Posted: Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 | Filed under: college prep, education, PSAT exam, PSAT test prep | author: By Teddy Bergman
Posted: Friday, August 31st, 2012 | Filed under: Admissions Essay, College acceptance, College Admissions, college essay, college prep | author: By Teddy Bergman
The Preliminary SAT or PSAT is a test administered by the College Board to juniors (and some sophomores) in October. It is a test that officially marks the beginning of your SAT process and is a helpful diagnostic tool. The PSAT contains the same kinds of questions you find on the SAT and therefore gives you a good sense of what the actual test is like.
The PSAT includes multiple-choice questions on vocabulary, grammar, reading comprehension, algebra, geometry, and numbers and operations. It covered this material exactly as the SAT does, but with half the number of sections.
Posted: Friday, August 17th, 2012 | Filed under: choosing college, college, College acceptance, College Admissions, college education, college prep, education | author: By Sarah Mollo-Christensen
One of the many tough aspects of applying to schools revolves around crafting your college admissions essay. It’s a daunting project – distilling yourself into around five hundred words and appearing confident, honest, inquisitive, and open. College admissions officers turn to the personal statement as a means to find out about the sides of applicants that can’t be found in the rest of their college application. Transcripts, test scores, recommendations, and resumes only tell part of the picture and the admissions officers want to fill in the rest.
How to begin? The first and most crucial component of your college essay is the topic. The process of selecting a topic can be agonizing. The truth is that the truth always wins out. Write about an experience or issue that you really care about and have thought about. There is no substitute for authenticity. Never write what you think the admissions officers want to hear because inevitably your essay will come across as forced or hollow.
Don’t shy away from adversity. Often times crafting personal essays around an issue or problem you have faced and dealt with can prove to be the most illustrative of who you are. Admissions officers are looking for a perfect person, they are looking for the real you. They want to see what kind of asset you will be to their community.
This isn’t a persuasive five paragraph essay. Over the course of high school you have been trained to write well crafted persuasive essays. Essays that have a thesis, supporting paragraphs topped by topic sentences, and summational conclusions. Your personal statement is not a place for this form. You want to tell a story with your college essay and allow it to follow the logic of whatever topic you have selected. The best colleges essays should follow naturally and seamlessly,
A great way to begin, once you have selected your topic for your personal statement, is with a compelling anecdote. A story of something that has happened to you, told actively and in a way that places your reader right in the heart of the action, can be a real attention grabber for a college admissions officer. Once you have their attention, you can begin to unpack all the ways this story is significant to you, or the ways it illustrates the themes you are tackling.
Above all, trust yourself. You know yourself better than anyone. Every person you encounter, from your parents to your friends, from your teachers to your guidance counselors, will have a different idea of that they think you should right about for your college essay. Only you can say what will be an active and engaging essay that says something about you.
Lastly, put yourself in the place of the reader. You want to engage the admissions officers and make your writing active and descriptive. Use juicy adjectives in your college essay that engages your reader with a real sense of whats happening, and use the active forms of verbs for maximum impact.
If you keep these hints in mind, and trust your gut, you can write a totally killer personal statement.
Posted: Wednesday, August 8th, 2012 | Filed under: SAT, SAT exam, SAT grading, SAT prep, SAT scoring | author: By Teddy Bergman
Applying to college
Applying to college is a daunting task. The first three years of high school are all about preparing for this process, and between the SAT test, ACT test, SAT II Subject Tests, extra-curriculars, sports, AP tests, college visits, and getting that GPA up, those years were no walk in the park. For rising seniors, however, the real challenge is just beginning. Senior fall is one of most challenging semesters in high school, and when applying to college is layered on top of that, things can quickly spin out of control. When it comes to applying for college, therefore, it’s important to have a plan in place, and get started early.
The first step for any high schooler thinking about college (other than getting SAT test scores, ACT test scores, SAT Subject Test scores, and grades in order) is to start visiting colleges. Junior year is a perfect time to do this, since senior fall will be very busy, and summer isn’t a great time to visit colleges and go on college tours (with no students on campus, it’s difficult to get a sense of what the community is like, and what it would be like to go there). When you’re there, ask relevant questions of your tour guide, and make all the connections you can with coaches who might be interested in you, teachers who specialize in your interests, and family friends who have connections to the school. By the summer between junior and senior year, you, your guidance counselor, and your parents should have come up with a rough list of schools you want to apply to in the fall.
Your best friend in the process of applying to college will be the Common Application, also known as the Common App. Almost all colleges and universities accept the Common App, so it provides a convenient way to apply to all the colleges you’re targeting at once, and in one place. You can find the Common App online at www.commonapp.org. The first step is creating a login and password, and then starting to fill in your personal and academic information on the website. We suggest that you do this in early August, because that’s when colleges will be posting their supplements (with extra questions, required information, and essays) on the Common Application site. Once you have your account on the site, you can begin adding colleges to your “My Colleges” page, and starting to check out each college’s supplement.
The first step to completing your Common App, once you fill in all your personal and academic information, is to upload your College Essay (also known as you personal statement), and write your short answer essay about an extra-curricular activity that has been very important to you. The personal essay can be uploaded to the Common App, so length is not as important (although the Common Application suggests a length of 250-500 words, and many college admissions advisors suggest that you not exceed 650 words). The short answer essay, however, has a strict limit of 1,000 characters—more than that will not fit in the box provided.
You will also need to provide several letters of recommendation, which you can send requests for to your teachers through the Common App website. Think hard about which teachers would write you the best teacher recommendation letters—it should be someone who knows you well, and likes you and your work.
You must also remember to send your scores—either through the College Board website (for SAT test scores) or the ACT Student website (for ACT test scores)—to the colleges you intend to apply to. If you haven’t finished your testing yet, plan on having those new scores sent as soon as you receive them in the fall. Remember to make sure you’re sending the scores that show you off in the best light. For the SAT test, that probably means Super Scoring, and for the ACT test, that means choosing your best test date. You will need to pay a fee to send your scores, and it can only be done through these websites.
Once that’s done, you will need to fill out the Common App supplement for each college. Each college will have its own supplement, with additional information and additional essays.
Once everything has been filled out and uploaded to the Common Application, all that remains to be done is for you to provide an electronic signature and a payment method (each application has fees associated with it, which is one reason to narrow down your list of schools to apply to). After you’ve done both of those things, send off your applications!
After you send your applications, it’s a good idea to check in with your guidance counselor and make sure all the necessary information has been sent from your high school to the colleges to which you’re applying. You can also be keeping in touch with any of the connections you made at those colleges, and reminding them that you’re still working hard and still interested in their school.
After that, cross your fingers, keep working hard at school (some colleges will follow up to make sure you’re still doing well during senior year), and hope for the best!
Posted: Friday, July 27th, 2012 | Filed under: college, college education, college life, Extracurricular activities | author: By Sarah Mollo-Christensen
What is Super Scoring and what does it mean for me? How does it affect my SAT process?
The SAT testing process is a long and daunting one. Hours of study, hours of preparation, hours of anxiety, and hours of test taking don’t make for a generally easy or enjoyable experience. Few things along this road make your life easier, so when you find something that does, grab a hold of it and use it for all its worth. One such thing is Super Scoring.
Super Scoring is the informal practice of poaching sectional scores from various SAT testings to make one optimal test score. Meaning, if you take the SAT multiple times, you can pick your best math score from one test, your best writing score from another test, and your best reading score from yet a different test to form a super score. Under the lens of Super Scoring, you can view your SAT testing as a process, and not a series of do or die moments.
To be clear, Super Scoring is not something the College Board – the company that creates and administers the SAT – does. It does not appear on your score report or your College Board home page. More importantly, Super Scoring is something that many college admissions offices engage in. And the practice is growing. Admissions officers want to see you in your best light, so they are considering your achievement on the SAT, through the lens of Super Scoring. When you visit schools, be sure to ask the admissions office if they Super Score.
As a student, you want to take full advantage of Super Scoring, and this means you should start your SAT process early. You want to be sure that you are giving yourself adequate opportunities to sit for the SAT test and do your best. Super Scoring thrives on having numerous test scores to choose from. Only by thinking ahead and planning your SAT test dates can you reap all the rewards of Super Scoring.
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!