Pre-Holiday Stress

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For juniors:

– Optimize your free time. Unfortunately, eleventh grade tends to be the

most difficult in terms of time management due to the large amount of

studying that is required of all students – not only for their courses, but

for standardized tests. We recommend going out with friends only one

night a week, preferably a Saturday night. You probably want to get into

the habit of staying in on Friday nights – or at least having more relaxed

Friday nights – because most standardized tests occur early on

Saturday mornings. I know that 11th grade is a very social year, and it’s

easy to get distracted by friends, so we recommend that students plan

their study time at home very carefully. Break that time up into one-hour

blocks, working on homework and studying for 50-55 minutes and

taking 5-10 minutes at the end of each hour to take a break and

communicate with your friends. This requires discipline, but you will get

a lot more done with way than if you let yourself get caught up in an

hour-long phone conversation or IM session. It is very important to

prioritize what you have to do every week, keeping in mind that large

projects, tests and papers come first. Plan to work on these in advance,

not the night or even week before. In fact, as soon as you get the

assignment or test date, you should begin preparing incrementally. A

project done the night before is never as good as one that has been

gradually strengthened over time, and furthermore, you need a good

night’s sleep–7 or 8 hours if possible–before a presentation or test.

Pulling an all-nighter ultimately does you a disservice. If you are tired

after school, instead of sleeping until dinner, you should train yourself to

take 30-minute power naps, which will re-energize you without wasting

valuable time.

– Stick to your IvyWise testing schedule. Eleventh grade, we’re sorry to

say, is also the year of heavy standardized testing. The best way to

handle it all is by beginning preparation for the SAT I, SAT subject tests,

and AP exams (if you’re taking them in May) at the beginning of the

school year. In addition, try spacing your test dates out so you are not

wrestling with too much test prep at any given time. For example, you

can take the Math I or II SAT subject test in November and December

and get them out of the way. If you are able to prepare well enough in

advance, we recommend taking the SAT I in both January and April and

leaving May and June open for subject tests. The May SAT date does

not conflict with the dates of the May AP tests, which are usually given at

school during the week. In order to get the most out of a testing day, we

advise–especially at the end of the school year–taking 3 SAT subject

tests on both the May and June dates. The subjects you take on these

dates should coincide with your 11th-grade courses, as learning is

cumulative, and you should already know most of the information on the

tests by May or June due to your in-school coursework. Also, remember

that because colleges take only your highest scores, you can take tests

twice. For example, if you take US History as an 11th-grader, you may

want to sign up for the US History SAT subject test in both May and June

to give yourself two shots at it. For the SAT I, colleges will take your

highest score in each section, even if they occur on different test dates.

If you want a third chance at the SAT I or any SAT subject tests, you still

have October and November of your senior year to use as retake dates.

Finally, just a reminder that in order to be prepared for standardized

tests, it is important to practice. You should do about eight realistic

practice tests for each exam, whether it be the SAT I, a subject test, or an

AP exam, before going into the real test.

– Nurture your teacher relationships. Eleventh grade is the most

important time in your high school career to cultivate your relationships

with teachers. Most likely, two of your 11th-grade teachers will later be

writing your college recommendations. Try to be absent as little as

possible (aim for 3 days maximum per year, and those should only be

due to extreme illness), be responsible with your schoolwork, go above

and beyond the boundaries of the classroom assignments, be respectful

of your teachers and peers, and meet regularly with your teacher

outside of the classroom for extra help and so you can build a better

relationship. By the end of the year, you should have at least two

teachers who will want to go to bat for you. The better a teacher knows

you, the better his or her recommendation will be, as he or she can

include detailed and lively anecdotes about you in your letter of


– Start your college research early. Beginning in 11th grade, we

recommend visiting as many campuses as possible of those that interest

you, because you will learn a lot just by being on the campus and

seeing the community firsthand. You can start your research using the

Fiske Guide to Colleges, which is an especially great resource, because

each school’s description also includes a list of schools that are typical

overlaps (a list of schools where applicants to that particular school also

applied). Once you read a bit about a college, you can do more

research about it online by taking virtual tours and reading about

professors, course offerings, clubs and organizations, community

service, internships and study abroad opportunities. After awhile, you

will really start to get a feel for what it would be like to go there. When

you visit, you should attend both the information session and the

campus tour, as you get two different points of view: Generally, an

admissions representative leads the information session while a current

student leads the tour. As an eleventh-grader, it is also a great idea to

make contacts at the schools in which you’re interested. For example,

contact the admissions office at a school you love, find out who will be

reading applications from your area, and start an email dialogue with

this reader. This is a good way to get your specific questions answered,

as well as have your name heard by the person who will eventually be

evaluating your application.

– Set high but realistic grade goals for each semester. Colleges will look

first and foremost at your academic record from 9th grade through the

end of 11th grade. Therefore, your goal should be to end 11th grade as

strong as possible. This is especially important if you started high

school out on a shaky note – if you finish 11th grade on an upward

grade trend, your lower grades in your freshman year will be more likely

to be excused. Most colleges will only see the very beginning of your

senior year’s performance in your courses by the time you apply, so

your end-of-year grades during junior year must be reflective of your

academic capabilities. College is about getting a higher education and

admissions readers want to be sure that the students they admit can do

the work at their school. Remember, grades always come first!

For seniors:

– Focus on all of your schools, not just your early choice. If you applied

early, it can be tempting to “wait and see” before seriously working on

your other college applications–however, since most early programs

send out their decisions in mid-December and most regular applications

are due in early January, putting off the other applications would be a

mistake. Give yourself your winter vacation as a time to relax, not as a

time to be frantically working on your college applications. Furthermore,

keep researching all of the schools on your list. Take comfort in the fact

that you put together your college list based on careful research–you

would likely be equally happy and successful at any of the schools on

your list. Continued research should help you get excited about multiple

colleges, instead of just focusing on one. That way, once you receive

your early application decision, you will be prepared for all options.

– You are in charge of what you share. In other words, if your relatives

nag you over where you are applying and whether you will be going to

an Ivy League school, feel free to decide how much you want to share.

If a particular extended family member or friend is adding to your stress

rather than helping alleviate it, you might want to calmly and directly

explain that you would rather not discuss it right now. Remember that if

someone is giving you a hard time, it is likely a result of his/her own

feelings and not about you. Surround yourself with people who will

support you, and think about how your words might be affecting those

around you as well.

– Don’t forget that you are still in high school. Senior year, as you know,

is often very stressful. Seniors are so busy planning and preparing for

leaving home and going to college while at the same time still trying to

enjoy their last year of high school. Don’t get so caught up in applying

to college that you neglect high school–including your schoolwork.

Stay motivated by using your last year of high school to get the most out

of your classes, and to contribute more than you have in the past.

Adding to class discussions, challenging yourself on papers and

assignments, and managing your busy schedule are great practice for

college, when you will most likely have harder classes and more


– Be a leader. As a senior, you are automatically a leader in your

school, whether or not you are captain of a sport or president of a club.

Assume your leadership role with pride. Be a role model to younger

students. Lead by example in the classroom, on the sports fields, and in

your clubs and activities.

– Remember that things do work out. It may be difficult to hear now, but

whether or not you are admitted to your first choice school, things do

work out in the end. Most students I have spoken to agree that they

would have been happy and successful at many, many colleges.

Success is based on the individual, not on the college he/she attends.

College admission is not a statement about your worth as a person.

This fact is important for everyone to keep in mind–even the person

who is admitted to every school on the list. Celebrate your many

accomplishments before you hear from your colleges.

For parents of juniors:

– Start planning trips around college visits. A helpful way for a parent to

get involved in the college application process is by starting to plan

college visits in advance, before the pressure is on during senior year.

Longer trips can be planned during fall or winter break, whereas a quick

trip should be planned for a day off of school. Ideally, a visit should be

when school is in session, so the student can get a realistic idea of what

it’s like to live and study in that particular community. Initiating

discussion of college visits is also a great way to encourage your son or

daughter to begin the college research process early. Remember,

however, that your role is to plan the visits and provide support for your

son or daughter throughout the duration of the visit; it is not to decide

whether the school is a good match for your son or daughter. Of course,

your opinion will likely matter to your son or daughter, it’s important that

you stay at arm’s length – you are not applying to school.

– Help your child understand the importance of junior year grades.

Eleventh grade can be an extremely stressful and work-intensive year

for students who are planning on applying to the top tier of colleges. In

some cases, the overload can cause a backlash or a descent into

indifference. It is then your role to help your son or daughter understand

that 11th grade academic performance is basically the most important

aspect of a college application, and this is the most inopportune time for

a high school student to drop the ball in his or her coursework. While it

is true that in terms of grades, college starts in 9th grade, there is a bit of

room for error in the earlier years, as long as the student eventually

demonstrates an upward grade trend. By the fall term of 11th grade, this

upward trend has to have begun; it is then the student’s responsibility to

reinforce these high grades throughout the rest of his or her high school

career. It is therefore also crucial to end midterms on a strong note. You

should check in with your son or daughter periodically to see how each

individual class of theirs is going so you can pinpoint any particular

problem areas early on. If they seem to be having problems in a certain

area, encourage your son or daughter to talk to the teacher outside of

the classroom on a biweekly basis. This not only will help your child

understand the material, it will help him or her build an important

relationship with a teacher who could vouch for him or her on a college

application during the following year. It’s also a good idea to ask

questions about their classes from an intellectual standpoint: Try and

help your child connect the actual course material by engaging in

dinnertime conversation about what he or she is studying. Play the role

of student by having your child explain in detail what is being covered in

their core classes. Still, if your son or daughter seems to be slipping

grade-wise or seems increasingly disinterested in his or her schoolwork,

you may want to start encouraging the college research process with a

possible trip to a reach school or two. Seeing the school’s environment

and realizing what the commitment it will take to get there will likely

serve as a motivator more commanding than your reminders that

schoolwork comes first.

– Stay on top of your son or daughter’s standardized testing schedule. It

is important to really keep on top of your kids about this: Are they signed

up for the right standardized tests? Are they properly registered? It has

unfortunately proven more than once that leaving minute details such as

picking up registration forms up to the student is not always a foolproof

plan. Also, ask to see the registration forms to make sure that your son

or daughter’s name is spelled and recorded exactly the same way on

each SAT form. If a student sits an SAT or a subject test on more than

one occasion and his or her name is recorded differently in any way

from one date to the other, not all scores will be grouped together. Even

something as minor as the presence or absence of a hyphen in a

compound last name can cause a separate record to be created for your

child, so please be vigilant about spelling!

– Finally, don’t stress yourself out, too! As we said earlier, 11th grade is

indeed a demanding and tense year for students. It is your job to serve

as a support system during this time, not add unneeded extra pressure.

For parents of seniors:

– Encourage your son or daughter not to lose steam in school. Probably

the most important thing you can do for your senior right now is to help

them avoid the infamous senioritis like the plague. Especially now that

early-round applications have likely been submitted, the temptation to

extend much-needed relaxation into slacking off is looming strong. You

can help by providing continual reminders that senior year does count

and can in fact be the deciding factor of acceptance if he or she is

deferred or waitlisted. If he or she needs more help internalizing this

fact, you might want to have your child give his or her IvyWise counselor

a call!

– Help set up mock interviews for your son or daughter. Many schools

require or recommend an interview to accompany students’ written

applications, and for many students, this can seem somewhat daunting.

Naturally, practicing will help! Try arranging a mock interview with

another adult – perhaps a friend of yours t whom your son or daughter is

not too close – to mimic the experience a bit more accurately. Also, if

your student is signed up for an IvyWise package, have them consult his

or her manual and thoroughly review the sample questions provided in

the interview section.

– Don’t place too much emphasis on your child’s early school. Now that

early applications are in, there is little else a student can do but wait for

his or her first-choice school’s decision. Do your best to avoid closing

the college discussion to other schools by saying, “Well, if Penn [replace

Penn with Harvard, Princeton Brown, etc.] accepts you, none of this will

be relevant, but you should start working on your NYU application just in

case.” Although you are not technically eliminating other schools from

the mix, it can definitely be too much for a student to handle if his or

parents consistently bring up the outside chance that he or she will be

accepted at his or her dream school, which for many students is a very

high reach. Now that year-end grades and test scores are in place, this

point in the year is a great time for you to schedule a meeting with the

college counselor at school, where you can go over your child’s college

list and get the school counselor’s perspective on the likelihood of your

child being admitted to each school on the list. Make sure the list is

complete with all reach levels (high reach, target, and true safety

schools) – it’s time for a reality check! In some cases this may mean

redefining a list somewhat, but it’s certainly better to do that now than

after the fact. In brief, it’s important at this time for you to keep the

conversation open to the idea that there are many choices, and if your

child is not accepted early, it is not the end of the world and can be a

blessing in disguise. After all, you are the parent and your job is to

make your child appreciate his or her successes, of which there are

certainly are many!

– Applying to college is not a “we” process. The college application

process can be very scary for parents: The child you raised is growing

up and leaving the nest. Where they go after leaving said nest,

however, should not ultimately be up to you. The decision-making

process belongs to the student. Please try and keep the “we” out of it as

much as possible. You can and should be your child’s biggest

cheerleader, but allowing your son or daughter to take ownership of

what is likely his or her most major life decision is essential.

Furthermore, if the applicant is eventually deferred, waitlisted, or

rejected, do not try and assume the blame by making it a mutual

rejection (“‘We’ were rejected from Notre Dame” is not going to soften

the blow for your son or daughter.). As most applicants ultimately

understand, acceptances to colleges are based on a complex

interaction of factors, and no one should consider it a personal failure if

the ideal end result does not materialize. It is the parent’s responsibility

to help the student understand this – not to appropriate the rejection as

a sign of your own shortcomings. Your objective, adult point of view is a

crucial element to your son or daughter’s comprehension of this

situation, so please do your best to keep an impartial attitude toward the

end result (al the while, of course, while reminding your child that he or

she will always be loved and that he or she is indeed successful).

Source by Katherine Cohen

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