Finishing the Year Strong


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Now is the time to think about ending the academic year with a bang! This is an opportune time to set up one-on-one conversations with each of your teachers to find out what you can be doing to improve on your weaknesses in their classes.

Usually, this is a great time to gain extra points. Here are some tips to think about: in English and history courses, you might want to bring in any old essays on which you didn’t get a straight A and go over each one of them with your teacher to see what you could have done better. You may want to offer to rewrite several of these essays – not for another grade, but just to show the teacher how committed you are to becoming a better writer and to becoming a better student of English and history. Then you can ask the teacher for his or her guidance on the edits you’ve made to see how you’re coming along.

Believe me, at the end of the year, when those teachers are deciding between the A- and the B+ for you, if you’ve done this rewriting and shown this extra effort, they’re going to give you the A-. For math and science, now is a great time to turn in some extra problem sets and find out if you can gain extra credit in any way by doing extra work. You might also want to bring in your old quizzes and tests to go over any problems you didn’t understand.

Set up time to meet with the teacher either before or after school to go over the problems one by one and to make sure you understand everything.

Remember, the final exams for math and science are normally cumulative, so you want to make sure you understand everything from the entire year.

Speaking of exams, now is also a great time to start studying for finals! I know it seems like ages away, but if you just start to review your notes, your quizzes, your tests, your labs, your projects, your papers, and make sure you understand any error you made in the past and how to prevent this error from happening again, you’ll be in much better shape for your finals in May and June. So get organized and collect all of the work from the entire year to review!

If you’re studying a foreign language, an effective and entertaining way to improve your mastery of the language is by watching some films in the language you’re studying. For example, if you’re studying Spanish, you may want to pick up a Pedro Almodóvar film—any one from his oeuvre—and watch it scene by scene, first listening without subtitles, pausing it, then repeating back the lines. You don’t have to, and probably shouldn’t, watch the film straight through, because this is a time-consuming exercise, and you will be able to retain more by working in smaller increments of time. Your incentive to finish will be finding out what happens in the end of the movie!

While it is generally better to watch a movie from the culture of the language you’re studying, here’s another fun way to strengthen your command of the language: Take a DVD of one of your favorite movies, one that you’ve seen many times—like Meet the Parents or Old School—and change the audio settings to play the movie in the language you’re studying. Because you are already familiar with the plot and dialogue of this movie, you won’t get lost as you listen to it in another language. This exercise might also help you pick up slang phrases and figures of speech in the language you’re studying that you might not learn in the classroom.

Other ways to gain extra points with your teachers: Make sure that you’re showing up to class on time, that you’re participating in the classroom, that you’re being helpful to your peers, and that you’re going above and beyond the required assignments. If you have time to do even a little bit of extra work, your teachers will be thoroughly impressed. Also, for juniors, this is the time to make a strong final impression on your teachers, especially the ones who might be writing you recommendations.

Many of you are in the process of studying for SAT subject tests and AP exams. The best way to prepare is to practice, practice, practice. Buy the practice test books and do as many practice tests as humanly possible before you go in. Not only will you be much more familiar with the questions and the test, studies have shown that simply being exposed to a practice test ahead of time will yield higher scores.

Remember, I know it seems like a lot of work now, but this pays off towards your end-of-year report card, test scores, and evaluations, and summer is coming up sooner than you think. Make sure you’ve set aside at least two weeks this summer to sleep in, rest, and take time for personal reflection—you deserve it!

-Katherine Cohen, Ph. D. President & CEO, IvyWise LLC

Dr. Cohen graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University in 1989. She continued her studies at Yale University, receiving Masters degrees in 1992 and 1994, and a Ph. 1997. Also in 1997, she received certification in College Admissions Counseling from U. C. L. A Prior to founding IvyWise, Dr. Cohen served as a Reader in the Yale University Office of Admissions, reading, evaluating and recommending for admission and rejection, hundreds of applicants to Yale College. Dr. Cohen is the author of two books on college admissions. The Truth About Getting In and Rock Hard Apps: How to Write a Killer College Application. Dr. Cohen is a member of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC), the Independent Educational Counseling Association (IECA) and the Western Association of College Admissions Counselors (WACAC).


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