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Back to School: Organization, effective study key to success

Skylar Anderson, a local father of one, shares more about why he started StudyRight to help students and his top tips for academic success.

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Skylar Anderson with family
You might recognize Skylar Anderson's name here on Go Ask Mom. He's behind StudyRight, a local group that offers study skill training for middle school and high school students. Anderson, a father of one, recently shared some tips on helping tween and teen boys get excited about learning.

As many of us prepare for the first day of school later this month, I'll be featuring local parents who also work to help our kids learn. Here's more about Anderson and some tips to help us all get ready for school.

Go Ask Mom: Tell us a bit about yourself. It seems you always excelled in school?
Skylar Anderson: I'm originally from the Oklahoma City area, and I always had a fair amount of success academically including being honored as a national merit scholar. That said, it was also always important for me to be involved in extracurricular activities. I was a four-year varsity letterman on my high school swim team and played trumpet for four years in the marching band. After high school, I graduated summa cum laude from Baylor University on a full-tuition scholarship and am now three years into a Master's of Divinity program.
GAM: How did you get started with StudyRight?
SA: One of the strangest experiences of my life has been experiencing academic success while at the same time seeing other much brighter students struggle. I'm rarely the smartest person in a room (unless I'm home alone with my dog), but frequently those who were smarter than me would struggle academically. I first noticed this when a brilliant friend of mine -- who made a 35 on his ACT, had a full-ride scholarship to Oklahoma State University, and even had a stipend that paid him $3,000 per year -- failed out of college six months in. It seems like everyone I talk to has a friend or family member with a similar story, including research psychologists who estimate America's college dropout rate at nearly half.

I think that's a problem and, while I'm sure I don't have all the answers, I wanted to impact students' lives academically. I started StudyRight in 2011 as an attempt to make a difference in the lives of students just like my high school friend. As I looked back over my education, I can trace multiple areas of success to two weeks I spent learning how to study my sophomore year in high school. StudyRight is our way of making the same kind of study skills training available to students on a wide-spread level. Our experience has been that if we teach students great study skills in a way they enjoy, they'll use them and experience the benefits.

GAM: What kinds of programs and courses do you offer?
SA: At StudyRight, we offer study skills training courses in several different formats so that we can reach students with a course that fits any schedule. We offer online courses in either a five-week live webinar format or an on-demand video course format (including our newest course, The Dudes' Guide to Study Skills). Our online courses have allowed us to train students in three countries so far, and in the Triangle, we also offer in-person courses with various organizations throughout the year.

We're also excited about a pilot program we're conducting this fall in conjunction with the Wade Edwards Learning Lab. We'll be offering study skills training in a high-energy, large-group format to entire ninth grade classes at participating schools. We trained our first ninth grade class last week in Durham and are excited about the response so far.

GAM: What do you enjoy about the work?
SA: By far, my favorite thing about working with StudyRight is empowering students. This week, for example, I had a high school student tell me he had an "Aha" moment with organization that was going to change the direction of his education. That's why we started StudyRight, and that's what keeps us moving forward.
GAM: As we head back into the traditional school year, what are your top tips for parents and students for getting the year started right?
SA: While there are loads of tips we could suggest, the best students in the world have two broad skill sets. First, they have terrific organization skills. Second, they have equally as effective academic skills. Here are two tips that will help you improve these two skill sets.

First, help your student improve organization skills by changing the way he or she thinks about being organized. Most students see organization as just a way to keep track of their schoolwork. While that is definitely one goal of an organization system, the best organization systems also have a second goal: To keep students on track.

If you have a system for organizing your bills that doesn't focus on making sure they get paid, it's not a great organization system. In the same way, your student needs to organize assignments so that every assignment that hasn't been finished yet can be easily identified. We teach a holistic system to our students, but just having a homework folder may be enough for your student.

Second, help your students improve their academic skills by encouraging them to produce something every time they study. When I tutor students, the first thing I teach them to do is create something when they study. This can be notes, or a review sheet, or flashcards, or summaries, or any number of things. But the key is always producing something. This along with a great organization system will be great steps toward getting the fall started on the right foot.

For more about Anderson and what he offers, check StudyRight's website.
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