Thomas Broderick

Six Rising Trends in Voluntary Benefits for 2019

Voluntary benefits have shown great promise in supplementing traditional benefits packages that include health insurance and retirement savings plans. However, attracting top talent means that companies must continuously refine which benefits they offer employees and how they roll out these benefits. For this reason, employers must keep up to date with the latest trends in voluntary benefits – trends that have a significant impact on employee retention.

That said, let’s look at six rising trends that employers should pay close attention to for the remainder of 2019.

Voluntary Benefits Are Expected Benefits

The first trend is not so much a type of voluntary benefit but an essential fact that all employers should know. By the end of 2019, most employees will want to work for companies that offer flexible benefits packages that provide some choice. Voluntary benefits provide employees agency, and even the smallest amount of agency can forge a bond between employees and their employers. 

Student Loan Relief

Students loans take years if not decades to pay back, and the stress of paying off loans can have a detrimental impact on your employees’ work performance. Also, consider retention. Employees burdened with loans are more likely to leave for another company that pays them a higher salary.

To offer student loan relief, your company matches student loan repayments up to a set dollar amount. The system works in much the same way as retirement matching. A student loan relief program can instill employee loyalty, as employees can pay off their loans faster than they would have been able to otherwise. Your company can also supplement this benefit by holding seminars on student debt – educating employees on other strategies they can use to pay off their loans and build excellent credit.

 Financial Guidance

Young employees have more financial difficulties than student loans. Many employees struggle with saving, budgeting, and other skills. An automated savings plan costs your company very little and can go far in convincing employees that you have their best interests at heart.

In addition to savings plans, professional development courses and other tools can help your employees build their financial skills. No longer worried as much about savings or debt, they can focus more on their jobs.

Multi-Generation Support

In the generations since the Second World War, companies that offer childcare services have attracted employees with young families. However, as America ages, more and more employees find themselves caring for elderly parents and grandparents, as well. These responsibilities can negatively affect even the most talented and hard-working employees.

You can offer multi-generation support through discounts on elder care (e.g., nursing services, physical therapists) and additional financial assistance for employees who act as a family member’s sole caregiver.

Multi-generational support means much more than aiding employees’ infants and elderly family members. It also means helping employees’ school-aged children.  myKlovr created our virtual college counseling service as a voluntary benefit that prepares high school students for college admissions success. Employees receive this benefit at a low cost and can use the app to check in on their children’s college preparation goals at any time of day.

Professional Development

Employees in hundreds of professions take professional development courses to maintain their professional licenses. These courses can cost hundreds of dollars a year, even if employees receive other discounts through professional organizations. Employers who provide group rates on professional development courses can save not only their employees money but also time. Employees without their employers’ support often waste hours researching professional development courses that meet recertification requirements. By helping their employees save time and money, employers can further raise their employees’ loyalty and job satisfaction

Keep Employees Informed

Making voluntary benefits a success at your company requires much more than a company-wide email or form. To ensure that voluntary benefits become a cornerstone of your company’s corporate culture, you have to invest the time and money to ensure that all employees understand voluntary benefits and stay up to date with the latest benefits your company offers. Consider investing in professional development, seminars, videos, and simple ‘how to’ guides. Once employees become acclimated to voluntary benefits, you can release more periodic updates.

Finally, keep prospective employees up to date by prominently displaying your latest voluntary benefits on your company or organization’s website.

Final Thoughts

Trends evolve, which means that companies must update their benefits every year to meet employees’ changing needs. This way, companies never lose out on attracting and retaining the best talent.

Voluntary Benefits: A Primer for Employers

From catered lunches to flexible work schedules, employers are doing everything they can to attract top talent away from other companies. Although attractive to employees, these benefits and perks can cost employers a tremendous amount of money. Also, not all employers can afford these services, especially when they already pay for traditional benefits packages. However, in this era of record-low unemployment, all employers must experiment with new and unique benefits. One such option involves voluntary benefits.

What Are Voluntary Benefits

The following chart breaks down some key differences between traditional and voluntary benefits.

Traditional BenefitsVoluntary Benefits
Employees receive them automatically.Employees select some benefits from a list of options.
Employers pay the cost.Employees pay the cost, but a much lower price as they receive a group rate.
As every major employer offers them, companies do not stand out to prospective employees.By curating a unique list of voluntary benefits, employers can target a particular group of professionals (e.g., millennials with young families) they want to recruit and retain.

Now that you know how traditional and voluntary benefits differ, here are some popular voluntary benefits that companies are offering their employees:

  • Identify theft protection
  • Critical-illness insurance
  • Pet insurance
  • Student-loan refinancing
  • Public transportation passes

To create a benefit for employees, companies partner with a second company — a benefits broker or professional employer organization (PEO) — that manages the benefit. The two companies agree on how the benefit will work and how much employees will pay. This process costs the employer very little; the company offering the benefit knows it will make its profit from the other company’s employees. Companies can offer their employees as many or as few voluntary benefits as they please.

Should My Company Offer Voluntary Benefits?

Voluntary benefits provide a host of advantages with little to no drawback for your company. By researching the most popular voluntary benefits and surveying your employees, you can determine which benefits would best attract and retain talented professionals.

If your company has never offered voluntary benefits, employees will need to learn how these benefits can complement their traditional benefits packages. You might consider holding a company-wide seminar or training session to educate employees about voluntary benefits.

After you roll out voluntary benefits, be sure to judge your employees’ reactions and adjust benefits accordingly. Just because employees responded positively to a benefit in a survey does not automatically mean that they will stay with your company if they should receive a better offer. In other words, providing the best voluntary benefits requires continuous fine tuning, especially if your company experiences moderate to high turnover.

MyKlovr’s Unique Voluntary Benefit

The best college admission counselors often charge over $100/hour for their services, making them out of reach for most families. Since 2017, myKlovr has striven to create an affordable virtual college admission advising program for high school students and their families. For a flat monthly fee, students receive expert, tailored advice to help them raise their chances for college admission success.

Our benefit appeals to employees who could not otherwise afford college admission counseling for their high school-aged children. As of the writing of this article, myKlovr has partnered with the following companies to bring our service to families in need:

By selecting myKlovr as part of your company’s voluntary benefits package, you convey to employees that you care about their lives outside of the office. With their children’s college advising in good hands, employees can direct more energy toward their work.

Your Next Step

Now that you understand voluntary benefits and how they can help your company, consider hiring a consultant – preferably a survey researcher — to determine which benefits best match your and your employees’ needs.

How to Make the Most of Summer to Prep for College Admissions

It’s late May, which means summer vacation is right around the corner for millions of high school students like you. As both a former student and teacher, I remember those days fondly. It was like the light at the end of the tunnel. Just hang on a little longer and I’d be rewarded with nine glorious weeks off.

Yes, I expect you to use this upcoming summer break to get a little R&R. However, if you’re a rising high school sophomore, junior, or senior, I encourage you to spend a little time over the following weeks to prepare for college admissions.

That said, let’s dive into what you can do to make the most of this summer while still leaving you plenty of time to relax.   

If You’re a Rising Sophomore

Now that you’ve completed freshman year, you should have a decent understanding of your academic strengths and weaknesses. You also (hopefully) found at least one extracurricular activity that you enjoy. Let’s turn this new knowledge into an action plan.

What You Should Do

  • If struggled with English or math your freshman year, spend 2-3 hours a week reviewing lessons on Khan Academy. Using Khan Academy or a similar service will both improve your English/math skills and prevent you from forgetting what you learned.
    • If your parents can afford a tutor, that works, too. 🙂
  • Spend about 7-10 hours over the summer researching colleges online. Here are some potential Google searches:
    • Colleges that have strong [Insert the name of your favorite subject here] programs.
    • Community colleges in [your state].
    • Best public colleges in [your state].
    • Colleges that award scholarship for [your extracurricular activity/high GPAs/good test scores].
  • As you research potential schools, you’ll notice that a lot of them come with big price tags. Talk to your families about what the can/will contribute to your college education.

What You Could Do 

  • As you’ll take either the PLAN or PSAT test during your sophomore year, you need to decide whether you are going to prepare for either test. Many students take these tests ‘cold’ so they can understand their natural strengths and weaknesses. This is fine, but if you are aiming for a National Merit Scholarship, you’ll need to put in some PSAT prep.

If You’re a Rising Junior

Becoming a junior is a big deal. You’re an upperclassman now, and college is just two years away. This summer you’ll need to take a more active role in preparing for your future. 

What You Should Do

  • Go on at least two college tours.
    • By researching colleges online, you should know already have a few that interest you. It’s time to hit the road with the family and see these colleges up close.
  • Decide whether to prepare for the ACT or SAT.
    • You’ll likely take both of these tests during your college admissions journey. However, as many students discover that perform slightly better on one test over the other.
  • Curate scholarship opportunities.
    • Continue your research from last summer and select 5-10 scholarships that you can apply to now or when you become a senior.
          • Although application deadlines might not be for another year, researching now means that you still have time to improve your grades/increase your volunteer hours/etc.
  • Sign up for challenging classes.
    • No, I don’t mean ‘take all AP courses.’ Yes, for some students, that’s challenging. For others, it’s a recipe for burnout/failure/etc. You need to choose a curriculum that’s challenging for you.
    • In other words, if you made an A in a non-honors course, consider taking the honors course in that same subject area as a junior.
      • The same advice applies if you did well in honors courses as a sophomore. Maybe it’s time to take 1-2 APs your junior year. 

What You Could Do

  • Take an ACT or SAT prep course.
    • Standardized tests like the ACT and SAT are a milestone for high school juniors. By preparing for these tests now, you might earn a good enough score that you do not have to retake them later.
  • Intern or volunteer.
    • There are plenty of internship or volunteer opportunities in your local community. Find one that represents a cause or issue you believe in and spend 5-10 hours each week interning or volunteering. 

If You’re a Rising Senior

College admissions season is coming up fast, which means that this summer you’ll decide which colleges you’ll apply to in the fall. The following advice should help you make up your mind and put the final touches on your application packets.

What You Should Do

  • Take additional college tours.
  • Prepare to retake the ACT or SAT.
    • You took one or both of these tests during the spring. Now that you have the results, you can create a study plan that involves tutors or free Khan Academy resources.
    • I’d recommend spending 1-2 hours a week on test prep. This way, you can retake the ACT or SAT in late August or early September. These test windows are excellent as you’ll have your results in hand before college applications are due. 

What You Could Do 

  • Start application essays.
    • It’s never too early to start your application essays. See my article on the topic for more information.
  • Keep interning or volunteering.
    • If you interned of volunteered last summer, keep up the good work by trying a new experience this summer.

Final Thoughts

Summer is a great time to relax. By all means, stay up late, sleep in, and have a good time with your friends. But remember that time is a resource like any other. This summer, invest some time in your future by preparing for life after high school. Future you will thank present you.

 

How to Obtain the Best College Recommendation Letters

Throughout four years of high school, you put in a tremendous amount of work to create an excellent college application portfolio. You take – and retake – standardized tests. You write – and rewrite – college admission essays. In other words, dedicated students like you fine tune their applications to match their dream colleges’ expectations. However, there is one part of your application portfolio that’s mostly, but not entirely out of your control:

Your teachers’ recommendation letters.

Yes, these sealed envelopes or confidential online forms contain information that can go a long way in convincing college admissions counselors that you’re a perfect fit. And although you’ll never have the chance to edit, review, or even see what these letters contain, there’s a lot you can do to ensure that your teachers write glowing endorsements of your academic potential and all-around goodness as a human being.

Having been on both sides of the teacher’s desk, let me share my recommendation letter expertise with you.

Why Recommendation Letters Matter

As you know, a lot goes into a college application portfolio. The essential pieces are your grades and standardized test scores. After that, your essays and extracurricular activities allow admissions counselors to see you as a person rather than a set of scores and letter grades.

Last, but certainly not least, come the recommendation letters. They provide a different, fresh, and just as relevant, personal perspective. And since they come from adults who are trained educators, they carry a lot of weight.

And that’s why recommendation letters matter…a lot.

Step #1: Choose Your Teachers Wisely

If you’re an academically gifted student, it’s likely you excelled in the majority of your classes. First of all, good for you. However, having a lot of options raises an issue: which teachers do you pick?

Here’s some all-around good advice:

  • At least one letter should come from a teacher you had during your junior year.
    • Junior year’s the toughest one of all – at least for most students – and a letter from a teacher who had you then can say a lot about how you work under pressure.
  • If you’ve taken AP/IB courses, try to get a letter from one of those teachers, too.
    • Let’s say you excelled in your first AP course and earned a high score on the AP exam, too. Discussing this accomplishment in your personal essay and including a recommendation letter from that teacher would be the perfect combination.

If you struggled in some courses, still consider whether those teachers could write you a good letter. Did you come in for extra help and improve your grades along the way? College admissions counselors love applicants with grit, those who buckled down and invested the time and effort to raise their grades. A turnaround story is just as compelling as a ‘he/she was an academically gifted student’ story.

Step #2: Include an Information Packet

Even if a teacher just had you last year, they may be a bit fuzzy on your personal and academic details. That tends to happen when teachers see 150+ students a day. That’s why when they agree to write you a letter, give them a small info packet detailing your academic and extracurricular accomplishments along with any other information they may need (e.g., a sample of your work from their class) to jog their memories.

Pro Tip: In this packet, include a personal note that discusses what you got out of their class. It never hurts to butter up – compliment – your teacher, too. Just don’t go too overboard.

Step #2.5: Give Them Plenty of Time

Teachers are extremely, significantly, tremendously busy people. They put in a ton of effort, most of which you don’t see. That’s said, please give teachers at least two weeks – preferably three – to write you a recommendation letter.

Step #3: Be Grateful

So, the letters are done and in the physical or electronic mail. As you take that sigh of relief that your college applications are finished, don’t forget about your teachers. It’s time to get them a thank you gift.

Why a gift? Well, besides being the right thing to do, your teachers just did you a HUGE favor. It’s time to show a little gratitude with a gift card or something small that’s in the $10-$20 range. If you’re a bit shy, give it to them just before winter break – that’s when good students like you give gifts to their teachers anyway — and include a personal note thanking them for helping you out.

And when the day comes you get into your dream college or university, please let the teachers who wrote you letters know. It’ll make their day. 🙂

Final Thoughts

Good test scores and excellent grades are a dime a dozen in the college admissions world. Genuine recommendation letters are much rarer and can nudge an application from the ‘waitlist’ to ‘accepted’ pile. Will the letters teachers write for you do this? You’ll never know, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in the time and effort to obtain the best letters possible.

So, if you’re a high school freshman, sophomore, or junior, make sure to let your best teachers know they did an excellent job before the school year wraps up. Your teachers will likely remember your kind words…and be more inclined to write you a recommendation letter when you need it. 😉

Everything You Wanted to Know About the PSAT

Considering all the standardized tests that you take in high school, it’s easy to overlook the PSAT. After all, it’s a practice test. On the one hand, the pressure’s off. On the other hand, you may feel that you don’t need to try your best on test day.

But you should try your best. A great score can help you tremendously when it comes to getting into your dream college.

In this article, we’ll examine the test’s format, difficulty, and relationship to the National Merit Scholarship Program. Let’s jump in!

What’s the Format?

 Let’s compare the PSAT and SAT’s format and time requirements.

PSATSAT
Evidence-Based Reading & Writing:

Reading: 60 Min., 47 Questions

Writing: 35 Min., 44 Questions

Evidence-Based Reading & Writing:

Reading: 65 Min., 52 Questions

Writing: 35 Min., 44 Questions

Mathematics

No Calculator: 25 Min., 17 Questions

Calculator: 45 Min., 31 Questions

Mathematics

No Calculator: 25 Min, 17 Questions

Calculator: 55 Min., 45 Questions

Total Time: 2 Hours, 45 MinTotal Time: 3 Hours

Quick Notes:

  • The SAT also includes a 50-minute optional essay. More on that in another article. 😉
  • You do get short breaks between sections on the PSAT.

In the smallest of nutshells, the PSAT closely mirrors the SAT in format and time. Think about it: it would have to as the results are meant to predict how you’ll perform on the SAT. Now that we know a little bit about the test, let’s cover a few key facts about each section.

Reading

  • Five passages
    • Literature (1)
    • Social science (1)
    • Science (2)
    • U.S. founding document or an international text inspired by U.S. founding documents (1)

Big Takeaway: The reading test is 80% non-fiction, meaning that to improve your reading comprehension skills (and score), it’s better to read the newspaper than your favorite novel.

Writing and Language

I have three words for you: grammar and usage. On this test, you’ll face passages with underlined portions and the dreaded NO CHANGE option. Believe it or not, NO CHANGE can trip up a lot of test takers by making them second-guess themselves.

Big Takeaway: As there are a TON of grammar and usage rules out there, I’ll keep it simple. Buy a used copy of Strunk & White and learn to love it.

Mathematics

The first thing you need to know about the mathematics section on the PSAT is that the first 17 questions (the no calculator ones) are grid-in questions, meaning that you provide the answer rather than selecting from a handful of options. That’s part of the reason why you have 25 minutes – you need to write in the grid and bubble in the answer so that a machine can score it.

Here’s what the mathematics portion covers:

  • Everything you learned through middle school
  • Algebra I
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry

There’s a lot of math in those four bullet points, but I bet it’s the last one that has you the most worried.

Big Takeaway: Jump down to the next section to learn more about the most significant difference between the PSAT and SAT.

Is it Easier Than the SAT?

Short Answer: Yes, but only a little.

Long Answer: The good folks at the College Board designed the PSAT for a slightly younger crowd, meaning that on the PSAT, you won’t find more than two questions that deal with an introduction to trigonometry. Expect a lot of algebra and geometry questions, though. The Reading/Writing and Language questions are about as difficult as their SAT equivalents. 

What’s the NMSQT?

Short Answer: PSAT = National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, and the test takers who earn the highest scores receive a scholarship and/or recognition for their accomplishment.

Long Answer: Test takers with excellent PSAT scores can receive one of four distinctions:

  • Commended Student
    • Test takers who score above the College Board’s super-secret selection index score
  • Semifinalists
    • The top 0.5% of test takers in each state
  • Finalist
  • Scholarship
    • Typically 1% of all finalists receive a scholarship
    • $2,500

In other words, it’s more challenging to earn a National Merit Scholarship than it is to get into Harvard.

Even if You Don’t Receive a Scholarship

Were you a finalist, semi-finalist, or a commended student? If so, you may not have an extra $2,500 to spend on college, but you have something else just as valuable: bragging rights. Although I don’t recommend that you actually brag on your college applications, definitely bring up your finalist/semi-finalist/commended student status in your personal statement or application. As these distinctions are rare, they’re going to earn you a TON of points with college admission counselors.

Should I Prepare for the PSAT?

A lot of high school students take the PSAT ‘cold,’ meaning they’re using the test to determine their baseline score. Going in cold can be a valuable strategy, as having authentic PSAT results can act as the foundation for an SAT study plan. However, many students want to shoot for the stars and become National Merit Scholars. If this describes you, let’s talk prep work.

Creating a Study Plan

Here’s a valuable ‘plan of attack’ to use when preparing for the PSAT.

Note: For maximum impact, start this plan about five weeks before the real PSAT

  • Take a practice test under timed conditions.
    • Saturday morning would probably be the best time to do it.
  • Score it.
  • Analyze the results to determine your weakest areas.
  • Start with the ‘easy fixes’: topics that take you the least amount of time to improve.
  • Slowly work your way up to harder subjects.
    • An excellent study plan means commitment. Try to spend 30 minutes to one hour a day preparing for the PSAT.
  • A few days before the real PSAT, take a second practice test.
    • Not only will this test better acclimate you to the test’s format, but you’ll also see how far your score has come.
      • If you earn a higher score on the PSAT, that’s great! If you earn a lower score, you may need to research and practice test anxiety remedies.

What Happens After I Take the PSAT?

Analyze (and Learn From) Your Scores

Whether or not you prepared for the PSAT, you can learn much from your score. If you went into the test cold, consider the experience as steps #1 and #2 in the previous section’s study plan. Also, think back to how you felt on test day. If you had any test anxiety symptoms, it might be time to consult some resources to make sure when you take the SAT, you don’t have to worry about high heart rate, sweating, and feelings of hopelessness.

Expect a Lot of Mail

Even if you did ‘just okay’ on the PSAT, expect a lot of physical and digital mail to show up soon after you receive your results. The College Board – along with the ACT – make a lot of money selling your info to colleges and universities across the country. The benefit for you is that when a college sees that you’re an okay to strong test taker, they’ll reach out to you with a letter or packet that describes their schools and what they can offer you as a potential college student.

Reading through the material will teach you much about colleges and how they operate. Like advertisements, they’re trying to catch your attention. Not all schools will interest you; that’s fine. For the ones that seem promising, contact them to learn more and start discussing college tours with your family. 

Final Thoughts

The PSAT can be scary, especially if it’s your first standardized test. For that reason, even if you don’t create a study plan, I’d still recommend that you take one timed practice test. That way, at least you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into.

My other final thought is that no matter how much you study, please remember the PSAT is just the start of a standardized test journey that lasts until you take – and likely retake – the SAT. So, if your results aren’t what you expect, cut yourself some slack. As a 21st-century high school student trying to do his or her best, you deserve it.

What Questions Should I Ask During A College Visit?

Touring a college is in many ways like visiting a car dealership. Admission counselors and tour guides have a ‘product’ to sell you, and that product costs a lot of money. They’re going to highlight their product’s best qualities and carefully sweep any negative aspects (e.g., high tuition) under the rug. In other words, they’re trying to charm you into buying what they’re selling.

And in both cases, you need to be an informed consumer. Asking questions during a college tour is one of the best tools you have to determine which schools go on your short list.

So, let’s answer your questions…about questions.

Do Prep Work in Advance

College tours may require you to drive or fly long distances. As a result, you may not be at your mental best during the tour. That’s why you need to prepare a few questions in advance. The best way to do this is in the weeks leading up to a tour, commit a few hours to research the college and jotting down questions as they come to you.

Through internet sleuthing, you should be able to find out what each college’s standard tour entails and find answers to the most common questions. If any information looks fishy, bring it up during the tour and receive clarification. Your goal is that for each school you visit, you should have 3-5 questions ready.

Also, remember that everyone – and their questions – are unique. Here are some common question categories to get you started:

  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Living On/Off-Campus
  • Dorm Life
  • Research Opportunities for Undergraduates
  • Honors Program
  • Scholarships and Grants

The list goes on. Again, I am not you, so I do not know what YOU are looking for in a college experience. Start with your needs/wants/desires/etc.

During the Tour

During the tour, expect your guide to be a current student or someone who has no influence on which applicants the school admits. I mention this because it means that you do not need to feel nervous asking questions.

During a standard college tour, expect there to be a few points where your guide will ask if anyone has any questions. Use this fact to your advantage. If you have a dorm question, ask it while your tour group is inside a dorm. Your guide may be able to show you an answer rather than tell you about it. That way, you gain a clearer understanding.

Finally, remember your guide’s name. Keep reading to learn why.

 It’s Okay to Email Questions After Your Tour

It’s perfectly fine if you think up questions after your tour. Most high school students do once they have the chance to explore campus, sit in or a class, or have a meal in the dining hall. Just like during your pre-tour research, keep that paper and pen handy to write down extra questions.

Once you get back home, get out your questions and write an email to the college’s admissions department:

Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening,

My name is [Your Name Here]. On [Date You Took the Tour], I visited campus and went on a tour led by [Tour Guide’s Name Here]. He/she was very informative, and I learned much about the school. As I am seriously considering applying to [University’s Name Here], I was hoping that you could answer a few follow-up questions I have about your school.

After that, ask questions by tying them to your tour experience:

As we were walking through [Name of Dorm Here], I noticed some students who were staying on campus for the summer term. Does your school provide a summer enrichment program in [Academic Subject You Are Interested In.]?

Although you’ll likely have more than three questions, I wouldn’t recommend asking more than three for each email you send the admissions department. You can always write more emails or answer questions yourself through extra research.

Before moving on, here’s one last tip when it comes to contacting the admissions department. Keep their reply so you can reference it in your application essay:

After I took the tour, [Name of Admissions Counselor] quickly responded to my follow-up questions about [Topic]. His/her reply convinced me that applying to [School] was the right decision for my academic future.

This reference accomplishes more than you may realize. The people reading application essays are attracted to thoughtful and organized young men and women who take a vested interested in the application process. And who knows, the person reading your essay may be the same person who answered your questions months ago.

Final Thoughts

With tons of information online, you may think that asking questions during a college tour is a thing of the past. But as you already (hopefully) know, you can’t trust everything you read online. A college visit gives you the chance to get information ‘straight from the horse’s mouth.’

Finally, don’t forget to have some fun during your visit. It’s like the college admission process in reverse: they’re the ones trying to impress you. Enjoy it. 🙂

The Common App: What You Need to Know

Here’s an interesting, but not ironic fact: getting into college is harder than ever, but applying is easier than ever. And no, the latter has nothing to do with the former. Societal expectations and good marketing are to blame for admission rates plummeting across the board.

But applying to college sure is a lot easier than it was 10, 15, or 20 years ago. Thanks to the trusty internet, high school students and their families can learn about colleges, take virtual tours, and apply online.

Another critical component of college application readiness is The Common Application (Common App). For over 40 years, the Common App and the organization behind it have encouraged member colleges and universities to simplify the application process. After all, it can be daunting keeping up with different application requirements and materials. Why not make it easier for applicants?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Common App and examine what you should know before submitting it.

What Is the Common App?

To answer this question, we have to go back to 1975, when a non-profit called, you guessed it, The Common Application released the first version of what we call The Common App. You see, as the Baby Boomer generation flooded into America’s colleges, some people realized that there had to be a better way to apply. Today, more than 800 colleges around the world accept the Common App. 

What Do I Need to Know?

Doing research for this article, I learned just how much the Common App has changed since I used it to apply to colleges 15 years ago. Back then, the Common App was just a form. You filled it out once and sent copies – along with other application materials – to colleges. It made applying somewhat easier, but it wasn’t groundbreaking.

The Common App in 2019 is so much more than a piece of paper. On The Common Application website, you can create an account, research potential colleges and universities, review application requirements, and most importantly, and apply to schools. The Common Application even features a mobile app wherein high school students on the go can access and update their accounts at any time.

This system’s most significant advantage for you is organization. By using the website or app, it becomes nearly impossible for you to forget about a test score, recommendation letter, or essay requirement. Speaking of essays, be sure to write yours in a .doc before copy/pasting it into the application. The program tends to delete the essays of applicants who type their essay in the provided text box.

At the colleges and universities that you apply to, admissions counselors use a similar interface to access and review your materials. And before you ask, no, an admissions counselor CANNOT see the other schools where you sent applications.

One thing the Common App DOESN’T do is lower the cost of applying to college. For each application you submit, you still need to pay that school’s application fee.

Other ‘Common Apps’

In your college search, you may come across competitors to the Common App. These alternative ‘common apps’ – Universal College Application, Coalition for College, and the Common Black College Application – offer many of the same services as the Common App, but fewer colleges accept them. Although these organizations offer legitimate services, I would caution against them as you’d be juggling these apps, the Common App, and likely other applications for schools that use neither.

In other words, when it comes to the Common App, accept no substitutions.

Final Thoughts

I wish I had the 2019 Common App to help me navigate college admissions in the fall of 2003. What was once just a form has become a valuable college application resource that can help you research colleges, stay organized, and submit applications. These tools, combined with those in myKlovr, can help you dramatically increase your chances of college admission success.

So, if you haven’t already, get on the Common App website and create an account.

What’s the Difference Between For-Profit and Non-Profit Colleges?

When I hear the phrase ‘non-profit organization,’ I immediately think of those ASPCA commercials that play Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” while displaying pictures of neglected puppies and kittens. 

Disclaimer: If you’ve never seen the commercial I’m talking about, don’t look it up. It’ll wreck your day. 

The ASPCA is one of many non-profit organizations in the United States. In the smallest of nutshells, a non-profit is an organization that puts back any surplus income into its mission. There are no shareholders to please or pay off. As a result, non-profits do not pay taxes on the money they take in. That way, people who give to the ASPCA know that 100% of their donation is going to the organization’s mission. 

Everything else is a for-profit enterprise. When you buy the latest iPhone, a little bit of that money goes to people who own Apple’s stock and the board of directors. Another way to put it is that a for-profit organization’s mission is to make lots (and lots) of money. Unlike non-profits, these organizations pay taxes on the money they bring in.              

Now that we’ve learned a bit about the difference between for- and non-profit organizations, let’s see how this distinction applies to the college you attend. What’s the difference in the educational experience and academic rigor? We’ll explore answers to this question and much more. 

Public colleges are always non-profit schools…

Public colleges and universities are as much a part of their states’ educational systems as public elementary, middle, and high schools. They receive funding from the state and put students’ tuition dollars back into their programs. Also, as institutions designed to benefit in-state residents, they often charge higher tuition to out-of-state students and set quotas on how many out-of-state students they accept each year. That’s why, for example, a student from New York who attends the University of California – Berkeley pays more than double the in-state tuition rate.

…but private colleges aren’t always for-profit schools.

When I went to Vanderbilt University, I could almost see the money bleeding from the walls. In my junior and senior years, the university was spending truckloads of cash constructing new dorms and science centers. You would imagine that just by looking around, Vanderbilt was a for-profit institution. But that’s not the case.

Vanderbilt, along with many other private colleges and universities, is a non-profit school, as well. They invest their tuition dollars into endowments, research, and new construction. In other words, the amount of money a school has doesn’t make the difference between for-profit and non-profit.

So what does?

There’s a lot of tax law and legalities involved, but like the example at the beginning of the article, a for-profit school is managed by a corporation. Here’s an easy-to-remember scenario that explains the difference between the two.

Non-profit college: “We need to provide a broad range of majors and minors to our students. We do not consider how profitable a major is when making funding decisions.”

For-profit college: “Enrollment in East Asian studies major dropped 20% since last year. We’re eliminating it.”

At for-profit colleges, majors and academic departments are like products. If one’s not selling well enough, they cut it to save money. 

Now that we know a little bit about how for-profit and non-profit schools operate, let’s examine the question you really came here to answer.

What’s the Difference for Students?

In terms of the student experience, the most significant difference concerns each type of school’s academic offerings. Like in the example in the previous section, for-profit schools tend to offer a more limited selection of majors, those that are in line with what the economy needs. At for-profit colleges, you’re likely to find more STEM majors and fewer humanities majors.

Another thing you may have heard concerns for-profit schools and scandals. Yes, for-profit colleges have gotten in hot water in recent years for breaking the law and other dubious practices. Thankfully, many of these schools have gone out of business, and remaining for-profit schools are under the microscope. What this means is that if you’re considering for-profit colleges, you need to do your due diligence. When researching a for-profit college, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does this school possess regional accreditation?
    • If the answer is ‘no,’ move on.
  • Does the program I’m interested in possess national or subject-specific accreditation?
    • If the answer is ‘no,’ it’s not a deal breaker, but keep looking just in case.
  • Are there any news reports that portray this school in a negative light?
    • If the answer is ‘yes,’ move on.
  • What are alumni saying about their educational experience? 
    • Like restaurant reviews, people with negative experiences are more likely to share their stories online than people who had a good or neutral experience. Even so, take all claims seriously and continue researching.

In fact, it’s a good idea to ask yourself these same questions about non-profit colleges, too. 

Final Thoughts

Non-profit and for-profit colleges have the same basic mission: educate students. And as many for-profit schools have cleaned up their acts in recent years, you can feel safer about them as an option for your college degree. However, no matter what kind of college you want to attend, pick a reputable school that aligns with your interests and goals.

So, set aside time to research schools, call admissions offices, and ask yourself – sometimes difficult – questions about what you really want out of your education. This way, you can pick the best school for you.

Good luck. ☺️

On Academic Honesty

When news of the college admissions scandal broke the other day, I was both surprised and not. For decades, wealthy parents have paid huge sums to buy their children’s way into elite universities. But instead of the normal quid pro quo (e.g., “You buy us a building, and we’ll let your kid into our school.”), this latest scandal was pure fraud that involved bribes and dishonesty among hundreds of people. From parents to test proctors to psychiatrists to coaches, it seems that no one’s hands are clean.

After researching the scandal inside and out, I wondered: If this news broke when I was a high school upperclassman, what would I think? How would I react to the fact that an entire scheme had been concocted to undermine a system that already overwhelmingly favors the wealthy and well connected?

To say the least, I wouldn’t have a positive reaction. For that reason, I want to reach out to current high school upperclassmen, the people applying to the schools caught up in this scandal (I have no doubt that more complicit schools and individuals will come to light in the coming days. That’s what happens with scandals – they just get bigger.)

What Honesty Is

Today I am going to give you two examinations, one in trigonometry and one in honesty. I hope you will pass them both, but if you must fail one, let it be trigonometry, for there are many good [people] in this world today who cannot pass an examination in trigonometry, but there are no good [people] in the world who cannot pass an examination in honesty.

– Madison Sarratt (1891-1978), dean, Vanderbilt University

 

As a Vanderbilt undergraduate, I passed this quote just about every day. It’s posted outside the Sarratt Student Center in the middle of campus. If you walked through the doors next to it, you’d be greeted by four massive framed documents: the signatures of every undergraduate student, a contract to abide by the university’s rules regarding academic honesty.

Honesty is a lesson most of us learn as children, and it’s a shame that some college students do not know it. It’s a greater shame that in this most recent scandal, it was the parents at fault. Did their children, many of whom took spots from more deserving applicants, know what was going on? We might never find out. Should they be asked to leave? That’s not my call, and I’m not sure what my decision would be if I were a dean.

Takeaways 

One thing I don’t want you to take away from this scandal is that since the rich and influential were trying to buy their children’s way into elite schools, you should only pursue elite schools during the college admissions process. To the people who broke the law, these schools are nothing more than status symbols. “Hey, my kid got into USC. Isn’t she so smart? Aren’t I a great parent?”

We at myKlovr believe that every student who aspires to attend college should apply to schools where they can best excel regardless of their parents’ wealth, fame, or political influence. Families from all socioeconomic backgrounds can afford our services, none of which go against Madison Sarratt’s century-old message about honesty. Finally, unlike the scandal’s ringleader, we cannot guarantee that you will attend your top-choice school. We utilize artificial intelligence and data science to provide personalized college counseling and the very best tools and resources to help students maximize their chances of college admissions. However, if you do not attend a college within your projected college tier, we will refund your subscription fee. That’s our guarantee, one we stand by with pride.

Final Thoughts

To the college-bound young men and women reading this, let me reiterate a very important fact: college is still worth it. Others’ lying, bribing, and cheating does not devalue the pride you feel after getting into a top school, earning a good grade on a test, or working your hardest to achieve the life you want.

Increasing Your Scholarship Chances

When I was a kid, I loved watching game shows. I don’t remember the particular show, but once in a while, a contestant would enter a phone booth-sized box with transparent plastic walls. The host would turn on a fan attached to the booth and money would start flying around. The contestant would have 30 seconds to catch as much as she could before the fan stopped and the remaining bills fell back to the floor. 

College scholarships work pretty much the same way. As a high school upperclassman, you have a set amount of time to research and apply to college scholarships. The money may not be flying in front of your eyes, but trust me, millions of dollars are out there for the taking. You just need to reach out and grab it.  

How do you get this money before the timer buzzes? It’s simple. You have to have a plan going in. 

1. Start Early

In other words, the moment you start your junior year (or sooner depending on how ambitious you are), you should start researching scholarship opportunities that match your interests, background, etc. There are plenty of scholarships that are a perfect fit for you, but there are also plenty of others where you have no chance or are ineligible.  

The sooner you start creating ‘yes,’ ‘maybe,’ and ‘nope’ scholarship piles, the sooner you can start preparing your application portfolios. 

2. Keep Up Those Grades and Test Scores

As scholarships are a merit-based form of financial aid (Grants are need based.), the first thing scholarship committees look at are your grades and test scores. In fact, many scholarships will not consider your application if you do not meet their GPA or test score cutoffs. In other words, good grades and scores are your ‘foot in the door’; receiving the scholarship is far from guaranteed, but the scholarship committee will take your application seriously. The same statement is true for every college to which you apply. 

Last, but certainly not least, good grades and scores may lead to automatic scholarships (e.g., lottery scholarships) if you attend school in-state.  

3. Choose an Extracurricular Activity and Stick With It

If you have the grades and scores, you can further improve your scholarships chances by showing your commitment to extracurricular activities. In other words, competitive scholarship applicants participate in 1-2 extracurriculars for a least three years of high school. Long-term extracurriculars show your dedication. Also, if you spend enough time in one activity, you can take on a leadership role. 

Scholarship committees love awarding money to leaders. 

4. Volunteer

There are plenty of scholarships exclusive to high school students who volunteer in their communities. No matter what kind of volunteering you perform, keep in mind my tips for extracurricular activities. The longer you do it, the better odds you have of receiving a scholarship. The same is true for leadership positions or times when you took charge (e.g., You create a new volunteering club.). 

5. Get Feedback on Essays and Other Application Materials

Just about every scholarship asks for an essay. What this means is that no matter how excellent your academic or extracurricular accomplishments, submitting a poorly written essay will dramatically reduce your scholarship odds. 

It’s time to reach out to trusted adults, people who can provide honest feedback on your first draft(s). Take their input and run with it. Even if you’re lightyears ahead of your peers in terms of your writing ability, everyone needs feedback. The same advice goes if you’re submitting supplementary materials (e.g., an art portfolio). And when scholarship dollars are on the line, you should do everything possible to stand above the crowd of applicants. 

6. Partner with Financial Advisers

It’s your job to research and apply to scholarships, but there is much you can’t do alone. For example, you have to have an honest discussion with your family about how much they can or are willing to contribute to your college education. 

After that, you, with your family’s help, should research professionals that can advise you about the best way to cover college expenses after scholarships. Financial advisers can be a boon, but they’re usually pricy…but not for myKlovr subscribers.

myKlovr is proud to announce its partnership with Financial Fitness Group (FFG). myKlovr subscribers and their families receive “a dedicated library of content on topics such as education and employment, saving and paying for college, tuition plans, managing student loans and more.” The moment you sign up for myKlovr, review FFG’s advice right away to learn more about the best ways to ensure that you leave college debt free.

Final Thoughts

Like the truth, the money is out there. It’ll be a lot of work on your end, but I hope that with your parents, teachers, and FFG’s help, you can apply to the scholarships where you have the best shot. 

Good luck!

Dealing with Rejection

Valentine’s Day was earlier this month, and for a lot of teenagers, it was a hard lesson in how rejection stinks. Rejection is a gut punch followed by a lingering sadness that sometimes feels like it’ll last forever and a day.

Romantic rejection isn’t the only kind. In a few weeks, hundreds of thousands of high school seniors across the country will receive the ‘thin envelope’ from their top choice college or university. “We regret to inform you that…” That’s about as far as the rejected applicant gets before the letter slips from their hands or they tear it up.

If you’re a high school senior waiting to hear back from your dream college, it’s okay to keep your hopes up in these weeks before April 1st. If you submitted a strong application portfolio, you have a good chance. By all means, fantasize of receiving an admission packet and attending the school of your dreams.

However…

Now is the time to prepare for how you’ll react in case the ‘thin envelope’ should arrive in your physical or digital mailbox. Over the next few paragraphs, we’ll discuss how planning in advance can lessen the blow and get you back on track as soon as possible.

Accept Your Feelings

In the first 24 hours after you receive a college rejection, you may feel angry, sad, frustrated, or numb. It’s normal to feel all of these things at once.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

Anyway, it’s perfectly okay to feel this way, and there’s no shame in reacting however your mind is programmed to do so. If you want to show a brave face to family or friends, okay. But when you’re by yourself, just let it out. Scream, cry, rage…just don’t hurt yourself or others. 

Don’t Overanalyze It

You’ll never know why a school rejected you. You already know this fact, but if rejection should come, you’ll likely spend days wondering why it happened. Was my ACT score too low? Were my extracurriculars not impressive enough? Was….And the cycle goes around and around.

If you’re a competitive applicant, here’s the simple truth about why you didn’t get into your dream school: there just wasn’t enough room for you. It’s simple math. Too many applicants. Not enough seats.

Never forget that you were worthy. Unfortunately, so were thousands upon thousands of other applicants.

Concentrate on the Acceptances You’ve Received (or Outstanding Applications)

If your dream college should reject you, try focusing on the bigger picture. Have you received acceptances from other colleges or are waiting to receive a decision? If the answer is ‘yes’ to either part of this question, that’s what you should focus on. Either you already have a ‘bird in the hand,’ or there’s still hope. Both are positives.  

Final Thoughts

I still remember the day that my first-choice college (University of Chicago) rejected me. It was a Thursday afternoon, and I discovered the thin envelope in the mailbox. I was sad, my parents were sad for me, and I spent Friday moping around school. On Saturday I was still sad…until I opened the mailbox again and found a fat First Class envelope addressed to me, an acceptance packet from Vanderbilt University. I was ecstatic, and my mom cried with joy.

As I think back on that emotional whirlwind of a weekend, the Vanderbilt acceptance still makes me happy, but the University of Chicago rejection no longer makes me sad.

Don’t fear rejection, dear readers. Sadness fades, and wherever you attend college, I’m sure you’ll do great things. 

Are Liberal Arts Educations Worth It Anymore?

I love playing pool, and whenever I see an empty table, I rack em’ up and start shooting. The last time this happened was during a sunny October weekend in Los Angeles. As I sank shots, my two friends – we were having a mini college reunion — stood a few feet away admiring an impressive selection of video game consoles: everything from Atari 2600 to PS4, all of them attached to a massive flat-panel TV. The ‘game room’ was full of other fun distractions: guitars, a drum set, and even a large collection of board games.

I felt a little bewildered. The whole building was full of similar amenities: coolers stuffed with complimentary snacks and drinks, a gourmet dining hall, and comfortable seating areas where people could socialize. Heck, even the bathrooms were stocked peppermints and mouth wash.

Being Los Angeles, you’d think my friends and I had made it into some exclusive club, the kind where bouncers make you wait for hours before getting inside. But no, to figure out where we were, all you would have to do is read what was printed on the pool table’s green felt:

Google L.A. 

Yep, one of my college buddies was giving me and another friend a tour of where he had worked since we graduated college in 2008. 

After seeing all those perks first hand, I must admit that for a moment I doubted whether earning a bachelor’s in East Asian Studies and a master’s in Teaching had been the right decision for my college education. Are liberal arts educations worth it anymore when it seems that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) careers offer the highest salaries and perks?

After thinking it over, I came to the realization that a liberal arts education is still worth it. Allow me to convince you why. 

STEM Isn’t for Everyone

Think back to when you were in elementary school. What were your favorite subjects? Are the same subjects your favorites now? Probably not.

Children and adolescents’ interests change over time. And as our interests and passions are such personal things, forcing STEM upon students doesn’t work. When I was a teacher, we tried to have the school take part in the Hour of Code. Long story short: it backfired. A lot of students just weren’t into it. 

If you also fall into the ‘just weren’t into it’ category, too, that STEM isn’t your cup of tea, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t force yourself to commit to a college major or career path that, even though you may be smart enough to succeed at it, you’d be miserable doing it for the rest of your life.

When it comes to selecting a college major and career, you shouldn’t ask yourself “What are my talents?” You should ask yourself “Which of my talents am I committed to improving?” You may not know right away, and that’s fine. It took me years to realize that I no matter what I studied or what job I did, I performed my best when work involved improving my skills as a writer.

If your passion and drive point towards liberal arts, then go for it. 

What You Gain From Liberal Arts Isn’t What You Learn in Class

Full disclosure: I’ve forgotten most of the actual content I learned in my college liberal arts classes. Gone are the Chinese dynasties, the antebellum South, etc. But sitting here now, typing these words, I am using my education in a way most 18-22-year-olds don’t recognize.

A liberal arts education provides you an extremely flexible skillset, one that employers still value highly in applicants. Yes, you need specific knowledge and skills to succeed in any career, but these same careers will also demand that you ‘upgrade’ your knowledge and skills over time. A liberal arts education prepares you to do just that.

There is one quote that perfectly explains just why a broad, liberal arts education is still so important. It was coined by an American who wore many hats throughout his career: naval officer, philosopher, inventor, engineer, and science fiction author.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

-Robert A. Heinlein

Final Thoughts

Back to Google L.A. The three of us were the employee lounge, sitting in soft swivel chairs that looked right out of the bridge of the starship Enterprise. My friend was describing common interview questions Google asks applicants. I tried answering one but promptly shut my mouth after realizing that I had no idea what I was talking about. As my other friend took a shot at the same question, I studied the art on the walls and the nearby conference rooms; each room bore the name of a famous film set in L.A. I realized that even at Google, home of the world’s STEM titans, they still admire and respect the work performed by those who pursued liberal arts and other creative endeavors.

So, if Google believes that liberal arts are still worth it, maybe we all should believe that, too.

A Comprehensive Guide to Financial Aid

College sure is expensive. How expensive is it, you ask? Well, the four-year tuition at America’s priciest schools exceeds the nation’s median home price. Yep, some college degrees cost more than houses. Fear not; most colleges are nowhere as expensive, especially public schools where you qualify for in-state tuition. Even so, rising prices mean that in 2019, even ‘cheap’ schools put a financial strain on students and their families.

That’s why you need to spend a LONG TIME researching which school can give you the best bang for your tuition buck. But that’s another article.

Today, I want to talk with you about financial aid and paying for school. Your financial aid journey begins the moment you start researching colleges. Use the following steps to ensure that you can attend the best school at the lowest out-of-pocket price.

Talk to Your Family

Your first step involves determining what, if anything, your family will contribute to your college education. Money can be an awkward topic, but you need to have an honest conversation. The earlier you do this, the sooner you know how much money you need to raise through grants, scholarships, and/or loans.

Fill Out the FAFSA

No matter the amount of money your family has set aside for college, your first stop for financial aid begins with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA, a financial questionnaire, determines your eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study programs. You can learn more about each of these financial aid opportunities in later sections.

Take a minute to review some essential FAFSA information:

  • Application Deadlines: You can submit the FAFSA for the 2020-2021 academic year between October 1st, 2019 and June 30th, 2020. Of, course, the sooner you file the FAFSA, the sooner you receive your results.
  • Requirements: To apply, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • File as Independent?: Certain applicants under the age of 24 can file as an independent, meaning that the FAFSA does not consider their parents’ finances when making its determination.
  • Materials: When you apply, you need you and/or your families tax returns for the previous year. You may need other records if your family has other investments such as stocks, a business, etc.
  • Determination: The FAFSA doesn’t say whether you do or do not qualify for financial aid. It merely reports how much you or your family can contribute to your education in the coming year. FAFSA calls this amount your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
    • What this means is that at some cheaper schools you may not qualify for aid, but at more expensive schools, you do.
  • Reapply: To qualify for aid under the FAFSA, you must reapply each year using a special FSA ID you receive when you first register. (Don’t lose this ID!)

Now that you know some FAFSA basics, let’s explore different types of financial aid. Each section begins with the kind of aid directly related to the FAFSA.

Research Scholarships & Grants

Federal Grants

If your EFC qualifies you for aid at your college, you may receive a Pell Grant, approximately $6,000. A Pell Grant can go towards any education expenses if there is money left over after you pay tuition, fees, and housing. You can receive a Pell Grant for up to six years if you remain FAFSA eligible.

State Scholarships & Grants

Does your state have a lottery? If so, it might use some of that money to sponsor a lottery scholarship or grant program that pays a portion of your college tuition as long as you attend college within the state. To qualify, you may need to earn a specific GPA or standardized test score. Also, after you start college, maintain good grades to ensure that your scholarship renews.

Even if your state does not have such a program, other financial incentives at the state level may qualify you for special aid. Check with your school’s guidance counselor to learn about opportunities.

College-Specific Scholarships & Grants

As you research colleges, pay close attention to the financial aid they provide eligible students. Schools with large endowments often award generous financial aid packages to students with financial need or those with excellent academic records.

Private Scholarships & Grants

Finally, we arrive at what may be your most significant scholarship and grant opportunity. Navigating scholarships may seem like a daunting task, but like your college search, the effort will have positive results.

If you need some help getting started, focus on subject-specific scholarships and grants, especially if you plan to major in a STEM-related field. Subject-specific scholarships limit the application pool, increasing your chances. They also give you the opportunity to highlight your passions and academic achievements.

When it comes to scholarships and grants, you may come across many scholarship/grant hybrids. These awards have both academic and financial requirements. Some scholarships in this category take applications only from members of a specific minority group.

Consider Work-Study Programs

Federal Work-Study

The FAFSA’s work-study program connects eligible students with part-time employment either on or off campus. This program caps the number of hours students work and imposes different rules for undergraduate and graduate students.

School Work-Study

Many schools offer similar work-study programs to help students pay for college. In these cases, students work part-time for their schools. Some schools reserve work-study programs for students with financial need, while others allow all interested students to participate. In some cases, reimbursement may come in the form of tuition reduction or a meal plan. In these cases, students do not receive a traditional paycheck.

Be Wary of (Most) Loans

Federally Backed Loans

First off, there are two types of loans you may qualify for under the FAFSA:

  • Subsidized Loans: These loans do not incur interest during your time in school.
  • Unsubsidized Loans: These loans do incur interest during your time in school.

Subsidized loans are your best bet, as interest can add thousands of dollars to your loan and lengthen the time you need to pay it back. However, all federal loans typically offer better interest rates than private loans. The FAFSA also caps the amount of subsidized and unsubsidized loans you can take out each year. 

Private Loans

Finally, we arrive at private loans. There are hundreds of lending institutions out there willing to loan you tens of thousands of dollars. “Just sign here,” they say, no doubt like the Devil bargaining for your immortal soul.

Okay, not all private lenders are the Devil, but private loans are – without a doubt – the riskiest form of financial aid that a college student can use. First off, student loans, even the FAFSA ones, never go away, even if students declare bankruptcy later in life. Also, private lenders typically loan much larger sums than federally-backed loans, meaning that young students can rack up massive amounts of debt in a short amount of time.

My advice: be wary of private loans and use them as a last resort.

Learn More About Military Service

Are you thinking about joining the military after high school? If you serve, you qualify for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. In a nutshell, military personnel and veterans with at least 30 days of active duty service receive some tuition benefits. These benefits max out after three years of service. Other benefits include housing allowances and tuition discounts for spouses and children. The law is complex, and many stipulations apply.

Joining the military is not a light decision. Weigh your options carefully and discuss them with adults you trust.

Final Thoughts

You are incredibly fortunate: you have thousands of financial aid opportunities at your fingertips! By starting work now, you can attend your dream college without incurring debt, setting you up for financial, professional, and personal success later in life.

Near Year’s Resolutions and You

Happy 2019! It’s a new year, which means new challenges and new opportunities. As a high school student, you certainly have a lot to do over the next 12 months. No matter what lies ahead, I want to help you start your year on the right foot.

Let’s talk resolutions!

Should You Set a Resolution?

You probably know the story by heart: a well-meaning person sets a new year’s resolution only to give up on it within a month, week, or even a day. With so many people unable to keep their resolutions – and feeling bad about themselves when they do – does it make sense to make one at all?

First off, no, there’s nothing inherently wrong about setting a new year’s resolution. It’s just that for most people, they set their sights too high. I’m going to the gym every day isn’t an impossible task, but for someone who never works out, that goal is too big. Missing a day makes people feel like they failed, and then they give up entirely.

Let’s make sure that you don’t fall into the same trap by picking a reasonable resolution and seeing in through to the end.

Picking a Resolution 

You’ll have different priorities depending on whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior. That said, your resolution should relate to one or more academic or personal milestones the next 12 months will bring. Maybe you’re taking the SAT/ACT for the first time or going on your first college tour. How can you tie these events into a resolution? Here’s a sample resolution for each grade level:

  • Freshman: I will select a new extracurricular activity this year or continue one that I enjoy.
  • Sophomore: I will go on at least two college tours this summer.
  • Junior: I will take three ACT/SAT practice tests before attempting the real thing.
  • Senior: I will maintain my grades until graduation.

Each of these resolutions requires a different set of steps. However, no matter which resolution you set, achieving it boils down to the same strategies.

Achieving Your Resolution

Break Up Your Resolution Into Smaller Goals

If you want to increase your chances of success with your new year’s resolution, break your goal into smaller, more manageable goals. Let’s use the same resolutions from the previous section as an example.

  • Freshman: 1. I will write down what I like and don’t like about my current extracurricular activity. 2. I will research what new activities I can join this semester. 3. I will decide on whether to change to a new activity or keep my current one.
  • Sophomore: 1. I will research at least 10 colleges by exploring their websites. 2. I will talk to my family about which ones they think would be a good fit. 3. We will go on the tours this summer.
  • Junior: 1. I will pick an ACT/SAT study guide to use for my test prep. 2. I will see if I can find a free one at the library or a used copy online. 3. I will take three practice tests.
  • Senior: 1. I will continue to prepare for tests and assessments. 2. I will ask teachers how I can maintain my grades during this crucial time. 3. I will research how having good grades as a senior can qualify me for merit-based scholarships.

If you set the same resolution as in the last section, you may not follow these steps exactly. Everyone is different and may need extra or modified steps. The point is that you need to break down your big resolution into 3-5 smaller pieces.

Set Dates for Completion

Once you have your smaller goals, give each one its own ‘due date.’ Keep in mind that even if you and your best friend have the same resolution and goals, you may have different completion dates. No one is the same, and you want to ensure that you give yourself enough time while still completing everything by the final deadline.

Final Thoughts

You’ll have a lot to do this year, but give your resolution the time and attention it deserves. Yes, it’ll be a lot of hard work. However, when you see it through, you’ll be one step closer to attending your dream college.

Good luck in the coming year!

Applying to College and Your Friends

When it comes time to apply to college, you need a support team. And when I say ‘support team,’ I’m talking about more people than your myKlovr support team. I’m talking about your friends, too. They may not possess life experience, but as they’re going through the same things you are, they, better than anyone else, understand your hopes, dreams, and anxieties.

Friends are there to support you, and you are there to support them. However, just how much should you share about your college application journey with them? Are there any downsides to being 100% open with your friends? In this article, we’ll examine why keeping some information private might be a good idea.

When Sharing Is Caring

By all means, tell your friends where you’re applying to college. There’s no real downside. The only thing I’d recommend is not bragging about which schools or how many schools are on your list. Besides being silly, you don’t want to be embarrassed if you receive rejections from your top-choice school.

Stay humble, college applicants.

When Sharing Isn’t Caring

Let me recommend a line in the sand when it comes to sharing information:

  • Don’t reveal which scholarships you applied to.

Why not share scholarship information? First of all, think about your group of friends. In many ways, they’re like you. They take the same classes as you, probably make similar grades as you, and have similar interests. If you tell them about a scholarship you applied to, they might apply as well, creating more competition for you. And since scholarships tend to have fewer applicants than colleges, one additional application on the pile can lower your chances significantly.

Note: This advice also applies long after your college years. Don’t tell friends or family about the specific jobs where you apply. They might apply, too, and snatch that job away from you.

Supporting Friends as the Acceptances and Rejection Roll In

Once you apply to colleges and scholarships, there’s a lot of waiting, and you and your friends have to go through the motions until you receive the emails or letters that will change your lives forever. But there will come a day when you or a close friend find out the news. How should you react? Let’s look at some positive and negative scenarios.

If the news is bad…

If bad news should befall a friend, know that they’ll be sad or at least grumpy for a few days. Suggest that you do something fun, and more importantly, distracting together. Go to the movies, play mini golf, anything to remind your friend that life goes on.

If the news is good…

It’s time to celebrate! If you’ve received the good news, please don’t gloat over your friends. Gloating’s not nice. If they’ve received the good news, please forgive them if they should gloat. And as I’m sure you’ve (hopefully) already heard, don’t do anything illegal to celebrate. Colleges and scholarships love to rescind acceptances to high school seniors who get into trouble.

Final Thoughts

Besides keeping your scholarship applications a secret and not gloating if you should receive good news, there’s no wrong way to discuss the college application experience with your friends. Be there for them, and they’ll be there for you.

In other words, be a good friend. 🙂

Are High School Students Over/Underworked? A Comparison

Far, far away from you is an island. This island –a bit smaller than New York City — is close to the equator, so it’s always hot and muggy. It’s crowded, too; about 5.5 million people live there. A lot of ethnic groups, customs, and languages mingle, so everyone learns English to get by. Why am I waxing on about an island a minimum 17-hour flight from any point in the U.S.? Well, it’s because that island, aka the Republic of Singapore, produces the best educated high school students in the world.

Yep, Singapore is just one of many countries where the high school students outperform Americans. Now, American high school students are pretty good compared to most of the world, but since we’re the wealthiest country on Earth, it’s a bit embarrassing that we’re lagging behind other countries. What’s the cause? Are American high school students lazy? Are schools underfunded?

Or do students not have enough to do?

In this article, we’ll be investigating how the high school students’ workload has changed in recent decades and how it compares to our Singaporean peers.

Trends in American Education

Long story short, what we know as ‘high school’ didn’t come into being until the USSR launched Sputnik in 1957. America suddenly developed an inferiority complex, and legislators pumped billions into education, while parents bought educational toys for their children. Today everything from foreign language instruction to AP courses can all thank their existence to a beeping metal sphere about twice the size of a basketball.

So how does Sputnik’s legacy continue to affect 21st-century students’ workload? From my experiences as a student and teacher, the smarter a student is, the more work and higher expectations are forced upon them. What this means is that high-achieving students like you can go toe-to-toe with your Singaporean counterparts any day of the week.

Here’s the problem. When it comes to students who aren’t high achievers, they aren’t doing much in school and what they are doing isn’t helping them prepare for life’s challenges let alone a standardized test that researchers use to compare different countries’ students. In fact, when I started teaching at an alternative high school, I was shocked by how little work middle-of-the-road and low-achieving students did to graduate.

So, it makes sense then that when policymakers see how low U.S. high school students rank, their first reaction is “The kids are lazy! Pile on the work!”

That’s not the answer because you certainly don’t need more to do to be successful academically. Let’s see what makes a country’s students succeed.

Why Is Singapore so Successful?

Let’s examine a few key facts about the Singaporean education system:

  • The country spends only 3% of its GDP on education. (It’s almost 8% in the U.S.)
  • There is a central Ministry of Education. (Remember that in the U.S., each state controls its education system.)
  • Parents who don’t ensure that their children attend school are charged with a crime.
  • The government pays for preschool for children starting at age three.

Let me pause to say how important that last bullet is. Investing in preschool can prevent so many educational and behavioral problems later in life. Also, experienced preschool teachers can identify learning disabilities, ensuring that students receive access to appropriate interventions.

The Singaporean government is doing a lot of effective things to help their students succeed. What about the students? Do they work more, less, or about the same?

Let’s examine one statistic. Singaporean students spend more time on homework than Americans, approximately nine hours per week. You probably spend nine hours per week on homework, too. However, Singaporean high school students suffer from anxiety and feelings of overwork at much higher rates than American students.

Hmmm…

Takeaways

I think I see a trend, one that might apply to students in the U.S., Singapore, or any country.

[Amount of Schoolwork] x [Expectations to Succeed] = [Feelings of Overwork]

I’d wager that high achieving American and Singaporean students do the same amount of work, but Singaporean students feel higher stress because compared to the average U.S. student, their government and culture put much more emphasis on academic performance.

To put it another way, overwork can be more perception than actual reality. Did your teacher assign 50 math problems when 10 would be enough to master the content? That’s overwork, plain and simple. But do you have a lot of homework because the specialized honors/AP/IB curriculum moves at a fast pace? That’s necessary. The pressure you or others put on your academic success drains your energy, making something you’re capable of doing feel impossible.

Take it from someone who’s been on both sides of the teacher’s desk: though you may feel like it’s too much, you’re doing what you need to do.

Final Thoughts

You’re not overworked. In fact, many American high school students don’t do enough, and the work they need may not necessarily be what teachers in today’s classrooms would assign. Preschool and vocational training would go a long way to ensuring that every student works the same amount but performs the right work for them.

If it’s something that Singapore – a country that didn’t exist until 1965 – can achieve, it’s something we can achieve, and more importantly, something American students deserve.

Decisions, Decisions: Early Decision, Early Action, Instant Decision or Regular Decision

When it comes to your journey to college, you have to answer many important questions:

  • Public or private school?
  • Small or big school?
  • How much can I afford?
  • Which scholarships should I apply to?
  • And so on.

Answering each of these questions brings you one step closer to attending college. However, one of the final questions you must answer may have the most significant impact on where you go to school:

  • Should I apply early decision, early action, instant decision, or regular decision?

Yes, there are many choices of how you can apply to college, and each one comes with a unique set of rules and regulations. In this article, we’ll examine each type of application so you can choose those right for you.

Early Decision

 As the name implies, early decision requires you to decide where you want to go to college before most application deadlines. You apply to one school 1-2 months before regular decision, and you can expect a decision in about six weeks. You may already know the catch: if the school accepts you, you have to go there. No, they won’t drag you off to jail if you don’t attend, but when you send in your early decision application, you’re telling the college that, “Yes, I will 100% go here if you accept me.”

Students who apply early decision have a slightly higher chance of receiving an acceptance letter. Don’t be fooled; schools accept a higher percentage of early decision applicants because these applicants represent the cream of the crop. Finally, schools may decide to push some early decision applicants into the regular decision pile to review their applications again between January and April.

Who should apply early decision?

If you 100% know deep down – you feel it in your bones – that you want to attend a specific college, by all means, apply early decision. And if you get in, more power to you. With that significant weight off your shoulders, you can celebrate during winter break and have a less stressful spring semester.

And if you shouldn’t get in – it happened to me, too – take a moment to grieve before refocusing your energy on your remaining applications.  

Early Action

Want to know if a school will accept you early but not 100% sure you want to attend? Then early action is for you!

Schools that use early action typically have the same application deadlines as schools that use early decision. You receive a decision around the same time as if you had applied early decision, too. But unlike early decision, applying early action does not constitute an agreement to attend a school if it accepts you. Also, you have until May 1st to make your final decision.

Who should apply early action?

You should apply early action if there is a school you love, but you’re not entirely sure you want to attend. Also, consider early action if you want to see how your regular decision applications turn out.

Instant Decision

Don’t let the name fool you. Instant decision takes a little more time than a cup of instant ramen. It’s more like speed dating. Here’s how the process works for some schools:

  • You gather all application materials.
  • You take them to a college on its decision day, also known as D-Day.
  • The college makes an admission decision that same day.

Like with early action, you still have until May 1stto select a college or university. Compared to early decision, early action, and regular decision, instant decision is rare. None of the schools you apply to may use it.

Who should apply instant decision?

Consider instant decision a good choice you want to know your results as soon as possible. D-Day can feel like a gauntlet, however, especially for schools that use interviews, so be ready for the stress. 

Regular Decision

Regular decision represents the bulk of applications colleges and universities receive throughout December and into early January. Schools spend the spring curating their next year’s freshman class before sending out decisions around April 1st. Accepted students have until May 1stto accept an offer.  Schools put some regular decision applicants on a waitlist: these students may not find out until May or June if a school accepts them.

Who should apply regular decision? 

No matter who you are, you should plan to apply regular decision to at least three schools. It’s your best bet to receive one or more acceptances.

Final Thoughts

Applying to college has never been more competitive, and you may think that applying one way or another may give you an advantage. If I were you, I’d push these thoughts out of my mind. Apply early decision/action to your top choice and apply regular decision for the rest of the schools on your shortlist. After that, all you can do is sit back, wait, and continue doing your best in high school until graduation day.

Stay Productive This Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving break is soon upon us. Depending on your school or district’s policies, you may receive two days, three days, or a whole week off of school. Between stuffing your face and watching football, the week doesn’t lend itself to productivity.

When I was a teacher, district policy forbade teachers from assigning homework over Thanksgiving break. As such shackles no longer bind me, I’m going to assign you just a bit of homework for you to accomplish over break.

In this article, we’ll look at different things high school freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors can accomplish during their time off school. And because I want to make sure you have a chance to relax this Thanksgiving, none of my assignments should take more than two hours to complete.

If You’re a Freshman

As a high school freshman, you don’t have to worry about high-stakes standardized tests and applying to college just yet. Instead of research or test prep, I want you to spend your two hours performing some self-reflection that should help you with the big decisions you’ll face in the next few years.

For each of the following bullet points, I want you to journal a one-page reply:

  • Which subject is your favorite? What about it do you like the most?
  • In which class do you have the most trouble? Do you need extra help to succeed?
  • Do you work better by yourself or with others?
  • What careers (even if they’re pie-in-the-sky) do you think are interesting or would be worth pursuing one day?

What I want you to do is tuck these answers away. During Thanksgiving break for the next two years – when you’re a sophomore and junior — revisit these questions to identify how your preferences have changed. By the time you start seriously researching potential colleges during your junior year, you’ll be better prepared to select those that best match your interests and goals.

If You’re a Sophomore

Sophomore year is the time when you dip your toe into the college application pond. It can seem a bit overwhelming (that’s natural), but you can accomplish something this Thanksgiving break that’ll both reduce your stress and start your college journey off on the right foot.

For your two hours of homework, I want you to research potential colleges and select 2-3 to tour between now and the end of summer break before your junior year. Discuss options with your family, as they’ll likely come with you on these tours and play a significant role in your college decision-making process. 

If You’re a Junior

As a junior, this is the last full year of grades colleges will see when you apply next year. That makes your performance on mid-terms, which are only a few weeks away, more important than those you took in your freshman and sophomore years.

During the break, I want you to set aside two hours to study your most challenging subject. It doesn’t matter what it is. You need not only the practice but also the chance to identify the topics giving you the most trouble. Once you identify them, you can master them over the next few weeks with your teachers’ help and other resources (e.g., Khan Academy) they recommend.

If You’re a Senior

Your college application deadlines are coming up fast. For any remaining applications, here’s what I want you to do:

  • Reread all application requirements and make a checklist for each school.
  • Check off what you have completed.
    • Maintain these lists until you send off your last application.
  • Read all of your essays at least once. Make appropriate revisions.
    • If you’re going to visit relatives this Thanksgiving, it never hurts to ask an aunt or uncle to critique one of your essays.

Final Thoughts

I have one last piece of homework for everyone reading this to accomplish between now and the end of Thanksgiving break: find some quality time to relax. The three weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break are full to the brim with studying, tests, and anxiety. Recharge your batteries now so you can face these challenges successfully.

Demonstrated Interest: A Primer

Believe it or not, getting into your dream college has a lot in common with getting your future dream job. Yes, both have the word ‘dream’ in the title, but the similarities go deeper than that. You see, the people who get into their dream college/get their dream job show demonstrated interest. In other words, they do more than the bare minimum – applying.

In this article, we’ll take a look at demonstrated interested: what it is and how to use it to your advantage during next year’s college admission season.

So, What Is Demonstrated Interest?

As the name suggests, demonstrated interest is when you go the extra mile to show a college that it’s your first choice. The trick, however, is doing so without becoming annoying and making the college admission counselor think less of you. We’ll discuss how to not be annoying in a bit.

And you don’t want that happening, do you?

Your goal, on the other hand, is to leave a positive impression on the admission department before (or during) the time when they consider your application portfolio. How do you do that? Let’s find out.

What Does Demonstrated Interest Look Like?

Let’s start with an easy one.

Take the Tour 

Taking the tour is one of the easiest things you can do to show demonstrated interest. No, you likely won’t come into contact with any higher-ups in the admission department, but the experience can benefit you in a few ways.

  • Your Personal Essay: The personal essay is a great way to bring up the fact you took the tour and “just fell in love” with the campus and what the student tour guide told you about the academic and social experience.
  • Write a Thank You Note: When you get back home from your tour, consider writing a brief thank you note to the head of the admission department. Talk about “how helpful” the guide was and that “your school is now one of my top picks.” In other words, it never hurts to butter them up.

If you can’t take the tour for whatever reason, it always pays to send a note to one of the admissions counselors. Ask a question or two and tell them a bit about yourself. Like any good cover letter, don’t let it go over 250 words.

Interview 

Not many colleges perform interviews these days, especially for undergraduates. If they do, that is an opportunity you need to jump on (if you can). If the school is hundreds or thousands of miles away, it doesn’t make sense to commit time and money to make the trip, especially if you’re on a budget. But if it’s a day trip in the car, don’t miss this critical opportunity. Here’s some specific advice, much of it applicable to the jobs interviews a few years in your future:

  • Dress for the school you want: When you go to your interview, it pays to dress up. How dressed up? Without going into too much detail, Google ‘business casual.’ That seems to be the sweet spot.
  • Have some questions ready: In all interviews, there always comes a point when the interviewer turns the tables and asks, “do you have any questions for me?” To leave an impression, you need to have a question or two up your sleeve. Fortunately for you, you can think up questions in advance, and if one should come to mind during the interview, that’s even better. Your questions show demonstrated interest and leave an impression in your interviewer’s mind. And who knows, your interviewer may be the person who has the final say over your application.

How to Not Be Annoying

This is going to be a relatively short section despite the topic’s importance. Again, let’s take a page out of the “how to get a job” playbook:

  • Be yourself: A truism if there ever was one, but be yourself is still the best advice there is. However, a better way to put it would be ‘be genuine.’ Sounds nicer, doesn’t it? In other words, the effort it takes to try to be someone else is exhausting, and if you mess it up, the person on the other end loses trust in you.
  • Don’t lie: Applying to college isn’t applying for a security clearance; plenty of people have fibbed about their accomplishments, like how long they participated in an extracurricular activity and gotten away with it. HOWEVER, lying is annoying and demonstrates an immaturity that no college admission counselor wants to see.
  • Avoid the Temptation to Pester: First off, there’s a big difference between pestering and asking relevant questions. For example, if a college says they will let you know when all of your application materials arrive and then you hear nothing, by all means, write them emails until you get a reply. But beyond that, avoid contacting admission counselors, especially if you think of something that would ‘enhance’ your application.
    • Your application is your one and only opportunity to shine. Sorry. That’s the way it is.

Final Thoughts

Demonstrated interest shows initiative and if done right, proves to a school that you’re committed. As long as you’re not annoying, whatever you do is sure to have a positive effect.

What Causes School Anxiety? (And What You Can Do)

Anxiety plagues just about every high school student. I could easily create an 800-item list of anxiety triggers you and your peers experience every day, but that would be TOO easy. You know, as I think about the innumerable anxiety culprits wandering your high school and the space between your ears (your brain), a few trends emerge. In this article, we’ll look at the big anxiety categories that plague high school students and what you can do to keep your anxiety at a low simmer.

Deadlines

The first thing that came to mind when I started brainstorming this article was deadlines. Just two feet away from my computer is a dry erase whiteboard calendar jam-packed full of them. Just looking at them gives me the jitters.

But unlike you, I have more than a decade of experience juggling multiple deadlines. Experience alone tells me that everything’s going to work out just fine. But alas, you lack such valuable experience. However, just like everything we’ll discuss in this article, there is something you can do TODAY to make deadline anxiety a thing of the past.

What You Can Do

Imagine a guy who pays $50 for a premium all-you-can-eat buffet. Everything looks great, but he only has so much stomach real estate. He decides to eat large portions of just 1-2 items that attract him. Yes, he has a great meal, but he goes home feeling anxious. Did he get his money’s worth? Maybe, just maybe, he should have sampled a little bit of everything.

Believe it or not, beating deadline anxiety has a lot to do with our gourmand.

As an ambitious high school student, you have a ‘buffet’ of deadlines in your future. When you have the option to either work on one assignment for two to three hours or three assignments for one hour each, always choose the latter. That way, you’ll make progress on every single thing. Yes, in both scenarios you’d do the same amount of work, but by ‘sampling’ everything you’ll actually feel that you accomplished more than if you left something untouched.

Assessments of All Shapes and Sizes

High school is full of assessments: ACT/SAT, AP, IB, pop quizzes, exit slips, unit tests, midterms, end-of-year tests, state tests, etc. That’s a lot of assessments to worry about.

Like with deadlines, you consciously know that you’ll do your best, but anxiety still has its talons in you. What to do? 

What You Can Do

Defeating texting anxiety has more to do with mindset rather than any particular action on your part. In a nutshell, you simply need to remember that for the majority of important high school tests, there are second chances, either retakes or the ability to learn from your mistakes and apply your new knowledge toward the next test. Keep this in mind before taking the ACT/SAT and just about every test you take in class.

Student-Teacher Relationships

I didn’t get along with all my teachers in high school, and when I became a teacher, I didn’t get along with all of my students. Let’s say you have a teacher that, for whatever reason, rubs you the wrong way. Going into his or her class feels like a nightmare. Maybe you’ve lost some sleep over it.

What You Can Do 

As there are so many things that can sour a student-teacher relationship, I’m going to shy away from giving specific advice. However, in just about every case, finding a solution begins with asking yourself “Is it me or my teacher who’s at fault?” Be honest and own up to any mistakes that you might have made. In my experience on both sides of the teacher’s desk, you likely did SOMETHING at SOME POINT to widen the rift even if it wasn’t the original cause.

Once you look at things objectively, it’s time to talk to your teacher, preferably before or after school. That may sound scary, but look at it this way: in just about every kind of relationship, better communication leads to a better relationship. It’s as simple as that.

 Your Peers

Bullies, friends who drift away, mean girls, peer pressure…being around other teenagers 7-8 hours a day can sure raise your anxiety. Of course, if you’re anxious because you or someone you know is experiencing physical or psychological harm due to other students, it’s time to let a teacher know. But if your anxiety is more of the general variety, you can still nip peer anxiety in the bud

What You Can Do 

Like with test anxiety, the answer (mostly) involves perspective. First of all, if you’re worried what people other than your closest friends think of you, don’t. That statement should also apply to your friends, but since you’re at a self-conscious age, you might as well be self-conscious only in regards to people you can trust.

In other words, the opinions held by 99.99% of the people you see every day aren’t worth the powder to blow them to heck.

Final Thoughts

Anxiety is a monster, yes. It can’t ever be truly defeated, but if you take some proactive measures, it’ll spend most of its existence trapped in a cage of your own design. If you have a fall break coming up, use that time to evaluate your anxiety triggers and devise a customized plan.

Finally, nothing beats anxiety more than enjoying the fall weather. Happy Halloween!

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