College Prep Podcast #198: Rock Your College Visits With These Advanced Strategies

College visits are a time consuming part of the college search process, so how do you make sure you are getting helpful information when you are on campus?

How do you look past the college’s marketing messages to see what is really going on?

Megan provides her Top Ten list strategies for rocking your college visit. Tune into this podcast episode for “truly highly advanced” information about how to rock each of these tips:

  1. Make sure to book the basics: an informational sessions, a campus tour, and lunch in the dining hall.
  2. Visit with the specific college and/or department that you are considering.
  3. Meet with a professor in your intended major.
  4. Attend classes.
  5. Visit with students in your major, program, and/or sport.
  6. Spend the  night.
  7. Meet with financial aid.
  8. Tour the campus at night.
  9. Visit the campus on the weekend.
  10. Do a scavenger hunt to look for potential problems.

Click here to listen in as Megan provides her Top Ten list strategies for rocking your college visit.

College Prep Podcast #197: Three New Academic Coaches Talk Candidly About Starting Their Biz

Thinking about starting your own academic coaching biz?

Maybe you’ve already started, but you’re frustrated with how slow moving it is?

Maybe you’re a parent curious about hiring an academic coach?

Listen in as these 3 newly minted academic coaches (who’ve just completed Gretchen’s Anti-Boring Approach Coach Training Program)  talk about the challenges and joys of marketing their services and working with new families to support scattered students.

Together we discuss:

  • their unique backgrounds and what made each one of them decide to start academic coaching businesses
  • challenges they’ve experienced in the first year of business
  • success stories from their first coaching clients, and how they feel they’ve been of the most service
  • tips for families thinking about whether  to get a coach to support their teenager
  • tips for folks thinking about starting their own businesses
  • what kinds of people are the best fit for Gretchen’s year-long mentoring program, and how it benefitted each of them
  • and more!

If you are curious about working with any of these amazing new coaches, feel free to reach out to them. Marni Pasch and Nicole de Picciotto can be found through their websites. Lindsey Permar can be emailed directly at lindseypermar [at] gmail [dot] com.

Click here to listen in as these 3 newly minted academic coaches talk about the challenges and joys of marketing their services and working with new families to support scattered students.

College Prep Podcast #196: Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life

How do we motivate teens to take little actions that offer big results?

Megan reports in about a book she read recently that has lots of great advice for teens: Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…and Maybe Even the World by Admiral William H. McCraven.

Even though it’s written for grown-ups, Megan sees the ways that this little book could be an inspiring gift for teens, or be a great conversation starter at dinner.

Here are the “little things” that the author covers in his book, which Megan adapts for teens in this episode:

  • Start the day with a task completed.
  • You can’t go it alone.
  • Only the size of your heart matters
  • Life’s not fair. Drive on.
  • Failure can make you stronger.
  • You must dare greatly.
  • Stand up to bullies.
  • Rise to the occasion.
  • Give people hope.
  • Never, ever quit.


Click here to listen in as Megan talks about little things you can do to change your life.

If Assignments Are Online, Do You Really Need a Planner?

Most high schools these days have online portals where teachers track what assignments are due and when. Because of this, I often have students complain — do I REALLY need to write my assignments down? After all, they’re online already!!

This week I had two situations with clients in which I finally had PROOF of why it is indeed important to re-write those assignments in a planner. Tune into the video, where I share the Google Calendar I use with students and I show you what my clients and I noticed today.

 Check out the video:


Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

A lot of times students think because they have online when assignments are due then they do not need to keep track of them in a planner. In this video I show you that it is important to plan out assignments because sometimes you’ll have assignments that are all due on the same day. You shouldn’t be rushing to get everything done in one day. Plan out the days you are actually going to be completing the assignments on Google Calendar so that you do not put yourself in a bind.

If you are a teacher, tutor, or academic coach, or perhaps even a parent, interested in learning more about not only planning for your students, but about how to help your students become independent learners and test-taking powerhouses, please consider checking out my course, The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically.

Live Training Schedule

Nothing can replace the power of a live-in-person training, even if it is “just” virtual. I’ve got two coming up the next two weeks, so click here for more information, and to sign up for those.

Stop the Saboteur! Common Signs You’re Holding Your Biz Back.

Monday, February 19th, 5 pm Pacific.

This brand new FREE Master Class is designed specifically for folks who are frustrated with your biz-building.

Maybe you’re still fantasizing about starting your academic coaching biz, but haven’t taken concrete actions yet? Or you’re struggling to find enough paying clients? Or you’re swamped with clients, but are charging too little and so still can’t make ends meet?

In my years mentoring new academic coaches through the biz-building process, I’ve noticed some patterns, and I’m excited to share them with you — so that you can maximize the speed and efficacy of your business building without falling into these common traps.

Together we’ll explore:

  • The Different Types of Biz-Building Saboteurs, and How to Identify and Befriend Yours (Rather Than Let Them Control the Show).
  • The 5 Necessary Stages of Business Development. Why you should stop trying to skip ahead and instead simply love the stage you’re in.
  • Specific tasks you’re doing that you THINK are helping your biz, but are actually holding you back. Stop doing these now!
  • And more…

Click here to sign up for this Master Class. Then mark your calendar for Monday, February 19th (President’s Day!). 5-6:30pm Pacific / 8-9:30pm Eastern. If you can’t make it live, pop me an email and let me know; we’ll see what we can do.

Casual Q&A: A Sneak Peek into the 2018 Launch Your Biz Training.

Monday, February 26. 5 pm Pacific.

Got questions about my Art of Launching Your Biz training? Wondering if it’s worth the investment and the hype? Let’s chat!

In this Q&A we will:

  • Outline the new and improved training, and let you see (through the magic of screen share) what’s in store this year
  • Let you talk directly to recent graduates about what their experience in the program was like
  • Meet some of the current cohort, so you can begin to imagine who your peers (and new best friends!) will be
  • Find out how much the different versions of the program cost
  • Ask Gretchen your burning questions
  • And more!

The Casual Q&A will be on Monday, February 26 from 5-6: 30 pm Pacific / 8-9: 30 pm Eastern. Sign up here, and don’t forget to mark your calendar!

Control the Time Suck of Facebook With This Add On

Do you sometimes shock yourself with the amount of time that you scroll mindlessly through your Facebook feed?

For the longest time, I’ve been trying to control my own Facebook use. I’m a total addict, you see, and it doesn’t become me.

I’ve tried time limits and special timers to enforce those limits (like Stay Focusd); only Facebooking on Fridays; taking Facebook off of my phone and all my other browsers. All of that works, but takes a lot of energy. And the truth is — I still need Facebook because of all the great groups (business and personal growth) in which I participate.

So just a few days ago, I was (again!) mindlessly browsing me feed when I came across something called “News Feed Eradicator“. Check out the video, where I show you how this works, and why I’m hopeful it’ll be a great antidote for curbing my addiction in 2018.

If you are a teacher, tutor, or academic coach, or perhaps even a parent, interesting in learning more about not only tiny habits but about how to help your students become independent learners and test-taking powerhouses, please consider checking out my course, The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically.

Happy New Year everyone!

Will This Tool Help ADHD Students Focus?

Do you struggle to focus in class? Does a student you love with ADHD have trouble keeping their mind on the teacher, or on their homework?
I was recently in a 504 meeting for one of my clients with ADHD, and one of the teachers joked that it would be nice to have a gentle little reminder on an activity tracker that would go off every once in a while, and alert her to stay on task.I immediately went to google, and ordered myself one of these Revibes. I thought I’d try it out on myself first, before I recommend it to my clients.

Here I am opening the box for the first time, and telling you all about what it does and how I IMAGINE it might help my students.

In part 2, I’ll report in about what I learned!

Thanks, by the way, for ignoring my messy hair.

 Check out the video:

Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

In this video I am unboxing a Revibe. It is a tool to help remind students with ADHD to stay on task if they get distracted. I do not know how effective it is yet. I am going to be testing this and reporting back on it very soon.

So, while your waiting on me to test out this great tool take a look at The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying. You’ll find a wide range of tools, tips, and advice to help you get all your homework done and have more free time than you think.

Is Becoming An Academic Life Coach the Right Career Move For Me?

The Top 7 Questions to Ask Yourself to Decide Whether YOU Should Enter This Growing Field

Ten years ago when I first started doing this work, no one had heard of Academic Life Coaching; these days, more and more families are googling the phrase “academic coach” in their quest for support for their anxious, overwhelmed, and/or unmotivated students.

It’s an up-and-coming field, this academic life coaching thing, with bottomless need all over the country (and world!) as far as I can tell. So it makes sense that YOU might be curious about whether this is work that you might like to do!

In this blog post, I’ll introduce you to exactly what academic life coaching is, and share seven reflective questions to ask yourself, to help you discern whether becoming an academic life coach is the right career move for you.

Let’s start by looking at what an exactly an academic life coach does.

An academic life coach works with the student 1:1 outside of the school setting. We help them de-stressify their lives and increase their effectiveness and confidence in their academics and in the rest of their lives, too.

More specifically, academic coaches help students learn strategies for time management, organization, effective studying, and self-advocacy. They also work on mindset, motivation, and goal setting and goal achievement.

Like a tutor, academic life coaches work with a student weekly throughout the semester. Unlike a tutor, who focuses on teaching a single content area, the academic life coach focuses on learning habits across all content areas, focusing on meta-cognition, habits, study routines and learning strategies to help the student troubleshoot his or her own learning. Often the strategies we put in place are useful across ALL subjects, and not just the specific subject that the student thinks they need support in.

What kinds of folks have the best success as academic life coaches?

The best academic life coaches love working with young people, especially teenagers. Perhaps this goes without saying. If you don’t have a special affinity for teenagers, this is probably not a line of work for you

But love for teens isn’t enough! It takes a certain kind of person to make it as an academic life coach. Here is a list of careers that most of the successful academic coaches I’ve met have transitioned from:

    • Current teachers who are leaving teaching because they’ve burned out or fully intend to keep on teaching until retirement, but would love a supplementary side income.
    • School counselors who have been disillusioned by the reality of their position, which includes more scheduling and less connecting deeply with students than they anticipated.
    • Retired educators who need to keep on earning money for 5-10 more years, and would like to do so in a creative, nurturing, less exhausting environment than a school.
    • Tutors who struggle to get families to pay decent hourly rates, and know that adding academic life coaching to their skill set can help them up their rates.
    • Parents who supported a struggling learner through school, and realize that they are good at this work and would like to continue working with other people’s kids. This includes homeschool parents, who have a lot of intimate contact with kiddos as learners.
    • Life coaches who have gotten clear that their perfect niche is students, but don’t know how to transition from life coaching to the specific requirements related to coaching teens.

Whether or not you identify as one of the folks above, I’m so glad you’re contemplating becoming an academic life coach! I want to help you discern whether this is the right career change for you.

The following seven questions will be helpful as you discern whether you’re ready to jump into this rewarding line of work. The first five questions center around issues related to the content and structure of the work; the second set of three questions will help you discern whether you can hack the unique challenges of self-employment.

Feel free to click on the questions that feel most relevant and interesting to you. Or, simply scroll down to read about each one of them in order.

  1. Am I passionate about learning and do I have a big enough toolbox of strategies to teach students?
  2. Am I comfortable with being improvisational, spontaneous, and not always having a plan?
  3. Am I willing to deal intimately with family dysfunction?
  4. Are you comfortable working with students who have learning differences and quirky brains?
  5. Do I want a part-time or a full-time business?
  6. Am I willing to invest time into marketing, even if it makes me uncomfortable?
  7. Do I have the external and internal support systems in place to deal with the inevitable uncertainty that comes with starting a business?

Here we go…!


The first four questions have to do with the actual work of coaching students.

  1. Am I passionate about learning and do I have a big enough toolbox of strategies to teach students?

The most successful academic coaches I’ve seen are folks with a huge toolbox of specific strategies that help students. Not every student benefits from every strategy, so it’s important to have a toolbox that is so big that you and your client can pick and choose strategies until you find ones that work for them.  

This is important! I’ve seen many folks who are life coaches for teenagers who are great at getting students in touch with their own gifts, strengths, motivations, and goals, and uncovering mental blocks that keep them from achieving goals. That’s wonderful, but that’s not enough.

So many teenagers have simply never been taught some basic skills about how to be a good student. They NEED skills badly. And so academic life coaches should be equipped to teach these hard skills in the context of the other “soft skills” that they cover with students.

The most attractive and successful academic life coaches who have come through my Anti-Boring Approach Coach Training Program are passionate about learning, and LOVE to gather new tools and strategies to help students succeed. Their toolbox is CHOCK FULL of interesting tips and techniques for teaching students to study.

Typically, too, the best Academic Life Coaches love to learn and also love applying all the strategies and tools in their own lives. The more learning you do, the better you can share about how YOU are applying all these learning tools in your own life. That gives you a special cred with students.

  1. Am I comfortable with being improvisational, spontaneous, and not always having a plan?

Academic life coaching is an art and an improvisational art at that.

If you are someone who requires a set plan or curriculum and need to be advised exactly what to do when, if you don’t like surprises and need to stick to your plan in order to feel in control, then academic life coaching is not for you.

Let me give you some examples of academic life coaching sessions in action (at least, the way I practice them)

When a student shows up to their weekly session, the first 10 minutes of the session are spent getting an update. I often ask the following types of questions: How has their week been going? What tests, quizzes, projects, and assignments are coming up? Do they have any missing work? How are they doing emotionally?  What extracurricular activities are going to consume their time in the next week? What do their parents think they need to accomplish during the session, and does the student agree with this assessment?

Once you have answers to all these questions, then you decide (in collaboration with the student) what needs to happen during that session. Here are a few options:

  1. If they’ve been consistently turning in their math homework late,  you spend 20 minutes figuring out why and create some new routines and reminders to reverse this trend.
  2. If a new month-long project has been assigned, spend 40 minutes laying out a plan, putting it in the paper planner, and setting up digital alerts.
  3. If the student has no idea how to study, set aside the rest of the session to deliver what I call the “mini-lectures” about the brain, neural pathways, The Study Cycle, and basic learning theory. Then apply these mini-lectures to creating a study plan for an upcoming test.
  4. If the student is clearly upset, spend the session listening and helping them brainstorm self-care and self-regulation strategies.

These are a few of a kazillion options for what you might do during a typical coaching session.  

Keep in mind: You should be able and willing to improvise at the moment. But improv, after all, is creativity within a very clear structure! I don’t recommend being rigidly attached to a specific curriculum; I DO recommend having a standard set of routines that you do with students during sessions, as well as a clear set of principles, tools, and strategies that you intend to teach during your work with the students.

In my Anti-Boring Approach™ Coach training program, I teach educators about the most effective routines I’ve discovered to help glean the important information from your student as fast as possible, and make strong decisions about what the work of the session needs to be. There is a method to my madness, and it’s not totally freeform. I share more about these systems in my free course “Should I Become an Academic Life Coach?”

  1. Am I willing to deal intimately with the messy (and sometimes dysfunctional) realities of family life?

Have you heard the phrase “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”? In my experience, many teenagers with learning challenges and/or anxiety have parents with the same (often masked) challenges.

When you get the first inquiry call from a parent, usually the student is the is “identified patient.” The parent is reaching out because the student is overwhelmed and struggling, often filled with anxiety about school and super stressed out. The family is feeling the repercussions of this stress, too. If we fix the student’s habits, motivation and outlook, the family dynamic will be fixed too, right?

Of course, what many parents often fail to realize is that a certain percentage of the students’ stress is caused BY the parent (even though they perceive that the dynamic is reversed).

Perhaps the parent is overly anxious about their kid’s grades, working themselves into a tizzy by checking the grades on PowerSchool several times a day and freaking out with every new zero that appears. Other times the parent is ADD or ADHD themselves and so has difficulty providing enough structure and sustained attention for the student to feel held.

It can be very hard for parents to take an honest, up-close look at their contribution to the student’s challenges and the family system.  And so they choose to stay focused on fixing their kid rather than changing their own behaviors and mindsets.

One of the joys of academic coaching is taking the burden of vigilance off of the parent so that they can focus on simply connecting with their kid rather than being the student’s administrative assistant. I also provide a lot of reassurance to parents. I’ve seen many an anxious parent calm down simply because I’ve provided a listening ear, and then told them, “Parenting is hard! This situation is hard. I see how much you care about your kid. You’re doing a good job navigating this.”

However, sometimes the family dysfunction runs deeper and is not easily solved with empathy or a quick intervention. I’m quite clear that as an academic life coach, I’m not a family therapist. Sometimes, I have to simply watch the family dysfunction playing out, and do my best to help the student take care of themselves in the midst of this situation*.  

If you are considering becoming an academic life coach, you need to be willing to work with the parents on some level, as well as to learn to establish solid boundaries so that you know where your work with the student and family begins and ends. In my training programs, I provide lots of tips and tricks for working with anxious parents.

*Note: I’m not talking about signs of abuse here. Of course, I would take more extreme action if I suspected this, though in my 10 years of coaching I’ve never encountered this extreme of a situation.

  1. Are you comfortable working with students who have learning differences and quirky brains?

Most of my clients either have some kind of undiagnosed learning difference or suffer from some kind of anxiety or depression.

Although it’s possible to be an academic life coach for neuro-typical students, you will have a much more successful business if you’re open and willing to work with students who have beautiful-and-quirky brains.

You do not need to be a learning disorder expert to be an academic life coach for students. However, you do need to be willing to read and learn about the nature of learning differences and how they impact a student’s executive functions. (If you don’t know the phrase “executive function,” hop on over to google and look it up. It’s super important that you’re familiar with this phrase if you’re planning on becoming an academic life coach).

You also need to be creative and patient and equip yourself with a huge toolbox of learning tools, so that you and the student can experiment with what tools will work best for them.

Luckily, students with diagnosed learning differences come with neuropsychological evaluations that include a super helpful list of doctor-provided recommendations, which provide a roadmap for your work with the student.


This second set of questions is all about the unique challenges of starting your own business, and whether that path is right for you.

  1. Do I want a part-time or a full-time business?

If you are considering just starting out as an academic life coach, by necessity your business will most likely be part-time at first. However, it’s good to have a bit of a plan in mind, to know what you’re shooting for regarding the intended size of your business.

To make a realistic plan it’s important to consider two things:

  1. Your schedule, and how many clients you can realistically fit in, and
  2. The amount of money you need or want to earn
  3. Where you plan to host sessions — your home, online, client’s homes, a cafe, etc.

Keep in mind that most academic coaching happens outside of school hours. If you are working with high school students, that means weekends and 3:30pm-9pm on weekdays.

If you have a full-time job and/or a family with young kids, this is a hard time to be working! But it’s not impossible. I know several coaches who have made a nice initial side business for themselves by working the following schedule:

  • 1-2 nights a week after school,  accepting 2-3 clients each night, and/or
  • 3-4 clients in a row on the weekend.

One consideration related to schedule is where you will host the sessions. If you are driving to clients’ homes, you will be able to see fewer clients than if you see them at your home, at a cafe, or online. In the upcoming free course, I’ll share more about what it’s like to have clients come to my home office, which is my preferred method.

Once you’re clear about how many client sessions your schedule will allow, then you get to decide whether this will bring in the money you need to make the business worthwhile.

In the example above, the coach will be maxed out at 9 clients/week (and realistically, they’ll probably only have the energy to work with 5-7 clients, if they’re also holding down a full-time job).

Let’s assume that you charge each client $1700/semester (a reasonable rate for a new coach). This means that your first full semester you have the potential to bring in approximately $10,000. If you can repeat these numbers the second semester, you’ve brought in $20,000/year (before taxes). Does this amount work for you and your family?

In my FREE COURSE, I reveal the various financial models that worked for me as I grew my business, starting with traveling to families homes and ending with what I do now — seeing students online and in my home office. I hope to see you in the free course; but first, grab a pencil and play around with a few possible schedules and the associated financial model.

Note: I suggested a package price here rather than an hourly fee. I’m a strong believer in using packages, and in my free course, I talk more about that.  For now, while you’re running the numbers, I recommend choosing a number between $1500-$2000 for your semester package prices.

  1. Am I willing to invest time into marketing, even if it makes me uncomfortable?

Once you’ve sketched out a basic business model for one-to-one coaching, you know how many clients you need to be able to attract every semester. Many clients do renew from one semester to the other, but many do not, and so it’s necessary to do ongoing marketing tasks to make sure that you are getting a steady stream of clients.

I wish I could tell you that there’s an easy formula for how many hours you need to spend on marketing tasks for every x clients you hope to attract. There’s not. However, it’s a good idea to factor in at least 1-2 hours of marketing tasks a week (or 4-8 hours of marketing tasks a month) to start and sustain your business.

Note: By “marketing” I don’t mean building a website and buying business cards. These tasks are NOT necessary to start your thriving side business.

Also, marketing does not have to look salesy and feel icky. It is very possible to fill your 1-2 hours of marketing tasks per week with fun, inspiring, interesting tasks that also attract new clients.

In both my free course and the paid training, we look much more closely at what marketing looks like in the field of academic life coaching. I aim to give you a recipe of actions you can take that both feel good and attract clients.

However, it’s important to be realistic: there will be some discomfort in marketing when you first start out.

Although the tasks I’ll share with you are actually fun and interesting, so many people are so frightened of the big monster named Marketing that they bring that fear with them. So part of being willing to start your own business is to face the Monster, realize it’s not as bad as you think, and then start having fun with the Monster instead. It really is possible!

  1. Do I have the external and internal support systems in place to deal with the inevitable uncertainty that comes with starting a business?

Let’s be real. Starting a business is emotionally gruelling work.There’s no sugar coating this fact.

In the early days, it didn’t feel so hard, because I had another job to back me up. However, the minute I quit that job and committed to full-time self-employment, all my sh*t came to the surface. I had a huge fear of rejection. Because of this fear, I kept my fees lower than they should have been, said “yes” to too many clients who weren’t ideal for me (and who ended up consuming more than their fair share of my emotional bandwidth), and I was scared to reach out and create relationships with colleagues who I knew could ultimately help me with referrals.

And then there was this:  the financial feast or famine that often happens at the beginning of a business (especially when you’re trying it alone without getting adequate training). Until you learn your marketing and business building systems and have them completely in place, there is a lot of uncertainty, and this can be emotionally trying.

Please be clear whether you have the courage to face this uncertainty, and if you say “yes,” please also spend time making sure you have some great support systems in place so that you have others to lean on when things get hard.

Support systems can include family, friends, therapists, like-minded colleagues and group training programs (like my Anti-Boring Approach™ Coach Training Program).

College Prep Podcast #195: Watch Out for Fake Practice Tests for the SAT & ACT

Megan Dorsey, The College Prep Podcast, Fake Practice Tests for the ACT & SAT,Did you know that many of the practice SAT & ACT tests offered by companies to help you study — are fake?! Don’t fall for fake tests!

Megan walks you through how to make sure the practice tests you are taking are legit… and will actually help you study effectively for the ACT and SAT.

Specifically, she walks you through:

  • What advertisements to watch out for so you don’t get bamboozled by fake practice tests
  • Legitimate methods for taking practice tests
  • Creative ways to get your teen to take “kitchen table” tests proctored by you
  • How to get a baseline result
  • Whether or not the PSAT will be helpful for you to take
  • and more!

Click here to tune in as Megan reviews how to tell a fake SAT/ACT test from a real one.

Why Shortcuts Like Google Translate Hurt Your Learning

Do you ever use Google Translate to get your language homework done?

One of my clients got called out in his Spanish class — but in a really good way! I actually don’t want to give you a synopsis of why, because I really want you to hear the whole story of HOW the Spanish teacher called him out.

The punchline though? My client was proud of himself, and will certainly refrain from using google translate in the future because he really understands how it gets in the way of his learning.

Check out the video.



Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

Gretchen Wegner, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Learning, Google Translate, language, learning, academic coach, academic coaching,

When you are working on your homework, in this case, foreign language homework, do you ever use Google Translate? If so you are robbing yourself of a key component of learning. You see, when we are learning we often make mistakes, and as a result, we go back and review the material so that we can correct those mistakes. This pattern of learning something, getting something a little wrong, going back and relearning it, builds strong neural pathways in our brains and is a key component of learning. So if you are using Google Translate to do your foreign language homework or some other shortcut, then you aren’t allowing yourself to make those mistakes or to learn as effectively or efficiently as you could otherwise.

So, when you’re doing your homework, think about that before you use a shortcut. And if you feel that you just don’t have the time or you have too much homework, then you might want to check out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying. You’ll find a wide range of tools, tips, and advice to help you get all your homework done and have more free time than you think.

College Prep Podcast #194: Research Reveals the Three Best Ways to Teach, Learn, and Study

Gretchen Wegner, Megan Dorsey, Megan Sumeracki, Yana Weinstein, The Learning Scientists, Best ways to teach, best ways to learn, best ways to study, best way to learn, best way to teach, best way to learn, NCTQ, college, students, College Prep PodcastWhat does research teach us about the best ways for teachers to teach and students to study?

Guest experts Yana Weinstein and Megan Sumeracki, otherwise known as The Learning Scientists, school us on what research shows is is the best ways to learn, including some surprising myths about what doesn’t work.

Together with Gretchen and Megan, they discuss:

  • The hilarious way that the Learning Scientists podcast got started
  • Stories from the classroom of what students at the college level struggle with in regards to learning
  • The three most effective strategies for learning, based on a research study from the NCTQ, which include retrieval, spaced practice, and dual coding.
  • Why intuition is sometimes misleading when someone is trying to figure out how to study
  • And more!

Here is the link for a cool way to use flashcards to do elaborative interrogation, which was mentioned at the end of the episode.

Find out more about the Learning Scientists Podcast at their website, Here is more information about each of them individually too:

Megan Sumeracki (formerly Megan Smith) is an assistant professor at Rhode Island College. She received her Master’s in Experimental Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis and her Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Purdue University. Her area of expertise is in human learning and memory and specifically applying the science of learning in educational contexts. She also teaches a number of classes from first-year seminars and intro to psychology to upper-level learning and research methods courses. 

Yana Weinstein is an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from University College London and had 4 years of postdoctoral training at Washington University in St. Louis. The broad goal of her research is to help students make the most of their academic experience. Yana‘s research interests lie in improving the accuracy of memory performance, and the judgments students make about their cognitive functions. Yana tries to pose questions that have directly applied relevance, such as: How can we help students choose optimal study strategies? Why are test scores sometimes so surprising to students? And how does retrieval practice help students learn?

Click here to tune in as Gretchen and Megan, with guest speakers Megan and Yana, discuss teaching and learning.

Teach more Effectively With a New Tiny Habit?

Have you been looking for a quick and inspiring way to set a new intention to improve your teaching this spring?

Classroom teachers are such overworked and underappreciated educators that I sometimes hesitate to make suggestions for how they can transform their teaching to be more “study” friendly.

I’ve been challenging myself to come up with a list of short, 30-second habits that are relatively easy for educators to incorporate into their classrooms…and that pack a punch in terms of results with students.

Check out the video below, during which I share the 3 steps to designing a tiny habit that might transform your teaching this semester…with relatively little extra effort!

Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short synopsis:

I want to ask you, “What if one 30-second habit could absolutely transform the way you teach and the way your students respond to your teaching in terms of being more self-sufficient and becoming more independent with their learning?” I’ve been playing around lately with lists of habits that if teachers just took one of these habits on, how it could vastly change the dynamics of their classroom. Today I’m going to be talking about what the parts of a tiny habit are, and I’ll be sharing some tiny habits at a later date.

So let’s look at a tiny habit. A tiny habit consists of 3 parts.

Gretchen Wegner, Teach More Effectively with a new tiny habit, teaching, teachers, teacher, academic coach, academic coaches, tutors, tutor

First off, a tiny habit is 30 seconds or less. Then they are attached to something you already do in the classroom or at home when lesson planning and that you’re already doing habitually. The third part is that it completes the sentence “After I [do habitual task] I will [do new habit].” For example, “After I write the task on the board I will ask students how will you prove that you know this information?” This is an example of one tiny habit that I am convinced that teachers can easily incorporate into their curriculum without a lot of added effort. In this case, it’s about asking a certain kind of question that gets students thinking about their learning.

If you are a teacher, tutor, or academic coach, or perhaps even a parent, interesting in learning more about not only tiny habits but about how to help your students become independent learners and test-taking powerhouses, please consider checking out my course, The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically.

College Prep Podcast #193: What’s REALLY Important in College Admissions? Myths and Realities.

What's REALLY Important in College Admissions? Myths and Realities. Gretchen Wegner, Megan Dorsey, College Prep, College Application, College Admission, Many families are confused about where to start with college admissions, and Megan has noticed there is a lot of faulty information out there.

In this episode, she lays out, in concrete terms, what’s important when prepping for college and corrects some myths that many families have.

Specifically, she and Gretchen explore:

  • 3 great underutilized resources for getting accurate information about colleges
  • 3 main criteria colleges look at when determining if you are a good fit for their school
  • 5 myths about the college admissions process (like: “you have to have top grades and great scores to get into any school”) and what is actually true instead

Click here to listen in as Megan and Gretchen discuss these key topics about College Admissions.

How to Be More Productive According to a 16 Year Old Boy

Do you ever notice that you are more likely to be more productive at certain times of the day and less productive at other times?

I was just blown away by the self-awareness of one of my clients. Sixteen-year-olds, and especially boys, aren’t always known for their keen self-awareness. But this young man pointed out five things that he’s learned about himself that help him be “way more productive” when he comes home from school. So productive, in fact, that he might be willing to postpone playing video games to get work done.

Check out this video (made five minutes after this young man’s session, so the content is fresh!) where I summarize the brilliance that he shared with me.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

Every once in a while I’m just stunned by the self-awareness that the teenagers I work with have. Today, in particular, I was talking to a 16-year-old boy and he brought up, on his own accord that when he first gets home he keeps trying to remind himself to just sit down and start on his homework because he’s way more productive. Specifically, he listed the following reasons why he finds this to be true:

How to be More Productive According to a 16 year old boy, Gretchen Wegner, Academic Coach, Academic Coaching, Academic Life Coach, Academic Life Coaching, Productivity, How to be more productive, Education, educational blog

See, he noticed that when he first gets home he has more energy for doing his homework than later on in the evening. On top of that, he still has his ADHD meds in his system when he gets home, and they help him to remain focused. These are two great insights into his own productivity, but he has a few more. He also noticed that when he first gets home and has the house to himself the peace and quiet of being alone helps him to focus, a very astute observation. Furthermore, when he first gets home he says he can better assess how long his homework assignments will take. He’s fresher and has the energy to actually do his homework at the rate he thinks he can, but if he waits until later he’ll have less energy and be less focused so he underestimates how long homework will take him. The final thing he noticed is that when he first gets home he can better remember what he needs to do for homework; however, I really wish he’d write it down instead, but we’re still working on that.

I hope you found these observations to be as interesting as I did, and if you feel like you could use some more tips and tricks on how to be more productive, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying™.

College Prep Podcast #192: Seven Types of Students and Their Study Blind Spots

Seven Types of Students and Their Study Blind Spots, Gretchen Wegner, Megan Dorsey, Academic Coach, Academic CoachingThere are seven different types of students, in Gretchen’s experience, each with different approaches to school and studying.

As final exams approach, it’s a great opportunity to explore each type of student’s weaknesses in regards to studying, and what students, parents, and coaches can do to turn those blind spots around.

Listen in as Gretchen goes into much more detail about these 7 types of students:

  • The Stressed Out Perfectionist
  • The Fade Away Student
  • The Brilliant-But-Bored Student
  • The Meh Student
  • The Disorganized Student
  • The Artist
  • The Athlete
  • BONUS (at Megan’s Suggestion): The Over-Scheduled Student

Click here to listen in as Gretchen reviews the 7 types of students and how to help them.

How to Troubleshoot Your Weakest Habit

I wonder if right now you have any habits that you are trying to solidify in your life? But something always slips, and you can’t get that habit going?

My client — a sophomore in high school — had a habit he just couldn’t shift. We spent some time in our session answering the question, “Where is your weakest link?” Listen in as I describe our coaching conversation, and we discovered how powerful that question can be.

Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

So as I was saying, I have a client who is a sophomore in high school, and he just couldn’t, for the life of him, do his setup routine. And for those who don’t know, a setup routine is the idea of coming home from school, going straight to your study space, getting it set up with your homework, and then taking a break. However, he found himself taking a break when he first got home, then doing the setup routine, then take another break. So in our session last week we looked at this very important question I’m going to ask you about your habit as well, “Where is your weak link?”

Gretchen Wegner, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, Where is Your Weak Link, How to Troubleshoot your weakest habit,

A habit is a series of actions that we link together. For example, the setup routine involves linking the action of walking in the front door to the action of walking to your study area, to the action of opening your backpack, and so on. And so what we are looking for, is where is your weak link in this chain of events that make up the habit? For my client, we found that his weak link was that he would just put his backpack on his desk instead of opening it and that single step, once he focused on it, allowed him to complete the setup routine with much better success. He reported this week, that not only is he completing the setup routine, he’s getting his homework done ahead of time thanks to it.

So, the key here is finding your weak link in order to forge a stronger habit that you’ll actually follow through with. And if you want more tips and tricks for how to develop and follow through on new habits, or need help in other academic areas, please consider checking out my online course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

College Prep Podcast #191: Strategic Extracurriculars – Make Your Activities Work for You in College Admission

Megan Dorsey, The College Prep Podcast, High School, College Admissions, Extracurricular activities, extracurriculars, school, student, students, kids, Do you worry whether your high school student has the right kind of activities to impress the colleges to which they’re applying?

Megan lays out an easy way to think about extracurriculars to help teens make the most of their time outside of school.

She shares:

  • what it means to “start with the end in mind” with thinking through a teen’s activities
  • choose an activity that makes sense for your kid without forcing them to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do
  • four ways to find the right activities for your student that will be a) aligned with your kid’s interests and b) show them off in a good light to colleges

Click here to tune in as Megan discusses extracurricular activities and how they can benefit teens.

Does Your Family Need a Nag Plan?

Parents, do you feel like you are endlessly nagging your teens to get their homework done? Teens, are you sick of hearing your parents nag?

Some of my clients are benefiting from creating a “nag plan” with their parents. Check out this video to hear more about what a “nag plan” is, and how one family is implementing it at home.

A word of warning: a “Nag Plan” is not for every family or every student! I have some students who totally shut down EVERY TIME their parents remind them to do anything. However, there are other teens who recognize they NEED their parents’ support to stay motivated, and because of that, they feel better when they can control how their parents’ nag. That’s what’s so special about a “Nag Plan”. Check out the video and see if you think it’ll work for you.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

I have a client who has just the worst executive function skills you’ve ever seen. He has a terrible time getting started on his homework. He’s a senior in high school and relies on his mom nagging him to get his homework done, and he’s okay, mostly, with his mom nagging him. That said, his mom is going out of the country for two weeks and it’s a crucial time in the semester, so his dad will have to take over the nagging. So we sat down in our last session and discussed a “nag plan” or an agreement between the student and parent that would work for both of them regarding the nagging so that hopefully the student will be less ornery and the parent doesn’t have to worry. So here’s a copy of the nag plan we came up with:

Gretchen Wegner, Nag, Nagging, Student, Parent, Students, Parents, Homework, Studying, Academic Coach, Academic Coaching,

The first check mark is that on weekends the student and dad will start and end each day looking at a to-do list to see what needs to be done and checking things off at the end of the day. The next thing, is that the student would like a check-in every 20 to 30 minutes; however, the dad then asked, “yes, but when I’ve checked in in the past, you get mad at me, so what should I say when I check in?” The student said he’d like the dad to say, “How far along are you?”, so now we have an actual script from the student to the parent. Next, the dad asked the son to use a program called Self Control that blocks certain websites for an hour to help him focus, which the son agreed with. And then we discussed breaks, how long they should be, what the activities allowed should be, etc. And finally, we talked about how the son was going to try and respond to his dad, and I told the dad that if the son was being too ornery, then he could just text me and I’d text the student, after all, that’s what I’m there for.

I haven’t yet heard how this nag plan is working out, but I wanted to get this video out to you all because I think a nag plan is a great thing for families to have, just to make some agreements about how communication around homework and follow through is going to happen. And if you feel that you could use some outside help with your homework and studying, please consider checking out The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

College Prep Podcast #190: 12 Skills We Assume Students Know (But They Don’t)

Gretchen Wegner, Megan Dorsey, The College Prep Podcast, Students, Skills, Study, Studying, To do lists, calendars, organization, organizing files, reading, visualization, visualizing, take notes, make an outline,There are some basic life and school skills that adults assume teens know how to do — but they really don’t!

Gretchen and Megan break down 12 seemingly simply skills they’ve observed in their practices and urge their adult listeners to support students in learning how to do these things.

Tune in as they tell stories about how they discovered students don’t know how to:

  • set the time in their alarm clock
  • study skillfully for tests
  • work with “to do” lists
  • take decent notes
  • make an outline
  • clean out an email inbox
  • organize files on the computer
  • title computer documents in a way they can be found again
  • use a digital calendar
  • follow the rules of plagiarism
  • approach reading a difficult book without overwhelm
  • visualize what day-to-day life in college is like.

Click here to tune in to Gretchen and Megan as they break down key misconceptions adults have about teens’ skill sets.

One Way to Get Better Help From Your Teacher

Do you ever need to email your teachers because something they did or said is confusing, and you need clarification?

One of the skills I work on with teenagers is how to communicate respectfully with teachers without sounding like you are blaming or accusing them. This is a HARD lesson for many teens to learn and takes some practice.

Listen in as I share a story about a recent young man (sophomore in high school) who caught himself writing some blaming language to his teacher, and figured out — all by himself! — how to correct it.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a short summary:

One of the skills I end up working on quite often with students, that I hadn’t originally thought I would, is writing emails. And this week I was talking with one of my clients, and he needed to write an email to one of his teachers. He was walking himself through it, and while I usually walk my clients through the email writing process, this young man is a good communicator and his parents work hard with him to help him be a good communicator. Anyways, here’s something that he caught himself doing that I wanted to share with you.

Gretchen Wegner, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, Email, Emailing Teachers, Communication, Teacher and student relationships, student email, teacher, teachers, students, teenagers, high school

As you can see above we have a little image of my client typing up his email and what he noticed was that he was starting to write “You were confusing in class today”, but he stopped himself and rewrote it as “I have confusion about what we were doing in class today.” And this is something he said his mom drilled into him last year ad nauseam, the importance of not blaming the teacher with your language; regardless of whether you think it was the teacher’s fault or not. We want to try and take ownership as much as possible in our email communications, as we will get better help from our teachers if we are generous with our communication.

So I just loved that he caught himself there and the truth is that “I have confusion” was very true, as he is confused, regardless of what the cause of the confusion is. And by checking his language and tweaking it so he took responsibility for his experience, he is much more likely to get help from his teacher now, and in the future.

I hope this tip is helpful, and if you want more tips and advice on communicating with your teacher, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying™.