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Making the Most of Winter Break

Finally, winter break has arrived! There is time to breathe, to sleep, and to think.

Also to study, spend time with friends and family, travel… a Winter Break To-Do List can become rather unwieldy, especially if you don’t have a clear plan. But managed carefully, winter break can provide the extra time you need to get caught up on everything from sleep to college applications. Here are some tips for making your winter break as enjoyable, and productive, as possible.

Make a List

First, make a list or plan of what you want to accomplish. You may not be much of a list person, and that’s OK! Your list could be as simple as “sleep 9 hours per night. Finish college applications.” (January 1 is just around the corner!) Time can seem to evaporate when you don’t have a plan, so having a sense of your goals is important. Break up each goal into small, manageable sections, so that you’re not panicking the last night of break about how much work remains.

Be Realistic with your Plan

Try to be realistic when making your plans.  If you plan to catch up on your reading, visit two colleges, and travel to visit out-of-town family, this may not be the time to learn oil painting or start your own podcast. Similarly, if you plan to work on applications for an hour a day, keep in mind that you may not get that time on, say, Christmas day.

At the same time, keep a “no thanks” in your pocket for events or invitations that might not fit into your schedule. While we all have obligations that are pretty mandatory this time of year, if you’re feeling swamped, take a good look at everything on your calendar and ask yourself if you might politely extricate yourself from something in order to facilitate the rest of your agenda, even if that’s just getting enough sleep.

Some things you might consider including in your list of goals: catching up on (or even getting ahead on) school work in a challenging course, working on your college list (for juniors) or finishing up last-minute applications (for seniors).

You could spend some time researching and applying for scholarships, summer programs or internships. If you’re a Junior who hasn’t yet begun to prepare for the ACT or SAT, now is a great time to start with a practice test.

Getting caught up on sleep should be a priority, especially if you’ve been skimping to get through exams. Sleep can help you focus, be more efficient, and even affect how well your flu shot works.

Have Fun

Finally, try to make time for something fun that you might not have time for when school is in session.  Go ice skating, drink some hot cocoa, or visit the penguins at the zoo. Whatever you choose, aim for a balance of rest, fun, and productivity to make sure you’re refreshed and ready for 2017.

 

4 Steps to Begin Your Scholarship Search

College is a huge investment. While the benefits of higher education are undeniable, another truth is just as evident. College is expensive. Given this reality, scholarships can be a college student’s best friend; after all, it’s money you don’t have to pay back! When it comes to college scholarship applications, it definitely pays (both literally and figuratively) to put in the extra work. So where to begin? Just follow these simple steps to begin your college scholarship search!

Set Up a Meeting With Your School Guidance Counselor

Your school counselor should have a great idea of scholarships that are available within your area. They also have experience assisting former students with the various application procedures, as well as the knowledge of what successful applicants have done in the past. Before your meeting, be sure to prepare a list of colleges you are interested in applying to and a list of activities or organizations you are currently associated with. This information will help your counselor identify scholarship opportunities that are tailored to your specific interests and needs.

Visit Your Dream School’s Website

A college’s website or financial aid office is the best resource to find out about university specific scholarship opportunities. Even if you haven’t started applying for admission yet, visiting your prospective schools’ websites can give you an idea of when scholarship applications are due as well as GPA or test score requirements for different levels of merit-based aid. Many schools have a scholarship application process that is separate from the admissions application, so don’t assume that by applying for admission you are also applying for aid.

Check Out Employers

Many companies offer scholarships or tuition assistance programs to their employees and their family members. Simply being related to someone who works for an organization that offers scholarships or grants could be a new opportunity, so be sure to ask your parents or other family members for that matter (Holiday get-togethers could be a great time to ask around!). If you have a part-time job, don’t forget to check with your employer as well. Who knows, maybe your weekend job could end up providing you more than just gas money!

Search the Internet

A simple Google search will yield more scholarship opportunities than you could ever have the time to explore. Thankfully, there are many scholarship search engines that make the process a lot easier to digest. A great place to begin is the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool. There, you may search for scholarships by keyword or filter by location or demographic details. There are many similar websites that offer similar services, so be sure to look around until you find one that works well for you.

By Jennifer Murphy, Standard-Level Tutor @ Get Smarter Prep

 

University of Missouri – Kansas City

Name: Claire Engel
College: University of Missouri – Kansas City

1. What first drew you to UMKC?

I had traveled to Kansas City many times for soccer tournaments and always loved the city. Once while there, my teammates and I explored the college and I really liked the grounds.

2. What other colleges were you considering?

I was dead set on going to DePaul University. Then I woke up and realized that even with my scholarship, I could never afford it, and I didn’t want to be buried in debt. UMKC is much more affordable. I don’t regret my choice at all and I’m sure I’ll be even happier when I come out of school in two years loan free.

3. How was the adjustment from high school to college?

Pretty smooth. I missed some of the people I left in St. Louis, but I had no problem with the course work.

4. What was your favorite class? Why?

So far, I would have to say Introduction to Human Language. My professor, Dr. Stroik, was extremely engaging and it was the first class I have taken that has exposed me to entirely new material.

5. What clubs or groups were you involved in?

University News, College of Arts and Sciences Student Council, UMKC Ambassadors for Stopping Human Trafficking

6. Anything else you want to tell us?

If you’re looking at colleges, don’t have tunnel vision like I did. Explore all of your options and all of the schools you are considering. I missed out on a great full ride scholarship to my school that I was overqualified for because I didn’t apply, as I was too busy focusing on DePaul.

7. In one sentence, what do you love about your school?

The diversity and the friendliness of both the students and teachers.

Claire Engel is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

Un-learning Our Learning Process

One of the trickiest parts of working with the ACT and SAT is not only helping students improve, but also helping their families deconstruct their preconceptions about the exams.  These exams have become ubiquitous with college admissions – yet all too often, we are not approaching them in the most collegiate way!

The tests – at face value – appear to be a metric to measure what a student has learned in high school, in preparation for college.  Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly what they are!  The ACT and SAT both test material learned at one point or another during the middle school or high school curriculum, but they test it in a way that may not be familiar.  This is where a student must take their first steps toward thinking more like a college student.  They must discover for themselves the distinct differences between the two tests and the tests as compared to their school work.

As mentioned before, for most students there will not be any totally new content on the exams – yet for many students, information recall is not enough to do well on these standardized tests.  As both exams are different versions of psychometric exams, the manner in which a question is asked is often more important than the content associated.  A student therefore must be willing to “play the test maker’s game,” learning new methods to properly take the exam.  The test makers are notorious for asking questions with the words “least,” “not,” and “except” in them.  Before we even get to the content piece, we must realize the question is more about a “logic game” than anything else.

It is easy to get stuck in our learning rut, and for the most part it is beneficial in our schooling systems.  But in order to succeed on these exams we must realign our method of thinking to that of the test makers.  This alteration will lead us toward our ultimate goals: achieving a higher score in order to earn admission to the school of our choice and to become eligible for additional scholarship money to help fund our education

Caleb Pierce is a Tutor and President at Get Smarter Prep.

Summer College Prep

Spring is in the air!  Prom is just around the corner, and finals are getting closer.  After finals, comes summer.  For many students, this means swimming pools, barbecues, camping trips, and general relaxation.  For the class of 2014, however, summer is the ideal time to write essays and complete college applications.

Imagine, if you will, going back to high school in August.  It’s your senior year.  You’re the top dog on campus.  It’s your last chance to participate in pep rallies, school plays, and high school sports teams.  Your friends start to ask you where you’re going to school next year.  Your teachers start to ask you where you’re going to school next year.  You still don’t know where you want to apply.  Your friends start to get acceptance letters.  You start to freak out.  Now, in addition to homework, tests, and all your extracurricular activities, you need to find time to complete your college applications.

Now imagine going back to school in August.  It’s your senior year.  You spent part of the summer deciding which schools would be a good fit for you next year.  You honed your essay writing skills.  When college applications were available on August 1st, you were ready to go.  By the time school started, you were well on your way to completing your applications.  Now with pep rallies, school plays, sports and volunteer work vying for your attention, you’re so glad that you have your college applications done.  By the time winter break rolls around, you already know where you’re going to school next year.  You no longer dread the question “where are you going to college?” because you know the answer.

Which student would you rather be?

Get Smarter Prep can help you navigate the college application process with ease.  Learn what majors and careers are a good fit for you.  Get help narrowing down your college list to the top schools that fit your personality.  Learn to write a college essay that admissions officers won’t easily forget.

By starting early on your applications, you not only reduce your potential stress levels, but you also have a better shot at getting the money you need for the school you want.  All financial aid has a deadline, and some aid is given on a first come, first served basis.  Plus, a lot of scholarships require an essay submission, so it is beneficial for you to have an essay you can be proud of.

You can still hit the pool this summer, but don’t forget to take a break for your college applications!

Gina Claypool is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.