Advanced Placement courses can provide a huge advantage to students when they hit college, but they can also be a huge drain on a high school student’s schedule and sense of balance.
Recent a mom named Tamra wrote in with the following question:
I’m listening to podcast 160, about all the AP and other exams in May, which has me wondering about AP courses in general. My first child will start high school in the fall, in a new school district. When we’re looking at course options do you recommend choosing AP courses to get requirements “out of the way” in subjects he doesn’t particularly enjoy, or is it better for him to focus his efforts on getting ahead in areas that do spark his interest?
In her wide ranging answer to this question, Megan covers:
What is the difference between Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes?
What to ask your school when you’re an incoming freshmen to learn about how AP and IB classes work at that school.
How to research college requirements to have an idea of the role AP classes might play in your high school student’s life
How to put all these answers into a plan for what AP courses to take when in high school
Ann Marie Dobosz is a psychotherapist and writer in San Francisco. Her book, The Perfectionism Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Reduce Anxiety and Get Things Done, was published last year by New Harbinger. She specializes in helping people who are really hard on themselves feel calm, happy, and “good enough.” She works with adults and adolescents who struggle with mental health issues that arise from perfectionism and self-criticism, including anxiety, depression, obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviors. You can find more about her at www.annmarietherapy.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
Do you ever feel lost or stressed when it comes time to start studying for final exams?
I know a lot of my clients have over the years, and so I wanted to share with you all my favorite technique for how to organize your final exam study plan.
Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back with this summary:
In this video, I show you my favorite way to organize how to study for final exams and get it all on one page. And this, especially when you have multiple final exams, is very important as you have a LOT of details you have to prepare. So to start, you want to start about 3 weeks out, even if you haven’t received all your information for the final exams, and draw out on a sheet of paper a calendar as seen below.
Basically, you want to start out with a blank sheet of paper or white board, and then draw a table that has 7 columns and 3 rows (or more or less depending on how many weeks out your finals are. Then above each column put the day, and I like to start on Mondays and have the weekends grouped together. Then we want to number the days, so Monday the 1st, Tuesday the 2nd, etc. Next, on the final week we want to put in when our final exams are, so if you are in high school you likely have 2 exams a day and it might look something like above, with English and History on Monday, Math on Tuesday, Science on Wednesday, etc. Then in the weeks prior we plan out what we are going to do to study. In the example above I said that on Tuesday we’d study English with 10 flash cards, math on Wednesday with 10 flash cards, and then take a math sample text on Thursday. And my final tip is to leave Friday’s empty that way you can really focus your studying on the weekends when you have free time and give yourself Friday afternoon’s off; because let’s be honest, no one wants to do anything on Friday afternoon.
Hey there teens, do you feel like your parents are checking in on whether you’re doing your homework or not too often? Parents, do you feel like your teen isn’t getting their homework done – and are you checking in on them regularly?
As an Academic Life Coach, I meet with both my clients (who are often teenagers) weekly and also their parents for checkups. And so I have a client I just had a session with who is finishing up his freshman year in high school, and one of the things we were talking about this week is how often his parents should be checking in on him regarding his homework. This week’s video is for both you parents and teenagers out there, regarding parent’s checking in on their teen’s homework.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back with this summary:
As teenagers, and we’ve all be there, we start seeking our independence. It’s not unusual that when we hit our mid teens that we start wanting to fend for ourselves, and this includes academically. As I was saying, I have a client, who is just finishing up his freshman year in high school, and he feels that his parents are checking in on his homework way too much. Now, he has ADHD and a bit of a perfectionist, and therefore in his previous years he’s had a history of not getting homework turned in on time or at all. As a result, his parents would regularly check in with him regarding his homework to make sure he was getting it done, and in middle school, this worked great. However, now he’s pushing back against them, and he said something that I felt was very insightful.
“I don’t want my parents to be right. I don’t want them to think that I’m doing my homework because THEY told me to.” He wanted to be doing it because he knew he needed to for his future. And I can totally relate to this, and I’m sure a LOT of parents out there if you think back to your teenage years you’ll have a similar story to mine. I remember in high school I had an Algebra teacher who told me and reminded me regularly, that I could have an A in his class. My father, who is a mathematician, also was convinced I could have an A, and so they both regularly were checking in on me and pushing me to get an A in that class. As a result, I pushed back, and decided, “No, that’s their goal, I don’t care, and I’m not going to get an A.” Sure enough, I got a B in that class. Similarly, my client says that most of the time when his parents check in on him he’s already doing his homework, but because they check in with him, that makes him feel stubborn and he will often STOP doing his homework because of it.
There comes a time when teenagers want to start feeling more independent, and we as parents and guardians need to let them accept the consequences of their actions so that they can learn from it. Now, of course, this advice isn’t applicable to all families, as I don’t know the specifics of your situation and your parent/child dynamics; however, I did think this was a theme worth sharing – that sometimes when we as a family check in too often on our teenagers we are getting in the way of them experiencing their own independence.
You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers! Join us as we discuss the following questions:
Summer Programs for College Prep: We are looking at the Stanford University “High School Summer College” program for our son. The classes are interesting, and it looks like a good experience. My question is will this help him get into Stanford or other similar schools when he is a senior?
When Teachers Give Incomplete Study Guides: What do you do if your teacher doesn’t list some facts/ideas on the study guide but does put those questions on the test? How do you study?
Apps for Vocab Improvement: I’m wondering if you know of any apps or programs that would help a high school student develop a deeper understanding of words… I imagine through word study including roots, prefixes, and suffixes. I have some old=school tools but would like to give her something a little more user-friendly for working on at home. Ideas?
Singing to Music When Studying: I’ve heard you say that it’s ok to listen to music while studying, but what about if you are singing along with that music? Can you really concentrate and use your full brain if you are singing while doing your homework?
What’s Wrong With My College Application? My son is completing his 12th grade and has applied to several good universities. He did his 9th and 10th from a school in India and will graduate from high school in Texas. He scores A*s in all subjects. His current GPA is 4.1. He scored 800 in SAT Math and 760 in English. He plays guitar, is a black belt in Karate and knows multiple languages- English, French, German, Hindi. With all these qualifications he is still not getting selected by Universities. Why? What is missing for him? How can we supplement his existing applications in other universities? Can we appeal?
Do you ever get bored using the same studying technique over and over again?
I have a client who, until recently, has used nothing but flashcards when preparing for all her tests. Because we’d developed a number of fun ways to use flashcards, she enjoyed this as a study technique. In her most recent session, however, she revealed that she’s finally getting bored with flashcards and wants some alternative methods for retrieving information. Watch this week’s video to see what solution we came up with for her.
Hey there, don’t have time to watch the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:
I’ve been working hard this year with a client, who is a freshman in high school, to understand the Study Cycle, and to fill her toolbox of study techniques. And until recently she’s really only used flash cards, and this was fine for a while because we found a variety of different ways to use the flash cards. However, she came to me this week and said, I have a history exam I need to study for, and I don’t really feel like using flash cards.
The awesome thing is, that since she’s been working through the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, she had already chosen and started using a new study technique. In this case, she was using what I call a T-Chart. And she reported that studying felt fresh and new, and she was enjoying using this new technique more than the flash cards.
In this instance, the flash cards were like a screwdriver in her toolbox. Up until now, it’s worked fine to help her unscrew (dissect and learn) the materials she needed to study; however, now she needed to hammer something in (study for her history exam) and the T-Chart was just the hammer she needed.
So, I recommend that you spend some time thinking of different study techniques and start building your toolbox. And if you don’t feel like you have enough tools, then you can always check out The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.
Do sometimes find yourself panicking when you sit down to write a research paper? Perhaps you selected a difficult topic?
One of my clients, a freshman in college, did just that. He chose a subject, and then a week later when he was starting to work on it, he realized it wasn’t a good topic, and he wouldn’t be able to research it adequately. So he ended up in a blind panic and pushed off the rest of his homework to try and catch up on this project. So we reflected on this, and you can find out what came of our session in this video.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a summary:
So I’m curious if this has ever happened to you before. I have a client, a freshman in college, who has a big research project he’s had in the works for a few weeks now and he had already selected his subject a couple of weeks ago. The problem was that last week he was supposed to be working on some other homework; however, when the session came he said, “Oh… no, I didn’t get to that, cause it’s not the priority. You remember that research project I thought I knew? I started doing the research for it and, oh man, the topics really not a good one. It’s going to be very hard to do. I think I need to change my topic. And I’ve been panicked about that all week, and so I didn’t do that other thing I was supposed to do.” So we reflected about this a little bit and we came up with this tip:
When you are first given a research project and you are deciding on your research topic do a little preliminary practice finding sources for your chosen subject. You can go to your library and talk to your local librarian, look on google scholar, get on your college databases, and see how easy (or difficult) it is to find sources for your topic within your time constraints.
If my client had done this two weeks ago when he chose his research topic, he would have realized this wasn’t a very good research topic, and he would have had time to come up with a new one. Then he wouldn’t have had to push off his other homework in a panic.
If you found this tip helpful, there are much more like it in my course, so please feel free to check it out, or email me.
If you’re a teacher, do you struggle to help your students grasp what you’re teaching and raise their grades?
I have a request for you that could greatly help the students that are struggling in your class but are trying to do better. In fact, it’s one of the keys for students to be able to study effectively.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back with this summary:
This week’s video is for you teachers out there. I just got finished with a client, a sophomore in high school, who has a test coming up next week (at the time of recording it’s Wednesday). She got a “D” on her last test, which was on photosynthesis, and this upcoming test is on cellular respiration. Anyways, in order for us to come up with a better study plan since her last one didn’t work, we’ve been waiting on one key ingredient. We knew she got a “D” on her last test about two weeks ago; however, she didn’t get the test back until this week, and it was effectively blank.
To come up with a better study plan we were planning to use her old test, to see what she got right and what she got wrong, and determine a new method of studying based on the types or questions and information she got wrong. The problem is, even though she finally got her test back, she still doesn’t have any of the correct answers. The test had no markups, as her teacher grades the tests on the computer. So while we have the test, we have no way to figure out for sure what she got right and what she got wrong, so we can’t use that key information to determine a better method of studying for her.
So my request for you teachers out there is twofold. 1. Give your students back their tests a couple of weeks before the next test. And 2. Make sure they have the correct answers to those tests. This might be a challenging request for some; however, it will greatly help your students succeed in your class.
If you have any questions about this, or these requests seem impossible in your context, or you don’t understand why this is so important, PLEASE email me at Gretchen@GretchenWegner.com. I would love to converse with you to help you help students be better studiers so that they aren’t just making better grades in your class, but are actually learning what your are teaching.
Never Write the Word “Study” in Your Planner. Here’s Why.
It doesn’t take long for a teenager who’s just started working with me to learn this — I hate the word “study.”
Well, obviously that’s not completely true. My passion is teaching students to study strategically, and I couldn’t do this work if the word “study” weren’t involved. However, I do believe strongly that the word study does NOT belong in a student’s planner or To Do list. Neither does the word “review.” Check out the video for a full description of why.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a summary:
I was working with a client recently on the skill “verberizing,” which is about finding really strong specific words for the tasks that you need to do when you are doing homework or studying to make it an easy instruction for you and your brain to know exactly what you need to do next. Now before we continue, I want you to look at the following four options and think about which of these would be the best way to verberize “study french” in her planner.
My client had written, “Study French,” to which I cringed and said, “Eeeh, I don’t like that.” Of course, she responded, “Oh my god Gretchen you always make me change these,” and I thought it was rather funny, but said, “I know, so let’s do it.” Next, she erased “Study French” and wrote “Review Subjunctive.” I still said it wasn’t clear enough. Then she wrote, “Go over Subjunctives.” This was getting there, but “go over” still doesn’t tell me what she needs to be doing. It’s very broad, and I can’t picture in my mind what the steps would be for “go over subjunctives.” So I had her change it one more time. This time she wrote, “Finish subjunctive worksheets.” This was MUCH better. You see she realized she had unfinished worksheets for subjunctives, and what better way is there to study subjunctives than to finish the worksheets – a readily available tool. Not to mention this tells her exactly what she needs to be doing next.
Now you might be wondering, why is writing super specific instructions in your planner so important. Well, the answer is that “verberizing,” or making sure your planner has crystal clear instructions, is important because it helps ensure that your brain has no excuses about following through on your plan/to-do as the instructions are so simple and crystal clear.
Do you ever struggle to get started on a simple task? I do all the time! So if your answer is “yes” to this question, it must mean you’re human!
Recently I was working with a high school student who was struggling to get started with a homework assignment. I discovered that he simply needed to use his imagination better in order to take action. Check out the video to see what I mean.
Hey there! Don’t have time to watch the whole video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a summary:
As humans, we all tend to procrastinate. I’d even go so far as to say that if you say you don’t procrastinate, you might not be human. 😉 Still, when we’re struck with a case of procrastination we often are unable to motivate ourselves to take action on whatever it is we need to be doing next. That was the case for a student of mine. He had an assignment he needed to do and kept putting it off, week after week. After the second week, I realized he didn’t fully understand the assignment and what he needed to do to finish it. So I asked him to put his imagination to use to help solve this problem by:
I asked him to imagine himself doing the assignment. I told him he didn’t have to start it right now, but I wanted him to imagine it, and if couldn’t imagine it, look up and make sure he understood the task. So he looked it up, and then imagined what he needed to do to get it going; whether it was creating an outline or starting to do some research or just making a step by step plan.
And I don’t just use this with my clients. I use it all the time. In fact, just before this video, I was laying on my couch, and I was having a really hard time motivating myself. So I imagined the next task I had to do, and I imagined myself doing it and figured out what the steps were I needed to take. And it worked, I was able to get myself organized in my mind and motivated enough to get up and get going.
Tina Kruse is an Educational Psychologist (Ph.D.) with 15 years of experience teaching undergraduates. Her research is on the benefits of youth leadership experiences, with a forthcoming book on this topic (Oxford University Press, 2018). In addition to her long-term teaching and advising at a liberal arts college (Macalester College in St. Paul MN), she also offers private, one-on-one academic coaching to students ranging from high-school to graduate school. Recently she’s been charged with starting a campus-wide plan to support her college’s students to integrate better their learning settings–helping them connect the classroom efforts with their off-campus experiences such as internships and study abroad. You can find out more about Tina’s work at www.tinakruse.com.
Please Note: In this podcast recording Tina Kruse is representing her work as described at www.tinakruse.com and is not representing Macalester College.
I know a lot of parents who have a nervous tick — they just have to check their kid’s grades in the online system to make sure that they’re doing ok. Many parents do this on a weekly (or even hourly!) basis. I call it a “nervous tick” for a few reasons — first, parents do it without thinking, and secondly, they end up being quite anxious afterward (the word “nervous” is so accurate!).
Also, and perhaps more importantly, the parent’s anxiety can get transferred to the student. This is what happened recently with a client of mine. Watch the video to hear what the client requested of his mom and me, and the interesting little experiment we’re going to do for 3 weeks.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back with a short summary:
This video is for you parents out there today! I just finished having a conversation with a student, a sophomore in High School, and one of the things we do each week is check his grades to see what zeros are there, why work is missing, and work on build habits to deal with these missing assignments. The problem here is that not only do I ask him about his grades, but then his mom asks him about his grades, and he said to me, “I’m tired of it, I’m tired all I’m doing is talking about my grades. I just want to talk to you Gretchen about them.” So we decided since I was going on vacation before this video was recorded, to do a little experiment for 3 weeks. We gave his mom two options:
After I talked with the mom, she said, “Oh my god, it would bring me such joy to not check grades.” So she said she just wouldn’t check the grades. We’ll see if she can follow through, cause it can be such a difficult task as a parent who is worried about student success. Regardless, I highly recommend that parents, you experiment with either not checking your students’ grades or set a date and only check the grades with the student. This way you aren’t jumping down your student’s back with all this anxiety about the grades and can talk about them in an anxiety-free zone.
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers! Join us as we discuss community colleges versus big name schools, getting national merit scholarships, and dealing with bad teachers.
Here are the questions Megan and Gretchen tackle on today’s Q&A show:
COMMUNITY COLLEGE VS. BIG NAME SCHOOL. Our son has been accepted to Engineering programs at Baylor, A&M Galveston and Ole Miss. However, his first choice, UT on Friday confirmed Cap program only which would be UTSA and transfer only guaranteed into Liberal Arts. As you may recall, the full college experience including D1 sports, fraternities, etc was all on his list. However, he is now talking to two other young men from his high school about Austin Community College. We’re reaching out to several people for their thoughts and expertise. In your opinion what is his best option? From Jackie.
NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIPS. I’m working with a small private school in my area and wanted your input on how we can best support our students for next year’s National Merit scholarships. I analyzed the results of the 10th-grade class PSAT results and this is what I found: – 41 students took the test – 2 students tied a score of 1300 – 3 students scored higher with a 1310, 1340 and 1400 points. I want to “target” some of these students and suggest they work to possibly qualify for National Merit. What scores do you think might have a chance?
WHAT TO DO ABOUT A BAD TEACHER: My English teacher legit spends the majority of class talking about things that aren’t relevant. (I.E. She’ll talk about her son in the Navy instead of whatever book we’re reading at the time). The other day we were given the assignment to write a thematic essay based on the movie “I am David,” and she decided to give us some free time to work on it on our own. Well, a few kids got done early and began talking amongst themselves, and my teacher completely flipped out! She made the whole class start over! Those of us who hadn’t finished, but had gotten a good chunk done had to turn it in and re-write it with a different thesis and everything. This teacher has been teaching at my school for more years than I care to count and has received a couple “teacher of the year” awards – though I can’t imagine why. I get all A’s and B’s, but I have a solid D in her class – as does everyone else I’ve asked. I’ve tried talking to my school counselor about it – as have a few others – but whenever the administrators come in to monitor the class the teacher will give us an assignment to work on while she talks to them about their families and such. I got a letter home the other day from the principal getting angry at me for “disrupting the class” when I refused to listen to her about her son’s week aboard the SS I-couldn’t-care-if-I-tried for the umpteenth time and tried to work on my essay instead. What am I supposed to do?
Does your heart sink when you notice that the essay prompt asks you to find the “theme” or the “purpose” of the book you’re reading? Do you often think to yourself, “I have no idea!!” and then BS your way through the essay?
Well, I have a hint for you! Of course, the best line of defense is to listen during discussions in class, take good notes, and also talk to your teacher. But if none of that helps, this trick will take you the rest of the way. And who knows, maybe what feels like BS might be pretty smart stuff after all!?
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back, here’s a summary:
I received an email earlier this week from a senior in high school that was having a difficult time with a prompt she received in an AP English class. She needed to find the purpose of a novel so she could write an essay about it. Another way we can look at this is: What is the theme, or meaning, of the novel?
So I wanted to give you all a little trick I use with my clients. See when I’m coaching I have very little time to help a student push through work on their essay, so I have to make quick decisions how to help a student find the theme or purpose of a book when I haven’t read it myself. As such I’ve developed a bit of a trick. I like to use a list from the Center for NonViolent Communication that’s called the Needs Inventory.
What I have found is that it can be really helpful to look over this list with a student and ask, “What are the universal needs that are represented by the characters in this book?” For example, is there a need for order because things are really chaotic, and the characters are trying to create order but it’s really hard. I’ve found that students can pretty easily find 1, 2, or 3 needs that are really active in the book, and then find concrete evidence why those needs are a big deal in the book and how it plays out for the characters. Then you can use this to write an essay about how the theme or purpose of the book was about “insert universal need here”.
Debbie Lehr-Lee is an academic life coach passionate about helping high school and college students develop key academic and life skills (that are often not taught in school) so that they can be successful in academics but also be prepared for college and the real world. She is a certified Life Coach (CPC) from the world-class Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC), a certified Academic Life Coach from John Andrew Williams Academic Life Coaching program, and has completed Gretchen Wegner’s Anti-Boring Approach Coach Training Program. Visit her website at www.unstoppablestudents.com.