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Category: High School

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. 



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.



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!

Want to explore summer and extracurricular activities options? Join us on November 6, 2021 for Insight’s Summer Opportunities Fair! Grab your free tickets here.

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 (especially if you get to meet your classmates in person again!) 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. 

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. 
    • The next step is to set up your device in a quiet area where you won’t be distracted.
    • 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.
    • 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”
    • Ask them how they are doing.
    • Ask your question in a thoughtful way, but also be clear and concise.
    • Thank them for their time.
    • 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.

Online Extracurricular and Volunteering Ideas To Make the Most of Your Lockdown

So many of us have found our lives up ended during COVID-19. However, just because all of your extracurriculars have been canceled doesn’t mean you can’t still try to find ways make the best of this time at home.


So at Insight Education, we wanted to put together a list of great online extracurricular ideas that you can do at home: from volunteering, to academic research, to creating your own impressive project so much is possible!


Keep Up Your Clubs – On Video


Just because you’re no longer meeting at school doesn’t mean your clubs should disappear!


Set up a Google Hangout session for your school club, assign an article or Youtube video as club reading, do your choir practice over zoom, have remote discussion sessions, and keep those friendships and interests alive.





This is a time of need unlike most of us have seen before, and even small actions can make a real difference.


If you are able to go out and sort food at a food bank like Sacred Heart or Second Harvest of Silicon Valley or join a mutual aid network to deliver groceries to elderly neighbors, these are amazing ways to give back. However, there are many equally good opportunities that you can still do from home.


These opportunities can be anything from:



  • Sewing facemasks for healthcare workers or knitting blankets for children in hospitals





Additionally, one volunteering area where there is huge need is in academic and peer tutoring.


Try contacting local schools, tell them what subjects you’re best at, any volunteering experience you have, and see if you can digitally tutor struggling students who are no longer getting the help they need in school.


At Insight Education, we recommend looking for other volunteering opportunities on AllforGood, VolunteerMatch or Idealist that you can do anytime, anywhere.




Academic Research


Did you know that you can do college-level academic research in the comfort of your own home?


Academies like Pioneer Research, Polygence, and colleges like Tufts are connecting students to top professors to produce guided research projects and academic papers developed with the oversight of subject matter experts.


This can be especially valuable for students studying STEM or who are thinking of going onto graduate school, where research is such a huge part of the academic experience.


While applying for these academies and colleges is a more common way of getting research opportunities, some persistent (and lucky!) students have also found research projects through directly emailing professors or through creating their own science fair projects at home.



Your Own Project


Whether it’s finally earning your black belt or getting your Girl Scout Gold Award, completing a big project is not only a great way to get that feeling of accomplishment, but it can also really impress colleges as well!

That’s because taking the initiative to make a creative project of your own lets you do something you love while also demonstrating how proactive and driven you are.


At Insight, we’ve worked with many students who’ve created their own projects, many of which have been documented in digital portfolios. Join many Insight Students to strategically pursue your passion projects! Schedule your 1-hour college admissions planning sessions today.


For projects to be impressive, they have to be something that’s highly original, creative or done with a significant amount of effort.  Most great self-created projects aren’t projects that are whipped together over just a couple of days or a week or two.


Most truly excellent projects require a minimum of a month or 30-hour commitment and are typically based on the arts, STEM, or community service. Creating a project plan, finding some people who can help, and consistently sticking to this plan are essential for success.


Past projects have included a:

  • App developed by a student to help the blind to identify obstacles


  • Virtual tutoring platform


  • Series of costumes designed and sewed by a student


  • Healthy food garden built at a low-income school


  • Series of talks raising awareness around a social issue


  • Writing and publishing a short story



Please speak with your Insight counselor to learn more about brainstorming ideas for your own impressive, self-created project.


Find your Project, Find your Balance


Taking on a new online extracurricular is a wonderful idea, however, remember that right now we can’t only be focused on being productive.


It’s also important that you stay balanced and well, whether it’s by staying physically active, finding time to get away from digital devices, calling a friend, or by challenging yourself to take one or two of the ideas from this article.


By keeping together with your school club, volunteering, doing research, or taking on a creative project we can all work to make the best of these unprecedented times.


5 Tips To Study Smarter – Not Harder!

Studying can be tough, especially if the content isn’t something you’re very excited about or you have a lot of other things on the go. Below are some tips to help you focus on studying smart. 


1. Follow a clear study schedule. If you want to make sure you study each week, you need to follow a schedule. If you don’t develop a study routine, you risk losing focus and hurting your performance in your classes. Write out a study schedule in a notebook, and make it realistic! If you have band practice after school for an hour, then dinner with your family, it’s unlikely you’ll then want to spend 3 hours studying for a calculus test. Be kind on yourself and set realistic and achievable goals for your study schedule. 



2. Make a goal for every study session. Just flipping through notes or the textbook is not effective. Set a concrete goal for each study session to gain the most from your homework. Great goals include reading a certain number of pages in the textbook or mastering a specific concept. 



3. Avoid cramming. While it can work sometimes, it’s really only temporary knowledge. This is especially problematic for tough classes like AP classes where the information is cumulative. Try your best to start studying while you have plenty of time before the test. Doing some last minute revision is ok, but don’t rely on this for the entirety of your knowledge. 


4. Use your weekends wisely. Sure, the weekend is a good time to unwind, but you also need to use this time wisely to also get ahead and avoid rushing during the week. Build some weekend study into your schedule, even if it’s just an hour on Sunday afternoon. It’s important to find a good balance, so you’re still getting to see your friends and spend time with your family, but you’re also starting the week off on a good foot.


5. Try creating a study group, but pick your study buddies wisely. Make sure this is someone you can actually get stuff done with. Also be cautious with including too many people in your group, as this can make it easier to get distracted. You want to study around people who are motivated to get through their work, and also happy to talk through problems and concepts if you need a hand figuring something out. 


Now these five techniques should be helpful, but most importantly remember to be flexible with your study techniques! If you’re studying for a test and do poorly on it, look at it as a learning opportunity and a chance to try a different technique next time. So whether it’s doing flashcards while you’re waiting for your ride to pick you up, or teaching the tricky concepts from class to your friend, is important to try all kinds of techniques to learn what works best for you and to study smarter, not harder.


Best of luck with your studies! You got this. 

Three Tips for a Successful Senior Year

Congratulations, incoming seniors! You’re about to embark on a very exciting time in your life as the school year begins on your final year of high school. While you’re enjoying this year, there are some important things to remember! We have three great tips for you to keep in mind: 


1- Be Prepared! 

Your senior year you are taking on more than ever. It could be leadership roles in your extracurricular activities, academics and classes will be intense, wanting to send time with family and friends, and your college applications are happening alongside all of that. The biggest thing you can do to have a successful senior year and manage your stress well is to start on your college applications early. Write your essays, get your letters of recommendation as early as possible, start filling out your application. 


2- Senior grades DO matter. 

Don’t forget, your grades in senior year do matter and for some of you, they will matter more than others. If you have had semesters in high school that have been very strong and others that have been a little tougher, your senior year grades will show if you manage to keep up the positive trajectory of your grades. Think of it like reinforcing what you’ve already done – colleges will see that you have kept up your grades in senior year alongside all the other things you’re doing, which shows you really care about your academics. Don’t worry – you got this! 


“Senioritis” is commonly believed to be a lack of interest in school. But rather, “senioritis” should mean fully immersing yourself in your senior year and all that is has to offer. Read our blog about senioritis here! 


3- Know it’s ok to say “no”! 

Living senior year to the fullest is part of the fun and joy of this being your final year at high school, which means you will likely want to be saying YES to all the opportunities that come your way. Remember, it’s ok to say no to things if you’re feeling too busy. You’ll be taking on a lot this year, so creating boundaries is important. Prioritize what you want to focus on the most, and know that even if you have to say no to something now that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do it in the future! 


We hope you have a wonderful, enjoyable and busy senior year filled with all the things you love! 

All the best,

Team Insight 


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