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  • Body Image, College, GirlSpring.com, School

    Three Rules for the New School Year

    Three Rules for the New School Year

    guest post by Martha Underwood, CEO of Executive Estrogen

    This year, how will you navigate making new friends, encountering new teachers, growing physically and emotionally all while staying cool. It can seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. You are unique and beautiful in your own right. Here are a few tips to navigating the school year.

    Get a Mentor & Meet a New Friend

    Approach new teachers and new people with the intention to learn about them and yourself. Find a good teacher that can serve as a mentor to you. Also, you may be able to use them as a confidant or tutor should you need one. Be open to meeting a new friend and seek out friends that may differ from you, doing so will help expand your perspective of people and  in the end you may find that you are more alike than you may have thought.

     

    Embrace Physical Change and Growth

    Your body and emotions will change. It’s natural. I was so skinny, I used to get teased that I walked on stilts. Instead of staying indoors looking at all the photoshopped bodies in magazines, I made it a point to ride my bike and enjoy the outdoors. Being outside reminded me that everything is always evolving and my body and emotions weren’t any different. So instead of staring at Instagram all day,  go for a walk.  Enjoy the outdoors, it offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new environment which will help balance all of the physical and emotional ups and downs you will experience.

     

    Be You

     

    Most importantly, be you! Even if you feel like you look silly doing the floss, do it anyway. Even if you feel like people will pick at you because you still love Harry Potter, love it anyway. Someone will always have an opinion about how you look, what you say or how you dress, in the end the only thing that matters the most is how you feel about it. Take note of how you feel when you are experiencing new people and new things. If it makes you happy, keep doing them, if it makes you uncomfortable or sad, remove it from your life.

    Here’s to an awesome 2018-2019 school year!

    Keep Shining,

    Martha

  • Articles, College, Confidence, Money, School, Writing

    How to Write College Essays

    How to Write College Essays

    guest post by Rick Wedell, RFG Chief Investment Officer

     

    College application deadlines are approaching, and with that there comes the stress of the application process. Some schools do not ask for essays, while others may ask you for several different pieces of writing. With that in mind, we thought we would share with you a good approach to writing college essays beyond the simple “make sure you proof- read carefully”.1

     

     

    Step 1: The Personal Narrative

    Ideally, a college application should tell a compelling story about who you are, why you want to go to school in general, and why this institution in particular. We’ll call this your personal narrative – the twenty second elevator speech youwould give to the admissions of cer if you were fortunate enough to be able to trap them in an enclosed space for thatlength of time.

    This is a story that you should construct on paper prior to even looking at the application, and it’s crucial that it weaves itself together into a compelling and coherent story line. Consider two narratives –

    1. I’m Rick, I’m a natural leader, I ran track and focused on Model UN in High School, I want to go to college so that I can become a marine biologist, and I’m interested in the University of Miami because of your amazing overseas exchange student program
    2. I’m Samantha, I’m inquisitive, I was active in the debate team and student government in High School, I’m looking to go to college so that I can one day go to law school, and I’m interested in the University of Virginia because of your excellent pre-law curriculum track 2

    To a college admissions counselor, Rick sounds like he has no sense of what he is doing with his life, while Samantha sounds like she has been organized around a single purpose since the day she could walk. Each aspect of her narrative is complementary and additive to the others, and as a result, Samantha is a far more compelling candidate. More importantly, her story is a heck of a lot more memorable because it all hangs together – inquisitive, debate, law school, pre-law.

    As a guideline, your narrative should include two to four characteristics that describe who you are (or who you want the admissions department to think of you as). These can be interests, achievements, activities, or descriptors.
    The most important thing about your narrative is that it needs to be believable! If you say you want to help impoverished children, then you had better be able to point to something concrete that demonstrates this desire.

    That said, saying it needs to be believable is not the same thing as saying that it needs to be 100% accurate, particularly when you discuss why you want to go to college and why this school in particular. In your heart of hearts, you may want go to the University of Wherever because that’s where your friends are going, or because you love their sports teams, or because your parents went to their arch-rival and you are trying to rebel. These are all valid reasons for going to the school and horrible reasons to put on your application. You shouldn’t lie about grades, an activity, a leadership role or accolade or anything like that, however stretching the possible on your motivations or what attracts you to the school is fair game so long as it is believable. In our examples above, Rick could make his story more compelling if he tied his experience in Model UN to an interest in a government degree and Miami’s fantastic public policy program. He can always switch to marine biology once he enrolls.3

    So now we’ve got our personal narrative, which is a well-constructed, believable story about who you are, why you want to go to college, and why you want to go to this college in particular. The next step is to actually look at the application itself.

     

    Step 2 – The Grid

    Every college application is different. Some applications ask for a single essay, others ask for multiple short answers, others ask for multiple essays, and some ask for no written samples at all. If the application asks for a single essay – no problem – just take your personal narrative and start writing. If multiple written responses are required, that’s when we come to the concept of the grid.

    The grid is pretty simple – put your narrative in boxes across the top row and the list of writing requirements down the page. At the far right should be a column called “topic”. To illustrate, we’ll use Samantha’s narrative and some essay questions I made up:

    Inquisitive

    Debate

    Student Gov.

    Law School

    Pre-law track

    Topic

    Talk about a time you struggled?

    What are you most proud of?

    Why would our campus be a better place with you on it?

    Now, all we need to do is decide which situations or experiences we are going to address in each essay, making
    sure that we touch on all of the elements of our narrative at least once in the entire application. We don’t want every response to check every box, but we do want to check 2 or 3 boxes with each answer and make sure that nothing in ourpersonal narrative gets left out when the admissions of cer nishes reading the application as a whole.

    page2image47944page2image48104

    What the grid forces you to do is focus your writing on your message and avoid the cardinal sin of application writing – DO NOT simply answer the questions in a laundry list fashion. Samantha may be very proud of the time she won the spelling bee in Junior High. If the application asks what she’s proud of, she might be tempted to write about it. After all, who wouldn’t be proud of that? At the same time, that response is off message. It’s impressive, and it might make for a good essay topic for some applicants, but it doesn’t really fit into Samantha’s story. She certainly should list that achievement when asked about extra curriculars, awards, and accolades, but she shouldn’t spend essay time writing about it. Instead, she should pick an experience or situation to write about that helps to tell her story.

    Keep in mind that the questions are just prompts to get you talking about yourself, and no admissions officer is going to penalize you for being a little off topic with your answers so long as you make an effort to frame it within the question. The best overall candidates get into school, not the people who have the best examples to fit into the application questions.

    If Samantha wants to talk about a debate tournament she won for the “struggled” question, she can spend a little time describing the struggle she had with preparation for the tournament as she crafts the response. If she’d rather talk about the tournament in the next question, then she can be “most proud of” the fact that she worked together with her team and coaches to get to the victory. You get the idea.

    When Sam is finished with her grid, it might look something like this:

    Inquisitive

    Debate

    Student Gov.

    Law School

    Pre-law track

    Topic

    Talk about a time you struggled?

    XXX

    XXX

    Debate Win

    What are you most proud of?

    XXX

    XXX

    Class Senator

    Why would our campus be a better place with you on it?

    XXX

    XXX

    XXX

    Legal Intern

    She’s chosen topics to write about for each of these three essays that highlight the qualities checked on the grid. Once again, she’s not talking about everything in every response, but when she’s finished her narrative should flow through the application. Now that she has her topics, it’s off to write!

     

    Step 3 – The Writing

    Steps 1 and 2 are about figuring out what to write about for each question, and now we get to the point of actually putting words on paper. A couple of tips:

    • Make every word count. You have a limited number of words, and most of us are prolific with our prose. You want to cram as much content into as few words as possible. Start by writing with no filter, and then go back and delete / rephrase until you hit the target word count. Intro phrases like “for example” and “in other words” are great candidates to slash and burn.
    • Show, don’t tell. Wherever possible, use examples / stories / anecdotes (like the Samantha and Rick storylines above) to illustrate your points versus just stating them – it makes the work more engaging to the reader.
    • Customize your answers for each school. You may be tempted to copy essays from one application to the
      next. Resist the temptation unless the questions are the same. You can talk about the same situations on every application by reframing the experience (e.g. Samantha’s debate tournament win), but the copy / paste function on your word processor should be avoided like the plague.
    • If a question asks you about your personality or “who you are”, be brutally honest. These questions are probing not only for who you are, but for how well you know yourself, and should be treated with an appropriate level of introspection. They aren’t necessarily asking you to talk about the time you were elected president of the student government or some other mind-blowing achievement or skill. You can still fit these into the grid, but be careful – you want these responses to show that you are aware of your weaknesses as well as your strengths.4 Be honest with yourself. A good rule of thumb is that you will know that this type of essay is ready to submit when you hesitate to print a copy for fear that one of your friends might someday find it.
    • Find someone you trust to edit and proofread. You do not need 50 different editors, because they will give you conflicting advice. Find 1 or 2 people who will read all of the essays together and make sure that they present a compelling storyline, and who are willing to suggest changes to things that are a little off – an editor is worthless if they simply tell you the essays look great.

    Step 4 – The Recommendations

    You might think that we are all done once we’ve done the writing, but we still have letters of recommendation to consider! After all, we did all the work to come up with our personal narrative, and there is no reason not to share that with whoever is writing your letters of recommendation.

    page4image33496

    Indeed, you should probably think about your personal narrative when you think about WHO you ask. Ideally, we want the recommender to discuss something additive to your story, but not repetitive. If Samantha has her softball coach write a letter, it’s nice, but it doesn’t really build her story. Her Social Studies teacher might be a better option, as that is consistent with and adds to Samantha’s narrative. Having her Debate coach write the letter would be more in the repetitive camp.

    Once you’ve identified who you want to write the letter, you should ask them. Give them an out, so that if they do not want to write the letter they have a pre-built excuse. Something like “Mr. Johnson, I’m applying to the University of Wherever, and I was wondering if you have the time to write a good letter of recommendation for me?” Asking if they have the time gives them an out without hurting your feelings – you don’t want someone writing a rec who doesn’t want to do it.

    If they agree – great! Most people who write letters of recommendation want to see you succeed – they wouldn’t write it if they didn’t care. By telling your recommender how you are positioning your application, you let them know what
    to highlight in their letter. At the very least, it helps ensure that they won’t directly contradict you! Share your personal narrative with them, and if you feel comfortable enough, suggest what you think they might be able to add to the conversation.

    Sam might say: “Mr. Johnson, thank you for agreeing to write a recommendation for me. Elsewhere in my application, I’ve talked about how I’m inquisitive, loved student government and debate, and am interested in law as a career. I was hoping that you might be able to highlight my work in your class for the admissions office?” This is innocuous enough to not be pushy, but gives the letter writer enough information to compliment her story.5

    Last, but not least –

    I hope that this has been helpful as you approach your college applications. While the process may seem daunting, in a sense you are really just being asked to tell a couple of stories about yourself. These stories should be chosen and written carefully so that they are both interesting and present the best picture possible, but try to approach the process with a sense of humor. After all, no one is more qualified or better positioned to write about your life than you are.

    Good luck!

    page5image28448

    1 Which you should 100% do.
    2 The “why this particular school” portion requires you to do some homework on that school and what they offer you in that particular field. Spend the time and craft a custom answer – it shows you aren’t cutting and pasting.
    3 As an aside, MOST schools want a nice mix of math geeks, jocks, and poets. For schools that have a particularly dominant bent towards one type of major, saying you are interested in something OTHER than that might be helpful (so long as you can make it believable). Case in point – I applied under the guise of pursuing an engineering degree at a school more known for finance, then switched once I got there.
    4 I’m not talking about weaknesses like “I like to steal things” or “I have a crippling addiction” which will get you kicked out of the process immediately. We all have things we are great at and places where we could improve. Show that you know about both aspects of yourself.
    5 You should send this to your recommender in an email, or otherwise write it down so that they can refer to it later – most letter writers are doing a lot of them this time of year, and simply saying it risks they will forget it.
    Investment advice offered through RFG Advisory Group, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor.
  • Articles, College, School, Sports, TRENDING

    Groundbreaking female football player Becca Longo’s advice to young girls: ‘Don’t listen to all the negativity’

    Becca Longo, 18, is believed to have become the first female in history to earn a football scholarship with a top-tier college team when she signed a letter of intent Wednesday with Adams State University.

    Longo, a high school senior from Arizona, said she would tell young girls who have big dreams like her to “do what you love” and ignore the negativity.

    “If they want to play football, go out and play football. If they want to play hockey, they can go out and play hockey,” Longo said today on “Good Morning America.” “Just don’t listen to all the negativity because you’re going to get a lot of it.”

    “Just go do what you love,” she said.

    Longo was introduced at a signing ceremony Wednesday at Basha High School in Chandler, Arizona, as the first woman to sign a letter of intent to play football at a Division II level college or higher, according to ESPN.

    Longo, who will also play basketball at Adams State, said she was as surprised as anyone.

    “I didn’t believe that it was true,” she said. “I just remember sitting there and Coach [Gerald] Todd saying that I was the first girl to ever do that. … I was so blown away.”

    Making Longo’s rise to the ranks of college football even more improbable is that she only played football for two seasons in high school.

    “I started playing my sophomore year and then I transferred schools so I had to sit out my junior year and I didn’t get to play until my senior year,” Longo said. “I didn’t really expect to play after high school until sort of the middle of my senior season, which is kind of late.”

    Longo also overcame injuries and defied doctors’ expectations in her rise to become a college athlete.

    “The doctors told me that I couldn’t play sports ever again and I just kind of like used that as motivation to prove them wrong,” she said. “I love both of my sports too much to just give up and I’ve spent so much time and money and effort just to just let it all go.”

  • Dating, Depression, School, Stress, TRENDING

    February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

    Girlspring is Supporting Dating Violence Awareness!

    February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month! Teen DV Month (sometimes called TDVAM) is a national effort to raise awareness about abuse in teen and 20-something relationships and promote programs that prevent it.

    Dating violence is more common than many people think.

    One in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults.

    Help us spread awareness and stop dating abuse before it starts!

    In February 2017, loveisrespect will be celebrating its 10th anniversary! So, we thought we’d get back to basics. Our theme for Teen DV Month 2017 is Love is . . . Respect. We’ll be talking about what respect means and why it’s so important in a healthy relationship – online and off. We hope you’ll join the conversation!

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, School

    Emmy Kilgore: MVP

    We’re here today with Emmy Kilgore, who is here to talk about her impressive volleyball career! She just won a big award for her school!

    Hi Emmy, thanks for talking with us today! We’ll start with the basics, but then we want to hear all about your award!

    What grade are you in and what school do you go to?

    I’m in the 12th grade and I go to Mountain Brook High School.

    I heard that you have been named MVP for volleyball for the state, is that right?

    Yes, I was named Most Valuable Player for the 7A State Volleyball tournament.

    That’s awesome! What exactly does that title mean?

    Once we make it to the elite 8, we must play and win 3 games to make it. When we win those three games we get named State Champions for 7A division, then they pick a player who had been “the most valuable player” for the whole tournament. At the tournament, after we won, I was named MVP for the 7A division.

    Was this a goal of yours?

    It never came to mind about receiving this award and I never pictured myself winning it because it is a team sport. I didn’t think about it at first, but I knew that I would be up for it if my team won, which was my ultimate goal. The MVP award wasn’t my main goal. My main goal was winning as a team, and the MVP award just happened to be a part of that.

    Did you have to work hard to get to this point?

    Yes, I’ve played volleyball since I was in 6th grade and I’ve had to put in a lot of hard work and time. I don’t think people realize how much time we put in, we have to practice every day, except Saturdays, from 2:45 pm to 5:45 pm. We also have traveling games and tournaments that take up a lot of our time.

    When you started playing in 6th grade, had you done other sports and end up falling in love with volleyball?

    I started playing sports in kindergarten, all kinds of sports, and volleyball is a sport that you start playing later. Once I started playing volleyball, I dropped basketball and softball and I focused on volleyball.

    How do you balance your sports schedule with your academic workload?

    It has been tough. In practice, we always talk about how we are going to use volleyball as an outlet for school because maybe we had a bad day, but we must be at practice, so we should use it as something to focus on other than school, something to take our minds off what happened that day. It helps me because I don’t have to just go home and sit there with all this free time, I know that I only have two hours before my next practice to get my homework done, and I’m much more diligent when I have stuff to do.

    How have team sports benefitted you?

    It has benefitted me in so many ways. Our team is not just an ordinary team; we are all best friends and it’s created relationships for a lifetime and I would have never met some of these girls without volleyball. Even though we may not have been a friend group outside of volleyball, volleyball has brought us together. Volleyball has also made me become a team player, learn how to face adversity, and learn how to be calm. We’ve had to deal with situations like teams wanting to beat us, bad refs, and everyone wanting us to lose, but we’ve learned how to handle them. Obviously, there will be teams that you’re just not going to mesh with and there will be different personalities that you should learn to get along with on the court and you must learn how to make a team work because it’s all about chemistry.

    What advice do you have for girls who don’t know what sport to sign up for, or that aren’t naturally drawn to sports?

    I would say that it is awesome to be involved in a sport and it gives you friendship for a lifetime, you learn how to deal with different people, it keeps you in shape, and it teaches you to work for a goal. I think that everyone should sign up for a sport and they shouldn’t be worried about making it because if I hadn’t decided on playing volleyball, my life would be way different than it is today.

    What is next for you?

    I considered playing college volleyball, but I’ve gotten hurt in the past seasons, so my body hasn’t been able to take it anymore since I’ve been going so competitively. I have decided that I want to go to the University of Alabama and focus on school and my career.

    Thanks Emmy! It sounds like your sports career has led to a lot of success in your life. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve inspired some young girls already. We wish you the best of luck in college!

  • Articles, College, School

    Sparkling Dresses but Inside We’re Messes: How an Aesthetic Sport Affected my Relationship with Food

    I had never worried about my weight before, nor did I have reason to. I was confident in my thin but strong body and didn’t obsess over every bite I ate. If a sweet dessert or greasy pizza crossed my path, I was more than likely to enjoy it, but since I never intentionally denied myself a treat, I rarely made myself sick from overindulging. Besides, I was a figure skater. I trained 2 to 3 hours every day, burning hundreds of calories per hour. If you’ve ever watched figure skating, you know just how much of a role aesthetics plays in the sport. Girls must be extremely lean to successfully launch themselves into the air and complete nearly three rotations before landing on one foot. I was lean, and I was relatively successful at completing said airborne rotations. But that wasn’t enough.

    When I was fourteen, my coach started trying to get me to eat healthier; encouraging me to try vegetables and cut down on the frappuccinos. That would have been fine, but I’m not one to take things slightly, and at that moment being the best at my sport was the essence of my existence. So, if dieting was going to help me reach that goal, then I would kiss my edible entertainment goodbye. I held my resolution solid for a month until I went to IHOP to treat myself. That morning I consumed an incredible 7 pancakes as the waiter stared in awe at the hundred-pound girl scarfing down half her weight in breakfast foods.

    Once I got that taste of indulgence it was hard to go back to restriction, and I ended up gaining back all the weight I had lost, plus some. I had let go of the reins and was binging nightly on all the foods I had previously forbidden myself. For the first time in my life, my mom warned me I would get fat if I kept eating the way I was. This was a foreign, ill-received feeling, and although I had never been an emotional eater before, food became my solace. The cycle continued; I would eat restrictively for a week or two, binge to the point of nausea, feel extremely guilty, and repeat! I was extremely dissatisfied, not just with my body, which I had newly discovered had a million flaws, but also with my inability to stick to my resolutions. The binging didn’t lessen until I learned to be more forgiving of myself, and 2 years later, although I’m still struggling to break away from ‘yo-yo dieting’, I can say it’s been nearly 6 months since I had a sickening binge episode and my self-confidence is better than it’s been since middle school. I don’t blame skating, but in a subjective sport, girls like myself are pressured to slim down at a young age, which, without proper guidance, can lead to distressing relationships with food that have the potential to last a lifetime.

  • Bullying, School

    What You Can Do

    Are you being bullied? Do you see bullying at your school? There are things you can do to keep yourself and the kids you know safe from bullying.

    Treat Everyone with Respect

    Nobody should be mean to others.

    • Stop and think before you say or do something that could hurt someone.
    • If you feel like being mean to someone, find something else to do. Play a game, watch TV, or talk to a friend.
    • Talk to an adult you trust. They can help you find ways to be nicer to others.
    • Keep in mind that everyone is different. Not better or worse. Just different.
    • If you think you have bullied someone in the past, apologize. Everyone feels better.

     

    What to Do If You’re Bullied

    There are things you can do if you are being bullied:

    • Look at the kid bullying you and tell him or her to stop in a calm, clear voice. You can also try to laugh it off. This works best if joking is easy for you. It could catch the kid bullying you off guard.
    • If speaking up seems too hard or not safe, walk away and stay away. Don’t fight back. Find an adult to stop the bullying on the spot.

    There are things you can do to stay safe in the future, too.

    • Talk to an adult you trust. Don’t keep your feelings inside. Telling someone can help you feel less alone. They can help you make a plan to stop the bullying.
    • Stay away from places where bullying happens.
    • Stay near adults and other kids. Most bullying happens when adults aren’t around.

     

    Protect Yourself from Cyberbullying

    Bullying does not always happen in person. Cyberbullying is a type of bullying that happens online or through text messages or emails. There are things you can do to protect yourself.

      • Always think about what you post. You never know what someone will forward. Being kind to others online will help to keep you safe. Do not share anything that could hurt or embarrass anyone.
      • Keep your password a secret from other kids. Even kids that seem like friends could give your password away or use it in ways you don’t want. Let your parents have your passwords.
      • Think about who sees what you post online. Complete strangers? Friends? Friends of friends? Privacy settings let you control who sees what.
      • Keep your parents in the loop. Tell them what you’re doing online and who you’re doing it with. Let them friend or follow you. Listen to what they have to say about what is and isn’t okay to do. They care about you and want you to be safe.
      • Talk to an adult you trust about any messages you get or things you see online that make you sad or scared. If it is cyberbullying, report it.

     

    Stand Up for Others

    When you see bullying, there are safe things you can do to make it stop.

        • Talk to a parent, teacher, or another adult you trust. Adults need to know when bad things happen so they can help.
        • Be kind to the kid being bullied. Show them that you care by trying to include them. Sit with them at lunch or on the bus, talk to them at school, or invite them to do something. Just hanging out with them will help them know they aren’t alone.

    Not saying anything could make it worse for everyone. The kid who is bullying will think it is ok to keep treating others that way.

    Get Involved

    You can be a leader in preventing bullying in your community.

          • Find out more about where and when bullying happens at your school. Think about what could help. Then, share your ideas. There is a good chance that adults don’t know all of what happens. Your friends can go with you to talk to a teacher, counselor, coach, or parent and can add what they think.
          • Talk to the principal about getting involved at school. Schools sometimes give students a voice in programs to stop bullying. Be on a school safety committee. Create posters for your school about bullying. Be a role model for younger kids.
          • Write a blog, letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or tweet about bullying.

    From more information: stopbullying.gov