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Get Prepped for Finals!

For some students, simply hearing the words “finals” and “week” used in the same sentence is enough to conjure up thoughts of stress, anxiety, and caffeine fueled all-nighters sponsored by Monster Energy drinks. However, in a year that’s been as tumultuous and fraught with never-ending cascades of challenges as 2020-21 has, making it through finals week unscathed can feel like an especially daunting task. With the right set of strategies, students will not only face their finals with confidence but also will create a foundation of effective work and study habits that will benefit them in college and beyond. 

Regardless of whether it is a freshman preparing to take their first high school final, or a senior who is getting ready for their last one, creating a study schedule should be the number one priority when it comes to preparing for exams. Building an effective study schedule helps to identify knowledge gaps, reduce procrastination, and limit the stress and anxiety that comes with trying to cram everything in at the last minute. Because each student has their own learning style, the best way to build an effective study schedule is to create one that fits one’s individual needs. Check out the following tips for creating a customized A+ Study Schedule from Westtown’s Learning Center:

  • Prioritize the weakest subjects first.
  • Have a clear understanding of what will and will not be covered on the exams.
  • Choose a visual format to organize tasks, deadlines, and materials needed.
  • Make the schedule, then stick to it.

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’Tis the Season for College Application Tips

Now that we’re safely past November 1, when almost all seniors have had at least one deadline, you may be wondering what happens next. Here are some tips for you. 

  1. Relax and reboot! Take a few college-free days if you’re getting overwhelmed or if you don’t have any deadlines for a while. Enjoy your friends and family. Sleep. Make healthy choices. Senior year is long and you need to take care of yourself.
  1. Keep going! Many of you may have application deadlines on or before December 1. Reach out to your college counselors who are there to help you. Note that December 1 falls just after Thanksgiving this year. Be sure to check your deadlines and make plans to see your counselor as needed before your Thanksgiving break. 

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College Prep: Tips for 9th and 10th Graders

 

If you are either a current 9th or 10th grader or the parent of one, it is likely that college prep has or will soon come up in conversations. Realizing this, Westtown School’s Director of College Counseling visited our ninth and tenth-grade students in early February and shared these thoughts about college.

At this point, our recommendations about college are always about how to make the most of high school. We want students to work hard and learn a lot, not just because strong grades look impressive to colleges, but because the learning you gain along the way will make you a better student and a more interesting person. Looking good is nice, but if you go through high school trying to merely look good (for college or anyone else) instead of being your full self, you won’t have a very satisfying experience.

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Let Books Herald A New Tradition

Family holiday traditions are important to give our children a sense of connectedness and history. This holiday season, consider creating a new tradition of building a family collection of holiday stories. The books can be packed away at the end of the season and tucked away until next year, so they become beloved, anticipated stories to share over the years. Perhaps you can start your tradition with one of these new titles:

The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper – With stunning illustrations by Carson Ellis, this book celebrates the winter solstice and our relationship with the Earth’s cycles.

My First Kwanzaa, by Karen Katz – With bright collage illustrations, this book is a good introduction to the celebration of the seven days of Kwanzaa.

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AP Courses: Are They Necessary for College Admission?

This question comes up in our Admission office, College Counseling office, and even in our Lower School lobby. Parents and students alike worry about college preparation and bolstering transcripts. We asked our Director of College Counseling to shed some light on what colleges actually look for, what students need, and how a Westtown education prepares students for college.

 

You might already know that Westtown School offers over 50 upper school courses with advanced designations, but you might be wondering why Westtown doesn’t offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses. In 2005, after a vigorous two-year curriculum review, the school’s Curriculum Committee recommended removing the AP designation from all Westtown courses because, as they found, “[A] Westtown Education is a religious endeavor, is rooted in community, educates the whole child, fosters an appreciation of racial, ethnic, economic and religious diversity, calls for a variety of approaches to pedagogy and assessment, encourages interdisciplinary learning, allows time for the present moment, and empowers students to create positive change in the world…Our students’ growth as independent learners will be enhanced by teachers having room in their curriculum to create challenging laboratory and research experiences and to assign lengthy and difficult works of literature in English and in foreign language studies, to name just a few.” The committee found that neither AP nor International Baccalaureate (IB) programs allowed for the depth and richness Westtown prizes in its course offerings.  

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Ready, Set, Learn!

Getting ready for school takes more than a new notebook and bookbag. Help your child be ready for success by taking a few additional steps now.

Sleep: Many of us change our sleep patterns over the summer. Now is the time to begin to adjust your child’s bedtime and wake time back to a school-year routine. Adequate and consistent sleep makes a huge difference in a child’s ability to learn, and a child who is sleepy for the first week of school may have a hard time recovering.

Summer Reading: You can’t read too much in the summer! If your child completed their summer reading earlier in the summer, take some time to review the book so the story and characters are fresh in their minds. Page through the book, create a chart of characters and relationships, or journal about a particular plot twist.  

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Boarding School: The Perfect Balance

In her book, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, psychologist Lisa Damour describes the familiar and emotional process  in which teens begin to separate from their parents, assert their independence, and latch on firmly to a tribe of their peers. Damour writes, “By the end of adolescence, we expect that [teenagers] will loosen their close ties to their families and strengthen their connections with their peers.” This process, while normal and necessary for healthy adult development, can be challenging for teens and their parents alike. Providing teens with appropriate ways to assert their independence and ensuring there is a supportive safety net is essential. For some families, boarding school provides the perfect balance of independence and support.

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The Impact of a Teacher

Teacher Appreciation Day made me think about my favorite teachers and why they still hold a place in my heart and mind.  There are three of them.

Mrs. McCall was my first grade teacher.  This was the first time I was away from my home all day as the first grade classes were in an annex 10 miles from my house.  It was far away from my mother and I felt it. Yet, Mrs. McCall loved me and I knew that too. I wasn’t special. She loved everyone.  Her love gave me the courage to trust school. In a class permeated by safety and order, she created the conditions where risk was ok, and because I could take a risk, I unlocked the mysteries of reading and writing.   All because of Mrs. McCall. There was magic in her teaching, and believing she loved me, I was smitten and loved her back.

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Homework – Help Your Middle Schooler Succeed

Getting your Middle Schooler to focus on academics is one of the great challenges of parenting. Friends, social networking, sports, video games, and even just staring blankly in the mirror can all hold more interest. Here are six things I’ve seen great parents do to help their children focus on learning.

  • Act as if your child is already the responsible person you hope they will become. Our kids rise – and fall – to meet our expectations. Whether we say them out loud or not.
  • Be interested in your child’s learning – and share your own. Instead of just asking what she learned in school today, share what you learned at work or on the news. While your children work on homework, set aside your own time for reading, writing in a journal or learning to do something new. Communicate through your actions that you value learning as a life-long activity, not just to get good grades in school.

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Finding the The Right School

Like shopping for clothes, shopping for a school is all about fit. Finding the right school fit for your child can be a daunting and confusing endeavor because there are many options available. All independent schools have a few things in common, such as great academics, dedicated faculty, and close-knit communities. So how do you find the right school? How do you tell the difference between them? 

Here are a few tips help you in your school search:

  • Know your child’s and your family’s needs. In what kind of school culture would your child thrive? Would they do well in a large school or one that is smaller? Does your child have special academic needs to support or certain strengths and passions you would like to build on? Is a school with a religious affiliation important to you? Is diversity important to you? Do you want a school with a wide variety of clubs or extra-curricular offerings? Answer these kinds of questions to build a profile of a school that might be a good fit for your child.

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