4 Reasons Why Volunteering is Good for You

With hectic schedules, classes, jobs, and extracurriculars, it may seem impossible to find the time for volunteering. However, there are plenty of advantages to engage in service work. Here are a few reasons to do good and feel good: 

1. Give Back to the Community & Make an Impact 

Volunteering is a great way to make a difference within your community to make it the best it can be. Unsure of where to start? Try checking out your local animal shelters, food pantries, local libraries, art museums, retirement homes, hospitals, and so on. No matter the area of service you choose to be involved in, there is always room for helping hands. 

2. Gain Valuable Experience 

Your volunteering experience can help you improve on all kinds of skills, including public speaking, project management, teamwork, and maybe even practice with a second language. With these skills, you will boost your college applications and future employment prospects! Because volunteering requires passion and positivity, including it on your college applications or resume will give you a chance to share something personal with colleges and future employers. 

3. Meet New People 

Whether you’re volunteering at an animal shelter or helping at a food bank, you’ll be surrounded by other people who share your interests and values—and who want to help others too! Use community service as a chance to make new friends, network for your future, expand your support system, or simply feel a part of something bigger than yourself. 

4. Improve Your Health 

Researchers have found, through the measurement of brain activity and hormones, that helping others brings us great joy. Further, people who engage in altruistic activities feel a greater sense of meaning and purpose resulting in less stress and anxiety. Building self-esteem and developing self-confidence, service work has also shown to improve the mental health of people who suffer from addiction and various mental illnesses. 

Volunteering can be a rewarding hobby that ties you to your community and make a positive impact on those around you. To make sure your volunteer position is a good fit, be sure to ask questions about time commitments, training, and the team you’ll be working with. If one position doesn’t work out, don’t be afraid to explore other options. There are plenty of people and organizations that need help from someone just like you! 

7 Ways Your Counselor Can Help

You already know how important it is to make your school counselor your BFF, but you may not recognize just how much of a useful resource for you and your family during your time in high school. Their whole intention is to provide support and help you plan and succeed in your future, beyond academics. It’s highly encouraged to visit your high school counselor early and visit them often! Need some motivation to make an appointment? Here are a few reasons why you should consider making some time on your schedule to meet up with your new bestie.

1. Selecting courses and fulfilling graduation requirements

Have questions about class schedules, your transcripts, graduation status, or really… anything? Your counselor has your back. They can help balance your schedule and align you with challenging coursework and electives based on goals to get you right on track.

2. Helping you talk through the tough stuff

Sometimes the stress comes from beyond the books. This looks different for everyone, and if you find it to be a struggle, your counselor is equipped to make sure they’re supporting you through it all. It could be some challenges at home, troubles with interpersonal relationships, or a mental health funk – whatever it is, they’re certified and trained to help guide you through best practices to manage emotions, relationships, and hardships in time of need.

3. Striking a balance

You’ve got a lot going on, and we commend you for all the awesome things that keep you going through the week. A high school schedule is highly underrated! It can be difficult to maintain a balance between schoolwork, meetings, sports, part-time work, volunteering, and social commitments. Your counselor is the ideal coach to guide you as you work out a healthy balance to keep you from burning out.

4. Planning for YOUR future

Everyone’s future is different, and your school counselor is no stranger to the different paths students take post-graduation. Want to join the military? They likely have details for a recruiter to get you in contact with. Need a job right after high school? They can assist with some resume building. Want to attend college or trade school? Guaranteed, they have some insight on how to best get you there. No matter your path, your school counselor may have opportunities for you to explore your options. At the very least, they can ensure that you are progressing towards graduation! 

5. You need a reference, right?

Need we say more? In all seriousness, you need someone to vouch for your excellence. This could be used as a recommendation letter for college or acting as a reference for a job interview. Either way, it’s vital to have an adult in your corner who can attest for your character, work ethic, and overall will to grind.

6. Making big decisions

You’ll have a lot of major decisions to make while in high school, big or small. No matter what, the decisions are in your hands, but your counselor can walk you through some decision-making tips so you can feel confident in making an informed decision.

7. Encouraging you

Most importantly, keep in mind that your school counselor is your biggest fan and cheerleader. It takes some patience, kindness, and a whole lot of love to be a counselor after all. These leaders on campus will always empathize with you through difficult times and clap for you when you win.

Like most things in life, the more effort you put into something, the more you will get out. Your school counselor has so much to give you, all you need to do is communicate what you need. As you build your relationship with your school counselor, don’t forget to thank them for all their help and hard work!

High School Juniors: Questions You Should Be Asking Your Counselor

If you didn’t already know, your junior year is your time to shine! It can be stressful, overwhelming, and scary all at once. Thankfully, your school counselor is available to help put your mind at ease by guiding you through the process and help you overcome some of these challenges. Not sure where to begin? Start by making an appointment and consider these questions when working with them.

1. Am I on track to graduate?

This should be the first question you ask every time you see your counselor. Why? Well, it’s kind of the whole point. Prior to making an entire gameplan about college planning and test prep, make sure you’re on track for graduation. You counselor is the one person with the access to transcripts and schedule to remind you where you stand.

2. Which electives do you recommend for me?

As a high school junior, your studies are KEY for success. This time next year, you’ll be swimming in college applications, final classes, and creating memories with your peers as a senior. For that reason, consider taking your challenging classes this year. Your counselor can evaluate your GPA and course load from transcripts and help create a balanced, yet challenging schedule.

3. How should I study for the SAT/ACT?

Junior year is the year to prep and sign up for the ACT or SAT. (Sometimes, both!) Your counselor likely has some test materials with strategies to help you practice. Don’t be afraid to ask about free resources as well, like how to take the test for free with fee waivers. The ACT and SAT have some free materials as well like Khan Academy and test prep centers.

4. Should I be attending college planning sessions or college fairs? If so, where?

You high school likely has college fairs or college planning events for you to attend – score! These are SUPER beneficial to get you started on your journey without making you feel overwhelmed. The more prep you do now, the smoother your senior year experience will seem. Don’t forget to find your best outfit to join in!

5. What if I don’t feel like college is right for me? Do I have options?

Success isn’t one-size fits all! If a four-year college program doesn’t feel right for you, then be sure to ask about other options. Some other options include community college, certificate programs, trade schools, gap years, going straight to work, and more! Remember: do what’s best for YOU.

Asking these questions as a high school junior will not only impress your counselor but will also help set you up for a productive, rewarding school year. Don’t forget to stop by and thank your counselor with a fist bump and maybe some of their favorite iced coffee next time you pass the front office for all their hard work and care!

High School Sophomores: Questions You Should Be Asking Your Counselor

Congratulations! You survived freshman year! As you move into your sophomore year, you’ve got the basics covered, like where to sit at lunch, how to navigate your halls to the next class, and other helpful things that got you this far. Even if you think you have it all figured out, your school counselor should still be at the top of your priority list when planning for your sophomore year.

Not sure what to ask? Here’s a few ideas to get the conversation started:

1. Am I on track to graduate?

Back to the basics, we know – but it’s SO important to make sure you’re on the right track to finish high school. By taking a glance at your transcripts and class schedule with someone who can give you a high-five of validation, you can beam into your next class with confidence knowing that you’re on the right track. Great job, fam!

2. Which AP courses would you recommend for me?

AP classes aren’t one-size fits all, and it’s crucial to know and understand how you can fit into them. If your school offers AP courses, ask for more information. Advanced Placement (AP) options are typically available starting sophomore year. (OH HEYYY, THAT’S YOU!) When you express any interest in these classes, your counselor can help choose classes that make sense for you and find a time in your schedule to make it work.

3. Should I take the ACT or SAT?

Ah, good old, standardized testing. It’s never too early to start preparing for these to ensure you max out on the best score possible – and remember, these tests are only a short year away! Be sure to ask questions about options, prep courses and tutoring, as well as fee waivers!

4. How can I start building my college resume?

As a freshman, you were working to adapt to your new environment before taking on a ton of extracurricular activities. Now that you’re established as a sophomore, feel free to join clubs, sports, student government — whatever makes you happy! Being involved is the greatest way to network with other students and teachers, while making an impressive mark on your resume. If the clubs aren’t your thing, there are other ways like internships, volunteering, and much more.

5. Are there any scholarships or awards available to me?

Who doesn’t love free money? While there are so many available, students often forget to ask about them. Be sure to ask your school counselor about scholarships and awards you can strive for. For example, you may be interested in applying to be a National Merit Scholar. (Love that for you!) You’ll thank yourself later when applying for student loans and grants.

6. Can you help me brainstorm ways to manage stress while in high school?

We get it. High school is INSANELY stressful at times. When the going gets tough, your school counselor is the perfect person to pour your troubles into. Don’t hesitate to confide in them about personal challenges at home, unrelated to school. This is their favorite part about being a guide for you – to offer resources and ways to beat stress.

By meeting with your new BFF – your school counselor, you can guarantee that you can both agree on some life-changing strategies to elevate your experience while in high school and benefit you greatly. From feelings to FAFSA, your counselor has your back.

High School Freshman: Questions You Should Be Asking Your Counselor

If there’s one person that you should focus on becoming BFFs with, it’s your high school counselor. Haven’t booked an appointment to visit them just yet? You’re missing out and should probably get on that ASAP. Think of it as your new bestie that can help you with all things related to your classes, school activities, college and career prep, and mental health. Many high schoolers are so immersed in the experience, that they forget about the resources available to guide them through their journey.

Still unsure how to even go about this whole thing? We got you. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are some questions you can ask that’s guaranteed to get the ball rolling.

1. Which courses to I need to make sure I graduate?

You’re going to want to take full advantage of your counselor’s brain and remember that they’re professionals in this kind of thing! When you meet up with them, make sure that you’re registered for the classes that put you on track for graduation – it’s NEVER too early!

2. When should I start preparing for college?

If college is a consideration, you’ll want to begin that journey as early as possible. Naturally, you won’t be applying for schools or taking college entrance exams during your freshman year, however, it’s key to kick off your college career on a positive note. This would entail plans for getting involved, earning good grades, or just starting your checklist. REMEMBER: Your success will likely look a little different than your peers, so do your best to work on YOUR timeline, not others’!

3. What extra-curricular activities should I get involved with?

The most exciting aspect of high school is having the freedom to make choices that support your curiosities. There’s no better time to branch out and try new hobbies, discover new passions, and make new friends! It’s likely that your counselor has some awesome recommendations for activities to immerse yourself in that will be beneficial. See something you like? Write it down and make it happen!

4. Which AP courses should I consider taking?

Does your school offer Advanced Placement (AP) classes? If so, you can typically begin taking them during your sophomore year. AP classes offer an opportunity for free college credits upon passing an AP test at the end of the year to incentivize your hard work and knowledge of the subject. If your school doesn’t have AP courses available, ask for alternatives that can reward your hard work with some college credits – free of charge.

5. I’m struggling with a class, where can I get help?

There’s no shame in asking for help! Most, if not, all students in high school need assistance with coursework at some point. These classes can be tough, especially as a new freshman navigating through a new transition into high school. Your school may offer some resources, like a before or after school program that focuses on private lessons and office hours with faculty/staff for some extra help. By connecting with your school counselor, you’ll have a clear understanding on the tools your school has in place to help its students succeed.

6. When should I start thinking about my future?

A general, but great question to ask! Thankfully, your school counselor was born for this question and will have plenty of insight for you to consider. Thinking about your future can be overwhelming, so having the support to guide you can make or break your planning process. As a first-year student, you probably have no idea where to even begin. And guess what? That’s totally normal! It’s never too early to start up these conversations with your friends, champions, and counselors to explore the endless possibilities your future can hold.

7. How should I start exploring different careers?

There are all different ways to explore your careers, sometimes through internships, volunteering, extracurriculars, etc. Your counselor will likely have information about local opportunities for students at your school. Exploring different careers will help you get to know yourself, so it’s worth looking into!

No matter the questions you ask, establishing a relationship with your school counselor as a high school freshman will benefit you. They are there to help you! Don’t hesitate to make an appointment if you ever need a listening ear or have questions, school-related or not.

7 Ways to Crush Your Goals

If you’re working to become #GOALS, you know how challenging it can be to stay the course and continue grinding. It’s easy to go through the everyday motions and feel like you’re not making progress.

But you know what’s great about setting goals? You can do anything you set your mind to.

We’ve been there too. Plenty of times. And to be honest, the only way to get through it is by crafting a sensical, realistic plan to achieve your goals. When it comes to embarking on your journey, it’s ESSENTIAL to understand what’s important to you and how to achieve what it takes to get there. If you’re stuck on how to set goals, you’ve come to the right place. Here are 7 helpful tips to keep you motivated to crush them.

1. Make your goal specific

Setting vague goals like “I want a new job” or “I want to find a better job” may seem like a good idea at the time, but they’re not going to help anyone get anywhere. Instead, try setting specific goals with steps in between them: “Apply for 3 jobs in my field this week,” or even better, “Start researching companies I might want to work for.”

2. Measure your progress

Know where you stand! Sometimes getting lost in the details of a project can be overwhelming—especially if they’re not great details! But if you don’t measure where you are against where you want to be, how will anyone know when they need to step in and help? You wouldn’t bake an entire cake without measuring first (right?)

3. Make your goals attainable and be realistic

The point of setting goals is not to make yourself feel bad about what you can’t do—the point is to stretch yourself and grow into someone who can do it! So if you’re setting a goal that seems totally out of reach, re-evaluate. Is it worth setting at all? If so, how can you make it more realistic?

4. Stay relevant – is this for YOU?

Goals should always come from within—so if there’s something you want to do that doesn’t feel like an authentic expression of who YOU are right now, maybe let it go for now and revisit later when you’re more ready for it. But don’t be afraid to dream big! You never know where life will take you!

5. Set an appropriate timeline

When setting your goals, defining a solid time frame will only benefit your progress without leaving you feeling overwhelmed. You don’t have to get it all done at once! You can break things down into smaller chunks and tackle them one at a time.

6. Find someone who’s been there, done that

Draw inspiration from the people who have already accomplished the goals you’re seeking. Ask for tips and tricks and ask questions about what they wish they could have done differently. This can be a huge motivator when things get tough – AND REMEMBER: if they could do it, so can you!

7. Stay positive!

It’s easy to fall into a negative mindset when things aren’t going your way, but we all know that the power of positive thinking can be so incredibly powerful. Don’t forget about the beauty of manifesting your outcomes and being intentional with your goals! Consider writing down your achievements, thoughts, and intentions so you can put them into action. Keep going!

By establishing some simple, effective rules in your goal-setting journey, there’s no doubt you’ll find yourself accomplishing all of the amazing things you’re dreaming of right now. Remember, you used to wish for the life you’re living right now… and look at you… doing it (and well, we might add).

Let’s do this!

What Is Privilege?

When logging on to social media or watching the news, you may often hear the word “privilege” being used. For many, this can be a confusing concept to grasp. Learning about privilege will allow us to become more open-minded, and move towards a world that is more inclusive and empathetic to the challenges of others. Here we will outline some basic principles to better understand privilege. Keep in mind, this is just a foundation, and there is still so much more to learn about this topic.

Checking Your Privilege

When checking your privilege, you may realize it’s intersectional. Meaning, it’s possible for people to be oppressed and privileged at the same time. Privilege can be hard to decipher on your own, and that’s why it’s essential to listen and remain open-minded to people who experience oppression. When you learn about the ways privilege has existed in your life, you may think, “This isn’t a privilege; this is just basic human decency.” You’re absolutely right! The point is, not everyone is treated that way, and that’s why it is privilege.

The checklist below gives some examples of the different kinds of privilege people can have. This is not a comprehensive list; meaning, it doesn’t detail all the different ways in which oppressed people suffer. These are just examples to get you thinking about all the different ways privilege plays a role in your life.

 White race, ethnicity, and culture privilege

☐ I don’t feel threatened by the police.

☐ I have never been followed in a store because someone was suspicious of me.

☐ People don’t ask me to speak on behalf of my entire race.

☐ I don’t worry about going to prison unless I commit a serious crime.

☐ My race is widely represented in the media.

☐ I don’t really think about my race or ethnicity.

☐ People know how to pronounce my name, and I have never been perceived as a threat because of my name.

Cisgender privilege

☐ I can use public restrooms and locker rooms without fear of verbal abuse or assault.

☐ People know how to refer to me without asking first.

☐ I do not have to worry that my gender expression will make people around me uncomfortable.

☐ I have the ability to walk through the world and blend in, without being whispered about, pointed at, or laughed at because of my gender expression.

☐ If I go to the hospital, I do not have to worry that my gender will keep me from receiving appropriate treatment.

☐ I am able to purchase clothes that I like without being refused service or mocked by staff.

☐ I am legally recognized as a gender.

Male/male passing privilege

☐ I can walk the streets without the threat of sexual harassment.

☐ I am not expected to spend a lot of time and money on my appearance. 

☐ People do not make unsolicited comments about my body.

☐ I am not shamed if I choose not to spend a lot of time and money on my appearance. 

☐ When I speak up, my opinions are heard and respected equally to other people’s.

☐ I can assert myself and set boundaries without being called “drama queen,” “hysterical,” “bitch” or someone attributing it to “my time of the month.” 

☐ I do not have to fear sexual violence.

☐ At work, I don’t often have to worry about harassment from customers, coworkers, or bosses.

☐ I don’t have to worry about being perceived as sexual because of my clothes or body.

Straight privilege

☐ I have never had to hide or reveal my sexuality.

☐ I receive public recognition or support of my romantic relationships.

☐ There are role models of my sexual orientation and accurate representations of people with whom I can identify.

☐ I don’t have to research whether or not my sexuality is legal when choosing travel destinations.

☐ I can safely and comfortably hold hands and kiss my partner in public without fear of hostile or violent reactions. 

☐ People don’t ask me how I have sex or how I could have children.

☐ I have never had to “come out” to strangers who make assumptions about my sexuality. 

☐ I can easily find a neighborhood in which people will accept me.

☐ If I raise, adopt, or teach children, no one will assume that I will somehow force them into my sexuality.

Religious privilege

☐ I can expect to have time off school or work to celebrate religious holidays.

☐ I can worship freely without worry of violence or threats.

☐ Music and television programs related to my religious holidays are readily available.

☐ I am never asked to speak on behalf of all members of my faith.

☐ I can go into any career without it being associated or explained by my faith.

☐ When I practice religious customs, I am not questioned, mocked, or inhibited.

☐ I have never been called a “terrorist” because of my faith.

Thin privilege

☐ I can go to the doctor and have my symptoms taken seriously without being prescribed weight loss.

☐ People don’t assume that I am lazy or unhealthy because of my size.

☐ I can comfortably sit in movie theater seats, airplane seats, etc. without thinking about it.

☐ I can find clothing I like in my size for reasonable prices.

☐ Strangers do not comment, laugh, or whisper about my body.

☐ The media doesn’t describe my body shape as part of an “epidemic.”

☐ I can eat what I want in public and not have others make assumptions about my eating habits.

☐ I don’t feel pressure from family and friends to change my body size through diets or dangerous surgeries. 

☐ If I choose to love myself, people don’t tell me I’m promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.

Non-disabled privilege

☐ I easily move through public spaces without any pre-planning.

☐ I do not have to worry about people being uncomfortable because of my disability.

☐ People do not talk down to me, use patronizing language, or offer unsolicited help for tasks.

☐ I can succeed in situations without other people being surprised by that success or using the word “despite.”

☐ People don’t make fun of me because of my ability.

☐ People don’t get frustrated when I need to try something again or ask for clarity.

☐ There are ample role models of my ability to whom I can aspire

Economic privilege

☐ I have knowledge and access to community resources. 

☐ I have access to transportation that will get me where I need to go.

☐ My decision to go or not to go to college wasn’t entirely based on financial determinants.

☐ Whenever I moved out of my home, it was voluntary, and I had another home to move into.

☐ People do not assume I am unintelligent based on the dialect I grew up speaking.

☐ I can go to the supermarket and buy all the healthy foods I want.

☐ I can update my wardrobe with new clothes to match current styles and trends.

☐ When I advocate my class to politicians, I do not have to worry about being seen as looking for a handout.

☐ The schools I’ve attended had updated textbooks and computers.

All in all, you might feel uncomfortable acknowledging your privilege. That’s okay. Though you didn’t choose your privilege, you can choose to challenge the systems that keep people oppressed. Being open to these uncomfortable conversations is a great first step in recognizing adversity and overcoming injustice. The core of our mission is to help all students as they navigate their path to college and career success, regardless of where they started. We stand behind the belief that education is the foundation for creating a better tomorrow. 

To learn more about privilege, check out some of these videos: 

The Importance of Asking for Help

Growing up in a culture that praises independence, asking for help may feel like the ultimate defeat. You should be able to handle everything by yourself, right? WRONG! We’re here to remind you that asking for help is not a bad thing. Here are some reasons to ask for help and how to do so.

Why Ask for Help?

You’re only one person

You don’t have to tackle the world all by yourself! It’s okay to ask for help when you need it. In fact, we encourage it. Sometimes, having things under our complete control can feel empowering. However, being human means that you have limitations, and trying to do everything all by yourself is going to leave you completely drained.

People love to help

Another thing about being human? It’s in our nature to help each other; we literally love it. Many of the world’s greatest thinkers have agreed that humans gain a certain sense of happiness and fulfillment when helping others. And there is even science to back it up. So don’t be afraid to ask for help! You aren’t burdening anyone; you are giving people a chance to take pleasure in their altruism.

It’s a chance to grow

Not only will you receive the assistance you need, but you will also be learning from the experience! Whether you’re receiving tutoring for your Calculus class or going to counseling, you are doing something that will improve your life and overall well being.

How Do You Ask for Help?

Identify what you need

Be specific, and make a list if you think that will organize your thoughts. When you can clearly articulate the assistance you need, your professor, counselor, classmate, or friend will have a better idea of how to guide you. You are helping them help you! 

Find the right person to ask

This is an important step in asking for help. Especially if you are looking for advice or guidance, you want to make sure you are going to the right person equipped with the information you need. If you’re looking for extra academic help, approach your professors or TAs. If you’re in need of mental health resources, reach out to your health center on campus. If you’re too ill to go to the store for medicine, request a favor from a friend or roommate.

Shut down Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is when an individual has feelings of being a “fraud,” and doubts their own accomplishments. These emotions may be preventing you from asking for help because you feel like you need to “prove” yourself. Or maybe you’re under the false assumption that you’re the only one that needs help. Don’t believe these lies!