Back to School: Goal Setting

What is your goal this school year? Is it to be crowned the smartest man (or woman) alive, like Billy Madison?

To get into college? To bring up your GPA? To maintain your GPA? To try to learn something new? Or have you not really thought about it?

Goal setting, while not necessary to success, can be a very useful tool to help you get from point A to point B. The best kinds of goals are often referred to as “SMART” goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Let’s talk about these in a little more detail:

Specific: Instead of saying “A better GPA than last semester,” we can set a more specific goal to be “A 3.7 GPA,” or even better, “Studying for at least 1 hour before every Chemistry exam”

Measurable: A 3.7 GPA is more measurable, but should be broken out into smaller steps to be even more measurable – “92% or better on every quiz or test I take.”

Achievable:  This one should be easy — it has to be something you can achieve, e.g. no 7.0 GPAs or 200% on quizzes, etc.

Realistic: If you currently have a 3.0 GPA and were trying very hard, and now you have an even more difficult course load, a 3.7 GPA (and 92%s on everything) might not be realistic for you. Try to break your goal down into realistic targets.

Time-bound: This is another easy one. You’re bound by the semester. Look up when the semester ends to see just how many weeks you have to keep a solid 92% going.




Three Ways to Start Your College Essay

Have an idea, but don’t know where to begin? Starting the college essay is half the battle. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. You can always go back and revise.

In general, make the first sentence count. It’s your one and only change to snag the reader’s attention. Think about articles that have caught your attention recently. How did the writer engage you? Were you surprised by the first sentence? Intrigued? Startled?

Here are a few ideas of ways to get your first sentence on the page.

1. Start with a fact or figure. If your passion is planes, for example, tell us something you have learned about them. An average Boeing 747 weighs in at at about 836,000 pounds. Then tell us why this is important. The first plane I flew weighed a mere 1,300.

Here, we might read this and think: Wow. I didn’t know that. How does this person know so much about planes? Why is it important to his or her story?

2. Start with action/sensory detail. From where I sat, the engine’s roar was like thunder combined with the grand finale of a Fourth of July fireworks display.

With this starting sentence, the writer brings the reader right into the moment with what he or she heard and felt. It also packs a punch by showing through a comparison with something that we can all relate to: fireworks and thunder.

3. Start with a quote. “You don’t have enough speed!” my flight instructor screamed over the engine’s roar.

Again, this starting sentence brings the reader right into the action of what’s happening. Plus, because it’s pressing, it makes the reader want to know, OK, so what happens next?

The first sentence should make the reader want to continue on to the second sentence. It’s your chance to grab his or her attention. Make it count!


Test Prep: Top 6 Things You Can Do On Your Own Time

I’ve been hearing from a few families that want more homework, and I’ve come up with a few ways you can improve your test scores absolutely on your own, in small ways every week.

1. Keep a missed homework questions notebook. Put every single math question you’ve missed (even the stupid ones, especially the stupid ones) in the front of the notebook with the correct solution. It’s ok if you have to try a few ways to do it before you get the correct solution. But make sure you eventually put the correct solution there. Then at the back of the notebook, keep a log of what you need to do next time to get the question right. Examples include: “Be careful when dividing to divide each term” or “Remember to use your calculator even when doing subtraction” or something more specific, like “When answers have variables, don’t forget to plug numbers in to make it easier.”

2. Give yourself 5 new words to learn a day. Even if you’re taking the ACT. Sure, there’s not as much vocabulary, but you think it’s not going to help you understand the hard passages when you’re pressed for time? Think again. Any language work will help your brain.

3. Read more difficult writings. They don’t have to be long. They don’t have to be boring. Just read something that makes you think a little bit. Every day. Go on to Google News, NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, BBC, The Atlantic, or any other number of places with good writing, and pick any article to read. Just one. (Alternatively, you can Like us on Facebook and have the articles posted every day).

4. Play  number games in your head. If you have to remember an address, try to make something work with the numbers. E.g. the address 1145 you could say: 1*1+4 = 5. If you’re bored in class, look at the clock and do the same thing. Not all numbers will work out, but it will get your brain more comfortable with numbers.

5. Try to compute the change, tips, and/or percentages off in stores. What’s the fastest way to compute any percentage? Knock off two zeros to get 10% and multiply by whatever you need to get up to (x2 for 20%, x3 for 30%, and on).

6. Play memory games as you copy your notes in class. See how many words you can hold in your head and still get 100% of them right. You might fail from time to time, but the exercise will build your working memory skills, which is possibly one of the most important skills to have on these tests.


I’d love to hear from you any other ideas you may have. Please leave comments at the end of the article if you do!