Posts Tagged ‘preparing for college’

Benefits of a Gap Year

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Gap Year

The “Gap Year,” as it’s known in Europe, can, for some students, be a shrewd choice.  Able, independent-minded high-schoolers who aren’t sure of what they want to study and who desire to see a little bit of life, can grow a lot by taking time off before college.  For them, the worry that you’ll lost interest in college by seeing more of the world and of “real life” is a silly one.  It becomes even sillier if they have a plan for their gap year.  That means a sort of map for the calendar, a few goals to accomplish.  That means more than just being a grocer’s attendant the whole year (though that can be valuable for 3-4 months, to earn some dough to travel).

In general, if you want to take time off and do something specific, then you probably should.  The experience will give you focus later at college and an appreciation for parts of life that other freshman won’t have.  In fact, it can make you more valuable to colleges; Princeton, Harvard, MIT all encourage taking time off after high school. (more…)

The Importance of the PSAT

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

For many students and parents, the PSAT is their first encounter with the SAT process and it can be very daunting. The format is foreign, the PSAT’s relationship to the SAT unknown, and thus the PSAT’s importance seems vague.  A lot of misinformation gets spread in school communities about the PSAT, so lets try and dispel the myths.

Colleges do not see the PSAT.  The PSAT, or Preliminary SAT, is a diagnostic tool for students and parents to get a sense of what the SAT is like.  Colleges have no access to your score, nor are they interested in it. It is a test that is, first and foremost, for the student.

The only practical ramification of the PSAT pertains to the National Merit Scholarship.  Students who place in the 99th percentile (in most states) of the PSAT become eligible for a National Merit Scholarship.  A high score doesn’t guarantee that you will be awarded a scholarship, it only means you are eligible.  Basically, it’s the cherry on top, but not the real purpose of the PSAT exam.

The real purpose of the PSAT is to see where a student stands in relationship to the SAT.  The PSAT consists of 5 sections: 2 math sections, 2 reading sections, and 1 writing section. While the question types and content covered on the PSAT is also covered on the SAT, the SAT exam is much longer. The SAT consists of 10 sections (one of which is experimental and not graded). The remaining 9 sections of the SAT break down into 3 math sections, 3 reading sections, 2 writing sections, and an essay.

All of these affinities between the SAT and PSAT remaining true, it’s still a mistake to put TOO much weight on the PSAT score as an indicator of how a student will perform on the SAT.  If you read CATES’ upcoming newsletter (posted on our site in early 2012) you can find out exactly the ways the PSAT score is not a great gauge of the SAT.  The PSAT is really just a taste of the SAT and a student’s first opportunity to understand the testing process. Study hard, be prepared, but don’t freak out.

How to Get Organized

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

How can I get organized, and stay organized?

If you’re like most high school students, you’re probably feeling intimidated–if not overwhelmed–at the prospect of keeping up with your schoolwork, writing admissions essays, and taking the ACT or SAT exam (or maybe even both!).  With so much to do, and so much at stake, it’s incredibly important to stay organized.

  1. Make sure that you have a place to work that’s free of distractions.  You’re going to find it a lot more difficult to memorize SAT vocabulary lying in bed than you will sitting on a bench in the park, or–better yet–a chair in the library.
  2. Keep your phone off and, if possible, your computer offline.  Right now, school is your job, so treat your schoolwork and college admissions prep the same way you would treat your office job, if you had one.  Stay focused.
  3. Keep you room and backpack clean and organized.  The organized you are in your physical spaces the more your thoughts and work will ordered. If this is something you struggle with, CATES Tutors have great strategies to keep your life from getting messy.
  4. Set goals for the month, the semester, and the year.  If you fee like you are working towards something specific, like increasing an SAT or ACT Test Score, you will be greatly helped.
  5. Don’t Multitask. Tt may seem like a great idea to multitask, but studies show you’ll accomplish more if you stay completely focused on one thing at a time. Making listss of what you need to do, either on your own or with a CATES Tutor and prioritize the tasks on it.
  6. Don’t Procrastinate. It’s tempting to delay preparing for big projects, like term papers, or prepping for the SAT or ACT exams.  Don’t.  Break down big projects into smaller steps.  If you have to memorize eight hundred SAT vocabulary words, over six weeks, how many words do you need to learn each day?  If you need extra practice on geometry problems, how much time should you devote to geometry each week?

If you’re having trouble figuring out what to prioritize, or how to get everything done, you may want to meet with a CATES tutor, who can help you figure it out.  Getting organized and staying organized is helpful for anybody, and it’s especially important for high schoolers negotiating the college admissions process.

Life Skills for College Students

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

How can I prepare for my first year in college?

Summer’s already drawing to a close, and you’re on the verge of heading into your freshman year of college.  After years of AP classes and college board exams—not to mention writing admissions essays and visiting various campuses—you’re probably relieved to be done with high school, and also a little terrified of what challenges college may have in store.

Here’s the good news.  The same skills you’ve developed in preparing for the ACT and SAT, in juggling classes and extracurricular activities, and in putting together college applications are going to serve you well

Make a schedule of your daily college life.  Just like with ACT and SAT prep, or writing admissions essays, studying for tests and writing papers in college is a lot easier if you don’t put it off until the last minute. Schedule yourself to get up early, make time to go the gym, budget a lot of the day to be in the library, and keep an early bedtime on weeknights.

While you were preparing to take the SAT or ACT, you probably heard someone (maybe a tutor at CATES Tutoring) advise you how important it is to get enough sleep and to eat something on the morning of the test.  Though this suggestion may sound obvious, we’ve found students who don’t get enough sleep or get enough to eat have major problems remaining focused for the entirety of the ultra-long college board exams. Day to day college life provides a lot less structure, and no parental supervision.  You’re likely to find yourself skipping meals and pulling all-nighters.  Know your limits and take care of yourself.  Otherwise, you’re likely to find yourself unable to concentrate—or even to function at all.

Your first year in college is going to be incredibly exciting, but also challenging.  Keep on top of your work, stay focused and stay healthy, just like you did when preparing for your college board exams.  Keeping these guidelines in mind will go a long way towards helping you to make the most of your college experience.