How do I begin to generate ideas for a good paper?
First, active reading (underlining and or highlighting the text, taking notes) is incredibly helpful in generating ideas for writing a paper. When reading, underline anything that you find interesting, beautiful, or think will be important. If your teacher has provided a prompt, look for any quotes that relate to that prompt, and if not, look at all your underlined quotes. Personally, I write down all of my quotes on a word document, and then I write notes underneath them about their meaning or why I chose to write them down. Then, I read through the word document and highlight quotes that seem to have patterns. Next, I put the quotes that connect to each other all next to each other, and look at each individual grouping to see if there are any connections or flow to make an argument. Often, I'll find that one group will have various parts to it that need explanation, and thus allow me to make a paper out of it. This is just one way of generating ideas, which helps create papers that are intent on close readings, but another good way to generate ideas about a paper is to skim over underlined and highlighted notes, and then force yourself to write for two minutes straight about the book. Usually, when you are not allowed to stop writing, ideas you did not even realize you had start to come out.
How should I study for an exam on "Romeo and Juliet" when I don't even understand Shakespeare?
The first thing to do with any Shakespeare is to read a summary. Learn the plot. Watch the Crash Course videos on Youtube about Romeo and Juliet. Learn all you can before tackling the old english. Do not forget that Shakespeare wrote incredibly popular plays, which are still currently being readapted and performed. Watching a video of Romeo and Juliet being performed in a modern context with the old language is really helpful and allows you to get a full picture of what Shakespeare might have been imagining. Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet" is genuinely entertaining and shows the modern day applications of Shakespeare's stories; I personally recommend watching that movie to get an understanding of the play. While watching the video, read along with your book, marking the phrases you don't understand. Then, since you are now a master of the plot, go through each line you don't understand and see if you can use contextual clues to help you figure out what Shakespeare meant. Where does the scene have to go? What are the relationships of the characters talking? If you get stuck, some books have translated sections, which are helpful in small doses. To really learn Shakespeare, though, avoiding those is usually best. Then, after you've worked through the lines you don't understand, have a friend or a tutor read lines to you. You should be able to explain them in their literal content and the greater implications they have for the story. If you can do this for all the lines your friendly tutor has asked you to explain, then you understand Shakespeare!
How do I even begin to make my college list?
Choosing which schools to apply to is a lengthy process, especially if you obsess over it to the extent that I did. Most lists consist of 2-3 reaches, 2-3 just-rights, and 2-3 safeties. To judge what schools are reaches, just-rights and safeties, try discovering if your school has a program like Naviance, which plots GPA and SAT scores with accepted students, waitlisted students and rejected students. This is usually the best indicator as to whether or not you can consider a school a safety, just-right or reach, as general SAT scores and GPA don't account for your specific school's history with the institutions you're applying to, the regional background, or the demographics of who is applying. However, if your school doesn't have a Naviance-type set up, websites like collegesimply.com can tell you general stats about schools. College Simply will also tell you admission chances based on test scores. It's also important to think about what you want out of college, like the size of the institution, the location, how predominant greek life is, etc. U.S. News and World Report's college rankings also give in depths guides to these questions, but the best way to get a feel of the campus and learn about the institution is through college tours. All the important information given in tours can be found on the school's website, also, but tours are a great way to get the feel of a campus and imagine what it would be like to really live there. Any school that passes the "I can see myself living happily here for the next four years" test is a school that should get priority on your reaches, just-rights and safeties list.