Archive for the ‘High School Life & Advice’ Category

The Ultimate Guide to Letters of Recommendation: Who to Ask and How to Do It

Letters of recommendation. The elusive cousin of resumes and cover letters. While they’re not always invited to the party, they are generally welcomed as a nice surprise when they show up. They convey—possibly more than anything else—your work ethic. It’s important that your recommendation letters evolve as you take each new step in your academic and professional career.

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Who to Ask

HIGH SCHOOL

Letters of recommendation are required for many college and scholarship applications and many volunteering opportunities. Think about the position or institution you are applying for and select letter writers that know your character and skillset the best. Some of those people may include:

  • Teacher: A teacher you’ve had at least a class or two with will be able to speak to your general work ethic, personality, determination, and willingness to go the extra mile. They are a good person to ask to write about your history of academic achievements.
  • Volunteering coordinator: Do you have previous experience volunteering? If you worked closely with a supervisor or volunteer coordinator during your experience, they would be a perfect candidate to write about your willingness to help and your dedication to a specific community.
  • Employer: Juggling a part-time job with school, extra-curricular activities, and volunteering says a lot about your ability to balance multiple things at once. Your employer will be able to talk about your punctuality, your enthusiasm to succeed, and how well you work with a team.

COLLEGE

Recommendation letters are going to be important for three main things: internships, graduate programs, and your first out-of-school job. Even if a letter of recommendation isn’t specifically asked for, it is not a bad idea to have a few written up on your behalf to bring them with you to interviews. Not only does it show that you are a person worth vouching for, but it shows that you are willing to go the extra mile.

  • Academic advisor: Most colleges require each student to have an academic advisor. This is someone that should know your academic history as well as your passion for your field. Encourage them to write about your thirst for knowledge and excitement learn new things.
  • Internship supervisor: A supervisor from a previous internship is the best person to recommend you for your next internship. If you implemented any changes or created a project during your internship, ask your supervisor to mention that process and how it helped their business.
  • Mentor: If you’ve found a mentor in college, you should absolutely ask them to write you a letter of recommendation. Depending on your relationship, this is someone who will know what kind of work and activities you’ve been involved in, what you want to do in the future, and who can speak to what you’re capable of—chances are it’s a lot!

How to Ask

Writing a good letter of recommendation is no easy task. Once you decide who you want to ask, you need to take into account their schedule, how well they know you, and what they are best suited to write about. Follow these tips for a smooth process.

  • Be courteous: Writing one of these letters takes time. Make sure you ask if they’d be willing to write the letter at least a month before you need it. This gives plenty of time for them to come back to you with questions and work through multiple drafts. It also gives you time to find someone new if for some reason they say no or have to back out. It is your responsibility to let them know upfront of any deadlines or special requirements for the letter.
  • Be helpful: In order to write a great letter, your references will need details. Make sure to supply letter writers with a copy of your resume and cover letter, as well as the position description if the letter is going to be for something specific. You should let your writer know if you want them to mention specific pieces of information. It’s important to let them feel free to write their true opinions, but it’s never a bad thing to tell them why you are asking them to write the letter and what you think they can best speak about. Think of this as an opportunity to have someone else talk about things you couldn’t fit in your resume.
  • Be thankful: The process isn’t over when they hand you their letter. Make sure to look it over (unless it’s required to be sealed) and verify that it’s relevant and what you need for your application. After you’ve sent it off, be sure to thank your writer. An old fashioned thank you note is the best way to go, and mention how much it meant to you that they were willing to vouch for you and help you achieve your goals.

Whether you’re applying for a scholarship, a new job, a graduate program, or you just want something to supplement your resume, a strong letter of recommendation can set you apart from other applicants. Not only does it show your ability to build and maintain working relationships, a well-written letter gives potential employers, colleges, and scholarship providers an idea of your past achievements and work-ethic. To ensure a useful and relevant letter, ask someone who has a history of working with or advising you to write a recommendation. Provide the writer with examples of your work, an updated resume, and a brief description of the position or organization you are applying to.


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Holly King is a recently graduated writer living in Salt Lake City, UT. When not scouring the internet for updates in business, lifestyles, and technology, she is tending to her garden and trying to perfect the world’s best egg sandwich.
 
 

image credit: colorado.edu

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5 Easy Mental Hacks that Instantly Boost Your Productivity

productivityIn the pursuit of being successful and making dreams come true, productivity is the lifeblood. In the age of social media and the 24-7 digital distraction machine, productivity is a big issue with even the most ambitious students. How do you get past the urge to procrastinate? Most of us love to laugh at videos on YouTube, chat it up on Facebook, or simply daydream about not having to do what’s necessary, but before you know it, 40 minutes have passed and you’re doing anything but the task you set out to do. With technology continuing to offer more and more interesting means of instant gratification, what can we possibly do to drop those distractions and maintain focus and productivity?

There are many great ways to boost your productivity, but we’ve put together a list of the five best ways to give you impenetrable momentum and powerful focus that will help you plow through even the stickiest and most mundane tasks.

1. Listen to Background Music

Some music simply sets the mood for getting things done. In a recent New York Times article, Dr. Teresa Lesiuk, assistant professor of music therapy at the University of Miami, found that those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas than those who didn’t, because the music improved their mood. Listening to music during your times of serious work and focus can make a notable difference. You might be tempted to play your favorite tunes, but for this purpose, it’s best to choose music with no words or at least words that you cannot understand, such as classical, atmospheric, opera, jazz, new age, etc. If you’re stressed out, try listening to nature sounds or calm, meditative music to help reduce your stress so you can focus better and get more done.

2. Get a Productivity Accountability Partner

HacktheSystem.com, a popular blog on entrepreneur lifestyles, recently started connecting their blog readers with each other as accountability partners to get their personal tasks done. They used actual money as a penalty if the task wasn’t completed. This is an extreme example, but simply having someone else who can hold you accountable for your tasks can really keep you on track to getting things done. Reach out to your classmates or use social media to find someone you can work with to keep each other accountable for anything from daily homework assignments and studying to research projects and papers. Establish times to check in with each other on the status of whatever you’re working on. Knowing that someone else will be checking in on your progress can provide great motivation to get started on — and ultimately finish — that project.

3. Positive Affirmations

Before it all comes out, it starts from within. We can change what is within by telling ourselves in advance what we can accomplish. Many people use the power of positive affirmation to start their day off right. Simply beginning your day by telling yourself that you’re going to have a great and productive day puts your brain in the right mode to do just that. Apps like Singulaa allow you to record your own voice over soothing music so you can play those positive messages back to yourself. Write down your best and most powerful ideas, speak them into existence using the app, and listen to them daily or whenever you find yourself in need of a productivity boostEventually, your mind will absorb the positive messages and you will find yourself working more efficiently and with greater purpose.

4. Identify and Destroy Bad Habits

Take some time to sit down alone in a room or somewhere else private to do a simple self-assessment and identify any bad habits that you’d like to change. Charles Durhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” says that with every habit is a cue, an action, and a reward. Put some thought into identifying what cues your bad habits and why you do each one. What is the reward? Why do you continue that action over and over? Through this exercise, you can identify patterns and learn how to change your bad habits while keeping the same rewards and cues, thereby creating a more productive lifestyle.

5. Accomplishment Journal

At the end of each day, write down everything that you accomplished that day. Take note of all the big things (finally finished that big paper, received a scholarship, got an internship, etc.) and all the small things (got your laundry done, tried a new food in the cafeteria, made it to the rec center to work out, etc.). Giving yourself recognition for and being excited about what you did each day can create a habit of looking forward to all that you can do the next day, giving you more purpose and reason to be productive.

This is an amazing time to live in. We have more access to powerful and positive resources that can give us the type of life we want to have. Using these five clever mental hacks will not only allow you to boost your productivity, but will also improve your general outlook on life.

Russel Cooke is a journalist and business consultant based in Canyon Country, CA. and Louisville, KY. He thoroughly enjoyed his time spent in college, and considers it his best series of learning experiences to date. You can follow him on Twitter @RusselCooke2.

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#CongratsGrads: Dedicated to Graduating High School Seniors

You did it! The countdown to the end of the school year is finally approaching the number “zero” (for some of you, it’s already there!). It’s bittersweet, but you can now reminisce and be proud of everything you’ve accomplished. As you transition to incoming college freshman status, now is the time to start preparing  for college life and anticipate all of the discoveries, opportunities, and experiences that the next four years will bring. Via Facebook and Twitter last week, we posed two big questions: What are you going to miss the most about high school? What are you looking forward to the most about college? Check out what several students had to share below:

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I’m going to miss my easy-going classes and most of my classmates! I’m looking forward to the dinner hall, meeting new people, and exploring a whole new state while I move off to college! In other ways it’s pretty much an adventure! – Cindy O.

I’m going to miss my friends who have become like family to me, but as their doors close, I hope to expand my family in college while never forgetting the ones that got away. – Quiah V.

I’m going to miss the high school atmosphere being with my friends. But I think mostly the teachers because they support you so much and want you to succeed – they want to help you grow and push you to go to college. What I’m looking forward to about college is being away from home and meeting new people, because college is all about having new experiences and by throwing myself into a new place with all new people, I have a chance to grow, be myself, make new friends, and have new experiences. – Adrian H.

Surround yourself with people that share similar interests. Be in control of yourself, because in college it’s all about you! There will be guidance, but you will have to go on your own. They will help prepare you for everything! Have essays to write? There are computer labs, peer mentors, student advisors, etc. Trust me, the universities have every resource you need, so do not be afraid to ask! Feeling stressed? Re-evaluate your goals and mission, because that will remind you why you are there and why you want to make a change in your life. Don’t let one wrong turn bring you down! We are humans, we all make mistakes – just stand up proud and wave your hands up in the air like you just don’t care. Oh and college professors will be direct with you! Remember you’re an adult now, so they will treat you like an adult. Have fun :) – Dalia G.

At Cappex, your college decision headquarters, we understand the questions, excitement, and apprehension you might have about the years ahead, because each of us has been through the experience. After looking back on our college years, a few Cappexians have bestowed the following words of wisdom:

“Make sure to take advantage of your school’s cultural activities. If you have a slow evening, don’t watch TV. Instead, go to a lecture or free concert, there’s one almost every night.” — Mike F.

“You’re going to change your major ten times. That’s okay.” — Elijah C.

“Be responsible with finances. Don’t take out a credit card.” — Ben A.

“It’s okay to be undecided to figure out what you want to study later. Take classes that interest you. If you find a class that you love, you may want to stick with it.”  -Marissa G.

From all of us here at Cappex, Congrats #Classof2014!

Image credit: http://www.cbsnews.com/

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