely to impress a college applications team. Instead, they want to know about the skills and attributes you gained through that snowboarding experience, of which there will be many.

Here are a few extracurricular activity examples and tips for how to reference them in your college application:

Subject Related Activities
Subject related activities can help to show your commitment to the subject you want to study at college. If you want to study journalism, you could write for your school newspaper. Or if you want to train in the medical field, try to get some work experience in a local medical center. You could also sign up to nationwide competitions that demonstrate your abilities in a particular area. Including a subject related activity on your college application will help to show how passionate you are about your chosen subject, a quality all colleges will look upon kindly.

Volunteer Activities
Being able to say that you regularly volunteer within your local community can look really good on a college application. Work for a wildlife conservation organization, sign up to a mentorship program for disadvantaged children or even go to volunteer abroad during your vacations. This kind of charitable work shows a certain type of personality – someone with a sense of responsibility and empathy. It can also help to develop skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving and awareness of perspectives other than your own. Talk about the things you’ve learned and the skills you’ve gained in a college application to really make the most of your volunteering experiences.

Sports
Whatever your sport of choice – skiing, snowboarding, football, hockey or gymnastics – it can look amazing on your college application if you have the right approach. You need to show real commitment to developing your sporting skills– skiing ability alone won’t get you a place at college. If you enjoy a particular sport, set yourself personal goals and record how you went about achieving them. Or teach beginner skiers to tackle their first slope. Extracurricular sporting activities help to show your confidence and your dedication. They can help to show colleges that you’re a passionate and well-rounded student.

Arts
If you love to perform on stage or work behind the scenes, conduct or play in a band, create art or critique it, you can use these experiences to boost your college application. As with sports, passions of this kind help you to communicate to colleges the kind of well-rounded and dedicated person you are. Talk about your own progress and successes in these fields or demonstrate the fact that you’ve shared your knowledge with others to really make your extracurricular achievements shine.

The extracurricular activities you choose to do while at school are likely to take up a lot of your time. You shouldn’t pick activities just because they’ll look good when you apply for college. Instead, find things you’re truly passionate about. That way you can boost your college application and have lots of fun at the same time.

About the author: Savannah Wardle works at Snowpak. She is an experienced traveler who loves winter sports and mountains. Whenever not working, she’s at the slopes in the US, Asia or Europe. She’s also interested in photography and film-making.


Looking for other ways to boost your college application?  Check out The Secrets of Top Students for more tips, tools, and techniques.

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Simple Ways to Schedule Study Time in a Productive Environment

By Kira Carr

Ask any high school or college student what their biggest challenge is, and you will inevitably get a reply that involves ineffective time management. Along with dozens of assignments per subject, a student must also work on long-term projects and study for final exams. It’s not surprising that time management is an issue for students, especially in today’s digital world. With so many apps and games at their fingertips, which are not only easily accessible but also powerfully addictive, making time for homework and studying can be difficult.

To help students create a productive environment so they can do more work in less time, I have created this list of useful tips. As a student, you may find that making some minor changes to your schedule will have a big impact on your grades.

Create a Favorable Studying Environment

Declutter and Tidy Your Desk

According to scientific studies, physical clutter limits your ability to focus.  An uncluttered study area can help your brain process information.  Keeping your desk neat and clutter-free is also important because if the place where you do your homework is not inviting enough, it will discourage you from even visiting that place. If you keep your study area clean and well-maintained, you may even look forward to sitting down to complete that science assignment.

Eliminate Distractions

In addition to having a tidy environment, you should also try to eliminate electronic and noise distractions from your study area:

  • While working on your assignments, make sure that your room is quiet enough. Ask your family members to lower the volume of the TV or other electronic devices.
  • If you are not someone who likes silence, try playing soothing music in the background while you write your assignment. (Editor’s note: instrumental Baroque or classical music is an especially good choice for study music.)
  • Switching off or keeping your phone on silent mode can be helpful too. The smartphone is the number one distraction for many students. Your concentration will be so much better if you aren’t being disturbed by continuous notifications from your apps.
  • Social media is another source of distraction. If you use a computer for studying, it is best to block social media sites like Facebook and Instagram for a period of time. Otherwise, one post will lead to another and soon you’ll wonder where all your time went.

Get Organized

Create a To-Do List

An effective way to complete all your assignments is to make a daily/weekly to-do list. When you get up in the morning, write down all the important activities that you need to finish that day. Create a separate section for homework and assign specific time periods for each activity. Stick this list somewhere on your desk and get going!

Try a Trello Board

In case you are not a fan of regular to-do lists, you can try Trello, which is more fun. It lets you create boards and tasks using color codes so that the activity becomes easier to track. You can also invite your friends to your board and work in collaboration, which is great for group projects.

Time Management

Set Specific Study Times

Many students have difficulty finishing their homework due to poor time management. You can fight this all-too-common problem by making a timetable (click here for an example). Assign specific time periods for your homework and studying and follow this schedule closely for at least three weeks. (Some people say it takes about 21 days for a person to master a habit, although this is debated by experts.)

As a lecturer, I always gives these tips to my students to help them manage their workload. Schools and universities give out a lot of assignments these days, and it is up to you to manage your time accordingly. Your high school and college days are supposed to be filled with enjoyment. Follow these tips to make sure that you make your days both productive and worthwhile.

About the Author – Kira Carr has been a high school teacher for the past 4 years, and also has experience in student counseling and curriculum management. She currently manages student programs at a national university in her hometown in Alabama and works as an editor at Writersdepartment.


Wondering how the most academically successful students handle time management?  Then check out The Secrets of Top Students, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

3 Ways to Fight Social Media Distractions When You’re Studying

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re having a good summer!  I recently got an email from a student who asked a good (and very relevant) question.  I thought I’d share it here, and my response:

I’m currently in the process of reading your book (which by the way is the most helpful reading material I have ever come across) and I’m still a little confused on how to get rid of distractions/how to focus. Even if I do things like turn off my phone/social media/turn off the Wifi, my mind still remains distracted and I cannot help but think about possible notifications I have on my phone. Do you have any recommendations for this?

signs

Is social media keeping you from concentrating?  You’re not alone.

My response:

It sounds like you’ve taken some good steps towards fighting distractions! Here are my suggestions for what else you can do:

  1. Study with instrumental (non-vocal) classical or Baroque music in the background, if you don’t already. I find composers like Mozart help me tune out distractions and make it easier to stay focused. (In fact, I’m listening to a Mozart violin concerto right now.)
  2. Turn off the notifications on your phone completely! Don’t be a slave to the bell. Just check your social media, messages, etc., at certain times, rather than having your phone alert you when new things come in. This will, hopefully, reduce temptation and re-train your brain.
  3. Think of social media as a way to take a break after a good, productive study session. Say to yourself something like, “Okay, I’ll read my textbook for an hour and then treat myself by looking at Facebook for five minutes.”  This will give you positive reinforcement for studying; and alternating between deep concentration and something less taxing helps to keep your mind fresh.

I hope this helps!

Stefanie

Exam Preparation 101: Best Ways To Prepare For College Exams

[Editor’s Note:  The advice expressed in this article is the author’s own and is not necessarily endorsed by The Valedictorian’s Guide.]

By Jim Raychrudhury

Preparing for the final examinations can be challenging if you don’t know where to begin and how to go about it. Many students use ineffective techniques that increase their risk of getting poor grades. Here are tips on how to prepare for your examinations effectively.

How to Succeed in School and Still Have a Little Fun

Create a Study Schedule

You need to stay engaged throughout the semester to increase your chances of passing the final exams. One way to stay engaged is to create a study schedule. A good strategy is to devote 60 to 90 minutes a day for each subject in which you will have a final exam. Figure out what time of the day you are most productive and how long you can maintain focus. You might also want to consider the environment you best study in. Come up with a detailed schedule based on these factors.

Organize Study Groups With Friends

For some people, it’s helpful to join a study group. A study group provides more brain power and motivation if done well. Keep your study group to a small size to avoid distractions. A group of more than six people is unlikely to be effective. You should also ensure everyone has exchanged contact information to enable you to reach each other and plan your studies easily.

Improve Your Memory With Brain Food

Eat foods that can power up your brain and make it very effective during the exam period. This is the time you want to see your plate full of arugula, radish, turnip, broccoli and cauliflower. You might also consider berries, walnuts and fish. You should also drink a lot of water to help flush out toxins from your brain.

Study Every Day

You need to study every day to increase your chances of passing the exam. Devote a bit of your time every day to the courses you prioritize. This will help reduce the levels of anxiety caused by cramming at the last minute. It might help to incorporate study time into your planner just like any other daily activity and stick to it.

Get Enough Sleep

Do not study deep into the hours of the night before the exam. Trust what you have captured and go to sleep. Lack of sleep will impair your reasoning and memory significantly. Just approach the exams with confidence and believe you will pass. Be wary of using coffee or other substances to boost your energy levels. Such options may throw your body off-balance for the rest of the day.

Figure Out What Will Be Covered During the Exams

You have to know what materials are going to be tested so that you can limit your study to them. This includes readings, discussions and materials from the lecturer. Make sure you know whether the exams will cover the content since the midterm or for the whole semester.

Take a Mock Test

Do not just cram the whole day or summarize the contents you are reading. Instead, test yourself using flash cards or take practice exams. This technique is more effective if done repeatedly.

Attend Review Sessions

Make sure to attend review sessions organized by the lecturers or other students. Review sessions will help you identify exactly what topics to focus on during the study. Some lecturers will give you a full list of what will be tested. This information can help you save time by focusing on the relevant areas.

Take Regular Breaks When Studying

Sometimes it is good to allow your system to cool down and reboot. Take breaks at intervals of one hour for at least five minutes. Avoid checking your email or going on Facebook during breaks since you are likely to get carried away. You can also alternate study spots to enhance your concentration levels and increase the rate at which your brain retains information.

You don’t have to burn the midnight oil to pass your exams. You just need an effective study plan. Try the tips discussed above, and you will have yourself to thank later.

Author Bio:  Jim Raychrudhury is a freelance writer and passionate blogger who likes writing articles that cover career, education and business related topics. He has written numerous articles and contributed to several other blogs. When he is not writing, he enjoys spending time outdoors with his family.


Want study tips from valedictorians, Rhodes scholars, and more?  Then check out The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College.

Why Students Should Turn the Internet Off When They Study

By Stefanie Weisman

[Editor’s note: This article was originally posted on the Freedom website and has been re-posted with their permission.]

Okay, I admit it.  I’ve been having a little problem in the self-control department lately.  No matter what I tried to do – write an article, do research, read a book, etc. – I found myself typing the url of some distracting, time-wasting website, with Facebook being the worst offender.  It was a rather bizarre feeling, as if my fingers had acquired a mind of their own.  Before I knew it, I had been sucked into an internet black hole of silly videos and mindless trivia, which used up a good chunk of my time and energy.

My situation is hardly unique.  In my experience as a high school and college study skills expert, I’m constantly reminded of the problems caused by excessive internet usage.  On average, teens spend nine hours a day using media for entertainment – that’s more time than they spend sleeping and far more time than they spend studying.  Many students use social media and other “fun” sites while they’re studying or doing homework.  They may think such media multi-tasking doesn’t hurt their concentration, but study after study has shown this not to be the case.  According to a pioneer in this field, the late Stanford professor Clifford Nass, “people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits. They’re basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks, including multitasking.”  In a 2012 study, researchers found that using Facebook and texting in particular were associated with lower GPA.

But as we all know, it can be hard to give up things that are bad for us.  The instant gratification we feel from sending a Tweet or getting a Like on our Facebook post creates a dopamine loop in our brains that makes us hungry for more.  We can all use a little help in the fight against bad habits.  Which is why, when I was given the chance to try Freedom, a program designed to eliminate distractions on the web, I jumped at the opportunity.

After downloading Freedom, the first thing I did was set up a recurring block of Facebook and other sites I have a weakness for, such as YouTube and Netflix, during the work day.  I was struck by how freeing it was to know these sites were off-limits.  My need to check on my friends seemed to evaporate, and my productivity increased.  At times when I needed complete concentration, I chose to block all websites – easily done on Freedom by checking a box.

freedom_full_view_cropped

A view of what the Freedom dashboard looks like on my computer.

I quickly discovered that Freedom has many features that make it superior to, say, disabling the wi-fi on your computer.  While shutting down wi-fi is an all-or-nothing solution, Freedom helps you fine-tune your internet consumption.  You can create multiple Blocklists, allowing you to block as many or as few websites as you want with the click of a button.  Freedom conveniently lets you choose from a list of the most commonly used (or should I say abused) social media sites, and you can manually enter any other sites you find distracting.  You can put these Blocklists into effect at any time or schedule them for recurring Sessions, which is great if you know you want to avoid certain sites at the same time every day, and sync your Sessions across multiple devices.  Perhaps most importantly, Freedom can keep you from giving in to temptation.  The problem with disabling your wi-fi is that you can easily turn it back on again.  With Freedom, you can select Locked Mode, which makes it virtually impossible to access the internet (or specific sites) for up to 8 hours.

This software would clearly be a great tool for students.  Those who use their PCs to take notes could set up a recurring block of all websites during class time, thus avoiding the distractions associated with in-class laptop use.  Similar blocks could be set up when studying for exams or writing papers.  And when students need the internet to do research, they can block social sites that would keep them from their work.

I used Freedom on a Windows PC and an iPhone.  Here are a few tricks I learned on how to use Freedom most effectively on these devices:

  • When I had a Session going in Locked Mode, I realized I was still able to end the Session by selecting “Quit” on the Freedom desktop icon. To fully enable Locked Mode, go to Options on the desktop icon and select “Disable Quit During Sessions.”  Developers will be syncing this to Locked Mode to eliminate confusion.
  • Having multiple Sessions going at the same time may cause unintended consequences. At one point, I had to restart my computer to regain access to the internet after a Session had ended.  To avoid this, select “Sync Freedom” on the desktop icon.
  • You may still be able to access the Facebook app on your mobile device during Sessions that are supposed to block the site. Developers are working on a way to block the app, but in the meantime, use this work-around.

I’m especially looking forward to the time when Freedom has a whitelisting feature, which developers are hard at work on.  This means that users will be able to block all websites except the ones they specify.  I would love to be able to access my email and a few other sites while blocking the rest of the internet.

I’ll leave you with one last thought, which in my view is pretty amazing: I haven’t checked Facebook once while writing this article.


Want more study tips?  Check out The Secrets of Top Students.

Do Sweaty Students Make Better Students? The Connection Between Exercise and Better Grades

By Mathew Jade

It’s no secret that college students have jam-packed schedules. There are classes to attend, assignments to submit and socialization to be done. It’s hard enough to find time to sleep, let alone squeeze in regular exercise. You may ask why it’s important – there will be plenty of time to get fit once college is over, right?  However, what I was taught during my MBA, and what has long been taught in all top-notch business schools, is now being backed by scientific evidence: Regular exercise does not just keep you physically fit but also provides important cognitive benefits that can help you perform better in class – or in pretty much any setting where you need to use your brain cells.

Healthy Lifestyle Seamless Pattern

So how exactly does exercise help? Let me elaborate

  • Exercise acts as a stimulant for brain cell development

For more than a decade, neuroscientists and physiologists have been gathering evidence on how exercise affects brainpower. Recent experiments have proved that there is a definite relationship between exercise and improved cognitive abilities.

For example, the New York Times published the results of a study led by Justin. S. Rhodes, a psychology professor in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois. His study involved running experiments on four groups of mice. The mice who were given exercise wheels had marked improvements in brainpower. Mice exercising had more neurons – that is, brain cells – than those which did not.  In addition, the mice exercising regularly had developed more complex connections between neurons, meaning they could think faster.  Substitute a treadmill for a hamster wheel, and there’s a good chance you’ll see better grades over time.

  • Exercise will help you be more focused

A Canadian school that caters to learning-disabled and ADHD children carried out an experiment in 2009, in which children exercised for 20 minutes on treadmills or exercise bikes before starting math lessons. Teachers noted a marked improvement in students’ concentration levels, information retaining capabilities, and their overall motivation to study.

  • Exercise relieves stress

We all know college is a stressful time. It’s a challenge to get enough sleep, and there’s tons of work to do. Exercise, even if it is 15 minutes a day (high intensity, enough to jack up your heart rate and breath) leads to the release of endorphins. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that keep stress at bay. So exercise can reduce stress and help you work your way through college more effectively.

Exercise is very important in college. Not only will it keep your brain sharp, but it will also help you stay physically fit. It’s common for students to suffer from the “Freshman 15” – that is, the 15 pounds freshmen pack on in the first year due to limited exercise and unhealthy diet. And following an exercise regime is something you should do for life. For example, Hong Kong business magnate Allan Zeman does 90 minutes of exercise every morning without fail; Zeman once made a U.S. president wait so he could complete his daily exercise routine.

About the author: Mathew Jade is a passionate blogger who loves to write on Economics and finance-related topics. For further updates follow @Mathew_Jade


Looking for more mind-brain study tips?  Check out The Secrets of Top Students, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The Importance of Friendship in High School and College

By Sarah Lockwood

Sarah Lockwood is a concerned parent and former social worker. Having worked with the public for decades and after watching her own daughter struggle with addiction, Sarah knows all too well the devastation that can be caused by drug and alcohol abuse. Sarah’s daughter is now in recovery, but her experiences with substance abuse inspired Sarah to get involved with ThePreventionCoalition.org. She plans to spread awareness and support through her work for others dealing with addiction. While Sarah devotes a lot of time to the Coalition, she makes sure to relax and enjoy the small things in life, as every day is a gift.

We all know growing up is not easy. Thankfully, the close connections built in high school and college help young adults survive the hard times and can even shape their personalities and lifestyles through adulthood. Part of the reason adolescents become so close to friends during those years is because they aren’t quite as guarded as people tend to be later in life. The tight bonds created with friends serve as powerful forces that impact choices, behavior, and attitudes. They can also provide valuable support systems for the tumultuous teenage years. Sometimes these friendships may even last a lifetime.

teens and connections

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