Excerpts from Book

Regardless of your situation, you should think of your freshman year in high school as the beginning of a fresh start. High school is different from middle school. As a middle school student, you were younger, less mature, and more dependent on your friends around you. Less was expected from you then. You had very little say about the classes you wanted to take because your class schedule was already planned for you. All of your classmates were in the same grade, and most of the time you went from class to class with the same students, ate lunch with them, and formed cliques with them. Academically, you may have been given second or even third chances to perform well on an assignment or test. In middle school, teachers were more sympathetic and probably gave you a lot of help.

Now that you’re older and in high school, teachers expect you to be more mature and independent. With maturity comes an expectation of you being more responsible, serious about your education, and capable of making wise decisions. As a high school student, it’s time to set aside your “cliquish” ways. Now you’ll be interacting with different people and your classes may include students from other grades. So you’re going to have to step out of your comfort zone and make new friends. Although you’re going to like (or are already liking) this independence, you have to be responsible about how you use it. Trust me, there aren’t going to be many (or any) second chances on assignments—no daily or weekly reminders about upcoming tests, doing your homework, taking school pictures, or bringing money to school for an extracurricular activity or school outing. You will be responsible for remembering all those things.

Additionally, as a high school student you must take school seriously and make wise decisions. You will have freedom in designing your own schedule. Your counselor and teachers will help you, of course, but they can’t do that if you don’t have a clear idea about what interests you. When creating your schedule, you’ll have more courses from which to choose. Some courses will be required; some courses can be chosen from a list of electives; and some courses will be offered at different levels of difficulty. For example, instead of taking a regular English course, you’ll have the option of challenging yourself by taking an honors English course, advanced placement (AP) English course, or an international baccalaureate (IB) English course. Regardless of the course you are taking—required, an elective, or just for fun—you should choose those that will prepare you for college, and take each one seriously.

So, with a fresh start should come a new attitude. Your middle school days are behind you. It’s time to step up to the plate and be an Extra high school student. Even if you didn’t take middle school seriously, here’s a second shot at redeeming yourself and showing everyone how intelligent you really are. Your freshman year will be the foundation for your sophomore, junior, and senior years, so take it seriously. As a freshman, you should come to high school with the overall goal of doing your best in every class. Some of your short-term goals should include the following:

  • Make the honor roll each grading period.
  • Get help from a teacher or tutor if you make a grade of B or below on homework, an assignment, or a test.
  • Do your homework daily.
  • Take home your textbooks or notebooks each day and do at least one to two hours of work outside class every day.

For some, the answer to this question might be the one college you’ve wanted to attend since you were old enough to know what a college was. For others, however, the answer could include several dozen (or more!) choices. To determine which college is right for you, you’ll have to do some soul-searching and some research, as I stressed before. College admissions is a two-way street, with both parties wanting something. Colleges are looking to attract the best students they can; and students are looking for colleges that fit their interests, budget, geographic preferences, etc. Remember that ultimately you, the student, are buying a service, so do your research and shop smart!

One thing that’s really going to help you is college visits. Take advantage of every opportunity to visit different campuses to see what they have to offer. Your high school might offer programs to do this, but more often than not you’ll have to take some initiative in getting around to the different schools. Visit a friend who is already enrolled at the college that you’re interested in attending, or participate in a college’s visitation program for prospective students—they all have them. When you visit the college, tour the campus and the residential halls or dormitories, talk to students who attend the college, talk to students in the major in which you’re interested, talk to college professors, eat in the dinning halls, tour the surrounding city or town, and if you can, sit in on a freshman course and/or a course in your planned major. Some of these suggestions may sound intimidating—especially if you don’t have any contacts at the colleges you’re planning to visit. However, don’t be intimidated; be prepared to do a little Extra. As you shop around, “shop where your efforts will bear the most fruit.”

With the wealth of knowledge and information available on the Internet, you can easily make arrangements to take a tour, talk to a professor, or sit in on a class. You have to be proactive. Your first e-mail or phone call should be made to the Admissions Office. Ask about their high school visitation program. Many schools are willing to put you in contact with a current student(s) or even with a professor who can help you learn more about the college. If not, look on the college’s website and locate one or more professors in the department of your intended major and get in touch with them. Indicate that you’re planning a visit and ask if you could stop by their office for a quick visit. If professors are too busy or not available for other reasons, they will probably suggest that you meet with one of their capable undergraduate or graduate students. And that’s fine, too—you will get a lot of great information from them. If you’re persistent, you will get the help you need. After setting up the meeting, get there on time and come prepared to ask intelligent, thoughtful questions that show you’ve done your homework.

Unless you live in a cave, you know that college admissions and offers of scholarships are becoming increasingly competitive. As I’ve already stressed, the most competitive applicants are well-rounded students. These students have it all—the highest grades, honors, AP courses, involvement in organizations or sports teams, leadership experience, volunteer or work experience, stellar recommendation letters, an essay that paints a detailed picture of who they are and their competencies, and high scores on college entrance exams. Regardless of your academic level, there’s no reason why you can’t have it all! High school gives you a fresh start and opens new opportunities for you. If you’re a junior or senior, it’s still not too late to transition into becoming a competitive applicant for colleges or scholarships. Now is the time to shift gears and change your focus…but you’re also going to have to put your foot on the accelerator. Begin taking advanced courses offered at your school and step into leadership roles in student organizations. Take advantage of as many preparation programs for assessment tests as you can. Get help when you need it to bring up your grades. Start establishing those important mentoring relationships. Do everything you can to paint an Extraordinary picture of yourself. You’ll be competing against plenty of students who have!

"I will be using this book as a reference guide for high school success and to prepare for college. I am glad I have a head start on getting ready for college. Reading this book will improve your education and show you how smart you really are! This book tells you how to study, how to focus on your school work, and how to achieve a goal like getting all A’s and raising your GPA up to a 4.0.”
-Amber, 7th grader

“I always hear my parents telling me about what I need to do to get ready for college, but this guide made it clearer on what I should be doing and how to do it. Instead of wasting time this the summer, I will use my time wisely. I will start planning for college.”
Haily, 8th grader

“This book was inspiring! After reading it, I found myself saying, I can do better, I can be extra, and I don’t have to let my financial situation hold me down. There is something in this book for everyone. This book gave me the boost from a 2.4 to a 3.2 GPA. Now I am not ashamed anymore! I would like to share this extraordinary book with all high school students!”
–Cameron, 10th grader

“This is must read book for all students and parents. Finally, an educational guide that puts it all together in a step-by-step process for the real world. The information answers the questions of how to reach your goals in a competitive society and how to position yourself to be that extraordinary person that will make you stand out among ordinary students.”
Helen Howell, Science Teacher at Martinsville Middle School

“What a thorough book! It covers everything younger or older students need to know! It definitely is a resource you should have as a parent and an educator.”
-Karen, Parent and Educator

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