How to Write Better Answers on Essay Prompts

Do you struggle to write the perfect answer for your essay prompts?

A number of my clients get really stuck when they have to organize their ideas for essays, and they often say a lot without actually answering the question in the prompt.

Recently a client was having this problem, so we worked on a method for making sure that the entire prompt gets answered. Here’s what we came up with:

What experiences do you have strengthening your answers to essay prompts? Are there other issues with writing essays that confound you (or your teen)?

I’d love to hear from you. Just comment below

How to Stay Awake While Reading

Is fighting to stay awake while reading a problem for you (or your teen)?

Based on my experience as an academic life coach for students, you are definitely not alone!

The other day, a client asked me how I managed to stay awake while reading. I was so inspired by what we came up with that I quickly made this video. I hope it’s helpful to you!


Got any questions? Concerns? Brainstorms? I’d love to hear them!

A Simple Way to Write Papers More Efficiently

Does it take you a long time to organize your ideas when writing an essay?

Recently, a client tackled his writing process, and I thought it would be helpful for others to hear what we came up with. Check out this video!


Got any other ideas about writing more efficiently? Or questions? I’d love to hear from you, and I may even answer your question at length on the College Prep Podcast!

How to Skim a Book

Have you ever fallen behind in your reading for a class?

No matter what level of schooling my clients are, they ALL want to learn how to read more efficiently. One of the secrets is to learn how to let go of needing to read every word — in other words: skim!

Here’s a trick I teach, that’s especially appreciated by my grad school clients:

What experiences do you have skimming books? Do you have additional tricks? Or specific struggles? I’d love to hear from you.

Stop Letting Anxiety and Intimidation Ruin Your Grades

Is anxiety a problem for you, especially when talking to teachers?

I’m consistently amazed by how reluctant my clients are to reach out to their teachers when they become confused about something.

Today’s video is relevant if you are a teacher AND if you’re a student who is too intimidated to ask teachers questions:

Teachers, how do you make it easier for students to feel comfortable reaching out to you? Students, what additional tricks do you have for getting up the guts to talk to teachers? I’d love to hear from both of you!

Feel free to ask questions as well, and I may just tackle it on the College Prep Podcast.

How to Get the Most From Working with An Academic Coach

Do you want to make sure you get your money’s worth when working with me (or any other academic life coach)?

Recently a client blew me away with how organized she was at the beginning of our session, and I wanted to share what she did with you.

Even if you don’t currently work with a coach, the tip is just as relevant for how to talk to your teachers (or your boss, for that matter). Check it out:

Got any other tips for how to get the most from the people who help you? I’d love to hear any ideas…or any questions!

Simply reply to this email or post on YouTube or on the blog.

How to Ask Your Professors for Help

What’s your biggest fear about asking a professor for help?

One of my clients worries that his teacher is going to make fun of him; another is concerned that she’ll feel humiliated.

During today’s video, I share about what happened when a client pushed through her fear and asked for help anyway.

Do you have any success stories? Please share, as students all over the world need to have their own fears reassured.

Also, if you have an example of a fear that you believe is justified, tell me that too!

Are You Intimidated by (at least) One of Your Teachers?

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Are you (or your student) intimidated by a teacher, which is creating a problem for you?

I deal with this on a weekly basis during my academic coaching sessions with clients.The other day, a client struggled with how to deal with this.

I was so inspired by what we came up with that I quickly made this video. I hope it’s helpful to you! Got any questions? Concerns? Brainstorms? I’d love to hear them! Comment on the blog

Pick the Easiest Essay Prompt… or the Most Interesting One?

When your teacher lets you choose which essay prompt to write about, do you go for the easy one?

Often my high school clients will ask me to help them choose which essay prompt to write about. They often ask, “Which one do you think is the easiest?” and I often ask them in return, “Which one is the most interesting one to you?”

Recently, a client and I had this exchange about how to choose an essay prompt:

How do you decide which essay prompt to write about? I’d love to hear. Feel free to ask me a question, too, if this is a subject that’s challenging for you. Comment Below

How to Have Time to Study and Relax on Vacation

I hope you’re enjoying your time off, and aren’t secretly stressed out because of homework and/or studying that needs to be done!

Recently, a client and I chatted about how to have time for work AND fun over the holidays, and I thought I’d pass along the good ideas that came up in our session:

Once you watch the video, I’d love to hear from you: how do you balance your studying with having fun?

How to Make a Study Guide

Have you (or your student) ever been sent home with a lot of new material and no study guide?

That’s exactly what my client complained about during a recent session. High school students are so used to teachers handing out study guides that it can totally throw you off if you don’t get one!

Here’s how I recommended that he create his own study guide (and it may just be a *better* study process than if his teacher had provided it for him!). Check it out:

What experiences do you have with coming up with creative solutions for studying when teachers don’t give you a study guide? I’d love to hear yours. Comment Below

A Creative Trick for Helping You Get Started With a Tough Task

Is getting started on a big project a problem for you, or a student you know?

I definitely have trouble initiating hard tasks, so I have a lot of empathy for my clients who struggle with this, too.

Here’s one trick I use that is proven to get me over that “uninspired” hump. I need to use it sparingly, but it always works when I get desperate enough to try. I hope it’s helpful to you.



Got any questions, or experiences of your own to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below.

How to Make a Study Guide for Finals

Have you (or your student) ever been sent home with a lot of new material and no study guide?

That’s exactly what my client complained about during a recent session. High school students are so used to teachers handing out study guides that it can totally throw you off if you don’t get one!

Here’s how I recommended that he create his own study guide (and it may just be a *better* study process than if his teacher had provided it for him!). Check it out:

What experiences do you have with coming up with creative solutions for studying when teachers don’t give you a study guide? I’d love to hear yours. Comment below.


An Easy and Fun Way to Memorize Anything

An Easy and Fun Way to Memorize Anything

It’s officially fall! As the temperature drops, the semester is just heating up. Students are starting to sweat through harder tests and more complex assignments. Is this true for you?

Recently, a client who has difficulty with short term memory was assigned one day to memorize the preamble of the constitution. For a young man with a learning difference, this was a Herculean task!

We came up with a fun approach that might be helpful to the rest of you, so I wanted to pass it on.

Take a look at this quick 2-minute video explanation. Then, use the comments section below to tell me whether you think this might work for you. Are there other memorization tricks that rock your world?

Are You So Creative You Are Bored At School?

Meet Rina. YouTuber, Suzuki violinist, and soon to be 8th grader. Clearly, Rina is NOT a morning person, which she hilariously demonstrates in this homemade video.

Rina and her mom are signed up to participate in The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying this summer. I haven’t met Rina yet, but I already know we’ll get along great. After all, she’s got the gumption to create this video and share it with the world!

Rina is exactly the kind of student I’m excited to serve: super creative, filled with ideas, and courageous enough to take action on those ideas.

The problem for these kids often is that there doesn’t seem to be room at school to act on their crazy, quirky ideas. School seems to be about doing what the teacher thinks is interesting and important…not what YOU are on fire to learn.

In my years coaching these creatives, I’ve learned that there is a particular mindset that limits their ability to learn effectively in a school environment.

When we shift this mindset, students’ whole relationship to learning changes as well…as do their test grades and their self-confidence.

The limiting mindset is: “School is about doing what the teachers wants me to do. My creativity doesn’t belong there unless the teacher says so.”

A more freeing mindset is: “I can be in charge of how I bring my creativity into learning. I can learn what the teacher wants me to learn AND be creative.”

Our education system trains kids to follow someone else’s directions at school; it doesn’t train them to think about their learning, and apply their natural skills and abilities to this learning.

I’ve started asking my clients to look at their assignments and think, “Why did your teacher assign this worksheet? What’s the hidden learning purpose?” Once they get good at identifying the learning purpose, I ask, “How can you achieve this learning purpose in your own, creative way?”

Through these questions, kids exercise their skills at meta-cognition (which means “thinking about our thinking”). The better students get at this skill, the more easily they are able to integrate their true, creative, authentic selves in many more areas of their lives.

Their creativity becomes a fluid, dynamic presence in all areas of their lives — rather than a fun thing they squeeze in between school responsibilities.

If you are a creative kid who feels stifled at school — or if you’re the parent of one — I urge you both to join me for the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying. We’ll dive deeply into this topic and practice ways to be so creative that you are INSPIRED (rather than bored) at school.

P.S. If you’re not convinced that an online learning experience can be both fun & effective, take a free sneak peek!



How To Inspire Teens to Study Effectively Without Nagging

Did you miss the webinar last weekend?

I was sharing my “anti-boring” method for talking to teens about studying … in a way that raises grades, eliminates nagging and boosts self-confidence.

More than  100 concerned parents tuned in, and a few teens and adult learners, too.

We had a great time, and a number of you were inspired to sign up for my summer course. I also got several requests to share the talking points. So without further adieu…

2 mind-numbing study habits that all students should stop

  1. Don’t sit still while reading or reviewing. If you’re not moving any part of your body (except your hand to turn the page) for more than 10 minutes, you are TOO STILL and you will bore your brain.
  2. When you read textbooks or review your notes, don’t just start at the beginning. Instead, give your brain an “itinerary” for the “journey” you’re about to take while reading or reviewing the information for your test.

(Want me to walk you through how to stop, and what to do instead? Click here).

3 mistakes parents & tutors make that set students up to struggle

  1. Parents, tutors and teachers often accept the words “study” and “review” — the two most boring words on the face of the planet — as if they are communicating something of value. (See the video above to hear more about this; See below to see what you could say instead).
  2. We give struggling kids strategies for studying, often strategies that worked well for us when we were younger. However, we don’t explain WHY these strategies tend to work. When withhold this information, we are creating kids’ dependence on the specific strategies RATHER than teaching them how to choose the right strategies for the right occasion.
  3. Tutors often study with the students during their tutoring sessions, without also expecting that students study on their own. This is another way of creating dependence; kids don’t think for themselves about how to study because they know they can just wait for their tutor to give them activities to help them study.

(Want step-by-step support without having to pay a lot of money for private coaching for you or your teen? Click here.)

5…no, 6! … fail-safe actions to do this summer to lay the groundwork for your Best School Year Ever

  1. Get to know what is happening in your brain when you are learning. Understand what neural pathways are and how they are created. The better you understand your brain, the better you can choose study strategies that are efficient, effective…and anti-boring. The more parents AND kids understand this, the better they can communicate with each other.
  2. Understand the difference between passive (boring) and active (anti-boring) approaches to learning.  Spend the summer practicing how to be more active when you learn. Notice all the ways we learn with all our senses: speaking, hearing, listening and moving our bodies. When you get good at creating active study techniques for yourself, you are learning to “think like a teacher,” which will help you ace tests when the school year starts.
  3. Parents, practice asking better questions of your kiddos when you are discussing studying and learning. My two favorite questions these days are “What will you do to remember the key ideas?” and “How will you know when you are ready for the test and can stop studying?”
  4. Make conversations about learning a family affair. At the dinner table, brainstorm with your kids when you are struggling to learn/process/memorizing something at work. Have fun with each other coming up with “anti-boring” ideas for learning. Effective learning means trouble shooting strategies until you find the right ones, so parents can model this alongside their kiddos.
  5. Spend the summer collecting fun supplies that will make learning more active. This might include posterboard, clay, a giant white board, flashcards, etc. But don’t just read my list; everytime you go shopping notice if there are some supplies that belong in your “Study Cupboard.” Turn this into a game this summer. As you find a new supply, ask each other the question: “How might this supply help me remember key ideas more actively?”
  6. BONUS: Find a mentor or a coach. Sometimes the parent/child relationship is such that parent involvement gets in the way of learning. If that’s the case, find an adult who can have these conversations with your kids. Family friends are great…you might also like to employ an academic coach like me!

Want an easy way to follow through with these suggestions?

Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying This summer I am hosting an online learning extravaganza called “The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying“.

Through a series of short videos, animations, and activities, I will walk parents, tweens, and teens through the following:

  • wacky and effective explanations for the brain science behind learning
  • specifically what you’re doing now that bores your brain & hijacks learning
  • a menu of 15+ non-boring study techniques
  • how to turn those actions into efficient and effective study plans
  • how to create rockin’ organization and time management systems
  • how to fight procrastionation & follow through on your plan
  • conversation starters for parents and teens to make communicating about studying easy and nag-free

Designed for students 6th grade through adult, this online summer learning experience condenses the unique study techniques developed from an anti-boring career coaching hundreds of students (teens and adults) and presents them in a playful, easy-to-apply format.

The course opens from June 15 to August 15. It has the following components:

  • Six self-paced lessons (of about an hour each) that teens and parents can work through together and/or separately
  • Bi-weekly online group chats with Gretchen Wegner to get personalized help and answers to your questions
  • Facebook group for parents to share tips and tricks about how you are implementing these tools in your households
  • BONUS: Interviews sessions with guest experts on topics such as Learning Styles, College Admissions, Learnings Disabilities, SAT/ACT Prep, Accelerated Learning Strategies, and more.
  • Optional: Add on personalized 1:1 coaching directly from Gretchen (via video chat). Receive details about this after you have registered.

The $50 early bird discount is good through Sunday, June 8th at midnight. For more information and to register, click here!


The Best Anti-Procrastination Tool Ever

Are you sick and tired of promising yourself you will FINALLY (insert new habit here), but then never following through?

Me too! For years I’ve been trying to “hack my habits,” but only some of them stick. Enter: The Tiny Habit, which turbo-charged my ability to follow through — and thrill of thrills! — works beautifully for my teenage clients as well. For example:

  • I’m finally remembering to take my supplements daily

  • An 8th grade client with ADHD is actually turning in his homework AND is doing 15 pushups a day.

  • A 9th grade client with ADD is packing his backpack each night with key school supplies.

Seriously. This feels miraculous.

A Tiny Habit is an action that takes 30-seconds (or less) that you do right AFTER something you’re already doing regularly. It has three parts:

  1. After I turn on my coffee maker (something I’m already good at doing),
  2. I will fill up a glass of water and take my supplements (a habit that takes under 30 seconds).
  3. Then I will celebrate by saying “Awesome!” (or another short, fun affirmation of your choosing).

Although the 30-second habit is key, in my experience the affirmation at the end is the most revolutionary. It forever binds the new habit to the experience of delight…which is the key to automaticity. Here’s my 8th grade client’s wacky celebration after a successful round of push-ups. Can you hear the commitment and delight in his voice?

What tiny habits would you like to create for yourself? What’s your favorite celebratory word?

Playfully yours,

P.S. I still have some room for new clients this semester. If you know a student who could benefit from developing some academic Tiny Habits, have them sign up for a complimentary breakthrough session.
P.P.S. Stay tuned for more info about The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying,  my new course that’s being beta tested right now and will be released in May. Super excited about this!

Studying Sucks…Now What?

skateboarder I usually come home from my midday walks with major insights.

Today I was strolling along, and suddenly realized a major mistake in the way I have been talking to my clients about studying.

The truth is, studying is hard work. When we study, we are doing something that we usually don’t feel naturally inclined to do.

What Studying is Like When We Feel Passionate

As I was walking I was thinking about the things I’m passionate about. Right now, I’m loving playing with my new iPad! Every day I find two or three new apps that would help me in my business or my work with clients. It’s so much fun to curl up on my couch wrapped in a blanket and explore the apps, figuring out how they work, making mistakes, getting lost, having a little successes, and ultimately creating some cool, Cool stuff. I’m doing a whole lot of learning while I’m playing this way, but it doesn’t feel like studying.

Does a kid who’s going out to practice his skateboarding say to his buddies, “Hey, Let’s go study skateboarding!” Of course not. This young skateboarder is simply passionate about his skateboarding, and curious about how to get himself more and more skilled.

Many adults talk about studying as if

  • a. It’s easy,
  • b. Kids should want to do it, and
  • c. Kids know what to do to study.

That may be true for activities that kids naturally like to do. Our passion and curiosity pull us along through all the hard parts about learning. We’re willing to PRACTICE.

What About When We Don’t Feel Passionate (Which Is, Like, MOST of the Time)?

However, everyone needs strategies for keeping their brains focused on unpleasant tasks.Part of the art of studying is learning strategies to get yourself to do something that is pretty hard.

Over my years coaching middle and high school students, and watching them transition to college life, I’ve been practicing a better and better ways to help students tolerate, and sometimes even enjoy, that pesky task of studying. I’m super excited about a new course that I will be offering starting in January.

Once I’ve written it, I’ll be looking for people to give it a test run, because it’s my first on line class. If you’d like to be informed of the release date of this course, and possibly sign up for to be a free beta tester, please sign up here.  (You’ll also get, as I special gift from me, access to a webinar about 5 major mistakes students make, and 5 secrets about what to do instead).

I’m super, super excited about coming out with this new and powerful way of helping high school students think about how to get themselves to study. Stress free studying, here we come!


Photo Credit: Mark Dalmuder via Flickr

This Week’s Awesomeness – 12/12/13

20131205-100606.jpgIn academic life coaching, each week is its own kind of awesome. For years I’ve been regaling my Facebook friends with stories “from the trenches.” Now it’s time to bring these snippets to my blog readers as well. Enjoy!

This week I could talk about…

…dying — yet again! — in the Habit role playing game I play with some of my clients. For the first time, one of my client’s is doing a better job following-through on her good habits than I am. Noooooooooo!

…buying my first iPad and going gaga over the  amazing world of apps for education & creativity. Current favorites: Penultimate (seriously? You can turn my handwritten notes into typed ones?!) and Pdf-Notes (highlighting .pdfswith my finger; talk about hands-on learning!).

…the cute puppy that greets me every time my 7th grade client FaceTimes me. I love that she gets to make organizing more tolerable by having a warm furry creature on her lap during our sessions.

This Week’s Awesome Sauce – 12/6/13

20131205-100606.jpgIn academic life coaching, each week is its own kind of awesome. For years I’ve been regaling my Facebook friends with stories, both heartfelt and hilarious. It’s time to bring these stories to my blog readers as well. Enjoy these snippets from my week.

This week I could talk about…

…how much I love having clients text me in between sessions with requests like, “Do you have 10 minutes to help me think through the project that just got assigned today?” … and how sweet their gratitude is afterwards: “Thank you SO MUCH for taking the extra time! I really appreciate it!!” Teenagers are much more present, polite, and thoughtful than our culture gives them credit for.

…hearing a client rave about her new Arc organization system (bought at Staples), so proud that several of her classmates admired it. How many kids actually get compliments on their school supplies?! “I don’t know why Staples doesn’t market this, it’s so cool!” she gushed.

…working with two clients in a row on a new way to set up their planner, and having both clients comment, “Wow! You should sell this idea!

…getting a text message from a college student announcing, “BTW, I got an 80 on my second linguistics test 😉 And that’s without a grade curve!” (from a student who is working her butt off to get off of academic probation).

the bittersweetness in both our smiles as my client (whose been with me for 4 years) had her final session. One downer of Skype sessions is that we couldn’t give each other goodbye hugs.

…my client (junior in college) gleefully calling out “Flowchart Friday!!!” when she realized that she could get out her colorful markers and create posters of flowcharts in order to study for her biology final exam…not to mention the motivating alliteration of F. Whatever it takes to get motivated…

…my client’s clear frustration with the way I was “wasting” our time by asking him “pointless” questions about his paper on transcendentalism…and his sheer delight at the end of 50 minutes when we ended up with a rockin’ thesis statement, 3 great topic sentences, and an easy-to-follow outline for what to write next.

…competing with my client about who can earn more “points” in an online role playing game called “Habit.” This game inspires this highschool sophomore to think more deeply about his habits than any other technique I’ve ever tried in our 3 years together. Yay for gamification! Yay for!

…how fun it is to watch my client’s hairstyle change from month-to-month (shaved one month, pink the next).