Category Archives: Getting Through The College Application Process

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.

01 Nov 2013

Common App Glitches & Deadline Extensions

A growing number of colleges and universities around the country are extending early decision application deadlines beyond Nov. 1 as a result of the continuing problems students, counselors, and schools are facing with the newly designed online Common Application. Scott Anderson, senior director of policy for the Common App, said in an e-mail to counselors that a number of fixes to various problems had been made and others were ongoing. He also said that more than 350,000 applications, a 28 percent increase of the same period last year, had been processed, and that most students did not encounter problems with the Common Application. While Mr. Anderson and Common Application brass continue to attempt to assuage the anxiety of nerve wracked college applicants, individual universities are handling this issue in predictably different ways.

Unfortunately, there is no master list on the Internet where students can find a list of colleges with their respective early application extensions. Instead, students must go to the individual admissions web pages of the colleges they are applying to in order to receive up to date information about changes in early admissions deadlines. Below is a list of schools extending deadlines as of, Friday November 1st. We hope this list serves as a good reference, but please note that all of this information is subject to change as schools continue to monitor the situation and adjust their deadlines accordingly…

Best of luck!

Colleges that have moved to a November 4 early deadline:
Emory University
Yale University

Colleges that have moved to a November 8 early deadline:
Barnard College
Beloit College
Brandeis University
Butler University
Columbia University
Cornell University
Dartmouth University
Duke University
Emerson College
Johns Hopkins University
Lewis & Clark College
Marist College

Northwestern University
Pomona College
Providence College
Purdue University
Rice University
The College of William & Mary
Tufts University
University of Chicago
University of Denver
University of Miami
University of North Carolina, Wilmington
Villanova University

Colleges that have moved to a November 11 early deadline:
The George Washington University
University of Vermont

Colleges that have moved to a December 1 early deadline:
Syracuse University
SUNY Geneseo

Colleges that are allowing students to apply via the Universal Application
Farleigh Dickinson
Hampshire College
Harvard University
Johns Hopkins University
Marquette University
Princeton University
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Simmons College
Trinity College
Tufts University
Tulane University
Washington University, St. Louis

21 Oct 2013

Common Application’s Uncommon Technical Difficulties

For many high school students the stressful process of applying to college has become even more nerve-wracking as major technical difficulties continue to plague the Common Application, the online college application portal used by over 500 colleges and thousands of students each year. After significant “upgrades” were made to the website’s software in early August, users began experiencing some alarming difficulties that are persisting through the early deadlines of multiple colleges. Common Application officials claim to have fixed two of the major bugs affecting students and school administrators, but many continue to experience significant glitches with the site.

Admissions officers have reported numerous problems with importing student applications, particularly the supplemental materials such as transcripts, letters of recommendation and additional essays. Unfortunately, the bugs do not end there; students have also encountered serious malfunctions with the functionality of the Common Application web site. Essays copied and pasted into designated essay boxes are often transmitted without proper formatting, leaving perfectly created essays without spaces, paragraphs, or indentations. Many students have reported that application payments have reportedly taken days to register with the system (rendering an application incomplete), or instead, registered duplicate payments for the same application. Some students have been unable to log in to their application, while others have been repeatedly logged off for inactivity after waiting hours to submit their application. These technical issues are not merely frustrating; they can be the difference between an application making or missing a deadline.

With early admissions deadlines looming and software bugs continuing to disrupt the application process, individual colleges have decided to proactively address the issue. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Georgia Tech have pushed early admission deadlines back from their October 15th deadline to October 21st and The University of Chicago, and Northwestern are extending early decision application deadlines to November 8th. Princeton has not altered any deadlines, but is allowing applicants to apply via the Universal College Application, a competing (though far less prominent) non-profit college application portal. Multiple other institutions are assuring applicants that technical hiccups will not hurt or affect their admissions decisions, but these problems certainly add an extra layer of anxiety to an already high stakes game.

Stuck in a PR and technical nightmare, the Common Application brass has issued more than one mea culpa via Facebook and Twitter. These apologies have mostly fallen on deaf-ears of the overstressed affected students and families. One student graded the organization’s recent performance a C- and cleverly quipped, “good thing you’re not applying to college”. While taking to Facebook and Twitter to denounce the Common Application as “the enemy” may very well seem like an appropriate and, at times, comical response to the situation, the only really proactive step students can and SHOULD take is to be overwhelmingly prepared ahead of deadlines.

Simply put, this is not a timely snow day that offers an extra day to study for a test. With all of the Common Application problems applicants are facing, procrastination is no longer an option and hitting submit at 11:59pm is more foolish than ever. Do not wait for the school of your dreams to extend its deadline, only to be caught off guard when they do not. Instead, students should make a concerted effort to have application materials completed well ahead of deadlines, just in case. This strategy should provide students with some semblance of a safety net, allowing ample time to contact schools and discuss other options for sending your complete application… without sounding like your dog ate your homework.

23 Aug 2013

Success in Small Envelopes: The Silver Lining of College Rejection

With colleges accepting fewer and fewer students and application pools overflowing, the possibility of receiving the coveted “big envelope” of admission is becoming as slim as the dreaded rejection envelope.  Although the goal is and always will be to receive an offer of admission from your “dream school” the consequences of rejection are not nearly as life ending as one may fear.  As highschoolers across the country begin the arduous process of brainstorming, drafting, redrafting, scrapping, and rehashing college applications, it is important to keep perspective on what its all for.  The college application process is not simply a game to be won, but a journey to find a school that matches the interests, talents, convictions and goals of an applicant.  In several cases, initial rejection has been the springboard that has launched the most famously successful into careers with big payouts.


Steven Spielberg

Billionaire Director of our most iconic movies of the last two decades tops our list with a grand total of three rejections… from the same school.  Steven Spielberg was so convinced that the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts was the first and most essential stop on his way to silver screen success that he applied and was rejected on three separate occasions.  Obviously, the Jurassic Park, Terminator, E.T., Saving Private Ryan and Shindler’s List Director found an alternative road to success, capturing five Oscars and countless imaginations along the way.  Today, Spielberg holds an honorary degree from USC and sits on the schools Board of Trustees – who’s laughing now?


Meredith Viera

Beloved anchor of the Today Show, and one time host of hit television series “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire”, Viera was turned away from Harvard’s doors hat in hand.  Viera later enrolled at  nearby Tufts University where she met her mentor who offered her an internship that inspired her to pursue a very successful career in broadcast journalism.  Had she not been initially been rejected from Harvard, she “doubts [she] would have pursued a career in journalism.”


John Kerry

Former Democratic nominee for President of the United States, long sitting senator, and current Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry has not always been the lauded leader of the more liberal party we know today.  In 1962, he was one of many gangly teenagers to have a dream crushed by the Harvard University admissions committee.  When asked about his rejection, Kerry stated, “I never would have fit in at a total jock school.”   But, the lure of Harvard held strong – in 1973, Kerry tried and failed again to attend Harvard, this time, as a law student. Sec. Kerry took his talents first to Yale University and then to Boston College Law School, going on to become one of the most respected and long serving legislators of the last few decades.  Of course, marrying someone with the last name Heinz didn’t hurt.


Warren Buffet

The Oracle of Oklahoma, the CEO of value inventing, and the world’s most well known and oft imitated investor, Warren Buffet joins our list of “rejects”.  Similarly Crimson-ly challenged, Buffet was rejected from Harvard Business School at the age of 19.  Looking back, he say’s “Harvard wouldn’t have been a good fit. But at the time, I had this feeling of dread”.  Ultimately, Buffet landed at the prestigious Columbia Business School where legendary investors, Benjamin Graham and David Dodd, mentored and influenced the young tycoon’s investing approach.  By 2008, Buffet’s schooling and intellect had resulted in $62 billion in investments and he is considered one of the pre-eminent market movers… in the world.  Take that Harvard!


Tom Brokaw

Nightly news legendary anchor, Tom Brokaw has reported and recorded his fair share of failures.  Brokaw, who self describes himself as majoring in “partying and co-eds” while completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa was shocked when he received his rejection letter from Harvard’s Journalism school.  The former anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News called his rejection from Harvard “the initial stumble” that was “critical in getting me launched.” According to the Wall Street Journal, the denial was instrumental in inspiring the revered newsman to commit to journalism… and to stop partying so much!


Ted Turner

Finally, Ted Turner, the most famous undereducated success story of… hmmm, maybe ever.  Mr. Turner, who attended Brown University for 3 years, never earned a collegiate degree of any kind (though he was awarded an honorary B.A. from Brown 1989).  After his Junior year, Turner was forced to move back home to manage his late father’s billboard business, and managed to grow it into the multinational multi billion dollar cable news conglomerate, CNN.  The rest as they say is history.