Are Your Homework Plans Realistic?

Do you should on yourself when making plans?

During most of my coaching sessions with teens, we spend at least some of our time making plans for the next week. We break big projects down into smaller parts; we decide what study tasks will be done on which days before the test.

However, invariably my clients will make plans that they can’t keep! They tell me what they think they SHOULD say, rather than what they can realistically accomplish.

Here’s one way I handle that during our sessions:

Hey, don’t have time for the full video? I’ve got your back, here is a quick summary:

As you can imagine I do a LOT of planning with teenagers. Close to, if not more, than half of my sessions are planning out the next week or month based on what homework they’ve been assigned. Typically we look at what assignments they have upcoming and then planning backward to figure out what they should be doing each day/week/month as necessary.

During these planning sessions, quite often we’ll make a plan and my clients will say, “Sure I’ll do that”, or my personal favorite, “Sure I’ll do that Friday afternoon.” The vast majority of my clients and students I know, don’t want to do ANYTHING after school on Friday, even as a teacher I don’t. They are saying what they think they “should” say, instead of being realistic and making a plan they will actually follow through on.

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Homework | Plans | Planning | Clients | Assignments |

The way I handle this is by asking them, usually a few times, “Are you “shoulding” on yourself? Are these plans actually realistic?” I try to make sure they understand they don’t have to “should” on themselves. It won’t benefit them to make a plan they know they won’t follow through on, or that they will just end up procrastinating for later. So we revise the plan using my triangle, “tools, team, and routine”, to make a more realistic homework plan.

If you want to know more about the triangle, “tools, team, and routine”, you can find it in the “Overcome Procrastination” section of the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically

Gretchen Wegner | Eda Chen | Natalie Borrell | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically | Students | Educators | Teachers | Educator | Teacher | Student | Study

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Meet two amazing educators teaching students study skills in creative and cutting edge ways. Gretchen interviews Eda Chen and Natalie Borrell about how the unique ways they’ve integrated the Anti-Boring Approach in their work.

Together they discuss:

  • why it’s important that educators equip themselves with specific study theory and strategies
  • the creative ways they are incorporating the Anti-Boring study tools into the work they’re already doing as life coaches for teens, including
  • Eda’s plan to include study skills and career coaching into her work with foster students, and
  • Natalie’s plans for bringing her lively in-person workshop to schools all over Ohio.

Natalie Borrell is a licensed School Psychologist and Academic Life Coach in the Cleveland, OH area. She works with teenagers who want to become better students, but need some direction on how to do so! She uses Gretchen’s Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying in her work with individual clients and a hands-on workshop for high school students. Check out her website, and also her Facebook page.

Eda Chen is the Owner and President of Elan Advising. It’s an education and career consulting company based in Davis that works exclusively with high school students, college students, and recent grads. They use life coaching techniques to teach executive skills–like time management, emotional resiliency and more. They also help their clients with college and graduate school applications and job hunting. Eda‘s a UC Davis alum and grew up in Dallas. You can find her website here. She’s also on Twitter and Instagram: @elanadvising.

Click here to head over to the College Prep Podcast to listen to this episode.

Inspire Struggling Learners to Study Harder, Learn More & Raise Grades

“I’m lazy,” teens often tell me when I meet them for the first time. Parents often confirm this. And so do teachers, when I email them to get more info about how a client is doing in their class.

I know students often feel lazy. And they certainly seem lazy to parents, who watch their teens get sucked into the vortex of their phones.

But what if students are not lazy at all. What if — God forbid — it’s the adults around them who are helping to create the conditions for this apparent “laziness”?

Let me explain:

As an academic life coach with a glimpse into hundreds of classrooms throughout my career, I’ve noticed two different tendencies amongst the students who seek me out:

  1. Some students try really hard. They stress themselves out keeping up with their school work. Despite their best efforts, these kiddos still perform poorly on tests. Argh! Why?!
  1. Other students seem apathetic, perhaps even lazy. They can’t motivate themselves to learn, despite teachers’ best intentions to make curriculum interesting and their parents’ best efforts to keep them on track.

I’m guessing that YOU are the kind of educator who has also noticed this trend… and is doing what you can to reverse it. 

You are sincere, creative and a hard worker. You’ve done your darndest to design a curriculum that will be motivating and effective for students.

So why are students STILL struggling so much?!

What are we missing as educators that hold them back?

As an academic coach I’ve spent thousands of hours talking to stressed out and/or unmotivated students, and one pattern has emerged from these conversations that are striking —

Students don’t know how to study. Everyone TELLS them to study, schools and parents EXPECT them to study, but no one has actually taught them how.

“But that’s not true!” you might be thinking. “I tell my students exactly how to study for my tests. I give them study guides, quizlet sets and teach fun mnemonics! Why isn’t that enough?!”

I don’t doubt this is true. Many educators ARE giving students a zillion resources to help them study. However, this is what I’ve learned in my hours coaching teenagers from around the country:

The way adults talk to students about their own learning may be backfiring!

That was true for me, at least, for the years that I was a classroom teacher. Once I became an academic life coach, I discovered that I needed to unlearn a number of bad habits about how to talk to students about learning and studying.

Although my actions were intended to help students become more engaged, proactive learners — instead they created the opposite effect.

Students became passive learners, dependent on their teacher’s creativity and curriculum development expertise to guide their learning. They didn’t know how to teach themselves. 

Now that I am an academic life coach, I’ve been unlearning these bad habits. I’m watching my student clients transform their learning, lower their stress level and raise their grades in unprecedented numbers. I’m also watching the teens who seemed lazy perk up and start taking action.

If I can do this as a coach, you can do this too — as the incredible teachers, counselors, tutors, and coaches that YOU are.

So, what are these bad teaching habits to which well-meaning educators fall prey?

Here are the top four bad habits that I discovered in myself and have observed in other educators:

  1. We overuse the word “study,” assuming it communicates something of value to our students.
  2. We teach specific strategies (like flashcards) that worked for us when we were students.
  3. We focus on “learning styles” as the way to discover how to study effectively.
  4. We break learning down for students into bite-size, motivating chunks and provide clear instructions for students.

Well hold up, you might be thinking! Aren’t these the tenets of good, progressive education? How can they possibly be bad teaching and tutoring habits?

Free ebook: The Art of Inspiring Students

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How To "Trick" Struggling Learners into Studying Harder, Learning More, and Raising Grades
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I feel your pain. I was surprised, too, to discover that certain “facts” of good teaching in which I’d been trained sometimes do more harm than good. Why might that be?

Let’s take a closer look at each of these bad habits that are plaguing well-meaning teachers, tutors, and academic coaches:

Bad Habit #1 – Educators overuse the word “study.”

Imagine the following scene:

It’s Wednesday, 4th-period chemistry. The teacher writes on the board, “Study for test on Friday.” Students make a mental note, “Ok, I better study for that test”; some even write “study” into their planners. Parents, coaches and tutors see the word “study” in the planner and follow up by asking, “Have you studied for the test yet?” The student responds somewhat impatiently, responds, “Yes! Yes! I’m studying.”

Think about it: How many times was the word “study” used? Was anything of value about the learning process communicated in these brief interactions?

I’d argue NO! This entire conversation about studying is largely meaningless. How do students decide what they need to DO to study?! How will they know when they’ve been successful studying, and are ready to take the test?

Because students aren’t actually taught the theory behind effective study and the strategies associated with that theory, they often go home and do one of two things:

  1. They try to “study” the best way they know how, often by rereading the textbook and reviewing and highlighting notes. Some make flashcards, though this technique is often a time-waster too (more on that later). Or…
  2. They simply don’t study, either because the actions I’ve described above are unmotivating and uninspiring or because they don’t believe they need to study.

When test grades are published, student’s spirits are dashed. “But I studied!” they say. “How come I got such a bad grade?” The answer is — because they studied in ways that felt effective but are are not actually effective.

As an academic life coach, I am on a mission to banish the words “study” and “review” from the English language. Ok. I know. That’s pretty impossible. But what if educators, parents, and students used it a lot less? How would you talk about test preparation with students if you weren’t allowed to use either the word “study” or the word “review”?!  Too often the use of these words allow us to live under the illusion that we are communicating something of value about the learning process, when truthfully we are not.

What should teachers, tutors, and academic coaches do instead? 

  • Quick Tip: Start noticing when you use the word “study” and what you are actually trying to communicate. Play around with banishing the word “study” from your vocabulary for a day or two. What might you say instead?   You might even include your students in this game! See how this experiment forces you to talk about learning in new ways. 
  • Advanced Tip: Want to know the 3 words that I use with my clients instead of the word “study”? Watch the FREE demonstration video that’s embedded here. You might even print out the graphic of the 3-step Study Cycle that I provide in my e-book, post it somewhere visible, and practice using those words with your students instead.

So, what’s the next blind spot I’ve noticed in educators (and of which I was also guilty)?

Bad Habit #2 – Educators teach specific strategies (like flashcards) that worked for us when we were students.

I’m guessing you are one of the many thoughtful teachers, coaches, and tutors who DO teach specific strategies for studying. Perhaps you suggest flashcards or provide mnemonics to help students memorize complex information. Maybe you hand out a study guide with suggestions for how to use it. Some teachers (I was one of these!) even build studying for a test into the curriculum, guiding students through the steps they need to prepare.

Yes! This is all good pedagogy!

Here’s the problem:

First, usually, we pick the strategies that worked well for us when we were students. But not all learners are going to rock the information just because they’re studying it in a way that worked for you.

Also, well-meaning educators often suggest strategies without explaining WHY these strategies tend to work. We assume that the strategy in and of itself is what will help the student study. But even the BEST strategies can fail if implemented in ways that ignore how the brain is built to learn. I know so many students who are bored to death by flashcards, but who use them anyway because they’ve been taught it is a successful learning strategy.

Many educators themselves don’t truly understand how learning happens in the brain. I sure didn’t, before I became an academic life coach. In our teacher education programs, we are taught strategies for engaging students, but we aren’t taught how this fits into a brain-based model for how learning happens.

When we teach strategies without teaching the underlying theory about why that strategy might work, we are creating kids’ dependence on the specific strategies. We are teaching them that the way to study is to throw a random strategy at the problem and hope you learn the information.

What should teachers, tutors, and academic coaches do instead? 

  • Quick Tip: When you hand students a new assignment, ask students to look it over and reflect: “What is the purpose of this activity? What am I supposed to learn?” and then “How does the design of this lesson help me learn this objective?”  The goal here is to help them start to distinguish between learning objectives and the strategies used to achieve that objective. 
  • Advanced Tip: Teach students the 3-Step Study Cycle. Once they understand each of the three steps, have them reflect about which step of the cycle they are in for each kind of assignment you offer. This tip might not make much sense now, but it will make more sense after you read the description of the 3-Step Study Cycle and watch the demo that I provide, both of which are available here for free.

Bad Habit #3 – We focus on “learning styles” as the way to discover how to study and learn effectively.

Many educators — myself included! — have espoused learning styles as an important factor in increasing student motivation and performance.

When I was a classroom teacher, I had students take learning inventories, and then I would use the results of this inventory to help individualize student learning. For example, I’d have students who tested as “visual learners” do history projects that were primarily visual; students who tested as “logical” thinkers could write an essay or create a chart filled with information.

When I was trained as an academic coach, I was taught to use these same inventories with my clients, and then apply the results to help the students maximize their learning.

In the last few years, however, I’ve stopped giving these inventories. I DO still believe that every person learns differently and that it is important for students to understand — and advocate for! — learning methods that reveal their strengths.

However, I’ve noticed that too much of an emphasis on learning styles makes students less inclined to learn in ways that are *not* their learning preferences. In recent years, brain science has backed up my observations, stating that the most effective learning strategies use all parts of the brain, regardless of whether the students has a specific preference for that strategy.

What should we teach instead?   

  • Quick Tip: Teach students that the brain needs to learn information in a multitude of different ways. If one method doesn’t seem to be helping them learn, then students should be flexible enough to choose a different learning strategy, even if it’s NOT their preference or dominant learning style. 
  • Advanced Tip: So that students understand the brain-based reasons why variety is important in learning, teach them the 3 Step Study Cycle (it only takes 5-minutes to teach, as you’ll see in this demo). Then brainstorm with them multiple strategies for studying the same content when they are on their own, using the Study Cycle as a guide.

Bad Habit #4 – We break learning down for students into bite-size chunks.

When I did my teacher training, I learned of the importance of breaking tasks down for students to help them be successful. I mastered the art of creating engaging, complex curricula for students, as well as how to break it into discrete, doable parts with clear instructions so that students wouldn’t get lost in all the details.
This is an important teaching skill! I don’t knock it, and I hope you continue to do it!

However, a side effect of this kind of teacher-intensive curricula is that it can accidentally foster dependence rather than independence in students.

Students depend on the instructions. They wait to be told what to do, for the adults to initiate action.
I can’t tell you how many of my clients have answered my question, “Why didn’t you take notes in class today?” with the, “My teacher didn’t tell me to.” Argh! I stifle my frustration at this answer with, “Your teacher shouldn’t have to tell you to take notes!! You should know what’s good for your own learning, and be able to take initiative on your own!”

The side effect of our willingness as educators to break learning into digestible parts is that the teens themselves don’t have to learn to do this for themselves. They’re off the hook and don’t need to understand how successful learning happens for them. Instead, they mindlessly follow (or resist) the teacher’s instructions, a habit that is not conducive to lifelong learning.

Even tutors foster passivity and dependence in students. I’ve had several students who’ve told me, “Oh, I don’t need to study for the Spanish test by myself; I’ll just do it with my tutor.”

When students rely on their tutors and teachers to guide their study process, they are abdicating responsibility for their own learning. So what should teachers and tutors do instead?

Here’s a quick tip you can apply immediately:

  • Quick Tip: After you teach a lesson, ask students to reflect on what they just learned and how they learned it. Ask them to notice the ultimate learning objective, and how you structured the learning to help them get there. Invite them to remember that when they are studying at home, they are in charge of designing their own learning process.*
  • Truly Highly Advanced Tip: Check out my list of 7 types of struggling students, including each student’s “study blind spot” and “study solution.” This will help you hone how you work with specific types of students to help them study more strategically, including which step of the Study Cycle each kind of student needs more practice with.

*You may notice that this tip is very similar to the one I made for Bad Habit #2. This is purposeful! It is helpful to ask students to seek out the learning objectives both (1) before they complete a worksheet or assignment and (2) after they have engaged in a learning activity. The more often you have them reflect about what kinds of learning strategies help them achieve what kinds of learning, the more self-sufficient they will become at being able to structure their own learning when they are at home studying.

Is It Really This Simple to Help Students Break Through Passivity and Become Strategic Learners?

Yes! In my experience, most students are eager to learn how to become more effective learners. However, adults make it seem so complex! When they are introduced to a simple, easy-to-understand model for how to learn strategically, they rise to the occasion.

That’s why I’m such a fan of the 3-Step Study Cycle. I teach it to all my clients now, and I’m watching them become creative, engaged, skillful learners as a result. In fact, just a week ago a college freshman who’d been getting C’s and D’s on most of his tests this semester, came to his session with his eyes beaming. Here’s a summary of our conversation:

Student: Guess what?! I got an A on the test!!!!!!!

Me: OMG! Seriously?! Wow!!! How’d you manage that?!

Student: I followed the study cycle. And I worked really hard to hone my notes*.  In the past, I could usually narrow the multiple choice answers down to two that seemed similar, but I never knew what the right answer was. This time I totally knew! It was clear to me because I’d taken the time to encode the stuff I didn’t know in new ways*.

I’m so proud of this young man for working so hard to understand how to study strategically and raise his grades. He clearly worked hard! In that respect, it’s not simple to become a strategic learner; it involves hard work!

However, it is simple to teach students how to study strategically. And in my experience, it all starts with a 5-minute conversation that I fondly call the 3-Step Study Cycle. I’m such a believer in this process I’ve discovered that I wrote up an instruction manual for how to teach it to students, and I’m giving it away for FREE:

Click here to download your FREE copy of The Art of Inspiring Students: How to “Trick” Struggling Learners Into Studying Harder, Learning More, and Raising Grades.

In this short instruction manual, you’ll receive:

  • suggestions for how to talk to students about the difference between homework and studying
  • an overview of the 3-Step Study Cycle, a brain-based model for effective and efficient learning
  • a video demonstration of how I teach the Study Cycle to students
  • 5 different sets of learning tools that help students apply The Study Cycle more effectively
  • the 7 types of struggling learners, and which study tools work best for which learners

Phew! That was a lot to take in! If you have questions or observations for me about any of these bad habits, please feel free to post below. I look forward to engaging with you.

Free ebook: The Art of Inspiring Students

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How To "Trick" Struggling Learners into Studying Harder, Learning More, and Raising Grades
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Easy Tips for Prepping for Finals Over the Holidays

Gretchen Wegner | Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Studying Tips | College | Finals | Holidays | Notes | Testing | Study Tools

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Thanksgiving is coming up soon, as are the winter holidays.

If you get started studying for finals now (or over the winter holidays, if your finals aren’t until the end of January), you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches later — plus, you’ll learn the information better! Today Gretchen shares:

  • How to put in more effort to studying without feeling like you’re working too hard
  • The importance of testing yourself using “spaced retrieval”, and a few simple ways to do this over the holidays
  • How to get yourself organized so you don’t waste time later finding important study tools
  • A crucial tip for how to use your notes so that you’re actually learning (rather than just faking it)
  • and more!

For more strategies about getting prepped for finals, check out Gretchen Wegner’s Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

Tune into the podcast by clicking here.

When Grades Are Low, Should Student Be Allowed to Continue Extracurricular Activities?

Megan | Gretchen Wegner | College Prep Podcast | Grades | Students | Activities | Grades

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Should parents take away student’s activities if their academic grades are not up to snuff?

Megan and Gretchen weigh in on this important question from a listener, about how to work with her middle school age daughter who loves to participate in a dance troupe, and who has made great strides in her difficulties with math but still continues to struggle.

Here’s the specific question from mom Alissa:

My husband and I are at odds about how to encourage our daughter to keep up the good work.  She’s a dancer and we told her last year that she could not audition for the dance company unless her math grade was a B and she had turned in all her work.  I was fine with that, but now since seeing her most recent test scores, he wants to make her continued participation contingent on her math grade.  I do not like that solution because it punishes not only her, but the other dancers.  I think she’s struggling with math and can use this year to figure out how to balance her life in the low risk environment of middle school. I also don’t want to set her up for such an epic punishment if she brings home a C or even a D.

Click here to listen to this free episode of the College Prep Podcast!

A Handy Tool for College Students to Start the Semester

I’m excited to share with you a handy tool for college students.

This was taught to me by a real live student (shout out to Harrison!). He is a sophomore in college and interned with me over the summer.
I LOVE this tool that he makes for himself, and I wanted to share it with you all — including a tweak or two that I’d make to it.

Check out the video, and then PLEASE forward it to any college students you know could benefit from this handy little one-page organizational tool.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

8 Tips for When to DIY vs. Hire an Academic Professional

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Should you hire a tutor, coach or consultant? Or should you DIY for just a little longer?

During this episode, Gretchen and Megan help you decipher when it makes sense to spend the big bucks and get professional help…and when you don’t need to!

Specifically, they discuss the following 5 types of academic experts that families often like to hire, who work outside the school systems:

  • Tutors
  • Standardized test prep professionals
  • College application consultants
  • Academic life coaches
  • Mental health professionals

In considering when it makes sense to hire out, and when it makes sense to DIY a little longer, Megan and Gretchen discussed these 8 questions families should ask themselves to decide:

  1. How important (e.g. life or death!) is the situation?
  2. What resources does the school already provide, and is it enough?
  3. Is this a topic for which there is limited time and chances in order to succeed?
  4. Are your home relationships deteriorating because you’ve been doing it yourself for too long?
  5. Will it be more convenient to work with this other person, and are you willing to pay for convenience?
  6. How motivated is the student who will be receiving the support?
  7. What are your family’s finances?
  8. Would you save more in the long run if you had a professional help you get started?

Got any questions or concerns on this topic, or any other? Want them addressed on our podcast (free coaching! yes!)? Please email us at collegepreppodcast.com and tell us all about it.

“This podcast was originally on www.collegepreppodcast.com

How to Read a 400 Page Book in Two Hours, Part 2/4

Reading is hard for students!!

Especially reading books that you don’t necessarily choose for yourself…and at an assigned pace that isn’t natural for you. So it’s important to have some tricks up your sleeve for how to read large quantities, ESPECIALLY if you are a college or grad student.

This week I discuss creating a roadmap for finding important information and main ideas in books. Once you understand the structure of how an Author writes, it is easier to dive in and start reading efficiently.

Watch to find out how!

Just to recap so far:

Tip 1. Pay attention to the table of contents
Tip 2. Pay attention to “where” the Author puts their main ideas.

Stay tuned for Part 3 in this four-part series next week.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

8 Tips for When to DIY vs. Hire an Academic Professional

8 Tips for When to DIY vs. Hire an Academic ProfessionalShould you hire a tutor, coach or consultant? Or should you DIY for just a little longer?

During this episode, Gretchen and Megan help you decipher when it makes sense to spend the big bucks and get professional help…and when you don’t need to!

Specifically, they discuss the following 5 types of academic experts that families often like to hire, who work outside the school systems:

  • Tutors
  • Standardized test prep professionals
  • College application consultants
  • Academic life coaches
  • Mental health professionals

In considering when it makes sense to hire out, and when it makes sense to DIY a little longer, Megan and Gretchen discussed these 8 questions families should ask themselves to decide:

  1. How important (e.g. life or death!) is the situation?
  2. What resources does the school already provide, and is it enough?
  3. Is this a topic for which there is limited time and chances in order to succeed?
  4. Are your home relationships deteriorating because you’ve been doing it yourself for too long?
  5. Will it be more convenient to work with this other person, and are you willing to pay for convenience?
  6. How motivated is the student who will be receiving the support?
  7. What are your family’s finances?
  8. Would you save more in the long run if you had a professional help you get started?

Got any questions or concerns on this topic, or any other? Want them addressed on our podcast (free coaching! yes!)? Please email us at collegepreppodcast [at] gmail [dot] com and tell us all about it.

“This podcast originally ran on www.collegepreppodcast.com

How to Read a 400 Page Book in under Two Hours, Part 1/4

What if I told you it was possible to read a 400-page book in under two hours?

You wouldn’t believe me, right?

This summer I had a stack of books I wanted to catch up on, but I only had limited time. So I challenged myself to skim each of the books as quickly as possible.

In this week’s video, I walk you through the first step in how to read efficiently and effectively. You don’t have to read every word in order to walk away with the main idea, after all! Enjoy.


Stay tuned for Part 2 in this four-part series next week.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

Tips to Wrap Up the Summer without Stress

Tips to wrap up the summer without stressThe beginning of the school year is always crazy and stressful for families.

But if you follow these tips for wrapping up the summer, you’ll save yourself some stress later on.

It’s an investment of time that’s well worth it. 

Here’s the basic checklist:

  • Update your resume
  • Get basic school supplies before stores run out
  • Finish the summer assignments
  • Make appointments to talk to people from school
  • Put all the dates from the school’s calendar into YOUR calendar
  • send thank you’s to anyone who helped you
  • Ask for recommendation letters
  • Attend orientation
  • Write goals for the year

Now listen in so that you can hear Megan and Gretchen’s commentary about each one!

Why Teens Should Stop Being Afraid of Librarians

Why are so many students hesitant to talk to Librarians?

Have you (or a teen you know) ever had a burning research question but been afraid to talk to a librarian? So many of my clients would prefer to spend hours alone googling for resources than spend 20 minutes with a knowledgeable librarian.

However, librarians are there to help and they love to answer questions. Research is definitely in their wheelhouse!  In this video, I share a few fun and creative ideas for helping students overcome their reluctance to ask for help. Getting past this minor roadblock will definitely benefit students in the future when more complicated research is needed for lengthy high school and college essays.

Would you like to learn more great tips like this? My online course The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying is filled with 30+ tools for rocking school…and is perfect for teens, parents, or educators.

Why Your Disadvantages May Be Your Biggest Asset

Why Disadvantages might be a big asset in college admissions

Would you rather be the smartest person in an average school or the middle student at the smartest school?

Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath has a wealth of wisdom about how to approach college admissions sanely.

Megan shares key insights from reading this book and turns them into an interesting list of tips for families about how to choose the right college for you. Specifically, she and Gretchen talk about:

  • the need for legitimacy and why that’s a good thing
  • research that shows why dyslexic students may be better of in some regards than neuro-typical students
  • how to support kids who encounter challenges without breaking their spirits
  • why, in the college admissions process, it isn’t always better to choose “more”

If You Want to Be A Better Writer, Improve This First!

Does your poor typing slow you down when writing essays?

During client sessions, I often have an opportunity to watch my clients type. They often make so many mistakes that they are constantly deleting what they typed…and rarely can their bumbling fingers keep up with their brilliant minds.

Poor typing skills are not only frustrating but it is also stifling to creativity and the natural thought process. In this video, I discuss the possible reasons you or a student you know may be having difficulty as a writer. There are many resources out there to help sharpen your typing abilities, speed, and accuracy. I love to hear success stories. Leave them in the comments section above!

With the school year suddenly looming, now is the perfect time to get yourself some more tools to rock your grades this year. Click here to check out my favorites! 

Four Awesome Apps to Learn To Use This Summer

Do you have trouble keeping track of all of your To Do Lists and School Projects?

There are so many awesome apps out there to help you manage your time. Since it is summer, this is a perfect opportunity to discover and play with new time management applications.

In this video, I discuss a flashcard tool “Anki”, newly improved “Habitica”,  alert app “Way of Life” and organizational tool, “ToDoist”.

Would you like more creative solutions to time management and study woes? Check out my online course the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying. It’s great for grown-ups and teens alike.

How to Have Meaningful College Visits in the Summer

How to Have Meaningful College Visits in the SummerJust because it’s summer and students aren’t on campus doesn’t mean that you can’t have a rich, meaningful college visit.

In fact, summer is one of the most practical times for families to visit colleges around the country, as a part of their summer vacations.

So, how do you make sure that you glean as much information as possible when you’re walking around a campus that’s not humming with students?

In this episode Megan and Gretchen break down the following:

  • the four biggest benefits of visiting colleges during the summer (as opposed to the school year)
  • surprising questions that people often don’t think to ask, that can help you find out whether this is the school for you, and
  • some examples from a recent summer visit Megan took to Texas Women’s University to help amplify her points.

Here’s An Easy Fix to a Teen Calendaring Problem

Time management and organization are vital pieces for successful study habits and grades.

All too often, students do not have their cell phones or calendars attached to their laptops. In this video, I offer a simple way to connect and see the “big picture” of what needs to be done each week.

I am hoping everyone can benefit from this helpful tip!

For more helpful time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

What Hot Dates and Homework Have In Common

Prior to today’s coaching session, I had no idea that hot dates and homework have ANYTHING to do with each other. Turns out that they do, quite a bit.

Meet Ulysses: a high school freshman who is charismatic, thoughtful, and funny. He’s been struggling with a constant stream of zeroes in his classes.

He’s often loopy during our Skype sessions, which occur when he’s exhausted after Lacrosse practice. As a result, we often veer off into crazy tangents, though lately I have grown to trust the wisdom in our seemingly random deviations.

Today there was another zero in the online grade book. Sigh. A Spanish assignment this time. According to Ulysses, he had done his homework, albeit incorrectly, and thankfully his teacher would allow him to resubmit it.

I suspected a deeper learning issue and inquired further. It became clear that Ulysses had completed this homework assignment in class while everyone else was watching a video. Aha!

Wanting to be diplomatic, I observed: “There was something good about you choosing to do the homework in class, and also something problematic. Can you guess what was what?”

“Yeah, I was being proactive about getting my homework done. That was the good part,” he said and I agreed.

“The problematic part was that I was not paying attention, and I didn’t read the instructions correctly.” True, yes, although I wanted him to think more deeply about how his learning was impacted by his choice to multi-task.

Suddenly, a strange analogy popped to mind. At first, I didn’t trust it, but Ulysses cajoled with a twinkle in his eye, “Just say it, Gretchen. Just say it!”

Encouraged, I asked, “What if this homework assignment was actually a cute girl you were taking out on a date?”

Ulysses took the analogy and ran with it. “I get it! I rushed the date, not paying any attention to her, trying to get it over with as fast as possible. Instead, I should have taken her to a nice dinner, bought her flowers, asked lots of questions, and really gotten to know her.”

“Yes! So, what does all this have to do with your Spanish homework?”

It took some back-and-forth, but Ulysses finally understood that he had not been respecting his own learning. He was doing his homework just to get it done, without any attention to using the assignment as a legitimate learning tool. As it turns out, he really struggles with Spanish. He’s not going to learn it well unless he slows down and commits to being in an active, intimate relationship with his own learning.

Practically speaking, what does it look like to be in active, intimate relationship with one’s own learning?

(And this is where I’m afraid I must leave the analogy of dating, lest I extend the metaphor way too far).

1. Read the instructions to fully understand what is being asked.

2. Take a moment to reflect: Does this assignment teach me something new? Or is it asking me to practice something to which I have already been introduced? How much do I already know? What needs more practice?

3. Complete the assignment. Notice what tasks come easily, and what don’t. Take extra time with the ones that don’t.

4. After completing the assignment, reflect: What do I know now that I didn’t know a moment ago? What have I not yet mastered?

5. If there is anything that needs more mastery, make a plan. Will you ask the teacher for help? Go to peer tutoring? Consult the textbook?

OK. So maybe doing your homework isn’t quite as exciting as a hot date.

However, the skills you can practice while doing your homework mindfully — noticing the details, being curious, asking good questions, paying close attention to what is (and is not) working, adjusting accordingly, and being clear about next steps — are pretty sexy. And might just earn you another date!

What is/was your relationship with homework or other work like? How can you treat your work more like a hot date? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. Do you know students who could afford to treat their homework more like a hot date? Be sure to forward this article to them!

Photo Credit: Image by Kevin Dooley under Creative Commons license.