When Should I Take the SAT or ACT?

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 8/27/2018 5:23:16 PM

While most people would tell you that the “right time” for students to take the SAT or ACT is spring of their junior year, the reality is that it depends on a few things.  One of the most important factors in determining a student’s testing timeline is whether or not the student has completed Algebra 2.

If you’ve taken Algebra 2, you’re probably ready to start prepping!  And if you haven’t taken it, you aren’t ready and you’ll likely be frustrated, because you’ll be presented with math questions you have absolutely no idea how to approach or solve.
So here’s how we advise our clients:

If you take Algebra 2 in 10th grade, great!  During the summer between 10th and 11th, take a full-length practice SAT, and a full-length practice ACT.  These will not be fun.  And they should be real, retired exams (see below for explanation on this).  After you’ve taken both practice tests, it’s time to determine which you like better, and on which you sc...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance
Tags:
  • college admissions testing
  • SAT
  • ACT
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Advice For Juniors Part II: Taking Notes & Taking Ownership

Tina Boyer
Posted at 4/25/2018 5:59:00 PM

In addition to practice writing, the other form of “essay prep” that naturally occurs during junior year is researching the colleges on your prospective list. While doing this research, take written notes on each school. Include the things that interest you most and make a note of anything unique to a particular school. Jot down the reasons why the school could be a good fit for you. Same deal for campus visits: take notes! These notes will save you precious time and energy when you’re ready to tackle the “Why Us” supplemental essays on your applications.
 
Now it may sound like my advice to date is adding extra work to your already busy life. And it can be tempting for a well-intentioned parent to want to step in and do some of this early prep work. But the college application process is a crucial step in a student’s growth and that growth starts with the student taking ownership of their process.
 
So, it goes without saying that you will be the sole author of your c...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance
Tags:
  • College Essays
  • Essay Prep
  • Supplemental Essays
  • Owning The Process
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Advice For Juniors Part I: Journaling/Practicing Personal Narratives

Tina Boyer
Posted at 4/16/2018 6:26:17 PM

I’m a firm believer that the best time to work on your college application essays is the summer before senior year. But when that time comes, some juniors feel a little leery about shifting their writing style to personal narratives after spending their high school years focused on expository writing (aka thesis papers). Unlike most school assignments, your college application essays require you to tell stories about yourself.

If you want to get into a “personal narrative mindset,” you may find it helpful to do some journaling. Journaling is simply writing down your experiences, thoughts and reflections. You can spend as much or as little time as you like and you can write in whatever form you choose: by hand, on your computer, your phone, etc. It’s helpful to have a central location (whether it’s an actual journal, digital document, etc) to keep all your entries. I strongly recommend not posting your writing to social media; journaling is for you, not the rest of humanity. In add...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance
Tags:
  • College Essays
  • Personal Statements
  • Juniors
  • Writing Practice
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New Year's Resolutions for High School Students - Alliteration Style

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 1/29/2018 3:56:22 PM

Contribute to a Club
This comment typically results in a giant eye roll from high schoolers, but hear us out!  It is a small investment on time that could potentially reap great rewards.  If you haven’t participated in a club thus far, now’s the time to do some investigating and commit to participating in something new for the spring semester.  If you’ve already been participating in a club, take it to the next level by raising your hand for a leadership position or simply diving deeper into the club.  It’s important to realize that any type of participation is important and meaningful if you make it that way – you don’t have to have a title next to your name.  More importantly, it’s worthwhile if it speaks to who you are.  Who knows, you may discover a hidden talent or new best friend along the way!

Ramp up the Rigor
Now’s the time:  show colleges you can handle tough academic work!  Colleges are looking to see that you are challenging your...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance  |  Comprehensive College Guidance
Tags:
  • college advice
  • new year's resolutions
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What's my GPA for College Admissions? Weighted or Unweighted?

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 1/8/2018 4:09:26 PM

When a parent first calls us, they invariably report to us their child’s most recent semester GPA – in weighted format.  We usually have to break the bad news that the GPA for college admissions purposes is a student’s unweighted, academic, 9th grade through 11th grade GPA.  And it’s almost always lower than you think it is.

The problem is that there’s no ‘standard’ way for high schools to report GPAs, and there’s no ‘standard’ way for colleges to require them. So that leaves us in the horrible gray area where high schools can calculate students’ GPAs however they want – and report whatever numbers they choose to parents and students.  In some cases, high schools report multiple GPAs on a student’s transcript.  In the worst instances, some high schools report ONLY the weighted overall GPA.

On top of the weighting issue, many high schools include EVERY class a student has taken in high school in their GPA, such as athletics and non-academic electives.&n...more

Categories: Comprehensive College Guidance  |  Application & Essay Guidance
Tags:
  • GPA
  • weighted GPA
  • unweighted GPA
  • weighted vs. unweighted GPA
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Why Was I Rejected From My Dream School When Less-Qualified People Got In?

Lessa Scherrer
Posted at 1/5/2018 3:27:45 PM

 First off, life isn’t fair. Second, unless you were in the room where the admission decision was made, you don't know that the other student was less qualified than you. Sure, he might have similar, or even lower, grades and test scores, but numbers aren't all there is in holistic admissions.


     Simply put, college admission has never been fair to the applicants. Admission to a particular college is not something you earn or deserve. If your abilities match their institutional priorities, then you will be admitted. One of those priorities might be “We need more students whose wealthy families will give us money.” C’est la vie. Those students’ families are paying for other students’ scholarships.


     But, if I’m correct in assuming that your “dream college” is one of those top 20 name-brand colleges, you need to face the facts that admission to those schools is not a given for anybody. There ar...more

Categories: College Selection & List Development  |  Application & Essay Guidance  |  Comprehensive College Guidance
Tags:
  • admissions
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Grades, SATs, rec letters, awards, or essays: which is currently most important in the admissions decison?

Lessa Scherrer
Posted at 12/28/2017 2:53:59 AM

This is less a matter of “currently” than of type of college. Some colleges, particularly state flagship public universities like the University of Minnesota, don’t care at all about recommendation letters or essays. There’s no place in the application to include those things.
Other schools practice “holistic” admissions, which means they take all of these things into consideration. Lets look at what admissions officers gain from each of these application pieces:

  • Transcript: Your grades in individual classes show your level of mastery of the material in those classes. Some students just do better in STEM classes than they do in English/history, or vice versa. Your cumulative GPA gives a feeling for how you do overall in the context of your school. Your transcript also shows the amount of rigor of your high school program. Have you taken the hardest classes available to you?

  • Standardized test scores: Your SAT and ACT (and, in some cases, SAT subject tes
...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance
Tags:
  • Transcript
  • Honors and Awards
  • ACT
  • SAT
  • Essays
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Highlighting Community Service in College Applications

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 11/13/2017 5:35:12 PM

Students and parents frequently ask us how they can highlight their community service in college applications.  While community service is not required for admission to highly selective colleges, it is definitely one way to show colleges your involvement in your community, your values and the way you choose to spend your time.  Here are five tips to consider as you decide whether and how to highlight your community service in college applications:

Go Beyond the Minimum Required
Some high schools require that students perform community service, sometimes with a minimum number of hours.  Given that you will first be compared to the other students at your school, if you apply to the same colleges, you should think about completing more than the minimum number of hours, which will be viewed as “checking the box” for community service, but little more.  Students who amass significant hours of community service, with ongoing involvement with local non-profit organizat...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance  |  Resume Building  |  Summer Programs
Tags:
  • community service
  • college essays
  • college application tips
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