What I Wish I Knew as a High School Junior

Dear High School Junior,

Congratulations. You’ve worked hard to get here and the end of high school is just about in sight.

But it’s a busy year, and if you plan to attend college, it’s an important one. With that in mind, I want to share a few tips to make sure you get off on the right foot.

  1. Work harder at school this year. Your junior year grades will be what colleges see as you apply next fall. You can still have fun, of course, but doing your best this year really matters.
  2. Participate in class, even if it doesn’t come naturally. Come this spring, you will be advised to ask two academic teachers to write your college recommendation letters. Those letters will be much more personal and favorable if your teacher has gotten to know you through your contributions to class discussions. Speaking up in class will get easier as you practice, and you will need this skill in college and in the workplace.
  3. Stay after school for extra help or to attend review sessions before a quiz or test. This will almost always make you better prepared. And, again, it will give your teacher a chance to get to know you and your work ethic.
  4. Work on your study skills, time management, and overall organization. You will need to be proficient in these areas to be a successful student in high school and college. If these areas are difficult, ask your parent(s) to help you find some support, either at school or by hiring an academic coach.
  5. Make sure you are involved in some activities outside of class.  When it comes time to write your essays and participate in campus interviews, you’ll want to be able to point to things you have done in addition to your academics. Volunteering, part-time jobs, clubs, sports, the arts, etc., are all valuable in this way. Plus, they can be fun and help you realize your strengths and interests. You do not need to add more activities if you are already involved in meaningful ways.
  6. Decide on your test prep plan. Most of you just took the PSAT. You can arrange to also take a practice ACT and compare the results. Pick one and then decide on your test prep plan. (If you receive accommodations for school testing, talk to school counselors to make sure you have them for these tests too.)
  7. Be vigilant about your presence on Social Media. Schools have access to this and yes, scholarships and even acceptances have been rescinded based on what they have seen on social channels. In short, if you wouldn’t want your grandmother or a future employer to see it, don’t put it out there!  
  8. Plan to visit some college campuses this fall to do some window shopping. Do your best to visit local schools of different sizes and locations (city vs suburban/rural). It is best to see schools that are realistic for you to attend so that you don’t fall in love with a school that is not an option for you.
  9. Sign up to be on the mailing list of colleges that you are interested in. That is the first step in showing your interest. Then make sure you open the emails of the schools you care about (yes, colleges track that!).
  10. Keep an open mind as you put together a list of potential colleges. There are many colleges you may not have heard of that may be a great fit for you. Don’t narrow the field too soon. Do some research – you will be there for four years (at least) – and make sure it's a good fit!

All my best for a great junior year!

Sleep – It’s More Important Than You Think!

There have been multiple studies in recent years on the benefits of regular sleep. That applies to all of us, but it’s particularly important for teens and young adults.

Sleep impacts the strength of our immune system, decreases the risk of accidents and improves academic and extracurricular performance. It also plays a big role in mood and mental well-being.

Experts say the optimal amount of sleep for teens is between 8.5 and 9.5 hours per night (not just on weekends!). Suffice to say that not many teens pull this off on a regular basis.

With that in mind, here are some articles on sleep worth reading and passing along to your student:

A sleep guide for teens

Help for those who struggle with falling asleep

Tips for improving studying without sacrificing sleep

Better sleep for those who live in a college dorm

Wishing you and your family a restful night’s sleep!

Assistive Technology To The Notetaking Rescue

In an educational context, assistive technology refers to software, apps or equipment that helps those with learning or attention differences perform better. This can be students with slower processing speed, working memory deficits, graphomotor delays, language-based learning disabilities, organizational challenges, anxiety or ADHD.

With notetaking in particular, these students often struggle once the volume and speed of material increases. For many, this does not happen until junior year of high school or even not until in college.

If your student struggles with notetaking, consider having them try one of the apps or tools listed below. They will likely benefit and, once in college, they will be happy to already be familiar with the technology.

Note that some of the tools that record a lecture will have to be approved by the school and teacher or professor. But they are becoming more and more common and receiving approval, especially if your child has a diagnosed learning disability, anxiety or ADHD.

There are just a few weeks of summer left so this is a good time to investigate any tools, technology or additional support that will help your student level the playing field once they return to school!
Five best apps / tools to help with notetaking
Free or low-cost assistive technology software, websites and apps to help with notetaking
MassMatch Assistive Technology Regional Center: Offices in Boston and Worcester
This free program for individuals with a disability has samples of equipment and will loan them out for a trial period at home. There is a searchable inventory and, as of now, they have several smart pens to loan.