Try This Science-backed Way to Learn in Your Sleep

The brain never rests. If you’ve shared a room with a sleep-talker or woken from an intense dream, it’s pretty clear the brain is always active, even during sleep.

If we better understand what is happening up there while we rest, perhaps we can direct that activity into something meaningful that improves our lives. Did you know that, for example, sleeping can help you learn a new language? Recent research has shown that while we sleep our brains are solidifying memory, and that has implications for our language skills.

Despite what we’ve seen in science fiction, it turns out that learning in your sleep does not happen by osmosis. You still have to learn the words while you’re awake.

To use an example on how to do this, take the word “tulo.” Before you go to bed tonight, repeat to yourself, “Tulo means sleep.” That’s what it means in the language of Chichewa, which is spoken in the countries of Zambia and Malawi. When you lie down and close your eyes, say it a few more times. “Tulo means sleep.”

What does the brain do while we’re sleeping?

In order to understand how you can use sleep to help you commit the word “tulo” to memory, it’s important to understand something about sleep and brain science.

When you think about it, sleep doesn’t make a lot of sense from an evolutionary standpoint. We hate to lose all that productivity, not to mention that sleep makes animals in the wild vulnerable to predators. We still don’t fully understand why we sleep, but as scientists study sleep in humans and animals, its benefits keep emerging and unfolding. For example, scientists have discovered that sleep flushes toxins from our brains, and dreaming helps us process emotional events.

In 2014, scientists from the Swiss National Science Foundation published study results in the journal “Cerebral Cortex” that could help your “tulo” game. Here, 60 German-speaking students were asked to memorize some Dutch words before 10 p.m., words that were unfamiliar to them. Half the students were then allowed to sleep. As they slept, recordings of the words were played for them. Meanwhile, the other half stayed awake, listening to the recordings.

At 2 a.m., scientists tested the knowledge of the two groups. (The first group was awakened and the second group was still awake.) The group that had slept recalled more Dutch words than the group that stayed awake.

Another finding lends startling insight as to why the sleeping minds might have had better recall. Brain scans taken from the sleeping subjects indicate that their brains responded to the spoken words, helping them solidify a meaningful connection with the words.

Tips for learning in your sleep

Before you leap into your language study, give it a test run with “tulo.” Follow these three steps to see if the insights from the brain and sleep studies help you commit the word to your memory.

Prime the mind: Again, this learning does not happen by osmosis. Before you sleep, it’s important to spend some time with the word “tulo.” Write it down, say it to yourself in a sentence, and tell others about it. “Tulo means sleep.” That alone may or may not be enough to help you remember what you need to know, but at the very least, you are creating the conditions.

Create a good sleep environment: You can’t get the full benefits of sleep if you’re not getting enough of it, and that also applies when you’re trying to memorize new words. In order to capture these full benefits, make sure you set yourself up for the best possible night’s sleep. Stay away from caffeinated beverages four to six hours before bedtime, exercise regularly, and keep your bedroom dark and quiet, and at the right temperature. Make sure you’re going to bed and waking at the same time every day.

Play a recording: Make a recording of yourself saying, “Tulo means sleep,” and have it play on repeat for a few hours while you’re in dreamland. Be sure and have a sticky note posted near your bed to remind you when you wake up — “what’s that word you have to recall?” When you wake up and read it, chances are, the answer will come right out: “Tulo.” (BPT)

Best Bets for Back-to-School

School children raising their hands ready to answer the question.

School children raising their hands ready to answer the question.

Every family needs the right items on hand to ensure students are geared up to succeed in the classroom and on the playing field. These supplies and handy tools are designed to make back-to-school season easy as 1-2-3 for kids and parents alike.

A Sticky Solution

Art projects abound when a new school year begins and the perfect paper crafts require a secure bond that withstands transportation from school to home. An Elmer’s Re-Stick Glue Stick lets little hands fine-tune placement of different pieces for up to five minutes before a permanent bond forms. The sticks apply smoothly and dry clear for a mess-free appearance that is ideal for younger learners, as well as making poster presentations, crafts and more. See what ideas will stick for you at elmers.com.

Smart Sipping

Good hydration is important for overall health and keeping a water bottle by your side is one way to help ensure you’re keeping your intake steady throughout the day. The Contigo AUTOSPOUT Chug Water Bottle enables simple sipping on the go with its patented technology and high flow for quick, one-handed drinking. The vacuum-insulated stainless steel keeps beverages refreshingly cold for up to 24 hours, and a protective spout prevents leaks and helps keep out dirt and germs. Find more information at gocontigo.com.

Word-Wise

From creating spaces at home that help organize school paperwork to identifying personal items like laptops or calculators, an electric labeler makes short work of the job. The DYMO MobileLabeler offers Bluetooth connectivity for fast and easy setup, along with a voice-to-text feature and spellcheck to help save time. A free app lets you create the label via a smartphone using a wide variety of colors and font libraries then print the size you need from 1/4 inch-1 inch wide. Learn more at dymo.com.

Organize with Color

Keeping track of schedules, homework and other activities can be an exhausting chore, but a color-coded dry-erase board is one way to keep everything straight. A highly visible, low-odor ink like the one used in the EXPO Dry Erase Markers with Ink Indicator makes getting organized fun, plus the easy-to-see ink levels ensures you’ll never unknowingly run dry. The versatile chisel tip marks broad, medium and fine lines, and six bold and bright colors let you add a little creative flair to your efforts to bring order to the chaos. Check out these and other dry-erase tools at expomarkers.com.

A Cool Way to Refuel

A rigorous morning of academics calls for an energizing and nutritious lunch to power through the end of the school day. Rubbermaid BRILLIANCE Lunch containers are leak-proof with airtight latches and adjustable insert trays and dividers to create custom compartments inside. The ultra-durable material keeps the container stain-free and odor-free. They’re also BPA-free and safe for the dishwasher, microwave and freezer. Find this and other lunch solutions at rubbermaid.com.

Artwork for the Senses

Nothing sparks creativity like engaging all the senses, and an array of bold scents and vivid colors is the perfect combination for some inspired artwork. Mr. Sketch Scented Crayons come in a package of 12 and feature a twist design that means they never need sharpening. A hard plastic body reduces crayon breakage, making these instruments ideal for children as young as 3 years of age. Explore more crayons and tools to encourage creativity this school year at mrsketch.com.

A Bright Idea

Defining important text or keeping track of key calendar dates is easier with Sharpie Clear View Highlighters that feature a see-through tip that allows for precise highlighting. The versatile blade-style tip draws thick lines for highlighting or thin, defined lines for underlining, while specially formulated ink technology resists smudging of many pen and marker inks. Choose among four bright colors to make your mark and find additional answers to your highlighting needs at sharpie.com. (Family Features)

5 Hassle-Free Tips for Protecting Your Child’s Valuables at School

From phones and tablets, to computers and headphones, technology has quickly become an integral component within the daily lives of students of all ages.

A departure from the contents of students’ backpacks as little as 10 years ago, these pieces of technology have, on the one hand, made students’ lives easier — including communication and access to necessary information — but also have made the cargo in their bags much more valuable and, consequently, attractive to potential thieves.

Low-level theft is an unfortunate reality for schools across the nation. In fact, a recent study from the National Center for Education Statistics found that more students experience incidents of theft and violence at school than away from school. The crime rate works out to roughly 33 victimizations per 1,000 students at school per year. And with backpacks carrying more expensive tech, these thefts at school have left more at stake for students.

To make sure your child’s valuable electronics, books and other essentials are safely stored away this school year, the security solutions experts at Master Lock have collected a handful of easy-to-follow safety measures to protect the belongings students — and their parents — value most.

* Is it necessary: A natural first step in helping to protect your child’s valuable belongings is to establish if the item is a must-have in school. While they might love their new tablet, so might potential thieves. Having an open discussion about responsibility and what’s necessary will go a long way in keeping their belongings safe.

* Quick change: By the time they hit middle school, many students are required to navigate the halls between classes with speed. To make sure they are not late to class while still securing their belongings, try the Master Lock Speed Dial Padlock. With up/down/left/right directional movements, the Master Lock Speed Dial Padlock provides students unparalleled quickness and convenience when opening their lockers in-between periods.

* Security on-the-move: Depending on the age, juggling a phone, keys, debit cards and other small valuables is a reality for many students walking the halls at school or paths on campus. The Master Lock Portable Personal Safe is an ideal solution for students looking to securely lock up their belongings between classes or in their dorms at college.

* Hide in plain sight: Larger electronics such as laptops, tablets and cameras can often come with their own carrying cases, and when thieves are looking for an item to steal, they look for the cases themselves, trusting the contents will be inside. To help protect your student’s possessions, mix it up and find some other bag or transportation method to house their tech. If thieves don’t see your student walking around with the case in their hands, they’ll be less likely to realize there is something for them to steal.
* No key, no problem: While protecting from unwanted intruders, securely locking up a locker at school or in gym class can also accidentally keep out the owners themselves due to a forgotten combination or lost key. Master Lock’s award-winning Indoor Bluetooth Padlock offers students a new way to keep their items safe via a Bluetooth-enabled padlock which turns their phones into the key. This eliminates the hassle of a forgotten combination and gives students a lock only they or authorized users can open.

As your child heads back to school this fall, following these simple safety tips can help ensure their valuables don’t fall into the wrong hands. To learn more about protecting your child’s belongings at school with the innovative security solutions from Master Lock, visit Masterlock.com/personal-use/school-gym-health-club. (BPT)

5 Ways to Re-Engage High School Dropouts

For Christine Wilkins, now 16, freshman year of high school was an ordeal. The same students who bullied her in middle school were at her new high school. Just approaching the school entry filled her with angst. One day, instead of going in, she turned around and went home.

“The idea of walking through those gates gave me so much anxiety,” she says.

Christine hated school. Unable to focus or dedicate herself to her schoolwork, she made C’s, D’s and F’s.

Eventually, Christine stopped going to school and dropped out.

Tackling the dropout issue

There are many reasons students drop out of high school. Poverty, pregnancy, homelessness, bullying or just losing interest are some of the many issues that cause students to skip a day of class, a week and eventually drop out altogether.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, missing just three weeks of school is enough to threaten a student’s chance to graduate.

What can be done to help these students?

As each person is a complex individual, there is no single solution that can reach the multitude of different students.

This is why Learn4Life, a nonprofit dropout recovery program, takes a dynamic approach to reengage students.

The average student who enrolls in Learn4Life has been out of school for 11.4 weeks. Through different methods, such as personalized learning, mentoring and job skills training, the program has been highly successful in reengaging dropouts and keeping them in school.

These are the five effective ways they reach out to these students.

1. Dealing with issues outside of the classroom. Whether it’s counseling to help students come to terms with issues they’re facing or a mentoring program that builds confidence, helping students deal with non-academic issues is a way to give them the stability they need to succeed.

2. Meeting students where they are. Not every student is at the same emotional, academic or mental level as their peers. Through one-on-one attention, personalized learning and academic planning, students can get help where they most need it. This personalized approach is designed to find a solution that’s best for the individual.

3. Removing obstacles to learning. Sometimes it’s something as simple as not having proper transportation or childcare that prevents a student from returning to complete their education. Giving students flexible schedules, help with transportation and access to teachers or mentors at different hours of the day can make a big difference in their ability to learn.

4. Making them feel safe. It’s an unfortunate fact that schools are not always the safe environment they ought to be. Creating a respectful and safe place to learn is essential for removing social anxieties and fears that can hinder learning.

5. Helping them see a future. Through job skills training programs, students can prepare for a future beyond a diploma. As a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) partner, Learn4Life offers courses in work-readiness skills, career exploration, writing cover letters and resumes, completing applications and interviewing.

The effectiveness of Learn4Life’s approach can be seen in the fact that when students enroll, only 15 percent of them come to school regularly, but as the year goes on, that number jumps to 86 percent.

Concluding Christine’s story

After six months out of school, counselors at Christine’s old high school pointed her to a Learn4Life program at Desert Sands Charter School.

She enrolled and by participating in an internship with Pacific Gateway, part of the YouthBuild WIOA program at Desert Sands, Christine gained experience in customer service and Microsoft applications.

Currently, Christine attends school and is getting all A’s and B’s in her school work, and has a full-time internship. At the end of the internship, she will receive certificates in customer service and Microsoft Office.

“I’m dedicated because I’m getting knowledge and experience for a life outside of school,” Christine says. (BPT)

How to Build Healthy Habits for the School Year and Beyond

Bells are ringing across the country as kids settle into classrooms for a year full of fun, friendship and plenty of learning.

While exciting, adjusting to new school schedules is a hectic time. Healthy habits are often forgotten as the focus shifts to studies, assignments and extracurriculars.

“Parents and caregivers can make a big difference in helping kids lead a healthy lifestyle during the back-to-school season and beyond,” says Deanna Segrave-Daly, a mom and registered dietitian. “A few proactive steps can set kids up for success in and out of the classroom.”

Segrave-Daly offers six easy ideas you can try to help encourage your kids to build healthy habits that last a lifetime:

Prioritize sleep

Sleep is something families often sacrifice due to busy schedules. Remember, kids need significantly more sleep than adults to support their rapid mental and physical development, according to the National Sleep Foundation. School-age children should strive for nine to 11 hours of sleep each night. Establish a nighttime routine and prioritize sleep every night.

Eat breakfast

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day — especially for our kids. Help them jump-start their day with a quick breakfast of healthy foods like fruit, eggs and whole-grain cereal. For those busy mornings, grab fridge-free, GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ, made with real low-fat yogurt and fruit, for a wholesome option they can easily eat in the car or bus with a banana, toaster waffle or whole-wheat toast.

Encourage exercise

Kids should do at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hopefully some of this physical activity can take place during the school day, but there are lots of easy ways to build healthy activity into daily life at home. Make a habit of going on a family walk after dinner (a great chance to unwind and reconnect) or challenge kids to bring their books up the stairs or to another room one at a time. Take 10-minute “dance party” breaks during homework or see who can jump rope the longest.

Manage screen time

It’s important for families to be mindful of screen time for kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids ages 2-5 limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programs. For children 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media and monitor the types of media used.

Snack well

Kids love to snack, and it’s important to keep nutritious options on hand for when hunger strikes — it helps them avoid emergency vending machine stops. Stock your pantry with healthier snacks like GoGo squeeZ applesauce pouches. These fridge-free pouches, made from natural ingredients, are easy to grab on the way to soccer practice, music lessons or the playground. They’re also an easy lunchbox addition!

Adjust the attitude

Mental wellness is part of overall wellness. Keep in mind the power of a positive attitude toward education. Encourage kids to look at issues from different angles, appreciate diversity and be resilient. Have conversations with children and truly listen to their concerns to build trust and solve problems.

Finally, it’s the adult role models in a child’s life that really set them up for success.

“If you model healthy habits, your child is likely to follow your lead,” says Segrave-Daly. “Try to routinely eat well, sleep well, exercise and have conversations about the good and bad parts of your day. Your kids are paying attention even when it seems like they aren’t!”

Ride Safe

Bus Safety Tips for Back-to-School

While school safety is of the utmost importance to parents, millions of school-age children begin and end their days with a bus ride. To provide some measures for parents to help increase safety going to and from the bus and during the ride, the National Association for Pupil Transportation offers these tips.

Before the Bus Arrives

  • Ensure backpacks are packed securely so papers and other items don’t scatter as the bus approaches.
  • Create a morning routine that puts kids at the bus stop five minutes before the scheduled pickup time. This helps avoid a last-minute rush, when safety lessons are easily forgotten, and ensures kids are safely in place for boarding.
  • Encourage children to wear bright, contrasting colors so they can be seen easier by drivers.
  • Walk young children to the bus stop or encourage kids to walk in groups. There is safety in numbers; groups are easier for drivers to see.
  • Instruct children to walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, advise them to stay out of the street, walk single-file, face traffic and stay as close to the edge of the road as possible.
  • If kids must cross a street, driveway or alley, remind them to stop and look both ways before crossing.
  • Verify that the bus stop location offers good visibility for the bus driver; if changes are needed, talk with nearby homeowners or school district officials to implement changes. Never let kids wait in a house or car, where the driver may miss seeing them approach the bus.
  • Remind children that the bus stop is not a playground. Balls or other toys can roll into the street and horseplay could result in falling into the path of oncoming traffic.
  • Instruct children to stay at least three steps away from the road and allow the bus to come to a complete stop before approaching it.

On the Bus Ride

  • When boarding the bus, items can get bumped and dropped. Caution children that before picking anything up, they should talk to the driver and follow instructions to safely retrieve their possessions.
  • Teach safe riding habits: stay seated with head, hands and feet inside at all times; use a seatbelt (if available); keep bags and books out of the aisle and remain seated until the bus stops moving. Also instruct children to never throw things on the bus or out the windows and to never play with or block the emergency exits.
  • Remind kids that yelling and other loud noises are off limits as they could distract the driver.
  • If cell phones and other electronic devices are permitted, instruct children to mute the sound or use headphones so as not to create a distraction for the driver or other riders.

Leaving the Bus

  • Remind children to look before stepping off the bus. If they must cross the street, teach them to do so in front of the bus by taking five big steps from the front of the bus, making eye contact with the driver and waiting for the signal that it is safe to begin crossing.
  • For parents who meet their kids at the bus stop, remember that in their excitement kids may dart across the street. Eliminate the risk by waiting on the side of the street where kids exit the bus.
  • Make the bus ride part of your daily “how was school?” discussion. Encourage kids to talk about the things they see and hear on the bus so you can discuss appropriate behaviors and, if necessary, report any concerns to school administrators.

Discuss the Bus

Join the discussion (or start one) on school districts exploring a switch from diesel buses to cleaner alternatives by downloading resources including fact sheets, videos and more at BetterOurBuses.com.

A Safe Transportation Option

Beyond teaching safety precautions around the bus, there is another option to ensure kids are transported safely to and from school each day. Many school districts are moving away from noisy, pollution-inducing and expensive diesel buses in favor of buses powered by an alternate fuel, like propane, which offers numerous benefits for school districts and their students.

Safety: Jenna Bush Hager, a teacher, author, journalist and parent of two, has partnered with the Propane Education & Research Council to educate parents and school districts about the benefits of propane school buses.

School buses powered by propane offer numerous safety advantages. Propane school buses are quieter than diesel buses when operating, making it easier for drivers to hear both inside and outside the bus. This can have a direct impact on student behavior, and many districts have reported fewer disciplinary issues as a result. An interactive audio quiz detailing the difference between the types of buses can be found at QuieterSchoolBuses.com.

“As a former teacher, I know parents often overlook how the ride to and from school can impact a child’s performance in the classroom,” Hager said. “A child’s attitude or behavior before they arrive at school can set the tone for the whole day.”

In addition, these buses meet rigorous U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and each is equipped with an automatic shut-off feature that prevents fuel flow to the engine when not running.

Another safety consideration is the health implications of older diesel buses. The shorter height of younger students can put them face-to-face with a black cloud of diesel smoke every school day. With propane buses, however, students aren’t exposed to the harmful particulate matter in diesel exhaust, which is known to aggravate asthma and has been identified by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen. However, “low-NOx” propane engines are 75 percent cleaner than current federal emissions standards require.

Savings: Not only is propane consistently less expensive than diesel fuel, the buses themselves don’t require the same expensive repairs and replacement parts that today’s modern diesel buses demand. Saving money on transportation costs puts schools in a better position to appropriate budget toward meeting students’ needs in the classroom and other areas, such as fine arts and athletic programs. (FamilyFeatures)

Top Tips for Making Back-to-School a Success

Summer days are getting shorter. Summer fun is winding down for the season. Bedtimes are starting earlier. And parents seem to be oddly excited.

Back to school is right around the corner.

For most kids, the thought of going back to school can be a drag. But it doesn’t have to be.

Marley Dias, 12-year-old founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks, knows a thing or two about balancing extracurricular activities and back-to-school readiness.

According to Marley, preparing for back to school is the key to success. “Tweens know, going back to school can be stressful and to conquer it with a smile takes guts,” said Dias. She offers these seven simple tips for parents to help make a smooth transition back to school.

1. Get Back to a Routine

A healthy routine is essential to getting your body clock back on schedule. A week before school starts, the family should wake up early and eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner. For that week, everyone should try to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

2. Power Your Inner Potential

Seventy percent of the immune system is located in your gut. I take a daily probiotic like Renew Life Ultimate Flora Kids Probiotic to stay healthy and operate at my best. Probiotics help keep my gut healthy, which improves my sleep, mood and memory, all important aspects to being a good student, especially during the first few weeks when you still feel sluggish from summer.

3. Reconnect with Friends

Your kids’ friends have been away at camp, on vacation or visiting relatives all summer long. Chatting with friends gets kids excited about the new school year and helps avoid the back-to-school jitters.

4. Set Goals

Having your kids set goals helps them attack the school year with purpose. Challenge them to improve at a subject, try a new sport or make a new friend. Ask them to write down their social and academic goals; you can’t get anywhere without a plan!

5. Shop!

Indulge in a new outfit or cool locker supplies for your kids. Buy those fun items, but also the functional ones that last throughout the year.

6. Getting Organized at Home

Getting organized now helps them tackle all of those upcoming assignments. Help them review old work to jog their memory. Plan outfits the night before. Pre-pack lunches and snacks. Post all assignments and activities in a visible spot in the house. And lastly, set up a home homework space. Kids need a dedicated place to focus.

7. Pick a Place to Just Breathe

Pick a peaceful spot at home where kids and parents can practice deep breathing and relaxation. The school year is a hectic time. Take a moment to push pause on all electronics. This quiet moment will help each member of the family prep their mind and body for everything the school year brings.

Getting back into a routine after summer takes guts. Make sure yours are up for it. To help keep your complex digestive system thriving and restore good bacteria, visit www.RenewLife.com. #beinghumantakesguts (BPT)

Writing a Winning College Essay

Tips for letting your story shine through

For the more than 2 million students applying to colleges and universities, the task of essay writing can be a dreadful experience.

Whether applying for admission or scholarships, many students find this part of the application process to be the most stressful and daunting part of their senior year. Often without understanding how to approach the essay, students struggle with staring at a blank page and finding a compelling topic.

However, according to Howard Reichman, president of EssayDog, an easy-to-use, cloud-based platform that helps students write winning college application essays, “a college application essay is really just a story – a story colleges want to hear about you.”

“Every good story, from a blockbuster movie to a novel from your high school English class to your favorite show, has four critical elements that make it fascinating and reveal inner depth about its characters,” Reichman said. “That’s exactly what you want your college application essays to do: show the real you beyond the test scores and GPA.”

According to Reichman, every good story has these four essential elements:

  1. The initial plan
  2. The anticipated outcome
  3. The setback
  4. The discovery

Whether students use an online tool like EssayDog, which gets students started quickly by asking them to write just one sentence about each of these four parts, or they tackle the task of essay writing on their own, the next step is to round out the narrative by filling in details that let the applicant’s true character shine through.

The essays that resonate most with college admissions departments typically convey a student’s intangibles or “the Four Ps,” specifically:

  • Passion: What drives you and what do you really care about?
  • Personality: What are you like to be around? Would your friends and family be able to identify you by reading your essay?
  • Perseverance: How do you respond to challenges? What gives you strength, both intellectually and emotionally?
  • Potential: What talents, interests and goals will you bring to a university’s campus next fall? How can a college help you further develop these as you continue to grow into adulthood?

More than anything, procrastination and stress are often students’ worst enemies when they sit down to begin the essay-writing process.

“If you feel you are wasting time, switching topics or disagreeing with your parents, teachers or college counselors about the direction your essays are taking, try going back to these simple storytelling techniques to ensure you are showcasing what sets you apart from other applicants with similar grades and scores,” Reichman said.

Visit essaydog.com or find EssayDog on Facebook and Twitter to find more tips for confidently writing standout college essays. (Family Features)

3 Reasons to Study Abroad During High School

Think about how your teenager will spend their next summer vacation.

What if their months off from school could include something much bigger than the usual lineup of part-time jobs, sports practices and hanging out with friends?

Picture this: Your teenager wakes up in a different bedroom in a different country, far from home. After eating a breakfast that may consist of new and different foods and flavors, served by a caring host family, your student heads out to have amazing experiences in a new land. Whatever the day brings, your teenager will remember it for a lifetime.

What surprises many is a summer of studying abroad is not just for college students. What’s also surprising: going abroad is not just for families of means. For all high school students, there is ample opportunity to spend their summer in a new country, having an experience of a lifetime that just isn’t available at home.

Every year, more than 300,000 U.S. students study abroad, according to the NAFSA: Association of International Educators. If your high school student were among them, how would the adventure transform their lives and futures?

1. They stretch and grow.

A summer abroad is the ultimate “stretch” experience a student could have. That is, learning to communicate in a foreign language and adapting to daily life in a different culture makes students who study abroad in high school more resourceful, and helps them develop their interpersonal skills and discover new solutions to obstacles.

“Many parents see a change in their students when they return from the experience of studying abroad,” says Matt Redman, vice president of Global Navigator High School Study Abroad programs at CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange, a nonprofit that operates more than 300 study abroad programs. “They just carry themselves differently because of that boost in maturity and confidence they gain from living in a new place during their summer break.”

2. They get exposure to bigger ideas and experiences.

If going abroad is an opportunity your student wants to pursue, it’s important to understand the options and to identify goals for the program so your teenager has the experience he or she is looking for. Some programs offer daily itineraries where students visit multiple cities and see the major sites. Others are more focused and offer interaction with local people, local language lessons and a chance to live and engage with the community. While both approaches offer valuable life experiences, learning can be balanced with fun.

For example, CIEE’s Global Navigators high school programs give students an opportunity to learn and work in a field of study, such as marine science, filmmaking or global entrepreneurship in places like China, Spain or Peru. At the same time, there’s room in the schedule for exploration and fun, where students sightsee, try new activities and participate in community events.

3. It prepares them for their next steps.

After their time in a different country, the feedback from the students is nothing short of inspiring.

“Our students often talk about the new things they’ve discovered about themselves just from having these new experiences far from home,” Redman says. “Along with becoming more independent, many talk about their plans for the future. With very few exceptions, they see college as an essential part of their futures. These teens are not only excited about going to college, they know what they want from life. In having these experiences, they find their focus, and they set goals.”

It’s easy to see how focus and passion can fuel a student’s drive to excel academically. Beyond college, research suggests studying abroad also has positive effects on career prospects.

Villanova University found that graduates who spent time in a different country as part of their studies had better opportunities and a higher job placement after graduation than those who did not.

In addition to that, businesses are increasingly seeking employees who can contribute a global perspective. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 78 percent of 400 employers surveyed in 2015 said students should gain the “intercultural skills and understanding of societies and countries outside the U.S.” Yet only 15 percent of employers find these qualities in recent college graduates.

Thinking about it? The opportunity is closer than you think.

Studying abroad is long associated with families of means. Look for scholarship opportunities and doors can start opening for your teenager. For example, CIEE’s Global Navigator Scholarships are based on financial need and cover anywhere from 20 percent to 100 percent of their tuition costs, making the opportunity to study abroad and experience a new culture within reach for even more families. Since 2013, these scholarships have made international study a reality for more than 3,000 students. To learn more about CIEE’s Global Navigator High School Study Abroad program and the scholarships, visit ciee.org/globalnavigators. (BPT)

Higher Education, Higher Expense: Budgeting Tips for College Students and Their Parents

High school graduation should be a time of celebration. But for a lot of families, it can also be a source of stress. College is a big step into the future for any student – and it comes with a hefty price tag.

According to a 2015 survey, the top-ranking financial worry for parents with children under the age of 18 was paying for college. The study found that budgeting for higher education costs was the chief concern for 73 percent of applicable parents. The same study found that financial concerns around budgeting for college were even prevalent in higher-income households. Sixty-one percent of homes earning $100,000 or more a year expressed concern.

When you look at the costs of tuition today, it’s easy to see the cause for concern. So what can you and your family do to make college more affordable for everyone? Start by following these tips.

Seek out grants

To help ease the burden of college expenses, it’s a good idea to apply for as many grants as possible. Grants come from multiple sources including the government, organizations and even some private companies or estates.

A grant is basically funds awarded by one entity for a specific purpose. College grants are one of the most common and there are several online resources you can use to search for grants. Start with grants.gov and expand your search from there. You never know what you will find.

Keep a close eye on your budget

The 70-20-10 rule makes for a helpful guideline when saving for college. Under this rule, 70 percent of your money is allocated for living expenses — such as the mortgage, food, clothing and gas — 20 percent goes into savings and 10 percent is allotted for debt. Set up your own model and set aside a set percentage of your savings to be allotted for college (say 5 to 10 percent) and try to hold true to these numbers as much as possible to support your total savings and budgeting goals. Vanderbilt’s 2017 Home Loan Guide includes an excellent article on budgeting, along with an interactive budgeting sheet to help calculate your expenses.

“Budgeting is a roadmap to financial success built around your personal income and expenses,” said Eric Hamilton, President of Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc. “Whether you’re saving for your first home or a college education, the importance of building and following a budget plan cannot be understated.”

College tuition is one of the largest expenses most people will incur in their lifetime – until they purchase their first home. So for parents who are helping with their child’s college expenses, shouldering both can be difficult to manage. If you find yourself in a difficult situation concerning your mortgage payments, be sure to contact your mortgage loan provider to see what programs they may be able to offer to help keep payments on track. But the best defense is a good offense. Planning ahead and putting aside funds for college tuition will help reduce or eliminate any impact paying tuition may have on your financial stability.

Work together

It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes an entire family to send them to college, so work together as you save for this goal. Educate your student on how to save, both for college and in life. If they already have a part-time job, set tangible goals for their savings — as you have done for yourself. For example, estimate the cost of books for the first year and work with your student to set a monthly savings goal that will help them achieve that number.

This will relieve some of your financial burden and ensure your student has a vested stake in their entire college experience.

Start saving today

There’s no time like the present to start building a college savings fund. With careful planning and a little teamwork, you all can emerge on graduation day with degree in hand without a mountain of debt.

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