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Category: High School

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 


How To Deal With Procrastination

Procrastination can strike us all, at any time and ahead of any task! 

One thing we hear from students a lot is that they struggle when it comes to procrastinating school work. So what can you do to break the cycle of procrastinating? 

Well, that is a hard question to answer! This is something that likely most people have dealt with at some point in their life and may not have a solution that works each time to overcome it. Below are four suggestions we have when it comes to how to overcome procrastination of a task, and hopefully one of these will help you next time you’re feeling stuck!


1. Make and use a schedule!

This seems very obvious but can be a small change you make that helps you procrastinate less. A very useful tool here is a printed planner where you can break up your day into timed sections and allocate tasks during those times. It makes it harder to not stick to your schedule when it is written down in front of you! The human mind is an incredibly powerful rationalization tool for bad decisions and you may find that if you haven’t made a plan and scheduled out how you’re going to spend your time, all of a sudden that one hour of Netflix becomes three (the shows do autoplay onto the next episode, after all!) 

However, if you’ve written down that you’re going to start your homework at 4pm, you have to at least ignore the plan that past-you made in order to procrastinate. In psychology this is called “externalizing” which is what you’re doing when you’re writing your plan down on an external source and making something that you are kept accountable by. If you don’t have a schedule or a planner it is much easier and more tempting to procrastinate. 

Read more: 5 Tips To Study Smarter – Not Harder!

2. Eliminate distractions 

In the time it’s taken you to read this blog, have you found your mind wandering elsewhere? Maybe to another tab in your browser to look at something else, or to the cell phone sitting on the desk next to you? 

Another one of those ‘obvious but we’ll still say it’ tips is that it’s much easier to get distracted by social media if you have the tab open on your laptop or your phone right next to you lighting up each time someone tags you in a meme on Instagram. Funnily enough, there are many apps you can use to help you eliminate the distraction that is your phone. Freedom.to is just one option (and there are many out there) that can help with eliminating digital distractions. 

Think about your work space and where you’re settling to actually complete tasks. It’s much harder to stay focused if you’re working in front of the TV or lying in bed when you’re already feeling tired. Find a space that is comfortable and has everything you need close by, but make sure it’s a space dedicated to getting work done and not somewhere that you associate with sleep or a movie night. 


3. Set unambitious goals 

This sounds a little crazy but has worked for me many times in my life. If you’re approaching a massive task and are feeling overwhelmed by it, it’s easy not to see how you can even start that task and therefore you put it off. Long term projects or large papers can create this kind of procrastination because every time you think about starting it, you think about doing the WHOLE project all at once, which is overwhelming. 

The key with procrastination like this is to make the starting point of your big project so small and so unambitious that it doesn’t take a lot of mental energy to start. It could be just writing the first sentence or writing an outline/ thesis statement. You will probably find that it’s much  easier to keep going once you’ve started with this small first step. 


4. Keep Trying!!

Remember that most of us struggle with procrastination when it comes to specific tasks and you probably have years of “bad” procrastination habits under your belt that will take time to work through. Be patient with yourself! Try some of these strategies and see what works for you – maybe different things will work at different times. 


All the best, 

Team Insight 

Reasons Why Summer Study Can Be A Great Thing

I know most of you are probably looking forward to those days off just lounging around and relaxing all summer long, so someone like me who is telling you to study and prep for a test is a real party pooper.


However, there are some big advantages of studying for the SAT or ACT during the summer that are important to consider as you’re planning out your break. Here are just a few reasons why you may consider using those warmer months to hit the books: 


Firstly –  you can use it as your excuse to go do a really fun thing that you want to do.  So for example, your mom says no you can’t go to “Great America” theme park on Saturday with your friends, you say, “but mom, I’ve spent all week studying for the SAT/ACT and I just want to relax!” She’s more likely to let you go!


Secondly, It’s the easiest to study during the summer break when that is the only thing you have to focus on.  You won’t have an 8 hour day of school to attend, plus the homework, plus the extra-curricular activities that may keep you from giving the SAT/ACT your full attention. When you study in the summer time, you are most likely to focus on the specific test and what you need to do to reach your score goal. 


Thirdly, the best way to prepare for the test is to practice, practice, practice! And practice means taking diagnostic tests and reviewing them so you can better understand and fix your mistakes. Insight offers full-length diagnostic tests to allow students to take the test in a real testing environment – no cell phones or technology, a quiet room and the ability to see how you perform with no distractions. This is something you can do during the summer! You can also try to mimic that environment at home by putting your technology in another room and shutting out distractions while you take a practice test. 


Practicing a full test is also helpful because just understanding your body’s limitations and learning how to focus during the grueling four hours can really help you know what to expect on test day. Think of it like running a marathon – you wouldn’t decide one day to wake up and go run 26 miles right there and then, you practice with short and long runs over time to build up to the marathon. Taking a four hour test is the same! Ideally, you wouldn’t wake up one day and say “Ok, today I take the official SAT”. You want to practice what it feels like to sit and focus on the test for four hours so by the time you take the real test, your body and brain are used to that kind of pressure. 


Lastly, doing tutorials for the subject matter that you need to get more familiar with will also help you feel less anxiety on the day. You may still suffer from some form of mild test anxiety – don’t worry, this is normal! Knowing what it is for you, be it butterflies in your stomach, sweating, tapping your pencil, or erasing every imaginary stray mark – being aware is the first step in finding ways to cope. Taking deep breaths, focusing on something specific, going through a phrase in your head before the test may be what helps you. Whatever it is, having the opportunity to identify and practice is the best way to calm your nerves before test day, and why not utilize the summer to be able to do all of this and reach the goal you’ve set for yourself!


I hope that some of these reasons will be helpful when planning out your summer study! If you’re looking for a structured way to study for an upcoming test, Insight offers SAT and ACT classes throughout the summer. 


All the best, 

Jenny Bloom and Team Insight 

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

We have been asked the question “If I get a D grade in Freshman year, does that mean I can’t go to a UC?” 


Here’s the good news: YOU CAN STILL GO TO A UC!! So exhale, take your hand off the panic button and let that sink in.


Help I got a D Can I still go to a UC

But before we talk about how to fix the D, I want you to dig deep and ask yourself why you got a D in the first place, especially if this is in freshman year. School only gets harder, and it’s only going to get harder in college.


Perhaps you took a class that was way too hard for you in the first place, which is a common reason why someone might get a D. If that’s not why you got the D, then you really need to consider the behaviors and influences in your life may have led to this outcome. WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO CHANGE??? These are deep questions, but important ones to consider so that you can be sure not to repeat the same mistake again. 


Ok, so let’s assume you answered those deep existential questions, how do you “fix” the D? Now, know that you DO need to retake the class. A D is NOT considered a passing grade to colleges. This is a little confusing because sometimes my students will hear that either the class is not required for college and they, therefore, do not need to retake it, or that D is considered a “passing” grade.


For your high school, a D is passing. You can graduate with Ds, but you cannot go to college with Ds. Colleges will give you ZERO credit for the class, just like you got an F. This is true no matter what the class is, even if it is not a required class. 


Insight counselor Jenny H reflected on her studying for the ACT test prep

You need to find a way to retake the class either over the summer or online or by repeating the class in school. Ideally, you want to take the EXACT same class to be sure that colleges will consider this class an adequate replacement for the class you failed. Be sure to verify in writing with a counselor at your school to confirm that the class you are signing up for will qualify as a replacement. 


On your college applications, you will have space to address this grade and discuss what you learned from it and how this experience made you a better student. Which is WHY you cannot skip asking yourself those deep questions of why you got the D in the first place. Retaking the class shows colleges that you care about learning and that you’re trying to fix your mistake, and discussing what you learned from the experience is a very important message to address in your college apps. 


All the best,

Team Insight 





Studying In A Group Is Scientifically Awesome

Fact: Studying in a group can be much more effective than studying alone! 
We’re not just saying this because of what I’ve observed as a teacher and counselor, but this is actually what years of scientific research are showing. Studying in a group allows us to use a couple of techniques that can be harder to do when it’s just us on our own.
For one, studying in a group helps us do something we call retrieval practice. This is the process of making flash cards, quizzing each other, asking questions to your study group members. This makes you actively fish back into your brain to come up with the answers, and is a very active way of studying. This kind of studying is far more effective than what we typically do when we’re alone, which is simply highlighting pages in the textbook or re-reading lectures and scanning notes. 
Additionally, a study group can be effective because it can hold us accountable! It forces us to study at a certain time and place, rather than saying “I’ll study Spanish sometime next week” but then procrastinating and not getting it done.  Knowing you have a group of friends that are all working on the same thing means you have to keep up with the rest of the group – no procrastination allowed! 
Beyond accountability, studying in a group that meets once a week works well because it’s spaced out. This is another tip we understand from learning science that cramming last minute doesn’t allow our brains to remember as much as consistent learning over a spaced out time period. 
The final important tip is to make sure you’re working with a group of like-minded studiers!  Together, by consistently using retrieval practice and space practice we get faster and faster at remembering critical concepts, avoid cramming and can even make the study more enjoyable by doing it with the group!  
All the best,
Team Insight 

When Should You Start Thinking About College Counseling?

One question I’m asked all the time when I tell people what I do is “when should my child start thinking about college and college admissions counseling?” 


(Ps – prefer to watch rather than read? View our video on this topic: Click HERE!


Because I have a background in early childhood education, I know it’s never too early to start thinking about college! I’m not saying do test prep in kindergarten, but it’s never too early to introduce the idea of college and talk about goals and aspirations at a young age. When your child starts saying things like “this is what I want to do when I grow up”, that is a great time to discuss college and what that is with your child.


When it comes to college admission counseling, I’ve started the process with students as early as the end of their eighth-grade year. With counseling, a student can make wise decisions about what courses to take, how to approach extracurricular activities, and how to navigate the ins and outs of starting their high school journey. 



Some of the things we work on are study skills, time management, exploring interests and possible majors and careers, when to take tests and how to start test preparation – and much more!



Starting Freshman year really helps with confidence in how to approach each year and activity.  It also helps the counselor and student to start building the relationship and rapport that will help during the application process! Having known a student throughout their high school journey means that a counselor can help a student brainstorm successfully for their essays. Often times, a counselor can remind a student of a specific event or defining moment they may have had during high school that they spoke to their counselor about but had forgotten come college essay writing time.



If you start later, that is great too! I have worked with students who came to me after a rough semester Sophomore year, and have done really well and are now at a college they really enjoy.  Other times, I’ve even worked with Seniors who just need that extra support in applications and brainstorming essays.   



College counseling is really helpful for students no matter when they start, and I hope to be able to join you on that journey!


Learn more about Jenny Bloom by visiting her profile: Click Here! 


Ways to be Productive on a Snow Day!

Our Massachusetts friends are snowed in! 


With a full day on your hands and the weather encouraging you to stay warm inside, here are our suggestions for how to be productive (in-between quick snowball fights and snowman making competitions, of course!) 


1. Study more for your exam that was supposed to be today 

2. Complete your long term projects that are due next week

3. Take a practice SAT or ACT, or that subject test you’ve been putting off because you didn’t have a free day

4. Complete your applications for summer volunteering & internships

5. Finish your free-write on how to be most productive away from school (and do a grammar check since it’s #GrammarDay today, March 4th, 2019) 

6. Research that college you’ve been eager to learn more about, including majors of interest

7. If you like what you read, schedule a campus tour on the school’s website

8. Create a google or excel spreadsheet to start tracking your extracurricular activity, club, volunteer, work, and summer hours

9. Block two hours to do something only for yourself

10. Check tomorrow’s weather report


Have fun and be safe!

The Insight Team

How Many AP Classes Should You Take?

This is such a common question! And, unfortunately, it’s one of those questions that is best answered “it depends” because the right number really depends on YOU, your academic strengths and weaknesses and your long-term goals.


However, here are a few things you can think about as you make this decision: 


I like to think of course rigor and GPA as a unique equilibrium point for each student. The question you should ask each year as your signing up for classes is: Can I take THIS set of classes and still achieve the best possible grades??


Now, that doesn’t mean you should just take all easy classes to maintain straight As because colleges want to see that you are willing to challenge yourself. Keep in mind an AP class may be advanced for the high school level, but it’s really just a slow-paced introductory level college curriculum. Meaning, when you get to college ALL of your classes will be at that level or harder. Taking AP classes now will show colleges that you are prepared for college-level work. 


You should be willing to challenge yourself most in the areas related to your field of interest. If you say you want to be an engineer, but you are not interested in taking the most advanced math and science courses at your school, that should raise a red flag for you because it will for colleges.


It’s also good to challenge yourself with an AP class in something outside your chosen field like the engineer above could consider taking AP English or History at some point in high school to show colleges that you possess intellectual breadth—you are not just a one trick pony.


Above all, your default mode should not be to take every AP class available IF the evidence is that you cannot maintain solid grades while taking all the hardest classes at your school. Be strategic, take the classes that make sense for YOU and will still give you time to be involved in your school community, your broader community and do things outside of school that bring you joy.


All the best, 

Team Insight 

8 Unique Silicon Valley Teen Volunteering Opportunities

You’ve no doubt heard about the importance of volunteering, and how much colleges truly value service and community engagement. But what are good local South Bay Area volunteering opportunities?


The best kind of community service activities for college are those that actively engage or challenge you. So while sitting behind a help desk or handing out water bottles is a good place to start, this activity is not nearly as challenging or meaningful as something like designing a workshop for elementary school students, restoring natural habitat, or doing service activities with people from a totally different background than your own.


Here are some interesting Silicon Valley teen volunteering opportunities that are all very interesting!


Calling All Student-Athletes! [Los Gatos]

With Girls On The Run Silicon Valley, you act as a coach and inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident while learning and running! This is a great way to enjoy being outdoors while helping others at the same time! 


For Engineers and Drone Lovers [San Carlos]

If you love engineering and aviation, the Hiller Aviation Museum teen program is the ideal opportunity for you to work as a museum guide and share your passion with museum guests. Opportunities are available during the week and on the weekend, and teen volunteers can also getting programming experience too in the new invention lab!


For Future Lawyers (Or Businesspeople) With A Connection To Asia [San Jose]

If you’re interested in human rights, passionate about business and marketing or fluent in an Asian language here’s the chance to use your organizational skills for a good cause.

The Asian Law Alliance looks for volunteers, not just as interpreters, but also in marketing, media and more. The center is open from 9 to 5 PM, so this can be a perfect opportunity to take out some interesting community experience over the summer.


Do You Love To Code and Teach?  [San Jose]

If you dream in Java or Python and enjoy sharing this passion with others, then this is the program for you! With the Coding5K Challenge, you have the chance to teach children and lead a series of coding workshops using the provided curriculum.


Calling all Fashionistas! [San Jose]

Dress for Success empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. Volunteers assist with personal shopping, clothes sorting, and handling inventory.


Promote Mental Wellness and Physical Health! [Los Gatos]

The Eating Disorder Research Center (EDRC) wants you to help with job duties ranging from administrative work to writing press releases to helping out at health events.


Get Outside While Working with Friends [Santa Clara]

The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority has a great opportunity to have fun outdoors while giving back and make a difference for the planet. The OSHA has a number of different programs, from internships to special projects. Ages 14 and up are welcome.


Curious about Crime and Justice? [San Jose]

Join the San Jose Police Department Cadet Program. You’ll get to learn all about government, law enforcement, and justice. Volunteer meetings happen once a week and teens can gain 15 volunteering hours every single month! Open to students ages 16 and up.


Get out there! 

All the best,

Team Insight

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