Monday, January 21, 2013

Make This Your Best Semester Yet

School is back in session, make this your best semester yet!

Here are nine tips to make this semester truly great:
  1. Get Organized - Write everything down, review your lists regularly and create an inbox at home so that your work is visible, glaring at you until you get it done. If you would like more ideas on getting organized check out our August, 31st 2012 blog article on organization.
  2. Know Your Teachers - Make an effort to know what they like and dislike, how they prefer to see your assignments. Being in the good graces of your teachers has a subtle effect on your grade.
  3. Find a Mentor - This could be a tutor, guidance counselor or family friend. Try to find someone whose success at academics, sports, art, etc, inspires you.
  4. Search Out Free Resources - Use websites like Textbook Tactics to help you with your math, Evernote to help with your organization and Cliff Notes to help with your English.
  5. Get Involved - Join a club, a sports team or a volunteer group. Go out and get active in the things that you love in life. You will find yourself inspired and doors will open for you.
  6. Speak Up - Ask for help when you need it and tell your teacher when you don't understand something. You are not alone, the rest of us don't get it sometimes too. Find or make a study group with your friends from class.
  7. Read - I'll say it again, Read. Read what is assigned and what isn't assigned. Often times in life you will be assigned reading that you may not be interested in. Try to learn to open up your mind and become curious about the topic, this will help you cultivate an interest in the material. This will benefit you immensely on standardized exams and in the rest of your adult life.
  8. Set Goals and Write Them Down - Writing something down is the act of taking a thought and making it a physical, tangible thing. It can have an incredible effect on you and your success rate if you take the time to do it.
  9. Find Balance - School is not everything. Sports are not everything. Video games are not everything. Strive to find a balance to the multitude of activities that you undertake on a day to day basis. It is good for your mental health as well as your physical health. The goal of high school, and college for that matter, is to not only grow academically, but to grow as a person as well.
These are just a few ideas to students get off to a good start this semester. For more ideas make sure to sign in to and check out the monthly college advice section on the Channels page.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Want Your Kids to Get Organized for School...

School is in Session!

It's that time of year again, school is in session! Let's talk about what you can do this year to get organized and make it your best year yet!
Step 1 - Create a Study Plan
             Creating a study plan is essentially an exercise in organization and time management. To create one, begin by writing down your assignments as they are given to you throughout the day. I recommend you use your daily planner. If your school didn't provide one to you they are freely available on the internet or you can check with your local library.

Step 2 - Create a Homework Priority System
              It is vital to your academic success that you make a plan each day to tackle your home work after school. Remember, home work should also include time to study for upcoming exams and time to work on projects that have due dates well in the future. Typically, it is best to spend a few minutes a couple of times a day scheduling your work load after school. I recommend taking a break around lunch and another break right after school to do your scheduling.

Step 3 - Color Code Your Priority System
               A great way to use your homework priority system  is to color code your responsibilities. Use one color for your fixed responsibilities, i.e. school, sports, church, etc. Use a different color for homework time in each of your primary classes, i.e. math, science, english/lit and foreign language. Then use a separate color for your activities, i.e. sports, clubs, activities and another color for leisure time. Post this somewhere you and your parents are likely to see it so that you have a good reminder system. Get a copy of your Weekly Priority Planner HERE. See a completed example below.

Step 4 - Sit up Front
               I recommend sitting up front in your classes if given the option. Yes, you're less likely to be able to sleep or goof off in the front of the class, but then again, you're less likely to fall asleep or goof off if you're up there. There is more than enough time for that outside of class, so do yourself a favor and get rid of the temptation. If your still having trouble, consider finding a tutor.

Step 5 - Get Involved
               Getting involved is important for many reasons. You will build more friendships, create a more well rounded college application and give back to your community, just to name a few. All of which are important for academic success. I encourage you to look around and sign up to an activity that interests you. There are literally millions of opportunities to get involved out there so don't give up to easily if you don't see something you like right away. I recommend starting at, it's a great search engine with tons of ways to get involved in your local community.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Do What You Love and Give Back When You Can!

   You may have noticed lately that forest fires seem to run rampant in the southwestern United States every summer. Forests provide a host of benefits, including better air quality, recreational opportunities and even jobs in many industries. I was raised to love and appreciate the outdoors and I've made it a goal of mine to help protect them. 
   That's why Textbook Tactics is joining together with the US Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation to plant and raise 10,000 pine tree seedlings to help the reforestation efforts in  Eastern Arizona. The seeds for this project will be donated by the Forest Service and the soil and greenhouse space to grow the trees will be donated by local nurseries. The seeds will be planted later this year by local volunteers. They will be cared for by members of the Textbook Tactics family until October of 2013 when they will be transferred to the US Forest Service to be planted. If you are interested in getting involved in our reforestation efforts send us a message via this blog or the website, and let us know.

Monday, August 6, 2012

To Travel Abroad or Not to Travel Abroad

  Years ago I had a dream that would turn out to have a profound impact on my life. It was the beginning of the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. I went to bed like any other night in a summer that I could already tell was going to be another routine two month break in which I lounged around with my friends from high school. However, that night I had the most incredibly vivid dream that I was walking through the old cobblestone streets of Europe with dark, swollen rain clouds racing in above me. There were gas lamps lit and local residents scurrying through the streets to finish whatever errands they were running. I however was apparently out for a leisurely stroll in this dream, because I meandered from shop window to shop window with no concern for impending storm.
  When I woke up the next morning I knew exactly what I would be doing that summer. I was going to Europe. I rushed down to the STA office that I knew of near campus and within an hour I had booked a one month tour through Europe starting in just over three weeks! The travel agent helped me send out a rush passport to San Francisco so that I would have it in time for the trip. After that, I counted down the days until I left.
  I have to be honest though, my parents were not as thrilled as I was about this. They were pretty upset that I had gone and blown all of my money on a trip like that without consulting them. The truth was that I knew they would have talked me out of it. They were right, it was a lot of money to spend to do something I knew so little about. They had never been to Europe and they were concerned that I was going to go without any friends or family. In the end however, it turned out to be one of the best trips of my life and one that would lead me to want to give back to the world with my life's work.
  Without that crazy month in Europe, I may never have acted on my desire to travel. I visited over a dozen countries on that trip and I have been to nearly a dozen more since. Striking out on my own introduced me to new countries and languages that gave me a greater depth of character and appreciation for others in the world. It gave me confidence in my interactions with others and taught me  to be calm and clear in potentially frustrating communication situations. Most importantly it gave me perspective. The world is enormous, and it is an incredibly small world as well. The people I met on that trip and others since live thousands of miles from me, and the things I do impact them. I may never have realized how powerful each of us is if I had not taken the leap, left my home and country and become a world traveller.
  Some students struggle with whether or not they should get out and travel or study abroad. If you want my opinion, I say you should get out there and do it. And remember that the people you meet are just like you no matter their cultural differences.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Is it important to know your major before you go to college?

There are so many students that go off to college every year that are unsure of what they should major in. There is nothing quite so scary as getting accepted into a college, finding out what its going to cost you or your family and knowing that you aren’t really sure what you want to study while you’re there. Will you figure it out along the way or will you drift from class to class, semester to semester, with a vague idea of what you want to major in? Scary, right?
  So the answer is this, NO, it’s not that important. Most of us don’t know what we want to major in, or didn’t know when we went to college. There is a pretty good chance that you will figure it out in your first few semesters of college. It isn’t just going to come to you like a bolt of lightening out of the blue however, you need to get actively involved in all the things that you are passionate about. Join a club, take a class or volunteer in an area of life that you truly care about! This is how you are going to figure out what is really important to you and what major is going to help you make a difference in that field. And if you never figure it out, consider declaring a major that you are good at. A large portion of college students graduate with a degree that they were not entirely sure was right for them and they become successful adults. Doubts are normal, so are worries and fears. What’s important is that you keep stretching yourself. Look for areas to get involved in what you love and things will work out:)

Which classes should you pick your freshman year of college?

 Picking classes freshman year is a no brainer right? Wrong! There is a strategy to how you should select your classes your freshman year to ensure that you have a successful start to college. Keep in mind that 35% of students drop out of college during their freshman year and according to The Education Trust, only 63% of students who enroll in a four year university will earn their degree ( 
  Here are a few key pieces of advice to help you start off on the right foot. The first thing that you should do is set up your campus orientation visit for as early as possible this summer. The reason being is that most schools won’t allow you to register for your classes until you’ve gone through orientation. If you get it done early, you’ll be able to register before other students who haven’t gone through registration. 
  Once you are able to register for classes you want to keep something in mind. You are going to find it incredibly difficult to motivate yourself to attend early morning and late evening classes. Do your best to not schedule any classes that begin before 9am or after 6pm. You want to organize your classes so that once you get on campus you can go from class to class without any enormous breaks. It doesn’t hurt to have a good lunch break somewhere in there. And if possible, have a little time after lunch for that post lunch food coma. There are plenty of places on campus to crash for half an hour, (i.e. Starbucks, library, MU, etc) and you don’t want to go home during the day. I was religious about attending class in college and even I found it difficult to get up and go back to class after I’d come home during the day.
  How you set up your classes freshman year can mean the difference between a successful start to college and potential disaster. If you are an incoming freshman looking for some advice or you’ve got a great story about your freshman year throw in a reply:)

Should I take the SAT or the ACT?

Should I take the SAT or the ACT? 
As a college counselor, I get this asked this question a lot. The answer; you should take both. Both exams are designed to test what you have already learned in school. However, they are different in their approach to this and some people are more suited to one exam over the other.
          The ACT is broken up in to four components, English, Reading, Mathematics and Science Reasoning with an optional fifth section in Writing. Each question on the ACT has four answer choices to choose from, and there is no penalty for guessing. Comparatively, the ACT is a little more focused on what you have already learned than the SAT. This does not mean that it is easier to study for, simply that you should not approach them both in exactly the same way.
          The SAT is broken up in to three components, Critical Reading, Writing and Mathematics. Each question on the SAT has five answer choices. Students are penalized ¼ point for each question they attempt and fail, meaning that they are deducted one and one-quarter point for the wrong answer. If a student chooses not to answer a question, they simply miss one point for that question. This system of evaluation means that the SAT is a slightly more strategic exam than the ACT.
         Despite a student’s aptitude or inclination it is very difficult to predict which exam they will perform better on. It is for this reason that students should plan on taking both exams. A student’s performance on these standardized exams can directly translate into how much college costs for them. It’s worth taking the time to prepare for them both.