Planning For Your Future

College Chica, 2013

College Chica, 2013

Do you know what you want to study or what you want to be when you grow up? If you don’t, that’s okay. Your parents or friends have probably encouraged you to start thinking about what you want to be when you grow up so you can pick the best college for you. From financial aid to finding the perfect university, they might have shared some advice because they are concerned about your future.

You might know what you want to be when you grow up or maybe you’re just barely thinking about it. Knowing what you want to be when you grow up increases the opportunities that you can take advantage of in middle school and high school. Even if you are torn between two dream jobs, knowing what type of career you are interested in helps in knowing what type of scholarships you can apply to , and you can start early in your career by picking classes in high school that will give you a head-start in your dream job.

“I want to be an FBI agent, I was so ready for college and ready to have fun, but I never thought it was going to be this hard. I should’ve listened to everyone; college is really expensive, I can barely afford it, and I have to take out a lot of loans just to get by. I should’ve applied for scholarships and applied to more colleges. I procrastinated too much,” said Jocelyn, 20.

Even though she knew what she wanted to study, she didn’t plan for her future. Unlike Jocelyn, girls like Xochitl whom needed extra time to figure things out had a back up plan in high school.

“I didn’t quite know exactly what I wanted to be or what to study, but when I was a senior in high school I applied to all of the scholarships available, even if I thought I wouldn’t get it. I applied everywhere no matter how hard it was,” said Xochitl, 23.

She started early, even if she didn’t know what to study she kept applying everywhere. Some were a miss, but in the end she did wind up receiving enough money to pay for everything and still had some leftover money.

Even if you already know what college or university you want to go to, it is recommended for you to apply to more than one school and multiple scholarships because it is always better to have a plan B, just in case.

“Of course, I didn’t win all the scholarships, but the more you apply the more chances you have of winning one. I got two scholarships; I paid my tuition, my books, and everything I needed for school. I still had $2,000 left all for myself, but I bet if I knew what I wanted to study like I do now I would’ve gotten more scholarships,” said Xochitl.

Preparation may not be easy, might take awhile, or you might think you still have a long way to go, or that you will do it later, but take advantage of the time where you have nothing to do and start brainstorming. It’s never too early to start.

If you start planning your future now who knows, you might get more money than you ever expected. If you don’t you’ll have to pay out of your own pocket or with loans. Loans are often the last resort, and it’s not the best financial decision because you’ll be in debt. The worst thing you can do is to not apply at all. Planning ahead will not only help you financially, it will reduce the stress. Start planning, little by little, it might be stressful having so many options thinking of your life, what you want to do with it, but it will all be worth it in the end.

College Prep Year by Year

Going to college is one of the toughest decisions you are going to make in your lifetime. It is important that you plan ahead in order to accomplish your goals. Time goes by so fast, which is why it is essential to prepare yourself at an young age. In order to be well prepared for college, follow these tips years by year:

Middle School:

During this time, you and your parents should create a savings plan for college. In the savings plan you or your parents should deposit at least 5-10% of from the monthly income. It is important to start saving money for any college expenses that might not be covered by either financial aid or scholarships. For additional college savings tips, find role models or people who inspire you, such as relatives who have attended college and ask them questions about how they saved up to pay their tuition.

Now that you have your college savings plan in place, it’s time to boost your college application. Meghan Renee Martinez, 15 year old sophomore suggests, “I would say try your best at school and become dedicated to school work.”  You should challenge yourself by taking Honor or Pre-AP classes while you are in middle school. Join a sport, club, choir or band which will prepare you for future activities you might want to join and put on your college applications in high school. If you want to take your high school experience to the next level, you should think about applying or attending a college prep high school. Some high schools offer special programs that will prepare you for college and will be able to take some college classes as part of your curriculum.

Freshman Year:

During your first year in high school you should get involved and join a sport or after school activities, such as Student Council, French Club, Chess Club or National Honors Society.  ”Practice good study habits like studying in advance for upcoming tests, read your text books and keep up on assignments,” advised Janette Mendoza, a high school senior. As a freshman, you should keep a close relationship with your counselor and check with him or her about your college plans, selecting a university, and taking classes that will get your feet wet in the career you plan on pursuing. Your freshman year is a good start toward researching your dream career, what it takes to succeed, and what colleges or universities will help achieve your dream.

Sophomore Year:

During your second year of high school, you should  become more involved with the community and keep that GPA high. Volunteering in different activities outside of school will help you to gain valuable experience.  Always help your community by volunteering or joining local organizations. To boost your academic standing, it is essential to register for IB, AP or Dual Credit. “Take AP Classes, so you can get the college experience and start earning college credit,” added Janette Mendoza, a high school senior. Meghan Renee Martinez explains that, “My high school has many options in choosing classes to help me prepare for college. Especially testing that can tell me where I’m at academically and what I can improve on.” Your class selection can be your stepping stone in getting started on your dream career. You should look for a career that you like and try to do something similar to that career to see if you like it. The website offers tools and information to help you apply for college and pick a career that’s right for you.

Junior Year:


It is important to take the PSAT and other tests required for college so you can have enough time to retake these tests, in case you need a higher score to enter the college of your choice. The Princeton Review is a great program that prepares you for the SAT, ACT and other tests. Check the website to see if the program is being offered in your area. During this time, you should research admission requirements. If you want to study out of town, you should explore the websites of colleges that you would like to attend. An important tip is to talk to your high school counselor about career and college options because they can give you advise that will guide you towards the right decision.


During your second semester, you should apply for scholarships that are available for juniors. The website is a great search engine dedicated to scholarships. During the summer, you should make various decisions. Think and decide what college is best for you: a 2-year college or a 4-year college, the size of the college, and the location of the college. Look at the websites of colleges that you would like to attend and get information about that school, including how much it costs. Narrow down your search to your top 5 colleges and start preparing the admission applications. Most college applications require a letter of recommendation, so don’t be afraid to ask your teachers or extracurricular activities leaders.

Senior Year:


Now it’s time to submit applications for the colleges of your choice and to continue applying to scholarships.  Double check the admissions criteria, including the submission deadline, and fill out the admission packet. This may include obtaining letters of recommendation and writing entrance exam essays to finalize your college application. You’ve been preparing yourself since middle school, you’ve got this in the bag! Attending college forums offered by your school district will help you stay on track with what to expect during the college process, but don’t hesitate to contact your counselor if you need help with your application.


After Graduation:
The first thing that you should do as your last semester of high school starts is to apply for FAFSA and continue applying for scholarships. Now is the time to make the decision of which college you are going to attend. In order to make this decision you should think about all the costs you are going to have, such as room and board, transportation, food, books, etc. Compare it with the other colleges to see which offer is the best option for you.Once you make your choice, accept the offer from your dream school!

Do not forget to send your official transcript to your college and to attend orientation. Now you can enjoy your college experience!

College Readiness

Thinking about your future and what comes after you finish high school can be a stressful step in your life. Many girls feel a little confused and might even feel overwhelmed with information the college application process.  There are no hidden college ready secrets, but the key to getting ready for college is to start prepping early. It is not too early to get in the college game. Just follow these college tips and you’ll be ready in no time!
Start prepping yourself for college as early as possible:
Think about what YOU love to do. Would this be a possible career choice? This is the first college step, since it basically means that your interests will help decide and prepare you for your college journey.

Use school to your advantage:  Check out which high school is the best fit for you. Many towns now have magnet schools where you can start preparing for a specific career path in high school. When you are picking high school classes, make sure you are taking all the classes needed to get into college. Also, consider taking honor classes that are more challenging, better prepare you for college and look good on a college application. Some high schools also offer dual credit where you can earn college credit as you earn high school credits.

Get involved in your campus and community: College admissions officers look at your extracurricular involvement on your college applications. Start making plans to make the most out of your high school experience by participating in clubs and activities. These will look good on your college application and might even open the door to scholarship opportunities. If you’re an athlete, don’t depend on a sports scholarship to pay for school. Use other academic options that can help boost your application. Meet with your school counselors to discuss the best options for you, such as what classes to take and what extracurricular opportunities you can take advantage of.

The SAT test:

SAT scores are a big part of the college process. Most colleges require a specific SAT score to get admitted, but the score varies from college to college. In middle school, you can take teh Pre-SAT test to help you start getting ready for the real test. High school can be stressful,  which means studying for the exam during the summer is really helpful. You can still have fun AND prepare for the SAT.  There are many helpful online sources. One of my favorite SAT study tools is an app called “The Official SAT question of the day.” The app offers a new question every day from every subject and shows you how to solve the problem. You can also visit helpful websites like, which helps with all types of test prep.

Research scholarships and colleges:
Need help in researching scholarships and colleges? an awesome website that lets you track all the scholarships in the areas you’re mostly interested in. After you are done reviewing which colleges you would like to attend, you will receive information booklets through the mail to help you decide which college is the best for you. There are thousands of scholarships out there, you just need to look for them. The rest is up to you Latinas! Research, research, research! You would be surprised how many scholarships there are for Latinos. Take advantage of this opportunity!

Remember that these are only a couple of tips. Stay organized, keep researching, and you’re on the right path toward enjoying your college years. It’s never too early to start being curious about college!

Have the Best School Year

latina student with backpackAs the freedom of the summer comes to an end to welcome the new school year, students go back to their normal routines of school, homework, projects, presentations, quizzes, and tests. All the stress comes back and our life focuses on school. Many students spend their time going to school, then going home, eating, relaxing, and doing homework; it is the same routine over and over every single day. Instead of sticking to the same and boring routines, everyone should do something to spice up their lives. Of course, students need to concentrate on school because that is the number one priority. Once all that concentration is done, then why shouldn’t you be able to reward yourself with something fun? Here are a few things that we should think about doing that can bring excitement to your life when we are finished with all of our school obligations to enjoy every single of day the year. Once homework is done and the weekends are free, use your time wisely and make this the best school year ever.

1. Join a club at school. Groups like student council, community service clubs, honor society, band and art club let you meet new people, learn new things and it will look good on your college application.

2. Create a community project. Use your spare time to make a difference. Take action related to a cause you care about. Raise awareness against bullying, collect clothes for the less fortunate or help out at your local animal humane society.

3. Participate in an internship. You can get an internship at a magazine such as Latinitas or in the field in which you like to work in when you grow up. It is a good way to explore possible future careers, get references and start gaining experience.

4. Take a new class. Is there anything you have always wanted to try? It’s your time! Take an extra elective or sign up for a class at a local recreation center.

5. Read books for fun. Let your mind wander and explore new places by reading a new book and joining a book club. You can also put pen to paper and become your own author.

6. Explore your city. Become a tourist in your own hometown. We can learn so much by exploring our own city. Visit museums, theaters, monuments or historical sites.

7. Get creative. Make an arts and craft project that expresses yourself. Redecorate your room. Make your do-it-yourself project by making your own jewelry or purse. Connect with the craft chica in you.

8. Learn how to play a new sport. Try something new or simply improve your skills at a sport you already know. Stretch by doing yoga or sign up for a dance class. Join a team sport, try out for a varsity team on campus, go on a hike or sign up to walk a marathon.

9. Pick a new hobby. Learn how to play a new instrument. Become more culturally aware by learning a new language. Become an author.

10. Be a mentor to someone smaller than you. Tutor a younger sibling or a cousin. Offer to take care of cute little kids by being a babysitter.

This year should be the year that we have some time to relax, do something interesting or do something new. In the process we may discover a new passion or learn more about ourselves. Everyone should stop watching life pass by and happen on TV, but actually live it and love it. Your youth is the time when you get to explore and try new things to discover yourselves, what you truly enjoy and who you are. Besides, if you don’t do it now, when will you?

7 Tips to Get Ahead in School

If you are anticipating stepping into the halls of a high school for tLatina Girl Writing - Latinitashe first time this fall, there is always something to be learned when it comes to being prepared for the challenges of high school. Here are a few tips to keep you ahead of the game!

  • Eat Breakfast! -Starting the day without eating a good breakfast is the surest way to lose concentration during those morning classes. It’s difficult to focus on what’s going on on the board when those hunger pangs start rumbling in. Nutritionist  and author, M.S., R.D., Alexa Fishback, suggests starting your day off with foods high in fiber (whole wheat toast, bran cereals or muffins, oatmeal) and protein (eggs, meat burritos, yogurt) paired with a serving of fruit to give for a natural boost in energy and to help hold you over until lunch time. If you miss breakfast at home, you can always grab one at school. Be sure to find out if you qualify for free or reduced breakfasts and lunches.
  • Go to tutoring frequently- Needing tutoring does not mean you are not smart. It means you are smart enough to acknowledge your weaknesses and improve on them. Everyone needs extra help understanding a particular subject area from time to time, so don’t be afraid to ask for that help. It’s a good idea to go to tutoring when you are having difficulty understanding a homework assignment or problem. You can always ask your friends for help, but going to the teacher will help you get a better understanding of whatever you are having trouble with. With that said, don’t just go to tutoring the day before a test and expect all the problems you’ve had to be reversed in one session. It is much better to tackle the problems as they come than to have them accumulate and take you down.
  • When you cheat, you cheat yourself- The temptation to quickly copy off of a friend’s homework at the beginning of class when you forgot to do yours is intense. Especially as everyone is shuffling their papers to the front of the classroom to be collected and your window of opportunity for a quick solution is rapidly closing.  When the proverbial to-cheat-or-not-to-cheat scenario arises, it is always best to take the moral high road. Accept the fact that you fell short this time and make an effort to prevent this from happening again in the future. “But if I don’t copy, my grade will suffer!” Your grade for that class may take a small dip, but you can always ask to turn in the assignment late for a penalty, or strive to do better on the following assignments to make up for it. Plus, look at it this way: when you absent-mindedly copy a friend’s homework you are unlikely to learn whatever it is you were supposed to learn by actually doing the assignment. There is a greater chance that you will fall behind on future assignments, not having fully understood the previous ones, and lack the knowledge you need to get a good grade on a final exam, which, if you fail, will bring your grade down more than a late/missing assignment will. So, in the end, it is always more beneficial to do the work and not cheat yourself.
  • Apply for scholarships on a regular basis- Whether you are sure about pursuing college after high school or not, do NOT wait until your senior year to apply for scholarships. Websites like and are good sources for freshmen and above to search for publicly and privately funded money for school.  Applying for scholarships and grants during your freshman and sophomore years of high school is ideal because not a lot of underclassmen do it, so you have better chance to nab those freshman/sophomore exclusive scholarships. Plus, your chances grow with every application you submit, so getting a head start is key. If you are a junior or senior, it’s not too late! A realistic goal would be to apply for one scholarship a week or every two weeks. Space them out so that you don’t find yourself frantically trying to beat the deadlines for the juicy high school scholarships weeks before you graduate.
  • Get to know your counselor- Getting chummy with your counselors and principals will greatly improve your high school experience. Counselors are not only there when you are in emotional distress and principals do not solely exist for disciplinary reasons.  Counselors are great ears for when you are facing some challenges in class or with your relationships, but they are also great resources for college information and can offer guidance for other post-graduation plans. Helping you succeed is a counselor’s job, so don’t hesitate to reach out to one.
  • Join clubs!- Getting involved in different clubs and activities at school will not only improve your social life, it will improve your teamwork and people skills too.Teen blogger Michelle Boyln suggests writing down a list of activities you enjoy and finding a club that participates in them. Being with a group of students outside of the classroom where you are given a task or activity prepares you for real-world experiences, where you will often find yourself having to learn to communicate effectively to achieve a common goal. In addition, you have the opportunity to meet new people outside of your usual circle of friends.

  • Start good time managing habits now- Remember those planners you were given in elementary school? You know, the ones you had to get signed daily by your parents for a grade? Well our teachers had it right: Having a daily planner is the best way to organize your life and stay on top of things and manage your day wisely. Co-founder of Penelope Trunk agrees that even though no one formally teaches you how to manage your time, it’s one of those things you have to learn. Keeping reminders and your daily schedule on your cell phone or a notebook is a great way to stay on top of your responsibilities,  minimize the stress in your life, and make more time for fun!

Being Smart Rules

Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) are booming and on the rise, with an estimated increase of 20.5 million jobs between 2010 and 2020. While we hear a lot of news about the poor state of our economy  and the job market, STEM fields offer that glimmer of hope for a brighter future and better economy. With science and math opening many doors, it would be easy to assume that many intelligent chicas are jumping on the bandwagon, right? Wrong.

Despite the rapid growth, according to the United States Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration, women “hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs.” What a boys club! What causes women to have such a low percentage? According to the same study, there are several factors taking place, such as “a lack of female role models, gender stereotyping, and less family-friendly flexibility in the STEM fields.” When it came to confidence, the American Sociological Association found men were more confident than women in the field of engineering.

Minority women consist of “less than one in 10 employed scientists and engineers.”  Girl Scout Research Institute found: “Hispanic girls say they have just as much interest in STEM as Cauca­sian girls, but they have had less exposure to STEM, less adult support for pursuing STEM fields, lower academic achievement, and greater awareness of gender barriers in STEM professions.” This means that chicas in STEM need a strong support group. It is time to quit reading how bad the situation is for Hispanic women in STEM and start doing something about it. We can open many doors by using these three simple words: si se puede/ Yes, you can.

With a si se puede attitude,  Jo Marie Duran found her inspiration to explore STEM by being involved  with the Health Professionals of America (HPA) at her school. “Being interested in the medical area was very easy because I always loved to help people and what better way to help by being a health professional. Knowing that you have the ability to learn how to save someone’s life is exciting and scary…They  [scientists] require courage and a sense of confidence in what they do… I never thought I had the chance to gain that medical mentality without being in my health profession program.”

Here are a few resources to start your STEM adventure. Check them out:

STEM Connector and Popular STEM Opportunities.
STEM Connector is the ultimate search engine for students, teachers, and parents interested in STEM opportunities. Programs like the Health Professionals of America and Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) are two out of numerous opportunities nationwide that give a chica that extra boost to succeed and be more involved in a STEM related area. Programs like NASA and FIRST are paving the way for STEM in teens. NASA has numerous opportunities for future engineers and scientists. On the other hand, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Technology) is revolutionizing the field of robotics. Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST, states FIRST creates a “culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.” Fortunately, FIRST is a nationwide after school program, which means there numerous hosts, teams, and events throughout the country. Check the local listings for any team or event.

Girl oriented programs are on the rise.
Nerds are cool. There’s even a female nerd movement, created by Nerd Girls, where it is chic to be a geek.  Girl Scouts do more than sell delicious cookies, they are heavily involved with STEM.  To top it off, NASA’s Women in STEM High School Scholars (WISH) is a girl-only program dedicated to work on a NASA mission alongside other participants, NASA engineers, and NASA scientists, via a virtual and onsite program. Want to learn more? Thankfully, the American Association of University Women provides a list of resources for women and girls interested in being involved with girl-oriented organizations. Chicas unite!

Check out local library and school clubs.
Going out of town to take advantage of STEM opportunities may not always be easy. Local libraries, schools, and non-profit organizations offer workshops and camps year round. Some schools offer magnet programs, like HPA/HOSA.  Leave the “I can’t find it” attitude behind, the opportunities are out there.

Don’t limit yourself to just one area.
The beauty of STEM is that it is HUGE. Broaden the horizon and avoid falling into one area. The stereotype of STEM jobs solely being scientists, mathematicians, and lonely nerds is long gone. STEM is booming and it is time for girls everywhere, not just Hispanic women, to increase the percentage of women in STEM. Yes, we can!

When The School Bell Rings

What are the secrets to school success?  These Latinitas share their top tips to help you move to the top of the class.

Tip 1: Be Confident

A key to academic success is being confident. It helps you feel comfortable to work in team, to make presentations in front of the class and to approach your teacher with any questions you have. As you walk through the halls hold your head up high, smile, and don’t be afraid to talk to other students. If they see you smiling with your head held high, they will feel comforted by your friendly personality and confidence. It is much easier to make new friends when you are confident. “When I first entered middle school, I was very shy, but I learned that if I wanted to meet new people I had to be confident. I met a lot of really nice people, because I decided to introduce myself to almost every classmate I had,” said Kameryn Johnson, age 14.

Tip 2: Get Involved

Take advantage of all the great opportunities your school has to offer. Join clubs such as band, theater, yearbook, orchestra, and book and art clubs just to name a few. These are sure ways to meet new people, yet keep you busy as you learn fun new things. You can also try out for sports such as cheerleading, volleyball, soccer, softball, track, or basketball. You will stay active and healthy, but will still be having fun doing so. “I was involved in cross country, track, flags, and orchestra when I was in middle school,” said Maria Fernandez, age 17. “By becoming involved in those sports and clubs it helped me stay focused on the important things. It helped me become who I am today.” If your middle school doesn’t offer many clubs or organizations to join, talk to your teachers about forming some of you own. You can also check out clubs outside your school like Girl Scouts or help out around the community by volunteering. Places like the YMCA and Salvation Army are always looking for people to help out.

Tip 3: Do Well In Class

Don’t forget to study hard, turn in your homework on time, ask your teachers for help if you need it, and concentrate on learning something new every day. If you have any problems, look for help and get tutoring. Cynthia Amaya, age 18, shares some of her advice for doing well in the classroom. “It is important to develop good study habits in middle school. This will help you succeed later on in high school. It’s hard to care so much for school at that young age, but it’s important to start caring as early as possible,” said Amaya.

Tip Four: Have Fun & Be Yourself

Middle school can be both exciting and scary, but you should never forget to have fun and just be yourself. Brianna Holcomb, age 13, says, “Don’t fit in. STAND OUT!! Don’t let people change the way you think, change what people think about you. Don’t let anyone bring you down. You are who you are, and who you are is BEAUTIFUL!” Once you accept yourself for who you are and learn to love the unique qualities that make you you, the rest of the year will come easy. You will make great friends, learn new and exciting things, and overall have a year that you will never forget. Have some fun and enjoy as you learn!

School: College and Your Future

Latinitas talk to college admission officers about how to start preparing for college and a successful future.

Why do you think college is important?
“It teaches you how to think. You don’t learn everything in college, but you learn how to find answers for the rest of your life. Also, you learn to live with people different from yourself.” -Robyn Ross, St. Edward’s University

“The benefits of college are great and are key to helping you have a successful future.” -Patty Prado, University of Texas at Austin

What can middle schoolers do to start preparing for college?
“Take challenging classes, honors, more math, science and foreign language. Start to get involved in student activities. Learn how to study! Take your grades seriously.” -Patty Prado

“Read, learn to love to read, take computer classes, ask friends and families about their colleges.” -Robyn Ross

What do you think is the biggest myth about college?
“That it is for people that have a lot of money. That you are there to be given a degree. College is what you make of it. If you work hard and take advantage of opportunities, you can do anything!” -Robyn Ross

“That it’s too expensive, it’s too hard to get in and succeed.” -Patty Prado

What other advice would you offer to young girls about college?
“Staying on top of things academically in school will be best preparation for being admitted and succeeding in college.” -Patty Prado

“Follow your dreams. Don’t just do what others want for you like boyfriends, friends, or your parents. If you want to go away for college, this is a great time in life to experience something new. If you want to study a subject that not many women are involved with, there are lots of scholarships and special programs. Did you know more girls are going to college than boys today? And this is after most colleges were men only until 40 or 50 years ago!” -Robyn Ross

April 2011

How to Study for a Test

Tap, tap, tap. The pencil in your hand keeps hitting the desk. Your eyes wander around the room. You look at the clock. Tick, tick, tick. You look at your classmates. Scribble, scribble, scribble. They write on the paper in front of them. You look down at your paper. It is a test and you don’t remember anything you studied.

Being nervous about a test is normal, and it is something many people experience. There are a couple of things you can do to prevent test anxiety, and make your testing experience better.

Plan Ahead
First, make sure you mark the test date on your calendar or agenda. Knowing when the test is will give you enough time to prepare, prioritize your tasks, and manage your time. This way you do not need to study everything last minute the night before. Although cramming does seem to work, it does not benefit you. It may get you through the test and you might even make an A on it. However, it will hurt you in the future. Once the test is over, you will not remember anything at all, so when those midterms and finals come around you will have to study all the material over again.

Take Notes
A week is a reasonable time to begin studying for a test. Depending on how much material you have to study, you might want to start earlier. Gather everything that you need to study: your books, handouts and notes. Anything is fair game, even if it seems insignificant. As a suggestion, take notes during class, because you will not remember everything. Do not only take notes of what the teacher writes on the board or what is on the power point, but also write down what the teacher says. Remember, power points are merely used as a teaching supplement, and your teacher may say something important that is not on a slide.

Don’t Get Distracted
After you have everything you need to study, find a quite place with minimal distractions. For example, you may want to go to the library or study in your room. If you do study in your room, do not try to multitask with the TV turned on or with the computer on. Studying in between commercials will not help, and it will take you longer to study. Something else to keep in mind is that, even though your bed may be comfortable, it is easy to fall asleep on it. Make sure you are sitting on a chair at a desk.

Know What Works Best for You
Once you have chosen your study place, go through all the testing material. Read over all the information at least twice and highlight what you think is important. Another helpful tip is to highlight important information during class; this will help you reduce your study time. Know what kind of learner you are. For those that are auditory learners, say the information out loud and repeat it until you can say it with your eyes closed.  For those that are visual learners, color coding your notes or re-writing them will help you memorize the information.

Take Breaks
Sitting still and studying in a quiet place is hard, so take breaks. Just make sure that the five minute break you give yourself does not turn into an hour break on Facebook.  Set reasonable study times and breaks. During your study time, study, study and study. Do some hard-core studying and do not let yourself get distracted. The new e-mail you receive will still be there when you are done studying. Remember that the less time you spend studying, the more time you will have to do other things you enjoy.

Take Care of Yourself
The night before the test, make sure you get plenty of rest. It may not seem important, but when you are taking the test and the classroom is quiet, you can get sleepy and may want to close your eyes. Closing your eyes to rest them can lead you to fall asleep. Make sure you eat before the test. It may seem insignificant, but when your stomach begins to growl in class, you will be looking around the class to see if anyone heard you instead of concentrating on your test.

Yes, tests are the worst. As you refine your study techniques, you will be able to go to your class feeling confident and prepared.

By Elizabeth Blancas

Diary of a Homeschooler

“Those sweaters make her look like a homeschooler.”

To others, this snide comment taken from the popular FOX show Glee is just one of many quick, witty jibes that make the show so entertaining. But to me, watching from my living room with homework piled on my lap, it was just another reason I valued my decision to keep my past quiet. A year ago, the composition book I balanced on my knees would’ve stayed safely away in our home classroom, waiting patiently for tomorrow to come, when I would sit at my kitchen table to put more words between its pages. Unlike Quinn, Finn and Puck, I had never spent more than a single, tortured week at any kind of “normal” school, choosing instead to remain at home to self-study, thus dubbing myself a homeschooler and donning the stereotypes that came along with the title, as I painfully learned once more, watching the light-hearted sitcom. Apparently now the TV had gone from telling me how to be to explaining what I had been since first grade. So sorry, Mr. Schu, but in all my homeschooling, I never once wore a sweater like Rachel’s.

Looking back on the terrifying, nervous weeks before my first day of school, which came around high school, I had that feeling that I would be made fun of, for my squeaky-clean new-student issues, my looks, weight, and the fact that, under pressure, I couldn’t tell my left from my right. I was used to grappling with teenage issues, but now, magnified by my pure aloneness, they threatened to strip me of every bit of confidence I’d hoarded. However, while my doubts circled around Me, the brain-dead-for-math girl or the never-had-a-boyfriend Me, not one of my doubts was about Me, the homeschooler. It was a matter of pride to me that I was responsible for my own schooling. People had always been just curious or just interested, never name-calling or condescending. Mostly their biggest interest was knowing if I got to stay in my PJs all day. No, Iíd answer for what felt like (and probably was) the fortieth time, My mother would kill me.

On that fateful first day of school, nothing had changed in my mind. Well, a lot had changed, starting with my name being wrong on the rosters and ending about six months later, but Homeschooled Me was still firmly in charge upstairs. As my homeroom teacher circled the classroom, collecting names, nicknames, and actual pronunciation of names, along with past schools and favorite ice cream flavors, I was more occupied choosing Ben or Jerry than thinking about my one-and-only school, which, if you looked at my registration card, matched my address. When my turn finally came, though, my mouth named the high school closest to my house, which Iíd set foot in maybe twice in my sixteen years of living across the street from it.

I sat there, frozen, clueless to what I’d gotten myself into, as I tried to gage if anyone had caught my bluff. Thankfully, it was my lucky day, because of all the heads looking my way, none of those heads had sat through algebra at my “old school.” The teacher moved on and conversation around me slowed, but my heartbeat didn’t.

It’s a known fact that no one remembers anything from first period, no matter what day of the year it is. It’s a black hole in the class schedule, so I answered the “What school were you at” question many more times. While I shrugged my way through fake class schedules and common friends I’d never seen before in my life, I’d pick up forgettable, nothing-comments about my true old school. My classmates flung around homeschooler slights the way they did paint in the art room, or week-old cauliflower in the cafeteria. Even as my head went down when I heard these, my ears went up, trying to find something that would prove I would still be accepted if I told my truth. I never did, but managed to block them out and get on with my day, but hearing myself bashed around by people I didn’t know or care to know was different when it came from one of my closest friends. As I sat there, silently listening to him celebrating a victory over a homeschooled team, a part of me wished I couldn’t hear him. “Les ganaron a homeschoolers, guey; no sean aprovechados,” he gloated over the edge of his graphing calculator, which roughly translated (we all know there’s really no word for guey) means, “You beat the homeschoolers, man; don’t take advantage of them.”

As quickly as the words- to him innocent- left his mouth, my best friend, sitting a foot away from me at our table in geometry, toppled me from a confident, capable sweet-sixteen-year-old girl to a stumbling, stuttering, socially-useless, ivory tower castaway, who wasn’t even competition, much less a threat, transformed by a single, off-hand jab. Never mind that my all-homeschooled, junior varsity volleyball team had taken second place at regionals, while my varsity homegirls snagged the title. Never mind that I made the top grades in my class and sat at the so-called “Popular Girls” table at lunch, or that my teachers were putty in my hands, the principal chose me for everything, and more than a couple boys were drooling over me, all while I held down positions in Student Council and the robotics team. Never mind that the same friend who said I wasn’t worth beating, copied off me every day in geometry, and as soon as he was finished telling his friends to play nice with the homeschoolers, leaned over and asked for my help.

I’m saying absolutely none of this to brag, and for the record, the “Popular Girls” table evolved from the girls who were first and foremost my friends and former Lunch Loners, and I sometimes hated being nominated for everything, while the only boy I agreed to date threw me down the drain. I only want to explain how heart-broken I was when my same homeroom teacher, along with my most beloved teacher, reacted to my secret I confided in them with, ‘Well, this is good for your social skills, then.” Once more, I’d been reduced to nothing more than the same stereotype I’d fought so tirelessly against. Did it count for nothing that I’d been the most-involved, hardest-working student in their classes, that I’d come early and stayed late, and still had friends waiting for me on the way out? That a boy was telling the whole school how crazy he was about me? That I’d won not just the “nerd” awards, but the “cheerleader” awards too, and that the permanently socially-handicapped, sweater-wearing homeschooler was also a part of the awarded Best Friends?

Sometimes it makes me wonder whether I’ll ever be able to say I was, and in my heart still am, a homeschooler, without someone with good intentions back-handedly shredding my life’s choices with something as simple as, “You’ve adjusted so well,” without it ever occurring to them that adjusting was not what I needed. My two teachers and friends, with their common interests of changing me into school-system-bound material, and having my report cards from pre-K to senior year tucked under my arm, are still some of the most-loved people in my life. What they said, though, while it probably left them as soon as their mouths finished shaping the last sound, will undoubtedly stick with me for the rest of my lie. I mean, life.

By Alisson

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