Monday, August 31, 2020

Why Take a Gap Year?

By: Jasmin S. 

Although gap years between high school and college are not as common in the U.S., they are very popular among students in places like Europe. This may seem surprising to us, but it makes perfect sense why one would choose to take a year off between 12th grade and freshman year of college. After spending four years balancing various extracurriculars, classes, studying, family, part-time jobs, and more, you might feel like jumping right into college is a bit overwhelming. Maybe you need a break from the constant pressure of your classes and tests, or you’re still not sure which major to choose. If this is the case, a gap year might be the perfect solution for you! 

Better Performance in College 

"Gap Year: preparati a viviere l'anno piú bello
della tua vita!"
by Viaggio Routard is licensed
under CC BY 2.0

Many parents fear that if their child stops taking classes and going to school, they will become lazy. This is not the case at all. In fact, students who take gap years tend to be more mature than their peers by the time they enter college. According to 2015 research conducted by Temple University in conjunction with Gap Year Association, the six top reported outcomes of a gap year were personal, rather than career or academic-oriented. Ninety-seven percent of alumni who responded indicated that their gap year experience increased their maturity, while 96 percent said it increased their self-confidence (Writers). 

First-year classes in college can actually be easier thanks to your gap year, especially if you take that time to personally acquaint yourself with the courses you plan on taking. You’ll be able to pick up new languages much quicker if you've already spoken with native speakers. Humanities and other courses can also be easier after all those museum and historical landmark visits! 

Living Independently 

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay
Whether you choose to travel on your own or with a program, you will learn essential skills like grocery shopping for yourself, budgeting, healthy eating, navigating public transit, etc. All of these skills are crucial for college and adult life in general! If you choose not to work with a program, you can always do a work holiday option. Thereby having the opportunity to not only make money but immerse yourself deeply into another culture for a longer period of time than would be possible if you were merely backpacking. 

Establishing Worldwide Connections 

Image by Voy Zan from Pixabay

One of the best things about taking a gap year is the opportunity to meet new people. Building lifelong friendships with people from various countries can help you navigate unknown places and refine your language-speaking skills, and those friends will likely welcome you with open arms if you return! Learning how to make friends in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people is a skill that will come in handy in college as well. 

Endless Possibilities 

There are a plethora of activities to choose from when it comes to structuring your gap year. There are many ways to stay productive and busy, so there is no need to worry about doing nothing or playing video games in your mom’s basement all day. There is a wide range of possibilities (even on a budget) from backpacking in Asia to landing an internship in a different state. 

No Money, No Problem 

Image by Alex Strachan from Pixabay

A common myth surrounding gap years is that you have to have a lot of money to be able to take a whole year off from school. However, this is not necessarily the case. Some students use gap years as an opportunity to save up money for college and future living expenses. Others may choose to spend their time volunteering abroad with a program that helps cover living costs. That’s right, some programs pay you to take a gap year! Volunteering can help you gain a new perspective on the world. In fact, they can help students give back to their communities throughout their lives. Many gap year students become philanthropists when they are older due to their global perspective. 

Countless Traveling Options 

Image by skeeze from Pixabay
International travel might be your dream, but there are also many exciting places in the Americas you can visit! You could go to Canada and practice your French, an American national park to enjoy nature, Brazil to learn Portuguese, Mexico to eat delicious food, and so much more! Traveling to any new place is an enriching experience that will teach you new things. 

As long as you get out of your comfort zone, try new things, make new friends, and live independently for what’s likely the first time, a gap year will be well worth your time! According to, more than 90% of gap year alumni say that their gap year experiences helped them gain respect for other customs and cultures (Perez). 

Keeping It Local 

Image by Bella H. from Pixabay

If you choose to stay at home during your gap year, there are still plenty of options for you! After all, travel can be daunting and not everyone wants to do it. With more and more programs appearing online, you can do all types of jobs remotely! From teaching music to marketing on social media, you will likely be able to find a job that you enjoy, can do online, and can help you save money for college! You can also get involved in your community by volunteering for local organizations. Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to learn new skills. Have you been wanting to learn how to play an instrument? How to code? Now is your chance! 


Overall, taking a gap year, though not common, has numerous benefits. It can help you grow a new set of skills you didn’t know you needed for college, help build a global network of new friends, assist you in choosing the right career, and provide you with experiences that will last a lifetime. If you would like to further research gap years, there are links and resources below to aid you in your search for ideas below. 

Resources for Gap Year Programs 

Works Cited 

“Does Taking a Gap Year Increase the Ceiling for Students?” NYU Steinhardt, 23 June 


Perez, Olivia Christine. “Why You Should Take a Gap Year After High School.” Go 

Overseas, 04 June 2020,

Writers, Staff. “Taking a Gap Year: Pros & Cons and How to Apply to College.”,, 17 July 2020,

Friday, July 10, 2020

How to Survive Summer School

How to Survive Summer School!
 By Sylvia S. adapted from the article “Amy's Survival Guide to Summer School” by Amy, a former TutorTalk Editor


Whether you’re a savant or novice when it comes to online learning, summer courses require a different mindset than traditional classes. This presentation will show you a step-by-step process for succeeding in an NCVirtual summer course. 

Tip: Before we get started congratulate yourself! Choosing to participate in an NCVirtual class over the summer shows great initiative and true determination. Relax, you’re going to do fine! 

Below is a presentation displaying 5 important steps for success in an NCVirtual summer course

 Powered by emaze 


It may feel like a lot, but if you can apply these steps to your summer course you will be well on your way to success! Ask any questions you have now! The PTC team is here and ready to help you. Carefully managing your summer won’t ruin the fun. With luck, your NCVirtual class will add to your summer plans rather than impede them. Who knows, you may find you prefer translating Latin from your lounge chair on the beach or next to a pool rather than hunched over your desk at home.

Click the image above to access a peer tutor! :-)

Tip: For additional information on motivational and time management strategies, check out these previous TutorTalk articles:

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Why Independent Journalism is Fundamental to A Democratic Society



Friday, May 1, 2020

COVID-19: Impact on Society, Environment, and Economy


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Psychology, Stress, and Uncertain Futures: Confronting the Coronavirus Pandemic

By: Gracie B.

Pixabay license
No attribution required
With all of the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we are living in an extraordinarily stressful time. Social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus presents many challenges to students and families across the world. The CDC cites that teens are especially vulnerable to crisis-related anxiety. After spending our entire school careers preparing for life after graduation, it is undoubtedly frightening to have our futures suddenly shrouded in ambiguity. Now, perhaps more than ever, it is important to take care of both our physical and mental health. Maintaining positivity and stability is crucial to fostering the courage and resilience that will carry us through this difficult season. 

The internet is full of endless ideas on how to relieve stress, but the reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to wellbeing. While many people use deep breathing or meditation to destress, there are countless other, less conventional ways to blow off steam. CDC experts assert that simply partaking in enjoyable activities fosters positive mental health. Whether you enjoy jamming out on your guitar or snuggling up with a good book, find fun and engaging ways to fill your spare time. 

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it can be surprisingly difficult to make time for hobbies we enjoy. High schoolers tend to be consumed by extrinsic motivations, meaning that we participate in activities primarily to win awards and to bolster our college applications. The coronavirus has removed many of the extrinsic motivators in our lives. We no longer receive any outward gratification for outsourcing our classmates on a calculus test or crushing the opposing team in a soccer game. Seniors are facing the possibility that no one will deliver the coveted valedictory speech or flaunt a scholar’s medal at graduation. Self-isolation has forced us to rely on intrinsic motivation: we must prioritize goals that are truly important to us as individuals rather than focusing on what society deems valuable.

As the world around us changes rapidly, we are flooded with reminders to remain positive. Time and time again, research has shown that optimism has a wide range of health benefits. However, many teenagers gravitate towards pessimism, and disappointment can exacerbate a vicious cycle of negativity. If you have a penchant towards negativity, consider finding productive ways to tap into your own cynicism. Questioning is a key component of critical thinking, especially in an age of rampant misinformation. Doubt reminds us that we shouldn’t believe everything we hear and encourages us to exercise caution to protect ourselves and others.

However, a healthy dose of realism also illustrates that our lives are not over and that there is hope for a much brighter future. Hope may be the most important building block of resilience. Psychologists associate the loss of hope with a phenomenon known as learned helplessness, which describes the tendency to give up when one feels powerless. The development of a sense of control is the key to breaking the cycle of learned helplessness and fueling a more positive outlook. Methods of establishing a sense of control include taking small steps towards overarching goals and practicing self-acceptance. NFL star Tony Dungy once said, “You can’t always control circumstances. However, you can always control your attitude, approach, and response.” We are not in control of the pandemic, but we have the power to shape our reactions. We have a unique opportunity to decide how our generation will resurge from the coronavirus pandemic. By striding forward with strength, tenacity, and compassion, we will emerge from this crisis with our heads held high.

Works Cited

“Learned Helplessness.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,

“Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

Myers, David G. Psychology (High School Printing). 9th ed., Freeman/Worth, 2011.

“Tony Dungy.”, A&E Networks Television, 28 Aug. 2019,

“Tony Dungy Quote: ‘You Can't Always Control Circumstances. However, You Can Always Control Your Attitude, Approach, and Response.".” Quotefancy,

“You've Got This: Mental Tricks to Feel in Control When Everything Is Going Wrong.” Reader's Digest,

Thursday, April 2, 2020

What About AP Exams?

By: Asha S.



Thursday, March 26, 2020

What to Do During Social Distancing

By: Angelina N.

What is social distancing, and why is it important right now? 
Social distancing refers to going out minimally, avoiding physical contact with others, and refraining from large gatherings of people. It is used to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The contagiousness of a disease is measured based on the R0
"R Naught Ebola and Flu Diagram" by Kiera Campbell is licensed
under CC BY-SA 4.0
(pronounced “R naught”) value, or the average number of individuals that an infected person transmits the disease to. For diseases exceeding an R0 value of 1, such as COVID-19 (which has an R0 value of about 2.2), the number of infections can multiply rapidly because each infected person will infect more than one other person. In addition, COVID-19 has an incubation period of between two and 14 days, with the average being five days. This means that after contracting the disease, an individual will not exhibit symptoms for an average of five days but will still be contagious during this time frame. Since many infected people do not realize they are infected, they can unintentionally transmit the disease to people that they come into contact with. Actively social distancing is therefore necessary to prevent people from unknowingly infecting those with compromised immune systems or older individuals, who are much more likely to experience severe and possibly fatal symptoms. By taking precautionary measures, the number of infections can be reduced significantly. This also alleviates the burden on hospitals, which may experience a shortage of supplies, equipment, or staff otherwise. 

Although practicing social distancing is beneficial to the community at large, spending most of your time at home may seem like an incredibly difficult and dull adjustment. However, instead of viewing it as a major impediment to social contact and various forms of entertainment, you should view it as an opportunity to accomplish tasks you normally wouldn’t have the time for. Below is a list of ideas of how to spend your period of social distancing in both fun and/or productive ways. 

Find a fun mental stimulus 
Doing a mentally stimulating activity is a great way to combat boredom. 
  • Play a board game: Options include Monopoly, chess, Scrabble, etc. — the choices are endless! 
  • Go old-fashioned: Try your hand at Sudoku, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, brainteasers, or crafts (online DIY videos are a great source of inspiration). 
  • Write a short story or poem: Brainstorm ideas that you could turn into a piece of writing. 

Take time for self-care 
Since most events have been cancelled, your schedule is most likely cleared right now. Instead of sinking into boredom, you should see it as a calm refuge from the chaos and incessant hassle of normal life. Now is a great time for you to reflect on your mental and physical health. 
  • Practice meditation: Meditation is focusing on being more present and aware in all aspects of daily life through techniques such as mindfulness. It has been scientifically proven to be conducive to both mental and physical health, with some of its benefits being lower blood pressure and stress levels, improved sleep and memory, and a stronger immune system. There are numerous meditation apps that can be downloaded with the press of a button (Waking Up, Headspace, Calm, and many more), so meditation is a practice that can be conveniently incorporated into your daily routine. 
  • Self-reflect: Oftentimes, we get so caught up in seemingly endless tasks, whether that be
    Pixabay license- no attribution required
    schoolwork deadlines or upcoming exams, that life seems like a ceaseless “this, that, this, that” and so on so forth. During social distancing, it may seem like everything has suddenly come to a standstill, which is a chance for you to look back on the past few months and plan for the future. Take some time to reflect on your personal growth and accomplishments, as well as what you are still working towards. Set goals for yourself and determine how you will reach them. Jot these ideas down in a notebook, or type them on your computer for future reference. 
  • Do what you enjoy: This last one is simple — spend time doing activities that you love! This may be different for every person; it could be spending more time with family, having a movie night with popcorn, or reading a book that’s been on your to-read list for some time. 

Start good habits 
It can be hard to incorporate new habits during most of the year because we are often too occupied to feel motivated to do so. Now is the time to pick up good habits that can have a positive impact throughout the rest of your life. 
  • Stay active: Staying at home all day makes it easy to fall into a sedentary routine. However,
    Pixabay license- no attribution required
    social distancing does not necessarily mean refraining from leaving the house entirely; in fact, it’s a great idea to go outside for a walk or a run in a park or other uncrowded areas during the day. There are also many great at-home workout videos online that provide fun and engaging ways to be active. Learning creative ways to exercise and experiencing the rewards of being physically active may motivate you to include it as a regular part of your routine in the future. 
  • Eat healthy: A great way to use your spare time is to learn about nutrition and creative healthy recipes. Experiment with various dishes, and determine what works best for you. This may help elevate your consciousness about healthy eating habits in the long-term, which will beneficially impact your life in countless ways. 

Do some extra studying 
Since after-school events, most extracurriculars, and transportation time have probably been taken out of your schedule, there is now plenty of extra time to study, even if your face-to-face school is requiring you to attend virtual sessions. 
  • Study for AP classes: AP exam season is coming up, which means that it’s a good time to start
    Pixabay license- no attribution required
    reviewing information from last semester. It is also a good idea to keep up with College Board’s updates on modifications to the AP exams this year. College Board has already posted the changes to every AP course curriculum, along with the general structure of the altered exams. Make sure to check their website to avoid studying material you are no longer responsible for and to be prepared for this year’s test format. 
  • Do some SAT and/or ACT practice: Use this time to read some SAT/ACT prep books, as they contain helpful techniques for succeeding on these standardized tests. Once you’ve reviewed these techniques, take a few practice exams; these are lengthy and typically difficult to fit in with other obligations, so now is the perfect time to try them. 

Learn something new 
If you’re still having a hard time deciding what to do, it may be a good idea to try something completely new and possibly discover new interests in the process. Ideas include learning some magic tricks, trying out calligraphy, or learning a new language through Duolingo. If you’re still having a hard time choosing, there are great sources of inspiration all over the Internet. 

Donate for a good cause 
Taking social distancing seriously is already a great way to protect the well-being of those around you, but you can take it a step further by donating during this time of need. 
Pixabay license- no
attribution required
  • Donate blood: Due to the ongoing pandemic, blood drives have been cancelled, meaning that there is currently a severe blood shortage. If you are interested in donating blood, check out the requirements for a student blood donor using this link: 
  • Donate to a food bank: Families who face food insecurity are especially vulnerable during this time, with grocery store supplies being depleted rapidly. If possible, consider donating even small instant food packages, candy bars, or personal hygiene products; although it may be difficult to donate in bulk quantity right now, even the smallest contributions can make a difference. 

Social distancing may seem extremely monotonous, but it is actually a great chance to try fun at-home activities, take time for self-reflection, and get ahead in schoolwork and studying. So take advantage of this time to plan out a list of to-dos and start checking it off! 

Works Cited 
Caddy, Becca. “Best Meditation Apps: Practice Mindfulness with Headspace, Calm and More.” 
TechRadar, TechRadar, 21 Mar. 2020,
Cascella M, Rajnik M, Cuomo A, et al. Features, Evaluation and Treatment Coronavirus 
(COVID-19) [Updated 2020 Mar 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): 
StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: 
Hersh, Erica. “Coronavirus Incubation Period: How Long Before Symptoms Appear?” Healthline
Healthline Media, 19 Mar. 2020, 
“185_factsheet_social_distancing.Pdf.” Santa Clara County Public Health Department. 
“What Is R0?: Gauging Contagious Infections.” Healthline
Vongkiatkajorn, Kanyakrit, and Laura Daily. “How You Can Help during the Coronavirus 
Outbreak.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 21 Mar. 2020,