4 Ways to Lead a Peaceful Double Life!

Ananya Veeraragavan Being a sophomore in high school, balancing social life with school work is a constant struggle. High Schoolers are made to think that spending time with friends or going out is unnecessary, time consuming, and instead you could just be studying. However, as I like to see it, work twice as hard as you party and you are gold. For the uninitiated, here are 4 ways to lead a peaceful double life without missing all the important parts!

Don’t Procrastinate:

It’s one thing to say you’re not going to procrastinate and another to actually not do it. Students like to wait till the last minute to finish assignments for a couple of reasons: the thrill of waiting till the last minute, or the laidback attitude many teenagers tend to have. However, this feeling is nothing compared to knowing that you have finished an assignment. You feel accomplished, and now you know you have managed your time wisely!

Stay Focused:

When doing schoolwork make sure you are focused on working and when you’re with your friends try not to think about school. Sound impossible? Many students tend to worry and end up missing out on the rare enjoyable moments when they go out. Staying focused with school work will help you finish the work efficiently and effectively. By finishing all your work before going out with your friends or going on social media, you can enjoy the free time more, with 0% guilt. The thought of going home and finishing your work can be daunting, and by staying focused and finishing it before the fun commences, you can be stress-free.

Finding The Right Friends:

Having a group of friends that are trustworthy and supportive is important to a healthy school and social life. After working hard at school, the last thing any student wants is to be put down or spend time with people they don’t enjoy socially. This is going to reflect on the quality of your work. By spending time with people you are happy with, you are motivated to work hard knowing you can have a great time with your friends.

Spend Time For Yourself:

This current generation is constantly trying to please others, change themselves to be like the “popular” kids, and try to make their life seem perfect on social media. Students are so caught up on getting likes and comments on posts that they start living their life for others rather than themselves. Yes, having a balance between social and school life is important. However, the most important thing is to live life for yourself and no one else!

Ananya Veeraragavan is currently a sophomore in highschool. During her free time she enjoys dancing and listening to music.

Want to read more about making high school memorable? Read this!

Five Tips for Breezing Through the College Apps Essay Writing Process

Melissa Zhuang As a high school senior this year, my fellow classmates and I struggled to write our dreaded college apps essay. I’m not gonna lie, it was a very busy first semester, but it’s a process that truly forced me to take a step back and realize how far I had come. You’re giving yourself and college representatives a chance to see how you think and why you think the way you do. So current and future high school seniors, here are a few tips I have for you:

Read, Read, and Read!

Read the requirements, the deadlines, the essay prompts, the college website, and even the fine print! Take note of supplemental applications and their deadlines. You may have to upload your materials through a separate link/website. Pay attention to the details!  Colleges will reject essays if they do not fit their prompt, so don’t risk it! As you are writing your college apps essay, be sure to pause and re-read the prompt to make sure you haven’t gone off track.

Mark Your Calendars

Make sure to keep track of your deadlines. Some of my classmates created spreadsheets, others kept track with Google Calendar or their phones, and others took note in their planners. Here is what I did: I wrote down each school and my application deadline on a post-it note and stuck it on my wall to be sure I had an in-your-face, bold lettered reminder of the approaching deadline. I find the process of physically writing down my reminders much more efficient and memorable versus an online calendar.

Research for Your College Apps Essay

I’m sure at some point in the college apps essay process, you’ll be asked something along the lines of: “Why do you want to go to our college?” It could be a short response or an essay answer and one of the best ways to show your passion for the school is to make specific references to the programs, student/faculty activities, and other strong points of the school. Remember that there are literally hundreds of other applicants that will write similar-sounding responses about:

  • Active, diverse student body
  • Study abroad programs:
  • (All schools have programs like this, so if you mention it, be sure to take note of any university-specific quirks. For example, schools may have study-abroad programs targeted towards the study of film-making in London or programs that focus on volunteering for the needy. Emphasize why you want to participate in those activities)
  • Amazing/ talented/ award-winning faculty

Don’t Be Afraid to Delete

Go back to the first tip. What does it say? READ. Read the prompt and read the requirements. College apps essay requirements include “word count.” College admissions reps have to filter through hundreds of essays everyday so they must limit the length of the essays they receive. Make your words count. Remove unnecessary sentences, phrases, and words that do not contribute to your story or your message.

When you write your essays, the first draft is going to be absolutely, positively, dreadfully terrible. Read your drafts out loud or, even better, have someone else read it out loud to you. (*shudder*) Sometimes I found myself deleting full paragraphs and realized that it helped improve the flow my essay! Please, PLEASE remember to press save and make copies of each draft you make. Feel free to change your essays, but just make sure to have a backup in case you liked your original better.

Reduce and Reuse

Reduce your workload by reusing your essays. Now pause again and look back to the first tip. Re-read your essay and re-read the new essay prompt you are writing for. Similar essay prompts do not mean same essay prompts. There could be slight differences and you want to make sure you are answering the specific questions they are asking. Please also remember if you mentioned the university’s name anywhere in the essay, be sure to go back and change it so that it matches the university you are applying to (it happens more than you think)!

Here is an example:

Florida State Uni – Personal Journey Statement 2016 Film Application:

“A 500-1000 word essay describing who you are as an individual and why you want to be a filmmaker. This statement should concentrate on how your background has influenced your storytelling and filmmaking development…”

Uni of Southern CA – Personal Statement 2016 Film Application:

“We are looking for a sense of you as a unique individual and how your distinctive experiences, characteristics, background, values and/or views of the world have shaped who you are and what you want to say as a creative filmmaker. We want to know about the kind of stories you want to tell…(1,000 words or less)”

Both essay prompts are looking to see you write about your:

  1. Individuality
  2. Background Influences
  3. Storytelling

BUT only the USC prompt is looking for “the kind of stories you want to tell”

Applying to colleges is like dating. And in the words of Rhianna, make sure you make them feel like they are “only girl in the world.” Convince them that you’re in love with them and that you two are “destined for each other.” The college application process isn’t as hard as it seems!

Suffering from a slump that is making your college apps essay writing impossible? This might help!


Four Ways to Make Junior Year a Memorable Part of Your Life

Muskan Sharma Everyone knows that junior year is labeled as the hardest year of high school. People often tend to look back at their junior year with a lack of fondness due to the stress it caused. Although there are many challenges that lie within this year, there are also lots of ways to make junior year meaningful. To ensure that you make junior year a memorable part of your life, here are some easy tips and tricks. Follow them to make this year as fun, productive, and least stressful as possible!

Stay Organized

It’s incredibly important for us to know our schedules well. Write down all the things you have going on- sport’s tournaments, dance recitals, finals, AP exams- on a calendar. Being able to know these dates ahead of time will help you plan because fewer conflicts with your schedule will make things less stressful.

Do the homework and pay attention in class

This one sounds pretty basic but it is one of the most important ways to marginalize pain in your junior year . You don’t have to be a genius to do well in school. All it takes is doing your homework, showing up to class, and reading what you’re supposed to. When you do these things you will see that everything else works itself out.

Pick a test and stick to it

The choice between SAT and ACT is always hard, but it’s important that you pick one and stick to it rather than try to study for both. Take diagnostic tests early on and analyze them based on which one you score better, which one you felt you had better time management with, and which one you found to be more difficult. Based on your results, make a well thought out decision and stick to it! Also remember not to stress out too much about it because at the end of the day, it is just a test!

Enjoy time with your friends

This is probably one of the most important things to ensure that you have a junior year filled with enjoyment, Although it is easy for us to often become absorbed in school, it is also extremely important for us to make time to have fun with our friends. Go out, do something crazy, you don’t want to look back on this time of your life and just remember stacks of textbooks piled high on your desk. You’re only going to be 16 once, so remember to make the most of it!

Muskan is currently a junior in high school student. In her free-time she enjoys listening to music, hanging out with friends, and trying new foods. Muskan also enjoys writing and aspires to be a journalist one day!

Five Tips to Help You Ace Those Final Exams

By Maeloni Edmondson Whether you’re in middle school or high school, we can all agree that studying for our final exams can be tiring and stressful. “Where to start?” and “how will I ever get through this?” we say as we struggle to keep from drooling all over our work. Although I usually find myself in these same situations, over the years, I have gathered strategies to make these dreaded moments pay off. And so, here are my five tips to help you ace those final exams!

Get a good night’s rest. It’s crucial to have your full 8 hours of sleep before anything. There is no point to study when you’re tired, as you will be distraught and will not retain the information the next day. Getting good rest ensures that you will stay alert for your study sessions, and will overall put you in a better mood.

Work smarter, not harder. Instead of memorizing the whole textbook, try to figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Watch summaries and educational online videos; create mnemonic devices and acronyms by associating previously learned knowledge with the book’s information. Use study guides, handouts, and flashcards. If you feel confident with your knowledge of the material, try teaching it to a friend or family member.

Create a study group. Who says you have to suffer alone? Surround yourself with peers who you know want to actually study. Share tips and quiz each other! If you can’t meet up one day, try video chatting. Technology is your friend on the path to productivity

Keep your study sessions brief and scattered. We’ve all experienced late night cramming. Although it is sometimes impossible to avoid, it is detrimental to our minds and our spirits. Make sure to start studying ahead of time: have a half to one hour sessions thrice a week instead of forcing yourself to memorize information the night before. Review what you previously studied at the beginning of each session, and make a summary of what you covered at the end.

Be kind to yourself.  Take breaks throughout sessions. Give yourself an easy goal, and reward yourself with a treat after completing it. Drink lots of water and do activities that make you happy. Even if you don’t receive the score you hoped for, know that no letter or number will ever undermine your accomplishments, intelligence, and happiness.

Maeloni Edmondson is a junior at high school and an aspiring Communications/PR professional. She sings, performs, loves to cook and experiment with makeup!


Read more useful tips and stories on acing academics, career and life from GT20 interns and contributors here!


Four Winning Qualities of an Effective Leader

By Mangesh Darke Being a leader is something anyone can achieve; however, there are a few secrets to being an effective person-in-command that not many are aware of. When most people think of leaders, they see people who are confident and convincing. However, one of the most important characteristics an effective leader should possess is approachability.  Unless a person is easy to talk to, he/she would be unable to lead effectively which is why this is one of the most important qualities of an effective leader.

I am the Chairman of the Student Advisory Council at GiveTeens20® and I strive to be very personable and approachable. The reason this is so important is because people are more likely to listen when they do not think they are bossed around. If your leader was a smart, yet nice person, you would be more inclined to follow him as opposed to a smart, yet rude person-in-command. People want to see leaders that can be role models. This is one of the reasons why I try to lead the SAC in a way in which everyone feels respected.

Lead in a way in which no one feels as if they are being bossed around; the leader should make everyone feel like the group is working toward a common goal. Another characteristic of a great leader is being a great listener. Leaders must be good at listening to the opinions and warnings of those he / she is leading. In my case, I always try to understand the opinions of SAC members so that I could make the best decision for the team. Overall, an effective leader is someone who is capable of taking charge and making the best decisions for the team while being someone who acknowledges and respects the opinions of the team.

Mangesh Darke is the Chairman of the Student Advisory Council at GT20. Although he is currently a freshman at college, his heart really belongs to exploring, learning and discovering what life has to offer!

Top Three Lessons I’ve Learned to Shake Out of the End-of-Semester Slump

By Enya Daang   There are some days when you get everything on your to-do list done and you feel unstoppable. Then there are days when you know you have countless number of things to do, but the motivation to get them done is just out of reach. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. With finals quickly approaching, this is a hole you don’t want to find yourself in. Luckily, I’ve come up with my top three lessons to shake yourself out of your end-of-semester slump!

Change Your Environment

An effective trick when you are having a hard time keeping your mind focused on a task is to change your location. This allows you to take a step back and see what work you’ve done and what is left to do as you settle back down. It’s basically a reset button for when you’ve become too comfortable in one setting. Personally, I move to a completely different room because it gives me a chance to stretch and walk around for a bit before getting back to work. Now, be careful. Try not to move to a place where you will most likely be hanging out with friends or be distracted by the noise! Remember, you are trying to be productive.

Find What Time You Are Most Productive

The beauty of college is that your schedule is incredibly more flexible than in high school. Coming into college, I naively thought I could make myself sit down and be productive for hours at a time, at any time of the day. I did manage to work for several hours at a time, but it was a struggle to keep focused and to retain the information that I was learning. The secret here is to figure out what time of the day you have the most energy and plan your day accordingly so you can maximize the amount work you get done. After several days of logging my energy levels throughout the day, I discovered that I am most productive during the late morning and early afternoon. With this in mind, I always put the work that requires the most thinking during those times. Try it out!

A Word on Scheduling

Planning out your day is one of the most important things you can do when you study. It is the running start you need right before diving into the work you had set out to do and, most of the time, it will keep you on track. However, scheduling can be a little tricky. When you make your schedule too detailed and structured, you are most likely going to miss a couple of tasks and take it as an excuse to give up on working all together.

A good way to avoid this is to find a balance between structure and flexibility that works best for you. There are some people who need to plan out the exact time and location while others just go with the flow. On most days, I give myself a general idea of what I want to accomplish in a certain amount of time, but leave enough room in the day to finish the work that I did not get done, if I have any.

Keep your head up, follow the top three lessons and study hard these next couple weeks! You’ve got this.

Enya is a technology intern at GiveTeens20®. Although her hobbies include photography and solving rubix cubes, her heart always belongs to math and sharpening her programming skills!

“Oh, I’m Sorry!”

By Kathy Laidlaw

The tellers where I bank are SUPER friendly and personable. They often indulge me in light conversations, asking if there is anything else that they can help me with, asking how I am today, etc. Last week, as I finished my transaction, the teller asked, “Where are you off to now?”  Even though I’m making transactions on a business account, my appearance could sometimes be best described as a confusing mix of Yoga student and Ladies Who Lunch (it is a thing. Google it!) so the question could have been answered in any number of interesting ways.

When I said with an enthusiastic smile, “I’m going to the office” her immediate response was, “Oh, I’m sorry”.  Although it was a comment spoken in jest , it made me wonder… She, in that short statement, summarized the “Why” behind GiveTeens20®. It is unfortunate that the mindset around work is that it is something that must be tolerated and slogged through; so that one can get to the true relevance in life, which is anything outside of work. Which brings us to the higher purpose GT20 is working towards.

Our purpose as an organization is to help teens find that area in life that lights them UP so that going to work is exciting and something to look forward to.  Take the two steps that will help you find that intersection of what you love and where you will succeed:

  • Know yourself through honest self-assessment
  • Learn about careers where you now know you have an interest

Everything you need is here- resource, advice, support and a whole lot of fun learning exercises! So check it out and have your eyes opened to new possibilities!

Kathy Laidlaw knew she was an educator at heart yet didn’t want to be confined into one classroom.  After high school, she attended community college and worked in a number of different industries where she rounded out her background before starting GiveTeens20® in 2011.

How I Conquered the “Dreaded” Community College

By Catherine Tran

There is a widely-known expression in Vietnamese that reads: ”Life has a way of testing your resilience, therefore we must prepare for the worst”. I never truly grasped the meaning of this until the summer leading to my freshman year at college when my father said, “Catherine, I cannot afford to send you to college.” His shocking declaration came when I was less than two months away from departing for UC Irvine. Instead of celebrating my acceptance, I was overwhelmed with the pressure to adapt to my new situation, an admission into a Community College. This abrupt change in direction left me devastated; in an instant, my path towards university was halted and I had to quickly reroute.

When I made the decision to “just go to community college”, I internalized so much self-doubt, shame, and disappointment. The people who surrounded me were constantly projecting the idea that community college was the bottom of the educational hierarchy, as if my journey to be successful was illegitimate unless I attended a four-year university. Instead of mourning something beyond my control, I shifted my perspective and viewed community college as a blessing in disguise– an opportunity to build a strong academic foundation and solidify my passion in web design.

I have put forth diligent effort in all my classes, in turn receiving high marks, and fostering enriching relationships with my classmates and professors. Outside the classroom, I dedicate myself to helping other students succeed by ensuring that their needs, wants, and concerns are being addressed. Being selected as a peer mentor has been the most rewarding and impactful experience as it allows me to empower and motivate other students by sharing my story of how I transformed a challenging life event into a humbling, positive experience.

Although my path towards university was derailed, I optimized my college experience and never lost sight of my academic goals. This experience taught me to be flexible with given circumstances and maintain focus. I approach tough situations with objectivity and determination and turn them into positive opportunities for change. In essence, my experience at Ohlone College helped me develop the tenacity to overcome future challenges and flourish.


Catherine Tran, Cat to her friends, is a second-year student at Ohlone College intending to major in Cognitive Science and Media. She has served in the GT20’s student advisory council for over three years. During her free time she enjoys watching funny YouTube videos, reading personal development blogs, and going ham on the karaoke machine.

Feature Image Courtesy: www.pexels.com

An Optimist’s Guide to Exploring Life

By Akshaya Narasimhan

I moved from India to California 6 months ago. This transition was big and it was hard for me because this is the first time I would be staying away from home. Back in India, the whole idea of living in the US has always been considered a golden opportunity, all of which added to the excitement. I always believe that meeting new people and experiencing new things constantly helps me evolve as a person  so I was hoping that I would be able to take this lesson forward in exploring life better.

Life in the US has been almost a complete antithesis of my life in India. I used to work for a market research firm as an Analyst back home, spending more than 10 hours at work. Talking to clients, reaching out to potential customers and, of course, constant research made my work fun because I used to end up learning a new thing every day! I was longing to get back to work and use my brain cells as soon as I moved here. But restrictions and my visa status meant I had no option but to wait; so resuming my career seemed like an impossible dream. Over time, meeting new people and talking to them helped me understand that losing hope was not an option at all!

As I explored options, I chose to explore my new city and keep myself busy while my husband was away at work, so I started figuring out my options here. As the saying goes, “A person who stops to grow will continue to decline.” Since stagnation is the last thing I wanted to experience, I took up a course at UC Berkeley to advance my education in Marketing.

In addition to this, volunteering at GiveTeens20® has been yet another journey I have been excited about! GT20 has helped me gain new exposure, insights, meet new people and be inspired by them. It also gave me an opportunity to test out a newer and rather exciting aspect of marketing, Social Media! In such a short time, I have learnt so many areas that I didn’t in my previous job.  As I look back at the past few months, I realize that I wouldn’t change a thing about this journey!

I guess I would say California has been a catalyst by opening my horizon and I am hoping the journey continues to be as enriching as it has been so far. As I take this opportunity to make a brand new beginning to my career, one of Seth Godin’s quotes keeps resonating in my  mind:

“Optimism is the most important human trait, because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow”


Akshaya is our brand new Social Media Strategist for GiveTeens20®! When she is not busy engaging GT20 fans on Social Media, she enjoys listening to music and reading. Have a question about Indian cuisine? Akshaya is your girl!


Image Courtesy: www.pexel.com

What I Learned From My Move to The Windy City

By Kevin Leonard

Chicago was never really on my radar while searching for colleges. I always imagined myself going to a school somewhere in California: a place that is familiar and close to home. Never did I see myself in a city with angry taxi drivers, crowded streets, and loud trains. Unfortunately, transitioning from the Bay to Chicago was not an easy process; however, it was an enjoyable and fascinating process.

When I told my parents that I wanted to study film, they were mostly supportive. The obstacle that I had to overcome was getting into a good school where I can pursue my film major. Los Angeles was my first choice, and for a long time my only choice. It made sense to me, since LA is home to Hollywood. When I got accepted to DePaul University in Chicago, I started to second guess myself. I was so set on LA for school that I never considered any other area outside of Southern California. “Hmmm, Chicago? I don’t know, a crowded city with loud streets,” I thought to myself. “Doesn’t seem like my type of environment.”

For once, I felt like I was presented with a decision I had full control over. Should I go to LA? I’m only a 2-hour plane ride away from my parents. I can eat my mom’s cooking and sleep on my heavenly memory foam mattress whenever I felt like it. Or should I go to Chicago? Where I am a 6-hour plane ride away and would only be able to visit during the breaks. I took a leap of faith and decided to challenge myself, force myself out of my comfort zone. I accepted the offer from DePaul and decided to continue my future in Chicago for the next 4 years.

The realization of going to DePaul didn’t hit me until summer break after high school began and my decision started to evoke concern and second guesses. Spending my summer preparing for college and dorm life, I started to feel anxious as the days counted down. Sure, I was excited for college, but I didn’t know what to expect. I started to fear leaving my parents and move halfway across the country.

Then move-in day came. Feelings of loneliness and nervousness overwhelmed me for the first week of school. There were too many people for my comfort and the urban environment made me feel uneasy. But then the realization hit. I am going to spend the next four years or more in this city and I need to start appreciating it. I need to embrace the city. I need to embrace the crowd. I need to embrace the crazy people on the subway.

Tall buildings didn’t make me nauseous anymore; instead I started to appreciate the architecture and beauty. The crowd didn’t trigger claustrophobia anymore; instead it garnished the city with life and prosperity. Since then, my outlook of the city has become positive and forced optimism transformed into innate appreciation. I have made friends that I know I can count on and enjoy my classes and professors. I have even already started looking for apartments for next year. I know that it’s only the first quarter, but spending the next 11 quarters in the city is what I am most excited about.

An enthusiastic mind is what ultimately led to what type of student I am today. I decided to take a shot in the dark and experience what an urban setting feels like. I took the risk and I learned to adapt to the new environment. Fortunately, it ended up being something that I would enjoy. Nine weeks later, I finally feel like I am at home.

blog-7-kevinKevin Leonard is currently a freshman at DePaul University. He is pursuing a film major with concentration in directing. On his spare time, Kevin watches movies, takes photos, and likes trying different brands of cereal.

Photo Courtesy: Kevin Leonard