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August 12th, 2017

Getting The Most Out Of Your College Visits: 3 Great Questions To Ask Your Tour Guide

It’s that time of year again when many families make room in their late summer schedules to visit colleges, even incorporating them in family vacations and weekend getaways. However, what most people forget is that asking the right types of questions is critical for getting the most out of college visits and making informed decisions about college choices. There are many basic inquiries you’ll want to have addressed regarding academics, cost and dorming – but there are also some questions you may not have thought to ask.

Whether you’re a parent or a student, here are three of the best questions to ask your tour guide during your college visits:

1. What types of internship programs are available to students? With the workforce now more competitive than ever, it’s imperative to inquire with each college about internship placements. Students should know what types of internship programs are available, as well as what percentage of the college’s students get internships during and after their degree programs. Because internships have become a key component to securing full-time employment, having this information is essential in making the best college decision for future career opportunities.

2. Do many students go home on the weekends? Just because dorming exists at most colleges does not mean there’s an active residence life on every campus. There are many colleges often referred to as “commuter schools” where students who dorm on campus tend go home frequently on the weekends. If you’re visiting a college far from home, you’ll likely want to pick a school in which students are regularly engaged in campus activities during the weekends. Get a sense of the residence life culture during your visit by asking your tour guide and students on the campus for their thoughts.

3. What is your graduation track record? The whole point of going to college is to earn a degree you can use for your future, right? Well, you’d be surprised as to how many people fail to ask about graduation rates! Be sure to ask each college about their respective four-year and five-year graduation records. This is important, as it will give you an idea about the quality of each college’s academic advisement and how equipped the students are in completing their degree programs on time. Remember, the longer it takes to graduate, the more money and time you’ll spend in college!

These are just a few of the many important questions to keep in mind during college visits. By planning your questions ahead of time, you can make the most out of your visits and ensure you have all the information you need to effectively evaluate the colleges on your list.

In addition to college visits, is SAT or ACT prep part of your plans? Enroll in one of Test Preps’ programs today by contacting Melissa Cook at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

June 19th, 2017

Summer Is The Perfect Time To Relax, Reflect & Complete Your College Essay!

With so many facets involved in the college admissions process, it can sometimes be difficult to know when to start completing certain application tasks. The summer presents an ideal time to focus on the college essay, without the pressures of school, homework and extracurricular activities. In fact, many students find that they’re more inspired and motivated to write their essays during the summer when they have more time to reflect on possible essay topics.

Remember, writing your college essay is a personal task and much different than a school assignment. It’s critical that you make the time not only to write your essay, but think about what you want to write about. Choosing a topic can within itself be a process, so it’s best to start early – before the next school year gets into full gear. Here are three reasons why it’s in your best interest to complete your college essay during the summer:

1) Brainstorming.

The idea that performance is best under pressure does not ring true when it comes to the college essay. Formulating a well-written, high quality essay requires significant amount of time and thought. In fact, you may want to take a couple weeks just to review the Common Application’s 2017-2018 essay prompts as you decide on a topic for your essay. Many students brainstorm essay topics with a couple prompts in mind as they consider different ideas.

2) Receiving feedback.

With the fall being a busy time for everyone, it’s in your best interest to receive feedback about your essay from teachers, tutors or other trained writing professionals during the summer months. Always be sure to have at least one or two people whom you trust review your essay and provide their thoughts. It’s especially helpful to seek feedback and insight from others who have experience reviewing many college essays, as they will be able to provide the most valuable insight. How you decide to make changes is up to you, but having an outsider’s perspective is critical to producing the best possible essay.

3) Editing and rewriting.

Chances are you’ll have to rewrite your essay several times until you have a finished product. The summer is a stress-free time to work on your essay and make changes, without having to worry about completing other academic tasks. Because you won’t be on a set deadline, you’ll be able to take a couple breaks in between your re-writes and revisit your drafts at your own pace.

Being proactive about completing your college essay this summer will take a lot off your plate this fall, giving you more time to focus on completing other college application requirements. Plus, you may even enjoy the essay process more when you can relax a little and write at your leisure.

Are you ready to get a jump start on your college essay this summer?

Check out Test Preps’ College Essay Workshop this August in Williamsville, NY. And, if you have any questions about the college essay, please contact Melissa Cook, owner of Test Preps, at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

March 29th, 2015

Juniors! Time to Make a Plan!

Time is fleeting for the class of 2016, at least in terms of getting ready to apply to colleges next fall. If you’re a little late to the process or just need a refresher, you can easily get up to speed by the first day of senior classes. Just follow the timeline below.

Spring 2015

Ideally, you’ve earned a great score on the SAT and/or ACT. We suggest two tests minimum after prep. If you haven’t met your goal yet, or haven’t yet signed up for a test, time remains. Each test is still being offered twice: the SAT on May 2 and June 6, the ACT April 18 and June 13. Unfortunately, it’s late to begin prepping for the earlier of either test and registration for the April 18 ACT has passed. For further deadlines check out the tests’ respective sites:

https://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-us-dates

http://www.actstudent.org/regist/dates.html

Applying to one of America’s top universities? You might then need to take an SAT II test. They are offered on both May 2 and June 6, but note that you may not take an SAT II and the SAT on the same day. If this is all news to you, no need to worry. The SAT, SAT II, and ACT tests are all offered multiple times in the fall.

Summer 2015664

If work, a sport or vacation is taking up your spring break, then plan a road trip this summer to visit some colleges. Be sure to take the official tours and sign your names in their registration books so they know you’ve visited. Showing this level of interest helps your application. Also, be sure to ask questions and talk to as many students as possible. Make notes and whittle down your list of prospective schools.

August’s arrival should have you contemplating your college application essays. We highly suggest completing these with professional help before senior year begins. The application essays have become one of the single most important factors in the admissions process as they are the sole glimpse a prospective school gets of you the person, instead of you the student. August also means time to begin prepping again for fall tests, whether it be the September ACT or October SAT.

Still have questions? Concerns? Email us at contact@raisemysatscore.com

September 11th, 2014

Tips for the College Essay Application, Take II

 

There are more tips for writing a winning college application essay than there is space to cover them in a few blog posts. Test Preps offers a three-session class for a reason! My last post covered the BIG picture: tell a story about yourself that reveals your values and character. This post will cover some smaller picture items which can sink an essay if missing or handled poorly.

 

First, let’s discuss the words you use. The vocabulary should be stellar but not stilted (like this sentence!). In other words, yes, you studied vocabulary for two months for the SAT, get some of that in your essay. Be sure you are using the words in the correct context though. And try to smoothly add that vocabulary into a more casual style of writing that matches your natural voice. Avoid sounding too formal which will have the admissions officer dozing before reaching the conclusion. On the other hand, avoid a number of words because they are essentially meaningless: always, never, interesting, meaningful, really, very, special, unique, 110%. Avoid others because they are better explained than simply stated: passion, diversity, adversity, hard working, leadership.

 
Second, try to be honest in your essay. Admissions officers can sniff out fakes. Trust me, it comes across in your writing. This doesn’t mean you should be above exaggerating a detail or two to accentuate your thesis. We all do this routinely when sharing stories with friends and family. However, the bulk of your essay should be true. Besides, when you are writing about a topic that you enjoy or are passionate about, the words come more easily and the story is more interesting to read. Again, it comes across in your writing.

Our last three blog articles have attempted to demonstrate the importance of the college application essay and give you some tips to follow as you begin writing. There is no substitute, however, for quality prep by an experienced tutor whether in a classroom setting or privately. Test Preps’ Essay Workshop for the College Application guides students in picking topics that highlight their growth and values, helps students develop quality leads and endings, and ensures that the structure, grammar and vocabulary of their essays are flawless. The end result of our three-session workshop is a complete, winning essay ready to be delivered to college admissions officers’ hands. Browse our website and give us a call. We’re happy to answer any questions.

 

 

September 1st, 2014

The MUSTS of College Application Essays

 

Our last two blog posts discussed the importance of college application essays and the pitfalls to avoid when writing them. Indisputable is their importance in setting students apart from the record number of applicants applying to college in the era of the Common Application. Also indisputable is that they can go horribly horribly wrong. Our next two blog posts will deal with what you should do when writing your common application essay.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that YOU must be the star of your essay. That’s right, whether the prompt is the University of Chicago’s “What’s so odd about odd numbers?”, Tufts’ “Why Tufts?” or the Common Application’s “Recount a time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?”, colleges want to know about you, your values and character. Your task, regardless of the exact prompt, is to tell a story about yourself that reveals who you are.

Your story or transformgrowth-aheadative event does not have to be Earth-shaking. You need not have sung at the Metropolitan Opera or performed relief work in Nicaragua by the age of ten. We all have our unique stories to tell and most of them are small and personal. How about that time you challenged your coach? Or let down your parents? Or let your friend copy your homework? Or refused to let him copy your homework? The smallest moments often make the best essays. And keep in mind that we often learn the most from our mistakes. Failures make great essay topics as long as they end positively with you having learned your lesson and grown from the experience. A few winning essays from Test Preps‘ former students deal with egging houses, learning to make brownies, getting kicked off of the soccer team for poor grades and realizing the importance of ironing clothes.

A good exercise is to read over the Common Application prompts and brainstorm possible essay topics for each. Think about events in your life that taught you a lesson, that helped you grow as a person. Whatever experience you decide to write about, you should be able to list 2-3 values and character traits that the experience reveals about you. In essence, try to recount a story about yourself that proved transformative and highlights your growth as a person.

 

August 12th, 2014

Big No No’s – College Application Essay

keep-calm-and-don-t-do-it-2I’m usually a positive person, but I’d like to focus on some negatives right now: the things one should avoid doing when writing a college application essay. Keeping these in mind when writing your essay just may make the difference in getting you into that top-choice school.

1. Don’t brag, whether about your heroism or how you won the game. Sure you’re proud, but was the moment honestly transformative?
2. Don’t write about pop culture icons or about predictable people: MLK, Einstein, even mom, dad & siblings. The former make you look shallow, and none of them have met you personally save mom, dad and your siblings, whom every student claims is their hero. You need to find a story unique to you.
3. Don’t write about your drug use, sex life, time in jail, or make any deep confessions. Yes, they’ve all been done, and yes, they are all too risky.
4. Don’t repeat information that is already on your application. The college already has lots of information about you the student.
5. Don’t lecture or preach whether about social, political, or religious beliefs. These topics are not taboo, however, you need to be careful how you write about them. You never know who your audience will be.
6. Don’t write using clichés, use too many quotes, or overly rely on the thesaurus. Quality writing matters!
7. Don’t try to flatter the school you’re applying to. The school wants to know about you. They’re confident in their ability to educate you.
8. Don’t fake it. Don’t make yourself out to be someone you’re not. Admissions officers can sniff out a fraud, and when you write about a story that’s sincerely impacted your life, your writing reflects this.

Test Preps’ Essay Workshop for the College Application covers these and many more “don’ts”, but this list will get you started in avoiding some of the most common pitfalls when writing those application essays. And now that you know what not to do, how about those things you should be doing? Sign up for a class and wait for our next blog post!

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