Category Archives: Getting Through The College Application Process

06 Feb 2018

Second Semester Junior Year

Second semester junior year is a critical time to prepare for the college application process that will begin senior year. From test prep to summer plans, every detail matters.

Key factors that should be on every Junior’s mind:

1. Academic Excellence

Every year of high school academic are important. Junior year is no exception but it is the last opportunity students have to prove consistently high marks OR a clear trajectory of growth.

If you had a weaker start in high school but you have shown consistent growth through second semester junior year, college admissions committees will look at your grades favorably. Remember, any progress you make senior year won’t be on your application transcript.

2. Leadership Positions

Colleges want to see a commitment to 2-3 extracurricular activities that you’re really passionate about. Being able to show a leadership positions that has made a difference in your school or community is the best way to prove you will an asset to the college of your choice and will be able to contribute to the school community.

Begin thinking about possible leadership position in your senior year while you are still a junior. Put your name in for captain, start planning your student council campaign, talk to your coach or teacher about how you can contribute more to the team.

3. Summer Plans

A productive and fulfilling summer is just as important as the school year for your college application. Options can include work, volunteering, travel, or study.  To have the best opportunities available, start planning for them before spring break of your junior year.  Most summer programs have application processes that will need to be completed before March.

4. Test Prep

Summer is a time when most students do not have the structure of a daily schedule. Summer before junior year is the best time to prepare for standardized college, or, if you have completed your junior year, it is the best time to conclude test prep so you can take official tests in the early fall.

Meeting with a tutor more frequently during the summer months and adding more practice will help you reach your score goals.

And don’t forget to check exam dates and make sure you register for the right ones.

5. Identify your Recommenders

Start thinking about who will write your letters of recommendation. Before you leave for the summer, ask your teachers if they will write your recommendation.

Remember:

a) It is more courteous to ask for the recommendation (unless she has already agreed to write it, then begin your letter by confirming her offer).

b) Include a list of your accomplishments from freshman year to present. Don’t forget to highlight any leadership positions and include non-school related activities.  (This is an excellent motivation to write a resume).

c) Be direct and ask for a strong, stellar, outstanding… whatever word you choose… recommendation.

d) Provide a time line for a response and a date for the completed recommendation.

e) Close your request with a thank you and.

6. Narrow your College List

By the end of second semester junior year, you’ll want to have a preliminary list of colleges you want to apply to. Start the research. Know your “competitive tiers” – the schools that would be your target, reach, and safety schools.

7. College Visits

Use spring break to visit colleges while they’re in session. While it is nice to visit schools on your list, also take the schools with a variety of factors – urban vs. rural, big vs. small, public vs. private, etc. Information that includes a wide range of factors regarding schools and campuses will be helpful to inform your final choice.

8. Get Organized 

There’s a lot to keep track of in the college admissions process. Standardized test registration dates, early decision and regular decision application deadlines, dates to get your transcripts and your letters of recommendation – start adding these to your calendar NOW and review dates regularly during your senior year.

05 Feb 2018

Debunking the most popular Myths about the SAT and ACT

 

How do you know what’s true and what’s just a rumor about your standardized test scores will affect your college applications? Don’t Fall for These Five Misconceptions About the SAT and ACT

  1. Students should take both the SAT and the ACT.

Not true. While the tests are more similar due to the recent changes to the SAT, it’s still important for students to focus studying specifically for one test. By dedicating effort toward one exam, students can become completely comfortable with that exam and the test–taking skills it requires. Plus, who wants to sit through hours and hours of test by taking each one multiple times.

  1. Everyone at my school takes the SAT so I should take the SAT.

Student have a choice and they should choose the test that best reflects their academic strengths.

  1. Colleges prefer the SAT (or ACT).

Not true! At our last check, all US colleges don’t care which test gets submitted, so students should take the test that suits them best and submit that test.

  1. Everything is riding on my scores.

Standardized test scores are one factor that is considered when colleges are reviewing an applicant – but they are not the most important.  According to the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, college admissions officers consistently rank grades and course rigor as the most important admissions factors. So a student can have great test scores, but if his or her grades and courses aren’t up to standard, he or she may have a considerably lower chance of getting in. In fact, it can be a red flag to admissions officers if a student’s grades and test scores are wildly unmatched. That’s not to say that standardized test scores aren’t important. A score that’s too low could be the deciding factor of admission to reject that student’s application. It’s important to do well on standardized test scores, but it’s not the only thing to focus on.

  1. I have great grades so I’ll do well on the SAT or ACT without studying.

Ideally, by the time students are sitting for the SAT or ACT, they will have adequately covered the content and concepts being tested. However, curricula vary from school to school, and every student has different abilities. The truth is, for some students, there may be little overlap in what’s being taught in class and what’s on the test. For other students, some concepts may have been covered previously, but so much time has passed that they’ve forgotten some of the key elements. Much of the content students are tested on in the SAT or ACT is also presented in a different format, so even though they’ve covered the concepts before it may seem unfamiliar. There’s also the issue of time constraints, test-taking strategies, and other factors that don’t mimic traditional learning or the classroom experience. Just because a student performs well in class doesn’t mean he or she will do well on the ACT or SAT the first time around. A student wouldn’t go into any other test unprepared, and standardized college entrance exams are no different.

  1. The ACT is “easier” than the SAT.

This common myth – pitting one test against the other and even asserting that colleges value one over the other – never holds true. All colleges and universities equally consider both tests. No test is “easier” than the other. The factor that students must consider when choosing which test to take and prepare for is which one is a better fit for his or her abilities. At Sentia Education, we recommend students take a diagnostic test doe the SAT and the ACT under timed conditions to get an idea of which test they perform better on, which test they prefer and what aspects they need to prepare for.

  1. I don’t need to take the SAT or ACT until the spring of my junior year.

While this is the most popular time for high school students to take college entrance exams, it leaves students with little time for improvement should they not perform as they expected. Also, with finals, AP exams, extracurricular activities and challenging courses, spring of junior year can leave students stretched thin – which can hurt test prep and performance.

The truth is, many students will have covered the most frequently tested concepts on the SAT and ACT by sophomore year of high school, so for some students it can be better to take the test a little earlier if they’re ready. Through test prep sophomore year and earlier in junior year, students can get a refresher on the content they’ve already covered – allowing them to take the test earlier and have more time for adjustments. Also, they can learn test-taking strategies and tips that don’t necessarily require prior knowledge of the content.

  1. You can’t really improve your Reading score.

You CAN improve your Reading score by expanding your vocabulary, honing your critical reading skills, understanding the author’s point of view, and mastering your test-taking skills. So read – books, newspapers and anything else you can get your hands on.  Sentia Education offers expertise on additional skill-building tools.

  1. Students should take the ACT only if they’re strong in science

The science section of the ACT measures a student’s ability to read charts and graphs and interpret data. There is little need for actual science knowledge to do well on science section of the ACT. Being strong in science may not translate to the ACT science section.

  1. You should take the SAT or ACT as often as you can.

At Sentia Education, we recommend students take the SAT only a couple of times. In place of official tests, we offer a numerous practice tests that help students and tutors identify continued challenges as well as gauge test readiness. Don’t treat the official SAT or ACT as practice. Practice tests are for practice. The real thing is the real thing.

  1. Since the essay is optional, you don’t need to take it.

We encourage students to take the ACT with Writing and include the SAT essay in their registration. Before making your decision, you should check the requirements of the colleges you are applying to. Many colleges either require or recommend that applicants include the essay and, if that’s the case, you definitely want to take essay portion of the test.

Even if you are not quite sure which colleges you may be applying to, it’s best to include the essay in case it is required or recommended by any of the schools you do end up applying to, especially since you cannot take the Writing section test by itself.

  1. I don’t have to take the subject tests
  • 26 colleges recommend SAT subject tests
  • 37 colleges accept SAT subject tests.
  • 44 colleges require SAT subject tests.

     The ACT is NOT a substitute for the SAT & SAT subject tests

  • 26 colleges recommend SAT subject tests. Of these, 23 do not let the ACT replace subject tests.
  • 37 colleges accept SAT subject tests. Of these, 36 do not let the ACT replace subject tests.
  • 44 colleges require SAT subject tests. Of these, 25 do not let the ACT replace subject tests. (e.g. Harvard, Princeton, Georgetown, and all UC schools)
  1. Test prep doesn’t work.

Studies collected by FairTest show that good test prep programs can raise a student’s scores by 100 points, and in many cased, even more. Sentia Education works with each student individually to identify strengths and weaknesses in both concepts and skills as well as in strategies.  A targeted approach to test preparation utilizes a student’s existing skills and helps them translate them to the standardized test format. Most of what students encounter on the ACT and SAT reflects specific math, reading, and writing skills they have already learned in school. General academic performance will, in many cases, predict performance on standardized tests. Students who have worked hard and earned A’s are in great shape to do well on the ACT or SAT.

The key to success on standardized tests is to work hard in school, and then do enough focused test prep to become completely comfortable and confident with the content and question types encountered on the ACT or SAT. There are a variety of test-taking strategies which can boost your student’s score.

The misconception comes from the fact that — in addition to explicitly testing math, reading comprehension, verbal reasoning, and writing skills — both the ACT and SAT take basic or foundational concepts and ask test-takers to apply them in ways that can seem tricky. The tests also try to measure critical thinking and problem solving ability, abstract skills that are built into all high school subjects rather than taught in a particular class.

 

02 Feb 2018

The PQRST Method of Studying

The PQRST Method of Studying

 This is a method of reading a textbook so that the information you read really does enter your long term memory. It is based on work by Thomas and H. A. Robinson, Spache and Berg and R. P .Robinson. Its sometimes cryptically known as SQ3R.

So what can it do?

The method has been shown to improve a readers understanding, and his/her ability to recall information. In other words, the reader is more likely to learn, and to learn more, of the material he/she is reading. If you use this method, reading won’t be a waste of your time.

How does it work?

In this method you follow five steps – Preview, Question, Read, Self-recite and Test (PQRST). The middle three steps apply to every section within a chapter whilst the first and last steps apply to the chapter itself. You may find that many textbooks are compiled in a way which makes this method easy to apply, using an introductory passage, and questions at the end.

The diagram below illustrates the method:

  1. PREVIEW an assignment by scanning it.  Read the chapter outline at the beginning of the chapter.  Pay attention to the headings of the sections and subsections.  Read the summary.  The point is to get an idea of the main topics and sections of the chapter.
  2. QUESTION As you read through each section, start by asking yourself “what am I supposed to learn in this section”. This helps to get your brain in to sync with the topic being discussed.
  3. READ. Next, actually read that section. Do it carefully, think about the meaning and relate this to other things you know about this and similar topics. Do some underlining or highlighting of key words. Don’t overdo it! If you want to take notes, read the whole section first, and then summarize it later.
  4. SELF-RECITATION requires that you try to remember the main points of each section and that you say them out loud (if possible) to yourself. Check back against the text, and note the things you missed out. Ensure that you didn’t miss them because you haven’t learnt them. Only then go on to the next section and Question again.
  5. TEST yourself after you have finished the entire chapter.  How many of the main ideas from the chapter can you remember? Think about the relevance of what you learnt and how it all fits together. Reread any chapter summaries. Even though you have only just read the chapter, now is the best time to test yourself.

 

01 Feb 2018

How to study more effectively

  • Hate to study?
  • Can’t concentrate for more than 15-20 minutes?
  • Manage to make average grades from what you retain in class and with the little studying you manage to do?
  • Tired of being average.

Studying is not the same as learning.  Here are some strategies to help you study effectively:

  1. Know your purpose. Scan the content to identify the most important concepts you need to know to achieve the top grade. Make a list of items to memorize. Quantify – only by being objective will you increase your productivity.

All goals should be “SMART”

  • S pecific (not something vague)
  • M easurable
  • A chievable
  • R ecorded (written down)
  • T imed (have a time limit)
  1. Limit studying time. Study for specific periods of time or to learn and master a specific concepts or problem set. Either way, be sure you study for 100% of the time you commit to – no smartphones, no internet, no TV, no distractions.
  2. Multiple Sources. Sometimes its not enough to know ‘just enough’. You might not completely understand a topic/concept or you may understand some of it but not enough.

To solve this dilemma, read/view/talk to multiple sources. Remember: one author may explain something better than another. Its vital to refer to different sources to strengthen your understanding.

Select the best sources. If there are high-yield versions of textbooks, pre-made notes optimized for retention, mnemonics collections, essential problem sets (and solutions), use them.

  1. Feynman technique. This Mental Model, named after Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize Winning Physicist, designed as a technique assist with learning new concepts as if you were explaining them to a complete beginner. His technique includes drawing diagrams, schematics and notes on a blank sheet of paper.
  2. Cultivate daily habits. The best approach to successful studying is to train daily for a relatively short amount of time. 30 min of difficult math problems every day is much more effective than 3 weekly sessions of 2 hours each.
  3. If you’re going to take notes, do it right. Note taking is associated with better retention rates than just reading or reviewing pre-existing notes.
  4. Don’t cram for tests. If you are going to do well in a test then you need to be relaxed. In the days before a test you should do nothing more stressful than a couple of hours gently reviewing your notes to assure yourself you know your stuff.
  5. Make a study guide. As the student puts together a study guide, he also is putting small chunks of information systematically into his brain.  An auditory or kinesthetic learner can talk out loud as he creates his study guide.
  6. Put together a study groupFor older students, it is a good idea to study the information with others.  It gives students the opportunity to make sure each student understands the material and has studied in a comprehensive manner.  Students can quiz each other on information and create outlines for possible essay questions.
  7. Use flashcards. If you need to memorize things, you need tools. Create your own or use one of the apps available
  8. Practice and test yourself. The best way to learn is to use the knowledge you are trying to acquire. You’ll figure out your weak spots in your understanding of complex concepts. There are resources online to test any kind of subject.
  9. Planning can reduce stress and anxiety. Set your goals, plan your studying techniques and stick to the plan.
  10. Cultivate the right mindset. Essential qualities of all productive students include: Diligence, Discipline, Direction and Durability.

Do exactly what you have to do daily, no matter what.

Think positively!  Try to imagine yourself getting an A+ on the exam.  Imagine getting questions you know the answers to, expressing yourself clearly and concisely, and feeling good about yourself and your performance.  Think about how good you will feel inside when the test is over and all your preparation has paid off.

 

 

 

 

29 Jan 2018

Everything you should know about SAT II Subject Tests

SAT Subject Tests—AKA SAT IIs—are slightly cuter versions of the SAT. Each Subject Test (there are over 20!) is one hour long and corresponds to material taught in high school-level academic courses. If you’re thinking about taking an SAT Subject Test, read on to find out everything you need to know!

1.) Who should take SAT Subject Tests?

You should take SAT Subject Tests if the schools you’re applying to require, recommend, or officially consider them. If you’re not sure where your top choice colleges stand, here is a comprehensive list of all schools that use SAT Subject Tests for admissions decisions.

Keep in mind that colleges vary in the amount of emphasis they place on SAT Subject Tests. Schools that “require” SAT Subject Tests, for example, will not even review an application that comes without them. Other schools, like Stanford and the University of Virginia, do not officially require Subject Tests, but applicants who don’t submit them will be at a sharp disadvantage. If you are applying to any school that “recommends” SAT IIs, you should absolutely take them unless your scores will mar your application.

Still more schools neither require nor recommend SAT IIs, but will consider them if submitted. Such schools treat Subject Tests as supplementary information and use them to form a more complete image of a student. Some schools, like the University of Notre Dame, only consider Subject Tests that enhance an application. Contact admissions representatives at your top-choice schools to find out where they stand.

2.) What Subject Tests can I take?

SAT Subject Tests come in a plethora of shapes and sizes! The College Board offers the following SAT Subject Tests:

— English Literature
U.S. History
— World History
— Math Level 1
— Math Level 2
— Biology – Ecological
— Biology – Molecular
— Chemistry
— Physics
— French (with or without Listening)
— German (with or without Listening)
— Spanish (with or without Listening)
— Modern Hebrew
— Italian
— Latin
— Chinese with Listening
— Japanese with Listening
— Korean with Listening

3.) Are Subject Tests harder than the SAT? What about AP exams?

The SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Tests assess entirely different things. Neither is harder than the other. SAT Subject Tests are designed to measure how much a student knows about a subject. By contrast, the SAT presents basic content in new ways in order to evaluate students’ reasoning skills. In other words, the SAT tests your ability to figure out the best approach to a puzzling question about an elementary topic.

AP exams are much harder than SAT Subject Tests because they test college-level knowledge, whereas SAT IIs measure principles taught in high school-level classes.

4.) When should students take SAT Subject Tests?

In general, students should take Subject Tests immediately after completing coursework in the subject they wish to test in. For many students, this means testing at the end of freshman or sophomore year! Language and Literature Subject Tests should be taken either during the spring of junior year or fall of senior year, as multiple years of coursework in these subjects will benefit exam performance. If you are taking and doing well in an AP course, you should take the same subject’s SAT II as close as possible to the actual AP exam.

Keep in mind that not all Subject Tests are offered for every test date! Language Subject Tests with Listening, for example, are only offered during the November administration. Make sure to review the Subject Test calendar so you don’t miss your opportunity to test!

5.) Which Subject Tests should I take?

Students should take Subject Tests that reflect their academic strengths and interests. It is also a good idea to test in subjects related to one’s prospective major. An applicant to a prestigious nursing school who submits Biology and Chemistry scores would certainly look better than one who submits SAT IIs in Literature and French! Also, keep in mind that some programs and university departments require specific Subject Tests.

6.) How can I get out of taking SAT Subject Tests?

Believe it or not, several schools will waive their Subject Test requirement if a student has taken the ACT with Writing. This is because such schools see the ACT Science and Writing sections as comparable to SAT Subject Tests.

Beware, however, of this foggy path! Most students accepted to the institutions mentioned above do submit SAT Subject Tests. Furthermore, many colleges (including Harvard, Princeton and Columbia) require Subject Tests in addition to the ACT. Also, most colleges that “recommend” or “consider” subject tests want to see them—even if an applicant has taken the ACT.

7.) How should I prepare for SAT Subject Tests?

Sentia Education offers top of the line tutoring for all Subject Tests, but if you’d rather self-study, the following resources will help you get started.

24 Jan 2018

3 Reasons Why You Should Consider Taking SAT Subject Tests

The SAT and ACT are the main college admission tests and students often forget about SAT Subject Tests. Many students don’t realize the benefits of taking a Subject Test because a number of colleges and universities in the U.S. only require students to submit an ACT or SAT score. However, there are several surprising reasons why you should consider preparing for a Subject Test.

Some schools actually require (or recommend) students take Subject Tests

The list is longer than you might think.

Each school has its own policy surrounding Subject Tests. For the schools on your list, visit each school’s website or contact the school directly to see if they require, recommend, or consider Subject Tests for a student’s application. Be sure to check specific majors or programs at your target schools – the entire college may not require a Subject Test, but the engineering program or science programs might.

What does it mean if a school recommends a Subject Test score?

For selective schools with low acceptance rates, at least two Subject Tests are “strongly recommended.” Your application will still be considered without submitting Subject Test scores, but you will be much more competitive with Subject Test scores to submit. Arre you willing to take that extra step to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Do you know your academic strengths and have enough confidence to submit an objective number measuring those strengths?

Get college credit before you even step foot on campus

Some schools allow students to bypass introductory courses if their Subject Test scores are impressive. This means you can fulfill required credits more quickly.

 

Subject Tests are different from the other elements of your application: they serve as bonus points and give admissions officers a clearer sense of what type of student you are, therefore making it easier to determine if you’re a good fit for the school.

If you know you’re proficient in chemistry, a solid Subject Test score in addition to a strong academic transcript could be indispensable information on your application. This also adds a substantial amount of credibility to your claim that chemistry is your strongest subject.

 

02 Jan 2018

Stress… What it is and how to make it work for you

The Oxford English Dictionary defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”.

Any one preparing for the standardized college admissions test knows that this definition is a perfect description of the feelings and emotions created by these tests.  But did you know that stress that is managed could actually be a good thing?

A 1979 London research study recognized that stress could be beneficial. Yes, you read that correctly – beneficial! The benefits of stress can be found in two main ways; First, stress can actually enhance performance and, secondly, stress from challenges, not threats, invite physiological responses that improves thinking by making the heart beat faster, adrenaline surge, the brain sharper and the body release a different mix of stress hormones which aid in learning.

You can rethink stress by understanding that it is a normal response when we care about what’s at stake.

Since stress is unavoidable, working out how to harness it may be wiser than trying to eliminate it.

Embarking on a mindful approach to the test prep process might sound hokey, or perhaps like a way of complicating a process that is pretty straightforward: study the material, take practice tests, get results. But being mindful is a practical and subtle way of managing stress – AND it puts YOU in control.

So… How can you be “mindful”

  1. Become aware of your thoughts. There’s a little voice in your head that’s talking to you constantly. 
What is it saying? How do the thoughts make you feel?
  2. Take a breath. When you become aware of a thought (any thought, positive or negative) take a breath. Let your thoughts come and go without analyzing them. Be aware of what happens to the feelings caused by stress?

Let your breath serve as a cue for you to be fully present in this moment. On the next exhalation imagine any tension in your body flowing out through the soles of your feet into the air. Let your tension go on the exhalation and on the inhalation breathe in relaxation.

  1. Guided Imagery. Guided imagery is a relaxation technique that utilizes the power of the imagination and all of the senses – what we feel, see, hear, taste, and smell – to create a relaxing scene. Guided imagery can be used to visualize positive outcomes, especially in stressful situations. For instance, if a student is anxious about an upcoming test, she imagines going through it in a calm and relaxed manner beforehand. This is called a mental rehearsal.
  2. Positive Affirmations. Positive statements can help students feel less stressed and more in control of their emotions. Examples of positive affirmations are:
    • I feel calm
    • I am confident
    • I can do well
    • Let go of (anxiety, fear, tension, etc)
  3. Question your thoughts. If your thoughts are of self-doubt or self-criticism, replace the latter part of the “What if” proposition with a positive quality that relates to the specific situation or preceding thought. Ask yourself:
  • What if I’m good enough?
  • What if I’m smart enough?
  • What if I have what it takes?
  • What if I succeed?
  1. Be willing to see the situation differently. There are objective facts about the college admissions process. There are tests (the SAT and ACT) for which you can prepare. College admissions officers will consider your test scores when evaluating your application. How you relate
to these objective facts is up to you. When you feel stressed out, anxious, or scared, tell yourself “I am willing to see this situation differently.” Keep an open mind, and stay willing to be positive and relaxed.

Test prep is a process, but when you bring your whole self to the experience, amazing things can happen.

 

 

24 Nov 2017

10 Reasons to LOVE Standardized Tests like the SAT and ACT

You’re probably adept at rattling off reams of reasons why you hate, hate, HATE Standardized testing.  Everyone does. It’s a grueling, difficult exam with tremendously high stakes. It’s a source of conflict with your parents & competition between your friends. Tutors are pricey, studying is boring, and between school, work, socializing and heaps of extracurricular activities… you don’t have time for this! And to top it all off: Standardized tests are terrible measures of one’s potential to succeed! This test is pure evil!

Or is it?

In this blog entry I will give 10 reasons why the SAT and ACT is not so bad… awesome, even!

10.) For some students, Standardized Tests are much needed second chance. If you’re like me and slacked off during freshman and sophomore years of high school, the Standardized Tests are great ways to demonstrate newfound focus and academic potential to colleges. Coupled with a strong junior and/or senior year transcript, good Standardized Test scores will make you a viable candidate at many universities, even if you messed up parts of your high school career.

9.) Critical reading passages are really interesting! Here, I am going to let you in on a little secret: if you approach the critical reading passages with a focused, open mind, you’ll find that they are super interesting! It’s easy for students to say that critical reading passages are dry and boring–this is an excuse for disengaging from the material and not trying your best. I have NO idea why so many adults reinforce this ludicrous idea. Reading  passages come from recent (good!) novels, present wide-ranging scientific ideas & personal perspectives, and debate important issues. What is boring about this?!

8.) You’re entitled to a treat when you’re done. Twinkies, burrito, day at the beach… take your pick!

7.) Studying for the Standardized Tests teaches you important stuff you don’t learn in school, like good grammar (and, in turn, good writing skills) and how to think flexibly about math, apply strong problem solving techniques and use the math they do know in flexible ways. It asks that students go beyond applying rules and formulas to think through problems they have not solved before” In short, studying for Standardized test math promotes cognitive creativity.

6.) There are lots of available resources to help you prepare. Because so many students take the SAT and ACT it’s fair to say the test has been cracked. Not only are numerous books devoted to divulging essential content and strategies, but Sentia Education is also excited to pair you with an expert tutor, who knows exactly what material you need to know to score your highest.

5.) Misery loves company. You and your friends may grow closer through complaining about taking the SAT, ACT and SAT II Standardized Tests. Also, the fact that the eleventh grade class is simultaneously suffering promotes a feeling of community, a feeling of: I know this sucks, but we’re in this together.

4.) As you practice, you get to see the results of your hard work pay off.
Most students who work with a (good) tutor, or study a lot independently will see a big increase between their first practice test and their final score. Seeing this payoff is fun, encouraging, and will remind you that you can accomplish a lot when you work hard & put your best foot forward.

3.) You have more than one shot to take the test, and colleges will only consider your highest score. So you can relax a little. Unlike most of the exams you take in school, the SAT isn’t a one shot deal.

2.)  Completing the SAT, ACT and SAT II’s are a rite of passage, and an accomplishment that promotes confidence. Throughout life, you will be forced to face scary challenges head-on. As you meet & succeed in the face of these challenges, you will grow more confident in your abilities.

A driving instructor (shout out to Tony from Formula One, best driving instructor ever!) once told me that high school students face two, seemingly insurmountable tasks: the driving test, and Standardized Tests. Completing these tasks means proving to yourself that you can complete these tasks–that you are strong enough to succeed and persevere despite a mountain of pressure. Knowing this about yourself is invaluable.

1.) And most importantly, the SAT or ACT get you into college! Despite all its unpleasantness, these Standardized Tests are your ticket to college–one of the most exciting and challenging parts of life. This is the ultimate reward of the college admissions Standardized tests!

21 Oct 2017

Joining 25 Clubs Isn’t The Move: How To Handle Extracurriculars

So you’re in your junior year of high school, freaking out about how few extra-curricular activities you have compared with your friends, and you promptly join 25 clubs. We’re going to stop you right there.

Joining some clubs? Well, that’s a good thing. Colleges like to see that you’re interested in causes, subjects and ideas outside of the classroom. Captain of the Academic Quiz Bowl team? Great! Student council member? Awesome!

But when you join 25 clubs in an effort to show colleges how involved you are in the world, their skepticism begins to grow.

Nobody, and by that we literally mean nobody, has the time, range of interest, or empathy to truly care about and be active in so many clubs. You know that. And more importantly, colleges know that.

What they do want to see is a narrative. If you’re interested in writing, college admissions officers should read your app and say:

“Oh, this kid Jimmy loves writing. He’s a contributor to the school’s literary magazine, is president of the school’s Book Club, took a creative writing class over the summer, and won a Scholastic writing award for one of his poems. He’s also on the varsity tennis team and is a Latin Affairs club member, which is awesome. But most of all, he’s a writer.”

Get the picture? Joining a reasonable number of clubs that make sense in the context of your larger interests will make your application more attractive to Admissions Officers. They want to understand who you are. Listing as many random clubs as possible won’t help them do that.

So, join clubs that align with your interests. Be an active member. And make sure the clubs you join create a plausible, compelling narrative.

 

13 Feb 2014

MIT Admissions Mistake

April Fools came early this year for nearly 4,000 applicants to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In what is now being referred to as an “e-mail goof”, the MIT admissions office accidently sent a mass email to regular decision applicants as well as accepted early action applicants containing an automated tag line that read, “You are on this list because you are admitted to MIT!” For prospective students already accepted through MIT’s early action program, the tag line was simply part of a routine mistake. But for the many applicants still awaiting a final admissions decision in March, those eleven words may have raised false hopes of admission to one of the world’s most prestigious institutions of higher education.

According to Chris Peterson, an MIT admissions counselor, the intended footer of the email sent to applicants still awaiting a decision from MIT was supposed to have read: “You are receiving this email because you applied to MIT, and we sometimes have to tell you things about stuff.” The problem, Peterson explained, was that they had recently combined two lists of students- those who had been admitted early and those still awaiting an official admissions decision. Evidently, the e-mail “footer” from the admitted group was somehow transposed onto all of the e-mails through the office’s MailChimp marketing system.

Since becoming aware of the mistake, the MIT admissions office has apologized to all applicants via their blog, and will be answering any questions or concerns via email. Despite the unseemly gaffe, scores of “hoaxed” applicants, who have taken to posting about the email on a college admissions forum, have been generally accepting of the university’s mea culpa. Time will tell if their forgiveness will extend past official admissions decisions when only 1 in 10 applicants will receive an “official” letter of admission.