Blog: Resources and information for college applicants.

ACT vs. SAT

Posted by on Sep 27, 2014 in SAT & ACT | Comments Off on ACT vs. SAT

ACT vs. SAT

ACT vs. SAT Welcome to the new school year everyone! I’ve always found the start of a school year to be exciting and full of potential and promise: new classes, new teachers (or old favorites on new subjects), new combinations of friends and activities. So many possibilities, and so much to do. And if you are a junior or senior, this time of year most likely has you thinking about standardized tests. Juniors are about to take their PSAT of record and are thinking about their upcoming SAT’s or ACT’s in the early spring; Seniors are taking their final versions of these tests and dreaming of the moment when all their college application hoops are jumped through and they can sit back and see how the acceptances come in. I’ve been tutoring standardized tests for more than two decades now, and a question I get a lot is: what are the differences between the SAT and ACT and which test should I take? And while the tests have many points of similarity, there are also many significant differences that can help you decide which test to throw your preparation energies behind. Just The Facts, Ma’am The ACT is a 2 hour and 55 minute test consisting of 5 sections: Writing, Math, Reading, Science and an optional Essay, but to be competitive with your fellow applicants, it really isn’t optional: take the Essay. The sections range in length from 60 minutes to 30 minutes. The SAT, on the other hand, clocks in at nearly 4 hours, but is broken down into ten bite-sized sections (25 min or less) of Critical Reading, Writing, Math and a 30 minute Essay. If you are a student with a timing accommodation, the SAT can become monstrously long and unless you can take it over two or more days, the ACT may be the way to go. If concentration over long periods of time is troubling, the ACT is the shorter test, but has longer individual sections. If you tend to have trouble finishing within a time limit, the SAT has shorter sections and fewer questions per section, which is more forgiving for slower test takers. Number Crunchers vs. Bookworms The ACT tends to be a better test for math achievers and the SAT plays to the strengths of readers and those with a great vocabulary. The Science section of the ACT requires little to no outside science knowledge and essentially tests your ability to read charts and graphs and extrapolate data from them. If you enjoy math, you will enjoy and excel on the math and science sections of the ACT. The SAT has no science section, but has a heavy emphasis on vocabulary, which the ACT leaves out entirely. If you know your vocabulary is not all it should be at this point, the ACT is the better test for you. However you should also start a weekly self-study program of vocabulary enrichment; you will thank me when you hit your first college reading list and again when you have your first job interview! Straight Shooters vs. Puzzle Lovers Both tests cover reading comprehension and grammar, both have math sections and an essay. The ACT in general is more intuitive and the SAT is more “trick” based. If you are person who enjoys riddles...

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APRIL- COLLEGE VISITS

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Application Process, Colleges & Visits, Juniors, Sophomores | Comments Off on APRIL- COLLEGE VISITS

APRIL- COLLEGE VISITS

As spring break approaches, we want you to take some time to focus on your college visits. In our sessions this month we will be going over, “Top Ten Ways to Test Drive a College,” originally published by IECA and a list of questions we put together that goes beyond asking things you can find on any college website. Sample Questions for Tour Guides: – Why did you decide to come to this school? – What have you been most surprised about in your time here? – How do students interact with faculty- inside and outside the classroom? – Do students tend to stay on campus or get involved in activities in the surrounding area? Sample questions for Admissions Officers: – What impresses you the most in a student’s application? – Is demonstrated interest a factor in your admissions decisions? – What changes do you see taking place on campus in the next five years? – Are the admission standards higher for certain majors?   CHECKLIST FOR COLLEGE VISITS PICK A FEW QUESTIONS YOU WANT ANSWERED: You only need to pick a few (maybe 3-5) that are important to you (go through the print out) and ask multiple people on campus the SAME questions. This will help you gain different perspectives. HINT: Print out the list of questions and staple it in your notebook. TALK TO THE TOUR GUIDE: Feeling embarrassed to ask your tour guide your questions in front of the whole group? Just work your way to the front of the group as you are walking and ask the tour guide your questions while you are walking. At USD this past week I had to take a shuttle from the parking lot to the admission’s office and I talked to the student next to me. I learned all about her experiences as an international business major. Students love to talk about their school! TAKE NOTES: Make sure to bring a small notebook so you can take notes regarding the questions that are the most important to you. Don’t just jot notes from the official presentation; include those little details that catch your eye. Don’t stop at just the tour. While you’re visiting the college, give yourself a little time to just be on the campus and get a feel for the overall vibe of the place. If you can’t take notes while you are walking on the tour, make sure to write down your impressions right after the tour- maybe head to one of the eateries on campus. Then you can write your notes and also talk to more students. HINT: Avoid taking notes on your phone- it looks like you are not engaged and just texting. TAKE PICTURES: I am a visual person, so on my visit to University of San Diego last week, I made sure to take pictures of the different events displayed on kiosks around campus. I took pictures of buildings and even different places to eat to remind me of the feel of campus. Go to my facebook page to see my pictures from USD. HINT: Make your first picture something that has the name of the college in it so if you are visiting multiple campuses you can distinguish between your photos. PICK UP A NEWSPAPER: If you really want to know what is going on around campus, pick up a newspaper and read...

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FEBRUARY- The College Search- How to find the college that is right for you

Posted by on Mar 4, 2014 in Application Process, Juniors, Uncategorized | Comments Off on FEBRUARY- The College Search- How to find the college that is right for you

FEBRUARY- The College Search- How to find the college that is right for you

I love this graphic as it is just the start to how 17-year olds can think about college. This month students are starting to investigate colleges to begin to determine what is important to them in their next educational adventure. This graphic comes from a New York Times article, “How to Choose a College” and I think it is a good read for both parents and students. The author presents s ome of his suggestions of things to consider like the number of students from other countries (as a sign of an international environment) and the percentage of students who study abroad. The goal this month and the month to come is to really start to think about what is important to you, what you value in your education and how you can find a school that matches up with your priorities. Rest assured, many students change their priorities during the college process and we are adept at handing changes because all our students are still maturing and growing. Next month we will delve into college visits, but this month we urge students to look beyond the simple numbers of average test scores and teacher to student ratios to dig deeper into the possible areas of study, prerequisite classes and campus priorities. Google a few of the ideas below to learn more about the colleges your are investigating. The name of the school and “traditions” “Freshman advising” “Message from the college President” (see blog post ) “Course bulletin or catalog” to understand different majors and prerequisites “Freshman experience programs” FAMILY CONVERSATION STARTERS: For our clients we are sending you a values sort that we do with our students as they start the college search process. Although many have done it in our office, we encourage you to do it as a family to start talking about priorities as you begin to investigate colleges. Are student and parent priorities the same or different? We are also sending a little game for you to match successful Americans and their alma mater. Just another way to think about what you do in college may be more important that where you go. CHECKLIST:  1. Research 6-10 colleges on your list 2. Write a list of all of your activities and then put them in the following groups Volunteer and Community Service/ Extracurricular Activities/ Work. Make sure to talk with your family and see if there is anything you are missing. Once you have all of your activities, put a star next to the 5 activities that are the most important to you. 3. Take your top 5 activities and write a paragraph about each activity. Read the question below to guide your paragraph. Identify and describe up to five of your most significant activities and achievements during grades 9-12. Write about why this activity or achievement had meaning for you. Tell us about your highest level of achievement or honor you attained; any responsibilities you had; and the contribution you believe you made to your school, community, or organization. Don’t just describe the activity or achievement: tell us what it says about you. 4. Update your activities in Naviance, making sure you have everything from the list above in Naviance. Also fill in a line or two describing what you do for each...

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Preparing for a College Interview

Posted by on Oct 25, 2013 in Application Process, Colleges & Visits, Seniors | 0 comments

Preparing for a College Interview

Below is the text from a great article by Audrey Kahane that was originally posted on www.northjersey.com. Whether you are making a college list or completing your applications, being introspective is an important step in the college admissions process. When preparing for an interview, think about who you are and what you’re looking for in a college. Try to start your essays before any interview so that you have articulated your thoughts and are more ready to talk about yourself. Once you have a name, Google the interviewer. If you know something about the person, it can help you feel more comfortable going into the meeting. You also may be able to discover interests you have in common, and that can help you create a bond in the meeting. For example, if you are interviewing with an alumna who serves on the board of directors of an orchestra and you love classical music, there’s a potentially interesting topic of conversation. Be enthusiastic. If you’re not interested in your own life story, nobody else will be. Always go in with some ideas and experiences you want to convey. If you have a funny story about getting lost in a foreign city that illustrates your resourcefulness, look for a place to bring it into the discussion. Think about any memorable experiences when you were a camp counselor or the time you traveled with your school jazz band to a competition. But don’t force it. The conversation has to feel natural. Intellectual curiosity is a great quality to convey in an interview. It you love learning about history, you might talk about your favorite program on the History Channel. Think about what’s going on in the world so that you can give an informed opinion. If the interviewer asks what you would add to the college, this is an opportunity to discuss ways that you’ve contributed in high school while addressing what you would bring to the college community. Instead of just saying you were student government vice president, describe what you did as vice president. What specific projects or accomplishments can you share? Be prepared to say why you’re interested in this school, since that is a common question. You want to have specific reasons for applying, not a generic, “Wharton is a prestigious school that will give me opportunities to succeed.” What is unique about that school’s programs and why are they such a perfect match for you? This is an opportunity to show you’ve done your research. If the interviewer asks what you plan to study and you don’t know what you want to major in, it’s fine to say that you’re not sure and you’re looking forward to taking courses in subjects you haven’t been exposed to in high school, or to say that you love science and are considering biology or neuroscience. If you’re talking to an alumni interviewer, ask about his or her experience at the college. What other schools did you consider and why did you choose this school? What was your favorite class? What was the best thing about your time here? How did going to this school impact your career or your life? People love talking about themselves, so when you ask about your interviewer’s experience, he or she will probably feel more...

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Applying to the UC System

Posted by on Oct 8, 2013 in Application Process, Parents, Seniors, UC / CSU, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Applying to the UC System

Steps to Completing your UC Application: Materials You Need: You will need a copy of your transcript, test scores, social security number (optional), CA statewide Student ID (for public HS students) and a credit card. In addition, I recommend going to the UCOP Doorways website  to see the course listings for your school. This will help you determine which classes should be entered for each A-G requirement and if the class is considered honors. You can also look at at the 2014/15 Freshman Application Tips and Tools for information, links and advice. Understanding Comprehensive Review: Every UC school participates in Comprehensive Review, which means the admissions offices evaluate students on multiple factors. If you are interested in how each campus reviews applications and the factors they are considering, look on the Comprehensive Review Page for campus wide information and then click on each campus on the right-hand-side to see the specific information for each school. SAT 2 Subject Exams: While SAT Subject Tests are not required, that students vying for slots in competitive majors take the tests to demonstrate subject proficiency. Click here for the majors at each school site that strongly recommends subject exams. Please make sure we talk about the issue of SAT subject exams when you come to your session and DO NOT SEND any SAT2s until we talk about your options. Designating a Major: Every year students stress over designating a major or choosing “undecided” on the UC application. The good news is students can choose different majors at each campus to which they apply. The bad news is that each school in the UC system deals with major selection slightly differently.  I highly recommend reading the UC Campus Policies and Procedures for Reviewing Freshman Applicants to gather information about designating undeclared, Sat subject exams and notification dates. The best thing students can do is go to the website of each individual campus to determine what role major plays in admissions. The school names below are hyperlinked to individual school websites for information. Below I have copied the wording regarding selecting a major from each individual campus for students and families to review. BERKELEY 
For applications to the College of Letters and Science, Natural Resources and Environmental Design, no consideration is given to the indicated major in the review process.  However, for the professional colleges of Chemistry and Engineering, demonstrated interest in the major is also taken into consideration.  Furthermore, in the colleges of Chemistry and Engineering, Berkeley faculty in these disciplines have also asked that readers place added emphasis on sustained achievement in mathematics and science, and have indicated a preference that these applicants take the Math Level 2 SAT Subject Test and a science test (Biology, Chemistry or Physics) that is closely related to the applicant’s intended major. DAVIS 
Admission decisions are made based upon the qualifications of the applicant pool and the number of available spaces within each academic area: College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences admits by college College of Biological Sciences admit by college College of Letters and Science admits by division within the college (Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies; Mathematics and Physical Sciences; Social Sciences) College of Engineering admits by academic department Students applying as “undeclared” or “undeclared/exploratory” are considered within the college/division to which they applied. IRVINE 
We also recommend that applicants indicate first...

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Seniors: October Checklist

Posted by on Oct 7, 2013 in Application Process, SAT & ACT, Seniors | 0 comments

Seniors: October Checklist

Oh yes, October is busy Finalize your college list and complete your applications for early decision and early action schools. If you are applying early, make sure your Naviance is updated and tell your counselor and recommenders of your plan.  See which schools on your list have Rolling Admissions. Make a plan to send these applications in early and make sure you request transcripts and test scores to be sent so your application is complete.  Make sure you have established an application account online for each college on your list. Request official transcripts be sent to each college on your list, except UC and CSU campuses. For schools on the Common Application, your counselor should send a transcript as part of the SSR (secondary school report). Your high school counselor will likely give you instructions on how to request transcripts. Be sure to follow all instructions and meet all deadlines.  Check in with your recomenders to see if there is any helpful information you can provide to them. Begin to complete your college applications usually in the order of the application deadline. Share the calendar we have made with your family. Set aside a few hours on the weekend to print out and review applications with your family before submitting. Read the blog post about applying to UC Campuses. Then start filling out the application. You cannot send in your application until the filing period of November 1-30. Once you have submitted any college applications, check your college email every day. Many schools will send invitations to create a student portal account so you can see if you are missing any documents or if your application is complete. They will only notify students of missing documents via email. Look at the TESTING AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS for each school on your list and determine what test scores you need to send and if they participate in score choice. Determine if you need to send any SAT 2 scores. Make a plan to send the appropriate test scores to the schools on your list. This will take longer than you think!!!**** Ask me to print out your Testing Requirements Report from Mycca at your next appointment as a place to start. Schedule an appointment to review all college essays/personal statements with your counselor and/or your English teacher. You already have a solid start to your essays, now is the time to focus on moving your words from good to great. Be ready for feedback and really work hard to incorporate ideas and examples that put your best foot forward. Have someone in your house read your essay as well. Make a list of all  of the essays and supplements you need to write, by college. If you are applying to private schools, you and your family need to fill out the CSS PROFILE. Please check the financial aid websites for all of the schools you are applying to early (action or decision) to see when you need to file the CSS profile and the FASFA. THE DATES CAN BE...

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What is Demonstrated Interest?

Posted by on Sep 20, 2013 in Application Process, Colleges & Visits, Juniors, Seniors, Uncategorized | 0 comments

What is Demonstrated Interest?

In the world of the Common Application, demonstrating interest is showing colleges that you are truly interested in their institution and not just checking a box. Why do colleges care?  Colleges are very interested in yield, or the number of students who are admitted that choose to enroll. Yield is important because it has become a proxy for popularity—the higher the yield, the more popular the school. Yield is also an important number in the US News and World Report rankings. If colleges want to move up the ranks, increasing yield numbers is very important.  In general, the highly selective colleges (think Stanford and the Ivies) do not need to measure if students are interested, they are always going to have high yield numbers. However, many other private institutions use demonstrated interest as a factor in admissions. Keep reading for 5 specific things you can do to demonstrate interest right now. 1. High School Visits and College Fairs: Did you know that the admissions representative who often travels to your school or stands behind the table at your local college fair is often the same person that reads your application? Making a connection with them, asking your specific questions about their school and sending a thank you email are all ways that you can demonstrate interest. This fall there is a large college fair at Gunn High School on October 13th at 7pm. For more advice read this article. 2. Contact an Admissions Representative: I attended a breakfast for JET last year (Jesuit Excellence Tours) and the message I got from the admissions representatives was that students really should make the effort to contact them and ask specific questions related to their personal experiences. Many schools list not only the admission’s officers by territory assignments, but also their contact information on their website. For example Elon lets you search by your zip code, Boston University lists counselors with their territories  and the Regional Admissions Counselors of California (schools not in CA that recruit heavily in CA) has updated emails for reps that would love to talk to you. You can also ask for a business card from a college representative so you can follow up with a specific question about your application or inquire about scheduling a class visit, connecting with a professor or talking to a current student. 3. College Interviews: Checking school websites or emailing admissions officers about interviews really demonstrates interests. Recently at a visit to Gonzaga, I asked if they do interviews while they are on the road and how would students know to sign up. She said that they no longer advertise any interviews, they simply try to make time for the students who contact them ahead of time and request an interview. For the private schools on your list, please contact them to see if they do interviews on or off campus, with an admissions officer  or an alum.  You have to demonstrate interest and ask the question, to get a local interview. Once you get an interview, this is one of the best posting I have ever seen regarding how to prepare for a college admissions interview. 4. Send a Thank You Note: Always make sure to send a thank you to any representative from a school that has gone out of his or her...

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The Basics of Financial Aid

Posted by on Sep 10, 2013 in Application Process, Seniors, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Basics of Financial Aid

Now is the time to start thinking about how you and your family will deal with financial aid. From filling out the FASFA to checking the box on the Common Application, this process can be a bit complicated. Read on to learn about things you can do to make the process much easier. DETERMINE YOUR ELIGIBILITY AND EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION(EFC) Go to the FASFA4caster and fill in information to receive an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid. You can apply for and receive your Federal PIN, which is required for the real FAFSA. You will learn what kind of information is necessary to have on hand to complete the FAFSA and then you can transfer data from the FAFSA4caster to your FAFSA in January when you’re ready. The site will calculate an estimated Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which will help with college planning. Once you determine your EFC, you can go to College Navigator to find the current cost of attendance for any school you are interested in. You can also go to financial aid website for each of the schools on your list and use “the net price calculator.” It is now mandatory for every college to have a calculator for families to estimate financial contributions. The information requested usually mirrors questions asked on the FASFA and CSS Profile. Here are a few examples: Santa Clara, CAL and USC . DECIDE IF YOU WANT TO APPLY FOR FINANCIAL AID Needing financial aid and applying for financial aid are actually different. After determining your EFC, you need to decide if you want to submit the FASFA and/or the CSS Profile. Some schools require one or both of the forms for merit-based aid and if you want to be considered for a Stafford Unsubsidized Loan or a Parent Plus Loan you must fill out the FASFA. Check school financial aid websites for more information. NEED-BLIND VS. NEED AWARE Next you should investigate if the schools on your list are need-aware or need-blind.  Need-blind means that the admissions process and the financial aid process are separate. Financial need is not taken into account when making final decisions about applicants. Need-aware means schools might consider your financial situation when making a decision. In general, at need-aware schools a student’s financial need only impacts a very small percentage of decisions at the end of the process. The best thing you can do is visit financial aid websites or contact financial aid offices of the schools on your list to determine if a school is need-aware. Schools do not try and hide this fact. Click here for more information about need-aware schools. Click here for the details requested on theFASFA and the CSS Profile. For more helpful articles regarding financial aid, please also visit our Collegecalm Facebook page by clicking on the icon at the top of the page.      ...

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Spring Checklist for Juniors (April and May)

Posted by on Apr 12, 2013 in Application Process, Juniors, Parents | 0 comments

Spring Checklist for Juniors (April and May)

April Create an EMAIL ACCOUNT for the college application process. You do not want your email for colleges to be linked to any social media (Facebook, twitter etc). GOOGLE YOUR NAME and see what comes up. Anything you would not like an Admissions Officer to see? Clean it up!  Attend the NACAC COLLEGE FAIR  (National Association for College Admissions Counseling) in San Francisco on Saturday, April 20 at Concourse Exhibition Center
 East Hall
 620 7th Street (at Brannan)
San Francisco, CA 94103. The event is from 1:30-4:30pm. Click here for more information. Or you can attend the WACAC COLLEGE FAIR (Western Association of College Admission Counseling) at Saint Mary’s College of California on Saturday, May 11th from 1-4pm. Click here for more information. For how to prepare for college fairs, read the article on our College Calm Facebook Page.   May  Talk with us to identify 2 teachers who you think would write good LETTER OF RECOMMENDATIONS on your behalf and ask them before the school year is out. Go to the College Calm Facebook Page to read more about how to ask. Now is the time to really focus on your classes. The grades you get this semester will be the last grades to be calculated for admission to UC and CSU campuses. Create an electronic folder and put in your BEST ACADEMIC WORK from junior year. Decide which SAT SUBJECTS TESTS you will take in June. See our blog post from April. Register for the JUNE ACT OR SAT. TAKE AP/IB  EXAMS (results arrive in July). FINALIZE PLANS FOR SUMMER jobs, camps, and educational opportunities. Read your local newspaper to find out which civic, cultural, and service organizations in your area award SCHOLARSHIPS to graduating seniors. Start a file....

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SAT Subject Tests

Posted by on Mar 21, 2013 in SAT & ACT | 0 comments

SAT Subject Tests

It is the time of the year to decide if you are going to take any SAT Subject Tests (SAT 2) in May or June. Below are the answers to the most frequently asked questions in my office. What are Subject Tests? According to the CollegeBoard, “Subject Tests are hour-long, content-based tests that allow you to showcase achievement in specific subject areas where you excel. These are the only national admission tests where you choose the tests that best showcase your achievements and interests.” Subject tests are simply another way for colleges to gather academic information. Do I NEED to take Subject Tests? The answer to this question completely depends on your college list and your major interests. You may have some schools that neither require nor use subject test scores. There are schools that will take an ACT instead of an SAT 1 and SAT 2 Subject Tests. Other schools strongly recommend SAT 2 Subject Tests for specific majors. For the 2012-13 school year, the Guidance Department at Radnor High School in Pennsylvania compiled a comprehensive list of schools requiring or recommending SAT Subject tests. Click here to download and view the list. For official school information, please visit each individual school website for the most current testing policies. What subjects are offered? Literature, U.S. History, World History, Math Level 1, Math Level 2, Biology/EM, Chemistry, Physics, French, French with Listening, German, German with Listening, Spanish, Spanish with Listening, Modern Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Chinese with Listening, Japanese with Listening, Korean with listening.* Please note that not all exams are offered at every test date. How many exams should I take? You can take up to three tests during one testing date. I recommend taking 2-3 subjects depending on your school list. If you are considering engineering or a hard science major, you should take a Math Level 2 and either chemistry, physics or biology. When should I take SAT Subject Tests? The best time to take the exams in May or June of the year you took the same subject. Students typically take the tests at the end of junior year. Studying for finals will help you with your subject exams. Students who take SAT Subject Exams at the end of freshman or sophomore year tend to not score very well. Can I study for SAT Subject Tests? Yes!!! You can go to the CollegeBoard for sample questions. You can also buy a guide for specific tests or ask us for a practice exam. What can I do now to be prepared? At your next session, ask me to print out a testing requirement report for the schools you are considering. Then you will need to go to the website of each of the schools to which you are considering applying and check the testing policy. Simply put in the name of the college and SAT Subject Tests in a search engine to get to the information as easily as possible....

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