Accelerated and Combined Programs for Medical School, Business School, Law School and Dental School

College Admissions, Scholarships
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With the cost of college and graduate school skyrocketing, students and parents are looking for ways to save time and money.  Many people are not aware that quite a few colleges and universities offer accelerated and combined Bachelors and Professional Degree Programs.  If you are confident of the professional path you with to take – law school, medical school, business school or dentistry school – doing one of these programs may be a fantastic option.  Not only will you save 1-2 years of college tuition, but you will avoid having to apply to Graduate School.  If you find the ACT and SAT stressful, imagine having to do all of the testing again in four years with the MCAT, GRE, LSAT or GMAT.  Admission to these programs is highly competitive – much more competitive than general admission to the universities that have them. 

Here are four excellent lists of colleges and universities that offer these programs.  Be sure you check with the individual colleges to be certain this information is up to date:


List of Colleges with Combined B.S. and M.D. Programs.


List of Colleges with Combined B.A. and M.B.A. Programs.


List of Colleges with Combined B.A. and J.D. Programs (Law School).


List of Colleges with Accelerated Dental Programs:

How to Increase Your Mental Focus and Endurance When Taking the ACT, SAT, GED or Other Standardized Tests

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT Prep, AP, GED, IB, PSAT, SAT Prep, Study Skills, Study Tips, Uncategorized
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A common concern that students have when they take a major test, like the SAT, ACT or GED, is how they can maintain focus.  Here are 15 things that can help you improve your mental focus when you are taking a test. 

1.       Get Plenty of Sleep.  If you are cramming for a major memorization test, sacrificing a bit of sleep can make sense.  If you are studying for a major conceptual and problem-solving test, however, adequate sleep is essential.  The SAT, ACT, GMAT, GRE, GED and other major standardized tests uniformly are conceptual and problem-solving tests.  As such, be certain that you are well-rested for test day.  If you are thinking about staying up late to study the night before the SAT or ACT, please don’t!  Get a good night’s sleep instead. 

2.       Caffeine Can Backfire.  Caffeine can be a helpful supplement for students who have attention deficit issues (please talk to your doctor about your personal situation).  For most students though, caffeine can make you jumpy and jittery on test day.  The adrenaline you have pumping through your veins will more than be sufficient to make you alert.  You want to make sure you are not accelerating your thinking such that you make lots of careless errors. 

3.       Don’t Ask Too Much of Yourself.  If you have only score in the 50th percentile on practice tests, do not expect that you will score in the 99th on the actual test!  You will have significant focus issues if you attempt more problems than you should and if you attempt to read faster than you can comfortably do so.  If you give your mind a reasonable task to do, it will comply.  If you don’t, your mind will shut down and think about other things. 

4.       Get Medical Help if Needed.  If you notice that you have quite a bit more difficulty in focusing on tests than your friends do, it couldn’t hurt to have a doctor or psychologist evaluate you.  I once had a student who told me that every time he took a test, he could never stay focused.  I suggested that he see a doctor, since he had never been evaluated for attention issues.  He was able to get some ADHD medicine for his test.  He took the test with his medicine, and did well enough to get in the college of his choice.  It doesn’t hurt to look into this if you never have.  If paying for a medical evaluation is a concern, your school psychologist should be able to do an evaluation on you free of charge. 

5.       Control Where You Take the Test.  Don’t just sign up for any old test-center.  Try to take it at a school or facility where distractions will be kept to a minimum.  If you are distracted by large rooms and lots of noise, take the test at a school with small classrooms.  If you are distracted by having lots of people you know at a test center, sign up to take the test on the other side of town.  In any event, think  about where you should do it.  As long as you plan far enough in advance, you should be able to have plenty of control over where you take your test. 

6.       Declare a Drama Moratorium Leading Up to the Test.  You don’t need to take it to the extreme that one of my students once did – he broke up with his girlfriend a week before the ACT so she wouldn’t be a distraction to him!  You may want to isolate yourself a bit more leading up to a test so that you don’t have the “drama” that your “friends” may often cause.  Plan on going out for a fun evening with everyone after the test is over!

7.       Practice Without Social Media Distractions.  Nowadays, we are almost like cyborgs in how we are constantly connected to our phones, computers and tablets.  If you are practicing for the SAT, ACT or another test with the test in one hand and your phone in another, you are setting yourself up for failure.  Get used to practicing without having the constant interaction of social media so that you don’t experience internet deprivation when you are stuck taking a test for 5 hours. 

8.       Have a Snack During Breaks.  This is one of the easiest yet most helpful things you can do to stay focused during tests.  Most every major test will give you some sort of a break.  Use this time to get your blood sugar up to where it should be by having a healthy snack:  granola bar, banana, energy bar, etc. 

9.       Wear Earplugs.  I have never come across anything saying you can’t use earplugs during major tests.  If you are distracted by the smallest of noises, go ahead and bring earplugs (they only cost a few dollars) and tune out your fellow test-takers.   Just be sure that you are aware of when the test proctor is calling time so that you aren’t ejected from the testing site for continuing work when you shouldn’t. 

10.   Eat Peppermint When Studying and When Test-Taking.  I have heard and read from various sources that eating peppermint while you study and then having peppermint while taking a memorization-based tests can help you remember things because you are connecting key concepts to your primitive sense of smell.  I have not tried this personally, but I have had students do this and say that it is helpful.  If nothing else, it will have a placebo effect, giving you more confidence in your ability to remember things. 

11.   Do Relaxation and Hypnosis Exercises.    Athletes do mental conditioning.  Musical and dramatic performers do too.  Performing well on a standardized test is a major undertaking – why not do some relaxation or hypnosis exercises to help you focus?  If your situation is really bad, you may even consider hiring a professional hypnotist to help you learn to subconsciously tune out distractions and focus on the task at hand while taking a test.  If your lack of focus is more mild, you can do any number of relaxation exercises available in books or online to help you channel your energy when test-taking.  

12.   Get Test Anxiety Under Control if Needed.  If you are always distracted by serious worries about your performance when taking a test, address these concerns ahead of time by thinking through how you will handle your test anxiety.  I have an in-depth guide of suggestions here:

13.   Get Motivated if Needed.  If you are distracted when test-taking because you just don’t care, find motivation.  The best way to do this is to talk to your parents, teachers or older friends who can tell you why doing well on test you are about to take is indeed very important.  I can assure you that they will have some advice that will ring true for you. 

14.   Accept That There is Nothing Else You Can Do During Test Time.  When I go on an airplane ride, I accept that I will not be able to call anyone or use the internet during this time.  I embrace this quiet time, reading or talking with family members.  Use the same mindset when you take a major test.  Let go of any of the other things that could be bugging you during this time because there is absolutely nothing you can do about them during the test.  Given the ever-present media distractions we face, doing a standardized test can in a way be a bit liberating!  (I know that’s a stretch, but some of you may be able to look at it that way. . . )

15.   Build Your Mental Endurance.  If you are about to run a marathon and you haven’t even gone for a run around your neighborhood, you will completely fall apart.  Similarly, if you are going to take a 4 or 5 hour test, it is unlikely that you will be able to focus for this long if you have done nothing to build your test-taking stamina.  If you know you have issues with mental focus, be sure to do some full-length tests leading up to the actual thing. 

I hope you have found this discussion helpful.  If so, please share it with your friends!  Thanks, Brian Stewart

10 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Study

Study Skills, Study Tips, Teaching
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Are you having trouble finding motivation to study?  Are the old tried and true pieces of advice – think about your future!  You should do your best! – not resonating with you?  Do you find what you are doing in school to be pointless?  Do you know that you need to change your study habits, i.e. you just can’t make yourself sit down and do it?  Here are ten suggestions I have for getting yourself motivated to study. 

1. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  So often, we set ourselves up to fail by telling ourselves that we must do everything we can to get a perfect on the test or we may as well not even try.  Procrastination is sometimes a defense mechanism against  the possibility of failure – if you put things off, you’ll at least have an excuse as to why you didn’t succeed, whereas if you try and fail, you have no one to blame but yourself.  Don’t fall into this mindset.  Classes in school are very rarely pass and fail.  If you can put in 30 minutes and it can help you earn a B but it would take you 2 hours to earn an A, at least put in some time so that you can have a decent result. 

2. Studying doesn’t have to be miserable.  Ask yourself what you can do to make your studying experience more pleasant.  Do you like having music on in the background?  Is there a favorite food or beverage that you can reserve for study times?  Is there a relaxing place that you can go?  Figure out what is within your control to make the studying experience more tolerable. 

3. Schedule a clear beginning and end to your studying.  If you have a giant chunk of time when you will be “studying” but will spend most of your time being distracted, you won’t get much done at all.  Start with a clear beginning and a clear end to your studying and even though it seems like you won’t have enough time to finish things, you will be far more efficient and focused this way.    

4.  Ask for structure if you can’t get it from within.  If you know that you are unable to create a structured study plan for yourself, enlist the help of others to make it happen.  It’s just like having a personal trainer to help you get in shape!  Some ideas: 

  • Ask a teacher if you can come into their room to study so you won’t be distracted by others in study hall. 
  • Ask a friend or parent to hold your cell phone or video games for you until you get what you need done. 
  • Go to your parent’s place of work to get things done and then come home when you are ready to have fun.    

5.  Get the studying over with so you can enjoy uninterrupted fun.  Realize that you will enjoy watching TV, hanging out with your friends and playing video games much, much more if you do not have any homework or tests hanging over your head.  Don’t try to multitask by studying a little and having fun a little.  Focus 100% on studying and you will be much more efficient and effective.  Then you can focus 100% on enjoying yourself. 

6.  Get big picture perspective from others on how studying affects things long term.  If you talk to your classmates about studying, they will probably just enable you by telling you how little they care about studying as well.  Instead, gain valuable perspective and motivation by talking to those who are older than you.  Ask them what knowledge and skills they wish they had later in life.  What you will probably find is that they wish they would have learned the stuff that is much more difficult to learn later on:  math and science concepts, foreign languages, better writing and communication skills, etc.  If you chat with people who are further along life’s journey, they may help you see the path you should take. 

7.  Remember that you are learning SKILLS.  The actual content of what you learn will not be nearly as important as your ability to learn.  Will you have to compute the area of a circle every day of your professional life?  No, but you will have to do analytical problem solving.  Will you need to know the cultures and histories of different countries to make more money?  Probably not, but you will benefit from being able to put yourself in the shoes of others.  Does it really matter whether you have a good essay on a novel you read in English?  Long term, it probably won’t, but it will be extremely valuable to know how to communicate effectively.  Whenever you feel that what you are learning is pointless, realize that as long as you are learning how to think, read, write and problem solve, you are indeed preparing yourself for the future.      

8.  Surround yourself with good people.  If your friends keep you from achieving your goals and want to bring you down to their level, maybe it’s time to find some new friends.  It is very hard to overcome the influence of friends who will pressure you into not caring about things – they will make you feel like a nerd and an outcast if you care too much.  Keep your focus on your long-term goals and surround yourself with people who will help you become the best person you can be.   

9.  Use your boredom to find more efficient methods!  Look at being bored as a good thing!  If someone had not been bored at having to ride a horse from one town to another, we would have never bothered to invent canals, railroads and cars!  Use your laziness as motivation to find the most efficient method you can to learn what you need in the shortest time possible.  For example, if you can’t stand filling out a review sheet, make a study group with your friends and divide up the review sheet among yourselves and share the answers with one another.  If you hate learning flashcards, use a site like to make your own.  If you hate taking notes while you read, use a site like to supplement your understanding of the text.  Learning what works best for you will help you as you go on to college and professional life, because you will have much greater control over how you structure your studying. 

10.  Learn GRIT.  No matter what you do in life, there will be times when you need to do something that is not all that enjoyable to do.  The better that you can become mentally tough by having a great deal of personal grit,  they more likely you can overcome obstacles that stand in your way.  Grit is arguably one of the most important life skills that doing homework can teach you. 

I hope you found these ideas helpful.  If so, please share it with your friends!  Thanks, Brian Stewart

What is the Best Way to Study?

Study Skills, Study Tips
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How should you study?  The two most important things are to:

1.       Be Active, Not Passive

2.       Make Your Studying Like the Assessment

When you study, it is essential that you study actively – you must not sit there and expect that by putting in an hour of studying you will magically know more material.  You must constantly ask yourself questions and monitor your understanding.  Here are some examples of Active vs. Passive Studying:



Asking yourself questions about your notes and rewording what you have previously written.

Just “looking over” your notes

Putting what the teacher says into your own words when you are listening to lecture. 

Simply hearing what the teacher is saying in lecture. 

Annotating, summarizing, and analyzing while you read a text. 

Moving your eyes over the pages while thinking about something else. 

Creating and studying flashcards based on your review guide.

Skimming over the terms on your review guide without thinking about them. 

Targeting your focus on your weak areas.

Studying everything with equal focus. 


The big idea is that much like the world of work, simply showing up and hanging out for 8 hours does not mean you actually accomplished anything that day.  It’s the same with studying.  More time does not necessarily equal more knowledge.  If you only perceive  the material but do not think about it, you will not fully understand it and you will have wasted your time. 

When I was in college calculus, I had a solutions manual that accompanied my textbook.  For my first exam, I studied in a passive way – I simply read over the solutions to problems without actually solving them myself.  I did terribly on my exam.  For my next test, I committed myself to doing the hard work of doing the problems without peeking at the tempting solutions manual.  The results were much, much better. 

Since most assessments will test your in-depth memory and understanding of the material, active studying will only help you in your preparation for the test.  You must take this a step further by ensuring that your studying replicates the type of thought process that will be necessary when you demonstrate your knowledge.  Be flexible in how you prepare – get out of your comfort zone when necessary. 

Let me give you a personal example.  A couple of summers ago, I was asked to give a talk at an educational conference.  My natural inclination to prepare myself was to sit in front of my computer and read over my remarks in my head.  Since I had never done a talk like this before, I decided to hire a professional speech coach to help me do my best. 

My speech coach gave me some awesome advice:  make your practice like your presentation.  Instead of brainstorming on the computer, brainstorm vocally since that is how you would deliver it.  Instead of reading over the notes on the screen, actively present them in a room.  Rather than assuming my timing and delivery would be fine, practice in front of others to take care of any potential issues. 

Following his advice, my presentation went really, really well.  Had I prepared for this presentation the way I am most comfortable preparing for assessments, i.e. holing up by myself and reading over things, it would have been a disaster. 

If you are going to have an oral presentation as your assessment, practice as you will be assessed.  If you are going to have a multiple choice test, do multiple choice practice.  If you will have an essay, do essay prewriting practice.  If your preparation does not match the way you will be tested, you are wasting your time. 

I hope you found this discussion helpful.  If so, I would invite you to share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart

Where is the Best Place to Study?

Study Skills, Study Tips
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Where is the best place to study?  The location won’t matter one bit if you allow yourself to be distracted no matter where you are.  This will happen if you have your laptop, IPad or cell phone close by and are constantly interrupting yourself by checking texts, status updates, and tweets.  The most important place to study nowadays is where you won’t have access to media distractions.  When I taught high school, it never failed to amuse and amaze me how students would complain about how much work they had while also complaining about how much time they wasted on facebook and twitter.   There is nothing wrong with facebook and twitter – they just make it quite difficult to concentrate on challenging problems and focus while you read rigorous texts. 

Once you’ve put your electronic device away, then where does it make the most sense to study?  I have found that students fall into one of two categories:

  • Uptight Studiers:  For students who are not bothered by external noises, going to a public library or a coffee shop can be a great place to make the studying experience far more relaxing and enjoyable.  I personally enjoy studying in this way. 
  • Distracted Studiers:  Find a quiet, isolated environment where you can study without interruption.  It could be your bedroom, a quiet room in a library, or perhaps your basement.  If a noise-free zone is not possible, you may want to use earplugs or headphones to help out.  White noise generators, many of which are freely available online, can help you drown out distractions without further distracting you with musical lyrics. 

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with your friends!  Thanks, Brian Stewart

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