TeenLife Blog

Supporting teen success, one post at a time

Author: Sara Zhou

Sara Zhou-profile-picture

Sara Zhou is a senior high school student at the Winsor School in Boston.

Posted Aug. 5, 2014, 10 a.m. by Sara Zhou | View Comments
How to write a college essay

This is how you write a college admissions essay: you talk about yourself. You hope that you come across well on paper. You share your experiences—you share what makes you you and you pray to whatever deity of your choice that it makes sense and that the Admissions Committee at the other end likes you enough. You don’t talk about the things you share in common. You don’t talk about the things you regret saying or doing or quitting too early. You don’t talk about how you were distilled every month into one letter, that you hoped would have just ...

Posted Aug. 4, 2014, 10 a.m. by Sara Zhou | View Comments
Recommendation letters from teachers

Recommendation letters are a large part of college applications, but their importance is often undervalued. These letters should serve as a chance for students to show off their efforts both in and outside the classroom: personal attributes, accomplishments, or just your attitude towards learning. A glowing recommendation, especially from someone who knows you well, can make all the difference in setting your application apart from the crowd. To make sure you receive the best recommendation letter possible, here are 5 simple steps to follow. 1. Decide who you want to write your letter. Counselors, mentors, and of course, teachers: who ...

Posted July 25, 2014, 10 a.m. by Sara Zhou | View Comments
teaching in china

Last summer, I spent nearly two months teaching English in a rural area of China, fifty kilometers away from my hometown. My volunteer abroad story is what a past version of me would call “failure," and what I now call a learning experience. Sometimes, you can’t get things right on the first try. For me, this lesson started much earlier. It starts with my first memory of this country, and the star-spangled U.S of A. Coming to America In my earliest memory of America, I am a dog, kneeled next to the heroine of my first school play. After arriving ...

Posted July 24, 2014, 10 a.m. by Sara Zhou | View Comments
student-run school

Are students capable of learning on their own? Is it enough for teachers to act only as mentors or coaches? These were the questions being asked when Sam Levin, a junior at Monument Mountain Regional High School, set out to design a school run by students, for students: no grades, no tests, not even classes. The idea was to create a place where students could learn how to learn, and be in charge of their own curriculum. When the administration of Levin’s school granted him a semester-long pilot project, Sam was already ready with plans for the “Independent Project.” The ...

Posted July 22, 2014, 10 a.m. by Sara Zhou | View Comments
studying for standardized tests

With admission rates plummeting year after year, the Class of 2015 is gearing up for what looks to be a tough academic year. Much of the focus is placed on who will get in where, but this time of year is also ideal test-preparation time for lowerclassmen. For those juggling college applications with an already-tight school life or just starting to think about the college process, there’s good news yet. There’s one thing you can easily conquer—and despite its legendary menace, it’s only three letters long. Diagnostic Tests What is the SAT? (A) Scholastic Aptitude Test (B) Requirement for College ...

Posted July 20, 2014, noon by Sara Zhou | View Comments
Test-Optional May Not Be as Optional as You Think

For all that trivia and testing techniques that I know about the SAT, I don’t much like the test itself. According to a recent study by the American Educational Research Association, there is a clear relationship between economic privilege and standardized testing performance. Other critics point out that doing well on the test is much more influenced by who has the chance to hire SAT tutors than in academic ability. When the SAT-optional movement picked up momentum a few years ago, it seemed that there was an answer to all these problems. More Opportunity for More Students Students seemed to ...

Posted July 18, 2014, 10 a.m. by Sara Zhou | View Comments
Watching tv technology

In the nineties, it was MTV. The Internet was next, making photos and videos available within seconds. Then mobile technology allowed us to browse feeds while waiting in line or between bathroom breaks. Twitter took it to the next level with character limits. Then Vine joined the race, with an unprecedented six-second limit to tell a story. In the past few decades, it seems the Internet-age has brought on a phenomena: shorter content and shorter attention spans. Recent headlines belabor the problem, announcing that the downward trend of the Millennial Generation or how “Study Finds Gen Y Ill-Prepared For the ...

Posted July 17, 2014, 10:29 a.m. by Sara Zhou | View Comments
computer programming

There is one subject area that is becoming vitally important in our global industry: it ensures the information we want to access arrives quickly, and yet most schools do not require classes in this field. Students gain a solid foundation in nineteenth-century British literature, and yet many remain woefully misinformed about computer programming. Ask an average student what the differences are between two common programming languages — say, Python and Java — and your efforts may be rewarded with a bewildered “Why are you comparing snakes with coffee beans?” The Need: Program or Be Programmed The truth is that in ...

Posted July 3, 2014, 10 a.m. by Sara Zhou | View Comments
Pretty Little Liars Teen TV show

The perfect qualities of a teenage TV show are one of a kind—or at least they would have appalled the literary classic authors you’re dedicatedly skimming for summer reading. Always filled with suspense, humor, and at least one person hammered on the ol’ amber nectar, teenage television is a requisite guilty pleasure. Its charm, which is only at times drowned by copious amounts of angst (I’m looking at you Arrow), is the perfect place to pass a day on vacation while learning all the trite lessons a coming-of-age story has to offer. To help get rid of that summer boredom, ...

Posted July 1, 2014, 1 p.m. by Sara Zhou | View Comments
3 Time-Saving Study Techniques

We’ve all been there before. It’s an ungodly hour in the night-slash-morning—Is that the sun rising outside your window? —And you’re online, browsing old Yahoo Answer threads with informative titles like “HELP??! Chemistry!” Perhaps this is not the best way to finishing your stoichiometry study set. But what better methods can there be? To help you through finals despair and aid you in all endeavors desk-related, we’ve compiled some of our favorite study techniques. For a more efficient and pleasant study experience, you may want to try out these five techniques. Speed Reading If you’re ever tempted to skip a ...

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