August Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

The school year is almost here! Enjoy the final few weeks of summer. And, if you are a rising senior and want to make the most of August (this means completing applications!) contact us! We can help you head back to school with a long list of college application items checked off your to-do list.

Here’s what should be on your radar this month:

Seniors

  • The Common App refresh is complete. If you have not done so already, register for the Common App (www.commonapp.org) and other school-specific applications as per your list (for example, the University of California), and fill them out.
  • Continue to complete essays!!! Senior year fall grades count. The more you complete before you go back to school, the more time you should have for your coursework.
  • Continue to visit colleges and connect with students, faculty, and staff. Remember to interview where applicable and take lots of notes. The information you gather is often perfect material for supplemental “Why School” essays and interest letters after you apply!
  • Begin to finalize your college list. It’s important to know which colleges you’ll be applying to so you can a) work on essays and b) finalize application strategy (when you will apply and where). Will you be applying early action? Early decision? Do you have an ED II school in the mix (you should instead of relying on RD)? If you still have tests to take in August, September, or October, confirm your EA schools and work on those apps.
  • Touch base with the teachers writing your letters of recommendation. They will be very busy once school starts; be proactive and drop them a note now reiterating your thanks, as well as letting them know when you plan to submit your first apps (this can be far in advance of actual deadlines, for example, in September if testing is complete). 

Juniors

  • If you haven’t done so already, schedule a meeting to discuss your 11th-grade game plan with your guidance counselor. Your counselor will write you a letter of recommendation for college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.
  • This year, try to get more involved with 1-2 main extracurricular activities (bonus if these support your academic interest). Look for leadership opportunities, but also keep in mind demonstrating leadership goes beyond leading a club or team. Consider activities outside of school as well.
  • Now is the time to plan the rest of junior year in terms of testing. When will you take the ACT or SAT? Will you need SAT Subject Tests? How many and which ones? When might you take them? Have you started formal test prep? Please contact us if you would like suggestions for tutors and other prep resources. Now is the time to start test prep!
  • Once you have some test scores, come up with a preliminary college list, so you can…
  • Begin to visit the websites of the schools you are interested in. Explore the admissions and academics pages. Start to think about your major of interest and how the activities you are involved in support it. You 100% should be exploring your academic interests outside of your coursework.
  • Fall is a great time to visit colleges and engage in extended research and outreach. Over the years, I have found that students who take these “extra steps” consistently get into their top schools…and many more.

Sophomores & Freshmen

  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor for the majority of colleges. A rigorous course schedule that is in line with your strengths can help demonstrate intellectual curiosity, a willingness to challenge yourself, and that you are comfortable with hard work. Your number one priority this year should be your grades!
  • If you haven’t done so already, get involved in activities inside and outside of school. Seek out opportunities to develop leadership roles. Depth, not breadth of experience, is key. Most colleges prefer to see fewer activities, but ones that really interest you, where you are involved in a significant way. Evidence of leadership, initiative, commitment, and meaningful engagement is important. You may also want to consider an internship, research position, job shadowing opportunity or part-time employment in an area that interests you. Starting your own club, website, or community service project are also lovely options, but keep in mind you don’t need to do it all.
  • Schedule a meeting to discuss your high school game plan with your counselor. Your counselor will write you a letter of recommendation when it comes time to apply to college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.
  • One of the most significant factors in a strong performance on the verbal portions of the SAT and the ACT is independent reading. Enhancing your skills during high school will not only help you perform better on college entrance exams, but it will also prepare you for success in college and beyond. Regular reading of articles and editorials (e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist) in addition to studying vocabulary lists and signing up for “Word/Article/SAT Question of the Day” can have a significant positive impact.
  • Many schools allow 10th graders to take a practice PSAT.  The experience of taking the PSAT as a sophomore will give you a sense of what to expect on future exams. However, don’t feel like you need to study for this test. It is just practice!
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SAT/ACT Writing Section? Probably Not Needed!

Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash

Fellow IECA member Cigus Vanni is the master of lists. He created many that he shares with fellow IEC’s, and one sheds light on that almost no colleges continue to require or recommend the writing portion of the SAT or ACT. The biggest exception is the UC system, which still requires it.

Here’s his list as of 6/27:

Abilene Christian University (TX) – recommend

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (NY) – recommend

Augsburg College (MN) – recommend (note: Augsburg is a test-optional school)

Berry College (GA) – require ACT, neither require nor recommend SAT

College of Charleston (SC) – recommend

Duke University (NC) – recommend

 Eastern Illinois University – recommend ACT; neither require nor recommend SAT

Manhattan College (NY) – recommend; used for placement in writing courses, not for admission to school

Martin Luther College (MN) – require ACT, neither require nor recommend SAT

Michigan State University – recommend

Montana State University – recommend; used for placement in writing courses, not for admission to school

Oregon State University – recommend SAT; neither require nor recommend ACT

Rhode Island College – require ACT, neither require nor recommend SAT

Saint Anselm College (NH) – recommend (note: Saint Anselm is a test optional school)

Saint Norbert College (WI) – recommend

Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania – recommend

Soka University of America (CA) – require

State University of New York at Buffalo – recommend

Texas State University – recommend ACT

United States Military Academy (NY) – require

University of California Berkeley – require

University of California Davis – require

University of California Irvine – require

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) – require

University of California Merced – require

University of California Riverside – require

University of California San Diego – require

University of California Santa Barbara – require

University of California Santa Cruz – require

University of Evansville (IN) – require (note: Evansville is a test optional school)

University of Mary Hardin Baylor (TX) – require

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities – recommend

University of Montana – recommend

University of Montana Western – require ACT, recommend SAT

VanderCook College of Music (IL) – require

Webb Institute of Naval Architecture (NY) – recommend

 

NOTE:  All information current with the updating of this list on June 26, 2019.  Be sure to check with each college to which you apply before you register for any standardized test as requirements can change.

Thank you, Cigus!

 

 

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Putting Your Best Foot Forward: The Short List

Photo by Matese Fields on Unsplash

I am going to keep this one short and sweet and welcome anyone who wants more info or wants to understand “how” to reach out to me directly.

Here’s how you put your best foot forward in college admissions:

-Grades that meet or exceed the standards of the schools to which you are applying

-Test scores that meet or exceed the standards of the schools to which you are applying (if the school’s you are applying to require them)

-Authentic and long-term community engagement

-Values that match the school’s

When one of these factors does not meet the standards of the school to which you are applying, your likelihood of admission decreases.

I hope to hear from you all!

 

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SAT Subject Tests Tips from Noodle Pros

The first SAT Subject Test date is less than a month away. The Subject Tests — sometimes referred to as “SAT 2s” — are often required for admission to top-tier universities, but they are much less discussed in education circles and online. Because of this, we get lots of questions about what’s on them, how are they used, and how to prepare for them.

Noodle Pro, Nick Bacarella, has developed an SAT Subject Test series exclusively for the Noodle Pros blog.  In this series, students will learn everything they need to know about these subject-specific cousins of the regular SAT.  Within the series, Nick tackles each subject test individually to familiarize students with the content and test structure.

SAT Subject Test Literature

SAT Subject Test Physics

SAT Subject Test History

 

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Our Favorite Test Optional Schools

More and more schools are going test-optional—and we love that. More than 220 colleges have de-emphasized the ACT and SAT since 2005, and the list keeps growing. Even uber selective schools like the University of Chicago have dropped standardized testing as a requirement*. Why? As the recent Chronicle of Higher Education ‘Trends on the Horizon‘ report notes:

One reason the list is likely to keep growing: data, data, data. Colleges are using ever more sophisticated statistical analyses to better understand how their students perform. On many campuses, deep dives into enrollment data have helped admissions offices determine which pieces of information they collect from applicants actually help them predict a variety of student outcomes, such as first-year grades and progress toward a degree. Chicago found that ACT and SAT scores didn’t tell it much about who would succeed and who would struggle.

*Always a caveat!!! Although we wholeheartedly support the test-optional movement, we have reason to believe that not all test-optional policies are created equally. Many skeptics of test-optional policies see them as applicable only to certain student groups, for example, students who are disadvantaged in the admission proicess—not middle to upper-class students who have access to test prep and other resources but just don’t “test” well. We have heard through the grapevine that this is the case at quite a few schools. If this is true, it is just one more way that the college admissions process lacks transparency. We are working on finding data that reveals who is admitted without test scores at some of the schools in question (Chicago, Wake Forest, Bowdoin, Wesleyan) but it is not readily available.

Anyway, we want to shoutout a few of the test-optional schools that we have found to be genuinely test-optional, and where we have students who are thriving both inside and outside of the classroom. They are:

  • Pitzer College
  • Drew University
  • George Washington University
  • The University of Arizona
  • Whittier College
  • University of Delaware
  • New School

For a comprehensive list of top-tier schools that are test-optional, and to stay up to date on the test-optional movement, head to FairTest.org.

 

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5 Action Items for High School Juniors

We’ve seen too many students wait until the summer after 11th grade to try to develop and implement the strategies needed to tackle the college application process successfully and with ease. Often, there is just not enough time to do the pre-work that results in the most effective essays, outreach, and positive admissions outcomes.

The best time to start prepping to apply? Now. Seriously!

Juniors, right now you can:

  • Develop relationships with admissions officers and regional reps (the people that make key decisions on your application) as well as current students and faculty (ask us why these connections are so important)
  • Create a testing plan that has you ready for apps due on 11/1 and not taking tests last minute
  • Make the best of campus visits and leverage contacts at colleges on these visits
  • Craft a preliminary college list that maximizes the 5+ application plans colleges now use
  • Open up a Common Application account to get familiar with the system

We hate seeing the second half of junior year go to waste. Email us to discuss what you can do now to always stay a step—or three—ahead of the game.

 

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Top-Tier, Test Optional Colleges & Universities

Nationwide, many colleges and universities are reexamining their admissions policies and de-emphasizing test scores. More than 1,000 accredited, four-year colleges and universities now make decisions about all or many applicants without considering ACT or SAT test scores. Half of the U.S. News “Top 100” liberal arts colleges are on FairTest’s list of test-optional schools.

Some of the most highly rated test-optional liberal arts colleges include Bates, Bowdoin, Furman, Holy Cross, Pitzer, Sewanee, Smith, Wesleyan, and Whitman. And among leading national universities, American, Brandeis, UChicago, GWU, and Wake Forest are all test-optional.

FairTest.org is the leading advocate of the test-optional movement. There are many reasons for the test-optional surge, according to FairTest. Schaeffer explained, “Studies show that an applicant’s high school record – grades plus course rigor – predicts undergraduate success better than any standardized exam. By going test-optional, colleges increase diversity without any loss in academic quality. Eliminating testing requirements is a ‘win-win’ for both students and schools.”

“College and university leaders are sending a clear message,” Schaeffer concluded. “Test scores are not needed to make sound educational decisions. It’s time for K-12 policymakers to pay attention and back off their testing obsession for public schools.”

You can find FairTest’s frequently updated directory of test-optional, 4-year schools list online at https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional.

A list of test-optional schools ranked in the top tiers by U.S. News & World Report is posted at http://www.fairtest.org/sites/default/files/Optional-Schools-in-U.S.News-Top-Tiers.pdf.

Every year, we help students apply to and gain admission to many of the top tier test-optional schools on these lists. Contact us to learn more about how to maximize your chance of admission to a selective test-optional college.

 

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Colleges that Allow Self-Reporting of SAT and ACT Scores

Applying to college is expensive! There’s application fees, test registration fees, and official score reporting fees. Many students are eligible to have these fees waived, but most students don’t qualify for waivers.

Colleges in the list below compiled by Compass have stipulated that students may self-report their test scores in their applications. Click on the name of the college to visit the page on their website where the policy is explained. Note: only colleges that have written policies on their websites or application materials are included here.

*Will not accept self-reported scores, but publicly states that they will accept scores submitted by the high school counselor as “official.”

Please note: All colleges require official test scores upon enrollment; these are application policies only. Students should check directly with each college to confirm they have the most recent and accurate policy information.

Source: Compass

 

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The 5 Biggest Differences Between the SAT and ACT Explained

Test prep is not really my thing, but it plays a big role in the college admissions process for many students. That said, be on the lookout for some testing-related guest posts in the coming months! The article below is by Nicholas LaPoma, the owner of Long Island-based Curvebreakers Test Prep.

1. Timing

Possibly the most important difference between the two tests is timing. In short, you get less time per question on the ACT. Check this out:

As you can see, you get much less time to complete any one question on the ACT. One of the most important examples is on the Reading tests. On the SAT you get 13 minutes per passage, on the ACT you get 8 minutes 45 seconds per passage. That is a huge difference! So, if you struggle with timing, the SAT is likely for you.

2. Question Distribution

The SAT and ACT have a vastly different distribution of questions in terms of subject matter. This is especially true in the Math section of the tests, as the ACT has a large amount of Geometry and Trigonometry questions and the SAT does not. The SAT is more Algebra focused.

Further, the ACT is considered an achievement test (What you learned) whereas the SAT is often considered to be a trickier, more aptitude based test (based on skills).  If you hate Algebra, and like straightforward word problems, the ACT Might be for you.

3. No-Calculator Math

A similar but important consideration is how one will handle no-calculator Math. Many students are used to punching every question and operation into their calculator and are totally reliant upon the calculator for basic multiplication and division. These students will struggle on the no-calculator portion of the SAT, as you may have to do long division. Some schools do not allow students to use calculators until a certain grade level – those students will be better equipped to tackle this section.  If you really struggle with no-calc, the ACT might be for you.

4. Science Section

As you probably know, the ACT contains a science-based section. This is actually a reading / chart reading / graph reading task, so it often correlates well with reading score. That means that the ACT is mostly based on reading skill, whereas the SAT is mostly based on Math skill.

As indicated above, the Science section actually makes the ACT a more reading based exam, where the SAT is a more math based exam.

5. Question Difficulty

The SAT is typically considered an aptitude test. It is based on your skills in each area that is tested. The acronym SAT initially stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test, proving the point. The SAT is unable to move away from its roots and become a totally achievement based exam, so many students “feel” that the questions are more tricky or difficult. If you like more straightforward questions, the ACT may be a better test for you. We find little difference when preparing students for the exams, but some students in particular find one test more appealing than the other for this reason.

 

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International SAT Date Changes

The SAT is offered internationally several times a year. Unfortunately, the following changes to the international testing schedule were recently announced:

  • In June 2017, only the SAT Subject Tests will be administered internationally. The SAT will not be administered in June.
  • In the 2017–18 and 2018–19 school years, the SAT will be available internationally in October, December, March, and May. SAT Subject Tests will be available in October, November, December, May, and June.
  • Country-specific scheduling changes will be announced in spring 2017.

Learn more about international test dates and registration here.