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July 29th, 2020

August is College Admission Essay Month

Well…not officially, but it should be! August is a great month for high school seniors to tackle the daunting task of grabbing a college’s attention in six hundred fifty words or less. And this year Test Preps is offering our College Essay Workshop virtually!

Why write the college essay now?

  1. Because we’re all waiting to hear what “back to school” will actually mean this fall. Why not set your sights beyond this school year and focus on all the possibilities of the NEXT fall? Battle uncertainty with action, and keep your eyes on the prize: acceptance to a great college!
  2. Because no matter what happens, it’s going to be something. The events of the past few months are fresh and uncluttered, and there is no better time to mine them for memorable details. In fact, the Common Application has added an optional Covid-19 question for students who have been greatly impacted. This fall, your teen will be adapting to a new set of school circumstances. Seize the last days of summer and get a jump on that college admission essay before school starts again.
  3. Because your teen probably has some extra time on his or her hands, and Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and TikTok are boring. Okay, maybe that last part isn’t true, but this is: many colleges have made ACT and SAT test scores optional for 2021. Colleges are going to need a way to get to know your teen, and the essay may be the single best way for college seniors to reveal themselves as individuals to prospective colleges.

When it comes to writing an essay for a college application, getting started is the hardest part—we promise. If your teen needs a hand, a nudge, or a cheerleader, Test Preps can help. Our team will guide your teen through brainstorming, editing, and polishing their essay in just one week during our College Essay Workshop.

Class starts August 3rd via Zoom! Space is limited to maintain the small-group focus of our programs, but we still have a few spots left. Refer a friend, and both students receive a free copy of the text we use in class.

Register today! We can’t wait to get your teen started on the next chapter of their college career.

March 19th, 2020

Summer 2020 SAT/ACT enrichment for motivated students!

I have been asked by so many parents what their teen can do NOW to utilize some of their extra time. All students can review content areas that are tested on every SAT and ACT.  Below are some ideas they can get started on right away. Be aware that if you are ordering texts online, some companies are experiencing longer than usual delivery times.

  • Grammar

    I would love to suggest an excellent workbook that can be purchased on Amazon (or any online store with better pricing or faster shipping options): The Complete Guide to ACT English or The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar, both written by Erica Meltzer. Even 15 minutes a day of grammar review and practice can make an impact on the ACT English or SAT Writing & Language sections. Grammar isn’t hard, but most kids haven’t studied or practiced grammar regularly since middle school. We always tell our students that improving grammar is one of the easiest ways to increase an SAT/ACT score.

    Here are links to our SAT and ACT Grammar Review Guides using the Meltzer texts listed above:

  • SAT Grammar Guide 2020
  • ACT English Guide 2020

Additionally, TheCriticalReader.com offers an excellent FREE ebook that covers all the grammar that needs to be reviewed for the SAT and ACT and many other great resources!

 

  • ACT Math

McGraw Hill has two great workbooks. For strong math students, we recommend 500 Questions to Know by Test Day: ACT Math Use daily (15 minutes) to practice questions and review math content from previous years. It is extremely important to read the answer explanations at the end of the chapter for questions missed and then redo that question to learn from mistakes. Students who struggle with Math can review content areas (like Geometry) with Top 50 Math Skills for a Top Score: ACT Math. Use the “Look Inside” option on Amazon to check out the Table of Contents. This book is straightforward and can be broken into manageable chunks over the next two months.

 

  • SAT Math

We recommend Barron’s SAT Math Workbook (7th ed.) by Lawrence S. Leff.  Even completing 1 lesson every day will help students review math content from previous years and practice SAT math questions. The same strategy applies that was listed for ACT Math – read the answer explanations for questions missed and then redo that question to learn from mistakes. This book is also straightforward and can even be used to target a specific area like Geometry, for example.

 

  • SAT Prep

    An excellent online option is Khan Academy, a College Board partner offering thousands of practice questions, videos, lessons, and hints to review content on all sections of the SAT. AND IT’S FREE! Check out their Resource Page for helpful information.

 

Feel free to Contact Us if you have any questions.

Melissa Cook

 

October 25th, 2019

What Is “Demonstrated Interest” And How Do I Show It?

As if sending SAT/ACT test scores, high school transcripts, and applications isn’t enough to do, some colleges (not all) track how much “interest” prospective students show in their institution. This is called demonstrated interest, and while it might not make or break your teen’s admission status, what if it’s one variable that can set them apart from other applicants? So it certainly can’t hurt to show some enthusiasm and interest starting with the college search during junior year.

Traditionally, a campus tour is a great way to show demonstrated interest. If finances and time allow, visit prospective schools, and make sure your teen’s name is checked off on the attendance roster. If visiting isn’t feasible, sign up for an online webinar that might cover the same material and offer a virtual tour. Have your child reach out to an admissions officer via e-mail or phone with genuine, pertinent questions about the admissions process, provided that information can’t be found elsewhere. Other ways for your teen to show demonstrated interest: register for and attend college fairs and engage with counselors at prospective schools’ tables, speak with admissions officers if they visit their high school, and always open e-mails from schools on their application list. Some schools offer alumni interviews, another great way to show interest with the double benefit of also getting an insider perspective on the school.

Colleges appreciate demonstrated interest because it improves the chances of receiving a “YES” response to their acceptance letter. Students who accept offers make the schools look desirable, and demonstrated interest is a great way to predict an enthusiastic “YES.” However, demonstrating interest also has a great stealth benefit. Thoroughly investigating schools, talking to admissions officers, visiting campuses, and reading e-mails can help you and your teen figure out whether a prospective school is truly a good fit.

As always, Test Preps is here to help you lock down that best possible SAT/ACT score so that demonstrated interest is the bow on top of the already-awesome student package. Now get out there, get enthusiastic, and prepare for possibilities!

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels
September 17th, 2018

Developing a College List

 

It’s easy to develop a college list. But to develop YOUR college list may require more THINKING and DOING.

The THINKING involves an introspective examination of you and your lived experiences. You need to reflect on several dimensions of self, related to academic, personal, social, and career aspirations; And for some, familial aspiration and expectations of you need to be resolved. Working through most, if not all, of these areas requires YOU to process the following set of sample questions:

Academic: What set of institutions match well with my demonstrated abilities as reflected in my high school achievement and in test scores?

Personal: What set of institutions align well with my personal interest and desire for greater interaction with students and faculty? Will I have this intimacy at medium to large schools? Do I want a single sex school or co-ed school? How close/far do I want to be from home?

Social: What types of institutions will enable me to meet other people with similar interests? For example, if I play the erhu, a classical Chinese string instrument, will I find opportunities to continue my musical interest at a small school or at a medium to large institution?

Career: What school will provide me with the foundational knowledge and experiential learning to pursue my career aspirations? For example, if you want an undergraduate business education, does applying to Harvard make any sense, considering that the only Ivy League schools with accredited undergraduate business programs are at Cornell or UPenn?

After you’ve done some THINKING, then its time to begin the DOING, which relates to the active engagement of learning and exploration.

  • Do utilize the resources of US News and World Report Ranking, The World Ranking, Barron’s, Princeton Review, Forbes, Times, etc., BUT seek to understand how they calculate/rank schools. Don’t just accept them at face value. Schools’ ranks should not be the primary factor.
  • Do consider reach schools, target schools and safety schools when creating a list of 10 schools. Consider a ratio of 3:4:3 to ensure a balanced school list, as a top-heavy school list can yield disastrous outcomes. Be realistic.
  • Do talk to your counselors, teachers, parents and other relatives that have gone to college. Ask them about their collegiate experiences, from application to graduation. Keep in mind their information may be outdated but their lived experience provides valuable insight and perspectives.
  • Do visit college websites and explore them in greater detail. Go beyond, the ‘Admissions’ page; look at “student life” for clubs and organizations. Do they have club/organizations of interest? Visit academic departmental webpage for your major to gain insight on faculty expertise. Look into their published and ongoing research for possible alignment with yours. This comes in handy for integration into your supplemental essay of “why us?”
  • Do look at colleges and universities in your area. Which one impresses you the most and why? How do other schools you’re considering stack up to what you’ve just described in previous questions?
  • Do visit, especially ones you’re considering for Early Decision or Restrictive Early Action. Take a campus tour and admissions information session. If you can, try to visit during the academic year when semester is in full swing. Stay overnight in the dorm, eat in the dining halls, attend classes and speak to faculty for a truly immersive experience.

Having a great school list requires thoughtful reflection on what you value in your education. It requires you to go above and beyond rankings and to dig deeper into an institutions’ soul, asking does it align with yours?

 

Solomon Admissions Consulting is an international college admissions consulting company based in New York, which helps applicants apply to and be accepted by colleges, MBA and MD programs, and private schools.

 

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August 16th, 2018

Superscoring: What you need to Know!

Is your teen currently preparing for the SAT or ACT and wondering how all their scores will be looked at by colleges? They are not alone! One question we are often asked by both parents and students is about superscoring.

Superscoring is the process in which colleges will only consider a student’s highest section scores from each SAT or ACT test they’ve taken.

Let’s illustrate superscoring with this example: On Jennifer’s first SAT, she scores 650 on the critical reading section and 550 on the math section. On her second SAT, she scores 610 on reading and 590 on math. A college that superscores will only look at Jennifer’s two highest section scores from both test dates, which would be her 650 reading score and 590 math score.  Although her composite score for both sittings was 1200, her superscore is now a 1240. As you can see, superscoring can benefit students who have taken the SAT or ACT several times, as only their highest section scores will be considered in the admissions process.

Superscoring can also offer an advantage for test preparation in terms of targeting more time and attention on a specific area of weakness. In Jennifer’s case, she may decide to focus her studying for the second SAT mostly on her weaker section (math), since she already scored well on her reading section the first time around.

Keep in mind that only some colleges utilize superscoring and colleges have very different test score policies. Check their website or call admissions directly for clarification. You can also google a list of colleges who superscore the SAT or ACT. Most colleges only consider a student’s highest score from a single test date and some elite colleges even require all test scores from all dates. The good news is that each year, more and more schools are becoming “test-flexible” and are embracing superscoring. Therefore, it is important for students to fully understand the test score policy at each college to which they are applying and prepare accordingly.

Got questions?

We have answers! Contact us today at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or call Melissa Cook at (716) 574-7349.

 Sources:

https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/sat-act-superscore

https://blog.ivywise.com/blog-0/bid/123416/College-Admissions-Score-Choice-Test-Optional

March 8th, 2018

Think It’s Too Early To Make Summer Plans? Think Again!

Summer may seem far away, but the school year will be over in the blink of an eye and June will be here before you know it. How you spend your summer can make a difference during the college admissions process. Will you seek out a job or internship? Will you volunteer in your community? Or will you just lounge by the pool with your friends every day? Taking some time to plan ahead will ensure you spend your summer productively, while still having fun and enjoying your time off from school.

Now is the time to consider these college and career-building opportunities when making your summer plans:

Internships and academic programs.  Many companies and colleges offer formal internship and academic programs specifically designed for high school students. Depending on your interests or passion, you may find it valuable to pursue a structured program during the summer. There are many options to consider such as hospital internships, STEM programs at a college, writing workshops, theater/music camps and so much more. These can be in your hometown, or even abroad! It’s important to note these programs often have early application deadlines. Therefore, you must begin the research and application process in the late winter or early spring.

Volunteering.  You don’t have to be enrolled in a formal program to acquire new skills and learn more about yourself. Volunteering is one of the most underrated (and cheapest) ways to get exposure to potential academic majors and career paths. The best part is that the opportunities are endless. Whether it’s working with animals at a local SPCA or lending a helping hand at a nearby hospital or nursing home, volunteering allows you to take on new responsibilities and gain experience in a real-life work environment. Be sure to track your volunteer hours and have a supervisor document them.

Employment.  Never underestimate the power of a summer job in building your resume and college admission profile. Any type of employment – from babysitting or mowing lawns to working at the local ice cream shop or mall – can be a valuable way to spend your summer. In addition to earning money, summer employment promotes independence, team building skills and time management, helping to prepare you for college life. Some large employers (like Wegmans) offer scholarships for students who work there throughout their high school tenure.

Do your summer plans also include preparing for the ACT or SAT? Summer is a great time to prep as the ACT is now offered in July and the SAT is held in August! Learn how Test Preps’ small group classes and/or private tutoring can help you prepare for your upcoming test. Contact Melissa Cook today at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

February 13th, 2018

College Scholarships – Get started now!

Scholarships, scholarships, scholarships! That’s the bulk of what I see in my Twitter feed lately – and for good reason! With rising tuition costs at all colleges, it’s never been more important for students to pursue scholarships and maximize their chances of earning money for college. In fact, it may surprise you that high school students are encouraged to start the scholarship search as early as junior year.

Feeling overwhelmed? Take note of these tips to get your scholarship search into full gear:

 

Diversify your search. You may be surprised to learn about all the different scholarship opportunities available. There are scholarships offered in your local community and high school, as well as thousands of scholarships you can apply for online.

Typically, it’s best for students to start their search locally first. This involves exploring scholarships awarded at your high school through your guidance counselor or career center. At the local level, many employers and chambers of commerce award scholarships to students in their communities each year. Talking with family members and doing some research around your city or town will help you learn about worthwhile scholarship prospects (Examples: Churches, civic organizations, clubs, etc.)

In addition to your local search, don’t forget about the plethora of national scholarships that can be found online. Making a habit to apply to even one online scholarship per month can potentially result in significant money toward your college education.

Be strategic in your search. While any opportunity to be awarded free money may seem appealing, you’ll run yourself ragged by applying to every single scholarship you come across. To effectively utilize your time and maximize your chances of being a scholarship recipient, you must be strategic in your search. This means applying only to the opportunities aligned with your academic strengths and interests. One way to do this is by using specific academic and geographic keywords when searching for scholarships online. For example, rather than search “Scholarships, New York State,” a phrase that would yield much more targeted results would be “English Scholarships, Syracuse, New York.”

Avoid scams. Unfortunately, there are many scholarship scams, especially online. It’s critical you know how to identify scams before it’s too late and your personal information is at risk. In general, the most reputable online scholarship websites include colleboard.com, cappex.com, fastweb.com, scholarships.com, and scholarshipamerica.org. Before applying to any scholarship on the Internet, remember these tips for avoiding scams:

  • Never pay to apply to any scholarship.
  • Never provide a credit card number for any scholarship application.
  • Never sign up for a program.
  • Never provide highly personal or sensitive information, such as a social security number.
  • Beware of “claims or guarantees.”
  • Beware of free seminars or classes.

Being smart and using common sense will go a long way. If something doesn’t feel quite right, don’t apply.

Start now!

When it comes to acquiring free money for college, time is on your side. The sooner you start applying for scholarships, the better off you’ll be financially when the tuition is due.

Also, keep in mind that SAT and ACT scores are important criteria when colleges award merit scholarships. Learn how Test Preps can help raise your SAT or ACT scores well before you apply to college. Get in touch at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or call Melissa Cook at (716) 574-7349.

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 27th, 2017

What You Should Know About Test Optional Colleges

 

 

Though standardized testing has been considered a critical component of the college admissions process for years, you may not be aware that “test optional” colleges do indeed exist. For a few different reasons, many colleges throughout the U.S. have opted to drop the SAT or ACT requirement as criteria for admission. This 2015 New York Times article on “The Test-Optional Surge” discusses some of the many reasons colleges are taking the test optional route. Here are answers to three common questions regarding test optional policies:

 

  1. How do I benefit from a test optional policy?

Students who perform very well academically, but who score below average on the SAT or ACT, tend to benefit the most from a test optional policy. Though most colleges take a holistic view of each student, test optional schools look more heavily at applicants’ grades, essays and extracurricular activities in making admissions decisions. Therefore, a student with a strong academic record who is simply not a good test-taker may find test optional colleges most appealing.

  1. Should I still submit my SAT or ACT score to a test optional school?

The whole point of pursuing a test optional college is to avoid the submission of a low test score. However, there are certain factors to consider before deciding against a test score submission. Many test-optional schools still require the submission of SAT or ACT scores for certain circumstances, such as qualifying for merit scholarships or playing a sport at the Division 1 or Division 2 level. Always check with admissions officers about the individual policies of their respective institutions.

  1. Can I just avoid taking the SAT or ACT?

If you are strongly considering test optional schools, it may be tempting to completely forgo taking standardized tests all together. However, it’s best to take a practice SAT or ACT at least once. This will give you an idea as to what test you’re best suited for, as well as your test-taking abilities. Once you get a sense of your test scores, you’ll be able to plan accordingly and decide if you should only apply to test optional schools.

Even though test optional schools can be a great option for some students, taking the SAT or ACT will provide the most flexibility as you explore and visit many different colleges. Remember – no matter how you perform on a standardized test, there is a college option for every student.

For more information and a complete list of test optional colleges, be sure to visit www.fairtest.org.

Do you want to learn more about the role of standardized testing in the college admissions process? Contact Melissa Cook, owner of Test Preps, at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349 to have all your questions answered.

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.

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