Tag Archives | high school

Methods to Ease Students Into the Rigors of College

Image by Jirka Matousek, Flickr

Image by Jirka Matousek, Flickr

College opens doors. For some it grants the credentials to achieve highly technical professional career, and for others it equips them with the skills and knowledge they can use to eliminate what could have been years trudging their way up the corporate ladder.

Entering, remaining in, and succeeding at college can be extremely difficult. Nightmares about student loan debt, an inability to balance life, work and school, as well as the very real reality that you might not be in the right mindset to succeed, has convinced many students to put off college just one more semester. If you fall into one of these categories, don’t give up yet – here are a few methods to ease yourself into college.

Take College Classes in High School
Some high schools do not prepare students for the rigors of college. Many high school curriculums are so easy that students can sleep through them. Get a taste of college and a jump start on your college degree with dual (also known as concurrent or advanced placement) college classes. Students in dual enrollment classes earn high school and college credit for courses at the same time.

Depending on the school district, these courses either take place online, in class, or at a college campus. They are usually significantly cheaper than the traditional college course, and some states and school districts will cover the cost of students enrolling in dual enrollment programs.

Community College
Community college is a solid way to ease yourself into college. The low cost of tuition for community college (students can expect to pay around $3,400 a year in some states) makes pursuing higher education a more viable option. If you’re curious how much in-state or private colleges will cost you this year, check out this article. Due to the steep price of college, many students knock out many of their generic courses through a local community college and then transfer to an in-state school for their junior and senior years.

Community college can also offer a low stress, minimal commitment education. Individuals who aren’t sure if they have the time or mental capacity to pursue a college degree can sign up for a course and just see how it goes. Dropping the course mid-semester if life takes a sudden twist won’t be such a punch to the gut due to the lower tuition fees.

Audit Classes
Some potential students are more concerned with their ability (either mentally or temporally) to handle their classes. The thought of dishing out tuition when the course might be beyond your ability to complete successfully can be daunting. Auditing might be the answer to circumvent that issue.

Auditing occurs when the school and the professor grant a student permission to sit in on a class. Often students don’t pay and they’re not required by the professor to take the tests. Many colleges offer the ability to audit classes to students who aren’t enrolled (but these may come with a cost). Other colleges don’t require students to pay. And others just require auditors to pay the attached class fees.

Arizona State University recently created a program that could change the face of education called the Global Freshman Academy. The academy offers the ability to audit while still giving students the ability to earn credits at the end of the course. The only up-front fee is $45 dollars for each course students enroll in to verify the student’s identity.

At the end of the course, if the student passes and wishes to earn credit for the course, then they can pay for the credits. It’s a fairly innovative process that offers all of the rigors and time commitment without any of the academic or financial stress. Failing or dropping the course won’t leave a messy trail on your college transcript.

Perusing Videos or Podcasts
If all of the above options are too much of a time, money, and brain suck, individuals can dip their toes into higher education by listening or watching professor or guest speaker lectures. For those who don’t live near a college campus, many colleges, departments, and professors upload their lectures online on a variety of platforms. When you have some free time, check out iTunes, school websites, or YouTube for free educational lectures.

College courses can grant the skills, knowledge, and credentials to succeed professionally. Not all students can afford to dive into college, due to personal, professional or monetary constraints. Starting college while in secondary school, enrolling in community college, auditing classes, and listening to educational lectures online is a solid way for individuals to ease their way into college.

This article was contributed by guest author Samantha Stauf.

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How Mental Health Affected Me In High School

Image by Henry Shi, Flickr

Image by Henry Shi, Flickr

 
When I was in high school I was a straight-A student. I was the kind of girl who got upset if she got a B. I remember complaining to my friends that I only had 93% in Geography when I thought I had 95% in the ninth grade. One of my friends gasped, feigning horror. “OH MY GOD, YOU ONLY HAVE A 93?! GUYS, CHELSEA ONLY HAS A 93,” he yelled sarcastically. Looking back now, I can see how lucky I was, but back then I felt like my grades were the only thing I had going for me. I was the smart one. That’s what I was known for. And then I became known for something else.

At 16, the vast majority of my friends shut me out for reasons that I can’t quite explain. I started dating one of the guys in our group, they all hated it and wanted us to break up – we did (a few times – they were not exactly conducive to romance) – and then just like that, all my friends were gone.

I didn’t like school already – although I was good at it, I had social anxiety (I didn’t know it at the time) and I couldn’t talk to anyone outside of my little group of friends from elementary school. Now that they were gone, it felt like my social anxiety had gone straight from 0 to 100 – I felt like everyone was always staring, whispering behind my back and judging me, because half the time they actually were. If I didn’t like school before, I hated it now. I had to sit through classes with my former friends, and though I moved seats to get away from them, I could still hear them talking about me at times. I had to watch them talk about all their exciting plans that I wasn’t a part of, at a louder volume than necessary because they were kind of obnoxious, just in general.

It was hard for me to focus in classes with people who hated my guts sitting a few feet away from me. I saw the school counsellor, who was very helpful – it was nice to have someone to talk to. But that didn’t change my reality, and by the end of grade 12 I might have failed without assistance from my counsellor and teachers. I had wanted to go to the University of Toronto, but I felt so scared of everything now, like the city would eat me alive. I ended up going to Brock University because it felt like the safer choice, but it was not for me.

Even my graduation wasn’t what I thought it would be. A lot of kids who have a hard time in high school have a fantastic time at graduation because they’re so happy to be out of there, but I had the opposite experience. I was the type of girl who dreamed about prom – I used to make sketches of what I wanted my dream dress to look like, and true to form I spent $1000 on a ballgown (maybe not the wisest decision, but it was the only thing I could do for myself). And it was a nice night; one of my best friends that I still had from out of town came down just to take me, so I didn’t have to go alone. But I didn’t get to ride in a limo and take beautiful pictures and go to an after party with everybody else. I wanted it to be the best day of my teenage life and I still felt excluded. Someone always had to remind me: You do not belong here. You are not good enough.

Still, I thought that things would get better in university. They had to. That was how it always went – the loser in high school gets super hot and then goes on to be crazy successful and everybody’s boss, a la Elle Woods (except with popularity instead of brains). It was a chance to start over – no one there knew who I was, and I never had to tell them. Unfortunately, I would be disappointed yet again.

Stay tuned.

5 Ways to Stay Healthy at University

Image by epSos.de, Flickr

Image by epSos.de, Flickr

Do you know what really causes the “freshman fifteen?” Hint: it’s not just about what you eat! What you drink has a lot to do with unhealthy weight gain, and being sedentary and sleep-deprived just pack on the extra pounds. Due to the myriad of social and academic obligations of university life, the variable schedule of the average student can wreak havoc on one’s diet, sleep pattern, and exercise regimen. Staying healthy, however, will boost your mood and energy levels, which will bolster your academic performance and help you to maintain a positive mindset. Here are some basic ways to stay healthy at university:

1. Sleep well

Good sleep is essential for your physical and mental wellbeing – it will help maintain your metabolism, improve your memory, and heighten mental clarity. Poor sleep, on the other hand, reduces your energy level and ability to concentrate, and results in higher levels of irritability, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, sleep deprivation causes an increase in appetite, which may result in weight gain. Try to establish a regular sleeping pattern of eight hours each night, going to bed and getting up at the same time.

2. Exercise frequently … and sneakily
It’s easy to lead a sedentary lifestyle at school. What do you do in a lecture hall? You sit. What do you do in the library? You sit. What do you do in the cafeteria? You sit. While university seems to require a lot of sitting, it is important to be active in order to stay healthy. Establish a routine of regular exercise – treat your gym time like an extra class in your schedule, or split your workouts into shorter and more frequent increments that will fit into a busy schedule. If you don’t think you can muster the self-discipline to make it to the gym alone, sign up for an exercise class with a friend. Try something interesting and new – kickboxing, squash, yoga, tennis, or Pilates are all great ways to get moving. Don’t forget the little things that you can do in between workouts to maximize your level of activity – walk to class, take the stairs, and stand up to stretch your legs for every hour you find yourself sitting in the library.

3. Watch your beverages
There are four types of beverages that can have an impact on your health: alcohol, soda and soft drinks, caffeinated drinks, and water.

Alcoholic drinks contain empty calories and no nutritional value whatsoever. The excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages can have serious physical effects – if it isn’t enough that a single shot of vodka contains a whopping 100 calories, studies show that regular consumption of alcohol impairs your ability to absorb nutrients and burn fat over time.

Soft drinks, sodas, and sweetened fruit juices also cause unhealthy weight gain and slow your digestion. They contain high levels of sugar, and their diet equivalents simply substitute the sugar content with chemicals that are just as toxic for your system. Soda should be a treat, not a habit. Substitute your sugary fix with a refreshing cup of tea (chamomile and mint tea promote relaxation and digestion, and sweeter flavours such as strawberry, peach, ginseng, or lemon keep it interesting). You can also switch your soda for a sparkling water.

Keep an eye on your caffeine consumption, too. Caffeinated drinks are often dehydrating – remember to drink two glasses of water for every coffee or energy drink you consume. Also, drinking coffee too late in the day might disturb your quality of sleep at night. Most importantly, watch out for the unhealthy additives in calorie-laden lattes or specialty drinks at your favourite coffee shop – one chai tea latte from Starbucks sounds innocent enough, but even its smallest size packs an incredible 240 calories (not to mention 41 grams of sugar).

Make sure you drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is essential to maintaining general health and energy levels, and helps to control your weight and appetite, improve your skin, flush your system, and improve your quality of sleep. Try to drink a glass of water every hour and before each meal.

4. Everything in moderation
Don’t be afraid of bread, pasta, and cereals – in moderation, they can be part of a healthy diet. Avoiding them completely can have a negative impact on your metabolism, which is essential to fighting that freshman fifteen. Just keep in mind that dessert should be a treat, not a habit. Make sure you fuel up on nutrient-rich foods with plenty of fibre – whole grains, lentils, spinach, broccoli, beans, and zucchini, among others. Add avocado, lettuce, and tomato to your sandwiches. In the cafeteria, avoid fried or breaded items, and choose the grilled option instead. Add chicken to your salad for a protein boost. Substitute brown rice for white rice, mustard for mayonnaise, whole grain for white bread, and olive oil and vinegar for creamy salad dressing. For motivation and inspiration, look to food blogs and Pinterest recipes to get you excited about eating healthy.

5. What you eat is just as important as when you eat it.
Between classes, assignment deadlines, exams, parties, and going out with friends, it can be difficult to plan a regular meal schedule. Remember to eat breakfast (it starts your metabolism and gives you a boost of energy, which will help control your appetite and prevent overeating throughout the day) and pack healthy snacks to bring to campus (baby carrots, pretzels, apples, and almonds are all great ideas) to tide you over until lunch (a sandwich with a soup or salad is always a healthy option). Avoid midnight snacking, ordering pizza at two in the morning, or grabbing a greasy bite after a night out with your friends – studies show that eating late at night can cause unhealthy weight gain. Stress can also have an effect on how you eat, so try to avoid unhealthy and excessive snacking when you are bored or worried about something, and do not skip meals – a diet of regular meals and nutritious snacks is important to the maintenance of your overall health.

Is Advanced Placement Right for You?

New-ap-photo-me-yes

According to the AP Canada website, the Advanced Placement (AP) program is a rigorous academic program which “provides opportunities for motivated and prepared students to experience college-level courses while in high school, thereby fostering critical thinking and college persistence and success.” Created by the College Board in the United States, the AP program was designed by university-level educators and experts with the intention of administering university-level curriculum and exams to high school students. Since its debut in the United States, the AP program has also been introduced to select Canadian schools over the course of the past decade.

How do I choose which APs to take?
Choose your APs based on how you would choose your regular courses. Examine your personal academic interests and strengths, or experiment with a subject you might consider pursuing in university.

Will taking an AP exam qualify for university course credit?
Be careful. Not all universities recognize AP exams for course credit. Individual university websites will often specify which AP subjects they accept (spoiler: not all of them) and may stipulate that you achieve a certain score in order to be eligible to receive course credit. However, if you fulfill the given requirements and qualify for course credit, you will save both time and money later on!

Are AP exams like university exams?
The AP exam period resembles the university exam period in its capacity to evoke a brief yet intense state of stress which is tempered only by frequent snacks and the sudden camaraderie that develops between you and your peers in the throes of your collective suffering. They are also like university exams – and most exams, perhaps – in the sense that they require hard work, but can yield rewarding results upon completion.

Be prepared for an adjustment that might be difficult, rewarding, or both.
The AP program is designed to prepare you for AP exams, which often means incorporating new exercises into your usual academic routine. For example, my AP French exam involved a speaking component, in which my verbal observations of an image depicting a certain event were recorded on tape. After years of studying French through conjugation charts, vocabulary lists, and gentle conversational exercises, the prospect of soliloquy terrified the entire class. However, we spent a great deal of class time practicing speech exercises, which ultimately improved our confidence actually speaking the language.

Are AP courses more difficult than regular high school courses? Are they as difficult as university courses?
One of the most touted values of the AP program is its exposure of students to learning material of greater depth and quantity. The workload for AP courses is generally heavier than that of regular high school courses, which might be a valuable experience to have before you careen into university and become overwhelmed by the weight of your unread readings, only to watch them build up and eventually crash down on your GPA.

Whether or not the critical depth and quantity of AP course material is equally stimulating as a university course is difficult to judge, as the difficulty of a university course can depend on many factors aside from the material itself (your personal strengths and interests, the demands and temperament of the instructor, the work assignments involved). While university course material may be more challenging in its requirement of a greater deal of critical thought for excellence, many students seem to struggle with the amount of material there is to tackle, rather than the critical depth of said material.

Regardless of the level of difficulty of the work you have in high school, one thing you can usually count on is that there will just be more of it in university. Ultimately, a big part of the academic transition to university is adjusting to the difference in workload, and the AP program might help you improve your work ethic early on.

Good luck!

How To Find Your First Apartment

Image by sincerelyhiten, Flickr

Image by sincerelyhiten, Flickr

Finding your first apartment or house out of residence is an exciting albeit daunting task. Here are five basic considerations you should make before beginning your search:

  1. Budget. Figure out how much you want to spend on rent each month. Keep in mind that you might have to pay extra utility fees if hydro and Internet are not included!

  2. Location. Choose the general area or neighbourhood in which you wish to live. Important factors might include proximity to campus, grocery or convenience stores, public transportation (metro or bus stop), laundromat (if there isn’t a washer or dryer in the building), and neighborhood safety.

  3. Furnishings. Some properties come with furniture, some don’t. Decide if you want to find a house or apartment that is already furnished, or if you would prefer to furnish it yourself.

  4. Building facilities. Any apartment perks that might interest you, such as a swimming pool, exercise facility, parking access, rooftop access, or security personnel.

  5. Roommates. If you plan on living with other people, make sure you all agree on the considerations above when looking for a property!

Now that you have an idea of what you are looking for, here are some easy ways to start your search:

  • Classified advertisement websites like Craigslist or Kijiji have sections devoted to housing. Always be careful when setting up appointments over the Internet.
  • Your university website might have a similar classified advertisement page for off-campus student housing.
  • Ask around! Friends in upper years might be moving out of their apartments, or might be able to put you in touch with someone who is.
  • Take a walk in the neighbourhood you want to live in.
  • If you see an apartment building you like, either call or go in and inquire as to whether any units are free.

You are now ready to set up an appointment to visit any of the properties that caught your eye.

Good luck!