education

5 Skills To Learn Before Going Away To College

Going away to college is a life-changing event. For the first time in your life, you will be entirely on your own, independent from your parents, who you lived with your entire life. It’s an exciting time where many students grow and mature. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, learn new things, and prepare yourself for the real world that awaits you. However, living in a dorm room is not all fun and games. You are living on your own means new responsibilities that you may not be used to having.

When I started my educational coaching company three years ago, I did extensive research regarding what college graduates regretted about their time in school. Many of them spoke about going away to school without knowing how to do anything for themselves. Several graduates actually had to leave school and come back home because of how unprepared they were. To prevent this from happening to you, here are five skills you must learn before leaving for college.

Cooking

This is a skill that gets overlooked because most students assume they will eat all of their meals in the dining hall. What they don’t realize is that sometimes their schedule may not match up with the dining hall hours. You may find yourself getting out of the library or a club activity later than you thought and having nowhere to go for food. As a freshman, you most likely will not have a car on campus. It’s critical that you are prepared for these types of situations.

Now, I am not expecting you to whip up a 3-course meal. However, I do expect that you could cook up some frozen veggies, rice from a box, scramble some eggs, or make a grilled cheese. You could also buy some grilled chicken, freeze it, and then take it out thaw on days you know you will be cooking your own dinner. You should know how to cook any of the food listed above before living on your own. 

Laundry

I cannot tell you how many freshmen tell me they have no idea how to do their own laundry. Thinking you can keep wearing clean clothes and wait until you go home is a poor strategy. Your dorm room will begin to stink due to the mounting pile of dirty clothes. You will also undoubtedly run out of clean clothes quicker than you think. Furthermore, you are in a new place, meeting new people. You should try to look presentable at all times.

If you don’t know how to a load of laundry, find your Mom or Dad and ask them to show you. Pay attention to the difference between how to wash your colored clothes as opposed to how to wash your whites. Trust me, you will not be happy if you screw that up. Once they teach you, it’s now on you to do your laundry moving forward. Don’t let them keep doing it and wait for college to start. The only way to learn and be prepared is by starting now and not stopping.

Budgeting

When entering your freshman year, you most likely will not be working. This could be the first time in several years you won’t be earning a paycheck. While this may change at some point, it’s essential to prepare for not having an income for at least the first two months of school. Whatever money you get from high school graduation or your summer job will need to last until you start working again. If you run out too soon, you won’t be able to go out and do things with your new friends.

The easiest way to save money is only to spend it when you have too. For example, if you have a meal plan, use it! Yes, you can order pizza on the weekend. However, do not fall into the trap of ordering food every time you don’t feel like walking to the dining hall. If you think you might struggle with this, ask your parents to only deposit a certain amount of money into your account each week to avoid spending too much too soon.

Time Management

A high school class schedule and a college class schedule are entirely different. In high school, you start and end each day at roughly the same time. The most significant difference is that in high school, all your classes are back to back with very little room for breaks. In college, depending on your schedule, you could have breaks that last as long as 2-5 hours. Unlike your previous school years, your parents will not be around to get on your case about doing your homework.

As soon as you get your schedule for the semester, map out all the breaks you have throughout the week. Those are the times you will go to the library to do homework, study, or prepare for the next class. Avoid going back to your dorm room when possible. There will always be someone doing something much more fun than the schoolwork you have to do. The key is to commit to this schedule. Being in a class by 8 am is just as important as being in the library by 10 am.

Communication

As we mentioned before, going away to college means meeting a ton of new people. This includes roommates, neighbors, professors, and college employees. These are all people who do not know you very well. Unlike your friends or family, they cannot guess what you are feeling. They have no idea what makes you happy, sad, frustrated, or overwhelmed. You will need to learn how to communicate your feelings and thoughts in various situations.

For example, you may have a professor who teaches in a way you are not used to. They will not stop and make sure you are okay. If you are falling behind, it is up to you to communicate that to them before it is too late in the semester. If your roommate or neighbor does something you don’t like, you have the right to stand up for yourself and say something. However, you must do it in a respectful way that does not damage the relationship. The last thing you want is poor communication causing long term tension between you and someone you have to see every day.

Conclusion

Going away to college is something everyone must prepare for. Your life is going to radically change in so many ways. Now is the time to start learning these types of skills while you still have time to make mistakes and ask for guidance. By mastering these skills, you can enter your freshman year with confidence and focus on growing as a student and a person.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life, including college, entering the workforce, and the real world. He offers several student-focused services including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org.

Covid-19 and the High-School Crisis – A Path Forward in Unfortunate Times

The Covid-19 pandemic poses a tremendous problem for seniors everywhere. With no real warning, many seniors at the end of their high-school experience have seemingly and abruptly had their year ended. Prom’s all over the United States have been canceled. Athletes who worked their whole lives and were ready to take the “state championship” lost all possible hope of the win in a flash. Many schools are currently closed for two to three weeks, and that timeframe could likely be extended as the coronavirus cases go up. Some speculate that in some states, High-School Seniors may even miss their graduation ceremony, a right of passage for students everywhere. The Covid-19 crisis we face is a challenge on many fronts. Students bound for college or those that wish to go to college are faced with ACTs and SATs being canceled, and schools are rushing and struggling to assemble online education tools to try and bridge the gap between being closed for social isolation and to avoid a worse outspread in communities. While the Board of Education may grant emergency waivers for helping these seniors graduate in response to school closures and Covid-19, students are still left with an abrupt end to twelve years of planning.

Companies like Khan Academy and myKlovr have set up war rooms with their teams to strategize the ways that online technology can stop the widespread fear and pressure that parents and students are facing. Some parents are considering having their children repeat the year, while others are rushing to find solutions so that they can continue to grow and achieve their dreams while not be held back during these uncertain times. It isn’t only high-school seniors that are having challenges.  Children in 9-12 grades are all preparing for their future and with such an unprecedented incident, the idea that planning for future couldn’t be more important.  We know that our country will course correct as the Nation heeds the social distancing warnings, however this still remains.  In this time of reflection, we must consider how we plan for our future, and that includes the future of our children.

“We at myKlovr are removing all the stops for employers and associations to help their employees and members with high school-aged children plan for their future and continue the pursuit of higher education,” said CEO, Gustavo Dolfino, “We know that before the pandemic, this group of individuals faced incredible difficulties even trying to navigate all the steps it takes to get into a college that fits the needs of their children and their budget.”

The solution for all is to take a step back and look at all the options. MyKlovr provides students with step-by-step instructions, career assessments, and with over 50,000 participants already using the platform, it has proven data analytics and algorithms that will help kids understand where they are and what they are missing. Though Covid-19 has arisen, perhaps some optimists could find a silver lining with all this time off. Given the fact that 70% of high schools don’t even have a guidance counselor, with companies like myKlovr and its marketplace, students can spend the time they have off inputting some simple data to help them see where they are missing things that could get them into their reach college. Understanding exactly what coursework is required for a particular major is just one of the ways that myKlovr helps. The tool also explains what volunteer work would be appropriate, what grades need to be improved. It allows parents and their students to understand the various scholarships, grants, and financial aid options are out there. The tool enables this process for participants to complete a full assessment with a click of a button.

Those kids that need more help can get it with myKlovr. They can receive virtual tutoring and a “to-do list” of sorts that will help them organize their next steps to their future. The other important thing that myKlovr does for students is help them realize their career goals. Some individuals are not college-bound but may be more wired for a vocational trade. MyKlovr can help these individuals in the same way, reach their potential. Parents and their children need to be strategic about how they invest their money.

America’s workforce needs welders, truck drivers, electricians, and plumbers as much as we need doctors, teachers, and lawyers. Setting a student on the trajectory towards a traditional brick and mortar college when they should actually be getting an associate’s degree and working in a trade is not only a waste of funds but can weigh heavily on the student. With mental health issues on the rise, financial burdens and forced educational goals contribute to an already burdened society that our children are already facing. According to the World Health Organization, sixteen percent of adolescents aged 10-19 suffer from a mental health condition. Globally, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in 15-19-year-olds. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health Add to these statistics on of the worlds most unprecedented pandemic to the mix of an already burdened group of adolescents, and it makes us realize we must address this crisis immediately.

Parents have a difficult task of raising kids in an all-digital world where cyberbullying is prevalent, cell phone and tablet use is at an all-time high among teens. The white noise of high-schoolers day-to-day is always going. By merely understanding solutions are out there to better plan, parents and their children can alleviate the stress of the unknown through simple tools.

Another big concern is that many Americans don’t have the money to put their kids through college. MyKlovr helps parents and kids not only navigate the funding for college; it helps them determine the best course of action for the planning towards a dream career. Many students have no idea what they want to be when they grow up. With 1.5 trillion dollars in student debt, it is incumbent on companies who provide benefits for parents to help them understand benefit offerings that give a clear path to the future. https://time.com/5662626/student-loans-repayment/ Employees today are searching for financial wellness tools to help alleviate the financial strain they have on their families. Having tools that help them and their children can take the weight of the world off their shoulders. This tool provides equitable opportunities for students going through the college admissions process. It doesn’t stop there.  Soon, Colleges in the U.S. will have an opportunity to recruit students that they’d never have seen before without the data we are providing.  They’ll find the perfect match for female mathematicians from socioeconomic backgrounds that they may have never seen due to lack of information and lack of communication. They’ll have a tool for recruiting athletes with certain grade point averages that they may have never seen due to lack of information.  As the process has become more competitive, this platform will allow students to truly differentiate themselves by the advice and counseling they receive from our virtual tool.  It will allow for a more personal look into prospective students and help see beyond grades into the tenacity of the heart of a child seeking admission.

There is only one clear path for helping our students now during a pandemic and when the country recovers from this crisis. That is taking a step back from the many roads that can lead to success and finding a solution that has removed all the pitfalls that lead to debt and poor outcomes. As our country recovers, as it always does, we should take this time to be diligent as employers and associations and provide tools that will help employees and members in times of peace and times of crisis.

How myKlovr Can Benefit Homeschooled Students

By Thomas Broderick

As of 2013, approximately 3.4% of all U.S. K-12 students were homeschooled. And each year, the percentage of homeschooled students continues to grow. Parents who choose to homeschool their children do so for many reasons (e.g., concerns about school safety, desire to provide a unique educational experience, having a child with special needs, etc.).

Fortunately, over the last 20 years, the internet and software have radically changed homeschooling. Parents can research the best resources, and students can go more in depth with the material than their peers who attend a traditional public or private school.

Although these advancements have made it possible for more students to receive an excellent education outside the school setting you may have experienced, attending college presents unforeseen challenges for homeschooled students. For example, even if a student plans to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree online, these programs use an application process designed for applicants who attended a public or private high school.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the many barriers homeschooled students face when applying to college. We’ll also explore how myKlovr, our first-of-its-kind virtual college counseling service, can make applying to college a less confusing and frustrating experience.

For Homeschooled Students, Why Is It So Hard To Apply To College?

First off, no one thinks that applying to college is an easy process. Like filing tax returns, the process is bureaucratic, and making a simple mistake could cost you everything. Traditional high school students, even those in schools with inadequate counseling resources, have two advantages that their homeschooled peers do not.

Grades

When it comes to what college admissions counselors value over all else, grades are paramount. Yes, counselors take a holistic approach to every application, but grades are the first thing they review. However, for homeschooled applicants, grades are not a simple matter.

Some states require that parents who homeschool submit grades for their children each year. But how does an admissions counselor view an ‘A’ from a homeschooled applicant when that counselor has no information about the quality of education that the applicant received? And when there are no grades, the process becomes even harder.

For applicants who attended a traditional school, the process is much simpler. High schools often send colleges and universities a fact sheet describing the school’s academic offerings (e.g., number of AP/IB courses), student body demographics, and average and median GPA. With that information in hand, counselors can quickly make a reasonable conclusion about what an applicant’s grades really mean.

Unfortunately, these same difficulties surface when homeschooled students apply to merit-based scholarships, ones that require high school transcripts or use GPA cutoffs.

Counseling Services

Although many traditional high school students throughout the country lack proper college counseling resources, they typically have some access to knowledgeable professionals who can provide help applying to college. Homeschooled students and their families, lacking these resources, must spend precious time researching the best advice on how to apply to college and gain admission to the best school.

How myKlovr Assists Homeschooled Students Apply to College

When we developed myKlovr, we had traditional high school students in mind, those whose college counselors could not provide the time and attention students needed to help them gain admission to a dream college or university. However, our service can offer the same valuable benefits to homeschooled students, as well.

Application Information

After users answer a series of questions concerning standardized test scores, personal interests, extracurricular activities, and academic achievements, we save this information so that they can track their progress over time. This tool can help homeschooled students stay on top of their accomplishments, a useful resource when filling out college applications.

Student Portfolio

College applicants are more than a series of letter grades and test scores. In the Student Portfolio, users input examples of their best academic and extracurricular accomplishments. This way, they can access these examples as they write college essays – telling a unique story to stand out from the hundreds or thousands of other applicants. Also, by creating a portfolio, college applicants improve their organizational skills, something all college students need to succeed academically.

Goal Recommendations

myKlovr’s software uses users’ data to make academic and extracurricular recommendations, a boon for users who have little to no idea how to improve their chances of college admissions success. Adults in a user’s support network (e.g., in the case of homeschooled students, their parents) verify accomplishments as they happen. Goal recommendations tie into myKlovr’s Advanced College Finder.

Advanced College Finder

myKlovr offers users much more than a college search engine. Using users’ data, we recommend a list of College Match schools – colleges and universities that users have an excellent chance of attending if they follow their goal recommendations. We are so confident in our ability to match college applicants with schools that if a user achieves his or her goal recommendations but does not receive admission to a College Match school, we will refund the entire subscription fee.

Financial Fitness Modules

Finally, we understand the difficulty that all students face when searching for and applying to financial aid opportunities. Our financial fitness modules help homeschooled students and their parents explore college savings plans, loans, scholarships, and work-study programs, among other financial aid opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Whether they learn at home or at a high school, students can gain an advantage over other college applicants by using myKlovr. This advantage is especially crucial as many families lack the financial resources to afford professional college admissions advisors, many of whom charge hefty fees. By leveling the playing field, we hope to ensure that all young adults can attend a college that matches their academic interests and career aspirations.

Understanding Millennial Employees’ Benefits Needs

By Thomas Broderick

In 2019, millennials became the largest living generation in the United States. Their ages range from 19 to 37, and overall, they possess many liberal economic and social views. On the job, they want to apply their talents toward producing meaningful work.

Economically, most millennials lag behind the previous two generations (e.g., generation X and baby boomers) due to the “Great Recession” that began in late 2007. This two-year recession and the long recovery stunted many millennials’ career opportunities and salary potential. The recession’s lingering effects have a continued impact on millennials’ earning power.

When considering these challenges under a benefits microscope, two words come to mind: stability and opportunity.

In this article, we’ll explore both traditional and voluntary benefits that appeal to millennials. We’ll also consider how millennials’ benefits needs might change in the coming years.

What Young Families Want

Although millennials differ from other generations, they still value traditional benefits packages. Millennial employees are marrying and starting families, meaning that they put a priority on careers that offer good medical and life insurance policies. Both provide young families – many of which are still adjusting to new financial realities – the knowledge that sickness or death will not cripple them financially.

Yes, millennials greatly appreciate traditional benefits, but their generation also values their families’ well-being over all else, including their employers or careers. This desire to provide their spouses and children with the best quality of life makes it easier for millennials to switch companies if they can attain a better benefits package.

For this reason, companies are offering voluntary benefits to attract and retain employees. Let’s look at some of the voluntary benefits that align with millennial employees’ short- and long-term needs.

The Best Voluntary Benefits for Millennials

Millennials, whether they have families or not, generally want a voluntary benefits package that boasts flexibility, encourages peace of mind, includes their family, and promotes personal fulfillment outside the office.

  • Gym Memberships: Gym memberships represent an excellent supplement to a traditional health insurance policy. Exercise not only improves health, but many people report that it also affects mental well-being. Also, as gym memberships can extend to family members, healthy spouses and children translate into happier employees who can focus on their work better.
  • Financial Literacy: Financial literacy resources can include courses at your job site, apps, and other online tools. If your company adopts financial literacy courses as a voluntary benefit, choose a service that emphasizes 529 plans (i.e., college-savings plans), retirement savings, and student loan repayment strategies. These services best match millennials’ most pressing needs.
  • Additional Paid Time Off: In recent years, companies have used unlimited PTO as a way to attract highly-trained professionals. With more time off, employees can spend more time with their families and feel higher loyalty toward their employers.  Even if your company does not offer employees additional vacation days, ensure that employees feel safe in taking time off.
  • myKlovr Virtual College Counseling: MyKlovr has developed a first-of-its-kind virtual counseling service to assist high school students and their families navigate college admissions. Students receive personalized advice that helps them improve their chances of college admissions success.

Looking to the Future

Although millennials’ children will not enter high school for a few years,  the myKlovr employee benefit can be extended to siblings or even nieces and nephews who are in need of specialized tools to help them gain admission to a good college or university. We at myKlovr also believe that this benefit can be extended to workers who may have taken time-off from studying after high school,  and are currently employed but enroll in college.

Our program works by asking students a series of questions concerning their academic achievement, extracurricular activities, and college preferences. MyKlovr turns this information into success goals that students can achieve throughout high school. If students meet these goals, they can obtain letters of admission from the colleges and universities that myKlovr recommends. We call these recommendations a College Match. In fact, if none of a student’s College Match schools admit the student, we gladly refund the entire subscription fee (terms and conditions apply). That’s how confident we are in myKlovr’s ability to help high school students attend college.

Final Thoughts

Whether through fitness incentives, financial literacy courses, PTO, or myKlovr, your company can attract and retain millennial employees by offering voluntary benefits that match their evolving needs.

Are Liberal Arts Educations Worth It Anymore?

By Thomas Broderick

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.

Exploring Non-Traditional Colleges

By Kendell Shaffer

What if your child isn’t a traditional learner? What if following the path of every other college freshman turns them off? Not to worry, there are colleges that cater to the needs of students who want a more independent academic experience.

St. John’s College with campuses in both Annapolis and Santa Fe offers only one major, Liberal Arts. They base the curriculum on a “Great Books Program” and they have few tests and lots of class discussions. The website boasts that it grants one of the most affordable tuitions at $35,000 per year.

How about Hampshire College, a member of the Five College Consortium including Smith, Mount Holyoke, Amherst, and the University of Massachusetts. At Hampshire there are no grades and the students can design their own concentrations of study (no majors either). It’s a great choice for creative, self-directed students.

Antioch College (Yellow Springs, Ohio) requires that the students hold down “full-time co-op jobs” switching between work and study. This can be great for students who need to support themselves and still wish to get a college degree.

College of the Ozarks is another college that requires the students to work. This time in exchange for tuition. The entire campus is run on solar power and 30% of their cafeteria food is grown on campus. It’s a liberal arts college that is also Christian based.

Then there is Colorado College which seems ideal for the outdoor student who would like to study one subject at a time for an extended amount of time, (three weeks) then have a week off to explore the great unknown.

Cornell College (not Cornell University) in Iowa offers a one class at a time curriculum. And according to their website, the student can immerse themselves in “1 Course x 18 Days x 8 Blocks. The territory we cover is the same as on a semester system. But the path we travel offers an entirely different journey.”

And for something completely different, Hamburger University in Oak Brook, Illinois is run by McDonald’s and based on managerial training. Classes translate into business management credits at other colleges.
It opened in 1961 and every year about 5,000 students graduate from campuses all around the world. China’s division has an admission rate of 1%.

Your student may find an alternative school that feels like home, or after looking at the alternatives, they might prefer a traditional college after all. But this is the time for exploration and with over 3000 colleges and universities in the United States, surely your student will find a school that is right for them.

Are High School Students Over/Underworked? A Comparison

By Thomas Broderick

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.

The Power of Surrounding Yourself with Positive and Like-minded Individuals

By Matt Wujciak

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers, and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it in yourself.” – Steve Jobs.

For those who say that your success falls solely on your shoulders are wrong. If they weren’t, then Sociology wouldn’t be part of thousands of curricula across the nation, Malcom Gladwell’s The Outliers wouldn’t be a #1 National Best Seller, and the argument of Nature versus Nurture wouldn’t be discussed every other day in your Psychology class.

You’re a product of the social environment and culture that you are a part of.

The truth is that your success in the classroom or in the office falls on your shoulders, as well as those who you consistently choose to surround yourself with outside of the classroom or office. Being around a positive group of people who share similar goals and interests can be the single greatest catalyst to help you “make it…”

whether that might mean getting into the college of your dreams, making the JV basketball team, landing an internship or job, or simply passing a chemistry project that’s due tomorrow.

Actively look to place yourself around the people who live the lifestyle that you want… people who are going to help you get there. You might just learn some of your most important life-lessons from these people over a cup of coffee or long car ride.

I’ll give you an example of one of mine. My oldest brother, Pete, was once a Division I collegiate athlete, captain of his team, and bright and ambitious student in the classroom. It is no wonder that he is now a very successful lawyer… one of those positive individuals who seem to affect everyone around him by just believing in them.

One afternoon I was riding around in the passenger seat of his Jeep with him as he began lecturing me about his captainship. “I’m running sprints next to three of my teammates,” he said. “They’re winded and they’re dogging it. If I want to push them to get better, I need to know them. I need to know how to bring out the best in them, what works and what doesn’t with each teammate.

I speed up to the most gifted player in first place and make a remark about how he let someone as slow as me catch up to him. I slow down to the middle guy and tell him that he could be better than the first guy if he worked twice as hard. I slow down again to the last guy and tell him to try to finish the drill and beat his personal best time,” he said.

“We did this week after week. The guy who was in first place went on to be an All-American. The guy who was in second became a captain the following year. The guy in third earned the starting spot he waited his entire career for.”

Everything he said had gone right over my head. Years later I realized that he wasn’t boasting about himself or his teammates. He wasn’t talking about athletics at all.

He was trying to teach me the power of contagious emotion… how one individual can affect the rest of the environment, especially when that environment is comprised of likeminded individuals.

It is teammates, classmates, co-workers like Pete that serve as a catalyst to help those around them achieve success. No matter what grade you are in, or what stage of life you are about to endure, place yourself around individuals who are going to help you “get there.”

5 Simple Tricks to Relieve Academic-Related Stress

By Matt Wujciak

“Worrying is often triggered by wanting to make the perfect choice or by trying to maximize everything. When buying a used car, you want one that is cheap, reliable, safe, sexy, the right color, and fuel efficient.

Unfortunately, no single option is likely to be the best in all those dimensions. If you try to have the best of everything, you’re likely to be paralyzed by indecision or dissatisfied with your choice.” (Alex Corb, author of the Upward Spiral).

Studies have shown that academic-related stress is sky rocketing among high school students each decade. As the academic level of competition rises between teenagers, along with it comes an increased national average of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, or even alcohol and substance abuse.

However, I’m here to tell you 5 simple tricks that will help you relieve stress, increase focus, and produce healthier and more effective results on a daily basis.

 

1) Write down things you look forward to and be mindful of them

According to studies in The Happiness Advantage, setting a date for a potentially enjoyable experience raises endorphin levels in your brain by 27%. No matter what you have going on in your day, keep a sticky note in your backpack of all the enjoyable events coming up in the next month.

That might be something as simple as grabbing a slice of pizza with a friend this weekend, seeing a movie with your family, going for a walk with your dog after school, or planning a social event with classmates, teammates, or co-workers next week. Creating positive anticipation in your life will increase neurotransmitters, raising endorphin levels and reducing stress and anxiety.

 

2) Exercise!

No one likes being told to exercise… (especially with an exclamation point at the end of it). But I promise you it helps not only from a physical standpoint, but from a mental standpoint as well.

A Harvard study has shown that regular exercise creates health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure. “High-intensity exercise releases the body’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins, resulting in the “runner’s high” that joggers report,” ultimately reducing depression symptoms (Harvard Health Letter).

 

3) Organization and Routine

If your stressed out with academics, athletics, job hunting, or your internship, take a look at your daily routine and see if you could find the source.

Get up before school with twenty minutes to spare (reducing anxiety of being late or forgetful), take the time to eat a healthy breakfast to fuel your energy for the day, do your homework at the same time every day to get in a systematic routine, take another twenty minutes to review your notes after your school day to help you consistently reinforce the processing of class material, and even say hi or socialize with one person every day that you wouldn’t normally have a conversation with (I promise you it will get easier).

An organized routine of healthy habits is the easiest way to create that neurological upward spiral.

 

4) Find a mentor

This one is fairly simple. Find an upperclassman, teacher, relative, or teammate that you respect and can confide in, specifically someone who is older than you and has gone through your current stage of life.

This type of mentor can serve as a knowledgeable guide that can give you academic and career advice, or when you are just feeling stressed out after a tough day.

 

5) Sleep

No one can have a healthy and productive day without sleep. I don’t care who they are or how much money they’ve made. Sleep is the foundation from which your energy and motivation comes from.

If you get the 8 hours of sleep that your body needs each night, you will be more focused and attentive throughout your day. The last thing you need is to be caught snoozing in class when your crush finally complements your new hair-cut.

When Should a Student Select Their Professional Path?

By Thomas Broderick

If you had asked 17-year-old me what I hoped to study in college, I would have told you that I was going to study medicine and become a doctor. Everyone I knew assumed that by the time I turned 26, I’d be Thomas Broderick, M.D.

So that didn’t happen.

My story mirrors that of many of my high school and college peers. My best friend, once an aspiring computer engineer, became a Japanese/English translator. Another friend earned a degree in chemical engineering but now works at a TOP SECRET government facility which may or may not have something to do with chemicals. Most surprising of all, my high school’s theater star went on to invent the Nest Thermostat.

Long story short: a person’s professional path isn’t a straight line.

In this article, we’ll examine why American high school and college students rarely have a grasp on their professional future. We’ll also explore the steps you can take right now to ensure that your career path starts off on the right foot.

American College Students vs. International College Students

If you lived 100 years ago (or today in a developing nation), chances are that you wouldn’t have much choice concerning your career. The economic needs of your family, coupled with limited access to higher education, would lock you into one of only a handful of career paths.

After the Second World War, millions of Americans gained access to higher education. With higher education came the opportunity for young men and women to pursue careers beyond those performed by their parents or those living in their community. That was great!

But…

Choice is a blessing and a curse. Too many options can be just as bad as too few. Our college culture, focused on exploring your interests, does little to help students who are undecided about their futures. On graduation day, too many people still have no idea what job will provide them both personal satisfaction and a fair salary.

How about young adults in foreign countries? Do they have this problem? Well, it depends. For example, higher education doesn’t mean the same thing in every country. In Germany, many high school graduates further their educations through apprenticeships. Though apprentices learn only one skill set, the economic advantages of completing an apprenticeship convince young Germans to choose their career paths at a young age.

In other developed countries, such as Japan, young people choose their career path early due to societal expectations rather than economic incentives. In Japanese culture, one’s decisions and actions reflect on one’s family as well as oneself. Combined with the belief in the wellbeing of the group over the wellbeing of the individual, many young Japanese choose a career path in high school.

Do young German and Japanese students always stick to the career paths they make in high school? Of course not! This revelation brings us to my main point:

Preferences Change (And That’s Okay!)

As a high school student, I bet you’ve seen or been a part of at least one nasty breakup. Two people who once said that they’d ‘be together forever’ can’t stand the sight of one another. It’s a natural part of the high school experience; people change, and so their preferences.

The same thing is accurate when it comes to your future career. Today you may want to become a doctor. Tomorrow it’s engineering. At your age, switching back and forth or between a dozen different things is okay!

Don’t believe me? Let’s examine the data. myKlovr recently performed a survey of 106 adults who were asked when they decided on their current career path. The numbers speak for themselves.


The vast majority of those surveyed decided upon their professional path while in college or later in life. Only 21% chose their career as a high school-aged student or younger. What this means is that if you’re still on the fence about your future, don’t sweat it. Most of your peers are in the same boat.

What You Can Do Now

If you’re still in high school, it’s time to start thinking about your future. When I say you should think, I do mean more than just sitting around like The Thinker. Here are a few proactive steps you can take to explore future careers before you enter college:

  • Complete a summer internship in a field that interests you.
    • Besides opening your eyes to different career paths, internships look great in your college application portfolio!
  • Take a few career interest tests to discover potential career paths that you may have never considered in the past.
  • Research the academic and professional requirements related to your current dream job(s).

It never hurts to get a part-time job, either. If nothing else, it’ll help you develop a professional work ethic that’ll impress future employers.

When You Get to College

By all means, take a semester or a year to explore different subjects. After that, it’s time to make some tough decisions, especially if you’re attending a private university with a hefty price tag. Choose a professional path and complementary academic major.

If you’re still not sure about your career path when it comes times to select a major, include a minor or second major that addresses your other interests. Though a double major or minor means that your college experience will be more academically rigorous, your options will remain open. Hopefully, as you get closer to graduation, your career preferences will solidify.

Final Thoughts

I hope that by having read this article, you feel a bit better about what the future might hold for you. Yes, you have a lot of work to do, both the soul-searching and academic varieties. Even so, the sooner you start working towards the future you want, the likelier it is that you can turn your dreams into reality.

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