Posted: Monday, July 30th, 2012 | Filed under: ACT, SAT, SAT exam | author: By Sarah Mollo-Christensen
Posted: Friday, July 27th, 2012 | Filed under: college, college education, college life, Extracurricular activities | author: By Sarah Mollo-Christensen
With extended time becoming more and more common on the SAT and ACT, this is a question that has been coming up a lot. If you’re struggling with the timing constraints of the SAT or the ACR due to slow processing (you can’t read quickly enough to absorb what’s in the passage and then answer the questions in the given amount of time) or working memory issues (you struggle to remember the information you read just a few moments after you read it), you may want to consider getting tested for a learning difference.
To do so, you’ll need to meet with a licensed neuro-psychologist who can run you through the full range of tests in order to determine if your issues warrant any testing accommodations. (If you need help finding a neuro-psychologist, feel free to contact us—we would be happy to suggest a few with whom we’ve worked in the past.) The testing process is intensive, and sometimes takes several days to complete, so some neuro-psychologists will run a “screen” (about half of the tests) to determine whether or not completing the testing process is justified. If it is, they will then run the remainder of the tests, and write a comprehensive report (these reports usually take several weeks to turn around).
This report should feature all the data from the testing process, along with a biographical case study of you as a person and as a student (including the reason you came in for testing), and make specific conclusions about your learning profile. Most importantly, if you do deserve testing accommodations, the narrative of the report must unquestionably support an absolute need for accommodations. In the conclusion, the neuro-psychologist must make a specific diagnosis as to what learning disorders you may have, and designate an industry-accepted code for the disorder (such as “315.0 Reading Disorder,” “315.2 Disorder of Written Expression,” “315.1 Mathematics Disorder,” or “315.4 Developmental Coordination Disorder”).
The entire process, from initial testing to receiving the finish report takes at least two weeks, if not three or four, and beyond that, the college board can take ten weeks to process and respond to your application (the ACT is a bit quicker, at about six week). So, if you’re considering the possibility that you might qualify for testing accommodations, it’s a good idea to get started ASAP!
Posted: Thursday, July 26th, 2012 | Filed under: college prep, SAT exam, SAT prep, SAT strategy | author: By Sarah Mollo-Christensen
Packing for college is not like packing for summer camp.
You’ll need more than a few t-shirts, shorts, and a change of underwear. You won’t, however, need to pack up everything you’ve ever owned and expect it to fit into your half of your new dorm room. The transition to college is a big one—it may be the first big move you’ve ever made, and it’s probably the first time you’ll be living away from home. Deciding what to pack can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to put off this very tangible marker of your transition out of childhood and into adulthood. We have been there, and we’ve put together a list to help you get started.
Since closet and dresser space is probably going to be pretty limited, keep the season in mind as you choose which clothes to bring to college. Remember that you’ll probably be home again for Thanksgiving, and could switch out some of your fall jackets for winter parkas then. Even if you don’t plan on going home before winter comes, you could pack up a box of winter things for your parents to send to you when the temperature starts to drop. Location is important, too—if you grew up in Florida, and are headed to Carleton, Syracuse, or Dartmouth, you are in for a surprise…don’t forget your mittens, ski hat, parka, long underwear, and warm socks. Conversely, if you’re a Vermonter heading to Florida State, go ahead and hand down your snow pants to your little brother. You can always borrow them back when you come home for the holidays.
Some other things to keep in mind as far as clothing is concerned:
- The number of pairs of underwear and socks that you bring will probably determine how often you do laundry. Bring a LOT of them.
- You will definitely want to look good sometimes, but you will find that pajama pants and sweatshirts play a much larger role in your day-to-day wardrobe than they ever have before. Bring lots of comfy things.
- Bring all the things you will need to keep your clothes clean and nice: hangers for your closet, a laundry bag, detergent, stain remover, dryer sheets, an iron and small ironing board, a sewing kit with safety pins in it (they come in handy when you’re making a toga out of a bedsheet), and one of those Tide-to-Go stain remover pens for emergencies.
- Bring flip flops for the shower. Seriously.
Bath and Toiletries
You won’t be able to spread your things out in a shared dorm bathroom, so bring the things you need and something to carry them back and forth from the bathroom in.
- Bathroom caddy
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and anything else—retainer?—that you use regularly
- Hairbrush, comb, your hair products of choice, and styling tools (blowdryer, curling/straightening irons, bobby pins, hair elastics, etc.)
- Body wash, shaving gel/cream, razors, deodorant, and nail scissors
- Facewash, moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup
- Two or three bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths
- Bathrobe (you don’t want to have to get fully dressed just to go down the hall to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and while you could just risk it in your skivvies, we strongly suggest a robe.)
Obviously, you’ll want to bring any medications you take, along with a prescription for a refill when you run out (or a plan to have your doctor call in a refill). It’s also good to know ahead of time what to do if you miss a dose. There are a few over-the-counter things you might want to have on hand as well:
- Pain reliever/anti-inflammatory (Ibuprofen, Tylenol—whatever you like)
- Cold/allergy medicine/decongestants (you can always purchase this later, but you don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night with a terrible cold and nothing on hand)
- Visine (whether you think so or not, you may find yourself needing this)
- Band-aids and antibiotic cream
- Contact lens solution and case (if you wear contacts)
Since your bed will also probably serve as living room and study space, you’ll want it to be comfortable, functional, and nice to look at. Don’t buy the first cheapo off-to-college-sheet-and-comforter set that you see—they can be scratchy. Bring the following:
- Two sets of soft sheets and pillowcases (we’ll leave thread count up to you, but make sure that you’re buying the right size—many dorm beds have extra-long mattresses).
- A duvet with a washable cover
- A mattress pad
- A mattress protector (Other people slept on that mattress before you. You don’t know them. A barrier is not a bad idea.)
- A few throw pillows for when your bed is doing double-duty as your couch.
- A reliable alarm clock
- Earplugs and a sleep mask are optional, but can come in handy if your roommate unfortunately turns out to be a loud night-owl.
Your under-bed space will probably be your best bet for storage in a small room, so plan ahead. Buy:
- Bed raisers (blocks that go under each leg of the bed, and give you extra storage space)
- Under-bed storage boxes
- Storage for on top of your dresser (jewelry boxes, stackable boxes—whatever suits your needs)
You’ll probably be eating most of your meals in dining halls, but it’s nice to have some things in your room, too.
- Mini-fridge (you may be able to rent one through the school)
- Hotplate (if it’s allowed by the school—they can be a fire risk)
- A few bowls, spoons, forks, knives, and cups, and a sponge and detergent to wash them with
- Paper towels (they’ll come in handy)
- A water filter (like a Brita)
You can buy the actual food when you get there, but here are some classics, and some new ideas:
- Top Ramen (Your father probably ate it at college, and maybe his father before him. It’s a tradition. It’s also kind of gross.)
- Cereal and milk
- Fruit (apples last a long time)
- Nuts (almonds, if we’re being healthy about it)
- Mac and Cheese
- Peanut butter (good on apples, good on bread, good straight out of the jar!)
- Protein bars (they last forever, so as long as you eat them before you graduate, you’re probably ok)
Your room is your new home, so don’t forget to bring things to make it feel that way. Posters, photos, wall-hangings, rugs, a fan, mirrors, white boards…go all out. You may also enjoy bringing the followings things, for entertainment both in and outside of your room:
- TV/DVD player (unless you plan to watch both of your computer)
- Sound system you can plug your iPod into
- Gaming system (Gamers beware—this is a major time suck. Don’t let it eat you alive.)
- Digital camera and photo paper
- A vacuum cleaner, and some cleaning supplies (We know that doesn’t sound super fun. But you won’t want to have people over if your room is disgusting.)
- Baseball glove
- Hiking boots
- Camping chair for reading on the quad
- Water bottle
The most important thing you’ll want to have for your study space is a computer, preferably a laptop. Your school library will have computers, but it’s very hard to do without one of your own (preferably a sturdy one, with a good carrying case). A printer is a great thing to have in your room for smaller print jobs and emergency paper-due-this-morning situations, but your school will probably have a good way for you to print stuff out, when you need to. Optional but useful computer accessories:
- Extra power cord
- Extra phone charger
- Thumb drive/flash drive
- Ethernet cable and possibly a wireless router (if your school doesn’t have wireless internet)
- Printer cable, paper, and ink (if you’re bringing a printer)
- Compact speakers
- A lock to lock your computer to your desk
You’ll be getting lots of books and pieces of paper, so it’s good to have some plan for how you’re going to keep track of them. Bookends help you make a bookcase out of any shelf. A file box with hanging folders, one per class, is not a bad option, and a folder for each class to go on your bookshelf when it’s not in use is also helpful. Other things for your desk/study space:
- A desk lamp
- Pen and pencil holder
- Pens and pencils
- Paper clips
- A stapler and staples
- Staple remover
- Three-hole punch
- Sticky notes for flagging things you’re reading and for leaving passive-aggressive notes for your roommate (just kidding about the passive-aggressive part…though sticky notes do work well for that.)
- Sharpies (these just seem to come in handy, like duct tape)
- Power strips/extension cords/surge protector
- Batteries for everything battery-powered that you’re bringing
There are also a few important cards you’ll need, and documents that you should remember to bring, and stow safely away in your desk somewhere:
- Your driver’s license or state ID
- Your health insurance card
- Your social security card (you will rarely need this, and you should keep it locked up somewhere, but some states require it when you apply for a license, and some jobs might need to see it before they hire you.)
- Health records
Last of all, remember that your desk is also going to serve as your dining room table, and your entertainment center. Do yourself a big favor, and get a rubber keyboard cover. They’re cheap…much cheaper than replacing your computer when a drink gets spilled on it…which it will.
So, this was a loooong list. It may feel like you’re packing for the apocalypse, but don’t worry. If you forget something, your parents will probably be happy to send it to you (if you ask nicely), and they might even use it as an excuse to visit you. So, depending on whether or not that’s something you want, pack with care!
Posted: Monday, July 23rd, 2012 | Filed under: choosing college, college, College acceptance, college education, education | author: By Teddy Bergman
It’s the summer before your senior fall, and you’ve got a lot on your mind. You just finished off a big year, and you’re headed for an even bigger one. You worked hard, and it’s understandable that you want a break from the grind—SAT prep is probably not number one on your list of fun summer vacation activities. However (of course there’s a however), fall will be here before you know it, and it will hit hard—school, sports, extra-curriculars, SATs, college essays and college visits will blow in like a hurricane. You DO deserve to enjoy your summer vacation, but you also need to be thinking ahead to the fall, and figuring out what you could do now to prepare yourself—it’s all about balance and planning ahead. Here are our tips on making and enacting an SAT game plan:
Revisit your Score Reports
Begin by analyzing your SAT score reports from the spring. The SAT Online Score Report is a good place to start, and can tell you where you need to improve and gain the most points.
If you got gouged on the sentence completions, vocab is a great thing to get started on over the summer, since it takes a while to improve (and you can bring your flashcards to the beach!)
- If the math sections gave you trouble, take a closer look at the difficulty of the questions you got wrong. If you got mainly difficult questions wrong, and a few mediums, you probably want to focus on content, and making sure you’re solid on all of the math that will be on the test. If you did well on the difficult questions, but missed some easy ones, perhaps you’re making careless errors that could be avoided through being neater, checking your work, or slowing down and focusing on answering the questions that you can get right.
- If the writing sections tripped you up, you need to focus on improving your grammar skills (a little poolside reading, anyone?)
If you ordered the SAT Question & Answer Service for the May SAT, it should have arrived by now. Go over it with your tutor, and determine how many questions you missed, but could have answered successfully. Figure out what went wrong the first time around, and what you can do to solve those issues, and reach your target scores.
Drill the Material
Once you have identified areas of weakness and traps you are prone to falling into, it’s time to drill, baby, drill. Use content-specific tools such as:
- CATES Drill sheets for Math Content, Common Writing Errors, Reading Passages, and Sentence Completions
- Hot Words by Barrons
- Kaplan & Princeton Review Workbooks
- McGraw Hill Top 50 Skills on SAT Math, Reading, and Writing
Be Honest With Yourself
Think back to how you prepared over the past year. Did you REALLY give it your all? If you had it to do over again, there are probably things that you would do differently…if only they offered the SAT in October, so you could take another shot at it…oh wait, they do! Hooray! This time, give it everything you’ve got.
Time is running out. It’s easy to avert your eyes from the SAT/College Essay/Applications wave looming large on the horizon, but it won’t serve you very well, and it will make for a much more stressful fall term. Once school starts, it will be difficult to find time to dedicate to doing SAT prep right. Use this summer break wisely, and prepare yourself for what’s coming, so that it’s manageable, rather than overwhelming.
Set Weekly Goals
Once you have your priorities and resources in order, create a schedule for each week to help yourself stay on track with your test prep. Summer goes fast, and you don’t want to spend Labor Day weekend inside doing a summer’s worth of work—procrastination is a killer.
Consider the ACT
If you’re struggling to reach your target scores, and don’t feel that you’re getting closer, it might be a good idea to consider whether the ACT might be a better test for you. It is given in the first week of September, which doesn’t leave a lot of time, but the work you’ve done on the SAT will pay off on the ACT, too, and with a few tweaks, you might be able to shoot for a strong score on the September ACT (and be done with standardized tests!).
Posted: Monday, July 16th, 2012 | Filed under: choosing college, College acceptance, College Admissions, college education, college life, college prep | author: By Teddy Bergman
As you come to the end of your high school career you begin to face a lot of choices and new responsibilities. If you decide on attending a college, and I sincerely hope you do, there is a wealth of amazing schools across the country that you will be able to choose from. Colleges and universities range in size, location, curriculum, philosophy, and overall atmosphere. One of the big divisions is between state schools and private schools.
State schools are partially funded and tied to the infrastructure of the state they serve and call their home. These schools tend to have large campuses and accordingly serve a large number of students. State schools are all part of a network of colleges that make up a state’s educational system and are generally comprehensive in their course offerings and curricula. Most state schools are universities, meaning they offer graduate programs as well as significant research facilities and programs. Many of these schools are where the nation’s top-flight athletic programs are found, and so teams and sporting events feature strongly in the life of the campus.
On the other end of the spectrum exist private colleges and universities. These set of schools have no ties to the state or local governments they exist in and were founded and run by a group of private individuals. These private schools were often founded with a particular mission in mind, and are also sometimes merely colleges and not universities. Colleges only offer undergraduate degrees and do not generally have any graduate departments. Private schools tend to be smaller in size and student population, while there are some exceptions to this. All of the Ivy League schools are private, though this does mean that all private institutions are more elite than state schools, far from it. The real question to ask yourself when making a choice between a state and private college is “what am I looking for in my college experience?”
State schools often have a unique kind of school spirit that extended from their athletic fields to all aspects of campus life. The size and diversity of a campus of a state school, the volume of course offerings, the variety of student life, and the chance to be near leading research in a field of interest all lure people to state schools. State schools can feel like small cities and provide an excitement and intellectual and social energy that are perfect for many people. Also, state schools, in so far as they are partially subsidized by the state they inhabit can be cheaper – especially if you are a resident of that state. Going to University of Michigan when you live in Michigan, or SUNY Binghampton when you live in New York, is a great option because you are receiving a top-flight education at a fraction of the price.
On the other hand, private colleges can offer an intimacy and immediacy of attention hard to find at large state schools. If many state schools feel like cities, private schools feel like villages. There is a real ownership over your academic and student life at private colleges. So much of the school’s life is generated by the small group of peers and teachers interacting with each other every day. At a state school, especially in your first couple of years, you will find yourself interacting with teaching assistants, and often only getting contact with professors in lecture settings. Private colleges place you in the classroom with a professor more often than not for all four years. This promises a kind of academic focus and access not found at a larger state school. Of course, this comes with a price. Private colleges tend to be more expensive.
At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with either type of school but its important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both kinds of institutions and experiences. You give up and gain something by making either choice and its important to be fully informed.
After the arduous task of working hard in high school, studying for the SAT or ACT exams, visiting colleges, writing essays, filling out applications, and waiting for acceptances you get the great news – you got in! All your incredible hard work has paid off and you are on your way to college. Four years of new intellectual frontiers, freedom, responsibility, and maturation await you.
One of the few things that students are prepared completely for is the process of choosing a major. It’s an important decision and, along with the college you choose, a statement and choice about your interests and values. A college course catalogue can, at times, feel like an overwhelming buffet and picking what you want can be quite difficult.
Of course, a number of factors, that vary from school to school, will affect the nature of this choice. Undoubtedly, one of the major factors that drew you to the college you ended up at was the nature of the curriculum. Inherent in that curriculum, and the educational philosophy of any school is a question of freedom. Some schools let you entirely pick and choose what you’d like to study and have no requirements outside of the demands of various majors, while some have very intensive demands for all students. At University of Chicago and Columbia University, they have a strenuous core curriculum that require all students to do battle with the great works of western humanities and sciences. Other schools have broader distribution requirements, that demand you take classes is a wide array of broad disciplines like Humanities (English, Philosophy), Social Science (Sociology, History), and Natural Science (Biology, Chemistry).
In other instances, students attend specialized schools for bachelor degrees in fine arts, engineering, and business. While there is certainly a degree of choice in these institutions, in affect your major has already been chosen. Similarly, students who go into a undergrad experience with the full knowledge that they want to go on to pursue a graduate degree in Law or especially Medicine will want to elect a major very quickly so they can complete their rigorous and specialized requirements.
The toughest choice is usually faced by undergrads in a Liberal Arts setting with more freedom. Here, the playing field is wider and the timetable governing the selection process more fluid. There are still factors that condition when you want to elect a major though. The number of requirements in a given field will establish a need to start working early to have a balanced and manageable experience. Also, if you plan to study abroad at any point, most school require that you have established your major by that point.
As a general rule of thumb, most students want to elect a major by the end of their sophomore year. This means in the first two to three semesters of school it’s wise to take classes in many disciplines you suspect may interest you and see what fits. Also, if there is a particular teacher whose work and style interest you – take his or her classes. This can be an organic and rewarding way to find the perfect major for you.