Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The College Search

As an IB senior halfway through my first semester, I can share that college is something that’s been circling amongst my top priorities for a while now. I first started looking at colleges seriously about a year ago, upon which I quickly realized two things. One, I had a lot of things to think about. With over 4,168 recognized colleges and universities in America to choose from (not even including international universities) there is a lot of narrowing to be done. And two, I knew way less about the whole process than I thought I did.

For starters, applying to college is costly, not only financially (at $75 an app my original vague plan to just apply everywhere I was remotely interested in and consider my options later was wildly unfeasible), but time-consumingly as well. There were supplements to write, scholarships to be applied for, unique essay topics be thought of, resumes to craft, interviews to prepare for, recommendations to request, and overall a lot of tedious paperwork to be done. With all the effort it takes to apply genuinely to a school, putting some thought into what you’re looking for in a college (before worrying about what colleges are looking for in you) can really alleviate the process.

The first step when you’re considering any major life choice, whether it’s investigating potential careers or choosing a college, is to take a minute to reflect on yourself. While it might seem easier to pick the highest paying job or most prestigious school and work backwards, envisioning your future as a Harvard pre-med student, the truth everyone is different, and there’s no one-path-fits-all to be successful (or happy). As Howard Thurman once said (coincidentally also the prompt of an essay I recently wrote), “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Before considering schools take a minute to think about your strengths and your weaknesses; the things you’re more naturally good at and enjoy, and the things you might not be so good at, that you don’t like, or don’t have a passion for. School subjects are a good way to judge what you might be interested in pursuing in the future, but keep in mind there are also dozens of other subjects and professions out there that you might not have been exposed to yet. For many, undergraduate colleges can be a safe place to experiment in different fields, and discover more about the person you want to be, as an adult.

That’s not to say it isn’t valuable to have a plan for the future, and many also find it beneficial have a more specific idea of what they want to study and eventually pursue as a career. It’s important to consider this when looking at colleges; do you prefer large public schools with a variety of majors, smaller humanities-based liberal arts schools, pre-professional science and engineering schools, purely creative-focused art schools, trade schools, or a combination?

Financial considerations are also extremely important in determining what colleges and universities would best fit your specific situation. Need-based aid and merit aid, as well as federal or nonfederal loans, and outside scholarships, can all contribute to lowering the cost of attendance. Even if financial need is not one of your biggest priorities, it’s important to sit down with your parents or guardians sooner rather than later to make sure you’re all on the same page, so that you can all work together to make sure you have a list of colleges you both love, and are also realistic. Keep in mind as well that while in-state public universities are most often the least expensive immediate options, public schools in general do not always give the most scholarship money, and private schools, while appearing more expensive, often have a higher endowment and can therefore give equal or greater financial aid packages to students.

Other main aspects of colleges to think about include location (do you feel more comfortable in a rural, suburban, city, or other type of setting? How far from home do you want to be? Are there particular states you would like to live in?), size (both school and class size), class type (do you learn better in small discussion based classes, or larger lecture-based ones?), school culture (would you prefer a liberal, conservative, or equal leaning student body? How important is diversity or religious affiliation to you?), and national or regional rankings.

Overall, while portraying yourself in the best light possible in applications is important, the most important deciding factor when narrowing your college list is whether or not you know you can be happy and successful at a school. But when starting your college journey, remember- your future isn’t sealed by the school you choose, and no matter where you end up going everything will be okay. College is just one step in the grand scheme of things; you still have your whole life ahead of you.

Naomi Brady
Class of 2017

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What a Wonderful World!

My daughter was recently given a homework assignment to watch the first presidential debate.  As we watched the debate I began to consider that in 1984 I received the same assignment.  In 1984, I recall Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale debating and my takeaway at the time was that this was a pretty boring interaction between two old men.  Needless to say, I am certain that my teacher was less than impressed with the reflection of her students on this important historical event.  Fast forward to 2016 and while my daughter’s reaction to the presidential debate wasn’t much different from mine 32 years ago the implications of this year’s election certainly held a greater significance for her.  Our election process this year has reminded me about the importance of our democratic system and causes me to celebrate the fact that for the first time in history the primary party candidates represent the first female candidate and the first private sector candidate.  The historical outcome of this year’s presidential election has yet to be realized; however the significance of this election has already left its mark on our youth.  

For the first time in my lifetime, the idea that “anyone” can be President of the United States of America feels as though it is a reality.  My hope for the students at Imagine International Academy of North Texas is that they can view our democratic process as one of progression.  May our students learn this November from the adults in their lives that the power of a single vote can make a difference in our world.    May our children learn to be thoughtful in the formulation of their opinions, and develop open-minded ideologies as they consider the perspective of those with whom they interact.

Finally, to our young adults and parents, I charge you to exercise one of the greatest freedoms provided in our country and vote! 

Angela Farrell
Regional Academic Coordinator 
Imagine International Academy of North Texas

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Todos Juntos

Picture our school courtyard completely full with 300 students and all their teachers. It is a sea of black and red as students show their Imagine International Academy of North Texas school spirit.  The oldest students are sitting in the back, with the youngest up in front.  Kindergarten, First, and Second grades meet together, followed by Third, Fourth, and Fifth grade a bit later.  It’s a tight fit, but the atmosphere is calm and respectful with clear excitement. 

October 7 marked the beginning of a new tradition in the Primary Years Programme (PYP), as we held our first Todos Juntos gathering.  In Spanish, Todos Juntos means all together and the goal of these gatherings is for students to come together as a learning community in order to share, reflect, and appreciate everything that is being learned in the PYP.

Todos Juntos begins with a welcome song students learned in Musical Theater. It is powerful to see all our learners singing as one.  One by one the grade levels come up to talk a little bit about what they have been doing during their units of inquiry.  This is not a performance, but rather an informal sharing.  It is hard to believe 320 people could be a small group, but it feels intimate, like a family around the dinner table sharing about their day.

Kindergarteners recited an echo poem all together, shared different ways they were learners, and proudly showed off artwork posted on signposts.  First grade led us in patriotic songs.  Second grade explained their central idea using kid words and told about a lemonade stand to raise money for books to teach classmates how they impact the ocean.  Third grade taught us more about Helen Keller and shared how eating blindfolded helped them to wonder just what her life was like.  Fourth grade defined effort and perseverance then compared comments that showed growth and fixed mindsets.  And Fifth grade rocked the house with a rap version of the water cycle that got everybody moving.  Students listened in rapt attention as each grade shared about their learning then enthusiastically responded with our appreciation chant, “Hey, hey!  Ho, ho!  ---- Grade, way to go!  Hey, hey!  Ho, ho!  ---- Grade, way to go!” 

Todos Juntos ended 30 minutes after it had begun with our closing song then everyone returned to class.  Younger students heard about activities to which they can look forward and older students were reminded of their time in earlier grades.  Connections were made, IB learning was honored, and hopefully new inquiries have begun.

Later that day I heard students and teachers already brainstorming ideas for ways they might share at our next Todos Juntos.  I am bursting with pride for all the amazing IB learners we have here at Imagine, both students and teachers.  Who knows what they can do all together?  I can’t wait to find out.

We’re here to ask big questions
Through hard work and reflection
Working all together
We might just change the world.
Justice!  Integrity, Fun!
It can be done!

Holly Baker
Primary Years Programme Coordinator

Todos Juntos is held once a quarter for PYP students and teachers in an intimate, casual atmosphere.  Please be sure to ask your children about it and give them the memorable experience of coming home to tell you all the news.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Did you you know about the Student Aide Program?

One of the many things I enjoy about Imagine International Academy is the Student Aide Program for MYP students. The Student Aide Program invites students to apply to be an aide to a classroom teacher or other staff member on campus. This semester student aides can be found in the PYP classroom, the library, the front office, and more. 

The work I do for the teachers includes tutoring students, making copies, even cutting out d├ęcor for the walls. I have been a Student Aide in the kindergarten, and it really is a wonderful experience. Learning about what goes on in the classroom was something I very much treasured. This is an experience where students can practice leadership skills while working with the younger students, as well as one where they can practice being an assistant while helping the teacher with their work. I really appreciate this opportunity-I have learned so much and had a wonderful experience as a Student Aide. 

Amelia Kimball
MYP Student
Imagine International Academy of North Texas

Victoria Hinnant, student aide in the library.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Senior Year Advice for Future Classes - from Someone Who Knows!

Senior year means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but to most it means stress, lots of stress. In the Fall, seniors have to worry about the Common App and their college essays. It is the last time to take the SATS/ACTS and Subject Tests. And in the Spring, we have the most fun of all: the dreaded IB exams looming over us. Senior year for Imagine International Academy’s first graduating class can seem over-whelming at times, but it is also going to be one of the most exciting years of our high school career. Hopefully by the time it is all over, not only will we have accomplished a lot and feel more secure about our future plans, but we will have set the standard for subsequent Imagine International Academy graduates. 

But being the first at anything has its drawbacks. As a student of the first graduating class, I did not have the advantage of learning from other people’s mistakes and receiving help from older students. So Juniors, Sophomores, and Freshmen listen up! Here are six things I wish I knew before senior year: 

  1. Become list makers: 
    You have to have a college list. You need to know where you're going to apply and why. What makes these schools the best fit for you above all others? What is the average class size? Are they located in rural, suburban, or metropolitan areas? Do they have the majors/minors you are interested in? What about study abroad and work study programs? Make a chart comparing the loan and scholarship policies, average GPA, and standardized test scores. This will make your life so much easier when it comes time to apply.

  1. Think outside the box:
    Not all "name brand"schools, no matter how famous and prestigious, are going to be the right place for everyone. Some of the best schools are not Ivies. Please, please remember that your self worth does not depend on getting into an Ivy League school. Some people thrive in those types of environments and others do not. What matters is what you do and how hard you work once you get there, not how big people's eyes get when you say your college name.

  1. Make summer plans early:
    If you have a favorite school, see if they offer any summer programs. Getting into a school’s summer program does not necessarily mean that you will be accepted into their college, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to get a feel for that school's environment. A college will be your home during some of the most influential and important years of your life, so choose wisely. Getting accepted into a program doesn't guarantee anything- but it doesn't look too shabby on your resume either.

  1. Get those standardizes tests out of the way:
    Finish your ACT or SAT by the end of junior year. Unless you really need to pull up those numbers for super scoring, June should be the last time you take it. Start early in your Junior year. It will make life so much easier when you get to Senior year and IB exams start smacking you on the head.

  1. Pay attention to the Common App opening dates:
    Start your Common App essays in August when it first come out. Try to get them finalized before school starts. If this was the only tip I could list here, this would be it. Please, please do this. You will save yourself many a late night. Once the mad dash for senior year begins, the clock starts ticking faster and faster.

  1. Build your resume early:
    Keep a resume of your extra-curriculars, awards, and volunteer activities starting your freshmen year. When you apply, you have to submit a resume of pretty much everything you've ever done in your high school career. Keep a log of everything, and you can filter through it when it comes time to apply.

For me and my peers, Senior year holds a lot of promise and stress. But hopefully, these stress busting tips will make it just a little bit easier for the next group of upcoming graduates. Are you listening? 

Mara Efimov
DP Student
Class of 2016