I came across this article and realized that everything she wrote was something I have said myself numerous times to parents and students. So here it is, someone else's words but my sentiments precisely.
6 Terrific Pieces of Advice for Writing College Application Essays
by Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz
Just recently, I sent out an email blast to the rising seniors with whom I work, urging them to begin working on college application essays NOW. If you are a rising senior (or a parent of one), I can imagine a few of you saying, "What! Aren't you being a little 'anal?' It's too early to do that."
"Au contraire," my friends. The reason to start working on essays now is that summer months are predictably less fraught with the academic, sports and other activities that fall semester usually brings. Summer, rather than later, is a good time to start because students have the time to:
THE ROLE OF ESSAYS IN COLLEGE ADMISSIONS
To that point, I want to say a little bit about what role essays have in college admissions. While student grades and test scores are critical factors in admissions, application essays can be an even more important factor, especially for private, liberal arts colleges and the more selective universities. Like nothing else, essays give readers a sense for how students express themselves and especially how they are unique and different from other applicants. Essays help students stand out from the crowd.
And, much to the surprise of many applicants and even parents, writing good application essays takes time... a lot of time, and drafts and editing. This is because although writing can and often is fun, it is also challenging. As someone with five published books, and ongoing involvement with a number of blogs, I admit that sometimes I love writing and at other times I hate it.
Personally, I am always looking for that magic piece of advice another writer has that will get me through predictable writing blocks, and the students I work with have also repeatedly asked for advice on how to get started or continue. So, here is what different writers have shared with me about how to spend more time loving rather than hating writing. I hope you find this as useful as I have.
6 TERRIFIC PIECES OF ADVICE
1. Write as if you are talking to the reader.
I think that the best advice I have ever received about writing came as a result of attending a writing conference. A publishing executive said at the beginning of her talk, "To write easily and well, simply be yourself. Be natural; write as if you are talking to your reader on paper." As soon as I returned home from the conference, I started doing what she said and never looked back. You can do the same with your college application essays. Remember, the purpose of answering the application questions is to help the college admissions officers get to know you. What better way of doing that is there than to write as if you are talking to them?
2. Offer readers a story.
When I attend college admissions conferences, I almost always attend sessions on application essays, where college admissions officers talk about what they look for. Inevitably it is revealed that they love reading applicants' personal stories and anecdotes. Frankly, the stories can be about anything ranging from a conversation with a grandparent, to the best or worst day of your life, to a special talent or involvement or something that changed how you think. Stories help illustrate points that you may be trying to make to your readers and help show more about who you are as a person. Every child in every family has stories about themselves. If you have trouble coming up with some, try having a brainstorming session with your parents at dinner some time.
3. Use the first person.
Many writers tell me that in order to write authentically, they had to unlearn a lot of what they were taught in school. Among their most important "unlearnings" was to limit using third person pronouns (he, she, they, it), and start using the first person, I. Because college admissions people want to hear about you, you need to write in your own, unique voice. And that means saying such things as, "I have loved numbers ever since I was a little kid. My mother tells me that at the grocery store, I would sit in the cart and add up the item prices she placed next to me to see if I could come up with the same amount as the cash register." This is a lot more personal and interesting than saying, "Some students have known that they were good with numbers since they were little kids."
4. Show, don't tell. Be specific, descriptive and offer plenty of details.
Skillful writers say that the key to alive, good writing is to "show, not tell." Rather than saying that you love animals, write something such as, "Whether a tiny, slithery salamander or a magnificent Arabian horse, I am simply nuts about animals. Since I was very young, I have spent a lot of my time rescuing, raising, caring for and loving them." Author Natalie Goldberg says, "...a writer's job is to make the ordinary come alive."
5. Avoid generalities, clichés and philosophical or psychological babble.
It is so easy to fall into writing something that ends up saying nothing or is trite. To not do that, keep in mind the following:
Generalities: Rather than saying, "I'm very hardworking," describe a situation that demonstrates how diligent you are. For example, "When it comes to special academic projects, I am the kind of person who both starts way in advance and at the end sometimes stays up all night to make sure that an assignment is the best that it can be."
Clichés: Rather than saying, "I like working with people and want to save the world," how about saying, "I joined the Diversity Club at school because I wanted to get to know students from different cultures, learn about their families, religion, traditions and even their food. I also wanted to find out how we are alike and unalike. I believe that when people really get to know one another, they have a better chance of getting along."
Psychobabble: Rather than saying, "I get really ADD when it comes to studying," say something such as "When I do homework in the evenings, I often find it difficult to concentrate, get easily distracted and don't seem to be able to focus." By the way, in case you didn't notice, the quote in the first paragraph about "being anal," is another example of psychobabble.
6. Make sure that your essay is free of spelling, grammatical mistakes and improper use of words.
There are few things that negatively stick out more on college applications than errors. I cannot stress this enough! Grammar and punctuation errors are like a huge red flag on your application. Make sure that the final person to read your essay is a great proofreader, and ask them specifically to look for errors. Careless mistakes are one of the quickest routes to negatively impress application readers and may result in you're getting a rejection letter from a college.
College essays can reveal a lot about how you think and who you are, things that college admissions officers want to know. Students who take the time to pen original, thoughtful, well-written essays truly enhance their college admissions possibilities.
Some very interesting news hit the streets recently. The College Board intends to offer an **August SAT** and eliminate the January SAT starting in 2017. I think it's a great idea, since few students take the exam in January and many wish they could test during the summer. Read on for more information about the advantages and potential disadvantages for some.
Here are excerpts from two recent articles in The Atlantic:
Last week, the College Board, which administers the SAT, quietly released the exam’s schedule for the next three years. It contained big news: For the first time since the mid ‘70s, students will have the option to take the test in the summer.
Anytime an institution changes its procedures, it’s important to ask who benefits. A summertime SAT, which goes into effect in 2017, will certainly help the College Board, teenagers prepping over the summer, and the test-prep companies. But will it provide a similar advantage to low-income students, or could the summertime SAT end up widening the gap between rich and poor?
Currently the College Board offers the exam several times a year, all between October and June. According to Katherine Levin, a spokeswoman for the College Board, the decision to add a late-August test date and eliminate the January one was based on feedback from students, K-12 and higher-education professionals, and test-center supervisors. A summertime SAT will, she said, “provide students with earlier opportunities to take the SAT before submitting college applications, and more time to focus on coursework, school activities, and college applications in the fall of their senior year.”
While this will be the first time in decades that the College Board is offering a summer test, it isn’t the first time the company has explored the possibility of one. In 2012, under its last president, the nonprofit paired with the Princeton Review to pilot a program that would’ve allowed the attendees of a $4,500 summer camp for gifted children to take an official SAT in early August. When word got out that only a very small and wealthy segment of the populace would have the opportunity to participate, the pilot was canceled. Now that anyone would (in theory) have the option to take the SAT in August, the benefits of a summer test will be much more widespread.
Adam Ingersoll, a co-founder of the test-prep company Compass Education Group, suggested that it’s not a coincidence that an August SAT date “jumps the line ahead of the popular September ACT date.” Students are likely to find attractive the prospect of getting their entrance exams out of the way before their schoolwork becomes overwhelming or, in locations such as Massachusetts, New York, and Chicago, before it even begins. “This is a shrewd marketing move by College Board,” Ingersoll said.
In addition, a summertime SAT should help prevent the kinds of difficulties that have led to recent delays in score reporting, including the SAT administered last June. The exam contained a typo that forced the College Board to cut two sections out of consideration and caused complications for students striving to meet early-application deadlines. The blizzard last month, meanwhile, caused further cancellations, making it even less likely that schools will consider seniors’ last-ditch scores when they arrive in March. An additional test date before applications are due will lessen the burden of such delays. Students will now have two shots at the SAT in their senior year before early-application deadlines, and College Board will no longer have to deal with the annual headaches caused by the January exam.
New SAT, New Problems
Still, an August exam will face challenges of its own, including the summer heat; many high schools lack air conditioning. Moreover, the SAT is administered at schools by guidance counselors and teachers, and in the some parts of the country, schools won’t be in session yet. When I recently raised the prospect of an August test with some guidance counselors at an eastern Massachusetts public high school, they all objected to coming in during their summer break. Ingersoll for his part has “serious concerns about [the] College Board’s ability to orchestrate enough test centers to handle the demand. Their ambitions have outstripped their abilities of late.”
All in all, however, these problems are unlikely to outweigh the benefit of an August exam. Students can get ready for the test at little or no cost to their regular schoolwork. (Despite the insistence of the College Board that the new SAT is aligned to the work students do in school, test prep is not real schoolwork.) The August date also resolves a common problem for those who prep during the summer—students who often have to wait a month or longer once their prep class ends before taking the test. Because the SAT is very different from the work students do in school, the knowledge and skills learned for the SAT can fade relatively quickly if not put into practice. An athlete wouldn’t stop practicing a month before the championship, but that’s precisely what a lot of students do when it comes to the SAT. Not anymore, once the August exam goes live.
NOTE: This is not a problem for Higher Standards Academy students. We design our program to end just a day or three before the real SAT so everything the students learn is fresh in their minds for the exam.
Paul Kanarek, the CEO of Collegewise, the nation’s largest private college-counseling organization, described the news of the August test date as “one of those rarest of occasions—almost a unicorn moment—where College Board's relentless pursuit of its own economic interests also helps students.” Getting rid of the January exam, he argued, makes sense because it’s lightly attended, and those who take it are often juniors from elite private high schools. Kanarek said he “wouldn't be at all surprised if August didn't become one of the top two most popular testing dates within two to three years,” a sentiment echoed by Ingersoll.
Harold Levy, the executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which awards scholarships to high-achieving, low-income students, cited another significant benefit of an August SAT: “The earlier date will allow students to have a better handle on their scores going into early decision, early action,” which will help them devise a sounder application strategy. “If more low-income students can take advantage of [early admission],” he added, “it will helpful them immensely to match to the appropriate schools.”
I ran across an interesting article published before the final administration of the current version of the SAT and thought I'd share it with you. It briefly covers the changes in the SAT since 1926 (I know, crazy, right?) by revealing sample questions. A quick read and kind of interesting. Check it out.
A History Of The SAT In 4 Questions
This weekend, college hopefuls will line up for the last time to take the SAT. That is, at least, the current version of the famous college entrance exam. The SAT, which remains a pillar of college admissions, has gotten a serious makeover (its first since 2005), and a new test will roll out in March.
Since students took the first multiple-choice SAT back in 1926, the test has changed considerably — both in style and in substance. To mark this latest makeover, we thought we'd offer up four examples of SAT questions from across the exam's history that reflect _____ changes in America.
D. Mustard seed
E. A, B, C
(Answer at the bottom of this post)
Quiz Yourself With An Evolving SAT
THE FIRST SAT IN 1926
Which three of the following words are most closely related?
runner : marathon ::
The Lyndhurst High School twelfth graders are represented in the circle graph in Figure 1. Figure 2 is another way to illustrate the use of computers by these twelfth graders. If the same 200 twelfth graders are represented in both figures, what is the total number of twelfth graders represented by the shaded circle in Figure 2?
Newspaper editor and political commentator Henry Louis Mencken was a force of nature, brushing aside all objects animal and mineral in his headlong rush to the publicity that surely awaited him. He seized each day, shook it to within an inch of its life, and then gaily went on to the next. No matter where his writing appeared, it was quoted widely, his pungently outspoken opinions debated hotly. Nobody else could make so many people so angry, or make so many others laugh so hard.
The words "seized" and "shook" help establish which aspect of Mencken's personality?
As for the new SAT, Cyndie Schmeiser, the chief of assessment at the College Board, says it was time to stop doing a few key things. Among them: asking students "the definitions of words that perhaps they crammed for the night before the test but may not use."
The new test, Schmeiser says, will include vocabulary, but within a reading passage. Less cramming, more context. Also, students can expect to find an increased emphasis on using evidence in a passage to back up answers.
The College Board hopes the redesign will provide a more accurate measure of a student's college and career readiness — a phrase made famous by advocates of the Common Core learning standards. Those standards, in reading and math, are now being used by the vast majority of states, and the SAT's chief rival, the ACT, is surging in part because it was first to adapt to the core. Now the SAT is playing catch-up.
The entire testing landscape is changing alongside the SAT. Now that most states are using common standards, a few are debating whether to replace some traditional, end-of-year high school assessments with a test that many students, especially 11th-graders, already take: the SAT or ACT.
At least half a dozen states have already gotten permission from the U.S. Department of Education to use one of the college entrance exams as an official high school assessment. That's welcome news for students in, say, Connecticut, who should spend less time testing as a result.
The irony is, as states embrace these college entrance exams in new and powerful ways, many colleges are doing the opposite. Just this week, the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a report calling on admissions offices to go test-optional or, at least, to pay less attention to tests and more to a student's "concern for others and the common good."
Get ready with the best SAT prep available
If you're looking for ways to bolster your student's high school transcript, you should know about the latest report from Harvard. It recommends that colleges encourage applicants to seriously focus on "good citizenship" in their applications. This means that the ways in which students display their concern for others should be considered important to the admissions process.
I like this shift because it validates everyday caring and encourages students to enlarge their perspectives, take a look at what's going on around them, and actively engage with what interests them. I'm glad to see students being rewarded for caring about others. Check out the article about this positive shift below.
Harvard report calls for college credential shift
By Andy Rosen GLOBE STAFF
JANUARY 20, 2016
The college admissions system should encourage applicants to emphasize their concern for others, dedication to family, and devotion to their interests, according to a new Harvard report that recommends a shift away from traditional measures like test scores and advanced classes.
The report, announced Wednesday by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, describes measures intended to “reward those who demonstrate true citizenship, deflate undue academic performance pressure, and redefine achievement in ways that create greater equity and access for economically diverse students.”
Among the proposals is one that advises colleges and universities to weigh family contributions — caring for sick relatives or working to support a household, for example — alongside academic achievements when evaluating whether students are well-suited for college studies. Other ideas include moving away from long lists of extracurricular activities and trips to exotic locales in favor of meaningful community service near home.
Richard Weissbourd, a senior lecturer on education at Harvard, said the report “sends a strong and clear signal that a lot of colleges are looking for kids that are passionate, spirited, and engaged learners.”
“It’s not about long brag sheets. It’s not about racking up accomplishments,” Weissbourd said. “It’s about being a caring person from day to day and being meaningfully involved in school.”
Weissbourd is also co-director of Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project , which produced the report along with The Education Conservancy and will work with colleges, parents, students, and high schools to put the recommendations into practice.
Those involved with admissions say the report reflects some of the changes in thinking that have taken place in recent years. But it also sets an ambitious agenda for changing long-time practices. Officials from colleges around the country signed onto the report, including large public research universities, elite religious schools, and small liberal arts institutions. Among the New England signatories were admissions leaders from Harvard, MIT, Boston College, Smith College, College of the Holy Cross, Amherst College, Yale University, Dartmouth College, Brown University, and Brandeis University.
The range of participants was encouraging for those who are hoping to see continued change in the field.
Mike Wasserman, Massachusetts executive director for Bottom Line, an organization that mentors at-risk students during the application process and throughout college, said that the report appeared to hammer home some points he’s long held true.
“The most important piece that I see in that is acknowledging all of the family and community responsibilities that the students who are working with us have,” said Wasserman. “I think it adds equity, but I think it also acknowledges a lot of the skills that young people from cities like Boston have that have been overlooked.”
What am I going to do when I grow up? It’s a question we all ask as children and teenagers, as college students and post-grads, even as adults. Some people are lucky and know what they want to do early on. They are passionate about one thing and follow that path right from high school all the way through college and a long, satisfying career.
But many of us flounder until something interesting comes our way. And sometimes, it never does.
Here’s my confession:
I spent much of my earlier years not know what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I felt pressured and anxious any time someone asked me, “What are you going to do when you graduate?” Or once I graduated, “So, what are you going to do now?” In high school, I didn’t know which college to attend or what to study once I was there, so I followed in my older brother’s footsteps, went to his alma mater, and eventually entered the business management program, just like he did. I wasn't passionate about business, but I didn't know what else to do. And once I graduated, I had no idea how I was going to use my business degree.
I had a bit of a clue, though. Back in high school, my brother and I had started a bagel delivery business, and I had enjoyed working for myself. It was the only inkling I had about what I might do with my life - work for myself doing…um...something. I got lucky. The opportunity to start my own test prep business came my way, and I jumped on it. Don't get me wrong; it’s been a very satisfying 14 years. But what if I had known back then that my strongest aptitudes lay in science and math? (They do). If I had had that knowledge back then, I may have explored different avenues which had not occurred to me otherwise. It may have changed the direction of my life.
If you would you like to find your perfect career choice - one that will make you happy, use your natural talents, challenge you sufficiently, and bring you satisfaction and joy - let me introduce you to the Latitude Assessment Profile (LAP).
It’s a revolutionary assessment test designed to help you discover what you’re wired to do well through revealing your natural aptitudes. Combining your skills with your personal interests, LAP empowers you to make the best decisions about your education and career choices. It doesn't rely on self-reported opinions or beliefs. Rather, it uses scientifically valid measurements of aptitudes, which are known to be relatively fixed after the age of 15. This means you can rely on the resulting information over a lifetime of decision-making.
Here's how it works:
First, you let us know you're interested in the LAP, and after a simple payment procedure, we send you an invitation to create an online account to take the test. You can take the assessment whenever you like, although it's best to sit through the whole thing at once (it takes a little over 2 hours, but there are built-in breaks). When you are done with the assessment, we make an appointment for you to meet with a specialist to discuss the results (a 90-minute session). It's that simple.
LAP will help you understand what you do best in life and shows you a clear path to doing it. If you want to get on the right path for you, contact us now to get started.
(831) 515-7373 or firstname.lastname@example.org
What is the LAT?
The LAT is a series of online tests (5 to 12 minutes each) that reveals your natural aptitudes and the way you most comfortably approach work, school, and relationships. Combining these aptitudes with your personal interests, the LAT compiles a list of careers, and majors associated with that career.
Included in career details are:
* a day in the life at the job
* number of openings nationally and per state
* average, starting, and upper level salaries
* required licensing or certification
* industries that include the career
What are Aptitudes?
Each of us is made up of a combination of innate qualities or aptitudes. Think of it as our hard-wired potential. When we are using our aptitudes, we are most happy and satisfied. We feel that we are "in the zone" rather than engaged in a uphill, frustrating battle trying to do something that doesn't come naturally.
Knowing your aptitude profile lets you apply your natural strengths to the way you approach life, including the types of courses you take in college, the type of work you choose for a career, and even your understanding of friends, family, and associates. It lets you invest your energy and passion where they can flourish most profoundly.
The LAT consists of 16 different aptitudes and results of "high", "medium", or "low" in each. But don't be afraid! Scoring "high" in an aptitude is NOT better than scoring "low."
Why "High" doesn’t mean "Better"
We live in a culture obsessed with tests and ranks, grades and scores. (I know- I own an test prep business!) So it’s no surprise we have developed very sensitive ears for the terms "low", "medium", and "high". We often unconsciously translate those terms to mean "bad", "better", and "best". After all, isn’t a "high" ranking college better than a "low" ranking college? Aren’t "high" grades are better than "low" grades? But this interpretation isn’t accurate or appropriate when it comes to aptitudes.
When we describe your LAT results, we mean something completely different, and it has nothing to do with rankings or with acing the aptitude test. Aptitudes are simply your natural strengths. Not what you’ve accomplished or what you’ve learned in class. They describe your potential to learn and apply certain kinds of skills quickly and easily, and your tendency to approach projects one way or another.
For example, one of the aptitudes is called Idea Generation. If you score "high", you are a "Brainstormer" (meaning you naturally produce a lot of ideas in a short period of time). If you score "low", you are "Concentrated and Focused" (meaning you are naturally focused on thinking through one idea at a time).
Having a propensity for idea generation doesn’t make you smarter or more talented. It does mean, however, that you’ll likely get more satisfaction from studies, work, and activities that make heavy use of that idea-generating knack.
On the other hand, scoring as Concentrated and Focused might make you the perfect fit for work that rewards a more focused approach, and where the constant impulse to spin out new ideas would just get in the way.
The terms "high," "medium," and "low" in relation to aptitudes mean very little by themselves. It’s only when you consider an aptitude in action- in a particular kind of project or activity- that you can begin to see how being "high" or "low" might make a difference in how naturally – and how happily – you’ll fit that work. LAT is a tool for self-knowledge, not for ranking. It doesn’t tell you if you’re "bad," "better," or "best". Just which type of work will satisfy you most deeply.
If I work really hard, can I improve an Aptitude?
Yes. You can, but you may not want to. You can work really hard to "overcome" a low aptitude, but it won’t come easily, and you may be left feeling exhausted, as if you are climbing uphill. Focusing your energy on careers that are a natural fit for you will provide an inherent ease and satisfaction in your life. Why not make excelling a little easier?
Are Aptitudes the same as skills?
No, skills are distinctly different from aptitudes. Skills are developed from practice and experience. The ease and speed at which we can master and utilize a skill will depend on our aptitudes.
Are Aptitudes the same as personality traits?
While personality assessments provide for interesting conversation, they rely on self-reported information. They more often reflect recent experiences and do not reliably predict one’s career fit. Personality inventories are useful in many settings, but should be viewed as a piece of the career puzzle rather than a key to unlock real information and guidance.
Contact us at (831) 515-7373 or email@example.com to get started
Hi! This is the last in the series of three posts about the Latitude Assessment Profile (LAP). I hope by now that you have a greater understanding of how the LAP can help you, whether you are are in high school, college, or an adult ready for a change.
High school students
High school students who are not yet sure which path they want to follow can explore potential careers, discover which style of classroom learning is best for them, and choose their classes to align with their aptitudes and ensure success.
College students who may have found some interesting classes or have some ideas about what they might want to do, but still have not chosen a particular path, can learn more about a specific career, what it takes to get there, explore an actual day in the life, number of openings in your preferred region, a salary range, and required licensing or certification.
It’s never too late to start a fresh, new chapter of your life. Discover a whole world of careers and avocations which match up your greatest strengths with your personal interests. Whether you're a parent about to launch her child into college and are ready to explore a career in the workplace, an adult looking for a change in career, or someone interested in learning more about who you are, you will find LAP an insightful guide in your exploration.
What You'll Get with LAP
1. Online assessment to measure aptitudes needed in today’s job market.
2. Interest survey to uncover the types of work (career, avocation, hobbies) you’ll find most satisfying.
3. Over 500 career recommendations based on your combined aptitudes and interests. Plus custom category views based on interest, salary, time investment, and number of national openings.
4. Career details including aptitude and interest fit analysis (see graphic below), college majors leading to that career, required degrees and other training requirements; starting, average, and top salaries; projected job openings; detailed description of daily job activities.
The LAP process will spark new questions (and answers) that you had no idea were so important to your success!
* Should I go to a school that offers big lecture classes or smaller, more intimate classes?
* Should I organize my assignments in my head, or do I need a calendar?
* Do I need a 3D model to get a better understanding, or are abstract ideas easier for me to grasp?
* Which course format should I avoid in college? Which should I choose?
* Will I study best alone or in a group?
* How good am I at rote memorization, and what will that mean for the courses I take in college?
* Do I respond better to long-term or short-term goals?
* Do I need all the details to make a decision, or am I a big picture thinker?
* Am I better off collaborating with a team, or should I become a specialist who works alone?
* Can I make quick decisions based on limited information, or do I need to investigate the facts more deeply before I move forward?
* What kinds of careers are good for someone like me, who has high spatial visualization aptitude?
* What's the best way for me to recharge- with friends or by myself?
* Should I create the itinerary for my vacation with friends, or should I let someone else do it?
* Am I better at hand-eye coordination than I thought I was because I never liked sports?
Knowing your aptitudes empowers you to make some of life’s biggest decisions confidently!
Contact us at (831) 515-7373 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get started
Hi, folks! One of the most common questions I receive is whether to take the SAT or ACT- or both. It's an excellent question, particularly because there are several different opinions on the subject. I'd like to share mine with you and outline a few important perspectives on standardized testing in general.
Some people think it's best to take both exams to see how the student performs on each. While it is not necessarily a bad idea to take both exams, the way in which you do so can mean the difference between student success and overload.
Here's what I mean: Taking a half-day exam like the SAT or ACT is grueling. Make no mistake- students are exhausted when it's all over. I don't believe in sending my students into either test unprepared- ever. I've seen enough students who have gone into a test cold become traumatized by their experience and now have to deal with increased anxiety because of it. So my first rule is: Always prepare for the SAT or ACT. Do not go into the test cold.
But do you have to take both tests? Not necessarily, but here's how to decide. I think it's easier to get an impressive score increase on the SAT than on the ACT, so I typically advise students who have no experience either way to start with the SAT. There are, of course, students who come to me having already tried both tests and clearly prefer the ACT. If their ACT scores are higher than their SAT scores, then I advise them to stick with the test they prefer. But only if their scores are higher! Choosing a test based on personal preference doesn't necessarily result in higher scores, and we must remember that our bottom line is the highest score possible. That must be our guiding light when choosing between the SAT and ACT.
OK, back to the question- do you have to take both tests? Let's say you've prepped, taken the SAT, and done pretty well. Now you're curious about how well you could do on the ACT. Should you go for it? The best way to find out is to take a practice exam. You do not need to sign up for the real ACT. Decide first whether it's worth your valuable time and energy. Take a practice exam (you can pick one up at the counseling office at school), score it, then give us a call. We can help you translate your ACT score into an SAT score. If your ACT scores are better than your SAT scores, then by all means, it makes sense to prep for and take the ACT. If they are the same or worse, you can forget about the ACT altogether.
One less thing, right? The more you can take off your plate during this busy time, the better. So don't assume you are saddled with the SAT, ACT, and Subject Tests (a subject for a different newsletter!). Call us any time to get some help in figuring the whole thing out. Testing doesn't have to be an overwhelming process. We can make it easy.
Do you think you won't be able to get high enough scores to get into your favorite college? Are you overwhelmed by the very idea of trying to tackle this exam in addition to everything else you have to do? If you answered yes, you're not alone. But I have to tell you, the way you're thinking about the SAT/ACT is totally wrong. Here are a few reality checks for you (I think you'll like them!):
Time Pressure Myth
For those of you who are stressing because you have to finish all those questions and just don't have enough time to do them, here's some good news:
SAT- Relax, take a deep breath, and start leaving questions blank. Imagine if you knew you could get your dream score and not even have to answer those ridiculously hard questions. Well, your dream has come true! You can get a 600 in each section (a total of 1800) by answering only 2/3 of the questions correctly - and leaving the rest blank! For example, in a math section of 24 questions, if you answer 16 correctly and leave 8 blank, and then perform the same way on the rest of the test, you'll get an 1800. Not bad for only doing 2/3 of the exam. And, you've just bought yourself about 8 more minutes per section. Pretty cool.
ACT - There are some sections of the test with so many questions it's really hard to get them all done. But relax, you don't get penalized for getting them wrong, so when you've gotten as far as you can and only have a minute or so left, start bubbling in randomly. No muss, no fuss, and you may even get a few right without doing any work. How's that for easy?
Every time I work with a student, I spend a lot of time asking the same question. "Isn't that easier than you thought it was when you first looked at the question?" Inevitably, the answer is yes. This is particularly true of the math section of the SAT. Many of the questions are unfamiliar, not at all what you've learned in school. So at first glance, they look scary and too difficult to do. But if you allow yourself a brief moment to just look at the problem, review the information they give you, and start with what you know, you can probably get through the problem. I'm reminded of being a kid and thinking that a big, scary shadow was a monster when it was really only a little dog. FEAR- false evidence appearing real.
"It's Overwhelming" Myth
It may seem that adding test prep to the huge list of other tasks you have to do is absolutely overwhelming. How can you possibly fit it in? But if you think about it, there is little that is overwhelming in and of itself. It's only our reaction to it that makes us feel anxious and perhaps defeated.
So if you are thinking it's all too much, take a breath and readjust your thinking. If going to college is important to you, then doing well on the SAT/ACT is as well. It pays to study. So first, you must decide that spending time on test prep is a good thing to do. And I don't mean slogging through because you have to do it. If you really want results, you need to know that spending time and energy on preparing for the SAT or ACT is a valuable endeavor that will get you where you want to go. Placing value on something you have to do will help you get through it more successfully and more enjoyably.
Next, realize that we all have exactly the same amount of time in a day - precisely 1440 minutes. No one has more, no one has less. How much you get done depends in part on your planning and your intention. Make room for test prep in your mind and in your schedule, and more time will mysteriously appear.
OK, but there's still the issue of actually fitting it all in. If you study a little every day (or even several days a week), focusing only on that one task, there's very little you can't fit in. It works like this: absolute focus gives you excellent results. So stop worrying about how much you have to do, and start doing just one thing at a time - fully and with total attention. You will remember more when you absorb yourself in your chosen task. One thing at a time. That's all it takes. One thing, then the next.
The last step is getting an expert who can inspire and educate you. The right person can have a miraculous effect on your excitement level and your scores. You don't need to struggle through it alone. Find that someone, and the battle is half won.
Personal Note: I've been working with students for 14 years, and here's what I know:
You can do it.
You are capable of so much more than you know.
All you need is someone in your corner to help you through the toughest parts.
I believe in you.
As race car drivers say, slow is fast. If I was captured by College Board demons, handcuffed, and told I could only offer one SAT Math tip to all the good students of the world, I'd say Slow Down!
Seriously. Slowing down in the math may seem counter-intuitive. There are so many questions and not a lot of time - but it may be the simplest, most effective strategy for SAT Math, especially for people who make careless errors. Which, by the way, is all of us.
Most students are so worried about getting through the questions that they screw up on a lot of easy questions that they completely understand and could have gotten right- if they had only taken another 20 seconds to make sure they read everything properly.
And here's another thing you must know about the Math section. The College Board test-makers figure out any careless mistakes you could possibly make, and then account for them in the answers. So there you are, moving through the questions, thinking it's going swimmingly because you see your answer in the choices. But little do you know that, in your haste to finish, you forgot that the question asked you to solve for 3x - 1, not x alone, like you're used to doing in school. You got x = 3, and voila! There it is, answer choice (B). So you bubble in (B), thinking it's all good.
Then, when you get your scores back, you're left wondering how they could be as low as they are. It's because you raced through the test, my friends. Please slow down, and watch your score rise like fresh bread in the oven. (Mmmm.... I'm hungry)
In race car driving, there's a saying: "Slow is smooth; smooth is fast." It's true on the SAT as well. Go smoothly and steadily, making sure you are accurate along the way. No, you can't dawdle, and you want your pacing to allow you to answer as many questions as you are able. But racing through it will drive you right off the track. Shooting for accuracy keeps your mind clear, and a clear mind moves more quickly than you might think.
Try this on your next practice test, and check out the results.**
Hello, everyone! Today's topic is about the way our thoughts can affect our physical and intellectual reality. You might call it mind over matter, but I call it an amazing way to get awesome SAT scores!
Here's an example: A couple of psychologists asked two groups of people to answer questions. People in one group were told that before each question, the answer would be briefly flashed on their screens — too quickly to consciously perceive, but slow enough for their unconscious to take it in.
The other group was told that the flashes simply signaled the next question. In fact, for both groups, a random string of letters, not the answers, was flashed. But, remarkably, the people who thought the answers were flashed did better on the test. Expecting to know the answers made people more likely to get the answers right.
Just imagine what you can do with your SAT scores with this kind of power! And it's something to which we all have access - anytime.
My point here is to tell you that we are each capable of far more than we give ourselves credit for.You can rock the SATs. Just expect that somewhere inside your mind, you know the answers. Sure, you might need to brush up on some geometry rules, but your mind has capabilities we do not yet fully understand. Assume the best of yourself - and your brain. Expect excellence, and your brain will produce it. Also, take a breath. Don't get too intense about all this stuff. You can't force it.
Here's a quote from the article:
"People have significant psychological resources to improve their well-being and performance, but these resources often go unused and could be better harnessed. The mind and body are not separate; our thoughts have remarkable control over our bodies, and our mindsets are capable of improving our brains’ performance."
Here is the link. Have fun, and do good work!
Hi, folks! Today's post is about cramming vs. learning. As students, we have all crammed for a test at one time or another. Hey, some of us knew no other way to study for a test! But we also know that cramming isn't the best way to retain information. In fact, it's the worst way, as the material we study in one sitting (like an all-nighter) is only stored in our short-term memory, which is good enough to regurgitate that information for the next day's test. This is why so many of us did well cramming in school.
The SAT or ACT, however, are not short tests for which you can memorize a series of facts. If you attempt to cram for them, you will find yourself in a heap of trouble. There is so much information packed into one exam that it's crucial to give yourself enough time to really prepare for it. Cramming won't cut it when you need to understand concepts and make connections between different types of questions, which is an important aspect of the SAT.
Here is an except from a recent article on cramming from Popular Science:
If the ubiquity of immersion-style language programs, emergency test prep classes, bleary-eyed college kids and caffeine-fueled energy potions is any indication, cramming is a wildly popular study strategy. Professors frown upon it yet collude by squashing vast topics like "Evolution" or "World history 1914 to present" into the last week of a course. So is cramming effective or not? A new study by UC–San Diego psychologists confirms what you may suspect deep down: The answer is no. Hurried memorization is a hopeless approach for retaining information.**
So, as appealing as a day-long or weekend SAT or ACT course might be, you'd be better off studying over several months to properly prepare for the tests. Bad news for a student's schedule; excellent news for their scores!