Future Trends of E-learning

The future of E-learning is very bright, indeed. This concept has been expanding at a very rapid rate as more and more uses for the computer in education have been discovered and attempted. On the traditional college campus, there is a trend toward the development of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The VLE concept integrates the full range of electronic enhancements into the classroom setting. Under the VLE idea, the instructor is not replaced by the computer but rather uses the computer to reach more students and to reach them more effectively.

Distance education is becoming more popular as more and more households obtain personal computers. Many schools have developed the idea of the virtual classroom to a high degree. One instructor located at a central location and using video equipment can teach simultaneous classes in several satellite locations. There is no limit to the distance these satellite locations can be from the instructor. Computer based training can be done in much the same way. Such things as emails and chat rooms are being used as part of the E-learning arsenal.

Distance education is becoming more popular as more and more households obtain personal computers. Many schools have developed the idea of the virtual classroom to a high degree. One instructor located at a central location and using video equipment can teach simultaneous classes in several satellite locations. There is no limit to the distance these satellite locations can be from the instructor. Computer based training can be done in much the same way. Such things as emails and chat rooms are being used as part of the E-learning arsenal.

One major trend in Elearning is the spread of distance education from traditional subjects to all areas of knowledge. Trade and vocational schools are entering into the E-learning field. Such things as .net training videos have allowed the computer to be used for teaching any subject that can be imagined. Do it yourself manuals have entered the computer age. Informational websites can conduct practical training in any subject using videos that are accessible on the website to illustrate proper techniques. This trend has spread to include everything from dog training to basket weaving.

The past decade has been a time of rapid change as E-learning has replaced traditional learning methods. It can be expected that we have not peaked out and the future is going to bring innovations that can hardly be anticipated. The internet access of cell phones, and the wide spread use of palm pilots and lap top computers is opening new opportunities for education and learning.

Getting Successful As a Distance Learner

With the help of distance learning programs the students can easily get an online degree while sitting in any part of the world. Different technologies are put into use to distribute the course material and it also helps in interaction with the online tutors and the students. Nowadays, there are so many online colleges and universities which are offering the students with different online degree programs.

The distance learning program offers the students with the same set of courses which are offered at the campus based programs. Visit The Degree Experts to learn how you can become a good distance learner. There are different qualities which the students should possess in order to become a successful distance learner. Let us discuss these qualities in detail-

– First and foremost good distance learners never put off their work or waits for long hours to begin their work. They will manage their timings to work on different assignments, get the time to attend the online classes, and still have enough time to conduct their daily routine work. They take pleasure in the fact that they can learn whenever they feel comfortable and to complete the course as soon as possible.

– Almost every distance learning program offers some form of flexibility for the students so that they can study whenever they feel comfortable. A good distance learner don’t require anybody to motivate and encourage them, they independently conduct different assignments and projects. They make the planning accordingly so that they can easily complete different tasks within time.

– At campus-based schools there are different social activities like parties, dancing, and schools elections whereas distance learners don’t get a chance to participate in these activities. But a good distance learner is not concerned that they will be missing all the social activities that take place in the campus based schools. These students are only concerned with the completion of the online course which they are pursuing.

– The students will get the course material in the text form so that they can refer it repetitively and they don’t have to listen to understand the contents of the course material. So, it becomes very important to enhance the proficiencies of reading and understanding the text form in order to become a successful distance learner.

ITFS, MDS, MMDS, and BTA History

The Channel Assignments

In 1963, the frequency band 2500-2686 MHz was reserved to educational institutions for over-the-air transmission of instructional TV programs. Transmission was point-to-point, for example, campus-to-campus or campus-to-hospital for continuing education needs. Hence the name: Instructional Television, Fixed Service (ITFS). The power authorized (up to 100 watts) allowed transmit/receive separations of up to 30-40 miles.

In 1972, commercial operators were permitted to use the coexisting commercial band 2150-2162 MHz for over-the-air pay-TV transmissions to rooftop antennas on apartment buildings and private homes and for business data transmissions. Transmitters were similar to those for ITFS service, and the range of these installations was also 30-40 miles. The transmitter site was centered in the coverage area, usually a city, on a preexisting tower or atop a tall building.

The antennas were usually omnidirectional to reach all subscribers in the circular coverage area. The signal was intended for distinct subscriber locations rather than for anyone who wanted to pick up the signals (as in the broadcast services). Therefore the new service was named Multipoint Distribution Service (MDS). This service was the beginning of what we now know as “Wireless Cable”. MDS was conceived as an alternate or supplement to conventional cable television (CATV). It was more successful in areas not covered by CATV. In areas where both services were available, it was severely challenged: it could offer only one or two TV channels versus the dozens of channels offered by CATV. Hence, after the novelty of MDS wore off, MDS revenues declined. Clearly, one remedy was to use more channels, and the commercial wireless operators eyed with interest the lightly used ITFS channels reserved for educational purposes.

MDS operators and potential MDS operators filed a Petition for Rulemaking to permit commercial use of some of the ITFS channels. As a result, in 1983 the FCC reallocated eight of the ITFS channels (identified as Groups E and F) for use by commercial over-the-air pay-TV operations. The idea was for each market to have two licensees, each of whom would have four channels. Since this allowed simultaneous broadcast of many more channels than existing MDS, the newly allocated channels became Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS). Many MDS operators have acquired MMDS channel licenses and, in some cases, newly licensed MMDS operators have acquired older MDS operations. Existing ITFS licensees using the E and F channels were not displaced at that time, although the rules permit the MMDS licensee to pay all costs and relocate such a licensee to an alternate channel if one is available.

Almost simultaneously, the FCC allocated three ITFS channels (in Group H) to the relatively new Operational Fixed Service (OFS). This was envisioned as a point-to-point transmit/receive service primarily for the transfer of business information. However, at once MDS and MMDS licensees in large numbers began to acquire licenses for the OFS channels in their markets and use them for one-way analog video programming. Since 1998, the FCC has considered these H channels (H1, H2 and H3) MDS channels.

For purposes of describing operations, we should consider the MDS, ITFS and MMDS services technically identical. For those interested in the FCC’s channel assignment plan, it is spelled out in Appendix A of LBA Technical Note 115.

The Cable Television-Type Operation

Historically, wireless cable has been a one-way analog video service. “One-way analog video service” means that it has operated much like commercial broadcast stations, sending one “video stream” such as NBC or CNN over each channel. Viewers used downconverters to step down the transmissions from 2500 MHz frequencies to 65 MHz, and then they could watch the programs on traditional television sets.

The MDS operator who had a license for one channel was limited to offering one channel of programming. The MMDS operator who had a license for four channels was only slightly better off, because four channels were available to cable customers. By aggregating all the MDS and MMDS channels in a market, the consortium of licensees could operate a wireless cable system with as many as 13 channels. Although this may have been viable in the early 1980s, by the 1990s the market demanded dozens of channels from a cable service. MMDS operators still desired use of the ITFS channels to meet this need.

ITFS operators tended to use their channels for long-distance education during regular working hours, and the channels lay fallow on nights and weekends when the wireless cable demand for programming was the greatest. The FCC had placed a provision in its rules that permitted an ITFS licensee to lease its “excess channel capacity”. This meant that as long as the ITFS licensee used its channels for educational purposes for a minimum of 20 hours per week per channel, it was free to lease the channel for commercial uses the rest of the time. The FCC rules contain restrictions on the Airtime Lease Agreements to prevent a naive educator-licensee from giving away too many of its rights, but the use of these agreements permitted an explosion in growth in ITFS operations.

The up-front cost to the educator to construct a four-channel transmission system and install receive equipment in the schools to be served could run into six figures. Most school systems did not have this kind of money available for an untried technology. So, under the leasing rules, it worked like this: the commercial wireless cable operator in the market paid all the up-front application costs for legal and engineering work to prepare an application to the FCC for a license to be held by the school. The wireless cable operator purchased the equipment, built the transmitter tower, installed the receive sites at the schools and built a studio. The operator worked with several educators in its market, so that most available channels were used, and all shared the transmission facility. Each educator was a licensee in its own right but had a contractual agreement to lease its excess channel capacity back to the wireless cable operator. The educator got the license without having to spend money, had the use of the studio and equipment built by the wireless cable operator and had use of the service for many hours each week. In addition, it received monthly lease payments from the wireless cable operator for use of the channels on nights and weekends. This arrangement is a classic example of business and educational entities cooperating to the good of both. This new, untried technology became a moneymaker for the school in addition to allowing long-distance education to become a reality. And, the wireless cable operator now had access to as many as 33 channels through the use of the ITFS, MMDS and MDS bands. Thirty-one of these channels are immediately adjacent to each other in the 2500 MHz band, and two are at 2100 MHz. The channels designated as the A group, the B group, the C group, the D group and the G group are the reserved educational channels. The channels designated as channel 1, channel 2, the E group, the F group and channels H1, H2 and H3 are available for commercial operators.

Commercial Use Of ITFS Channels

In 1991, the FCC decided to permit wireless cable operators to use ITFS channels for their commercial operations under certain rather strict conditions. A wireless cable operator is defined as one who holds a conditional license, a license or a lease on at least four MDS channels or has an unopposed application pending for at least four MDS channels. The wireless cable operator may request permission to operate on ITFS channels if there are no additional MDS channels available in the market and there are at least eight remaining unused ITFS channels available for future ITFS use in the community. Entities eligible for ITFS licenses may request from the FCC that they be given access to the commercially used ITFS channels for up to 40 hours per week per channel. These conditions are spelled out in 47 CFR §74.990 through §74.992.

BTA Auctions

In the early 1990s, the U.S. economy was down and Congress had discovered the dollar value of the spectrum licenses the FCC granted. It mandated that licenses in most services be granted to the highest bidder. This decision greatly changed the wireless cable market.

In 1995 the FCC rules were changed to specify that all remaining MDS licenses would be auctioned. The decision was made to divide the country into geographic areas, each of which could then be auctioned off. The Rand McNally Basic Trading Area (BTA) divisions were selected, with the addition of a few BTA-like areas to complete coverage of the United States and its territories. Each BTA or BTA-like area is a collection of counties. The physical size varies greatly although they tend to be smaller in the more densely populated east and on the west coast and they tend to be larger in the more sparsely populated areas of the western United States.

What the FCC was granting in its BTA license was the right to use any of the 13 commercial channels (see above for a list) anywhere in its BTA if it could do so without causing interference to any pre-existing licensee or to any adjacent BTA. These pre-existing licensees are called “grandfathered” licensees and their licenses remain in effect and are eligible for renewal at the end of their license term. The grandfathered licenses have a protected service area, which is a 35-mile circle, centered on the transmitter site in use in 1991 when the protected service area rules were finalized. This area may overlap more than one BTA and requires protection from all nearby BTA licensees. The interference protections required for these grandfathered stations is more generous than that provided to BTA licensees, as well. The BTA licensees are protected from interference at the boundary of the BTA, but the irregular shapes of the BTA boundaries are not reflective of real-world propagation conditions and make service to areas at the edge of the service area more difficult.

The MDS auction occurred from November 1995 to March 1996 and yielded $216.3 million. The auction funds were not allocated to the FCC; they went directly into the U.S. Treasury. A total of 493 licenses, one per BTA, were awarded to a total of 67 licensees.

Two-Way Digital Operations

Recently the wireless cable technical standards have been relaxed to permit a one- or two-way digital service. This broadens the potential use of the spectrum. A wireless cable operator may use digital compression to place additional “video streams” in the same number of channels, in effect increasing its channel capacity without using more bandwidth. It may use the response channels for pay-per-view ordering. Or, it may use the two-way service for high-speed wireless Internet or other data transfer applications.

This change in the rules was the result of efforts by a consortium of wireless cable operators, consultants, attorneys, ITFS licensees and equipment manufacturers. This group got together and created a plan to permit two-way use of the wireless cable frequencies. They determined minimum operating standards the equipment could tolerate, interference standards with which operators could live, an expedited processing method and frequency sharing rules the educators and wireless cable operators both found fair. Then the entire package was turned into a proposal at the Commission. The FCC granted substantial portions of the package without change. The initial filing window for two-way applications was in August 2000. Many of these applications have been granted and are being constructed.

In a two-way digital wireless cable system, each subscriber has not only a receiver but also a transmitter. These transmitters have low power and send a response back to the response station hub. The response transmission is called the upstream transmission, and the signal from the main transmitter is called the downstream transmission. Originally the system required a directional response transmit antenna oriented directly at the response station hub. However, that meant only trained service personnel could do installation. In an effort to reduce operational costs, some wireless cable operators petitioned the FCC to permit low-gain omnidirectional response antennas to be used so users could install the equipment themselves. This request was granted.

Booster stations

In addition, the FCC rules permitting booster stations have been relaxed, so an operator may more easily add supplemental transmitter locations to serve areas that were previously out of reach. Boosters might be used on the downstream component of the two-way system, or the transmitter frequency of the one-way system. This permits more “cellularization” of the market to improve coverage with multiple transmitters.

Line-of-sight operation

Traditionally, the antennas used for wireless cable have required a line-of-sight (LOS) path between transmit and receive antennas. This limits service providers to putting the hub antenna at a very high central location, often 500 feet above the surrounding area. They must also use a high transmit power to reach the 35-mile limit of the coverage area. In addition, the customer’s antennas must often be mounted at the highest point on the rooftop, which is unsightly from the consumer’s point of view and may also be in violation of restrictive covenants.

Even with these restrictions, the usable service area is limited to portions of the authorized service area. Any building behind, or “in the shadow of”, a larger structure cannot receive service. This larger structure can be a hill or a building or even a water tank. On a nationwide average, LOS service is available only between 30% and 80% of an authorized service area.

In addition, using a very tall high-powered transmitter creates interference problems in adjoining areas. Cooperation between operators in neighboring areas is necessary to resolve the interference issue. Often the same company will have operations in adjacent markets, so it is creating interference problems for itself. Use of a tall, high-powered hub antenna limits the operator’s ability to re-use the same frequencies in its market, as well.

Non-line-of-sight operation

To overcome these problems, several manufacturers are working on technology to permit non-line-of-sight operation. This is defined as reliable operation in the absence of a clear LOS path. Although the signal is not expected to penetrate large terrain obstructions, it can be expected to penetrate walls and foliage and bend around buildings. The signal should be robust enough to operate in an environment of multipath fading and in spite of some obstruction and interference. The goal is to achieve coverage of 90% of the authorized service area. Non-LOS (NLOS) paths are not as efficient as LOS paths, but they permit use of shorter, lower-powered transmitters. This allows more re-use of the frequencies.

The areas that have obstructed paths still receive a signal, but it is a weak signal. The NLOS areas receive signal that has traveled along paths that reflect (bounce off an obstruction) or refract (bend as they pass over an obstruction). There are any number of such paths that start at the hub site and end at the customer site. The signal received along any such path is weak, or attenuated. In addition, the paths have different lengths, which means the time delay along them varies. Intelligent customer premises equipment can use error-checking routines to combine the signals from the various paths and correct the flaws in the data sufficiently to have a usable signal. There are ways to predict the attenuation and the multi-path effects, and these calculations indicate the path loss to be expected from a NLOS path. The wireless cable operator can include this loss in its planning, and thereby permit NLOS operation.

Self-Installation of Customer Premises Equipment

One of the larger expenses in a wireless cable operation is providing and installing equipment on the customer premises. As long as the requirement exists to “fine-tune” each installation to optimize the LOS, trained installers must be dispatched for each new subscriber. As wireless cable systems are designed to permit higher loss budgets, customers can install equipment themselves. The goal is to have universally compatible equipment that is available at consumer electronics stores, which consumers can purchase and install themselves. The DirecTV model is the one desired by the wireless cable industry. Consumers buy the DirecTV equipment themselves and most install it themselves. Professional installation is available for a fee if the customer wishes. If this could be accomplished in the wireless cable service, an operator’s costs would be greatly reduced.


Airtime Lease Agreement. The agreement between the educator and the commercial wireless cable operator to permit the wireless cable operator to use the educator’s frequencies during certain times of the week. These agreements are discussed in 47 CFR §74.931.

Booster Station. An additional transmitter used by the wireless cable operator to repeat the signals of the MDS station or originate MDS signals. Booster stations are intended to augment service in areas that are poorly served by the main transmitter.

BTA. Basic Trading Area. A Rand-McNally designation for a geographical unit made up of one or more counties, which Rand McNally has determined have some characteristics in common.

BTA License. A license issued to a wireless cable commercial operator. The BTA licenses were auctioned in 1995 and 1996. A BTA license authorizes an operator to use all of the commercially available channels within a BTA as long as no interference is created to any authorized station existing at the time of the auction.

Cable Television (CATV). A subscription offering of multiple television channels available from a single entity, but CATV usually indicates traditional wired cable.

Customer Premises Equipment (CPE). The system of antenna, transmission line and downconverter or modem installed at the customer’s site to permit use of wireless cable broadband technology.

Excess Channel Capacity. Any time during the week that the ITFS licensee’s channels are not needed for educational activities. The spectrum used to lie fallow during these hours; now FCC rules permit leasing the use of the channels during this time to commercial operators, creating revenue for the schools and increasing spectrum efficiency. See Airtime Lease Agreement.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The federal agency mandated by congress to regulate use of the radio spectrum.

Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS). The frequencies set aside for use of educational entities in the course of their educational mission. The channels are six MHz wide each. The reserved channels range from 2500 MHz to 2686 MHz. The service is “fixed” in that the transmitter and receive sites are identified to the FCC and specified in the license. The purpose of this service is to permit long-distance learning. For example, a hospital may be a licensed receive site and use the service for continuing education. The FCC rules for ITFS stations may be found in 47 CFR §74, Subpart I (which begins at §74.900).

Line-of-Sight (LOS). A clear, unobstructed microwave path exists between transmit and receive antennas. Microwave LOS propagation requires not only that the direct path between the two antennas be unobstructed, but that an area around the path also be clear. This area is sausage-shaped and surrounds the direct path in all three dimensions. It is larger in diameter (extends farther from the direct path) in the center than at the endpoints, and varies in diameter with frequency and with the length of the total path. It is called Fresnel zone clearance after the French mathematician who developed the formula.

Multipoint Distribution Service (MDS). A domestic public radio service rendered from one or more fixed transmitting sites to multiple receiving locations. These channels are six MHz wide each. An MDS licensee may operate either as a common carrier or as a non-common carrier, but must specify such to the FCC. The frequencies originally assigned for this service are in the 2150-2162 MHz band. The frequency bands 2596-2644 MHz and 2650-2680 MHz were added when the need for more spectrum became apparent. The FCC rules for MDS stations may be found in 47 CFR §21, Subpart K (which begins at §21.900).

Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS). An MDS service utilizing multiple transmitting channels. The FCC rules for MMDS stations may be found in 47 CFR §21, Subpart K (which begins at §21.900).

Response Station. In a two-way digital wireless cable system, the customer site is the response station. It communicates back to the wireless cable system, communicating directly with the response station hub.

Response Station Hub. A fixed facility operated by the licensee or the wireless cable operator, for the reception of information transmitted by one or more response stations. The response station must use digital modulation with uniform power spectral density.

Wireless Cable. Use of microwave frequencies to aggregate multiple channels of video programming, which are then offered to subscribers. The use of microwave frequencies instead of wires makes it much easier to serve homes in less-dense areas. In addition, the cost of wiring is eliminated.

Infrastructure Plays a Vital Role in Raising the Quality of Education

For the ones who love to study and read, any place can be good enough to engage in some quality reading and studying. These people might even argue that the space where you are in is immaterial and that knowledge is the only crucial aspect that should be considered; Physical context is secondary, and your foremost focus should be to concentrate on what you are studying. But when we transfer this reasoning to the reality of the educational systems, the truth turns out to be otherwise: having good infrastructure is decisive for the students to achieve their expected academic results. In simple words, the overall infrastructure of an educational institutional lay a direct impact on the performance and success rate of its students.

The fact of the matter is that good infrastructure, with proper laboratories, well-stocked libraries, and spacious classrooms, make it possible for the children to study without obstacles and compromises. In addition, it tends to improve the interest, as well as attendance. The investments made in school infrastructure plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the children do not need to settle for anything less than the best facilities and attain the highest quality of education that enables them to compete on a global level.

Advantages of a School with good Infrastructure:

  • Serves to ensure attendance and timely completion of academic cycles

According to the findings of the World Bank in Peru, the investments in school facilities have a significant positive effect on the attendance rates of the students. When the school lacks the basic and high-end infrastructural requirements, the students tend to rely on outside resources to fill up that gap, and this, in turn, makes them reluctant about going to the school regularly. The effect of the lack of adequate infrastructure at school is seen in the dwindling attendance rates and the early dropout rates of the students.

  • Caters to provide motivation to the teachers

The evidence of research and studies drawn from all over the world showcase that the teachers in schools with good infrastructure have, on average, 10 percent less absenteeism than teachers in schools with deficient infrastructure. The fact is that the presence of proper infrastructure ensures that the teachers have all the tools readily available for them to offer the best possible support to their students and this works to further amplify their interest in teaching.

  • Improves the overall academic performance

The investments made in a school’s infrastructure ultimately turns out to be evident in the academic results of its students and also the overall performance of the school. When you have world-class infrastructure in place, you are basically offering the students all the facilities that they need to smoothly and effectively imbibe the knowledge imparted to them by the teachers.

The State-of-the-Art Infrastructural Facilities at Banyan Tree School

We, at Banyan Tree School, one among the Top 5 Schools in Chandigarh, believe that the infrastructural facilities that we offer to our students play a crucial role in the all-encompassing development of our students as well as the school. Our sprawling campus is facilitated with high-end labs, large sports ground, well-equipped music rooms, huge auditorium, and a well-stocked library, all of which serve to ensure that our pupils can avail all the amenities that they need to witness a world-class learning environment.

Here’s taking a brief look at all the contemporary infrastructural amenities that we, at Banyan Tree, have brought forward for our students:

Advanced and Updated Laboratories: We have a well-built physics, chemistry, general science, and computer labs at our school that are equipped with a wide range of apparatus and equipment to strengthen, supplement, and provide a practical base to the theoretical concepts taught in class.

Large Sports Ground: We lay equal emphasis on the physical development of our budding geniuses and believe that their inherent talent in sports needs expert grooming under our trainers. We, hence, offer ample options in sports, from Basketball, Football, Cricket, and Badminton to Throw-Ball, Table-Tennis, and more, and to enable that, we have maintained a huge sports ground where our students can practice their favorite sports.

Spacious and Well-Equipped Music and Dance Room: The lessons in the music and dance room aim to familiarize the students with the rich cultural heritage of our nation, and also to foster a fine sense of creativity, appreciation, and rhythm among the young minds.

Extensive Auditorium: We, at Banyan Tree School, have a state-of-the-art auditorium with a massive seating capacity, equipped with an effective light and audio-visual system. The school has hosted many prestigious seminars, lectures, and Inter-School events at this venue.

Well-Stocked Library: Our library offers a collection of more than 12,000 books covering the widest range of subjects for the children to imbibe knowledge that goes beyond the boundaries of their textbooks and syllabus.

At Banyan Tree School, recognized as one of the top-ranked CBSE schools in Chandigarh, we sincerely believe that the infrastructure of a school has a significant role along with other essential educational inputs to be able to facilitate comprehensive developmental opportunities for the children. Towards that end, we have equipped our campus with the best of infrastructural facilities and hope to further enhance and improve upon the same to keep up with our mission of providing our students with the best educational experience.

Plan For College – Seven Summer Strategies For College-Bound Kids

Once a student reaches the eighth grade, in some ways summer needs to be more strategic. I’m not talking about adding yet more busy work to your soccer-filled schedules. I’m talking about developing a new filter through which you do things. I want you to start living in the “big picture” of being college-bound so you’ll start doing things now that will help shape your college experience later. Here are seven smart summer strategies for college-bound kids and their families:

  1. Visit a college campus. Before this summer is out, go to at least one campus – and do more than walk around. Craft more a personal visit by finding out in advance which classes and events actually connect to your current interests. In fact, between now and the first day of freshman year at college, every time your family takes you out of town for any reason, make sure a custom campus visit is part of that trip. “Big Picture” Plus: Your college-bound plans will be far more powerful once you know what that experience looks and sounds and feels like.
  2. Read a classic. A lot of kids hear “classic” and immediately think “old,” and we all know where old stuff ranks on the “Mom-can-I-do-that?” list. Listen – books become classics because decades, even centuries, of readers read them, fall in love with them and read them again. Jump into Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird or Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The classics are the common cultural language that crosses all generations. They expose you to new worlds. And they are GREAT READS. “Big Picture” Plus: Committing to reading something unfamiliar is a great step towards building the academic discipline you’ll need in college.
  3. Go to camp. Making s’mores is great – but building a robot is amazing! Today’s summer camps have you climbing mountains, studying sea life, coding video games – and often living right on college campuses in dorms with fellow college-bound kids. If money is tight and the program you want is not free, make sure you check into scholarships they offer or work hard to raise the funds the year before through jobs, your church, friends and more. Summer camps dramatically expand the world in which you feel you belong – the bigger, the bolder, the better. “Big Picture” Plus: Camp is a fun way to learn how to live with people who are nothing like you, a strong start for college.
  4. Get your academic act together. Commit this to memory: what graduates you from high school does NOT always get you into college. If you have a “D” or worse in any subject, it’s like you never took that class when you apply to four-year institutions (only “C” grades or higher generally count). Head to community college over the summer and take the class again – and get college credit at the same time! In California, high school students can enroll at community college for free (check your state). Community colleges are also great places to take advanced classes your high school doesn’t offer or you can’t get into because of limited space. All of that will boost your college application’s impact. “Big Picture” Plus: Summer courses give you a taste of the academic challenges and independence to come in college.
  5. Commit. I’m a big fan of school year clubs and events, but an important – and fun! – part of growing up is developing long-term pursuits. By “long-term,” I mean two years or longer of engaging in: an academic interest (like journalism or math club); a personal passion (like music or sports); work experience (like internships or jobs); and public service (like scouting or local volunteering). Summer is a perfect to time to start. You don’t have to join a formal organization; you can explore your own interests. Just be sure an adult works with you, like a teacher, boss, pastor or program director. Their guidance will help you grow, and they’ll be well-equipped to write recommendations for you later. “Big Picture” Plus: Long-term commitments test you, stretch you and give you a valuable measuring stick of personal growth.
  6. Get fit. If you’re thirteen or older, it is time to be personally accountable for your general fitness. Forget that a “pooch,” “muffin top” or a full-on gut is not your idea of cute – it is truly dangerous. There will never be an easier time in your life to get in shape, schedule- or metabolism-wise, than right now. Decide this summer that you are going to work out every day and eat responsibly. Not because it’s fun or easy, but because it is the best thing to do for your body and your brain. Okay, and because you want to look good when you show up on campus this fall. Whatever gets you MOVING! “Big Picture” Plus: Becoming and staying fit is a life-changing step towards deciding to do things you don’t want to do – and coming out a winner in the process.
  7. Complete a college application. Do not let the first time you see a college application be the fall semester you are expecting to complete a dozen of them! Download the Common App or Universal App, or get a copy of a state school application from the library. Then sit with family or friends and fill one out. Take notes of any questions (trust me, you will have some), and call the admissions office and get the answers. Yes, they will answer your questions! Practice writing at least one essay response, as well – and ask a tutor, parent or teacher to review it. Yes, they will help you! “Big Picture” Plus: Filling out practice apps over the summer will flatten that part of the college-bound learning curve when the heat is on senior year.

All right, stop worrying that this sounds like a lot of work! Instead, really envision reading on your front porch, shooting serious hoops every day with your friends, and scheduling one day a week to work with a conservation group to beautify your town. Then imagine telling your roommate all about it freshman year in college. That’s a big picture you’ll want to frame.