C[olumbia] ++ 4 Students

Navigating Columbia (or any) High School: An ideal situation – Having A Code

It’s almost as if one needs a special code to succeed in High School.  C++ is a type of computer code/language that’s an asset to know if you’re ‘into’ computers. But who is ‘into’ going to school? And getting through school is a full time job in and of itself. Really.  High School is mandatory.  It’s Monday through Friday, 8am to 3pm. You start attending school at about age 6 and you end high school at about age 17. And you can’t really call in sick – it’s too hard. You need three sets of approval to get away with that: 1). your parents, 2). your doctor’s 3). your dean’s office.  I value education highly, please don’t be mistaken.  Education should be a right and is at the same time a privilege, but the experience of high school, social and academic, is something different.

Select image for Q. & A.

Personally, I recall many occasions before graduation when I wondered what was the point of what I was doing, and if I was doing things right in regards to completing my high school education. I thought school was about working hard to get a good education, and I thought a good education meant doing well academically to get into a really good college. Thing was I was an average student with ‘potential,’ and I was the first in my family to go through the full educational system. It was trial and error for me basically. In hindsight I could not have done anything differently with regard to graduating ‘a more attractive college applicant’ but for three things: 1) working smart. 2) playing by the #1 rule. 3) finding a niche (a suitable place) for myself with regard to academics & extra-circular activities.  Consider 1, 2, & 3 my ‘code’ for succeeding in school. These three points are fundamentally important information that seems obvious, but often times are not to students.

My Code for Succeeding in School (1, 2, & 3)

1. Working Smart (A. Time Management, B.  Understanding your GPA)

work-ing smart

  1. Learning your course material.
  2. Becoming educated on how submitting/not submitting classwork impacts your academic performance.
  3. Using time effectively when reviewing and studying assignments.
  4. Understanding what a ‘GPA’ is.
  5. Knowing the distinction between your marking period GPA and your cumulative GPA.
  6. Developing a strategy to earn a solid GPA.

A. Time Management. Decide how much time to spend on each subject.  Simply do an assessment on your own study habits.  Are your habits excellent, or do they need to be modified? If they do read below.

By time management I don’t necessarily mean something regimental (strict).  Instead

, consider your performance in a class and decide if you should schedule more time (if you need to improve your performance) or if the time you are spending is sufficient.   Even If you are comfortable with a class subject, periodically complete a review of that subject.   This can be frequent – daily, every couple or days, weekly – or not.  Decide what works for you.  Still, try to review as often as you can during the week.  This can only improve your class performance because you are reviewing material you’re comfortable and will remain familiar with.   However, if you don’t feel comfortable with the class material/assignment spend structured time studying this particular class’ material.  By structured time I mean a time schedule like what’s below.

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Example: Structured Study Schedule – Math (Adjust time based on what works for you)

  • Days: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
  • Time Duration: At 7pm to 8:30pm  [7:00 to 7:30] 20 min break [7:50 to 8:20] +10 minutes left over
  • Add an additional Review (30 minutes) to your study schedule for each scheduled quiz or exam you have coming up.

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Select image for Morehouse summer program resource.

Play around with the example study schedule above.  Add more days and/or change to whatever days you prefer or time duration you prefer. Personally, I don’t recommend staring at a book/paper for 3-4 hours non-stop.  Some people do study like this and find this method effective.  Others can not study like this.  If this method works for you please do continue onward – that’s good.  Otherwise, if you are more likely space out after a short period of time try something new.

Personally, I’m one of those people who can not study in 3-4 hour straight through sessions.  Believe me when I tell you that I start spacing out even before I open up the book.  =c) Seriously though, I find it hard to study in 2-3 hour blocks of time, and often get distracted or sleepy during this type of study session.  The likelihood that I will remember much after two hours of continuous study is often slim unless its a group study session.  If you find yourself in this same predicament when studying by yourself consider this one solution.  Spend 30 – 45 minutes on one study session.  Take a break or a nap to get refreshed after that time has elapsed. (Laugh but i kid you not.  Your brain needs to rest too.  Studies show that when you study something new and immediately sleep afterward you have a higher retention rate of that material – University of Chicago Article.) Get back to studying after your break or nap, and repeat if necessary.

Select this link for an equation you can use to determine how much time you could dedicate to studying.

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B. (GPA) stands for Grade Point Average. It’s important to realize that cumulative GPA ( over all GPA) is a significant/important determinant of  acceptance into a college or university, as well as qualification for scholarships.  Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. I’m willing to stake a lot on this claim.

You can deliberately plan out your performance.  Your marking period grades don’t have to be up in the air.  Take the time to plan out what grades you need in each class each quarter to meet your academic goals.  It’ll save you avoidable stress.

Decide early on a target cum. GPA. Aim for a (B) cumulative grade point average, also known as a 3.0, and higher by the end of junior year.

How can you calculate your GPA? A google search reveals a host of ways to do this. There is no one formula to help you do this because every school is different.

No need spending sleepless nights worrying how you’re going to get that GPA you are aiming for. Ask your guidance counselor to show you how Columbia calculates its GPA.  It’s important to pay attention when they’re showing you how your current GPA was calculated.  Once you learn from your counselor how to calculate your GPA  you can project what future grades you need to meet your specific goals.  You can, for example, calculate based on your current scores what minimum/maximum grade you need to make in X class next quarter to get a 3.5 GPA (or what you’re aiming for) by the last quarter of Junior year (or whichever deadline you’ve set).

2. Playing by the [#1 Grading] Rule

Never get a Zero on any coursework. Submit every assignment – this includes homework.  By getting into the habit of submitting all homework a teacher collects, a student will help their GPA out immensely.  How?  By getting into the habit of submitting all homework collected a student establishes the habit of submitting every assignment collected and can potentially earn a high course grade.  Note that when an assignment is not submitted or a homework not collected by a teacher that a student receives an automatic zero assigned for that homework or assignment.  This automatically pulls one’s grade down regardless of every other “A” & “B” one might have in that class for that marking period.

An Assignment. Assignments usually carry a lot of weight on your grade.  An “0” on that chunk of a student’s grade (ex. assignment weighing 15%, 25%, 35%) will hurt one’s performance in that class during that marking period, and will in turn affect ones cumulative GPA.

Homework.  In some classes teachers calculate homework as part of your overall course grade.   However small each individual homework point is these points do add up to a homework grade.

On a final note. Late Assignments Submitting a late assignment is in a student’s best interest.  If an assignment is late, submit it rather than not.  Always clear a late assignment with a teacher.  Never assume any assignment submitted after the deadline will be accepted.

3. Finding a niche (a suitable place) for yourself (A. Academics, B. Extra-circular activities)

A. Academics.  Do your best to excel. Find a subject you like and learn as much about it as you can.  Ace those classes.  If you can move to a higher level and change classes  (in a tracking system) go for it.  Good side:  It can only expose you to more opportunities and provide you a chance to meet new people. Bad side: ??? =c)

Advanced Placement Classes. CHS has one of the largest AP course offerings in the state of NJ (and maybe even the country).  In other NJ schools you can register on your own, but at CHS it’s not so easy.  In order for you to place into an AP class two things are required: 1). A teacher recommendation & 2). A high score on the corresponding AP placement test. Ask your guidance counselor to find out when the yearly AP placement exams are offered so that you can sit for the exam.  You can begin taking AP classes as early as your Sophomore year, and, as it stands currently, you can opt out of a lunch period if necessary to fit classes into your schedule.  Believe me it’s worth it.  Take the exam even if you’re not sure what recommendation your teacher will give and let the other pieces fall into place.  And remember to involve your parents in the process.  If need be they can advocate on your behalf.  

Did you know AP classes are college level courses? At the end of each course you have the option of taking an exam that tests your knowledge of the course material you learned.  If you score a 4 or 5 on these exams colleges around the country will give you college credit for these classes!  Why is this important? Well, for example, if you get credit for 4 AP classes, you will enter college as a second semester freshman while your friends enter college as first semester freshmen! That’s one less semester for you in college = saving $$$$.   If you’re facing challenges taking AP courses at Columbia select this link (recommended by the City of Newark for its students). AP exams can be intensive at CHS.  If you want to take Advanced Placement Course Offerings at CHS ask everyone you know about when the exam will be offered, and what type of exam you will be taking so you can prepare in advance. And remember to involve your parents in the process so that they can advocate on your behalf with department heads and with guidance!

B. Extra-Circular Activities

Columbia’s Student Activity Chart

Student
Club
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Student
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Achieve Tutoring
Heifer Int.
PM News

Student
Club
Student
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Student
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ACLU
Italian Cultural
Political Awareness
Student
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Student
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Student
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AM News
Key Club
REBEL
Student
Club
Student
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Student
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Animal Rights
Astronomy
Relay for Life
Student
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Student
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Student
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Chess Team
Listener’s Club
Biology Team
Student
Clubs
Student
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Student
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Cougar Nation
Math Team
Spectrum
Student
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Student
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Student
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FBLA
MLK Assoc.
Science League
Student
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Student
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FLES
Mock Trial
Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Awareness
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Guildsript
Moot Court
Junior Class Council

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PerfectlyPlanned Blog by W. S. Hughes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. *RAY* says:

    The whole college process is so confusing and scary at the same time and it is good to know I have someone I can ask questions to.
    here are my questions:
    -When should i fill out Fafsa? what if I plan to enroll in Jan 2010?
    – If my grades are A’s and my SAT scores are not that good, do I still have a chance of getting a really good scholarship?
    – What are the advantages of going to school away from home as in..Florida, GA, Alabama?
    -Is it good to apply early? like in November?
    -Are there any scholarships that I can apply for now being a junior? a lot of the scholarships are for seniors…
    -How do I go about my college essay? Is it a mini autobiography?
    -What are the essays used for?”

  2. Resident Planning Geek says:

    Hey RAY,

    You have a lot of questions here. Some of these will take time to answer. I’m glad you posted them so that other students with the same questions will have the answers too.

    I’m happy you reached out. I know its hard figuring out who to ask and what to ask. I’ll answer the questions I can, and I’ll be directing you to other people and resources so that you and other students will know where to go and what to do for the next leg of the admissions process.

    Comment Update: 10.13.09 RAY emailed me recently that she completed all her applications over the summer with the help of her counselor/advisor. While I was banking on meeting the September deadline I was given RAY mobilized this summer to complete her applications. Pretty awesome.

    RAY: 1). Congratulations on completing your applications. I hope you are accepted to your school of choice! 2). Your pro-activeness is inspiring, as is the knowledge that your personal goal to complete your applications by the end of the summer superseded the September deadline you set for me to have the above questions answered. 3). I wanted to be of more help, I hope what help I provided you was timely.

  3. Resident Planning Geek says:

    I’ll be posting answers to Ray’s questions in the upcoming weeks for students with similar questions.

    Q. When should i fill out FAFSA? What if I plan to enroll in Jan 2010?
    A. According to the FAFSA government website “The FAFSA is the federal application for financial aid, but it is also used to apply for aid from other sources, such as your state or school.”

    The school you apply to and the state you live in might have different financial aid deadlines than the federal government. http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/before003a.htm

    It makes sense to prepare your FAFSA application for your earliest deadline. For example, if your school financial aid deadline comes first, I would have the FAFSA application completed and ready to mail in as well. Better safe than sorry.

    Q. If my grades are A’s and my SAT scores are not that good, do I still have a chance of getting a really good scholarship?
    A. I can’t answer that. There are 2 main types of scholarships available to students with different criteria: merit & need. There is a difference between merit based scholarships and need based scholarships. Merit is based on your grades/scores, and need is based on your money situation. Figure out what the scholarship you’re applying for requires.
    That’s the first step.
    Is it merit? If so the second step is to call the the financial aid office of the school you’re applying to and ask them what types of grades and SAT scores previous scholarship winners had. That should give you a sense of how your application will fare.

    Now…I would minimize my conversation with the admissions office. You don’t want to call them often and gain a reputation. But what if….? Visit the school and ask all the questions you have at that time. If you can’t visit the school read their website and the application thoroughly so when you do call you don’t ask a question they’ve already answered for prospective students.

    Q. What are the advantages of going to school away from home as in..Florida, GA, Alabama?
    A. Where does your heart take you? Follow your heart. Is the location important to you or the education you receive? Maybe it’s both. Look through college guides and locate a great school in the part of the country you want to live. Or just choose a great school and go live in that part of the country. You decide.

    Q. Is it good to apply early? like in November?
    A. Early admissions is hotly debated as a strategy. Google it. I can’t say either way.

    Q. Are there any scholarships that I can apply for now being a junior? A lot of the scholarships are for seniors…
    A. Here is a resource that could help: http://www.highscholarships.com/high-school-junior-scholarships.html

    Also, Discover Financial Services offers a yearly scholarship specifically to juniors: http://www.discoverfinancial.com/community/scholarship.shtml 10 scholarships of $40,000 to students with a 2.75 gpa or greater. 2010 applicants have been selected.

    Q. How do I go about my college essay? Is it a mini autobiography?
    A. It can be an autobiography. Is that what the essay question asks of you? The best advice I ever got regarding this is to read the question being asked.

    If you don’t answer what’s being asked of you you’ve failed a pretty important test in your application.

    Q. What are the essays used for?
    A. Different schools use the essays for different things. It’s one component of your application. I would focus more on nailing it than worrying about what it’s used for. Make your application the strongest it can be, and rest assured you did your best work.

    Good luck!

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