The Difference Between High School and College: Grades

College is a completely new experience and for us students who have freshly graduated from twelve years of schooling, it’s a huge transition.  After a few rough weeks of figuring things out, I’m pretty much in sync with the grading system in college. I know that as a high school senior, it seems pretty terrifying to say goodbye to regular assignments and routine chapter-by-chapter tests. Fear not, I’m here to help you out!


This is the biggest difference between high school and college. You no longer have year-long classes that are slow paced and in-depth.  College courses are fast-paced, extremely well planned out and comprehensive. Time flies in college. Why? Because classes end within a semester — that’s 15 weeks. If you take away holidays and breaks in between, a semester is pretty much finished in 3 months.

Because colleges offer so many courses at different levels and concentrations, it makes sense for them to be split into semester-long courses. In high school, you gain an overview and a general introduction of history, biology, chemistry, and math.  Once you get to college, you choose what you want to focus on depending on your interests, and for each topic that you indulge in, a semester is more than enough.

Because everything is compressed into a semester, college courses have fixed syllabi with little flexibility, but it’s nice being able to visualize exactly how the course is organized and which assignments are due every week. Even your dates for midterms and finals are announced early on! This is a blessing to everyone who loves calendars.


Ah, thinking about having only two exams for an entire course was my biggest fear coming into college.  But, trust me, it’s not that bad. You have to remember that courses are only one semester long, so having two to three exams in that time span is entirely appropriate. It is stressful to imagine that the majority of your grade depends on these exams, but keep in mind that there will be other assignments to boost up your grade.  Extra credit is rare, but attendance, participation, and/or weekly assignments can each account for about 10% of your grade.

Midterms and finals take preparation and work, so do not bring along your procrastination tendencies from high school to college. They will not work here. There is no way you can prepare for exams in one night. Give yourself a week or at least an entire weekend to prepare for exams. They’re really not that bad, even if they are cumulative.


Letter grades are all that matter in college. In high school, everyone is caught up in their percent and number grades, but in college, as long as it’s an A, no one cares if it’s a 90 or 98.  Another huge difference is that some classes won’t regularly post grades on assignments.  There might not always be a portal to view all of your grades, so a lot of your time is spent keeping track of your grades and making estimations of where it may lie.


A lot of classes in college use curves. So basically, your grade is dependent on how others perform in the class. At times, this is great because even when your average is a B (or even a C!), you can still end up with an A. But other times, this is a huge drawback because your grade can be lower than what you expect depending on the class grade distribution.


College homework is a lot easier than high school homework.  Even though the work may take longer, it is definitely easy.  Most of my work is comprised of readings, online assignments, and preparing for exams.  It’s nice to not have loads of busy work and daily assignments anymore. Also, classes don’t meet every day, so this gives me time to space out work and keep stress levels down.


Whereas taking around 8 classes was the norm in high school, that’s a lot in college. In college, most students take around 15-18 credits per semester which adds up to about 5-6 classes. Also, you no longer have relaxer classes like P.E. and study hall! Each class you take will have a purpose- either for your major, minor or core requirements.  You might throw in a few for personal interest, but you have to be wise in time management and organization.  Each class is about an hour and 20 minutes (labs are 3 hours), so create your schedule wisely.

Battling Self-Deprecation

Self-deprecation is something that affects everyone, some more than most. For me, it is still something that I am battling today. But I have realized recently, that in order to improve my self-image and become the person that I truly want to be, I have to be aware of the bad habits that I engage in that lead to the lower image that I have of myself. I am going to identify two of these habits and address ways that I over come them. And hopefully, I might be able to help some of you who suffer from low self-esteem too.

1. Do you compare yourself to other people?

One of the biggest problems that I face, is that I compare myself with my classmates.  I look at other students and wish that I could be as smart, as social, or as productive as they are. These thoughts only make me feel inadequate. They don’t help me become a better person; they only bring me down. Now, whenever I find myself comparing my capabilities to other people, instead of thinking about how much I don’t like about myself, I think about how much I do like. For example, I think about how I am proud of the amount of work that I have done for the class, and I remind myself that I put in as much effort as I can. Those small reminders really help me feel more confident in myself, so try it the next time you feel like you are not as good as your peers!

2. Do you ever feel like you are not living up to your own expectations?

We all set high expectations for ourselves. We want the best grades, while also being able to balance extracurriculars, maintain our health/fitness goals, and build strong social relationships. Realistically, it is not fair to hold ourselves to such high standards and expect to attain all of them, because if we fail to achieve everything we want, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Instead, we should reevaluate our expectations of ourselves. For example, I make goals in my journal that I hope to achieve in the month. They are not crazy goals like “get an A on every exam” or “work out every day”. Those are extreme goals that I know I cannot meet. Instead, I make reasonable goals like “work out at least twice a week” and “start preparing at least two weeks in advance for each exam”. Those may not seem like very specific goals, or it may not seem like I am pushing myself enough, but honestly goals like these have been working for me. They remind me of what I want to accomplish, while actually being within my range of abilities. And when I am able to accomplish these goals, it feels really good and motivating!

I know how hard it is to stop comparing yourself to others, because I used to do it all of the time. But it only does more harm then good. I am overcoming these self-deprecating habits and you can too! Stop wishing you were someone else, and instead learn to love the person that you are. Recognize your strong points and use them to your advantage. I have given you two tips that have greatly helped me, so now I challenge you…to become the best and most confident version of yourself!

Book Review: “One More Thing” by B.J. Novak

Okay, so in another attempt to procrastinate and avoid all my responsibilities, I was dusting. A new low. Anyway, I found this book that I bought literally a year ago because I read two paragraphs that were hysterical. The lines were:

“‘And that’s the puzzling thing about dark matter,’ said the scientist at the end of our planetarium tour. ‘It makes up over ninety percent of our universe, and yet nobody knows what it is!’

People on the tour chuckled politely, like Wow, isn’t that a fun fact?

But I looked closer at the scientist, and I could tell something from the smirky little smile on his fat smug face:

[He] knew exactly what dark matter was.

And this is what drew me completely and utterly into the book. To me, this is such a gorgeous writing style. The book is titled, as the name of my article so helpfully suggests: One More Thing by B.J. Novak. People might recognize this name by his work in “The Office” where he was a producer, writer, and actor. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV so I didn’t know this about him, but reading only a little of this book, this guy is obviously hilarious. The book is a collection of short stories that I am slowly working through because, despite being unwilling to admit it, I am actually insanely busy and don’t have time to read like I did in high school. Even when I had time to read, I usually read fantasy fiction stuff, because I always found it more interesting. But the well written insights about humanity that Novak manages to convey in 1-7 pages per short story, delivered through sarcasm or ridiculous scenarios, are honestly fantastic.

The first short story, I thought, was the best rendition of The Tortoise and the Hare story that I have ever read. Titled The Rematch, it is essentially a follow-up about where the tortoise and the hare are in life. The Hare is described in the very first page of the book, with the paragraph:

“The hare gained weight, then lost weight; turned to religion, then another less specific religion. The hare got into yoga; shut himself indoors on a self-imposed program to read all the world’s greatest novels; then traveled the world; then did some volunteer work. Everything helped a little bit, at first; but nothing really helped. After a while, the hare realized what the simplest part of him had known from the beginning: he was going to have to rematch the tortoise.”

If you don’t find comedy in that, you have no soul. This was so funny because you hear stories like this all the time. Someone does bad on an exam, and they decide to “get their lives back together” by meditation, or turning to Buddhism, or going on some self-fulfilling quest to make all of Julia Child’s dishes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And even just the way it was written, with all of the semicolons and bouncy sort of diction you get when you say it out loud (which I did because I thought it was so funny that I had to tell my mom and sister) added to the humor of it. And the stories end kinda interestingly too, where you get weird little insights on life and stuff. That first excerpt I had, from the story Dark Matter actually ended kind of sweet, and it made me appreciate people a little bit, because it showed the complete thought process of someone and how that person viewed other people. So, if you wanna read like a very funny book, One More Thing is definitely a good option.

American Heart Month: Valentine’s Day May be Over, but It’s Not Too Late to Take Care of Your Heart

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If you didn’t get a chance to show support for American Heart Month by wearing red on February 3rd, you can still take action to promote a healthy heart every day. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for 1 in 4 deaths of men and women. Even more staggering is how highly preventable heart disease is through exercise and healthy diet choices. If you or someone that you know is at risk for heart disease, there are many simple steps that you can take to live a healthier life.

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One of the first steps you should take is to monitor your blood pressure. Everyone over the age of 18 should monitor their blood pressure regularly. The baselines vary from person to person and the guidelines have changed in recent years, so it is best to consult a doctor about what should be your “normal.” High blood pressure can lead to a heart attack. I’ll save you from the super science-y details, but basically high blood pressure causes a buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries, which makes them narrower and thus blood clots are more likely to form. If plaque or a blood clot blocks an artery, the flow of blood through the heart stops, which causes serious damage or death to the heart muscle.

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Regular physical activity reduces blood pressure because the heart becomes stronger and can essentially pump more blood with less effort, decreasing blood pressure. Everyone knows that it is better to park farther away from your destination, or to take the stairs instead of the elevator, but small changes like this can truly make a difference in the long run. 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity are recommended per week, but even walking around campus during a 20-minute break is better for your heart than sitting on your laptop.

Heart Protection

There are many amazing food options to help lower blood pressure as well. I have recently learned that healthy food doesn’t have to taste like diet food! The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute conducted three studies and found that the DASH Eating Plan prevents and treats high blood pressure, lowers blood cholesterol, and can help people lose weight when combined with physical activity. The US News and World Report even voted it the bets diet for 8 years in a row! The diet basically recommends increasing intake of foods that are good for you and limiting foods that aren’t as good for your heart. The word “diet” brings to mind a bunch of salads and expensive, tasteless snacks, but the DASH options actually sound delicious. They include margherita pizza, lemon cheesecakes, halibut with tomato-basil salsa, and white chicken chili. For more recipe ideas, visit


Lastly, everyone should take a CPR class and learn how to use an automatic external defibrillator so that you have the skills to save someone if you see them go into cardiac arrest. An in-person class takes about 1-2 hours, and it is offered on-campus during the Spring semester at a discounted price. You can also take one online at





So it’s now the third week of February and Spring Break is just two weeks away; but as great as that is, that means Midterms are upon us! The phase of all-nighters, tons of dollars spent on Starbucks, and hours spent contemplating if college is really for us. As someone who has experienced 4 exam periods at Rutgers, I can say it never truly gets easier, but you learn ways to manage it and get the most out of your studying. Below are some tips that have worked for me –

  • ATTEND THE REVIEW SESSION AND USE THE STUDY GUIDE – This seems like such an obvious thing to do, but as someone who has skipped a review session in the past and paid for it dearly – I don’t take it lightly. The study guide, as broad as it may be, is also very important. Your aim should be to at least understand 80% of the information concerning each topic or question outlined in the guide.
  • NOTES, NOTES AND MORE NOTES – Taking notes saves lives, at least to me. These notes don’t have to be from the lecture, but something that has worked for me is every weekend I read all the resources for the week’s topic (slides, textbook chapter, reading/article assigned) and make notes summarizing it. This helps especially during exam times because you might not have time to go over all the information again and the ease of having to just go through your notes to re-enforce what you were taught cannot be overemphasized.
  • STUDY GROUPS HELP A LOT – I’m not always a fan of study groups as I personally learn better studying alone with my headphones on. But study groups can be extremely beneficial especially after you have studied on your own, as you can learn more information from other students and you get bounce answers off each others backs.
  • DON’T OVER-STRESS YOURSELF – If you’re able to spread your studying over a longer period of time – do it. As an unrepentant procrastinator, I know that isn’t easy but rushing to study is not only a way to forget to study something, it is also just stressful mentally and physically.

Well that’s all I have for tips about midterms. I hope this helps you as much as it helped me and “may the curve ever be in your favor.” Don’t forget, Spring Break is right at the end of the tunnel!cusd spring break-550x0


Black Panther is a Good Movie


I feel like the title doesn’t really convey what it really means when I say that it’s a Good Movie. It requires Capital Letters and italics and bold, maybe even underlining, which really can’t be shown in the title for this post so I’m going to do it here: Black Panther is a Good Movie.  

A friend and I went to see it last Friday at the Rutgers Cinema, which is a really good movie theater, actually.  It’s not huge and it doesn’t show all of the movies that are currently out, but it always has the movies I want to see. It also doesn’t hurt that the matinees cost $5.00 instead of the $13.29 that my local movie theater charges. As I’m a broke college student, things being cheap is really the only thing I need to make me happy.


As a disclaimer, I’m not what some people would call a “movie buff”. First of all, I have no muscles so the word “buff” should never be applied to me in any way, shape, or form. Second, I’ve never taken a film class, I’m not a professional reviewer of anything (not that I wouldn’t mind having that job), and I haven’t even watched all of the Marvel movies. But you don’t need to be a professional food critic to know if something tastes like garbage or tastes amazing, so without further ado let’s get on with my completely unqualified movie “review.”

Let’s get this out of the way: the movie is gorgeous, the cast is amazing, the music is incredible. It’s action-packed and funny and heart-wrenching, and it’s incredibly poignant and resonant with the current political atmosphere.

(There has been a lot of talk lately about people like celebrities, athletes and people in the entertainment industry in general should stay out of politics. They should leave that talk to the politicians and experts. But, the thing is, a world in which only politicians and “experts” have the ability to talk about politics is not the kind of world I want to live in.)

If you somehow haven’t heard, Black Panther takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe following King T’Challa, who had recently ascended to the throne of the fictional African country of Wakanda after the death of his father, King T’Chaka, during the events Captain America: Civil War. T’Challa, the titular Black Panther, has returned to Wakanda and finds himself embroiled in a conflict that could be described as one between tradition and innovation. The entire movie, in fact, could be thought of as a conflict between tradition and innovation, as said by the film’s director, Ryan Coogler.

And again, I’m not an expert, but it is pretty cool to see a movie with a primarily Black cast that doesn’t involve slavery, the Civil Rights era, or gang violence. In my opinion, not that movies about those things are bad movies, but it can often be stereotyped to be the only settings where pre-dominantly Black actors are cast for.

That is not to say that the movie doesn’t touch upon these ideas. The film constantly mentions that Wakanda is a country that was never colonized and it never experienced the slave trade. It’s a thriving technological utopia on a continent the some people still think is populated by zebras and people living in huts. The movie even plays with that idea by using the image of hut-dwelling zebra (or rhino, in this case) herders to hide their true nature from the outside world.


That’s another thing about Black Panther that was really interesting. Wakanda is an incredibly isolationist country. Much of the tradition vs. innovation conflict is driven by the Wakandans’ intense desire to preserve their way of life and their fear of being exploited by foreign powers. If that doesn’t sound familiar to you, then you haven’t been paying attention to the news nor have you opened a history book in your entire life.

Wakanda may not have been touched by the slave trade, but they saw it happen and they saw its effects on African people. You can see why they’re not too eager to mix with the rest of the world. However, Wakanda is a powerful nation with advanced technology that people can only dream of at this point. Nothing short of an alien invasion could destroy Wakanda and its way of life. As seen in the movie, it’s a country that’s strong enough to welcome the outside world and maintain its traditions and way of life.


It’s passivity and isolation is another driving force in the movie’s conflict and its fear of outsiders can be seen as a reflection of U.S. politics and the ongoing debate on foreign aid and immigration. Ultimately, this movie is about compassion for other people and leaves you with this final message: If you have the power to help people, you should.

(If you want the movie’s actual final message, not including the final after-credits scene, it’s this: “The wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers.”)

SASHP Senior Spotlight: Sarah Lin

Sarah Lin Senior Spotlight

PDF Version

Be sure to check out Sarah’s Senior Speech:

When I was in middle school, I read a short story by Sandra Cisneros titled “Eleven.” The story starts something like this: “What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel eleven at all. You feel like you’re still ten. And you are—underneath the year that makes you eleven.”

On a day like today, I can’t help but agree with that story’s eleven-year-old narrator. What people never seemed to tell us about college is that when you’re a college senior, you’re also a junior, sophomore, and freshman…and all the ages that came before then. As I reflect on my varied experiences in the SAS Honors Program and at Rutgers at large, I can remember feeling like a 3-year-old running after the ice cream truck back in freshman year — except for the fact that the ice cream truck was a Weekend 1 bus leaving Scott Hall in less than one minute. I can remember feeling ten when I found myself sitting in my first college class: an SAS Honors Interdisciplinary Seminar. Feeling proud after flawlessly navigating the bus system to get to College Ave, I soon realized that I was the only freshman in the room and could barely even get my name out when it came my turn to speak. The year after, I found myself in another SAS Honors class, but that time, I had developed more of my own voice. By then, I had been to countless office hours, learned from the wisdom of my Honors faculty mentor, badgered my peer mentor with question after question, experienced the joy and chaos that is King Neptune Night to give me the fuel to keep studying, and developed a new group of friends after living in the McCormick Suites for a year. I felt more like a mature…sixteen-year-old then. And then in my junior year, as I stood alongside other HP students in the Gardner Fellowship presenting our independent research projects that we had labored on for months, I finally felt twenty, or perhaps even twenty-five, as I soaked in these larger-than-life moments that this program helped to create.

Now, as we find ourselves in this liminal space, on the brink of entering this whole new world of #adulting in which we sometimes assume that we have to act like a put-together 20-something-year-old all the time, this short story reminds me that it is okay to feel three or ten or sixteen or twenty all at the same time. Our moments of childlike excitement (like when we tried every last flavor of ice cream at Brower, or donned our Big 10 shirts to cheer on the Scarlet Knights at our first football game, or discovered that college meant you could get Cookie Rush delivered to your door at 3 in the morning) and our moments of courage and resolve (like when our fellow students organized marches to advocate for the rights of undocumented Rutgers students, or shared their own MeToo stories in the wake of the movement, or defended their honors theses just a few weeks ago) — those moments are what make us the soon-to-be-Rutgers-graduates who will be able to take on the world with wide-eyed wonder.

Personally, I can’t help but think of just how much I’ve changed and grown, despite how nonlinear that growth may have felt in the moment. For that, I am grateful for mentors who challenged me to do things like take a percussion Byrne seminar at Mason Gross, friends who made sure I made time to rest and therefore discover the beauty of quiet spaces on Cook, and individuals who went out of their way to do things like encourage me to apply to be a FIGS Peer Instructor so that I could eventually teach my own college class on public policy topics.

So as we reflect today on all that the SAS Honors Program has provided us with — from the honors housing communities, to the mentorship experiences, stellar academic opportunities, and so much more, let us not forget how much we’ve been given over these last few years on the banks. We will undoubtedly feel like confused college freshmen a few more times in our lifetime, but this time, we’ll be armed with all of the lessons and memories that have come with being an SAS Honors Scholar. What they never seemed to tell us about college is that when you’re a college senior, you’re also a junior, sophomore, and freshman…except now we have all we need and more to go out and change the world. Thank you.

My Visit with Congressman Donald Payne Jr.

I recently started working at the Charmil Davis Foundation for Colon Cancer Support and Prevention and we recently took a trip to Newark NJ to visit Congressman Donald Payne Jr. We went to honor his father Congressman Donald M Payne, who was the first black congressman elected into Congress from NJ.

So when I was reading about the late Congressman Donald M Payne, I actually found his story incredible inspirational. Rep. Payne was elected into office in 1988 after losing twice in 1980 and 1986. He was born in Newark, NJ and grew up very poor. Despite all that, he graduated from Barringer High School and Seton Hall University. He was always so humble and always cared about the people around him. This motivated him to serve the people in public. Before his time in Congress, he served as city councilman from Newark and president of YMCA. He served as a teacher and began doing a social work in the neighborhood. After some in time, he ran for the House of Representatives in 1980 and 1986 and lost to the incumbent Democrat. He successfully ran and won in 1988. With his victory, he began the first black man to serve in Congress from NJ. Congressman Donald M Payne served in the House from 1989 until his death 2012.

Last Friday on Feb 2nd, I had an amazing opportunity to meet Congressman Payne’s son, Donald Payne Jr. As mentioned, I went with the Charmil Davis Foundation for Colon Cancer Support and Prevention. We visited Congressman Payne Jr because his late father was a mentor to Charmil Davis and supported her early career in journalism, which is why Congressman Payne Jr supported our foundation. Charmil always told us how important people are to Congressman which is what I found inspirational.

When we visited, Congressman Donald Payne Jr was talking about all of his father’s legacy. I was amazed by how humble he was. Congressman Payne Jr ran and won the special election that immediately followed his father’s passing. I just found that to be incredibly strong. After he talked about his father’s legacy, he talked about politics. What I took away was that it is very important for millennials to get interested in politics. The country is going to be ours, so it is important to always have faith in the government.

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This is Charmil Davis who is the President and Founder of the Charmil Davis Foundation. She was a former White House journalist and is currently battling colon cancer. She is so strong and passionate and she is always talking about what its like to go through therapy and how much cancer patients really suffer. She always tells us (which I took to heart) is that we need to take care of people now and give what we can to help others. I think I will always admire her courage and passion.

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One of our interns is Muslim and she mentioned that fact to Congressman Payne Jr. And as a result, he gave her a copy of the Quran. I thought that was amazing and the fact that he even had a Quran in his office is worth noting. And I thought that the edition looked beautiful.

And these are just group pictures that we took. On the left is with Congressman Payne Jr. and on the right is with a statue of the late Congressman Donald M Payne.