An interesting story in the Harvard Gazette profiles Eni Dervishi’s journey from Albania to Harvard that began with two simple words: "table" and "chair". Fascinated by language, Eni, soon developed a passion for learning languages.
“I fell in love with languages,” she said. “Through languages I was able to see a different world. It opened my imagination to what was out there.”
Eni is from a small town in Albania. Her father had no formal education. Neither did her mother, though she returned to school as an adult. Her mother had to balance both school and house work and showed Eni with her actions that education is important.
Eni's small-town high school had no one to guide her in the application process. “My teachers hadn’t written letters of recommendation before,” she said. “I had to teach them.” When she needed to send official documents, such as transcripts, she found another hurdle. “I thought of faxing them, but there was no fax machine in my hometown.”
Despite these odds, Eni persevered and got accepted at Harvard. As you can see, Eni is from a modest background and did not have to climb Mount Everest, or take several extra co-curricular classes, or be a team captain, or, well, impress people. She followed her passion for learning languages. In addition to English, she learned some French,
Images from Pixabay
What if you could hack your brain to be brilliant on demand?
Research has found that the surge of brilliance you experience is when high-performance hormones dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin floods your brain.
How do you do that? You just have to ask yourself the following questions.
1. Ask "What's possible here?"
It's not reward that releases a flow of dopamine in the brain -- but the promise of reward.
2. Ask "What matters most to me in this situation?"
When you make a connection with someone on what matters most, you release oxytocin in your brain and theirs. Yes, even if you or they have ADHD or Dyslexia or ...
Focus on your conversation. Find out what matters the most. This helps your brain focus and also helps you make a connection with someone that builds rapport, trust, and bonding. You will acquire superb social skills.
3. Ask "How might we...?"
When you ask the famous "How might we...?" question used by seasoned innovators, you get the big release: a trifecta of motivation, connection, and confidence that can spark brilliant ideas.
The micro-surges of brilliance you create with these powerful questions can energize your brain, help you create new ideas, deepen your relationships, and--ultimately--make you happier and successful.
There is a science behind it. There are three hormones that create a powerful surge that helps you create your brilliance.
1. Dopamine: the motivation molecule
Dopamine is called the motivation molecule. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s a key factor in motivation, productivity, and focus. It enables us to plan ahead so we can achieve our goals.
2. Oxytocin: the connection chemical
Oxytocin is called the love molecule. When released, your ability to connect with people goes up and your stress levels go down. You need the molecule when dealing with people: rapport-building, trust-creation, and bonding skills.
3. Serotonin: the confidence chemical
Serotonin is a chemical messenger that’s believed to act as a mood stabilizer. It’s said to help produce healthy sleeping patterns as well as boost your mood. Without serotonin, the effect of dopamine and oxytocin in your brain would be muted and numb.
Serotonin turns up the signal strength of Dopamine and Oxytocin. This produces a powerful effect: You feel confident, optimistic and self-efficacious.
You don't need to take any drugs to use these hormones. Just ask the above three questions!
Noticing that nearly 150,000 edX learners (in 2014) were high school students, edX announced its high school initiative addressing the crucial need of college readiness gap.
Studies show that nearly 60 percent of first-year U.S. college students are unprepared for postsecondary studies. This readiness gap between college eligibility and preparedness is costly not only to students, but also to families and institutions.
MOOCs are offering courses from top high schools, secondary schools and universities to help students prepare for Advanced Placement (AP®) Exams and CLEP® Exams, as well as introductory-level courses to help you get ahead of the game. Examples are edX specially designed courses and FutureLearn's special collection of courses targeted to help students prepare for university.
How can MOOCs help you?
Image from Pixabay
Whether you are making up work, preparing for a new class, or simply want to get ahead, it is possible to get your homework done during your holiday and still enjoy your free time. However, due to distractions and time visiting family and just relaxing, you could lose sight of your goal and unable to do much. Try these two cures for holiday homework.
Eliminate online distractions.
Switch between play and study.
Image from Pixabay
“Early admission appears to be the ‘new normal’ now, as more students are applying early to Harvard and peer institutions than ever before,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid. “At the same time, we have continued to stress to applicants, their families, and their guidance counselors that there is no advantage in applying early to Harvard. The reason students are admitted — early or during the regular action process — is that their academic, extracurricular, and personal strengths are extraordinary.”
Regardless, more and more students are applying early. The Washington Post reports that UCLA is now the first university to get an application pool hitting six figures. Dartmouth accepted more than 27% of their early action pool of applicants. Barnard College in New York City said their application pool rose 19% from last year. Wesleyan University in Connecticut said they received 16% more apps this time around. And Williams College in Massachusetts reported a 25% increase in early decision applications this year.
It seems there is an advantage of early application to get admission in colleges.
Are there any cons?
Yes, a major one: financial aid.
If you apply early, you lose the ability to negotiate on financial aid, because you have to accept the offer before the regular admission folks. Sometimes the aid package comes out later, with the rest of the admission pool. So if you want to negotiate your financial package with colleges, you may want to wait and apply later so you have your admissions and financial aid package information available and make the best decision for yourself.
So what do we recommend? Well, if your heart is set on a specific college, apply early, regardless of financial aid. If you want to get into a top school, and money is also a major factor in your decision, then we recommend to wait and apply with the regular pool and not lose your negotiating power for financial aid packages.
Let us know if you have more questions about college admissions. Feel free to contact us at any time.
Given the escalating cost of college schooling, an increasing number of grandparents are pitching in to pay for college fees for his or her grandchildren. Given their flexibility, 529 plans are the top choice for grandparents. However, they can complicate a child’s chances of qualifying for financial aid.
The problem arises when students receive money from the 529 plan. That will appear as income in the student’s name, which must be reported on the FAFSA, which reduces the amount of financial aid. Note that FAFSA, the financial aid form that most colleges require when a student applies, is also required to be updated every year he or she is in school.
#1 Postpone 529 proceeds until the junior year.
To avoid a potential reduction in aid, grandparents should put off sending 529 proceeds until the last two years of college. Distributions from grandparents’ 529 plans are seen as student income, and could reduce aid by 50 percent.
So postponing the distribution of funds to your grandkids until junior year is a brilliant idea.
#2 Give money directly to parents.
Another way is for grandparents to give money directly to the parents. The federal formula “assesses” 20 percent of a student’s assets, compared to only 5.64 percent of parental income and non-retirement assets. The more money that is in a child’s name, the more it pares back the aid package.
So grandparents should gift the money directly to the parents is another brilliant idea.
Image from Pixabay
If your child is overwhelmed with homework assignments, deadlines and tests, help him by creating a very powerful, yet simple routine: a daily planner!
Surprised? Yes, a daily planner can be a powerful tool. It can teach your child scheduling and prioritization skills. It can lighten her burden.
Here are some pointers.
Have her sit down with it every morning, to review how her time will be spent that day, and which tasks she needs to accomplish. Make sure the planner accompanies your child to school, and that he writes down all test dates, due dates, assignments, and so on in it.
When your child gets home from school, sit down with him and his updated planner. Together, review the homework assignments for the evening. Don't tell him what to do. Let the planner guide him. Ask him questions. You might ask, “What should you work on right now?”
Help her prioritize. Find out what works for her. Some students like to get the hard stuff out of the way, while other students prefer breezing through the easy stuff, while helping themselves to some confidence boosters on their way to solving harder problems.
Talk about the difference between urgent tasks (e.g., next day deadline) and tasks that are important but not urgent (learning a fundamental concept). This will help him gain experience setting homework priorities and gaining more control over his academic abilities.
Still having problems with homework? Consider hiring a learning specialist. At Hillview Prep, our learning specialists can help your child learn faster, test smarter and score higher. Guaranteed! Check us out at hillviewprep.com.
Image from Pixabay
Start at School and Finish at Home
If homework is a constant battle in school ask your child's teacher to allow him to do some of his homework at school, where the teacher or student helper can assist him as needed. This way he can get most of him homework done before coming home and finishing it at home becomes easier.
After-school Care Start to After-dinner Finish
If your child goes to an after-school care or to a homework club, have her do her homework there. After dinner, go over it and have her correct any mistakes she made. Also review for any test she has the next day. If you wait till after dinner to start homework, she would be too tired and distracted to do it, and you would get into a fight.
Use your Child's Daily Rhythms
Most children do much better if they do their homework relatively early in the afternoon—maybe not immediately upon coming home from school but certainly before dinner or supper. Stick to a consistent daily schedule. Do the homework at a specific time, say, at 5 pm, or before watching TV, playing video games, or going to the park. Some kids are early risers and that can be a terrific time to get homework done.
By: Sean Massa
When I was a student in junior high school, I started to notice a number of interesting changes. We had many classes, instructors, and subjects instead of just the same one all day. We had more responsibilities to get our books and more freedom to choose our classes. But the most peculiar trend I think, now that I look back on it, was this: at some point students began to distance themselves from their teachers.
After the end of each class, I noticed many students would immediately go leave the class to meet their friends or to finish their work. Granted, sometimes people would leave in a rush to their next class (and that's fine). What I now notice looking back is this curious drama that unfolded of student-teacher relations: that once class started, students would engage the teacher, but once it finished so would those engagements.
I do not think this is a good way to go about making the most of one's education. Some of the richest and thought-provoking conversations I had while in junior high and high school actually came when I decided to stay in the classroom after all the students left. I would sometimes approach the teacher directly, or stay and help put away books or throw away trash left out by others. It was in those extra 5 or 10 or 30 minutes that I would talk to the teacher. I would talk to them about their views on the topic for the day. I would ask those questions I held inside of me that I was too nervous in class because they seemed too “dumb” (newsflash: no question is too dumb to ask in a classroom, if it's relevant). I highly recommend students start to take the leap and form these friendships with their teachers, and here is why:
1) They are human beings.
2)They used to be students
3) They have rich experiences and opinions
4) They want to help you - That's their job
5) They can be your lifelong friends/mentors.
Stay after class
Go to office hours
Do your research (CV/resume)
Ryan was afraid to be wrong.
One of the largest challenges of my student, Ryan, was not how to solve reading comprehension, but being able to admit that he didn’t understand the process of solving it. “Ryan, the detail from the context is located in line 46. Do you understand why?” “Oh yeah, yes, I do.” “Then how do we find it?” “Well, because…” Ryan would then wait for me to re read the question, explain the process, and reinforce the answer. However, he wasn’t improving. I realized that in order for him to improve, he first needed to understand that it is “OK” to be wrong.
It wasn’t easy, but were able to change his mentality from, “what will people think of me if I show that I don’t know” to “there’s a missing step in the staircase; how can I build a new step so that I can climb higher.”
He was now learning faster than ever. His confidence in being wrong sparked his curiosity and motivation to be right. As an instructor I was able to more accurately pinpoint why he was not understanding a step in a process and implement the proper strategy to help him learn and retain that step. It was crazy to see how changing one detail of his mentality could make such a huge difference in his learning.
I’ve noticed that many students feel less inclined to ask a question or make a statement if they know that there is a risk of being wrong.
“Our educational system is rooted in the construct of right and wrong. We are rewarded for what are deemed to be correct answers and the ensuing higher grades, which generally lead to more successful lives. Being right affirms and inflates our sense of self-worth. As students we learn to avoid as best we can the embarrassment of being wrong. Getting the right answer becomes the primary purpose of our education. Isn't it regrettable that this may be inconsistent with actually learning?”
Being right inflates our sense of self-worth, but being wrong gives us the opportunity to actually build our self-worth.
Self-worth is your sense of your own value or worth as a person; self-esteem; self-respect. In order to increase our self-esteem and self respect, we must first increase our own value and worth.
“Righting” your “wrongs”: The easiest way to build your educational value and worth.
The smartest students are the ones who are not afraid to be wrong and learn from their mistakes. Being smart doesn’t mean having a larger mental capacity than the next student, it means building your knowledge and skills that you lacked before. Ryan was able to build his sense of self-worth by learning how to use what he didn’t know as an opportunity to build his knowledge base. He unknowingly was building his academic self-esteem at the same time.
Every student has the ability to perform at a high level. At Hillview Prep we strive to find what makes a student learn faster, whether it be complex or as simple and empowering Ryan to know that being wrong is Ok.
To learn more about Hillview Prep and how we can help you or your student, visit www.hillviewprep.com or contact us to learn more!
Images from Pixabay
By: Sean Massa
“Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” - Robert T. Kiyosaki
There is are two important lessons that no one ever taught me. They are things that I have learned from my lowest points as a student, and things that I continue to learn to this day. They are common sense, but hard to really identify with. Quite simply, the hardest lessons I have had to learn in my academic career are this:
1) Failure is inevitable.
2) You are not your failures.
In high school, I had been satisfied with my academic accomplishments. With an above average GPA and AP courses already under my belt, I felt secure in my identity - I was a good student. However when I went to college, my whole understanding of personal academic achievement had changed.
Upon arriving, I was no longer a big fish in a little pond: I was a big fish swimming in an ocean of big fish. Many nights I stayed awake studying for hours and hours, only to receive a B or C- at the end of the day. I remember being crying to my family during Christmas holiday when final grades were released. All those nights studying - were they for nothing? When I tried finding opportunities to do research my first year, I also had no luck. I applied to over 20 different labs and received no word back. Was I doing something wrong? What was wrong with me?
After my freshman year, I slowly began to regain some confidence as I adjusted to the higher course rigor. Yet, even for years following I continued to internalize my academic feedback in a personal way. It was a mindset that made me sensitive to any criticism. In work, with family, in school - any critique of my efforts became a critique of myself.
What I have come to learn is that it doesn't have to be that way. From school and work experiences, I now know that failure is something you can't avoid. At some point, you will mess up. But that's okay. Here are a number of important points that I honestly think every student needs to know:
What failure does not mean:
What does failure mean:
Some of my friends have been circulating a photo on Facebook lately that talks about the struggles of some famous people in their young age: “At 23, JK Rowling was broke, Tina Fey was working at the YMCA, Oprah had just been fired as a TV reporter, And Walt Disney had declared bankruptcy, It's going to be okay.” If it worked out for them, it can work out for you and me. The path to success is never linear. In fact, I think it's more like a rollercoaster, but one that we design going progressively upward.
Failure is going to happen. There will be expectations to perform a certain way, whether made by yourself or others, and you will not meet those expectations. Failure is never the end. It is only the beginning of a longer process of personal growth and development. So don't take it personally. Continue to seek out your strengths and passions whatever they may be. Learn from the experience, and move on knowing that things can only improve. Upward and onward.
Like what you're reading? Check out our other #LifeHacks and stay tuned to all upcoming posts from the Hillview Prep blog.
By: Sean Massa
At some point in my young life I knew I wanted to be a doctor. Then I wanted to be an orca whale trainer at Sea World. Then I wanted to be a marine biologist. Then I wanted to be a doctor again. At some point in this progression of constant change my parents decided to support that dream of mine. Showing me a kindergarten drawing of a doctor I apparently drew from a paper prompt stating “What I want to be when I grow up,” I soon began to take on this narrative as my own - that I was going to someday be a medical doctor.
As a freshman, it sounded like an overused business-y word that people used to make fake relationships with other people. It wasn't something I really wanted to do. Over time, I found that that was not true at all. I learned that everyone creates and shapes the kind of networks they have.
Images from Pixabay
Parlez-vous français? ¿Hablas español? Well, why not?
Most high schools and some junior high schools today require students to take foreign language classes. When I was at Valley Christian, I studied Spanish for four years: from the simple “Hola. Cómo estás?” of Spanish 1 to the more tricky conversations discussing films and narratives in AP Spanish Language. I feel that I have gained an invaluable tool from those years, and I even took Spanish courses in college for fun. Yet, I am certain that if I were to call any one of my friends from my high school, only a handful would be able to speak the foreign languages they learned today. Even fewer would practice it frequently.
Why is it that so many students don't take language learning seriously?
It's all a matter of perspective. If you're taking a class because you have to, you probably won't really spend time investing in it or enjoying it for that matter. That needs to change. In today's culturally diverse world, having multilingual abilities can benefit you in so many ways. Here are few reasons why you should want to take your language classes seriously:
Images from Pixabay
As a sophomore in high school, I remember my first days sitting in my AP Human Geography class uncertain of what I was getting myself into. What in the world was “Human Geography”? In my mind, it seemed to be either a course about anatomy or about maps. It was really neither. Instead, I found a course that gave me a sample of subjects and fields I had never encountered before: ethnic studies, religious studies, anthropology, political science, urban planning, environmental studies, demography, economics, and development studies to name a few.
The course was an introduction to analyzing human social organization and alteration of the Earth. Over weeks of new chapter readings and class discussions, I began to see my eyes open to possibilities: I was given tools by which I could understand the world around me.
Needless to say, my genuine interest and curiosity for the course gave way to natural success. I initiated a student study group to prepare for the May AP exam, working through a review guide. For at least a month, I and a handful of others worked hard in studying the vast topics within Human Geography and were dutifully rewarded with the coveted score of 5. At the time I planned for a premedical focus in college, something my teacher regretted. “I wish you weren't going into medicine. I think you would be a great human geographer. You belong in the social sciences.” At the time I shook the comment off, but appreciated the honesty and appreciation in his words. Looking back, I am impressed that my instructor had foresight into my interests in a way that I would not understand until many years into college.
Human Geography offers a sampling of many subjects, allowing students to explore new interests that they have never been exposed to prior. Sadly, it is an extremely underrated subject. Only a handful of universities recognize Human Geography as a significant academic course and give AP credit for it (e.g. the UC system does but many private universities do not). At my university, the University of Pennsylvania, I did not even receive any formal credit for all my hard work. However, I did gain something that was quite priceless - my intellectual stimulation and academic confidence.
Learning what we enjoy learning about is an ongoing life process. Over the years, my interests have led me from medicine to public health and now to international affairs/development. Ironically, my latest interests have brought me full circle, back to many of the same topics I had once covered in that AP Human Geography class many years ago. The learning process is not direct, even frustrating when you have to revise your five/ten year plans for an uncertain future and trust the unknown. Yet through my experiences, I have learned that following your changing passions is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life. It is something that allows me to enjoy my studies today, and has recently rewarded me with a full-scholarship for my masters at Yale and an internship with the United Nations in Indonesia.
Just like I realized through AP Human Geography the value of educational exploration, all of us at Hillview believe that all students should realize their unique intellectual passions. In this way, our students can ensure their own success.Through our personalized planning for high school and college, we help them formulate a plan to make the most of required courses and test prep options. We take education seriously, and work with students like you to ensure that they thrive in each and every class. Who knows? One course could even change your life.
Images from Pixabay
Procrastination(n): the action of delaying or postponing something
Time Management(n): the ability to use one's time effectively or productively
From my earliest days in school, I remember teachers telling me to never to procrastinate. If an assignment was due, I had to have it neatly polished and ready to turn in by the due date.
No delays. No excuses.
Any excuses, aside from serious illness or family matters, usually meant negligence on my side - that I had put off my scholastic duties as unimportant. At times, this was actually true. Usually if I procrastinated, my finished paper or test would be less than the result I wanted (as would my grades). Additionally because there was less time to work, procrastination had a way of putting unnecessary stress on me. But honestly there were also times when putting off an assignment was in my best interest. Sometimes different classes made demands of me at the same time, and I had to use my scarce time wisely.
Time is limited and our tasks are many.
So when is it okay to put off work and when is it not?
When you convert tendencies for procrastination into time management, you can transform a destructive study skill in a constructive one. The main difference is that you are taking control of the situation and not letting it control you. You are using your time responsibly and effectively.
Here are a few examples of how to tell the two apart:
- binge-watching shows on Netflix for hours
- playing Pokémon Go trying to “catch them all”
- spending too much time finding the right Instagram filter
- focusing on your Snapchat story instead of your English literature
- not using your free time to do important upcoming assignments
- prioritizing and organizing your limited time on assignments
- scheduling time for your self-care and mental well-being (it's okay to take breaks!)
- skimming/scanning through large amounts of readings
- balancing your leisure time accordingly with your academic demands
Time management is a highly underrated study skill and indicator of academic success. It is a skill that needs to be learned as early as possible, as students will carry it into high school, college, the professional environment and beyond.
The process of changing your habits from procrastination to time management is one that takes time and, at times, may be challenging.
Luckily, you do not have to go it alone! Through 24/7 support and study strategizing tailored to your academic needs, staff at Hillview Prep can walk with you towards better time management and academic success every step of the way. If this is a skill you need to learn ASAP, contact us today so we can work with you. Don't procrastinate!
By: Sean Massa
During spring 2014 while studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, I came across a vivid mural in the Bo Kaap neighborhood reading in big bold letters “EDUCATION TAKES YOU PLACES.” This statement is probably something most of us have heard over and over from both parents and teachers alike, an overstated cliché. Yet at that moment some truth struck me: that education really does open opportunities for you to direct your future.
How in the world does one end up at the very southern end of the African continent? During my sophomore year of college while researching potential majors to choose, I encountered a study abroad program called the “International Honors Program in Health and Community.” Reading over the description, I found myself shifting in my seat from the excitement: a four month comparative health program that covers urban and rural communities in Vietnam, South Africa, and Brazil. This was it. My chance to see the world. I made the decision that semester to become a Health and Societies major, beginning my current journey into international affairs and development.
Looking back on my experiences, I find that luck is not the only thing that has shaped my life. Without the coupling of passion and hard work, I do not think I would have been able to have a number of invaluable life-shaping opportunities. To make the most of their education, I give students these recommendations:
At Hillview Prep over the last few years, we help our students learn to be more active. After acing academics, we aid our students to begin to truly engage their passions through resources for extracurricular opportunities relevant to their educational pursuits. Maybe the old mantra should be revised to something along the lines of “you use your education to take you places” or simply “you take you places.” So go ahead, jump into the driver’s seat of your education. You will be surprised at how much more you will enjoy every class, lab, and assignment you may have. If you make the change, I can assure you won’t regret it. Who knows? You may even end up across the world.
Sean Tristan Massa
June 5, 2016
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