Friday, September 26, 2014

Colleges Want YOU: Advice Round-Up for College Admissions


This advice from MIT Admissions applies to every student, not just those that have their sights set on MIT:
"Choose your activities because they really delight, intrigue and challenge you, not because you think they'll look impressive on your application. Go out of your way to find projects, activities and experiences that stimulate your creativity and leadership, that connect you with peers and adults who bring out your best, that please you so much you don't mind the work involved. Some students find room for many activities; others prefer to concentrate on just a few. Either way, the test for any extracurricular should be whether it makes you happy - whether it feels right for you."

Things admissions officers wish students knew before beginning the application process, including this nugget from an officer at Antioch:

"I wish more students applying to college understood just how important “right-fit” is. Do we want to see people who were successful in high school and had a bunch of extracurricular activates? Yes, absolutely. But you can make an even better case for admission by showing us that you are going to be able to be highly successful and benefit most from the uniqueness of our institution.
Do your research. Don’t only make the case that you’re great, make the case that you’re a great match great for us."

More advice from admissions officers. I like this one from Smith College:
“Admission officers talk about the importance of rigor in a student's high-school program. When students ask, should I take an AP course and get a lower grade or take a lower level course and get an A, the cliché answer is: Students should take the AP course and get an A. Not very helpful! What we should be talking about is appropriate rigor. That is, if the student can take the AP course and get an A or B, then that's appropriate. If the student will get a C or lower, then she should reconsider. Grades of Cs ‘pop’ on a transcript to selective colleges since we don't see them often. That doesn't mean that one C on a transcript will mean a student won't get into college. What is does mean is that students shouldn't over-challenge themselves.”

As someone who went from a 70 average in her freshman and sophomore years of high school to graduating with high honors, I wholeheartedly agree with this advice, found on the Forbes website

“If you believe your current GPA is not a good representation of how well you can really do, start improving now. It’s almost certainly not too late. Colleges will look closely at your junior year performance, and many will even take the first semester of your senior year into account. They’ll particularly pay attention to a trend of improvement. Don’t give up. Show them that you are a late bloomer and getting better with age. Even if you’ve only got one semester left to show colleges what you’re capable of doing, show them! Start now.”

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Review: The Perfect Score Project

Though I used to teach SAT prep for Kaplan, it was many, many moons ago. And of course, it was even longer ago that I actually TOOK the SAT. Have I ever told you that I took the test twice and got the same score both times? The second time, I went up in verbal and down in math! (This was back before the verbal was renamed Critical Reading.)   My memory is spotty but I am PRETTY SURE I did next to no test prep. I think I got some flash cards from someone I knew--maybe one of my sisters or a friend. The internet back then was not what it is now, so it is unlikely that I did any test prep on the College Board website. In any case, I went in there, took the test and passed muster. NYU took the best of my scores--the best math and the best verbal, and combined into one score. Thanks to Debbie's book, The Perfect Score Project: One Mother's Journey to Uncover the Secrets of the SAT I now know this is called superscoring.  Thanks to Debbie's book, I now know a lot of things that I didn't know before! The poor woman sat down for seven SAT exams, on a personal mission to help her son do his best on his own SAT exam. Actually, she had fun doing this so maybe I shouldn't feel so sorry for her! I actually kind of, sort of, wish I could take the SAT again, using the wisdom Debbie gleaned over the course of her project.
The book may be about the SAT but the story that unfolds is about one mother's struggle and triumph to hold her family together.  While stress is not an inherent part of SAT prep (at least, I don't think it is for everyone), in cases where there is a lot riding on SAT performance, relationships will be impacted.  Debbie was particularly obsessed with the test because she saw it as her son's best opportunity to pay for college. She felt sure that a high score would improve his chances of earning merit scholarships.  We, the reader, reap the benefits of her intensive experiment on locking down SAT success. Whether you are a tutor or a parent, this book is well worth reading--it is a font of information and knowledge that can be found across the internet and in every test prep center brought together into one humorous, uplifting volume.

Find Debbie at The Perfect Score Project. She is also on Twitter: 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. This post contains affiliate links. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Book Review: Give Yourself a Brain Boost!

The idea that there are multiple forms of intelligence is not a new one, but students are not often encouraged to tap into these other forms, especially in environments where art and music are being shunted aside in favor of rote drills and testing. This book helps to fill that void. I recommend this to anyone who suffers from a lack of confidence in their own skills and abilities, or someone like me, who "cruised" through school. Sundem's tone is friendly and approachable, which keeps the book from feeling dry, an important factor in recommending this book to students. I do think this book would work better if it came in a workbook format with a spiral binding. 

{I received this book from Blogging For Books, in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.}