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Category: High School

What You Need to Know About Advanced Placements (APs)

If you or anyone in your family are currently in high school, you must have heard of Advanced Placement (AP) classes or exams. From AP tests vs. AP classes to how many APs should you take, in this article, Insight’s Head of College Admissions Counseling Purvi Mody explains all the essential facts you need to know about APs and their role in college admissions.

 

(Prefer to watch a video instead? CLICK HERE to watch Purvi’s interview on all you need to know about APs)

 

Why AP classes in the first place?

AP classes are college-level courses that you can take during your high school years. Taking AP courses is one of the many ways you can show that you are ready for challenging academic materials, as well as your interest in a particular school subject. You can focus on subjects that you may want to pursue in college, such as taking AP Computer Science if you are interested in CS-related majors. Taking AP classes may also be a way to show your talents outside of academic interest. If you really love Psychology, you can incorporate AP Psychology in your schedule. The key is that APs can show your content knowledge and your ability to be successful at higher-level courses.

 

What’s the difference between AP exams and AP classes?

AP exams and AP classes are two distinct things. An AP class is like any class you’ve taken in your high school or online school; the class has grades, a structured curriculum, assignments, quizzes, and tests. The grade that you get from your AP class is on your transcript, and colleges can see these grades.

 

The AP exam is a two- or three-hour long test that you take to demonstrate your knowledge of the subject that you’ve been learning for the past academic year. The AP tests are typically held during the first two weeks of May. These exams are scored on a scale of 1-5, with a score of 3 or higher being a passing score. Unlike AP classes, you can self-report AP test scores. How should you report your AP exam scores then? We recommend our students report their highest AP scores, so report anything above a 3.

 

Need help preparing for your AP exams? Check out our upcoming AP Prep Boot Camps or academic tutoring options!

 

How many APs should I take?

This is the most popular question we get, and the answer is “it depends”. There is no magic number when it comes to AP classes or exams. It varies from student to student, and it also varies from school to school. Some private high schools offer no AP classes at all! The three golden rules to pick the right classes for you are interest, growth, and challenge. You want to pick courses that you are interested in while selecting the classes that you will thrive in. Lastly, your course selection should show that you are continuously challenging yourself intellectually.

 

Read more: How Many AP Classes Should You Take?

 

Now, is it possible to take too many APs?

Yes! The first thing you should know is that AP classes require more study time outside of the classroom. The content is challenging, and suddenly you find yourself with less time. If you find yourself spending most of your time on your AP classes, it’s a warning sign that you are taking too many APs. If your GPA drops, that could be a negative sign to send to colleges. At Insight, we emphasize the importance of finding the right balance, whether it is your course load or your college list.

 

Read more: Balancing Your High School Course Load

 

What if my high school doesn’t offer the AP class I want?

Let’s take a step back to the rules of course selection. An important factor to keep in mind: think about the skills you want to develop. You may not find AP U.S. History or AP European History all that interesting, but the reading and writing skills you develop during the courses are essential! Of course, this rule applies to regular or honor courses at your high school, not just the AP courses.

 

If you are really limited by your high school’s options, there are accredited institutions that offer online AP classes, so you can take them outside of your high school. In addition, if you are comfortable setting your own timeline, you can skip the online AP classes and grab an AP test prep book and self-study. If you opt for the self-study route, don’t forget to register for the AP test in May to show your result.

 

Read more: Should I self-study for AP?

 

Do I need the perfect 5 on the AP exam?

As we mentioned earlier, a score of 3, 4 or 5 is a passing score in college admissions. Depending on the university and the major choice, you may receive college course credits for an AP score of 3 or higher. When would we advise the student to re-take their AP exam that they got a 3 on? For example, the student wants to major in Biology and got a 3 on their AP Biology exam. If this student doesn’t have any extracurricular or other means of showing subject mastery, we MAY suggest the student retake the AP Bio exam next year. However, it depends on multiple factors. This depends on their current grade, their course load next year, their other commitments during the school years, and more. In most cases, we don’t advise students to retake their AP exams. Use that time to study for your other courses or focus on activities.

 

Want to show your best on your AP exam? Check out Insight’s AP Prep Boot Camps or meet with a tutor to strategically improve your score!

 


Written by Purvi Mody

This article was transcribed from an interview with Insight’s Co-Founder and Head of Counseling Purvi Mody.

Since 1998, Purvi has dedicated her career to education and is exceedingly well versed in the college admissions process. Her philosophy centers around helping kids identify and apply to the schools that are the best fit for them and then develop applications that emphasize their unique attributes and talents.

Disclaimer: Advanced Placement® and AP® are trademarks registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with Insight Education.

5 Important Questions to Ask When You Plan Your Summer

Summer activities are a crucial part of the college evaluation process. Colleges want to see what high school students do with their long breaks and free time. Outside of the more-confined, structured school year, the activities you choose to pursue over the summer demonstrate what you value. In this Insight guide, our counselor will walk you through how to plan for your summer.

 

What Should High School Students Do Over the Summer?

The options and opportunities are limitless, and your summer plans may not be the same as your friends. In fact, it’s better if your plans are different – you are more likely to stand out! Whether taking a class online or working on a research project, you should focus on the skills that you need or want to build on. The five questions below will help to guide you through the process of narrowing down your potential summer activities so that you can create the best summer plan for yourself.

 

1. Do I need an academic boost?

The past two years have been challenging for many high school students. The summer can be a great opportunity to re-take a class that you didn’t pass. Unlike during the school year, you can focus on just one or two subjects over the summer. Not only do you have more time to study, but you will also have more energy to evaluate what study habits work for you (and what doesn’t). Before you take this route, be sure to talk to your guidance counselor to see if your school allows you to retake classes for a grade. Even if the answer is no, you could take a class without credit to demonstrate to colleges that you did whatever you could to understand the material and improve your knowledge in that subject.

 

Beyond a GPA bump, summer classes can also help you to explore a subject that you are interested in but know little about. Other local high schools or community colleges can be convenient places to start. However, many four-year universities now offer summer programs for high school students to experience life as a student on their campuses too. These classes are taught by real college professors, and you will sometimes get to live in actual dorms! Some of these programs are very competitive though, and may require an application, complete with letters of recommendation and essays to write. Thus, when in doubt, start researching and planning early!

 

2. Will SAT or ACT scores help me to stand out?

While many colleges are still test-optional, you should explore if your SAT or ACT scores can add positive value to your college applications. Over the summer break, you have time to assess whether you should take the ACT or the SAT, create a study plan with your counselor, sign up for one-on-one tutoring, or join a test preparation class to help you manage your time. Once decisions are made, you can sign up for an upcoming test and a backup test from there, only to be taken when you are fully ready. Studying for them over the summer keeps your brain active and gets you ready for school in the fall. It may also allow you to stay one step ahead of your peers. And remember, even if some colleges will not be reviewing your SAT or ACT scores, thousands of other schools will!

Read more: List of Test Optional Colleges 2022 and Beyond

 

3. What interests me?

Beyond the classroom, what do you do for fun? Give this real thought and then do something that’s meaningful to YOU. If research programs or internships sound interesting to you, figure out the requirements and start your applications early! The application process can be very similar to a mini college admissions process involving a personal statement, supplemental essays, activity lists, letters of recommendation, and interviews. You can also start your own project or your own business. You can volunteer at an organization whose goals match your own. You could even learn a new skill in your own backyard. Sky’s the limit!

 

Whatever your plans are, be sure to schedule some family time, as well as time to hang out with your friends. As you get older and prepare to head off to college, you will find that these opportunities begin to pass by quickly.

Need summer acitivity ideas: Top 6 Summer Activities for High School Students

 

4. What will it cost me?

One crucial consideration when you make your summer plans is the price. Some summer programs are free or low-cost, while others may not be. Some programs last for eight weeks, while others are two-week adventures. Their start and end dates also may not align with your high school’s. Your schedule and goals combine with cost to make committing to a summer program an important decision. If you are planning to save up for college, it may be a great idea to secure a job over the summer. Getting a job will be a valuable experience as you put together a resume and practice for interviews. Your work history can demonstrate your accountability and initiative. If you work for a company with multiple locations, you might even be able to continue that job elsewhere when you head off to college. Seriously, it happens!

 

Having said that, unpaid opportunities can be incredibly rewarding as well. If you are an aspiring medical student and you have the chance to shadow your doctor or work in a hospital setting as a volunteer, that valuable experience can go a long way.

 

5. How much time can I devote?

At Insight Education, our students typically engage in a mix of activities over the summer. Some may devote part of their summer to studying for the ACT or the SAT, and another part to volunteering and work. Others may join an intensive summer research program and spend time with friends and family on vacation. The key is BALANCE. Don’t pack your summer with six or seven different activities to impress college admissions officers. Prioritize what is important to you. Colleges value students who know how to juggle their schedules and focus on the things that matter most to them. It’s a sign of maturity.

Read more: Don’t Seek Summer Internships Just To Impress Admissions Officers

Ultimately, you want to build a summer experience that is both fun and meaningful. With so many options out there, it can be confusing. We are here to help! If you need guidance to figure out what will result in the most productive summer for you, schedule a 1-hour personalized planning session with an Insight counselor today.

 

We can’t wait to meet you!

Zach and Team Insight

 


Written by Zach Pava

This article is written by Insight Senior Counselor Zach Pava.

Zach has guided hundreds of students throughout the college admissions process. His extensive writing background includes essay contributions online and in print, a sports blog, screenplays, and film reviews. Contact Insight Education today to schedule an initial consultation with Zach. Read his full bio here.

Top 6 Summer Activities for High School Students

Planning for the summer can be overwhelming for high school students and their families. From figuring out what’s meaningful to you to what can help you in college admissions, you may have trouble picking the “perfect” summer activities. In this article, Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Zach Pava explains the top 6 summer activities for high school students and why you should consider them!

 

(Prefer to watch a video instead? We got you! CLICK HERE for Zach’s video.)

 

Summer Plan Looks Different from One Student to the Next

You may be tempted to join a summer program or apply for an internship because your friends are doing it, but keep in mind that this is YOUR summer. Whatever you decide to do, whether it is preparing for standardized testing or working in retail, it’s important that you build on those opportunities, so you can have a very well-rounded college application. Ultimately, you should have a terrific experience over the summer during those precious few months when you are away from school.

 

Let’s dig a little more deeply into some of these summer activities!

 

1. Taking a Course

It’s pretty self-explanatory; you are taking a class or two over the summer. Within this category, however, there may be many different reasons for joining summer classes. Some students are repeating a class to make up for a grade because they didn’t pass the class or they had withdrawn. Summer can be a great opportunity for them to focus on the class.

Read more: Help! I Got A D – Can I Still Go To A UC?

Take an enrichment course over summerSome students may choose to take a course to prepare for a very challenging course in the next school year. Having a preview of the course materials can help them stay ahead of the curve and feel prepared. For a similar reason, students may also choose to prepare for standardized tests, such as the ACT or the SAT, over the summer to help their minds stay sharp and to add positive data to their college applications.

Not sure which test to take? Read our full insight on ACT v. SAT

There are also students who are taking classes for a GPA boost. Even if their GPA is in good standing, they may have their sights set for a higher GPA. We’ve also seen students take college-level courses to explore an academic subject that they are interested in. No matter your reason, taking summer courses can be a good way to demonstrate to colleges that you care about your grades and have the academic rigor to be successful.

 

2. Volunteering

Another major area beyond coursework is volunteering over the summer. If there is a cause that you care about, go for it! Don’t volunteer for the sake of volunteering. (The same goes for any summer activities!) College admissions officers are very good at discerning if the student is doing something because they love it or just to pad their resume. One of our main functions as Insight Counselors is to help students figure out the summer opportunities that are worth their time, so they can have fun in the process and share their growth in their college essays.

Need to find your motivation to volunteering? Check out The Gift of Service: Why and How Students Should Volunteer

At Insight, we tend to give students a big list of volunteering options because finding your volunteering program can be like a contact sport. In other words, the more places you reach out to, the more likely you are going to receive a response. The process may be difficult. You may reach out to 15 or more programs and only hear back from two or three. You need to be proactive in these cold calls. You may need to follow up and call when the programs don’t respond to your emails. Colleges like these qualities in their potential candidates.

You may also be interested in 8 Unique Silicon Valley Teen Volunteering Opportunities

 

3. Student Internship

The word “internship” gets tossed around a lot, and it means different things to different people. Typically, with an internship, you are looking to apply the knowledge that you’ve learned in a classroom setting to a real-world problem. Internships exist in many areas of interest, so it’s important to first figure out what you want to do. The main point of a student internship is to gain relevant professional experience. In order to get an internship, you will often have to go through an application process involving essays, recommendation letters, and maybe even an interview.

 

Most summer internship application deadlines are between the end of December to mid-February, so as soon as Insight counselors are wrapped up with their seniors, they are usually working with juniors and sophomores on their summer internship applications (which have some similarities to college applications).

Read more: Don’t Seek Summer Internships Just To Impress Admissions Officers

 

4. Student Research

Internships are slightly different from academic research. There are summer research programs designed to pair you with a college professor or a graduate student. You can also directly reach out to professors if you find their research projects appealing (and our counselors can help you figure out how to draft those emails!) It may start with simple tasks such as data entry, but as you learn more on the subject and develop a rapport, you may find yourself with more responsibilities.

Read more: Beyond College Admissions: Why Extracurricular and Summer Activities Matter?

 

5. Getting a Job

Of all the options, getting a job is sometimes the last thing students want to consider. However, this can be a wonderful experience. Whether you get a full-time or a part-time job, you can learn about life skills, such as responsibility, punctuality, and accountability. Working with other people and dealing with situations that are out of your comfort zone can be valuable life lessons. The fact that you are also earning money at the same time is a great bonus!

 

6. Creating Your Own

While there are age restrictions and other requirements for some summer activities, this shouldn’t limit your options. You can always create your own business or conduct your own research project. Starting a new thing can be daunting. That’s why Insight Counselors guide their students through this process and help them realize their potential in creating and bringing their visions to life.

 

 

Concluding thoughts

Summer is a great time for you to explore and build. Understanding what you need and what you may want to pursue is a great starting point for you to plan your successful (and enjoyable) summer activities!

 

 


Written by Zach Pava

This article was created from an interview with Insight Senior Counselor Zach Pava.

Zach has guided hundreds of students throughout the college admissions process. His extensive writing background includes essay contributions online and in print, a sports blog, screenplays, and film reviews. Contact Insight Education today to schedule an initial consultation with Zach. Read his full bio here.

Community Service Ideas for the Holiday Season

The holiday season is a time for love and joy. For students (and adults), it’s also a great time to give back. While it’s important to volunteer and help out in your community year-round, the holiday season can be a wonderful start for you. There are many activities you can explore during the short break, and you may just find the volunteer work that you truly enjoy!

Read more: Beyond College Admissions: Why Extracurricular and Summer Activities Matter?

 

Creative ways to give back during the holiday season

Insight Tip #1: Volunteer & Community Service

Check out your local hospital, community center, homeless shelter, or any other charitable organization to ask how you can help out.  Some hospitals, like El Camino Health, have youth programs designed for high school students, but those may require a longer period of time commitment. VolunteerMatch.org is a great resource to check out volunteering opportunities nearby.

Read more: The Gift of Service: Why and How Students Should Volunteer

 

tutoring to help others is one way for high school students to give back Insight Tip #2: Tutoring

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many students, especially those with fewer resources. Many are struggling to keep up with their schoolwork. Programs such as Reading Partners or Schoolhouse offer online tutoring for younger students. 

 

Insight Tip #3: Declutter

With the temperatures dropping, many charitable organizations have warm clothing or blanket drives. Take a weekend to go through your closet. Ask your family to join you. Check if your neighbors or friends have anything they can donate, too. You are helping out someone who needs the warmth AND someone who needs to take that step to declutter their home.

 

Insight Tip #4: Help your neighbors

baking cookies or cooking a hot meal for the homelessYou can also bake cookies (or cook a simple hot meal) and distribute them to the homeless. Ask your elder neighbors if they need help setting up lights and decorating the tree (if applicable) or help them with wrapping gifts or getting groceries. 

 

Insight Tip #5: Share your talents

Put on a show at your local hospice, senior centers, or hospitals. First, contact them to see if they can accommodate your band or carol-singing group. Perhaps even record yourselves during the performance and inspire others to donate or help out! Or start your own fundraiser and purchase gifts for children. For more ideas, check out DoSomething.org.

 

Giving back can be a wonderful feeling, and we hope these ideas can get you started! May your holidays be filled with love and laughter. 

 

Cheers,

Team Insight

Beyond College Admissions: Why Extracurricular and Summer Activities Matter?

Community service, student internship, and summer research – these days, high school students are trying to pack too many extracurriculars in their resumes, hoping to impress the admissions office. It’s common knowledge that other than a strong GPA and standardized test scores, colleges are looking for students who have devoted time in the fields of their interests. In this article, we will explore what other benefits students gain through their extracurricular and summer activities experience.

 

Time-Management Skill

Ask your parents or any adult and they will share the importance of time management. The ability to prioritize, focus, and balance your time is key to a less stressful and more productive life. College admissions officers know this, too! That’s why they want to see how you use your free time through extracurricular and summer activities. Once you’re in college, you’d be expected to juggle classes, activities, and social commitments. It’s good to get a head start now and learn how to manage your time and balance your life.

 

Community Service

It is more than just a graduation requirement or a checkmark in your college applications. Community service gives you the opportunity to give back and help those in need. At Insight, we encourage our students to think about how their skillsets can better the world around them. Whether it is tutoring kids or planting trees, volunteer work can expand your worldview. You may even find a cause that you wish to study further during college. Plus, it feels good to help others and give back!

 

Read more: Don’t Seek Summer Internships Just to Impress Admissions Officers 

 

Leadership Experience

Many extracurricular and summer activities offer the chance for you to take ownership of a project (or a piece of a project). Keep in mind that you don’t need the title to be a leader. Even if you aren’t the team captain or the club president, you can still be a leader. Leadership can be seeing a project from start to finish or guiding your teammates through a rough time. Building up leadership skills is important, not only in your college admissions but also in your career path.

 

Networking

Extracurricular activities and summer programs are excellent for expanding your network beyond school and family. You can meet students who share the same interest or adults who can mentor you. The friendships you build through these activities can help you throughout your life. Other than letters of recommendation, you may know just who to call for an internship or career advice.

Read more: The Value of Networking

 

Career Exploration

By exploring different activities, you may discover a few fields or potential career paths. Knowing your likes and dislikes can help you narrow down your majors and your college list. Beyond college admissions, these opportunities offer you an early insight into what the potential job entails and what skillsets you will need to excel in those fields.

 

Concluding Thoughts

While extracurricular and summer activities take time and effort to plan and participate in, there are so many benefits to getting involved. If you are not sure what you should do, we’re here to help! Schedule a 1-hour college planning session with our counselors today!

Back to School: Get ready for a great academic year!

As your summer break comes to an end, you may be excited about a new school year or dreading the early mornings. Whichever describes you, it’s always a good idea to start preparing early, so you can set yourself up for a great school year. Here are a few tips to help you get ready for the year ahead!

 

Have a plan and set goals

Before the first day of school, you should list some long-term and short-term goals. For example, “preview chem textbook before class every day” or “work on college essays for 30 minutes every morning.” Try to set goals that you can realistically achieve. Be specific on what you want to accomplish. Then, mark your calendar with deadlines and methods on how you can reach those goals.

 

Are you using your time wisely? Learn more: Setting up Routines for High School

 

Complete back-to-school tasks before your first day

The first day of school can be chaotic, especially if you have not been to the campus for 18 months! If you have never been to your school, try to arrange a visit before your first day. Get your student ID early and check out your textbooks. Figure out the route to your classrooms. Gather all the necessary school supplies and pick your outfit the night before. You want to be as ready as possible, so you can fully enjoy your first time back at school!

 

A note for seniors, you may be familiar with the campus and registration process already, so spend some time completing your college applications before school starts. Schedule a quiet afternoon (or two) before your first day back to school, have your transcript in hand, and fill out all the necessary data for your college applications. It’s one less thing off your plate for your senior year!

 

Read more: Top 10 Summer Tasks for College Admissions

 

Manage your time and schedule wisely

Staying organized and planning out your day can help you use your time wisely. Time-draining activities, such as mindlessly browsing social media, can result in last-minute panic or sleep loss. If procrastination has always been your arch-nemesis, a new year is the perfect time to tackle it. At Insight, some of our counselors prefer the time-block method: they schedule or block off time to work on college essays or application reviews. You can do the same! Simply schedule when you will be in class or studying or participating in club activities AND stay true to your calendar. Don’t forget to schedule short breaks in between, too!

 

Create your space

Imagine this: your parent’s talking on the phone; the TV is on; your sibling is jumping on the couch; the dog is barking; and your phone vibrates every 3 seconds, showing a text or a notification. How productive do you think you’d be? Probably not too much. Find a space in your house that you can claim as yours. Set up your study space and minimize distractions. Yes, that means turning off your phone and close all unnecessary windows on your computers, too. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish when you only focus on one task.

 

Talk to your teachers and counselors

Get into the habit of talking to your teachers, even something as small as “how are you” or “thank you.” Schedule a time to meet with your guidance counselor. Don’t wait until you need something from them (like a letter of recommendation) to start building that relationship. Besides the subjects they teach, your teachers can be a great source of information. They may have recommendations for books or activities that you may be interested in. Besides, it’s a great practice to talk to people who are different from you and build rapport, which is useful in interviews.

 

 

Preparation is only the beginning. You will have to devote time and effort to keep building a successful year. If you need help or guidance, all of us at Team Insight are always happy to help! Reach out to us!

 

Best of luck,

Team Insight

Stop Telling Teens to Find Their Passions

When I was applying to business school, part of my personal statement focused on how I found my passion for education and how I wanted to explore it more deeply. At that time in my life, the idea of finding a passion was gratifying, like I had somehow reached a higher plane of self-awareness. Today, after having worked with teenagers for the past twenty years as they navigate the college admissions journey though, my love of the word passion has lost its luster to the point that I rarely even say it aloud.

 

I used to ask kids enthusiastically, “What is your passion?” And then I would wait for them to blow me away with their answers. Their parents would stare at them expectantly as if meeting their child for the first time. Occasionally, I would get a surprising answer. More often than not, I received a shrug of the shoulders or a timid, “I don’t know.” I quickly, but not as quickly as I should have, realized that this simple question was too heavy to ask a young teenager – that asking them actually did the opposite of inspire, it made them feel like they were behind others, like they were somehow failing the college admissions race because they were still discovering themselves.

 

Personally, I also realized that passions change over time. While my passion for the intersection between business and education drove me to business school, it is more my profession now. Passion led me to discover as much as I could about the field, to devour articles, to take copious notes at presentations and seminars, to have conversations with as many people as possible. But if anyone asked me now, “what is your passion?” I would struggle the same as most 16-year-olds not because I don’t have interests, but rather because no one interest (other than a love for my children) captures my soul. Rather I want to be inspired by many topics – some in the same moment. I want to have spontaneity and space to learn about new things and take an interest. I don’t want to be defined by any one field or topic or endeavor. I want to be inspired by learning and the journey.

 

Rather than asking teens to have figured out their life’s calling by the time they are in high school, let’s change the conversation. Let’s ask these questions instead

What are you curious about?

What inspires you?

What do you want to learn about?

 

And then let’s give them the tools to explore. Let’s teach them that it is okay to read incessantly about a topic only to one day decide that they are no longer interested in the topic, the next. Let’s give them the space to experiment with ideas and projects that may ultimately fail. There is learning there, too. Let’s allow them to ask questions and say things aloud even if the words don’t make sense, because you are allowing them to form their thoughts and ideas without judgment. Let’s challenge them to think broadly and differently. Let’s encourage them to take risks – to try and know that making mistakes is okay. Let’s teach them to ask and answer the hard questions. Let’s teach them to communicate effectively with people of all backgrounds and experiences. Let’s show them that their world and perspective will continue to grow as long as they allow themselves to push themselves.

 

These days we are so focused on the end goal – getting kids into a certain college or on a path to a successful career. And unfortunately, many families are solely focused on a handful of career options. But if we really stop and look at those around us, what we see is that people who are truly successful and happy took a winding path. They let their lives meander with purpose towards different goals. They allowed new experiences to shape them. They learned from their failures as much as they learned from their successes. They are captivating not because of a given passion but because of an ability to tell stories about their interests, experiences, and ideas.

 

So, let’s not pressure teens to answer a question that most adults struggle with. We aren’t raising kids to just get them into college. We are raising them to be able to thrive in their lives.


Written by Purvi Mody

This article was written by Insight’s Co-Founder and Head of Counseling Purvi Mody.

Since 1998, Purvi has dedicated her career to education and is exceedingly well versed in the college admissions process. Her philosophy centers around helping kids identify and apply to the schools that are the best fit for them and then develop applications that emphasize their unique attributes and talents.

Picking a High School? Forget about College (for now)

Question: My child is in 7th grade right now and my husband and I are trying to figure out which is the best high school for him to attend so that he can get into the best colleges? If he attends a private school, does he have a guarantee at one of these schools?

 

Answer: As the parent of an almost-teenager, you should be asking instead, “how do I choose the school that is going to provide the best environment and opportunities for my son to be successful?” At this age, your son is still getting his academic footing, exploring different fields, dabbling in various extracurricular activities, and navigating more complex social scenarios. He is not, I guarantee you, thinking about college. While I understand the stress of being a parent and wanting the best for him, take a breath and a step back and think about what is best for him right now. By doing so you are going to set him up for success and happiness, both keys to college admissions half a decade from now.

 

So, let’s first tackle your question about having a guarantee into a specific tier of colleges by attending private school. Short answer – there are no guarantees. Even the most qualified applicants are often denied admission into the top schools and no school or person can guarantee your child anything. If someone tells you the opposite, be cautious. If you are comparing offerings and environment, you should consider different school types in addition to private schools.

 

Keep in mind that the high school experience is what your son will make of it, so make sure to involve your son in the selection process. These questions can serve as a guideline as you and your child pick a high school together:

 

  • How accessible are the teachers?
  • How demanding are the courses? What is the average homework load?
  • What extracurricular opportunities are available and accessible?
  • What is the general student body like? Is it diverse? Too focused on academics? Too focused on sports? Well-balanced?
  • How flexible are the curriculums and can students take double math, English, or science courses?
  • How do students fare on standardized tests?
  • Will the school help students plan summer activities?
  • How does the college admissions process work? How regularly do students meet with their counselors?
  • What types of social activities are available for students?
  • And for the time being, you should think about issues related to the pandemic – How are courses working online? What is your timeline for going back to school in-person? How has the school experience been impacted?

 

First, go to your local high school and ask these questions. Have your son walk around, talk to current and past students. You also should talk to parents about their experiences at school. But always take everything with a grain of salt.

 

Repeat the same for the private, charter, magnet, or other public schools you are considering. The only additional question you should ask a private school is anticipated versus actual costs. Are families expected to make contributions to the school? Are there additional expenses like computers or iPads that are mandatory? And are books included or an additional cost? You don’t want to sign up for a private school and then get saddled with unexpected costs that may have swayed you toward a different school.

 

Once you have done your due diligence. Sit down with your son and ask him his thoughts and share yours. While he may be less focused on the academic opportunities and you less focused on the extracurricular and social opportunities, you want to find a happy middle ground. Chances are you will both have felt at home at one of the schools you visited. Pick the school that you feel will best nurture your son’s potential and still challenge him to beyond his limits. Pick a school that shares your philosophy on helping children to be successful. Pick the school not because your son has a guarantee of a college, but because it is going to give him the tools to be successful no matter which college he will eventually attend. 


Written by Purvi Mody

This article was written by Insight’s Co-Founder and Head of Counseling Purvi Mody.

Since 1998, Purvi has dedicated her career to education and is exceedingly well versed in the college admissions process. Her philosophy centers around helping kids identify and apply to the schools that are the best fit for them and then develop applications that emphasize their unique attributes and talents.

What’s the Best Online School Etiquette?

 

Online etiquette has always been an important part of life, but it is even more so now with all of us staying at home and social distancing.  Insight Education has now moved to a virtual platform and so have many schools for the rest of the semester and possibly summer. 

 

Here are three tips that Insight feels are very necessary to be successful and mindful during this time and going forward.

 

Insight Tip #1: Improve Your Video Conferencing

First, let’s talk about tips for video conferencing.  Most of your teachers are holding virtual office hours or lectures and being present during them is required. Here are some important actions to take before you jump on a video call.

 

    • You should look presentable for a video call. When Insight says presentable, we mean that you should brush your teeth, comb your hair, wash your face, and wear appropriate clothing. Be sure to wear a shirt AND pants, both matter. 
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    • The next step is to set up your device in a quiet area where you won’t be distracted.
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    • Some schools have required that students are sitting in a chair and not in their beds. Insight agrees, being in a chair with a table helps your body realize that it is time for you to pay attention and get in the mindset of going to virtual “school”.  Your bed should be the place where your body knows it’s time to relax and rest.  So find a space in your room or home and set it up so that you can be present during the meeting you may have.
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    • Be sure your background is clean and not distracting to others on the call as well.

 

 

Insight Tip #2: Get the Most Out of Your Online Classes and Meetings

First, be sure you are alert and paying attention.  When you are having a meeting with someone one-on-one, or if you are listening to your teacher lecture, be sure to close other browsers (includes YouTube videos and group chats!) on your computer, don’t keep looking at your phone, and have the television turned off. 

 

You know what distracts you, so keep these distractions away and don’t tempt yourself to just move to the next tab to check out the latest videos people are posting.  Attend to what you are supposed to be attending to—your teacher or the speaker.  During online lectures or presentations, also take notes. 

 

If you have a question, note it down and ask when it is the appropriate time. These skills will help you while you are in the midst of distance learning and in the future for any meetings you are part of.

 

 

Insight Tip #3: Learn to Actively Participate

This is a great time to invest in participating in class and building your relationship with your teachers.  That means asking informed questions, asking follow-up, and clarification questions.  If you are a student who is less inclined to speak out loud in front of class, this is the perfect time for you to participate virtually. 

 

You are in a place where you are expected to contact your teacher through email to speak with them.  They want you to attend their office hours, so now is the time you can engage. And when you engage with them here are a few tips Insight has found to be really helpful:

 

    • Address the person you are email respectfully: “Dear Mr. Bloom, Hello Mr. Bloom”
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    • Ask them how they are doing.
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    • Ask your question in a thoughtful way, but also be clear and concise.
  3.  
    • Thank them for their time.
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    • Be sure to capitalize, and to use proper grammar and punctuation!

 

 

Finally, Insight wants to leave you with some general tips as you engage more often on online platforms.  This is a time to think about what you post before you post it.  Be sure to be open-minded and understand that people are coming from different perspectives. Be constructive and positive, and remember what you post on the internet can follow you forever!

 

Distance learning, or virtual learning offers you opportunities you may not have had before.  Whether you prefer it or not, this is the new normal for you during the next few months.  At Insight, we do believe these tips for online school etiquette will help you even after this phase. 

 

Authored by Insight Counselor Jenny Bloom.

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