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?
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”.
Are you the kind of student who does OK at school? Parents and teachers sometimes nudge you, telling you that you’re not quite living up to your potential because your grades could be even higher than the B’s they are now?
I have a client like that who was tired of feeling that he could probably perform even better at school if he were only more motivated. We worked together for a quick eight sessions — and then he took his final exams. Voila! What he told me amazed me, and shows that just a few skills can make some major changes in a student’s self-esteem. Watch the video, where I tell you the full story of this client and what he discovered.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? Don’t worry I’ve got your back, here’s a summary:
I’ve been trying a little experiment that I want to tell you all about. I have a few clients who may have a learning disability of some sort but are extremely high functioning. They average decent grades, typically B’s but A’s as well sometimes. The reason they come to me, especially the client I am focusing on in this video, is that he and his family felt that he wasn’t living up to his potential in school. He said that he didn’t feel motivated to put in a lot of effort and that he felt he could be more motivated, but he wasn’t sure how to get there. So what him, his family, and I decided to do was to run him through The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying in only eight sessions, just to get him setup with the time management, organization, and studying skills he needed to be able to really give school his all.
At the time I recorded this video I’d just heard back from him, and for reference, he’s a junior in high school, about his final exams. Now in the past, he’s always just coasted through school, as we talked about above, and that included his exams. However, exams have always caused him anxiety as he’s felt he should be doing more but wasn’t sure exactly what to be doing to prepare for them, and lacking the motivation to do anything. This year, on the contrary, he said he went in feeling like he was ready and that he knew what he was doing. His confidence was a LOT higher this year around, now that he had the skills he needed to really put forth his best effort. And while his grades have only had minor improvements from the short time we’ve worked together, he told me,
And that’s the important thing here. His confidence and self-esteem as a student have skyrocketed. With just a few short sessions and a handful of tools and skills he’s gone from “doing okay but having low self-esteem” to “doing okay with high self-esteem.” That’s what we, as teachers and parents, want for the children we love, to see them feel good about the hard work they put in.
Attending a National College Fair with your high school student? We recently heard from a listener who had some questions about how to make the most of her National College Fair visit with her son. Here’s her email:
My son is attending a National College Fair coming up in mid-March. Do you have any strategies or ideas for best practices when attending a fair like this? There will be over 180 different colleges there from all over the country, so any suggestions on how to maximize time would be great.
Also, we have never attended a fair of this size before — can you give some suggestions for the role of a parent (hang back, listen, stay at the coffee shop?) and also some etiquette/protocol suggestions for the student. For example, how much time should they spend with a college booth, are their ways to be memorable for a student with a recruiter, if it’s a college they really love, should there be additional strategies to employ and should we leave anything with a recruiter like a resume or business card or is that too much?
Hey there, do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do at school? Does it feel impossible to do it all alone?
This is a video I made last summer, but it’s just as relevant as ever. I’ve seen TOO MANY of my clients buckle under the stress of thinking they have to do school by themselves. That your work doesn’t count unless you accomplish it all by yourself.
This is a destructive myth! And it’s unrealistic, too. Watch the video to hear more.
Hey there, don’t have time to watch the whole video? Don’t worry; I’ve got your back, here’s a summary.
One of the biggest and most DESTRUCTIVE myths in our education system is that people must do everything themselves. I have a friend and client who’s a grad student, and she’s doing a presentation on some research she did in a recent class. We were talking, and she said, “I’ve been discouraged, though, (she was sick the previous week) since I fell so far behind, but this morning I met with a profession on campus who gave me lots of great ideas and feedback I want to incorporate. […] I get overwhelmed at how to incorporate and communicate all my ideas. […] I’m glad this woman was a resource that I could use, though. Basically, I can’t write these alone, which is kind of discouraging, but good to know.”
She was feeling discouraged that she couldn’t do it alone, but that’s the myth. Think about this: Professors have their undergrads helping them, researchers have their teams, and authors have editors. If the professionals have assistance, why should students feel they must work alone? As I told her, you don’t have to. Don’t fall prey to this destructive myth. You can always ask your professors, or teachers, or parents, or friends for some help. You can revel in the community, and enjoy the help and insight of a team of people rooting for you as the spokesperson for your ideas.
All too often, the teens with whom I meet tell me, “Oh, I don’t have much to do. I can remember it all in my head.”
Sometimes that’s true! But more often, we discover that they DON’T have their “to do list” as down as they think they do.
In this video, I share a story about a client who recently gave me this line, how I handled it, and what he discovered in the process!
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a summary:
With the start of the new semester, a client I’ve been working with a couple of years now was telling me how he was sure that this year he didn’t need to get any time management systems going again this year. So I shared some brain facts I have in my Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying and then I asked him, given the facts I shared and how the working memory needs things to be as clean and clear as possible if he’d be up for just practicing a planner to make time visible. So we devised a time tracking sheet that worked for him.
After we created this blank chart, which we called the week sheet, he looked up everything he needed to do and what he needed to take care. After a little bit and it was all mapped out, some of which he needed to my help to be reminded of – mainly the major due dates for the future – I asked him, “How does it feel now that we’ve put all of this out there?”
His response, I felt, was absolutely amazing. He said, “Before it felt fine, but now it feels better. I couldn’t actually tell how much anxiety I was feeling before, but now that we have it all mapped out in that chart, I don’t have to struggle to remember anything anymore and I didn’t realize that was causing me anxiety, but now that I feel better I realize it was.” I thought that was so smart of him, as a junior in high school, to be able to articulate that kind of understanding of his experience.
Do you ever get a good idea about something you want to do in the future? But you don’t act on it right away, and soon enough you forget the idea… and nothing ever happens?
Recently, I was working with a client who had a very good idea about how to make sure he studies well for his next test! Check out the video to find out how he almost sabotaged his good idea… until I made sure he did one little thing that prompted him to follow through.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? Don’t worry; I’ve got your back, here’s a summary:
Recently I was working with my client, preparing his study plans for his final exams. He had the idea to study with his friend, which I thought was a wonderful idea. So I asked him, “when are you going to study with her?”, to which he replied, “Oh I don’t know, but I’ll study with her.” He was procrastinating, so I suggest he send her an invitation to study right now. He laughed and agreed, saying, “you got me if I do it now I’m more likely to follow through.” This is a perfect example of how the “team” part of my “Tools, Team, Routine” triangle I teach in the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.
The “team” part of “Tools, Team, & Routine” is not just him studying with his classmate, but also utilizing me as a source to make sure he doesn’t procrastinate contacting his classmate and setting up the time to study. It’s usually other people’s presence that helps us take action on difficult tasks. I know this is true for me, as I always save my hardest tasks for when I’m working with co-workers. It’s a great help to have someone there to help us not procrastinate.
Do you ever experience huge roadblocks that make it impossible for you to finish a big project you started?
Recently, I had a client who was working on his first major research project ever. As often happens with students who struggle with executive functioning, there was a supposedly simple task in the research process that seemed insurmountable to him.
In this video, I walk you through how I helped this teen move through his roadblock.
Don’t have time for the whole video? I have your back, here’s a short summary:
It’s so common when working on a large project to hit a roadblock, some task in the project that simply seems insurmountable. So we tend to procrastinate, which is exactly what my client was doing, procrastinating.
The client I was talking to recently, a 9th grader, was working on his first massive research project and what might seem like a very simple task, had become a roadblock for him. He was stuck on the task of transferring his notes into his main rough draft. He knew how to do it, but in his mind, it just seemed like too much, he was suffering from cognitive overwhelm. Not only was he stressing about the task, he was also procrastinating which was just making things worse.
The solution for this is actually pretty simple. With my client I just sat with him while he copied and pasted, over and over, from his notes to his rough draft, acting as a force to help him do what he knew had to be done, but couldn’t seem to force himself to do. Whenever you run into a roadblock, it’s often best to simply ask someone you know, reach out, and have them help you push through the roadblock.
Junior year it’s time to start compiling your list of colleges.
However, how can you tell if your grades are high enough to be considered by the schools on your list?
Megan introduces us to a cool online tool that provides a host of valuable information about what schools you qualify for and why. During this episode, she walks us through this corner of the College Board’s website, showing you how to use their data to build your college list, including:
Class Rank of Admitted Students
SAT / ACT of Admitted Students
(nice to know) What that school finds important in evaluating applications.
Your goal in using this website is to have an honest, fact-based idea about the admissions process at each school, as well as to build a list of colleges that will result in multiple admissions and allow you some choice about where you want to go.
Recently, a client’s teacher emailed me to say that in his physics class, this teen seems glassy-eyed and has trouble focusing. When I checked in with my client, a high school senior, he reported that indeed — he has trouble keeping his eyes open in that class. Low energy!
We talked it over and realized that the problem is probably what he’s eating for breakfast! Check out what we discovered — and how he fixed the problem.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. Here’s a summary:
This past week I had a discussion with a student, that I’ve never had before, and it just cracked me up. My client’s teacher had emailed me that he was like a zombie in class, he just didn’t seem to be paying attention. So when we had our weekly coaching session, I talked to him about it, and he did realize that he was just super tired by the second period. During the first period he felt fine, but by the second he had low energy. My first thought was, well what is he having for breakfast. As is pretty common, he was eating cereal, and I went, “AHA!”
Cereal, whether sugary or not, often leads to sugar crashes, so I told him he needed to get some healthy snacks. This led to a discussion on grocery shopping, as he said his parents weren’t buying him any. As I told him, he’s 17 years old, he can go grocery shopping, he doesn’t need to be relying on his parents for his groceries!
I realized that there are 4 key things students, especially high-schoolers, need to be aware of. They need to pay attention and be aware of when and why their energy is low. It’s often because of what they are eating, and usually not because the teacher is just too boring. With that in mind, they need to be keeping track of their nutrition, which means going grocery shopping for themselves when they need certain things!
It’s every parent’s dilemma — how involved is TOO involved to be in your child’s education?
On the one hand, you want them to be self-sufficient, and a self-motivated learner. On the other hand, you also want them to be college ready, and are scared that — left to their own devices — they won’t progress fast enough to be college-ready.
Megan and Gretchen discuss elementary, middle, and high school parenting, and share a list of guidelines for how to support your student while still nurturing their self-sufficiency. Included in the conversation:
when should parents intervene with teachers and the school, and when should they let students figure it out themselves
how to support students with homework
when do you let students solve problems for themselves, and when do you solve them for them,
Gretchen also shares some wisdom from the book How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims.
Got any questions or comments about how to apply anything we said in this episode to your situation? Please email us! We love addressing your questions on the podcast (free coaching for you! yes!). Find us at firstname.lastname@example.org.