It is tough to get into college these days. With stiff competition from thousands of applicants, one place to set yourself apart is during your interview. Not all colleges require (or even offer) an interview component to their application process, but many do, so check the school’s website or contact the admission office to find out if interviews are offered and how to schedule one. Interviews may be conducted by an admissions officer or a representative of the school, such as a current student or a graduate, who has agreed to help interview candidates to see if they are a good fit for the school. Interviews may be conducted in person or by phone or video.
There are literally hundreds of interview questions that colleges might ask of their applicants. It is impossible to prepare for all the questions you might face, but it is easy to practice and prepare for some of the most common ones. There is actually a lot of psychology that goes into the types of questions admission officers ask and what they are looking for in your responses. Remember that what you say is sometimes just as important as what you don’t say, and your body language speaks to the audience as well. By knowing the types of questions admission boards may ask you and understanding what they are really looking for when they ask these questions (or any number of their variants), you can be prepared with some solid and impressive answers to wow your interviewer!
General Interview Tips:
- Don’t be nervous. Yeah, yeah, easier said than done. And admissions officers or their representatives understand that nerves are natural and to be expected. But try to keep them under control. Take deep breaths, maintain eye contact, and try to stay calm. Remember that questions don’t need an immediate answer – it’s okay to pause (briefly), gather your thoughts, and formulate an answer. If you don’t understand the question or aren’t sure what they are looking for in your answer, ask for clarification or for them to reword the question, or repeat it in your own words to make sure you’ve understood what they are asking.
- It’s a conversation, not an audition – really! The purpose of the interview in a college application is twofold: It allows the admissions officer an opportunity to get to know who you are and to gauge whether you will be a good fit for their school; but it is also an opportunity for you to ensure that the school will meet your needs and expectations. If you go in with a “script” and are playing a part you think will impress them, the interview will come across as stiff, and they may misunderstand or misread the real you. Really listen to what the interviewer is asking, give yourself a moment to compose yourself and your answer, and then give it your best and most honest response. Definitely have some talking points tucked away, but don’t be afraid to answer “off the cuff” with whatever comes to mind at the time – filtered for audience and purpose, of course. It’s also okay to admit you don’t know or aren’t sure, but talk through your reasoning a little bit so they can see your thought process at work.
- Honesty is the best policy. Being honest is the best way to be impressive – don’t tell the panel what you think they want to hear. Speak the truth, from your heart, to ensure that the panel gets to understand the “real” you and can assess how you will fit in on their campus, and can appreciate the contributions you can make to their campus community. Be creative and show your personality, but don’t lie or pretend to be someone you’re really not.
- Ask questions of your questioner. One of the easiest ways to show a school’s representative that you are interested in attending is by having a few questions prepared that you can ask at the end of your interview. They will usually conclude by asking if you have any questions, and it’s a good idea to have one or two to show that you have done your research on this school and you are eager to learn more about specific aspects of it. Don’t ask questions where the answers could be found easily on the school’s website; but if something comes up in the interview that you want to ask a follow-up question about or you have a question where the answer will give you valuable information to help you make your decision, ask it!
Whatever You Do, DON’T:
- Show up late, unprepared, or without having done your research on the school. You are not doing them a favor by participating in this interview, so be sure to be respectful and attentive. Put your cell phone away (after making sure it’s on Do Not Disturb) and shake hands firmly while making eye contact with the interviewer.
- Forget your audience. While you want to try to keep to a natural conversation tone and tempo, this interviewer is not your friend and you’re not hanging out over coffee. Dress appropriately and use elevated (but natural) vocabulary – no slang and avoid fillers (“um”, “like”, “you know”, etc.). Keep it natural and try not to sound rehearsed.
- Be too shy or too boastful. It’s Important to try to find the middle ground – share about yourself, who you are, and what has brought you to this point in your life, but show humility. Admit to your failures or short-comings and focus on explaining what you learned as a result of those experiences.
TOP 12 INTERVIEW QUESTIONS AND WHAT THEY’RE REALLY ASKING:
Question 1: Tell us something about yourself.
What they’re looking for: Often couched as more of a request or statement rather than a question, what the representative is looking for is to get a general understanding of who you are and what you’re all about.
How to answer: This question does NOT mean start with your birth and chronologically account for every major milestone in your life, from learning to walk to your high school graduation. Instead, give a succinct explanation of who you are and what you potentially have to offer the school. What makes you special or a stand out among the other applicants? Why would this school be proud to call you an alumnus after you graduate? They know your age, hometown, grades, etc. from your application, so try to give information or details not included in the paperwork part. In answering this question, it can feel like you are rambling, so be sure to practice this one ahead of time so that it is telling, without all of the details, and gives an accurate representation of who you are and why you are important without boasting.
Question 2: What adjectives best describe you? Or How would your best friend describe you?
What they’re looking for: This question might include a set number (What 3 adjectives best describe you? Or What adjective would your best friend use to describe you?) Pay attention if they give you a specific number – they want to make sure that you are really listening and paying attention, in addition to seeing how you assess yourself. It is a test of both your humility and your creativity, so try to avoid general adjectives (nice, funny, smart), and pick some that really capture the essence of you.
How to answer: Bragging can be the worst! We’ve all been told not to do it, to be humble, but this is your opportunity to balance humility with some creative adjectives that give a sense of who you really are and what is important to you. Really spend some time on this one, brainstorming specific and creative adjectives to describe you and your personality. If possible, provide justification for why you’ve chosen the ones you have (“I would say one adjective that describes me is determined. Although my determination can sometimes come across as ‘pushy’, I am goal-oriented and I feel most satisfied when I achieve what I have set out to do, so I am willing to work hard and encourage those around me to work hard, too, so that we can achieve a goal together.”). Sometimes the way the question is asked will allow you to justify and explain your answers. Though if you get the sense that the interviewer just wants a list of 5 adjectives, give them the list of 5 adjectives and wait to see if they ask follow-up questions or seek more details.
Question 3: How do you plan to get involved in our campus community?
What they’re looking for: Schools want to know that you have something to offer them for everything they’re going to offer you. It’s students who make campus life engaging, inviting, and inclusive, so they want to know how you are going to engage with the community around you and help to make positive contributions to the school and campus, not just sit in your dorm room all the time. It’s also a test of your personality (what do you like to do in your free time) and whether or not you have researched the school and can mention or inquire more about certain activities or opportunities.
How to answer: This is a great opportunity for you to talk about bridging your activities from high school to the opportunities this college or university provides on campus. They give insight into your values and passions and show that you enjoy being a part of a community. “I was really involved in our International Club at my high school, and I saw on your website that you have several Cultural Houses as part of your campus life. I would like to learn more about those.” Or, “I volunteer helping elementary school students with their homework after school. I’d like to continue serving the community by finding some volunteer opportunities at your school.” The idea is to show that you want to be engaged and interact with the campus community, but college is also a great time to try new things! So you might want to mention some clubs or organizations associated with the school that you think would be interesting to check out and learn more about. A great follow-up question to your interviewer is to inquire about any sort of Club Rush or Club Fair the school offers (they usually happen in the fall), where the school’s different clubs and organizations showcase what they do and look for new recruits for their program. You want to give the sense that you will be actively participating and will make their school even better with your contributions.
Question 4: How do you spend your time when you’re not in school? Or, If you had an afternoon to spend any way you’d like, what would you do with the time and why? Or, What do you like to do for fun?
What they’re looking for: As suspect as it might sound, this is not a “gotcha” question where the representative is looking for a “right” answer. Instead, your honest response gives a sense of your values, passions, and hobbies, and indicates your ability to create balance in your life. They’re wanting to hear, honestly, what matters to you and how you spend your “off” time in a meaningful or fulfilling way. This is an especially important question to answer genuinely and not just with the answer you think they want to hear.
How to answer: This is not a trick question. Though you probably don’t want to discuss the weekend parties you enjoy attending, this is an opportunity to share some of your passions or activities that are important to you and to indicate what gives your life a sense of meaning and value. Are you involved in family, community, or society in a meaningful way? If you had an entire afternoon free, would you spend it on social media or lost in cyberspace somewhere? Would you cloister yourself away in your room playing video games? Would you offer to mow the neighbor’s lawn? Take your dog for a walk? Ideally, your answer to this question presents a balanced person who is able to appreciate doing for others, but also realizes the importance of focusing and rebalancing the self. But if you’re not into yoga on the beach or sitting cross-legged in deep meditation, explain how playing those video games relaxes you or how hours spent on social media helps you feel engaged with people you may not get to see in person very often, and therefore why you value those types of activities.
Question 5: What are your academic strengths and weaknesses? Or, How do you learn best?
What they’re looking for: Also not a trick question, this inquiry allows the representative to get a sense of your level of self-awareness when it comes to your academic strengths and weaknesses or your learning style. They want to make sure that your strengths will be an asset to the school and that your weaknesses are areas in which they can provide support and work with you to strengthen based on your identification of them and willingness to work through them.
How to answer: This can be a tricky question because it’s sometimes hard to brag about what we do well or to admit to where we struggle. But this is a great question if there are any anomalies in your transcript or anything in the academic portion of your application that you feel you need to explain to the representative. For example, if you failed Spanish in high school and only earned a C the second time around, you might explain that one of your weaknesses is language acquisition – you have discovered that learning a language is a challenge for you because of the auditory processing it requires, but your strength in acing all of your science classes, including AP Biology, comes as a result of your hands-on learning style. Being able to conduct lab experiments and having that hands-on interaction with the material helped you learn and understand it better. Academic strengths and weaknesses can go beyond the particular subject. For example, you may be very organized, so a strength is that you never lose an assignment or forget to turn anything in because you keep good track of your work, but you are a procrastinator, so that work is often being done last minute, which sometimes results in less than your best. Be sure not only to acknowledge your weaknesses, but also to acknowledge your awareness of them and the coping skills you apply to counter their negative effects. “I am a procrastinator, but I am working on improving that by using calendar reminders on my phone to remind me about upcoming deadlines so I can start on the task before the last minute.”
Question 6: Tell us about a time when you didn’t get what you wanted or when things didn’t go your way. How did you respond to that experience? Or, Describe an obstacle you have faced. How did you overcome the challenge that it presented?
What they’re looking for: There’s so much psychology in this question. How easily do you admit to mistakes? What kind of mistakes do you choose to admit to? How thoroughly do you explain the impact of the mistake and its long-lasting effect? Remembering when you didn’t get the color balloons you wanted for your six-year-old birthday party may have bummed you out at the time, but why are you still holding onto that disappointment? How do you relate it to current disappointments? Your answer to this question speaks to your resiliency, your ability to recognize an obstacle as such, and your capacity to process that obstacle and figure out alternative approaches to the problem. There is a lot of self-reflection associated with this question: How easily do you admit to not getting your way or facing an obstacle? Your answer indicates how well you problem solve and deal with frustration or disappointment.
How to answer: This one’s a tough one. Not only do most people have an awful lot of examples to choose from, but how do you determine the “right” one to share? The right one is the one that sticks with you to this day. It is the experience that you remember and use as inspiration to push you through current tough times. We face obstacles every day, but how we approach them today comes as a result of what we’ve learned from the past. It’s okay to choose an example where you didn’t handle the disappointment or obstacle well at the time, but with continued self-reflection and some maturation, you realize you would handle things differently today. Remember that in any of these “Tell us about…” questions, you want to keep your story-telling succinct. They need enough details to appreciate the situation, but not so many that your story is long and drawn-out. This is another good question type to practice ahead of time and pass by some people to get feedback about whether it seemed rambling or if it lacked details that would help explain the impact.
Question 7: What is your opinion on __(insert any debatably current event or topic here)__?
What they’re looking for: This question assesses your level of global citizenship. While you may not need to know all the details about Greece’s banking system and why their debt-crisis is critical to all of Europe, it is a good idea to know something about something so that it doesn’t seem like you’ve been living under a rock or are so caught up in your own world that you lose sight of the big picture. Representatives are looking to see how much you know about the world around you and how knowledgeable you are about current events. Your opinion also gives insight into your values and perceptions of the world.
How to answer: Don’t be shocked or alarmed by this question, prepare for it by doing some reading online or watching some news broadcasts ahead of your interview to get a sense of some of the challenging debates taking place across the nation and around the world. You may not have the answers to the problem they ask about, but show that you have heard of it, have a basic understanding of it, or have considered it enough to have some questions about it (“So I have heard of xyz, and I don’t understand how…”). An opinion is just that – there’s no right or wrong answer, but they are looking to see what topic you pick to discuss, which side of the argument you seem to be on, and how you approach the problem. If worse comes to worse and you really have no idea what they are talking about, it’s okay to say, “I’m not sure,” or “I’m not familiar with that issue,” but chances are they will ask your opinion about a topic that is broad enough that you should have some knowledge and some opinion about it. As this is an opinion and it may be about a sensitive topic, be aware of any bias or prejudice that may be present in your response and practice ahead of time so that your opinion uses neutral, non-stereotypical, and non-prejudicial language.
Question 8: What book would you recommend everyone should read?
What they’re looking for: First, are you literate? Second, the answer to this question also speaks to your interests and what you find important or valuable in life. People recommend books because they feel somehow connected to a text, its story, its characters, or its theme. Representatives are interested in hearing what kind of writing you’re connecting with and what important message you found that resonates with you.
How to answer: Chances are (hopefully!) that you have a wide range of texts from which to choose an answer. Some people like to get nostalgic and select a book from their childhood that taught them a valuable lesson or cemented their love for reading, or was just the right book at the right time. Others select a book from their high school years, something they’ve read more recently or studied more in-depth with class discussion and analytical assignments. Still others select a text they may have read on their own, such as an independent reading book. Regardless of your selection, select with a purpose. WHY should everyone read this book? Why is it important? What lesson(s) does it have to offer? Have you applied that lesson to your own life in any way? With what results? Consider, also, the question – what book should everyone read? Which means you need to select a book that most people can relate to on some level and not one that most won’t be able to relate to or find meaning in.
Question 9: Who in your life has been most influential on you, and why? Or, Tell me about an influential person in your life. How has this person influenced you and what have you taken away from your interactions with him or her?
What they’re looking for: George Washington is credited with sharing the idea that “It is better to be alone than in bad company,” and the idea that you are only as good as the company you keep means that the people you look to for guidance or inspiration says a lot about who you are. This question seeks to determine what kinds of people you associate with and look up to as role models or sources for inspiration.
How to answer: Your choice may be personal, like a grandmother, coach, piano teacher, or someone no one else has necessarily heard of; or, you may pick a more well-known source of inspiration, like a famous musician, artist, or politician. No matter who you pick, make sure you have a succinct story to tell about how this person has affected you in a positive way. While people tend to select influential people based on the positive things those individuals have modeled in their own life, it is possible to choose bad influences to talk about what you have learned about life from these people and their struggles and how they inspire you to be or achieve more than they have. Think about the justification for why you select an individual to be your “most influential” person. It doesn’t have to be someone you know personally or be someone you’ve spent much time with, as long as they have left some kind of lasting impact on you for the better.
Question 10: What do you hope to gain from attending this college or university?
What they’re looking for: Understanding what your motivation and expectations are with regard to college or university help admission officers determine whether or not their school will meet your expectations and whether you would be a good fit. They may also be looking to see if you have formulated clear goals for yourself, both short-term and long-term, to be sure that you’re attending college for all of the “right” reasons.
How to answer: Although the answer might boil down to “I want to get a good job, make a lot of money, and live a comfortable life,” this question requires both short-term and long-term consideration. In the short-term, you are about to spend at least four years of your life at this school and in this community. Why do you want to be there? How do you envision the next four to six years of your life? What role does this school play in that vision? Then expand to long-term and the knowledge and learning you hope to gain that will serve you for a lifetime. Also, some people aren’t really sure why they’re headed off to college, other than that’s just the expectation of the next step placed on them by family or society. So really think about his one before you answer. What are YOU hoping to gain from this experience? What does THIS school have to offer you that another college or university doesn’t? Why would you be a good fit here? It’s a valid question and needs an honest, thoughtful answer.
Question 11: What experiences have you had with people who are different from you?
What they’re looking for: College is a melting pot of all different people from all different backgrounds. Admission officers want to know your experience with diversity and assess your interactions with others. College can be an opportunity to experience and learn about different people and cultures and your prior experiences with doing so may speak to the success you’ll have in acclimating to college life.
How to answer: We’ve all been there – in a situation with someone who is different from ourselves, wondering how to interact, what common ground may be found. Sometimes these interactions are brief and inconsequential, but sometimes they shape who we are and how we view the world. Your answer to this question explains your level of acceptance when differences are easier to identify than similarities. As you prepare for this question, think about several of these experiences and consider: was the experience positive or negative? Were you the “instigator” or the “victim” in the experience? What did you learn as a result of the interaction? Your answers to these kinds of sub-questions help the admission officer determine your probable success as part of a diverse campus and what you will do to help bring people together in a spirit of understanding.
Question 12: Do you have any questions for us?
What they’re looking for: Interviewers generally end the session with this generic question. Don’t ever answer, “No, I’m good, thanks.” Having questions to ask in return shows that you are thoughtfully engaged in this school selection process. You are inquisitive and eager to learn more. Your questions also allow them to assess the research you’ve already done about their school and the seriousness with which you are approaching this decision.
How to answer: The answer to this question should always be an enthusiastic “YES!” followed by a thoughtful question or two that will provide you information that will help solidify your selection of this school as the perfect place for you. Don’t pepper the interviewer with 30 different questions, but have two or three to ask, understanding that there may not be time for the representative to answer a lot of questions from you. Make sure the questions you ask are not basic information questions that you could find the answers to online. The best questions to ask are ones you have formed as a result of the conversation you’ve just had. Questions that follow-up to comments made during your interview show that you were paying attention and are already reflecting back on the experience. At the very least, have a few questions prepared to ask about campus life or academics. If you are concerned about anything, ask a question about it. For example, you may ask about student support for incoming freshmen – are there counselors to talk with, is tutoring available if you feel like you’re struggling? Questions like these indicate you are interested in your success and are already envisioning yourself as part of their school family.
A growth mindset is a new concept in a lot of educational circles, but it is trending in education right now because it introduces the idea of shifting the focus from achievement (grades) and placing it on effort and determination to accomplish goals.
Carol Dweck: Growth Mindset Pioneer
In a book published in 2007, psychology professor Carol Dweck was one of the first to embrace the concept of the growth mindset as a beneficial tool for educators. Based on her research on the subject, promoting a growth mindset in the classroom requires certain fundamentals if the idea is going to have any success.
According to Dweck, a student’s notion about his or her ability to achieve falls between the fixed mindset and growth mindset:
- Fixed Mindset: the idea that abilities and intelligence are fixed and cannot be improved
- Growth Mindset: the idea that persistence and continuous effort will develop and enhance abilities and skills
Since our mindset helps determine the amount of motivation we have as learners, Dweck urges educators to build learning environments that focus on aiming students toward a growth mindset.
The following are essential strategies you can use to help instill a growth mindset in today’s classroom.
1. Refrain from Applauding Intelligence and Effort
Focusing on intelligence often restricts students’ concept of learning because they associate it with earning grades (which is a fixed mindset). According to Dweck, the objective is to focus on the process of learning and the methods taken to reach their learning goals, because focusing on intelligence can enhance a fixed mindset.
Effort is important in establishing a growth mindset, but to focus on it above everything else can send out the implication that a student’s effort is not enough—as if to say the student’s attempt is the best they can do and there’s no room for improvement.
If students think intelligence is fixed, there won’t be much motivation to go beyond what the student thinks is their best effort. That means the students may show a lack of interest in assignments and may perform even poorer on their assignments.
Our goal is to get students to focus on the various strategies that can be used to achieve a goal:
We must be mindful that what we applaud can hinder or promote a growth mindset.
2. Embrace a Variety of Teaching Strategies
Dweck believes that a variety of teaching methods can encourage students to develop a vast array of strategies to accomplish goals.
Use a variety of methods to give students different ways of:
- Receiving New Content — When applicable, use videos, audio clips, presentations and physical manipulatives, such as blocks, in your lessons. Learning stations can help you deliver this content in a single class.
- Processing Their Learning — Instead of always working individually, give students chances to work in pairs and groups.
- Demonstrating Mastery of Learning — Students can demonstrate mastery of learning an objective by performing a variety of activities instead of relying solely on a test (i.e., projects, visuals, speeches, skits, stories, etc.)
Your varied teaching methods will encourage your students to consider multiple options for achieving their goals, which promotes a growth mindset.
For instance, some science teachers use a Jeopardy-style review game to help students study for a test, instead of using a traditional study guide.
You may also want to vary the design of your classroom to accommodate different learning techniques and activities, and to promote freedom of thinking (i.e., having learning centers or reading mats during reading time).
3. Incorporating Gaming
You can use the lingo and culture of gaming to spark student interest in learning. Gamification of the classroom helps remove the focus off your students’ mistakes and places value of persistence in trying to achieve goals. Here are some examples of gamification in the classroom:
Football: rewarding book reading goals for the class as touchdowns when the class has read a specific number of books for the month.
Coins/Tokens: Letter grades can become coins or level-ups. Class participation and completion of homework can become experience points (XPs).
Special Missions: Extra-credit work can be viewed as solo missions and quests. The possibilities are many when it comes to incorporating gaming into the classroom. The concept focuses on adding to their accomplishments (like earning coins and XPs) and not subtracting from 100 (as traditional grades do).
4. Honoring Challenges
Encouraging the appreciation of accomplishing a challenging task (which is akin to teaching the embracing of a growth mindset) encourages a growth mindset. Dweck suggests teachers spend time teaching students about the impact of learning on the brain (as discussed in point #15 below) to help encourage the notion of improving one’s intelligence. The goal is to get students to realize that mastering a challenge helps to enhance one’s abilities.
In Dweck’s book, she recounts a middle school research project that revealed a vast improvement in math scores after teaching the value of mastering challenges. The other group with the fixed mindset experienced a decrease in scores over that same two-year period.
5. Encourage Students to Expand their Answers
The concept of improvement by giving more is a key component of a growth mindset. Getting students to go into detail about their thinking process (what they understand and what they don’t understand) can help them come up with better responses.
Students realize that mastery of an objective is not fixed but something that can be cultivated over time, if not already possessed.
The following methods help students think metacognitively about their learning:
- Q&A Feedback: Promote the concept of asking questions when students are presented with new information. That gives the presenter an opportunity to expand on key points.
- Problem-Based Learning (PBL) activities: Cooperative activities designed to promote group collaboration.
More clarification leads to the encouragement of critical thinking and the development of greater understanding of the material.
6. Discuss the Value of Abstract Skills and Concepts
If students can’t relate to it, then they probably will have a harder time mastering the concept. The best way to approach teaching abstract concepts is to find ways to make it relevant to students by discussing:
- How the concept can be applied to life outside the classroom
- How the concept can help students when they get older
- Why the concept is important in our world (or culture)
Relevance will encourage students to want to learn more about the concept and make it easier to promote a growth mindset about abstract skills.
Activities that promote real-life applications will help teachers instill the value of mastering an abstract skill as students find personal relevance.
7. Promote Goal-Based Journaling
Journaling offers a variety of benefits—one of which is the instilling of the growth mindset by allowing students to create goals. In their journals, students should
- Identify personal learning goals
- Write about how they are completing milestones to reach their goals
For example, if a student sets the goal of reading two novels each month for the reading program, the student can discuss how he or she is going to reach that goal. Some of the milestones to reach the goal could be reading two chapters a day and substituting an hour of TV time with reading.
The SMART goal-setting technique should be utilized to create and journal about their learning goals:
Valuing the goal-making process (and the journey to achieving the goal) by doing goal-based journaling enhances the creation of a growth mindset. The journaling process allows them to remove the fixed mindset and focus on persistence in accomplishing their goals. The result of goal-based journaling is the realization that their learning abilities can always improve.
8. Help Students Change their Language
While you are changing your language to foster a growth mindset, work on getting your students to do the same.
Dweck says when students don’t do well, they see their lack of success as punishment for having a poor performance. However, you can erase this fixed mindset about poor performance by teaching students to see difficulty as an opportunity to enhance their skills and mastery of the topic.
The primary means of shifting their mindset from fixed to growth is to change the language they use when their performance is less than satisfactory.
You might want to display a poster about how language can promote either a fixed or growth mindset:
As stated above, the poster will remind students to consider how their language can help or hinder a growth mindset.
9. Say “Yet” More Often
As already stated in point 8, language helps students shift their way of perceiving lack of success. Using the term “yet” at the end of a statement that was once used to reinforce a fixed mindset (like statements that start with “I can’t” or “I don’t”) can transform that statement into a positive affirmation that encourages the student to remain persistent in trying until the goal is accomplished. Thus, the term “yet” shifts the students’ mindset from negative to positive.
See for yourself by adding “yet” to the end of these sentences:
- I can’t do fractions.
- I don’t understand the story enough to answer this question.
- I don’t understand subject-verb agreement.
The goal is to teach your students to use the term “yet” each time you get the urge to use statements that start with “can’t” or “don’t.”
Saying “yet” implies that the mastery of any given skill or topic is certain if the student is willing to try and employ different strategies to accomplish the task.
10. Transform Learning Logs into Success Folders
Students may not be able to recall all the accomplishments and improvements they have made throughout the semester or year, so it is a good idea to have them document their progress as they go by creating success folders.
A success folder is like a modified learning log that is tailored to the growth mindset. It’s an extension of goal-based journaling. To create a success folder:
- Make the Folders Speak Success— Each student’s folder can be made of sturdy paper or cardboard. On the folder’s cover, have them depict success as they see it. Their depiction can be a picture or a written description (like a short story) that defines what success means to them.
- Make the Folders Uniquely Theirs— Students can place examples of successes they have had in the folder every day or once a week. These examples can be sample assignments they did well on, a summary of what they learned (like the information found in a traditional learning log) or a brief discussion of a new concept they have studied.
- Make Time for Reflection— Start off each week with allowing students to review their folder. This review allows them to reflect on their growth as a learner and provides them with the motivation needed to continue progressing.
The success folder can have a tremendous impact in your classroom if you give it a chance.
11. More Praise for Cooperative Learning
Research on cooperative learning has proven that this strategy promotes more ownership of learning, which also motivates students to develop a growth mindset.
12. Valuing the Process of Learning In Lieu of Just Grades
Students tend to equate intelligence and educational value with the type of grades they get. To remove that fixed mindset, educators need to start teaching students to value the learning process by stressing the importance of the learning process itself instead of stressing the importance of good grades.
13. Adopt Micro-Goals
Valuing the process involves establishing micro-goals, which are more like milestones along the way to achieving a bigger objective. Micro-goals allow students to celebrate the process of learning and encourages them to keep moving forward until the goal is achieved.
14. Keep in mind that people can have a fixed mindset on some things and a growth mindset on other things.
Most educators probably have a growth mindset concerning educational things. However, when it comes to other aspects of their lives, they probably have a growth mindset on some things and a fixed mindset on others. Our students are no different. We need to realize there are some students who have poor performance in school because of a fixed mindset, but they may have a growth mindset when it comes to playing video games or even when they play their favorite sport. Giving praise for how well they perform when playing games or playing sports can encourage them to adopt the same mindset for learning in school.
15. Begin Your Adoption of Fostering the Growth Mindset by Giving Lessons on Brain Science
Many educators may not feel like this concept is needed when instilling a growth mindset, but it is. Dweck’s research stresses the importance of providing lessons on brain science to make students aware of the various parts of the brain and how they function. They need to be aware that learning new things helps to grow their brains. So, it will be beneficial to your students to offer class activities and class discussions on the brain and how it functions. Doing so will make them more receptive to embracing the growth mindset.
Hands-on experiences are one of the best ways to learn and make education more engaging. Give your students the opportunity to make lasting memories and to learn something new as you consider this list of free activities and field trip locations, from great works of art to the great outdoors! If you’re a teacher or a parent looking for free learning opportunities for your curious crew, check out one of these free field trip destinations around the great state of Ohio! Please note that large groups sometimes require advance reservations; be sure to contact the organization you’re interested in directly for more information.
In and around Akron, Ohio
Akron Police Museum
For those interested in law and order, consider a tour of the Akron Police Museum and learn about the history of the Akron Police Department. Police equipment, uniforms spanning the decades, historical photos, and a 1965 Harley-Davidson police motorcycle are some of the displays you will encounter in the museum.
Operating Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:00am-3:30pm
Notes: Check the website or contact the Community Relations Department for current hours and availability of tours.
Akron Art Museum
Live creatively! Thursdays are free admission days at the Akron Art Museum, so visit their renowned collection of modern and contemporary art! Growing from a small, eclectic collection housed in two borrowed rooms in the basement of the public library, the Akron Art Museum has blossomed into a 63,000 square foot location filled with a variety of art and artists, rotating exhibits, and art programs for children and adults of the Akron community.
Admission to the Bud & Susie Rogers Garden on the Museum grounds is free.
Operating Hours: Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-5pm; Thursday, 11am-9pm Bud & Susie Rogers Garden Hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm; Thursday, 9am-9pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10am-5pm
Notes: Gallery and Museum are closed Mondays and most major holidays
The Butler Institute of American Art
This museum celebrates American art and showcases the works of American artists in all media. With over 20,000 individual works, the Butler is considered “America’s Museum”. From their locations in Youngstown and Howland Township, the museum holds juried exhibitions and rotating collections of art ranging from printmaking to photography. Their “Arts in the Early Morning Programs” offer free activities focused on specific age groups from strollers to seniors – check out their website for a complete calendar of events.
Operating Hours: The Butler Institute of American Art (Youngstown): Tuesday-Saturday, 11:00am-4:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm-4:00pm; closed Mondays and major holidays. The Butler Trumball Branch (Howland): Wednesday-Saturday, 11:00am-4:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm-4pm, Closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and major holidays.
Notes: Guided tours available
Phone: 330-743-1107 (Youngstown); 330-609-9900 (Howland)
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Part of the National Park Service, the Cuyahoga Valley Park is full of activities and adventure for all ages! Visit the Park’s website for a list of daily activities and events and plan to visit the Boston Store Visitor Center at the start of your trip to familiarize yourself with all the Park has to offer. The Canal Exploration Center is a historic building that now houses an interactive Canal Era exhibit for children and adults. The Hunt House offers child-friendly, hands-on nature exhibits. Rangers and volunteers are available throughout the Park to answer questions or provide guidance. The Park offers a variety of day field trips and student explorer opportunities; please check the website for details.
Operating Hours: Open every day of the year; Boston Store Visitor Center closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day
Notes: Some areas close at dusk, the remaining areas are open 24/7 – check the website for a list of closed areas; some activities within the park do charge a fee (i.e., the scenic train ride) – check the website for fees
In and around Ashland County, Ohio
Ashland County Historical Society
Did you know that Ashland, Ohio was once the balloon capital of the world? Learn more about Ashland County’s rich history with a visit to the Ashland Historical Society. Comprised of three fully restored historical houses and a nineteenth-century barn, visitors can step back in time to experience Ashland at the turn of the 19th century, visit what was possibly the first brick house built in the town, and browse through antiques and collectibles, including photos, newspaper clippings, and histories of the county. There is a collection of military weapons and other collectibles and the Veteran’s History Committee is recording the oral histories of Ashland County veterans, the videos of which are kept in the Society’s library and are accessible for public viewing. Don’t forget to check out the Thornburg Insect Collection, one of the largest collections in the U.S.!
Operating Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays, 11:00am-2:00pm (April through December)
Ashland Symphony Orchestra
Music lovers, rejoice! The Ashland Symphony Orchestra presents a variety of free concerts and events throughout the year and offers some outreach programs free of charge. Check out their website for a complete calendar of events or to schedule a visit with a Conductor or Musical Ensemble.
Operating Hours: Office hours for Orchestra Tickets are Tuesday-Friday, 9am-12pm.
In and around Athens, Ohio
Kennedy Museum of Art, Athens
Located on the campus of Ohio University, Athens, the Kennedy Museum of Art is open to the public for viewing of its national and international exhibitions. Collections of Southwest Native American textiles, ceramics, and jewelry; American paintings; drawings and photography; contemporary prints; and ceramics and sculpture make up its permanent collections and exhibitions. Rotating visiting exhibitions and collections are also on display – check the website for current exhibitions.
Operating Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am-8:00pm; Friday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Saturday-Sunday, 1:00pm-5:00pm
Notes: Closed on University holidays
In and around Canton, Ohio
Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center
Learn about the wildlife in your own backyard! The Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center offers displays of Ohio and North American wildlife, a kids’ discovery room, a snake and insect display, and Native American artifacts for visitors to learn about and view. Programs including learning about local reptiles, a wildflower hike, and a butterfly activity for the whole family are offered free of charge. Check their website for an updated calendar of events.
Operating Hours: Saturday and Sunday, 1:00pm-5:00pm (first weekend of May through the first weekend of October)
Notes: Some workshops require pre-registration due to space limitations.
Canton Museum of Art
Calling all art enthusiasts! The Canton Museum of Art showcases a collection of American watercolors and works on paper from the 19th century to the present and contemporary ceramics and sculpture. The museum also offers art workshops for all ages, though fees may apply. Their artisan boutique located on-site supports local Ohio designers and artists by showcasing local artisan crafts.
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 10:00am-8:00pm; Friday and Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Sunday 1:00pm-5:00pm
Notes: Free admission to the gallery every Thursday and free the first Friday of every month; regular hours do not apply during exhibit installation and changeovers or special event periods, so please check the website or the museum’s Facebook page for updated hours.
In and around Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati Art Museum
Get lost in time with a visit to the Cincinnati Art Museum. With a collection of more than 67,000 pieces of artwork spanning 6,000 years and multiple continents, visitors are invited to view the permanent collection and the traveling exhibits hosted throughout the year. Wander the Museum on your own or sign up for a free docent-led tour, available daily. The Museum offers a wide range of art-related programs for all ages – visit their website for more details.
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11:00am-5:00pm; Thursday, 11:00am-8:00pm
Notes: Closed Mondays, general admission to the museum is free, though there may be a fee for some special exhibitions – check the website for details
More than just a public library, the Cincinnati Library has a variety of programs geared toward all ages, from kids to teens to adults and seniors. From homework help to the Veterans History Project, the Cincinnati Library offers thousands of free programs each year for all ages. Check their website for a complete list.
Operating Hours: Main Library: Monday-Wednesday, 9:00am-9:00pm; Thursday-Saturday, 9:00am-6:00pm; Sunday, 1:00pm-5:00pm
Notes: Check the website for a current list of events – some may require registration
Contemporary Arts Center
Tired of the same old, same old? A visit to the Contemporary Arts Center will cure that as the Center is a non-collecting institution, meaning that there is no permanent collection housed there and the exhibitions on view are temporary displays and are constantly changing. Encouraging artists everywhere to experience contemporary art, the Center hosts community events, exhibitions, performances, and art outreach programs for all ages – visit their website for details.
Operating Hours: Saturday-Monday, 10:00am-4:00pm, Wednesday-Friday, 10:00am-9:00pm
Notes: No backpacks, large bags, food, or drink in the Galleries
Take a nature walk in the heart of Cincinnati. Eden Park and its 186 acres is home to a variety of city landmarks and memorials, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Krohn Conservatory, and Hinkle Magnolia Garden. With picnic areas and playground features, stroll through the park and enjoy scenic river and lake views, public art, and manicured gardens. Check the website for a calendar of free community events.
Operating Hours: Daily, 6:00am-10:00pm
In and around Cleveland, Ohio
Baseball Heritage Museum
Celebrate America’s favorite pastime with a trip to the Baseball Heritage Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. Share in the love of the game viewing memorabilia and equipment from major names in baseball and the unsung heroes. Exhibits showcasing women’s baseball, baseball in Cuba, and Satchell Paige’s Traveling All-Stars are among the exhibits on display.
Operating Hours: Summer Hours: Saturdays, 10:00am-4:00pm; Sundays, 12:00pm-4:00pm; Wednesdays and Fridays, 1:00pm-5:00pm
Notes: Hours vary by season – check website for current hours
Cleveland Cultural Gardens
A collection of more than 30 gardens representing the diversity and multiculturalism of Cleveland, the Cleveland Cultural Gardens are a beautiful way to enjoy Cleveland. From Albanian to Vietnamese gardens, each garden section is carefully designed and cultivated by cultural or national groups. And with the wide variety of gardens, something is always in bloom. In addition to the flora, the gardens also include depictions of notable cultural figures and monuments to specific achievements of each nation. The Gardens are a part of Rockefeller Park and extend roughly 1.5 miles on MLK and East Boulevards. There are also a variety of events held in the park and various gardens, so visit their website for an up-to-date list of events. The One World Day celebration held at the end of the summer is an especially popular event.
Operating Hours: Daily
Notes: Walking tours may be booked – contact the organization regarding fees and scheduling
Cleveland Institute of Music
Enjoy an evening (or morning or afternoon) of classical music! The Cleveland Institute of Music is an independent music conservatory that offers free concerts and master classes to the public. CIM is one of three music conservatories in the US devoted exclusively to the performance of classical music. They have world-renowned musicians and conductors speak and perform as part of their concert series. Check their website for a list of free to the public concerts and events available.
Operating Hours: Concert and event hours vary
Notes: Some events require the purchase of a ticket or seating pass
Cleveland Museum of Art
When Jeptha Wade deeded the land the museum now sits, he noted that it was to be used “for the benefit of all the people forever”. Thus, the Cleveland Museum of Art is committed to welcoming members of the community and visitors to the area into its collection art representing the human experience. The Cleveland Museum of Art opened in 1916 to serve a community seeking a comprehensive art museum. In its 100+ year history, the Cleveland Museum of Art has established art programs for children and adults and has gained an international reputation in its collection of significant works. Rotating exhibitions and permanent collections inspire all who share the experience of being human.
Operating Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: 10:00am-5:00pm; Wednesday and Friday, 10:00am-9:00pm.
Notes: The Museum is closed on Mondays; some exhibits may require the purchase of tickets – see the website for a list of events, performances, and exhibits; some events are free, but require registration – see the website for a list of events, performances, and exhibits.
Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
Do you like money? The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland offers hands-on, interactive exhibits to teach visitors about personal finance, economics, and the history of money. You can trade on Barter Island to test your ability to trade for what you need in a world without money, stand beneath their 23-foot money tree, see if you can spot counterfeit money, and pick up a free financial skills booklet that introduces kids to the concept of money.
Operating Hours: Monday-Thursday, 9:30am-2:30pm
Notes: Visitors age 16 and older must present a valid driver’s license, school ID, or other photo ID for admission into the building; closed Fridays and for occasional special events – call or check the website before arriving; group tours may be scheduled in advance for groups larger than 10 and may be scheduled for Tuesdays at 2:00pm or Thursdays at 10:00am.
Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
Remember the sacrifices made by the soldiers and sailors who have fought for American values and freedom when you visit the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in the Public Square of Cleveland, Ohio. The monument commemorates the American Civil War and consists of a 125-foot column with a Memorial Room and esplanade at its base. The interior of the monument is newly renovated, with its original coloration restored, new lighting, and refurbished stained glass windows. The Tablet Walls list the names of honored veterans who have served their country.
Operating Hours: Daily from 10:00am-5:30pm with additional hours as posted
Notes: Hours vary by season – check the website for current hours
In and around Columbus, Ohio
Al’s Delicious Popcorn Tour
If the smell of popcorn sets your mouth to watering, check out the free tours offered at Al’s Delicious Popcorn. A small, family-owned and operated business, Al’s obsession with delivering a quality product has resulted in a wide variety of hand-crafted gourmet popcorn selections that you can sample for a small fee at the end of your tour!
Operating Hours: Tours are offered January 15th through September 15th and you must make an appointment ahead of time
Notes: Tours are available by appointment ONLY, and are offered at 11:30am or 1:30pm Monday-Friday; tours are free, but sample bags are $1.25-$1.50 and must be ordered ahead of time so they are available at the end of your tour.
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum
Looking for a little humor? Billy Ireland was a self-taught cartoonist who worked for the Columbus Dispatch newspaper drawing editorial cartoons. He also penned a weekly feature, The Passing Show, a full-page color strip published every Sunday. His work targeted local politics, culture, and the locally beloved Ohio State sports teams. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, part of the Ohio State University Library system, is home to the world’s largest collection of cartoon and comic-related materials, including original art by Ireland and others, comic books, archival materials, and newspaper comic strip pages and clippings.
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 1:00pm-5:00pm
Notes: Closed Mondays and major holidays – check the website for a complete list; the site may also be closed during exhibit installations
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Located just two miles east of downtown Columbus, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens operates from within Franklin Park and offers visitors a look at lush gardens, special seasonal horticulture and art exhibitions, and a variety of botanical biomes. The Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Garden Campus, a 4-acre garden with community garden plots, a rose pavilion, and berry house, is free and open to the public daily from dawn to dusk.
On the first Sunday of each month, the Conservatory is free for residents of Franklin County and the City of Columbus (with valid ID) during normal operating hours of 10am to 5pm. Check their website or call the location to inquire about other free events sponsored by the Conservatory.
Operating Hours: 10am-5pm daily
Visit a working body of government as you tour the Ohio Statehouse, Senate Building, and Atrium. Completed in 1861, the Statehouse is an example of Greek Revival architecture while the Senate Building boasts the Grand Stair Hall, created in Carrara marble with murals on the ceiling. The Atrium is a recent addition, completed in 1993 as a connector between the Statehouse and the Senate Building. However, the Atrium is home to the Lincoln Plaque, commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Ohio in 1859 where he spoke from the area where the Atrium is now located. All of these buildings, as well as the statues and monuments located throughout the 10-acres that make up Capitol Square are open to the public.
Operating Hours: Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm; Saturday-Sunday, 11:00am-5:00pm
Notes: Free guided tours are offered Monday-Friday every hour on the hour from 10:00am-3:00pm and Saturday-Sunday every hour from 12:00pm-3:00pm. “Monument Cell Phone Tours” are also available to learn about the history of the monuments on the Capitol grounds – check the website for instructions; the Ohio Statehouse is closed on major holidays – see the website for a complete list.
Immerse yourself in Ohio art and culture as the Ohio Arts Council showcases the work of Ohio artists and curators with rotating exhibitions at the Riffe Gallery. Events and programs including “Artist Talks” are free and open to the public. See their website for current exhibitions.
Operating Hours: Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am-8:00pm; Saturday, 11:00am-4:00pm
Robbins Hunter Museum
On the National Register of Historic Places, this historic house museum is filled with 18th and 19th-century decorative arts collected by the home’s original owners and added to over the years. Completed in 1842 and serving as a private residence until 1903, the Avery-Downer House, which houses the Robbins Hunter Museum, was also used as a fraternity house until the 1950s when it again became a private residence and then was transformed into a museum to celebrate this stellar example of Greek Revival architecture in the heart of Granville, Ohio. Rotating exhibits and events on the museum grounds and gardens are accessible to the public.
Operating Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 1:00pm-4:00pm (April-December)
Notes: Admission is free, though donations are graciously accepted. If you are going with a group of 10 or more, you must make a reservation and pay $5/person. Special exhibitions may require purchased tickets for entrance.
“Where laughter, learning, and literature meet.” This is the tagline for the Thurber House, a museum, of sorts, dedicated to literacy and literature. Housed in the home of James Thurber, celebrated humorist, author, and New Yorker cartoonist, the literacy center hosts author readings, writing classes for children and adults, and awards the prestigious Thurber Prize for American Humor. The museum portion of the home includes a wide range of Thurber memorabilia.
Operating Hours: Daily, 1:00pm-4:00pm
Notes: Self-guided tours are free; guided tours are available ($4 for adults, $2 for students and seniors) on Sunday afternoons, from 1:00pm-4:00pm; some programs and events are fee-based – see website for details.
Is that a…monkey?!? Come see living art at the Topiary Park in Columbus, Ohio. This garden is a landscape of a painting of a landscape and the vision of sculptor James T. Mason, who created the idea of bringing George Seurat’s famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte to life through topiary. Located on the grounds of what was once the Ohio School for the Deaf, the 7-acre park is meticulously landscaped and includes more than 220 trees, a variety of flowerbeds, and of course the topiary figures.
Operating Hours: Seasonal: May-September, weather and conditions permitting, open daily, 11:00am-3:00pm
Notes: Check the website for off-season event openings and park hours
In and around Dayton, Ohio
Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm
An environmental education and nature center, Aullwood Audubon Center provides activities and programs that help the community learn and understand about the preservation of the planet. With miles of walking trails and over 200 acres of nature sanctuary, thousands of people come each year to get back to nature.
Operating Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9:00am-5:00pm, Sunday 1:00pm-5:00pm
Notes: There is a daily admission fee, but check the website for the calendar of free events.
Aullwood Garden, part of the Five Rivers Metroparks organization, is named in honor of Marie Aull, the “godmother of the environmental movement in southwestern Ohio”. The grounds include expansive gardens, a native prairie, and giant oak, ash, and sycamore trees, including the 600-year old “Marie’s Sycamore”, which was growing at the time Columbus sailed to the Americas. The Aull House, dating back to 1907, is open occasionally for tours. Wander the mile-long garden path to enjoy the variety of flowers, catch a glimpse of butterflies, and see hummingbirds, finches, and sparrows in their native prairie habitat.
Operating Hours: April 1-October 31, 8:00am-10:00pm; November 1-March 31, 8:00am-8:00pm
Step back in time by visiting the Bear’s Mill, one of the few water-powered mills still in operation today. Grain takes a journey through the Mill’s four-stories, passing through French Buhr millstones to be ground into healthy, minimally processed flours and meals. Numbered signs located throughout the Mill building provide insight and history of the Mill’s role in the community. In addition to its rustic setting, Bear’s Mill also features a rotating exhibition of art and photography of the region.
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 1:00pm-5:00pm
Notes: Free self-guided tours can be taken through each floor of the mill or organized tours are available for a fee.
Brukner Nature Center
Enjoy some time outdoors and perhaps catch a glimpse of some local birds and wildlife with a visit to the Brukner Nature Center. Committed wildlife conservation and rehabilitation, the 165-acre wildlife preserve has 6 miles of hiking trails, an Interpretive Center with seasonal wildlife exhibits, and a log house dating back to 1804. The Nature Library is open to the public and has an extensive collection of picture books for children. Visitors can also visit the Tree-Top Bird Vista, a premier birding spot for bird enthusiasts.
Operating Hours: Interpretive Center Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 12:30pm-5:00pm; Brukner Nature Center trails are open sunrise to sunset 7 days a week
Notes: Sunday admission is free, there is a $2.50 charge per person all other days of the week; Interpretive Building is closed on major holidays and for special events, so please check the calendar on the website; no credit cards; no pets
If a return to simpler times is what you are looking for, you’ll find it at Carriage Hill. Part of the Five Rivers Metroparks organization, Carriage Hill includes a Visitor’s Center with an interactive “classroom” for the kids, fishing at Cedar Lake, and miles of hiking trails. The historical farm on Carriage Hill recreates what life on a family farm was like in the 1880s. Volunteers and staff demonstrate period farming techniques and domestic activities throughout the year. Visitors can explore the blacksmith shop, historic farmhouse, barn, and woodshop. Heirloom vegetables grow in the garden and a variety of farm animals call Carriage Hill home.
Operating Hours: April-October: Visitor Center, Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 12:00pm-5:00pm; Historical Farm Grounds: Tuesday-Sunday 8:00am-5:00pm; Historical Farm Buildings: Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 12:00pm-5:00pm; November-March: Visitor Center, Tuesday-Sunday 12:00pm-4:00pm; Historical Farm Grounds: Tuesday-Sunday, 8:00am-4:00pm; Historical Buildings: Saturday-Sunday, 12:00pm-4:00pm
Notes: The Carriage Hill Metropark Riding Center offers trail rides, though fees may apply; check the website for a calendar of events and daily demonstrations; guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more, call the site to schedule; all farm facilities are closed on Mondays.
Master the maze! Hike the trails! Visit the butterfly house! A trip to the Cox Arboretum, part of the Five Rivers Metroparks organization, keeps visitors busy with a wide variety of activities. The butterfly house features native pollinator plants that attract birds, bees, and butterflies and has tips on how to make home gardens more pollinator-friendly, which helps make the garden and environment healthier. The Barbara Cox Center for Sustainable Horticulture offers opportunities for visitors to learn about sustainability and horticulture while the Tree Tower offers an 81-step climb up a Douglas Fir to witness breathtaking panoramic views from 65 feet above the conifer collection at the park. The Bell Children’s Maze challenges kids (and adults!) to navigate their way through 1,175 boxwoods to the center of the maze – and back again!
Operating Hours: Park Hours: April 1-October 31, 8:00am-10:00pm; November 1-March 31, 8:00am-8:00pm; Zorniger Education Center Hours: open year-round, Monday-Friday, 8:00am-5:00pm and Saturday-Sunday, 11:00am-4:00pm.
Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
Explore the “Birthplace of Aviation” with a trip to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. The park consists of 5 locations in and around Dayton, Ohio, but the start of things is at the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center where you can explore the early careers of Wilbur and Orville Wright as printers and newspaper editors. With historical artifacts, memorabilia, and photographs learn about the impact and contributions these brothers made to modern aviation.
Notes: There are some fees to enter parts of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park – check the website for a list and for an updated calendar of free events, exhibitions, and opportunities.
Relax to the peaceful sound of waterfalls with a visit to Englewood Metropark, part of the Five Rivers Metropark system. Limestone and shale rocks are being carved by a series of three waterfalls, accessible on the green trail loop. Test your frisbee skills with a round of disc golf at the Blue Heron Disc Golf Course, located within the park. The Benedict Blincoe Wildlife Observation Area boasts one of the best birding sites in the area, along with possible sightings of beaver, muskrat, and raccoons.
Operating Hours: Park Hours: April 1-October 31, 8:00am-10:00pm; November 1-March 31, 8:00am-8:00pm
Notes: The lake on Martindale Road is open 24/7 for fishing and the North Park fishing ponds are open 24/7 from April 1-October 31 for fishing only; fishing activities may include fees – check the website for details.
Hike the 15+ miles of wooded trails, sit by the Twin Creek stream, be awed by the largest old-growth woodland in Montgomery County, and take in the spectacular views from the Valley Overlook. All of this and more await you at the Germantown Metropark, part of the Five Rivers Metroparks system, just 20 minutes from Dayton. The Welcome Center orients visitors to the area and provides interpretive displays about the local flora and fauna while hiking trails await those looking for adventure in a beautiful natural setting.
Operating Hours: April 1-October 31, 8:00am-10:00pm; November 1-March 31, 8:00am-8:00pm
National Museum of the US Air Force
Attention pilots and aviation buffs! The National Museum of the US Air Force presents military aviation history along with historical and sensory exhibits designed to bring history to life. From flight’s early beginnings to the research and development that will launch us into advanced aerospace understanding, visitors can view the missile and space galleries, warplane examples, and see how American presidents from Roosevelt to Clinton traveled in the Presidential Gallery. The Memorial Park on the Museum’s grounds honors those who have served in Air Force-associated units for their service and sacrifice to defend the principles of American freedom.
Operating Hours: Daily, 9:00am-5:00pm
Notes: Some exhibits have special hours – check the website for details; there is a charge for the AF Museum Theater and the flight simulators; adults may be asked to show picture ID before entering
Paul Laurence Dunbar House Historic Site
“I hope there is something worthy in my writings and not merely the novelty of a black face associated with the power to rhyme that has attracted attention.” – Paul Laurence Dunbar
The fully restored home of acclaimed African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar is open for free tours for visitors to view some of Dunbar’s literary treasures, personal items, and family furnishings. Dunbar’s bicycle, a gift from neighbors Orville and Wilbur Wright, is on display, as is the desk and chair where Dunbar penned some of his most famous works. Also on display is Dunbar’s collection of Native American art and a ceremonial sword gifted to Dunbar by President Theodore Roosevelt, for whom Dunbar wrote a campaign poem. The house has been restored to the appearance it had when Dunbar and his mother lived there (early 20th century).
Operating Hours: Friday-Sunday, 10:00am-4:00pm
Notes: Hours tours are given throughout the day, with the last tour departing at 3:30pm
Visit the Education Center at Possum Creek to learn about local food and the environment. The “Edible Farm” located in the park, part of the Five Rivers Metropark system, promotes small-scale food raising for the local community and encourages novice “urban farmers” to expand their yards’ potential beyond just growing fruits and vegetables. Argonne Lake provides free-of-charge fishing, while the Argonne Forest and the Jean V. Woodhull Prairie offer visitors a glimpse into the history of land use in the area and promotes the need to conserve natural space in its natural state.
Operating Hours: Park Hours: April-October, 10:00am-10:00pm; November-March, 10:00am-8:00pm; Farm buildings at the Edible Farm are open 9:00am-3:30pm daily
A popular fishing and hiking spot, Taylorsville Metropark is part of the Five Rivers Metroparks system. It sits at what was once the bustling trades town of Tadmor, one of the busiest crossroads in the country. The Old National Road, Great Miami River, the Miami-Erie Canal and multiple railroads all converged here and Tadmor was considered one of the most important transportation centers in the country. Today the Park has more than 8 miles of trail, some through old-growth forest and with spectacular river views, remnants of the great Miami-Erie Canal, and visitors can walk up stone stairs to explore small caverns created by water traveling through the stone over time.
Operating Hours: April 1-October 31, 8:00am-10:00pm; November 1-March 31, 8:00am-8:00pm
Get your green thumb blooming with a visit to Wegerzyn Gardens. Part of the Five Rivers Metroparks organization, a trip to Wgerzyn Gardens will help inspire your inner gardener. With insight and expertise from volunteers, visitors can learn about native plants, view design ideas for their own gardens, and discover environmentally-friendly plant combinations and cultivation techniques successful in the Miami Valley. There is also a Children’s Discovery Garden where little gardeners can get their shovels dirty and build a love for gardening.
Operating Hours: April 1-October 31, 8:00am-10:00pm; November 1-March 31, 8:00am-8:00pm; Children’s Discovery Garden Hours: March 1-March 31, 10:00am-8:00pm; April 1-October 31, 10:00am-10:00pm; November 1-December 31, 10:00am-8:00pm (closed January and February)
Notes: The water feature in the Children’s Discovery Garden is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, 10:00am-8:00pm.
In and around East Liverpool, Ohio
Beaver Creek State Park and Pioneer Village
Pioneer Village, located within Beaver Creek State Park, is a collection of log structures built in the same fashion and using the same materials as the original log structures of the early 19th century. The grist mill, canal lock, blacksmith shop, log cabin, chapel, schoolhouse, and covered bridge take visitors back to life in a pioneer village. A collection of antiques and replicas of items used by early pioneers in their daily lives are on display throughout the village.
Operating Hours: Saturday and Sunday, 12:00pm-4:00pm, May-October
In and around Hocking County, Ohio
Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve
Conkle’s Hollow is a State Nature Preserve, meaning that the area tries to balance user access with the least amount of physical impact on the environment and natural ecosystem. Conkle’s Hollow is famous for its sheer Black Hand sandstone cliffs and a deep gorge that runs through the Hollow’s floor. Beautiful scenic views abound, the Lower Gorge Trail has been redesigned to accommodate visitors of all abilities, and there are 3.5 miles of trails to explore.
Operating Hours: Daily, 30 minutes before sunrise-30 minutes after sunset
Notes: Drinking water is not available on-site; see website for a complete list of rules and regulations
Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills State Park is a part of the Ohio State Parks and Watercraft system. Explore the hollows and caves that have seen human contact for more than 7,000 years, carved into the sandstone and shale rocks that illustrate the geological history of Ohio. Naturalists and docent volunteers are on-hand to answer any questions.
Operating Hours: Daily, 30 minutes before sunrise-30 minutes after sunset
Notes: Check the website for updated events, closures, and conditions
In and around Jackson Center, Ohio
Airstream Factory Tour
If you have kids who love anything with wheels, check out this American classic! Watch the Airstream assembly process from parts to hand rivets. Airstream Factory Tours are available Monday-Friday at 2pm and last approximately 1.5-2 hours over a one-mile walk. Please show up approximately 15 minutes early for the tour and wear close-toed shoes; hearing and eye protection will be provided.
Operating Hours: 8am-4pm, Monday-Friday
Notes: Tours offered at 2pm only; Friday tours may not include the plant in full production; call in advance to verify tour schedule or to make a reservation for groups of 10 or more
In and around Sugarcreek, Ohio
Alpine Hills Historical Museum
The Alpine Hills Historical Museum in Sugarcreek, Ohio is a complete introduction to Amish Country. The free tour begins with a short video exploring Amish culture and introducing visitors to the Swiss immigrants’ impact on local history. Historical artifacts and exhibits await visitors to the museum and no trip would be complete without a try at playing their Alphorn! Across the street, you will find the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock and The Brick Wall Sculpture, a collection of 13 sculptured brick panels chronicling the local history of the area.
Operating Hours: Open April 1st – October 31st; Monday-Thursday 9:00am-4:00pm; Friday and Saturday 9:00am-5:00pm, Closed Sundays
Notes: Although there is no admission fee, donations are always accepted and greatly appreciated to help defray the costs associated with museum upkeep
In and around Toledo, Ohio
Bowling Green State University Fine Arts Galleries
Celebrate the arts with exhibitions of student and faculty work, in addition to nationally recognized artists, by visiting the Fine Arts Galleries located on the campus of Bowling Green State University. The Dorothy Uber Bryan Gallery boasts over 4,600 square feet of large-scale contemporary artwork pieces; within the Hiroko Nakamoto Gallery is an authentic Japanese tea ceremony room; the Little Gallery welcomes guest artists and student work, and the Willard Wankelman Gallery provides space for BFA student exhibitions. Exhibitions in the galleries are on a rotating basis of 12-14 per year, so check the website for the most up-to-date exhibit information.
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11:00am-4:00pm; Thursday, 6:00pm-9:00pm; Sunday, 1:00pm-4:00pm
Notes: Hours may change during summer exhibitions. Check the website for the most up-to-date hours.
Marblehead Lighthouse State Park
Attention mariners! Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes, providing a beacon of light on the Marblehead Peninsula since 1822. Visit the Lighthouse Museum and learn about the history of the lighthouse and its keepers, including two women, and the evolution of the light source from whale oil to LED bulbs.
Operating Hours: Park grounds are open year-round; Museum Buildings open daily, 12:00pm-4:00pm from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day
Notes: There is a cost to climb the lighthouse ($3 per person 6 and older, cash only); lighthouse tours may be canceled due to weather
Maumee Bay State Park
Maumee Bay State Park is a tribute to Lake Erie, one of the largest bodies of freshwater in the world. Recreational activities including boating, fishing, nature walks, and wildlife viewing abound. The wetlands of Maumee Bay are teeming with wildlife and over 300 species of birds have been recorded there, including a number of nesting pairs of bald eagles. The Trautman Nature Center has interactive displays and is staffed by naturalists who can answer questions and provide history about the park. The Park also hosts a variety of community events – check the website for an updated calendar.
Operating Hours: Daily, 6:00am-11:00pm
Notes: Some fees may be associated with certain activities – check the website for pass and fee requirements
Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
A visit to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge exposes visitors to the flora and fauna native to northwest Ohio and the shore of Lake Eris. The roughly 6,500 acres of wetland, grassland, and wooded habitat includes portions of the Great Black Swamp and the ecosystem that lives there. The Visitor’s Center tells the history of the refuge and the surrounding lands. 10 miles of hiking trails meander through a variety of habitats. The refuge offers a variety of programs and events that are free to the public – check the website for more information and to plan your visit.
Operating Hours: Trails are open daily from dawn to dusk; Visitor’s Center is open daily from 9:00am-4:00pm
Notes: Portions of the refuge may be closed due to weather or natural conditions – check the website before you visit; the refuge wildlife drive is not open every day – check the calendar of events on the website to see if the drive is scheduled to be open the day you plan to visit
Toledo Museum of Art
The Toledo Museum of Art prides itself on its art education for the public. In its 100+ year history, TMA has worked to educate people on how to integrate art into their lives. In addition to their Galleries, TMA offers programming and events to the community. From ancient Egyptian art and artifacts to public glass blowing demonstrations, the Toledo Museum of Art will engage at lovers of all ages.
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday, 10:00am-4:00pm; Thursday-Friday, 10:00am-9:00pm; Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 12:00pm-5:00pm
Notes: General admission to the Museum is free, but some exhibits or events may require purchased tickets
Teachers have real challenges ahead of them each year when it comes to helping students succeed in school. Earning a diploma and moving on to higher education are increasingly important each year. Without these markers for aptitude, graduates are hard pressed to find gainful employment.
Students who graduate ill-prepared for college are unlikely to pursue higher education and later find satisfactory employment. For that reason, the Arkansas Department of Education has recently implemented teacher training and changed the yearly benchmarks to improve student performance. The ADE has adopted a new annual standardized testing model tailored to specific programs within schools and designed to achieve higher competency scores across disciplines.
Adopting ACT Aspire
For students in Arkansas, academic understanding is now measured in benchmarks by administration of the ACT Aspire test. The ACT Aspire was approved in 2015 for students grades 3 through 10. The test measures comprehension in English, reading, math, science, and writing. Additionally, ninth and tenth graders receive a predicted score for the ACT.
Since the new regimen was adopted in 2015, we can expect teachers and students alike to undergo a learning curve. Arkansas’ teachers are invited to summer workshops on preparing students for the ACT Aspire tests. Hopefully, the coming years will show an upswing in student mastery of the areas addressed.
Steps to Help Your Students Succeed
If you’re reading all this as a parent, you may wonder how all these scores and tests can help your child. The answer is this: Knowledge is power. Knowing how the school system is preparing your child and what obstacles may impede them is paramount for overcoming possible hurdles.
You can help your student surpass state standards by using practice exams and taking advantage of test preparation tools online. Many tools can help your student learn the concepts needed for every stage of the ACT Aspire test and, later, the ACT.
Teach Good Study Habits
Many students suffer from poor study habits. Things like procrastination can hurt a student’s chances in school and in life. Help your student organize their homework schedule beginning at a young age. Use calendars and planners to ensure that study time is divided equitably between subjects.
Invest in Online Supplements
Find an online program which uses your the Arkansas standards to inform its program. These types of platforms use games, quizzes and video lessons to help your classes grasp core concepts. You can use an online study site to bridge gaps during breaks or to help your students stay ahead of the curve at school.
Play to Your Students’ Strengths
Every kid has individual interests and talents, and it’s important to encourage their evolution. Children learn more and retain better when they’re having fun. For that reason, make learning fun at school and at home. The future of the nation depends on our children. Recent changes to the state assessments are a good sign for the future of Arkansas. To improve your students’ college readiness, use all the tools at your disposal and make education a priority!
Students in Tennessee prepare every year to take the TNReady test and prove they have learned enough to enter the world or proceed to college. The tests are an important benchmark for student progress. They are intended to measure understanding instead of memorization.
Students in third through eighth grade take TNReady assessments in English language arts, math, science, and social studies at the end of each school year. Teachers cover necessary materials to help their classes prepare for the assessments. This year, technical difficulties impeded the test’s efficacy, and lawmakers agreed to wipe the slate clean for students. That means negative results won’t be counted against test-takers for the 2018 cycle. Next year, however, the test will be back in full force. Parents and teachers alike can help students prepare for the 2019 TNReady in many ways.
Focus on Healthy Habits
Children need help learning how to study and learn effectively. They should be encouraged to follow a balanced schedule for homework and extra study. Using calendars and rewards for younger children can help them learn to pace themselves and manage their own time. Students are often guilty of procrastination which can make keeping up with study work difficult. Teaching your kids to be proactive in their own education will make them better able to succeed in school.
Make Learning Fun
Studies show that children better remember concepts they learn in a multitude of ways. Tactile learning is more valuable because of its impact. An article from National Geographic reminds us to help our children interact with their environment for better results. Interactive courses can have a real influence on students:
“Our auditory memory isn’t as robust as we might like to think it is,” says Amy Poremba. “We think that we are great at integrating all the senses,” but the experiment shows that tactile and visual memory easily trumped auditory memory.
Consider enrolling your child in a Minecraft program, science workshop, or STEM summer camps.
Enlist Test Prep Help
Another way you can help your child succeed in school, on the TNReady test, and future placement exams is to enroll them in an online test prep course. The structured setting of most test prep sites allows students to work within the standards through a variety of exercises. Students can enjoy games, video lessons, and practice quizzes, all directed at helping them understand test materials.
Your third to the eighth-grade student can benefit in many ways from small adjustments to their routine. Taking time to help them learn how to study properly is the first step towards school success. Enrolling your student in interesting extracurriculars or summer programs can give them a leg up in school. Lastly, using test prep websites is a great way to improve your child’s confidence in his or her abilities. Since confidence is key for test takers, never underestimate this last perk.
Are we here already? Is it testing season again? Well of course it is, and just like death, taxes, and another movie based on a comic book, we’ve got to deal with it. Students- and parents- will stress and fret, and there is nothing we can do to prevent that. There are, however, some nuggets of wisdom we can try to impart to help them deal with this time of year. What follows is some advice I’ve given to my own students over the years.
– Sleep… Wonderful, Wonderful Sleep. We all know that young people need more sleep. While teachers may not be able to do much to get students to go to sleep at home, it’s something worth telling them- and parents- over and over.
– DO.NOT.CRAM. Make sure to tell students this well ahead of time, not just the days before SOL testing. Rather than rush to shove one’s mind full of information, emphasize to students the need to review often in the days and weeks before the test.
– Fuel Up! Students need to eat a good breakfast and drink plenty of water before their SOL tests. Have them avoid sugary, high carb foods, and instead focus on choices packed with protein.
– Water, Water Everywhere. Massive infusions of caffeine is a great way to wipe out focus. Urge them NOT to binge on coffee and energy drinks. Instead, H20 is the way to go. Hydrate in the days leading up to testing, not just the day of or the day before.
– Move It! Students need to get rid of stress during this time of the year. Encourage them to go for a run, shoot some baskets, or anything that will help them to blow off some steam before and after studying and SOL testing.
– Prepare For the Ice Age. Testing rooms are notoriously arctic-like in the morning. Encourage students to dress in layers so they can peel off a light jacket or sweater as the day heats up. They should be focused on their test, not on worrying about hypothermia or frostbite.
– Good Old #2. If they’re using pencils, be sure they bring plenty of them- all sharpened- to the testing facility. Time wasted looking for or sharpening pencils is not time that can be won back.
As spring approaches, teachers, students, and parents in the great state of Indiana have much for which to prepare. The iLearn measures student achievement from 3rd through 8th and 10th grade. The two-part testing system checks student understanding of English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.
The combined results of these exams are used to measure the efficacy of the Indiana school system as a whole. Additionally, the class of 2019 will be required to pass the English and Mathematics portion for graduation. For those reasons, test preparation is paramount.
Depending on your teaching style, you may use iLearn practice guides throughout the year, or only in the months leading up to exams. Either way, a program like that provided by USATestPrep can be invaluable to teachers and pupils alike.
Our standards-based program allows you to integrate iLearn study into daily assignments, technology-enhanced practice, educational games, and more. The dynamic classroom assistant can even track progress and help students engage in performance-guided remediation. Further, USATestPrep provides an overview of the state standards for each grade level and subject.
To help you get the most out of iLearn practice, we’ve compiled some study tips and strategies which will boost student performance.
1. Use Dynamic Lessons for Content Comprehension
Since students learn in a variety of ways, teaching them with more than one tactic is the best route to encourage understanding. Incorporating games, bell ringers, videos, performance tasks, puzzles, and more can liven up test preparation and improve student retention. Group activities and periodic quizzes can also help pupils remember content under pressure.
USATestprep ensures that all supplementary learning items are standards-based for optimal student comprehension. The program also includes understanding checks for the provided material, as seen below.
Memory retention is more natural when we care about what we’re learning. That’s why students get better grades in the classes which they enjoy. The obvious approach is to engage your class in innovative learning modules to spark their curiosity, imagination and, ultimately, their memories.
2. Familiarize Students with Test Mechanics
The iLearn consists of two parts, given between February and May. Each section includes English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. The ELA part is 3 hours and 45 minutes, while Math is given 2 hours. The result is a very long test for children to focus on and attempt to complete. Especially for younger or more restless pupils, practice is critical.
Working with your students on practice exams and modules specifically designed for the iLearn is paramount in helping children endure such an extended set of tests. Since the test can be administered online or on paper, students should be familiarized with both options. If your class has sufficiently learned the material, testing should be easy.
However, students can be intimidated by the iLearn. Allowing your pupils to track their progress with the class scoreboard function can encourage confidence in their abilities. Sometimes the difference between passing and failing is only believing you could pass.
3. Demystify Technology-enhanced Items
The iLearn makes use of technology-enhanced modules to assess student computer skills within the test setting. It would be a mistake to let your pupils encounter these types of questions on the exam only. Instead, assigning online coursework through USATestprep will familiarize your students with technology-enhanced items.
Content such as drag-and-drop questions, graphs, visual representations and more are tailored to the iLearn standards and at your fingertips for classroom activities, homework and more. Assigning technology-enhanced modules on a regular basis will lead to higher student confidence when faced with the real test.
4. Improve Student Focus
Lengthy tests are challenging for students who have trouble focusing. Even if your class understands the concepts discussed empirically, they may not perform well on exams. To combat this problem try focus exercises or self-regulation techniques.
In Canada, students are regularly trusted with greater control of their education. Teachers observe children and try to suggest ways to overcome stress, hyperactivity, and lethargy. Students are then expected to engage themselves when necessary to return focus to their lessons. The model of self-regulating can look different for each pupil. It may mean a student jogging to release unnecessary energy or approaching teachings in an unconventional way.
In the US, flipped classrooms rely on students to manage their time at home and participate in engaging classroom modules as a group. The approach can only succeed if students are sufficiently invested in their education.
Favorite ways to improve focus in a group include breaking up long activities into short tasks, getting kids moving, utilizing attention breaks and playing memory games. With USATestprep, you can use flash cards, short videos, games, and puzzles to improve pupil concentration.
Making learning fun and hands-on is a popular and effective method to help students take charge of their futures. Oftentimes, kids are expected to sit and listen to teachers riddle off facts, but their brains don’t work that way. Switching up your routines can eliminate fidgeting and complaints in class.
5. Bolster Student Confidence
Since students who feel comfortable and able will score better on exams, you need to pave the way for students to know they are capable. The scoreboard can help show students their improvement in a visual way. Meanwhile, audible praise can be a motivator for many pupils. Additionally, many children feel more confident when given greater responsibility.
An idea you may like is to create peer tutoring across grade levels. This approach allows each class to feel capable and take ownership of their understanding of the material. The National Education Association encourages peer tutoring to improve student performance.
As a teacher, you have vested interest in your student’s iLearn performance. Now you can have a partner in improving student test scores. Employing the help of a standards-based study and classroom model can lead you to a whole new way of encountering iLearn preparation.
You’ve dreamed about this since you were old enough to cheer for their sports teams. You’ve imagined yourself enmeshed in the campus life you’ve seen pictures of online. You’ve talked to your friends and family about achieving this goal you’ve had for so long – being accepted to your dream college. But how do you do that? Sitting back wishing and hoping isn’t enough. Just because you have the school’s emblem drawn all over the cover of your school notebook, you know all the stats of their basketball team, or your closet is full of their school colors does not mean that you are an automatic shoe-in, given what is likely some very stiff acceptance competition.
Dreams don’t generally come true from sitting back and waiting for them to happen – you have to take charge and make things happen! That includes preparing for success at your dream school: It takes thoughtful planning ahead of time. While there are no guarantees for acceptance to any particular school, there are some things you can do to give yourself an advantage over the competition. Here are some tips to help you increase your chances of making that dream come true.
Grades Matter – Schools look at your transcripts, GPA, and test scores in determining whether or not you would be a good fit for their expectations. Generally speaking, colleges don’t want to have to babysit those who are unprepared for the rigors of college-level work, by offering remedial classes. In high school, take classes that will prepare you for the rigors of college – and excel at them! While you may have some hiccups in your transcript history (like that science class you earned a D in), that doesn’t necessarily mean your ship is sunk. But it does mean that you need to be aware of it and be ready to explain what happened and, more importantly, what you learned from the experience. So, you made it up in summer school and earned a B: great. But what did you learn as a result of having to retake the course? Have your time management skills improved? Do you better understand and appreciate the work required to write a complete lab report? Schools want to see that you are resilient and that you take every stumble as an opportunity to learn and grow. While there is usually an opportunity at some point in the application process to explain low grades, too many low grades cannot be excused or overlooked. This brings us to the topic of what kinds of classes appear on your transcript.
There are conflicting views on whether it is better for students to take higher-level courses like Honors, AP, or IB and perhaps risk not getting all As, or whether it is better to take “easier” classes to keep a high GPA. Ultimately, the decision is yours. Challenging higher-level courses indicate something about your personality – that you are willing to work hard, to take risks, to challenge yourself; but not doing well in them could sink your GPA. Taking lower-level courses also says something about your academic drive, the value you place on education, and your personal push to learn. Balancing your course load in a way that will allow for both challenge and success is probably the best way to go.
Test Scores Matter – As much as society doesn’t like the idea of “teaching to the test,” test scores matter. In both state or district testing, as well as national testing like the SAT or ACT, the scores matter. Many people experience test anxiety and, as a result of nerves and self-inflicted pressure to be perfect, may not test well. To help combat this, take as many practice tests as you can. Your high school may offer free or reduced cost opportunities to take the PSAT or other standardized tests. The more practice you get with them, the more comfortable you may feel and the easier you may find it to navigate through them. If test-taking really makes you nauseous, consider enrolling in test-taking support courses that will teach you hints and tips for the process. Sometimes there are even free workshops offered at local schools, libraries, or community centers. And take as many AP tests as you can; they are good practice for test-taking, and the credits you earn from the scores you receive may transfer to your school of choice and allow you to start with higher-level courses once you get there. Taking the test also demonstrates that you were serious about the studies and weren’t just taking the class so it would look good on your transcripts.
Activities Help – Participation in clubs, activities, and other extracurricular events looks good on your academic resume, but there’s a balance to strike between
quantity and quality. Rather than attempting to join 30 different clubs, stick to several that are meaningful to you and that you enjoy participating in. Being in clubs and organizations that promote community volunteer work and allow you to “give back” shows a sense of social awareness and concern for others. Participation in one-day events or trying different types of clubs and organizations is good to help you find what you like, but once you find something, stick with it for an extended period of time. Jumping from activity to activity can make you appear flighty on your application and doesn’t speak to the dedication that you may have for a particular cause or organization.
Look for Opportunities Everywhere – When you are trying to figure out where to spend your activities time, keep in mind that there is a variety of places and ways to get involved. Joining academic clubs and activities at school, academic societies or organizations like NHS or Scholar-Athletes, being part of a sports team (either at school or through the community), religious-based service organizations, or community-based programs and clubs are all great ways to be involved in the community and show that you are engaged with the world around you.
Be an Active Participant at School – Being a part of your high school’s sports team shows dedication, time management, collaboration and a team-player mentality. But there are other ways to get involved at school as well. Try out for the school choir or music program. Studies show that students who are involved with music have higher math scores. Join the speech and debate team, which builds public speaking skills and effective argument structure and delivery, in addition to critical thinking skills. Become a part of the yearbook staff or join the journalism club and hone those language and communication skills (along with graphic design and computer skills in this digital age). Run for student council: You may not be elected President, but cabinet members have responsibilities and participation in student government shows that you can work collaboratively with others to achieve a common goal. If your school doesn’t offer a club or organization that you think would be beneficial to the students or community, take an active leadership role and start a club or local chapter on campus! Participation in clubs shows that you can both give and take direction and instruction and work collaboratively with others. Starting a club takes initiative and a sense of awareness that will help you stand out from the applicant crowd.
Expand Your Horizons – Many of the activities you can participate in school offer another benefit: travel opportunities to participate in competitions. Even if it’s just travel across town, getting out of your bubble and broadening your horizons by participating in these types of experiences help you stand out from other applicants. Another great way to expand your understanding of the global community is by participating in a foreign exchange student program, either as a student traveler to another country or as a host family for a foreign student. Immersion in another country or hosting a student from another culture gives you unique experiences and understandings to share in your application process.
Here are some student exchange program links for you to explore:
https://exchanges.state.gov/us/high-school (this site also has links to scholarship opportunities that can help make exchange programs more affordable!)
Be an Active Member of Your Community – Giving of your time and actively participating in your community signal to schools that you will probably be an engaged and involved student on their campus. Whether volunteering at an elementary school, helping the little kids with their homework, at an animal shelter walking the dogs or cleaning out kennels, or feeding the homeless, a variety of volunteer experiences will help the admissions panel get a better sense of who you are and what is important to you. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity and American Red Cross, and local organizations all have volunteer opportunities for teens to get involved.
Ask What You Can Do for Them – Consider the strengths and talents that you can bring to your dream school campus. It’s not enough to be there soaking in the greatness of others – you must contribute greatness as well! What are some of your strengths or talents that you can share with others and lend to the school community to make it even greater? Think about adjectives that describe you and how those qualities would benefit the campus community. In your application process, take every opportunity to showcase and brag about the unique attributes that you bring.
Have a Back-Up Plan – Yes, you have applied to your dream school, you can practically envision the set-up of your dorm room, the taste the cafeteria food, but…what if the school you long to attend isn’t as enthusiastic about inviting you to be a student? All is not lost, even if there is a rejection letter sent your way. Find out: Is there a waitlist? How long before you’ll know for sure? Can you transfer in after freshman year? What are the requirements to do so? If none of these are possibilities or if your love for this school quickly dissipates with the rejection, what is your backup plan? Whether it is applying to a second-choice school or taking a gap year to work or travel, you need to have other options in mind, just in case the unthinkable happens.
Be Ready to Brag – Some people have a very difficult time writing about themselves in a positive way because they have been taught to be “humble” and not brag. Other people have a low self-esteem and genuinely struggle with finding positive aspects of themselves to share with others. Regardless, your college application requires a certain level of bragging – because if you’re not going to toot your own horn and explain to complete strangers what makes you special and unique and worth their consideration in attending their school who will? If you are having a difficult time coming up with an extensive list of adjectives that describe you, ask a trusted friend or family member to compile a list of words they think describe your personality and your accomplishments. Reminisce with others about experiences you’ve had or things you’ve done that maybe you haven’t thought about or considered in quite some time, but which were impactful moments in your life and could lend themselves to strong application essays.
Who to Help You Brag – Most college applications will ask for letters of recommendation in addition to your application. These letters of recommendation should be written by people who really know you and can speak to your great qualities. A teacher who still has to check the seating chart to be certain of your name is probably not going to be able to write the most glowing recommendation. Letters of recommendation should be written by people who can provide specific examples of things you have done or how they have seen your characteristics at work. Asking a teacher or counselor who is overwhelmed by other commitments, who doesn’t really know you or your background, is not a good choice to write your letter. Consider asking managers at work, coaches, or academic advisors to write your letter. Do not pick a family member, even if you “worked” for them by babysitting or helping in the summer. You want non-familial people who can be objective but who respect and admire you enough to write a strong letter of recommendation.
Watch your Social Media Activity – Think what you tweet to your friends or post on Facebook stays within friendly territory? Not so much. Everything you post, every comment you make, is accessible to school admissions officers if it is on a public social media platform. As with employers these days, admissions officers can and do check the social media accounts of prospective students. And if they don’t like what they see, they may not choose to invite you to be a part of their school. So be smart about what you post, both words and pictures. Be careful how and to what you reply and comment on – Big Brother may be watching! This link will share with you some of the warnings about the impact your social media presence can have on your chances for admission.
Let Your Creativity Shine – Have you heard about the high school student who wrote her application essay on the effects of Costco on her life? It was brilliantly creative and wildly imaginative and allowed her to stand out from the competition. It also helped gain her acceptance to five Ivy League schools. So be creative in your approach to your application essays! Consider the thousands of commonplace responses admissions officers must read through and then think outside the box. Allow your personality to come through. But never, ever, lie on your application.
Plan Ahead – Despite what you might think, your best writing comes when there is time to reread and revise. Don’t wait until the last minute. After you write your application essays and paragraphs, let them sit and marinate for at least 24 hours, then look at them again with a fresh and critical eye. Take your time filling out applications; don’t try to do 5 in one night. They are long and tend to be pretty boring and if you’re not your sharpest self when filling them out, you may miss something important. For application essays, make sure that each one is tailored to the school to which you are applying. Use specific references to the school to show that you’ve done your homework and researched what the school has to offer and how you are going to take advantage of those offerings. Also, apply for every scholarship available – it gives you practice writing and may earn you money as well. There are thousands of scholarship opportunities out there, so do some legwork and find ones that apply to you. Don’t forget about local and community-based scholarships. The national ones may have hundreds of thousands of students vying for them, but with scholarships offered through your high school or community, the applicant pool drops significantly. Some scholarships can even be applied for before you are a senior, so you don’t have to wait and be burdened by all of them at once – check out what’s available to you to apply to as a freshman, sophomore, or junior.
Remember Your Audience – When you write your application essays and writing tasks, remember your audience. The admissions officers are not your pals. They are educated people representing institutions of higher learning. That doesn’t mean that you should use the thesaurus app with every word, but do proofread your work and see where you can substitute more elevated language that demonstrates you are a thoughtful, educated person who would be an asset to this school.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize – It can be tiring towards the end of your high school journey. You’ve spent 12 or more years working hard, cramming for tests, preparing reports, and the end is so close. But your senior year is not the time to kick back and coast. Although many students see their senior year as a months-long party, enjoying all of the perks and privileges that tend to come along with being a senior, it is important to keep challenging yourself and to not slack off or pick up poor study habits. Stay strong! Don’t give in to the peer pressure and drama that can get you off-track and derail the success and hard work you’ve put in so far. Take a full load of academic classes, even in your senior year. Or, if you’re not taking a full load of classes, make sure that you are using that extra time working a part-time job or participating in community events and activities that will show you are a compassionate, involved member of your community. Commitments to responsibilities both in and out of school impress admissions officers.
There is a LOT to balance and keep track of in high school. However, if you can fit in a part-time job or you have passions or hobbies, make sure that you are using your time wisely and in a way that will be advantageous to you. Playing video games all night in the basement may be fun, and, if you are applying to a computer graphics or gaming program might be very appropriate. For the average college applicant, however, this is not a productive use of time. You should balance work and play and relaxation, but make sure that there is a balance.
In Conclusion… With some hard work and focus, admission to your dream school is not out of the realm of possibility. Take into consideration the advice provided here and continue to do some more research on your own about hints and tips to help ensure your success. You CAN do this, but it will take work on your part. So, you can make excuses or you can make it happen! Dream big and best of luck!
“My child has a 3.90 GPA, always aces math tests, and excels in AP English, but can’t seem to figure out the SAT!”
This is something we hear from parents at least a few times a week. To them, and especially to students, the stark incongruity between a student’s notable academic performance and not-so-notable SAT or ACT scores is difficult to reconcile, and can be extremely discouraging. This is especially so when there are students in your child’s peer group who seem to just “get it.” They barely study for the SAT or ACT and come out with off-the-charts scores.
If the situation above sounds familiar, we’re here to assure you that this is not a problem unique to you and your child: High-achievers struggle with the SAT and ACT all the time. Understanding the major reasons why top students run into standardized testing roadblocks is the first step in conquering the challenges these exams present.
The styles of the SAT and ACT deviate greatly from what students are used to seeing
Current high school curricula present information in a very cookie-cutter way. In their English classes, students are presented with fifteen vocabulary words on Monday, and told they will have a quiz on those words on Friday. They study those words, define them on the quiz (and maybe use them in sentences), and that’s it. For their reading responsibilities, students might be assigned a chapter in a book and told to write a reflection focusing on the use of three specific literary elements in the text. Students read the chapter, discuss it with friends and the teacher, and present their reflections. In their mathematics classes, students learn a topic, are taught how to solve two or three different sub-types of questions relevant to that topic, and see pretty much the same thing on the next exam. Topics are segregated, and quizzes and tests are often not cumulative.
Unfortunately, the SAT and ACT are entirely different. Different topics are mixed together, and it’s not necessarily the case that the student will have recently reviewed the strategy needed to solve any given problem.
Much of the mathematics on the SAT and ACT is foundational
“The SAT and ACT test easy math.”
For any advanced student, hearing that line from educators and fellow students is galling. But it’s true! The SAT and ACT test basic mathematics concepts, the foundations of which are usually taught in the 8th and 9th grade…and this is the major problem! Because most students are exposed to many “simple” concepts tested on the SAT and ACT––ratios, fractions, proportions, patterns, strange symbols, among many others––in late middle school or early high school, they may not recall how to deal with them by the time they’re high school juniors and see these concepts again on the SAT and ACT. Further, the fundamentals of these topics may never have been solidified in the first place. For example, it’s often the case that more abstract concepts like fractions and percentages don’t “sink in” the first time around. Unfortunately, the current system makes it difficult to fix these problems. Teachers of more advanced high school mathematics courses like Geometry, Algebra 2, Trigonometry, and Precalculus, are often bound by rigid and packed curricula, and thus have no choice but to assume their students have these fundamentals down; there isn’t time for them to go back and reteach what the students are supposed to have under their belts.
All reading is not equal
The SAT and ACT emphasize reading for broad ideas and understanding the intention and direction of an author’s argument. Once again, by the time they reach high school, students are presumed to have mastered these abilities, and are tasked with more intellectually advanced approaches with respect to the literature they read: providing thematic and character analyses, exposing and explaining literary elements in the texts, etc. However, many students simply don’t have a strong ability to do what is assumed to be the most fundamental of reading tasks: “getting the point” of a passage. This can spell disaster on either the SAT or ACT.
What are students to do?
The most important thing for advanced students to keep in mind is this: Great performance in school by no means guarantees great performance on the SAT or ACT. There are many things to know that will help you succeed on these tests, but the first step is to make sure your fundamentals are solid. Only then are you ready to learn the techniques and strategies specific to the SAT and ACT. If you have difficulties with things like fractions, percents, finding the main idea, and dealing with difficult words, consider seeking help to address these issues. In this way, you can ensure that you’re putting your best effort forward on your standardized college admissions exams!
About the Author
Evan Wessler graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Bucknell University with a degree in Biology in 2009. Evan‘s experience has given him the ability to excel as a top educator at Method Test Prep. In his early days, Evan aspired to be an astronomer. One of his life goals is to travel the world in hopes of finding inspiration to write a work of fiction. A natural planner, Evan lives by the quote, “Previous planning prevents poor performance.”
Most educators will see social media as nothing more than a distraction for their students. It’s true that sometimes, our attachment to it can look more like an addiction. However, there’s more to social media than meets the eye. After all, Facebook has its roots in Harvard University, so can it be used to improve education? Here’s how it can be used in the classroom, and beyond, to bring students together and improve learning.
Create A Community
The main purpose of a social network is to bring people together. You can take advantage of that as an educator. Give your students a space where they can get together outside of class and talk about what they’re learning. It’s especially good if several students are finding the same concepts challenging. It gives them the opportunity to get together and work through the problems, perhaps with a student that’s already grasped the material.
Share Learning Materials With Students
As the educator, you can get involved with your students’ social media group, too. For example, it’s a great way to share materials with them, whether they’re directly linked to your subject or not. Educators may send links to sites such as StateOfWriting that can help students with assignment writing. This can cut down the amount of time you spend answering emails from students, as you can address all students at once.
When your class is in session, you’ll be encouraging your students to get involved and debate with each other. Social media gives them the chance to continue the debate outside of the classroom. After all, some students may only think of some points once they’ve had time to mull over the class, and some students may not feel comfortable speaking up in front of the class. This gives everyone the chance to talk about the topics at hand and learn more from each other.
Enable Students To Help Themselves And Each Other
When students need help with their work, being part of a social media network means that they can look to their peers for support. This means that they can get help with a simple question, or make connections help to more complex support if they need it. The Huffington Post says that students have taken to recommending good academic tutoring sites to each other. This means that they can become more self-sufficient and look for help themselves when they need it.
How To Implement Social Media In Your Classroom
If this all sounds good to you, then you’ll need to look at implementing social media in your classroom. Before you do, it’s worth addressing some concerns that you may have:
How do you ensure students use social networks appropriately? The way to do this is to teach them how to use social networks in general. Show them what happens to the data that they post, and how it never really disappears from the internet. It’s especially important to implement rules for using social media, especially in class.
How do you find time for networking? Ideally, this needs to be changed at the administration level. If you want to implement networking in your classroom, you’ll need to talk to your management and have them create the time for you. Show them how important it can be for your students’ development.
Where should you set up a social network? Many schools and universities already use online portals, such as Moodle, to bring together all their resources. It’s fairly simple to set up a network on them for your students to join and start discussing the learning at hand. If your school doesn’t have this, there are plenty of educational social networks online that you can use to create an online portal. Depending on the age of your students, you can even invite their parents to join, too.
The main thing to do when creating social networks for your students is to discuss it with them first. You’ll need to explain what’s expected of them when they use it, and lay down some ground rules. It may also be a good time to go over your school’s online usage policy. Also, it’s a good time to remind students that usage of technology at school is a privilege, not a right. If you make it clear that any student using the network improperly will have the privilege to use it revoked, it should keep issues to a minimum.
Now that you have done this, you can kick things off by sharing discussion questions online or sharing important resources. If you can spark a conversation online, then you’ll be off to a good start.
You can go far with social media in education, if you know how to use it. Use these tips to set your class up for networking. You’ll see just how much it can benefit your students.
Rachel Summers is a freelance writer whose passion is helping students get the most out of their learning journey. She started out as a writer and journalist in the newspaper industry, before breaking out to go freelance and follow her own passions. Her writing is designed to help you get the most out of college.