Internships – Red flags to look for in your internship?

Internships – Red flags to look for in your internship?

(Click here for the first part of this series on Academic Internships, “How to prepare.”)

As with anything good, there can be some trying to take advantage. Make sure that no one is taking advantage of you in your internship. Here are tips on what to look for during your internship program.

What’s the worst that can happen?

To be frank, Brian Frenette, Associate Director of Employer Programs of Yale University’s Center for International and Professional Experience responded,

“The worst that can happen is that someone participates in an internship they do not like and they learn what area/job function/industry they are most certainly not interested in. This, ultimately, is very valuable information”.

The whole purpose of enrolling in an internship, especially a private school internship, is for someone to gain some experience in what they are most interested in. Not all jobs will suit everyone and an internship gives students a small glimpse into what their future may be like if they were to apply for such a job. Ultimately, as Robert Pierce, the Community Engagement and Placement Coordinator of California State University in Fullerton stated, “an internship should be an opportunity for you to learn”. Internships provide the chance to not only find what you like but also what you don’t want to pursue as a career. But there are some dangers to avoid with internships as Mr. Pierce noted,

“…the traditional view of the intern is someone who generally “helps out” and does busy work such as filing, data entry, coffee runs etc. I work each day trying to dispel this traditional view and help organizations offering internships to understand that they are educational opportunities.”

Students should consider the above statement if they are applying to internships for academic credit and immediately alert their internship office if this situation occurs. Internship work will often involve more “clerical” work but students should insure they are also engaged in other ways to make the most of their internship experience.

Overall internships, although not perfect, offer real-world experience for students to try out on their own.

Next week we’ll be more positive, and give advice on when to know you are in a good internship.

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Blog Series: High School Academic Internships

Blog Series: High School Academic Internships

High school internship programs!

For students who want to get ahead and partake in real-life work experience, internships may be the key to their success. At Areteem Institute, it is a requirement for students to enroll in our private school internship program beyond taking their usual classes. Our hope is that they will make more informed decisions when searching for the colleges they want to attend and what career pathways they wish to embark upon.

For our purposes, we spoke with relevant Academic Internship directors from three universities: Yale University, California State University, Fullerton and University of California, San Diego.

We are excited to launch a blog series for our parents and students who are interested in making the most out of their Academic Internship experience. Also, we are going to continue interviewing experts on this topic to develop a comprehensive resource on this subject, and provide it digitally for no charge. (To inquire about that, email
The experts seemed to agree that students should reflect on the goals they want to achieve when applying for an internship. They should think about the skills they want to develop, their personal interests as well as the fields or careers they are interested in. Students should use the aid of online resources and people they know at school and at home that may help them land an internship interview. Tricia Oliveira, the Director of UCSD’s Academic Internship Program advised that students at an interview should,

“…ask about what kinds of projects and tasks past interns have been involved with, or what a typical day for an intern with them is like,…[also] about the organization or department and their goals, projects or clients. If you know you are especially interested in certain types of opportunities, ask if that will be a possibility, (e.g., in an internship with a news station, you might ask if interns typically have the opportunity to shadow a reporter).”

Lastly, students should further consider whether they want their internships to count for school credits, be paid or if they should go just for the experience. All are valid factors in the kind of internship a student wants to apply to.

Next week, we will continue this blog series on Academic Internships, focusing specifically on the kinds of red-flags you should look for.

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Advice from the Whisperer: Writing the Personal Statement for College – Part 3


Hello again, lets continue with those college applications shall we!

Last time we were talking about how to write an outstanding personal statement for your college applications. We decided to break it down into three steps, the first being asking one of your teachers to help you edit the paper. So now we shall move on with the next one.

Topic 2 Highlighting Experiences to Show How Unique You Are

When looking on college admissions websites, you will find included under the personal statement section the prompts and other information that will tell you what colleges want you to write about. Mainly they ask you to write two essays with a certain word limit for each. The two prompts that colleges will most likely ask you to write about are:

1. Describe one of your passions or an experience dear to you.

2. Talk about something you have not addressed in the application, such as a challenge in your life that you know you have overcome.

You will notice that universities want to hear about you and the effort you put into analyzing why these experiences have helped you grow as an individual. These prompts are essentially the area in which you can shine in your college application as you get to talk about your favorite person in the whole wide world…YOURSELF!… Well, at least you should consider yourself to be your own favorite person, not to sound too egotistic!

Here you can write about anything in under one page. Yes it’s quite short but in the end college admissions representatives want to see that you can at least think about your own life and how you have changed. You can include anything from a favorite hobby, sport or activity you have or are still involved in. College representatives will take note of this section to see how well you can express your thoughts in print as you re-examine some aspect of your life that is important to you.

Hobbies Dance

For my essay I wrote about my love for dancing. No, it did not in any way remotely relate to Biological Sciences at the time (before I switched majors and graduated with my BA in Comparative Literature!) but Yes it’s one of my hobbies and I can write a ton about it as its one of my passions! I wrote about how I enjoyed dancing from the time I was little when I took ballet, tap and jazz lessons to improve my balance and coordination to when I danced all four years in my high school’s dance program. If it’s something you truly love, admissions staff will see that. Just think that this essay could in fact be the deciding factor for an admissions officer to select you over someone else. And don’t we all want that lovely envelope telling us we have been accepted at the college we wanted to get into? Everyone wins.

Hobbies Volunteer

Some of the best ideas to draw from are your home life as well as the ways in which you have reached out to other people in your community such as volunteer work (so yes all of those hours spent cleaning up at the beach, going to convalescent homes and helping students choose books at your local library were not all in vain!). In fact they made you a better person because you helped others. College Admissions want the kind of people that will turn into the leaders of tomorrow who are more caring, sympathetic and conscientious of the world around them.

To find out more information, look on your college admissions website as they provide much needed guidance in how to write your personal statement.

Next week will be the conclusion of writing an A for Awesome Personal Statement, so don’t miss out!


Writing for Fun! Essential Elements of a Story

online jr high school

~Byron H., the Writing Whisperer

Welcome back to our series on how to write a short story! Perhaps by now some of the Whisperer’s followers have thought about some ideas, maybe jotted down a few notes about a story they had in mind. And for those who have just joined us at this stage, come along for the ride!

As I stated in the last blog, we are now going to delve into how a story is put together by learning about some essential elements – the backbone of a story. There are many topics to cover and so I will only mention a few and the rest you can research for yourselves in more depth!

When learning to write a story you as an author should be aware, or have at least some idea, how your story will unfold. The story will write itself when the ideas are flowing. To assist, you need to create a general mental, if not written, outline to keep track of all the action that will take place in your story. A way to do this is by identifying the separate parts of the story.

Each one usually has the following key elements: a plot, a setting and characters. All of these create the general mood, or tone, of the story.

talented kids

The plot is the sequence of events that take place in the story that lead the characters (the main and supplementary participants ranging from people, animals to inanimate objects who either tell the story are involved in it) through challenges and interactions with other characters in order for them to realize their full potential or gain some knowledge about the world around them.

The setting informs readers of the time and place of your story. Are we in a real world setting like a city or an imaginary world in outer space, Wonderland or Hogwarts? Are we in the ocean, a desert, a forest, an island, a hospital, a prison or in someone‘s house? And what time period are we in, the past, the present or the future?

Just based on location and time readers will know if people speak a different dialect or language, what clothes they are wearing and what outside events are happening that could influence the plot of the story or just be on the periphery of the action (e.g. wars, new inventions, a mysterious disappearance). These will help readers understand what different beliefs, rituals and practices are part of the environment the characters are living in as they all will influence the way of thinking and motivations behind what the characters do in the plot of the story.

The tone is determined by all of the previously mentioned factors of the plot, setting and characters which then creates the mood, the readers’ perception of what the author thinks or feels about his or her story. To illustrate, you could write about something light and positive describing a warm, sunny, clear blue sky day in a meadow full of flowers (this is a happy image for most people!). Or conversely, depending on how you want your characters to be feeling that day, could reveal a cynical point of view (the way the character or narrator (who tells the story) views life around them) dredging through a blazing inferno of empty skies with no end, the grass cutting through their legs like knaves and flowers that are seem superficially “perfect” but are in fact rotting away inside. (Yes tone can be quite intense!)

jr. high school

It is very revealing and can be either in-your-face or otherwise subtle and seemingly undetected. This will set up the way the author wants you to view the story. For example, you could paint a nostalgic picture of small town Americana with all of its nosy neighbors and annual rituals but under the surface there may lie secrets, dark and sinister, that will be explored in the book by the main characters. (This relates to an element known as foreshadowing when events are merely hinted at but will later reveal themselves in the plot of a story for good or ill will but I am getting ahead of myself!).

Your story may include overarching themes (the most common we all know: good vs. evil, parent and child relationships, growing up, life and death, etc.) that help enhance the story. You may even include allusions (references from other stories, books, TV shows, movies or even history) that will allow readers to make sense of the action in the story by relating it to people, events and objects (real and imaginary) they may know already. For example, characters’ names might refer to ideas and themes (e.g. Mr. Summers, Mr. Graves) or other literary or historical figures (like Alice in Wonderland or the outspoken Puritan Anne Hutchinson).

Even the characters themselves might make a reference to something they have read or seen from our world (e.g. In science fiction and fantasy writer Ray Bradbury’s story “The Halloween Tree”, a group of trick or treaters on Halloween night approach a creepy, “haunted-looking” house and think that the large doorknocker is similar to the one that Ebenezer Scrooge had in Charles Dickens‘ “A Christmas Carol” as its in the shape of a large ghostly head).

There is plenty more to discuss but I will leave you all, my dear readers, to that!

challenging talented mindsAnd now since you have a better idea of what goes into creating a story you can apply your newfound knowledge by reading a very well-known and chilling short story called “The Lottery” by famed author Shirley Jackson (known for writing “The Haunting of Hill House” which was made into the 1963 cult classic “The Haunting” as well as the 1999 remake. These films are not to be confused with “House on Haunted Hill” film starring Vincent Price or its remake!).

Here is a link to the story. You can also use the discussion questions included on the last page to get you thinking about the story as it relates to elements we were just talking about!

Let me know what you think by sending a message! I remember reading this in my freshman English honors class in high school and its stuck with me since then.

You can also check out this appropriate blog that reveals more information on plot, setting and character.

Happy Writings!

Tune in next time for some ideas on how to develop your story…


Advice from the Whisperer: Writing the Personal Statement for College – Part 2

physics competition

~by Byron H., the Writing Whisper

In a couple of blogs ago I introduced the issue of writing the college application essay. Now lets look at each tip one by one…

Topic 1 – Asking a Teacher to Edit Your Paper

As times have changed from the paper-writing days of our parents when they went off to college, we also need to seek help from our high school teachers who are more “in the know” about college applications. Today’s educators have to keep up-to-date as they are the ones responsible for providing us with the education we need in order to obtain higher goals in life, such as going to college and eventually working a full-time job or career. So take some time aside and scout out one of your favorite teachers, who you know will give you good feedback, in helping you to write and edit your personal statement for college.

Yes we are all busy and have a life outside of high school but most teachers that you know well will be more than happy to help. They too had to do the same thing and its better to have a couple of people look at your paper than just one.

essay competition

The obvious teacher choice would be your English or History teachers as they know what to look for when writing an analytical paper. That does not mean you cannot ask your Science or Math teacher as well, just as long as it’s a teacher you have (or had if its been a couple of years) good rapport with. I chose my English honors teacher from my freshman year not only because he helped me to write well but because we had a good relationship with each other that I kept up throughout all of the four years of high school. Not sounding parental (the Whisperer can tend to do that at times!) but it is nice to kept up contact with teachers who you liked and who enjoyed your company when you were in their class. You only have them for such a short time in high school and who knows, they might be the ones that you can go to for a good recommendation letter as well as helping you to look over your paper.

Before approaching a teacher you need to go online first and look up information about the personal statement for the university you applying to. There will be a section that describes the personal statement with given topics and prompts to write about. Try to address these topics by writing some notes about what experience or subject you think will relate to the prompt. After you have compiled your notes, seek out the teacher who you have in mind to help you. They may turn you down at first because they might have other students they are also helping to look over their essays (depends on how popular the teacher is!). But most of the time your first choice will be delighted you asked them for help. Your teacher will give you guidelines to make sure you are sticking to the prompt and the rest will write itself.

It will take some time for both you and your teacher to begin the editing process and that is where patience and managing your time comes in handy. You will have to visit your teacher during their break periods, your lunch time or even before or after school. Its a lot of extra time but it will be worth it in the end. Beyond your regular daily homework you will have to work on your college essay and keep up correspondence with the teacher who is helping you. You should set deadlines for each other to complete the paper but give some leeway as things do come up and you need to prepare for anything.

Once you and your teacher have completed the final drafts of your essay (or two depending on the prompts), leave them alone. You have been working on them for quite some time, potentially between two to four weeks, and your mind needs a break. Give it a few days and then come back to reading the paper again and bringing it in to your teacher for last minute grammatical corrections and clarity.

prestigious school

Then after the ordeal is over do not forget to thank your teacher for their help! A hand-written note, email or even a batch of cookies and chocolate is an added bonus that anyone wouldn’t pass up! And let them know if you got into the college of your choice as they played a part in your success! :)

Next time, we will look at Topic 2: Experiences to Write About in the College Paper

Come check out our Advanced English Literature and Writing courses online at our Areteem Institute departments page as they will provide a wealth of knowledge to help you write better! You can also contact our office in Irvine, CA for more details as well at:

Also to help you further help in improving your academic writing skills, check out the “Teens Writing for Teens” blog for some different options as well as many others.


Writing for Fun! Getting Started on Short Stories


essay writing bright students– Byron H., the Writing Whisperer

Hi Everyone,

To go along with our writing topics I want to include a variety of different genres (subjects that are written about such as fantasy,science fiction, mystery, history, horror, etc.) and mediums (e.g books, journals and newspapers)  so you can see the numerous forms that you can put pen to paper (or to the keyboard).

In the past post for Writing for Fun!, I wrote a short descriptive blurb about the Mid Autumn Festival in China and the harvest season in general. I wrote about traditions that were and are still practiced today in the fall. You, my fellow bloggers, can write about anything you want, real or imaginary. So to begin our journey lets start off with something we all know: short stories.

We read them in school and in our spare time online, in magazines and in books. Many authors have contributed, and still are contributing, to this fascinating area of literature and we can start with writers in our home base.

american lit high school

If we look back in time in early American literature, National Hawthorne and Washington Irving were two prominent writers in the early 19th century. You may know them as the writers of “The Scarlet Letter” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, respectively, along with their plethora of scary stories and historical accounts of their time. They helped to lay the groundwork for later writers the likes of Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe (one of the masters of macabre short stories and inventor of the detective novel, but more on Poe later!) Joyce Carol Oates, Shirley Jackson and Ray Bradbury (my favorite!) to name but a few and there are so many!

In order to get started, select some stories to read by each of the authors listed above as they will give you some impression of how the short story has evolved. Many people have listed their stories online and you can even pick up an anthology of short stories compiled by past and contemporary editors and authors.

One of my favorite anthologies is October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween, a most excellent collection of short stories by famous horror fiction writers of today. You can read it just in time for the approaching haunting season ahead! But lets see how you can write your own, shall we!

october dreams high school

Beyond reading a variety of stories, research how to write a story online just to get some ideas. Authors cannot really tell you how to write but they do offer good suggestions on how to get started (what to think about, how to develop your characters, write a plot, set the mood or tone, lead to turning points in the story, etc.). You can check out the articles on to begin your search.

For a basic writing exercise you can do right away, try this. Sit yourself down, at your computer or with a notebook in hand, and let images flash through your mind. When you find something interesting popping up, start to write all of the words down that appear in your mind. Or alternatively pick something of interest to you (a favorite pet, character in a TV show, a comic book, a movie, really anything) and just start to describe what you think about it. Who knows? Maybe one of these ideas could evolve into a story.

In our next post, we will think of an outline on how to write a short story and use a famous one as an example! Maybe even your Whisperer will include one of his own eventually…stay tuned!

study hard

To help you further I included a list of few of the many writing blogs for you all to look at just to get some inspiration, enjoy!