How to Earn the Highest Grades You Can
Want to improve your grades? Join our CollegeAdvisor.com expert Maria Acosta-Robayo as she presents “How to Earn the Highest Grades You Can.” Maria will share her insider knowledge on how to excel in high school and earn the highest grades you can. This webinar will be a 30-minute presentation followed by a 30-minute live Q&A. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-07-24 – How to Earn the Highest Grades You Can
Hi everyone. And welcome to this evening’s webinar. My name is Anesha Grant. I am a Senior Advisor at CollegeAdvisor, and I am your moderator today. Welcome to tonight’s webinar, How to Earn the Highest Grades You Can, in order to be competitive for college. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation for about 30 minutes by our great panelist, and then we’ll answer your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar. You can download our slides for tonight’s presentation and you can start submitting questions on the Q&A tab at any time during the session.
Welcome. And now let’s meet our amazing panelist, Maria. Hi everyone. My name is Maria Acosta Robayo, and I was a Harvard grad class of ’20 where I studied sociology and global health policy and where I was a pre-med student. Um, I currently work full time as a government consultant in DC, but I’m also a Senior Advisor at CollegeAdvisor. Um, and it’s really great to be here with y’all today. So thanks so much.
Welcome Maria. But before we get started, we wanna actually know how old is everybody in the room or what grade level you all are in. So I’m gonna take a really quick poll, um, and ask you all to let us know what grade are you in? Eighth grade, ninth grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, 12th grade. Or if you are a parent that is also fine. Um, so as we are waiting, Maria, I wanted to ask you a question, getting in the academic mindset. What for you was maybe the most challenging class when you were in high school.
Yeah, sure thing. So when I was in high school, probably my most challenging class, uh, was physics. I don’t know about you all, but I didn’t have physics until about my junior year. And so I, um, it was the first time seeing a lot of concepts that I didn’t really, I hadn’t seen before. Maybe like there was some math, some calculus, but it was a very different way of thinking.
And, um, I think with a lot of other, um, like bios and chems, the workload was a lot and see, I think it was really hard to study for that. Um, I don’t know if y’all can resonate with that. Um, but if we have others who’ve taken physics in the past, especially if you’re taking some of the honors or AP’s, it could just be a lot of workload.
So that was probably the most difficult for me in high school. Awesome. Thanks for sharing. Um, and a lot of folks about, uh, 50%, almost 40% of the folks are in, um, 11th grade. So they might be a few physics folks, um, with us, uh, for this year, I will say chemistry was mine. Keep it on the science chemistry really threw me for a loop in, um, high school.
But yeah. Thank you for that. Thanks for letting us know a grade level you are in, we are mostly talking to 10th and 11th graders for this evening, Maria. I’ll hold you. I’ll turn it back over to you to move forward with our presentation. Sure thing. Thank you. Great. So, um, the first question we’re gonna be talking a little bit about today is, um, which students keep in mind, um, as they’re, um, I’m sorry.
I think there’s, um, there its um, as they’re entering high school, um, so there’s a lot of things that you were gonna have to balance when you enter high school, you know, in middle school you might have had a lot of really hard classes. Um, and so. As you’re entering high school, you’re starting to also have your academic classes, might be getting a little bit more rigorous.
You’re also maybe entering a lot of extracurriculars, um, that, uh, maybe require more leader leadership. Um, if you’re an athlete you might be thinking about, you know, do I wanna do recruiting? If you’re a musician, they might be some competitions that, um, you are now eligible for. So as you’re entering like a new season of your academic career, um, there’s usually a lot more of work hours that you have to put.
Um, you’re also all of a sudden introduced to the concept of college as something that you actually have to apply to. And it just becomes a lot more real what the steps to do that are, um, maybe you are increasing your extracurriculars, maybe you’re taking harder classes or maybe taking classes at a community college, lots of different factors that you might be having as you’re entering high school that you might not have thought about in middle school.
Um, and also there’s with all of that. You’re also balancing, um, how to continue having a good like study life balance or like work life balance, um, where you also still have friends and family that you care about loved ones that you wanna also invest in continuing relationship with. Um, and so balancing all of that together, um, again, increasing that level of rigor or the amount of things that you do on both a high school level and, uh, or sorry on an academic extracurricular and social level can be really difficult.
Um, So what factors can actually make it difficult to get strong grades? Um, so we just talked about all the different, um, factors that you have to think about when you’re going into high school. So how do you continue getting, um, good grades? You should watch out for some of these factors that can deter you from that.
Um, and I pretty much split these up two things that you might be overcommitting or under committing. Um, so if you’re overcommitting to things, um, you might be having more stress. So as I talked about, um, you might be having more classes, the level of rigor might be more difficult. And as you’re making your choice selection, if you’re having all incredibly rigorous classes, maybe all AP’s, all honors, or you just scale up too quickly and you’re overcommitting to that your stress level might increase and that’s gonna affect not just the way that you perform in classes, uh, but also the way that you interact with others, how you’re able to invest in extracurriculars, but ultimately could really impact how you’re able to study for school and therefore will affect your.
um, it could also, um, another factor is like a lack of passion or interest. Um, again, as you are kind of exposed to more options, there might be, you might feel pressure to just choose what seems best or the most, like, you know, the best on paper, um, and not necessarily something that matches your passions or interest.
And if you’re not interested in a class, if you’re not passionate about it, it can be harder to study for and to, um, even like a really like easy scenarios. Like if you’re really passionate about like writing and literature, that’s gonna come out specifically, like in the way you write your essays in the way that you, um, that you like actually deliver what those thoughts that are in your mind.
And so, um, things that you’re more passionate about, like that will show in the product that you do then maybe on like the stem side, the amount of hours you would devote to something that you really enjoy and the amount of hours that you would devote to studying for that, um, will definitely impact how well you do on an exam or on a test.
Um, And if you, again, if you’re over committee, then you might not have time to Excel at what you do. And that will again, um, influence whether you’re able to get strong grades and then there’s under committee. So you also might not be able to get strong grades if you’re not really valuing the time that you need to study or do the work.
If you’re not taking seriously how much you might need to study for an exam or how much work goes into doing some homework and you’re under committing in that way, it will also affect the quality of your grades. Um, and also, um, that comment was more about like, you know, in the moment as you’re studying for something, you know, not devoting the value, um, and the time for that.
But there’s actually a step before that, which is having the foresight to think about, okay, what are your goals for this class? What do you wanna achieve other than just good grades, sometimes having those higher level goals of like, what do you wanna learn? What do you wanna maybe be able to teach somebody the following year, but that you wanna get a really good grasp on if you have kind of those higher level goals, it will also trickle down to your grades because.
If you’re able to decide, okay, I really want to learn for myself. Um, so I can grow an understanding of the subject. It’s gonna give you a higher, like, vision for why you’re in that class for how you do your assignments, how you pay attention in class. And that secondarily will also trickle into how well you do in your grades.
Um, and then also having an actual plan to achieve those goals. So if you’re able to, again, step back, um, think about what your goals are and how you’re gonna achieve them. You can use different tools that I’m gonna talk about, um, later on about, you know, having the calendar, having some actual, you know, things to steps to achieve those goals that are gonna be really helpful in, uh, in, um, creating that path going.
Um, so what are the most important things to do in order to actually get those strong grades? Um, and so, as I mentioned before, having a plan, it’s gonna be really big. Um, we started out the first slide with talking about how much you have to balance. And, you know, sometimes you get in the weeds of how do we actually balance that, you know, am I gonna spend time doing X or Z?
And then you’re just in that moment. But if you take a step back to plan ahead and to maybe, you know, organize, if you have a tournament, a competition, maybe the same week as a test or an exam, if you are forward looking, you can also plan for how to navigate those really tight spaces. You can use a calendar app to highlight key deadlines.
You could also use, um, if you like paper better, you could use a planner. Um, you could create blocks for extracurricular activities and again, afford yourself time to study sometimes. Um, the biggest things on our minds are like, when are tests, when do I have to do this homework? Um, but giving yourself time to actually, you know, review material, to read more about a specific subject to ask teachers for help, um, can be really helpful.
And then also balancing that out with like, when do you have extracurriculars and train for those or practice or when do you wanna have family time? When, if someone’s birthday, like things like that, that you can plan ahead on will be really helpful. Um, also thinking really realistically about your workload and your schedule.
Again, you’re, as you’re entering high school, you’re kind of bombarded with all these different activities, different classes, um, lots of options and lots of decisions that you have to make. So being able to, you know, sit down, think about how much time do you have available, how much, uh, time and effort is asserting class or extracurricular gonna require.
Um, and I think the main question that I always ask myself and I think is helpful for students to, to really sit down with, is, are you able to give your best in what you signed up for? And that’s gonna be more valuable than like the quantity of classes that you take. It’s gonna be, can you actually like, get what you really want from that class?
Are you gonna be able to learn a lot from it and devote the time and energy that it takes to not just learn, but to also perform really well. Um, and that workload might vary from class to class, uh, and symptoms working with your advisor or with a college, um, with a school counselor about what your, what your classes are, can really be helpful to set you up for success in those, um, when we’re thinking about getting strong grades, um, and then I mentioned this a little bit earlier or in the previous slide, but having goals and working hard to meet.
So thinking very critically about, you know, there might be some extracurriculars or social time that you might have to sacrifice in order to get good grades. Um, and that’s just kind of a reality of the difference between getting an A or a B um, a, B or a C. It really depends on how much time you put into it.
Obviously, like there’s some classes that might be much harder to study for, or you might need more time to study for things. Um, things happen in life where you might not be able to plan for everything and to really put all the work that you need, because, you know, an emergency can come up. But having the default of being able to say, you know, if I have a big social event, the same, the weekend before a couple really big tests, there might be a need to actually sacrifice those events and not go to them for the sake of being able to do well.
And so it’s always, um, a conversation that you have with yourself. Are you able to devote the time? Are you able to curve out time before those social activities to be able to do both well? Um, but oftentimes what’s upgrade strong grades from not so strong grades is how much time you devote to studying, um, that might take sacrificing, uh, time that you do for other things.
Um, and that might include, you know, investing in going to see teachers during office hours or asking for help. And I just mentioned that because sometimes it’s high in high school, it’s just like, you know, you go into class, you learn what you need to learn, and then you take your test or you do whatever.
But, um, a lot of times high school students dunno that they could ask their teachers for extra time. Sometimes teachers have office hours where they’ll, um, they’ll sit down and maybe work through a problem that you’ve been having trouble with. You can email your teachers. Um, teachers are often looking for students who are really interested in their subjects and want to learn more.
And so reaching out to teachers when you’re having a hard time and using that time to really, um, It could be the difference between really understanding a type of problem that can get you a better grade and, um, just kinda learning what everybody else is in class. But again, risking, maybe not getting that extra question that you could have gotten, if you had just taken the time to think more critically about what are the things you don’t understand about the subject and investing the time in reaching out to the teacher and asking them about it.
Um, and then, you know, sometimes like all these things are ideal. Uh, they’re things that we say in a vacuum, but again, things happen. Um, it’s really difficult to start high school and all of a sudden get bombarded with all those different new factors that we talked about in the first slide, you know, academic rigor, quantity of classes, extracurricular social life.
Um, so what happens when you know those ideal things aren’t meant and you might be struggling. The first thing I usually say is to reach out, reach out to teachers, to your counselor. Um, sometimes it feels like you’re really struggling. And if we get in the mindset of like, I’m doing badly, I’m struggling, you compare yourself with others.
You can really get in like a rapid hole of, you know, speaking all these things over yourself and it becomes a much bigger deal than it is. So sometimes having other people to walk alongside you can be a really big benefit. They can not only help to give you a better perspective about where you really are, but actually give you some tangible advice.
So for example, if you’re struggling with a particular class reaching out to the teacher and actually asking her to help her or him to help you, um, walk through a particular problem that you, you might be experiencing. Can actually really impact your grades. It can impact your mental health. Um, it can really improve those things.
Um, also to a counselor, maybe you’re struggling at a more, um, macro level. Maybe it’s not just a particular class, but actually your schedule is just overwhelming. So what do you do if you recognize you, maybe you have too much of a load, but you’re halfway through the year and you can’t really just say, like, I don’t wanna take this class anymore.
Um, sometimes talking to a counselor, um, letting letting him or her know what’s going on, looping them into your situation. Can, again, one invite someone to walk alongside you. And that’s just a really comforting thing. And two, they can actually help to make a plan on how are you going to, you know, perform better.
They can talk to your teachers and at a more macro level, have an effect on, uh, the way that you perform in several of your. And then I would say, um, asking friends, family, and other students about their own struggles helps to make you feel less isolated and make you feel like less, like you’re the only one struggling through something.
And it, you could actually be helpful for you to learn what their strategies were, how they actually got out of that struggle. And so again, the, the big, main takeaway from this is it helps to have other people looped into your situation just to feel like you’re not alone. And to give you perspective and also on a more practical side, they can give you a lot of advice on how to move forward.
Um, and how to think about that struggle. Um, and so how can students balance getting good grades, um, with a, uh, with taking challenging classes? So, like I mentioned, sometimes, um, in high school you’re offered these challenging classes. It might be honors classes, AP classes. It might just be a class you’ve never taken before.
Like for me it was physics and I have never seen it before. Um, so how do you actually balance getting good grades when the rigor of those classes increase? Um, so I would say think critically about whether you can give your all in any given workload. So as you’re, again, trying to think about which classes to take, how to improve your grades, um, have that conversation with yourself and it, or vary from person to person.
Um, but you can, before choosing those classes, do a couple things like ask students who have taken the class about the workload and the time commitment that it takes. Sometimes we have an idea about, you know, this class is gonna be really easy. It’s gonna be the buffer class in my schedule. and maybe you don’t know, there’s maybe a really hard teacher that teaches it.
Maybe there’s a lot of projects that require you, you know, interviewing people or like doing something outside of the norm that you haven’t done. It’s helpful to just in advance, have a good perspective on what you’re getting yourself into. And often the best ways is asking students who’ve taken it before.
You could also ask your counselor about those classes and ask them to review your course selection. They often have, again, more of that review of what you could be taking. Sometimes it’s just really hard to have a good selection when you don’t know what’s fully available. Counselors often have, um, experience, you know, helping other students have had, have seen those workloads before.
And so can have a more, um, more, more of an understanding about where, how you can choose the best classes. You can also talk to your CollegeAdvisor about your course selection. You know, we might not be at the same school as you, but it can help to have some of that institutional knowledge of like, we’ve seen a lot of students go through the process of selecting classes, how they were able to balance getting good grades and also taking challenging classes.
Um, and maybe you’re wondering, like, why should we even take challenging classes? Um, sometimes we just take challenging classes because it just seems like the right thing to do or what everybody else is doing. Um, before the purposes of college and applying to college one, um, it’s just a good characteristic to, or a character value to try to challenge yourself.
It’s good to know that, you know, there’s more things to learn and to feed that like, um, appetite for learning more. Um, so that’s just more of like a human level, but for college purposes, it also shows admissions, uh, officers that you’re willing to cha take on a challenge. So if you’re especially applying to a lot of like some of your reach schools, it might be really important to show like, Hey, like, You know, this school might have really rigorous, um, uh, classes, but I am prepared to meet the challenge because I am in a mindset of wanting to, uh, challenge myself, of wanting to learn new things that I might not have before.
And so you kind of need to show that through your history, in your classes. So, um, I just wanna take a moment before the answer or as we were answering, like how can you balance getting good grades with challenging classes? Just wanted to give you a reason for why it’s important to take challenging classes.
Um, and then you can, so coming back to how you can balance that it, you can also look at past syllabi. So sometimes school, uh, teachers at the beginning of the year will give you a syllabus with what you’re gonna learn that year. Um, kind of the books that you’re gonna use. It’s helpful to look through that, to see, you know, maybe all your classes have the final exam on the same exact.
That might be a red flag that, that might be really hard to take. Um, or it might give you a flag to know. Maybe I wanna talk to the teacher ahead of hand, show her my schedule and ask if you could take it before or later. Um, so again, that’s coming back to, it’s really important to be forward thinking. Um, and yeah, and that kind of touches on that last point of thinking ahead to your other time demands, thinking about what social demands extracurricular demands, um, and just personal demands you might have, and whether you’re able to study sufficiently for those challenging classes.
Awesome. Thank you. Um, so we’re gonna take a quick break just to do another poll for folks. Um, so let us know how far you are in the application process and it’s totally okay. If you haven’t started, we hope that some of this today’s conversation can help you get started or understand the best way to get started.
So as we’re waiting, um, Maria, I was wondering, what’s your favorite study food when you are studying before finals or just in crunch times you had a, did you have a favorite snack that you enjoyed? Yeah, so I actually really liked fruit smoothies. Um, so I grew up in Miami where it’s perpetually hot. Um, it is continuously summer throughout the year.
And I just remember like, as I was studying for something, maybe I still needed my hands to write, but I could always sip through a straw. And so my favorite study food was having a really good fruit smoothie and being able to sip it as I was reading or writing stuff. Nice you were, you were trying to multitask.
I usually took a break and have popcorn and M&M’s , um, cause I need to step away for, but um, I appreciate you, you ambition of the multitask that makes it be good typing. Um, thanks for everyone for taking a few moments. Uh, it looks like folks have begun researching schools, which I think is a good place for everyone to be at at this point, given that the majority of folks are 10 in 11th grade.
So again, no shade to those who have it started, you’re in a good place and, um, props to the folks who are just getting their application materials together. Um, but yeah. All right, well that was our full way back over to you, Maria, to keep going. Sounds good. Um, so the next question here on the, on our slides is, um, what new challenges can you can get in the way of academic success during sophomore, junior and senior year.
So we kind of touched base a little bit on this in the first slide. Um, but. Specifically for sophomore juniors and seniors. So in the latter end of your high school career, um, college prep is the first thing that comes to mind. You might have started to hear about like SAT’s ACT’s, um, your sophomore year, especially if your school offered the PSAT.
Um, but definitely your junior and senior year college prep is a big thing. Um, so that includes standardized tests. It includes essay writing, um, potentially passion projects or trainings, um, college visits, um, for students who are athletes that might mean recruiting. Um, so there’s lots of new things that come up on the college prep end.
Um, there also might be increasing academic rigor. And so that’s just something that we kind of covered before. Right? Greater quantity of classes, more levels of difficulty like AP’s are introduced. Um, In your extracurriculars, you also might be, uh, applying for leadership roles. Um, the commitment to which you have, the commitment you have towards that extracurricular might be increasing as well.
Um, even if you’re not a leader, it might just mean that as you’re more senior, you are also, um, just spending more time doing that. Um, and just more social activities, right? Like all of a sudden you have prom and junior prom, or you might have homecoming, um, you are maybe old enough to start driving. And so there’s all these other things that kind of step into your life that are new challenges to know how to balance and even how to approach.
um, and so what gets easier? Um, I just talked about all the things that are challenges, but what actually gets easier about high school in those later years. Um, and one it’s just more practice. Um, freshman year is usually a bit of a shock. Um, you’re encountering all these things for the first time.
They’re all challenges and they’re all things that you need to balance, but by sophomore year, you know, you kind of know who to talk to. If you need to change your schedule, you know, your halls, you know, your people, um, you maybe already are acquainted with some time management tools or strategies, whether you know it or not, you know, maybe some of you are using your Google calendar, a planner by then, but maybe you’re just like, okay, I kind of know how to do this on my own.
Um, so just more practice that comes along with being in high school longer. There’s also just an increased maturity that comes with being a year older, um, to balance some of those time demands and to balance uh, to kind of understand those individual challenges. You know, maybe you’re more mature to think about how to deal with different social problems or different social issues happening around in the world that might have affected the way that you study, the time that you take to take, to study for your classes.
Um, you might have increased maturity about how to think about, um, even issues that happen between friends or ways to think about how to study and how to think about being a student while also being, you know, a person in your family, like a, a, a family member, a daughter, a son, brother, sister, just all these different kind of identities that come up as you get older, you kind of have a way of separating them or actually using them to influence, um, the way that you think about studying and the classes that you might wanna take are things that you wanna learn.
You also have a better grasp on just get navigating high school. Um, I kind of touched about this a little bit earlier, but you kind of know your halls, you know, some of your friends, you might know some of the social events that are coming up and how to balance that with your classes. Um, and you also probably have, um, as each year goes by better relationships with school.
Let’s just say school staff, not school stuff. Um, but school staff who can support you. So you might already know your college counselor a little bit better, or, sorry, your, yeah. Your college counselor in high school a little bit better. You might know some of your teachers better, um, just admin or your registrar.
Um, you might also just know, um, people who can write letters of recommendation for you, just people who are gonna be able to support you through your college application process as well as. in your, you know, high school career in your high school classes. Um, so now turning a little bit more to tell you a bit about my experience.
So for me, what was exciting and satisfying about my academic journey, um, was, uh, I actually changed high schools to a dual enrollment program. And in the dual enrollment program, I was able to, the campus was actually at like a local college. And so, um, as the high schooler, I was able to like step in the shoes of someone who was actually going there for college and walk those halls, get to see some of the, the sports games, take classes with some, with the professors there.
And so it was really fun and interesting to take a different type of class. Um, you know, sometimes in high school we have, you know, math one or math two, and you have algebra and calculus, but some of these were. You know, math for computer science, or maybe, you know, I wanted to take a class about nutrition.
Sometimes that’s not offered in high schools, but college gives you a wider breadth of, uh, course topics. And so that was really exciting for me. Um, I also got a chance to try new activities. Um, in middle school, we didn’t really have the budget or the facilities to, um, play some of these sports, but in high school I got a chance to join the cross country team.
And I tried out water polo and it made me realize that I really wanted sports to be a bigger part of my college experience than I thought. Um, it was also really cool to go to like, um, conferences, like I was part of HOSA, um, which is, um, A club. A lot of pre-meds are part of it’s for people who are interested in a health occupation.
And it was really cool to get a chance to travel with friends and go to some of these competitions. And oftentimes that comes with being in high school, oftentimes in middle school. Um, some of you might have been exposed to that, but usually high schools might have a bigger budget or just you’re old enough to go to some of these conferences for a longer time.
Um, and it was also very interesting to get to know teachers at a more equal level. Obviously they’re still older, they’re still old respect. And, um, there is like a, always like a power dynamic there, but it was just really interesting to get to a point where I could like sit down and talk to a teacher about like something that was going on in the world and not just feel like she’s just he or she is just a person who is teaching me, but he, or she might also be, you know, showing me something more about the world.
And we’re actually having these intellectual conversations about something outside of their classroom. Um, and it was really interesting to learn from their life experiences. So that was something that was really exciting for me. Um, so what advice would I give to students starting high school who wanna get the best grades they can?
So, um, we mentioned that most of you all are 10th and 11th graders. So some of you might already know some of the answers to these questions. Some of you know exactly what I mean by some of these challenges. Some of you might have already experienced how it does get easier. Um, but some advice I would give you, regardless of where you are in the, in your high school journey is to invest in doing some good time management.
So hopefully that’s, um, a resounding point throughout the presentation. Um, but I just definitely wanna, um, take a moment to highlight that it’s gonna make your life so much easier to have a plan, to be able to know, you know, what’s coming up in the next month, in the next two months in this quarter. Uh, and you can use again, a calendar, a spreadsheet, a planner, there’s lots of tools that you could use, um, and planning ahead, uh, to.
Meet the goals that you have for yourself, um, is gonna be really helpful. And lastly, um, taking a mix of classes that include at least some that you love. And I say that because again, sometimes it can be really, um, there’s a lot of pressure to just take the hardest classes or the most amount of classes.
And then when you’re in the middle of the year, it’s really just, you who’s like, you know, if you have other people telling you, you have to do this or that, they’re not the ones actually going through the experience of taking those classes, you, at one point, you’re gonna have to sit with yourself and you’re like, okay, I am the one who is having to sacrifice X, Y, or Z to study for this class.
I’m the one who is maybe either really content or really not content with these classes. So it’s important that you can own up to, this is the schedule I selected for myself. And that might include classes that you just have to. Like I remember I was not a huge fan of taking physics, but I knew that was something I needed to take.
And so that semester, uh, or that year, I decided to take extracurriculars that I really loved to kind of balance that out. It’s really helpful to have in your, in your day, you might have several classes to at least have one that you’re really looking forward to. Um, that’s gonna make your day a lot more, a lot more enjoyable and help you to have a better, uh, year and usually will also impact the grades that you get.
Um, so that is all for, uh, the presentation part of this webinar. Yeah, thanks so much, Maria. Um, so that is the end of the presentation part. Uh, we hope you found the information helpful. I really appreciated all that you shared and the personal advice that you shared as well, Maria. Um, so just a reminder that folks can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab.
We’re gonna move on to the live Q&A, you all can submit questions through the Q&A tab. I will read them aloud, uh, and then piece them into the public chat so that everyone can see. Um, and then I will also read them aloud so that Maria can have a chance to give you an answer as a heads up, if your Q&A isn’t landing, you submit questions.
You might just wanna double check that you joined via the link in your email and not from the webinar landing page. If so, you might have to log out and log back in in order to get into the Q&A function. Um, as we’re waiting for some questions to come in, I was wondering, you talk a lot about, um, time management.
Is there a time management approach or strategy that you typically use that worked well for you when you were managing, um, when you were trying to like, keep your schedule afloat in high school. Yeah. So I actually use Google calendar a lot. Um, I would use different colors to denote, like what classes I had.
And so if I needed to study for math, I would use that in a different color. And so I knew that if I was overlapping colors, then that meant like I wasn’t really affording the time I needed to study for that class. Um, I also had like a different color for extracurriculars, um, different color for social time.
Um, and so Google, uh, Google calendar was really helpful for that. Um, my, my school also did give out like planners and so that was helpful. But, uh, what I liked about Google calendar was I could use it on my phone. And so if I was at school and I didn’t, wasn’t able to open my computer, I could just put, you know, calendar hold for a test that I just found out about.
Um, Another strategy. So that was, that’s more of like a tool that I used, um, when it comes to like an overarching strategy. Um, the first thing I did at the beginning of the year when I got my syllabus is I in my calendar put all the big tests that were coming up. And so I just populated it with the big milestones that I had.
Um, I also would take some time to think about extracurricular wise, um, family and social life-wise. Uh, what did I need, um, what, what was going on that year? And so it also helped me to plan a little bit ahead, um, and then just continuously updating that and giving myself a lot of buffer time between studying for tests between AP’s, um, and really kind of planning for how do I best prepare for, to meet those milestones was really helpful.
Yeah, you must a triggered something in my brain and, and this student’s brain cause uh, I was gonna ask a similar question, but one student asked, what was your normal plan when you knew midterms were approaching? So how did you maybe backwards plan from when there were big tests or exams coming up? Yeah, so usually midterms and these exams are like cumulative tests.
They don’t just test what you learned that week, but oftentimes test like what you’ve learned over the course of months. Um, and so it was really helpful for me to recognize that one, even though I, even, if I felt confident, I probably was forgetting a lot of stuff that I learned, like the first week of school or the first, you know, couple days, uh, in that like period of time.
And so that, that was gonna get tested. And so I would make a plan for how to review. So I would maybe try to front load a lot of the immediate homework I needed to turn in and think about like, okay, what are all the notes I took are all the chapters that I read. At the beginning of, of that timeframe, whether it’s the semester or of the year, if it’s a final exam, the specific one is midterm.
So maybe at the beginning of the quarter or, uh, beginning of the semester. And I would actually make myself like a study guide that I would, as I reviewed notes, I would write an outline or key takeaways of everything. Like all the chapters of all like my notes in that way, I was actually able to like recall a lot of the things that I studied at the beginning of that quarter or semester.
Um, something else that I actually looked for was opportunities to tutor other students, because one of the flags that you actually really understand the material is if you’re able to teach it. And so what I would do is I would try to front load studying so that the week of the exam, maybe what I was doing is instead of studying, I was actually helping other students study.
Maybe they asked me a question that I was like, oh shoot. Like, I don’t remember that at all. And like, it actually flagged, like, there’s something that I didn’t study for. Um, and there was often times where like, those things were tested and I was like, okay. It was actually another student that was able to help me figure out that I needed to like, look into this more in depth.
Um, and it also, again, helped you to have a bigger mastery or a better mastery of the topic. If you’re able to explain it too. Yeah, I love that. And I feel like everything you’re sharing are good study habits for high school, but also study habits that should be carried into college. I feel like a lot of what you shared are, is advice that I give my students when they’re seniors.
And they’re kind of nervous about the, those habits and also what you shared triggered study groups. I think that that is a really good, that was at least how I got through college was, um, having those friends who helped to create the study guides and things like that as well. So I think if you’re a social person or if you’re an extrovert and you feel like sitting alone to study is the worst thing, then getting your friends involved, having them do some of those tactics or even settings at time to go through and create your planners together, create your Google calendars, having shared reminders.
I think all of those are also helpful tactics. Um, when you have, if you, if you are kind of dependent on others or you need that social accountability, um, for getting your work done. Um, one other question that came up was just specifically balancing, um, Ooh, sorry, I lost this question. Um, so specifically balancing honors and AP classes, I think.
Um, so is there a specific number that you feel like students should be aiming for? Should they be working harder in those classes than they are in their, their non AP honors classes? What’s what is your guidance or advice around those higher level classes? Yeah, sure thing. So I think this comes back to the idea of challenging yourself, um, for somebody challenging themselves, like might be taking a lot of honors classes for some people.
It might be, you know, I took a lot of honors classes freshman year, maybe sophomore, junior year, time to level up to some of those AP classes. So it just depends on one. What is available at your school and two where you are? Um, I know while I was in high school, one of my friends got cancer and what was challenging for them was actually battling this life threatening disease and the fact that they were able to take lots of honors classes and an AP was a lot more of a challenge that me.
Taking like two AP’s or three at AP’s. And so I just, I wanna think about this question as not just in the vacuum of the academic realm, but challenging yourself in spite or, um, in light of a lot of other challenges you might be experiencing, whether that is, um, with sports, with, um, music, with art, with your extracurriculars, with family circumstances, with personal circumstances.
And so, um, I say this not as the answer to the question, but just as a lens to think about this question, it’s important to think about it as what is challenging for me in my specific circumstance and not what is challenging for somebody else in a potentially very different life circumstance. Um, and so I, with that in mind, I won’t say a specific number, but what I would say is, think about what your workload was.
This. Think about what you’re able to give. And if you took four AP exams and you were really, really struggling and you’re a sophomore that doesn’t mean each year, you have to level up because you took four. Like, it doesn’t mean the next year you have to take five or six. It does mean like thinking about, could I do better in these classes if I was able to lower my workload.
And so that kinda answers the question of, you know, how do you balance, like if you like getting good grades with taking a challenging class. And so again, that might be a balance of honors and AP classes that might be lowering your APS threshold. If you’re, you know, you’re doing really great, but you’re scared that if you’ll add an AP class, you’re gonna get worse grades.
I would say think critically. Or do you wanna rise up to that challenge? Are there things that you’re willing to sacrifice? Because if you do increase your academic rigor, that time has to come from somewhere. And so thinking about what does it mean to rise up to an academic challenge might mean, you know, I was really tight for time this year, but next year, maybe I’m gonna spend less time doing this extracurricular, extracurricular or social activity because I wanna challenge myself and take one more honors or level up from an honors to AP or take an extra AP class.
Um, so I would think if, think about it less as the number of AP’s that you have to take, or number of honors classes, then giving your current workload, how can you challenge yourself? And ultimately again, college, college admissions officers wanna look at given what your school offers. Were you challenging yourself?
Um, and so I would say that if you feel like you’re, you want to challenge yourself and you’re able to, you know, increase that number of honors classes or level up to AP or take more AP classes. Um, yeah, that’s what I, what I would recommend. Thanks. Um, you actually led into another question that, uh, came up with just sort of, when you said what your school offers you.
So what can a student do to strengthen their academic profile? If there are certain classes that aren’t offered at their high school. So for example, wanting to go into engineering, you need usually calculus, but your school only goes up to precalculus. What could students do to, you know, have the strongest academic profile, if there are courses missing from their kind of high school selection or high school opportunities?
Yeah, that’s a great question. And the reality for a lot of students. Um, and so what I would say is you can always reach out to your usually, uh, your local community colleges will have dual enrollment program. Or programs where you could take a class at their college. So thinking about, you know, are there, is there a college near you where you could do that?
Is there an online college that would allow you to do that, um, in your essay section? Um, right. They will look at your schools will look at your transcripts, but they will also look at your essays. Like that’s a huge part of your application. And if you’re able to share, like, you know, I wasn’t offered this class, maybe I live really far from my local college.
Like my local college is not that local. Um, or you’re not able to take a class online. Maybe what you ended up doing is you sought tutoring, uh, tutoring, or maybe you didn’t take a class online from an accredited institution, but you did take a class on, you know, you took a whole series on Khan Academy or on edX and you got a certificate or you got some way to show that you were proficient in that there is like sections on the common app where you can add additional information about your situation.
You could write about that in an essay. And so there are ways to show that you took the steps to challenge yourself, even if you didn’t take that class at your high school. Um, again, the most common way is dual enrolling, um, at college and taking that class there or taking it online. Um, I know for, I mean, I, again, I grew up in Florida and there was Florida virtual school.
And so there were some classes that I took there because my school didn’t offer them. So you might wanna look at your state virtual school programs. Um, so those are some options, again, worst case scenario, try to explain your situation in an essay or in the additional information section in the common app.
Um, and that’s where you can share a little bit more about that. Thanks for that. I love the state virtual programs. I wasn’t aware of that in Florida. So that’s a good resource to keep in mind. Uh, um, and there are a lot of community college options in California, New York, which is where I am, uh, familiar with.
Um, one question came up was how are. Colleges. And this is more, I guess, the application question, but how are colleges looking at grades in specific classes? So, especially if you’re declaring a major, um, are they, you know, you, you yourself are pre-med, are colleges giving special attention to science classes?
Um, when you declare or state that you’re pre-med how are they kind of evaluating your, your GPA based on your stated major, if at all? Yeah, so I think that’s a, that varies from school to school. In that if you’re applying to a specific program within a school, they might be looking at those classes very, very specifically, because you might be entering like a higher level, like course in science.
Like if you’re going into an engineering program, you probably are taking mostly classes in stem. And so they probably wanna tell, like, do you have a history or a background in math, in physics, in, uh, And so my, those in those pre exam programs, it’s really helpful. Um, if you’re looking at a liberal arts col college, usually you’re not applying with, you’re applying with an intended major, but it’s not like you’re applying to a specific program within that college.
Oftentimes right. There is variation from school to school. But I would say that when it’s a little bit more about looking at who you are holistically as a student, um, in which all your class grades will matter, if you are saying you are intending to major in a specific major. So let’s say I was intending to major in biology.
Um, and I say, I wanna be premed ma grades in those class will matter a little bit more in not necessarily because it’s like my inner out because you, I could change major in a liberal arts college. Uh, but it’s more so to show evidence for. You know, I took this class, I really loved it. I excelled. And like, it showed me, like, I really love learning about the biology of the human body.
And that kind of sparked my interest in like medicine. Like it just serves as a little bit of like credibility to a narrative that you were sharing about yourself. And so in that way, like they could look at your grades like that. But I would say that one of the biggest differences about whether your grades in a specific class will matter is if you’re applying to a specific program within a college, or if it’s a liberal arts program, then they’re looking just like, are you a student that likes to challenge themselves that are into, that were like intellectually curious.
Um, and that’s usually looking at your grades more comprehensively than in a specific class when we’re looking at differences between levels of classes, for example, your grades in an AP class versus like a regular class, right? If you were challenging yourself by taking a more rigorous class, you know, it is.
More understandable to not get as good of a grade because you probably are having the class material is just harder. And so I think there is that general understanding, um, that as classes get harder, it’s harder to get a really good grade. And so there is that variance, but again, I think it’s much more when you’re thinking about specific classes and the grades in those specific classes, the biggest distinction is are you applying to a program within a college or a liberal arts program?
Uh, I appreciate that distinction and yeah, it is really important when you’re specifying programs within the schools. Um, before we kind of move on to the Q&A, I do wanna give a quick plug for CollegeAdvisor, for those of you who are, who, um, in the room who aren’t already working with us, we know how overwhelming the admissions process can be.
Um, there are all these little nitty gritty questions that Maria is giving us a good insight into, but we have a team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts that are ready to help you and your families navigate it all in one-on-one advising sessions. If you wanna take the next step, you can scan the QR code that is on the screen, and that will sign you up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with an admission specialist on our team.
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We’ll leave it up if folks, uh, wanna come back to it. And, um, that is it for now back to the Q&A one interesting question that came up referencing back to your previous, um, recommendation regarding dual enrollment. Um, when students said some colleges don’t accept dual enrollment credit, do you still recommend, recommend taking those classes?
Yeah, I definitely do. Um, and it’s because it’s not that they won’t take your credit as a high school class. Like most dual enrollment classes are counted as your high school class. So if you need like a biology class, you know, an extra, if you need a certain number of credits to graduate high school, those usually those will count for your high school diploma.
What you probably mean by that? Again, just to kind of clarifies some colleges, won’t take that as a college. For your college education? Not that they won’t take it for your high school education, like those usually do transfer into your high school transcript. Um, the reason that some schools won’t take a dual enrollment class is because, um, maybe some institutions have, um, you know, a standard for what they want their students to learn.
And it, in those classes, when they’re, when teachers are making the curriculum has to fit that like institutional standard. And so they won’t take classes from a different school who they don’t know what those standards are. Right. And so, um, for me specifically, um, I did, uh, I was part of a dual enrollment high school, my junior and senior year.
And the purpose of that was getting your associate’s degree when you graduated high school. And so I had two years of high of college, but Harvard didn’t take any of that. So I did do two years of college. Harvard didn’t take that. Um, and again, their reasoning when I asked why, obviously like, as a student, I was like, you know, I did two years of this.
I was coming in with like the very pre-med mindset of like. Sooner I get to medical school the better. And so I was like, you know, I just wanna do two years at Harvard go to like medical school. And I’ll, I’ll talk about two points as to like how to approach that. Um, the first is on a very practical term.
Um, again, Harvard couldn’t verify that a chemistry class that I took at my local community college was at the same level of rigor as their chemistry class. Um, so I had to retake it. And what I found out for myself was even though my chemistry teacher was fantastic at my community. It was much harder at Harvard.
And so I might have not been prepared for a higher level chemistry class with my introductory to chem chemistry class at my local college versus the one that I took at Harvard, where they knew exactly what I needed to learn in order to succeed in my high, higher level chemistry classes. And so they do that, not because they want to, you know, just like say, you know, this wasn’t worth it.
It was because they wanted to make sure that I was prepared to take the higher level classes and that I was set up to do well, um, to, um, another, sorry, there was another point that I wanted to make with that. I kind of lost my train of thought there. Um, oh two was, um, if they don’t take your credits, um, that doesn’t mean that, you know, there were to that that was a wasted time, right?
Like. Part of why I showed academic rigor was because I showed that I had taken two years of college classes. They might not have taken my credits, but those two years did count as like evidence for why I was a like academically rigorous student that would, you know, do well at Harvard. Right? As admissions officers are thinking about whether you will be a good fit for their school, they are thinking about like, is there evidence for having been academically challenged and two years in a, in a community college is part of evidence for that.
Again, none of this is like everything that they’re looking at, right. They looked at my story. My, my personal statement was a huge part of that, my extracurriculars, but for the sake of kind of meeting the, um, you know, the guests that I would be an academically rigorous student at. They were able to look at my background, taking community college classes and were able to use that in their consideration.
So I would say, um, it is not wasted time, even if they don’t take your credits. It is probably one of the factors that if you’re getting into that school, whether it’s Harvard, any other school that rejects your credits as college credits, they probably still took that into account as the merit that got you into that school.
Um, and lastly, I would say, um, having gone through college and I was a COVID senior, like I, we were kicked outta campus March, 2020, and I wish I would’ve had more time. Like I loved my college experience and, um, thinking about my initial desires to cut it close to, to cut it, uh, shorter, um, totally bewil, bewilders me now where I was like, I wish I had another year.
And so what I would say is usually. A school that, you know, won’t take those credits, give yourself the benefit of the doubt of like, maybe I don’t wanna leave that early. Maybe I don’t want them to count those credits because I wanna take that course with a professor here and experience talking about those topics with my classmates and getting to do a deeper dive than maybe I would’ve at, uh, you know, a community college or a different, uh, institution.
Um, so I would just say those are three big points to think about one. It’s not a waste of time. Two, the level of rigor might be different and three, um, you might not really want them to count those courses and cut your college career short. Yeah, I would agree with that. And, and also, I guess it, I think it depends on your state and your financial motivations for taking the classes.
Um, cuz there are some places where, you know, you wanna cut the cost for going into the four year institution. So having those credits helps you get out faster. So I, I definitely think it’s about being strategic based on where you wanna go, where you’re coming from and how you wanna strategically leverage those classes if it is to get credits or if it is to just, um, build up the academic profile and see rigorous on the application process.
So that’s kind of a choice you have to make of like, what is the value add of these classes for me? Is it, is it now in the application process are later on in the, the credit counting component of it also when a. Like, I guess, big up what you sat around taking the class and then having to retake it. Um, if you, I think I did that with calculus where I just really struggled through high school calculus, but I did it.
Harvard said you have to take it again, um, at this level. And it made that Harvard class easier, honestly, even though it was, uh, a bit more rigorous, at least that wasn’t the first time that I was being introduced to a lot of those topics at that level. Cuz you already have the competitiveness, the, the stuff in your own head about how challenging the classes will be in that space.
And so at least being able to come in with the material, um, a little bit under your belt, I think also benefits. If you, if you are in a situation where you, they won’t accept the credits and you might have to retake a more challenging version of the class you’ve already taken, um, Sorry. I randomly added my two sentence when I feel like I can.
Um, but I, one question that came in is the conversation between weighted unweighted, GPAs, um, how much, you know, cause this is all about earning better grades, which grades or which version of the grades are the ones that students should be thinking about. Should they be trying to boost their standard GPA?
Should they be trying to do something strategic to improve the weighted GPA? Um, and which one are colleges looking at? Yeah, so I would say that says colleges are looking at both. Um, there are like some students that think that it’s a good idea to only take AP classes because you’re able to get a higher, uh, UNW a higher weighted GPA, but then they take all these hard classes, hard level classes, and then they do badly and maybe like they get.
you know, not the best grades that they could have for that class, but on their way to maybe is the same as like someone getting an, a at a lower level class. But admissions officers know this strategy. Like admissions officers have been in the field for a while. They’ve seen this, um, you’re not like students doing this, aren’t tricking anybody.
Um, it’s important to think about the, the hard posture to this is will I be able to do my absolute best in this class? And so if you’re able to do really great then yes, like level up to an AP class and think about trying to get the best grade there, because that will boost your weighted GPA. But then also think about colleges will be looking at your unweighted GPA.
And even though your weighted GPA might go higher because you took a higher level class and got a bad grade, like that will also simultaneously affect your unweighted GPA. And so it’s more, I would say the approach, even the strategic approach is in like, oh, which class can I take? So I get a higher weighted GPA and like do better, but it’s more about thinking like at the expense of like taking a lower level and doing better or taking a higher level and doing worse.
I think the thought is how can I do really great with my current classes and how do I improve my weighted GPA by taking a higher level progressively in a way where I can increase, um, my level of rigor without, um, like sacrificing how well you’re able to do in that class. Um, so again, I, I wouldn’t put yourself in the like either or scenario of like either take an easy class and do really well, or I take a higher level class and do badly, but that’s okay.
Cuz it’ll improve my weight to GPA or my, yeah, my weighted GPA, I would say, think about it as, what are my current grades right now? Do I have the bandwidth to take a higher level class and still do well or have the possibility of having the time to do well? And if so, do that and it’ll increase your weighted GPA, but I.
I would discourage you from thinking about leveling up for the sake of just like being able to get a worse grade and get away with it because it will also negatively impact your weight, your unweighted GPA. Thank you. I wanted to ask, could you speak to international admissions process? I don’t wanna ask the question if it’s out of your area of expertise.
Um, I can talk about it in the sense of like essays of like standardized tests, um, but not necessarily in grades. Um, what I would say more as a blanket statement for international grades is just schools will look at what your high school you did go to and will look at the grading system in different countries.
Um, and so tho that’s something that admissions officers are trained to do. And so they won’t see everybody in the same playing field. They will acknowledge the differences in different countries. I personally just don’t have experience talking about like a specific country’s grading system. I’ll just say, as a blanket statement, admissions officers are trained in that.
So the question is, is my international high school certificate approved by some colleges? Or should I take the, ACT? So I guess it’s the combination of how are they looking at the high school graduation certificate, however that’s processed in that country. And should it be offset with a, you know, us standardized test mm-hmm
So I actually personally am a big fan of if there’s a school that you’re interested in calling the admissions office, because sometimes we tend to give like these blanket statements about every college and colleges have different processes about how they think about, um, high school certificates, how they think about, um, some schools are test optional, similar test test blind, especially after COVID.
And so what I would suggest is I do think that it helps to. I think a general principle is if you are able to take a standardized test, giving colleges, more data points to better understand who you are as a student is helpful. Um, if you’re able to study for the SAT/ACT and show proficiency, that is always helpful.
Um, some students are making the decision of, should I spend time studying in that, or should I spend money paying for that? Um, and so I would say if for, I have not really heard of a college, like not taking a high school diploma from a different country, like, but I would say if, for example, the tole is, uh, an English proficiency exam that most students will have to take to go to a university in the us to like a, a English speaking country.
And so I would ask what are the colleges policies for that? So maybe that’s a test that you wanna look into more so than your SAT or, ACT, or SAT. Um, but again, these are kind of. Blanket generalizations about what schools may look at. Um, I’m hesitant to say this as like the answer, because people do vary on how they look at these things.
And so I would take time to actually email the admissions office or call them and ask them about your specific case. Yeah. Yeah. I was gonna even add to that. I know some schools will say you have to take the TOEFL, if you don’t break a certain score on the SAT or the ACT. So it’s kind of each school kind of has these different set of like, if then policies, when it comes to international admissions.
So yet really becomes school specific. Um, our last question, I guess, is just that I’m just gonna ask off the top of my head, um, which is thinking how to then I lost it. Um, but I was thinking about how to balance, um, the balance academic rigor with, um, Getting ready for app the application process. If you had any tips for like, especially as seniors are coming in, applications are revved up, uh, beyond the time management schools, how or tools rather, how should students really try to balance the rigor?
You’re taking the most challenging classes in 12th grade with the rigor and, and the business of the college application process. Yeah, sure thing. And so I say this as like, um, my general advice, if you are like a 10th grader thinking about going forward, or you’re just starting your junior year and you’re making course selections, um, if you are a senior, um, I, I think you you’ll be able to also take some things out of this, but, um, if you’re making a long term plan for how to do senior year and college at the same time, cuz you’re applying during your senior.
I would say, I specifically tried to take my hardest classes. My junior year. I tried to take my hardest classes my junior year and study for the SAT/ACT and take it my junior year or at the very least at the end of junior spring, because I wanted to focus, um, on my essays in the summer. And I wanted to take still rigorous challenging classes my senior year, but I knew that it was gonna be stressful to apply to college.
So I didn’t wanna take my hardest classes then I also wanted to, um, because you are applying usually in November or January, you know, there are some schools that like do look at, um, or half spring, uh, deadlines, but because, because those are usually earlier, I wanted them to see my junior year grades. Um, and I wanted them to see my junior year rigor.
And so it was important for. To take those classes then, um, if you’re a senior, um, obviously like the best thing you can do right now is just make sure that you are budgeting time to still do well in your classes. Um, like it’s not like you could just, if you get into a school, you can just get Fs on everything, right.
There is things like getting your offer rescinded, which is terrible, but it could still happen. Um, and so I would say, try to pace yourself to, you know, you could still have the mentality of trying to do your best your fall semester, but acknowledge that maybe your grades will improve your spring semester because you have more time to devote to that after you get into a college.
Um, again, you’ll um, if you look at your college admissions, uh, or your common app, once it opens August 1st, uh, schools do offer, do ask for a midyear report, which means they will look at your grades, uh, come the end of fall. But so, so that is a reason why I would say don’t like slack off on your grades, your fall semester, because schools will see that, especially for the regular decision deadline.
Um, but yeah, if you have the time to plan, I would say try to front load your harder classes and studying for the SAT/ACT your junior year. So that senior year is a little bit, um, less time consuming or time demand. I think that’s a great strong piece of advice to end on. Thank you so much, Maria. So that is the end of our webinar.
We appreciate you all for coming out. Thank you again, Maria, for your time and thoughtfulness. Uh, we hope you gained some value, build strategies for creating and maintaining a strong GPA. Our July webinar series continues. Uh, we have a couple more sessions to close out the month. We will have a college panel with Harvard University tomorrow, July 25th.
If you wanna join us for that, we will have Admissions Officers Advice on What Makes a Strong College Application, um, and also tips and tricks for Applying to College as an International Student for those folks who raised that question. Um, so come join us tomorrow, the day after, or the day after that, if any of those webinar series are, or topics are interesting to you.
Thanks so much. Everybody take care and have wonderful evenings. Bye everyone.