In light of the snow day on January 17, the Westford Academy administration has decided to once again change the midterm schedule, citing stress concerns and the program Challenge Success, an initiative focused on reducing student stress in schools around the country, as factors for the decision.
The first issue that arises with this new schedule is the somewhat last-minute announcement of such a drastic change, with an email being sent out on Tuesday evening. This timing only gave students 24 hours to adjust themselves to the schedule, adding extra stress to the already tough midterm season.
Under the new schedule, shown above, midterms have been shifted all to next week, eliminating the weekend break that so many students rely on to aid in their study process. The elimination of this weekend appears to me to be a rejection of administration’s recent push to reduce student stress.
The goals of Challenge Success have been to help students reduce stress surrounding school while still getting a great education within Westford Schools. I have felt good about the direction that administration has been taking this school in the 2017-18 school year, however, this quick implementation of a delay of midterms seems to me to be the antithesis of the progress made recently.
With all due respect to administration, I feel the solution that would keep student stress down would have been to keep the schedule as it had been announced last week, with exams beginning on Friday of this week. This would keep the weekend intact and give students plenty of time to prepare.
In place of the weekend in the middle of exams, a half day has been scheduled, where three classes will occur and school will end early in order to foster student studying. However, I feel this is a wasted day of classes, and one that will result in many student absences, especially from seniors.
Students may as well have the day off in order to study more, however, I do know that would not be possible considering all the days already missed this year due to inclement weather.
Don’t get me wrong; from a student perspective, particularly as a senior, this is an ideal situation, due to the lack of actual classes for the majority of next week. This is mostly due to the slightly reduced pressure of midterms when one has received a handful of college acceptances. However, looking at myself in the first three years at WA, this schedule would really have upset me, mainly due to the timing and the elimination of the key weekend.
Quite frankly, how much more time do teachers really need to get ready for exams? Besides in-class essays for English, which are typically done within one day, I don’t see the value in delaying midterms further than they already have been. In fact, in my experiences, I have not even heard any faculty complaining about a lack of adequate preparation time for the midyear exams.
Allowing midterms to begin on Friday still gives students and teachers one more day to meet all together, retains the use of valuable weekend study time for those students who need and use it, and all the while continues the values of Challenge Success that administration has done so well up to this point in implementing.
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Choosing the right topic
Writing your college essay is not complicated. Conceiving a solid and compelling topic is.
When you choose a subject to write about, check to see if it stirs emotion in you. If it does, you’re headed in the right direction. If not, take a step back and search for another subject.
The Common Application provides seven prompts to help you choose an essay topic (see post entitledTwo New Prompts for the College Essay). Four of the prompts ask you to reveal something about your personal experience. If you choose one of these, find a topic that comes from a vivid, thought-provoking, or unforgettable memory. The fifth prompt asks you to describe a problem you solved or would like to solve. If you choose this prompt, write with passion and make sure you are deeply invested in your argument. The sixth prompt says to “describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time.” I love this suggestion because that’s exactly what happens to me when I write. I get so absorbed in the story I’m telling that I’m not aware of how much time is passing. The seventh prompt gives you free rein to write on any topic or to recycle an essay you’ve already written. I don’t find it to be a helpful prompt and I don’t recommend re-using an essay written for another purpose. Your college essay topic should be unique, purposeful, and compelling. To take an essay written for your English class and attach it to your college application indicates a lack of effort. I wouldn’t do it.
Just do it
Now start writing. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, logic or organization. Just put your thoughts on paper. You can start with random sentences, an outline or complete paragraphs. The more you write, the more form and shape your essay will take.
Visualizing the essay
If you were to draw a picture of a short essay it would be a circle.
It starts with a premise, dilemma, purpose or motive. Did you have a moment of uncertainty as you waited to hear the outcome of an audition? Did you deliver the eulogy at your father’s funeral? Did you have a terrifying experience when you were lost in a deeply wooded area?
Coming up with a thesis statement
Begin with a thesis statement: “I was 12 when I delivered my father’s eulogy;” “Assessment tests squeeze the joy out of learning;” “Climate change is no myth and here’s why.”
Putting things in context
Then set the stage by detailing the issue and putting the matter into context: describe the surrounding geography, landscape, scenery, or setting. Were you standing alone on the stage looking at rows of empty seats? Have assessment test scores dropped over the past five years? Was the church filled with mourners? What kind of trees surrounded you? Is there evidence that the Arctic icebergs are melting?
Finding a resolution
The resolution of the essay comes next. Tell your reader how you dealt with your failure or success. What did you learn by failing to win the part in the play? How did you cope with the loss of your father at age 12? How did you find your way out of the woods? What are the alternatives to assessment testing? What’s likely to happen as climate change progresses?
Reaching resolution requires research. Even a personal essay means asking family members questions to corroborate your memories and to confirm your hunch.
Reaching a conclusion
Finally, bring your essay full circle by tying it back to the beginning with a conclusive statement. Ending with a powerful statement often comes naturally to the essayist simply by writing a few drafts. The process will help you think deeply and rationally about your subject.
Help is Nearby
I’m Joyce Pellino Crane, the College Essay Confidantè. My background is journalism. I’ve won awards for editorial writing. I’ll point you in the right direction and encourage you to keep going.
Feel free to contact me with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.