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May 16th, 2022

#SummerGoals: Write your college essay!

Knowing when or where to start can be challenging with so many moving parts to the college admissions process. Summer presents an ideal time to write a college essay without the pressures of school, homework, and extracurricular activities. Many students find that they’re more inspired and motivated to write their essays during the summer when they have extra time to think introspectively about themselves—something that isn’t always easy to do!

Keep in mind that writing your college essay is personal and a very different task than an English class assignment. It’s essential to take the time to think about what to write about before the actual writing begins. Telling “your story” is a process, so it’s best to start well before the school year ramps up in September. Even the month of August can get busy with vacations, summer reading assignments, and team sports practices. So here are 3 great reasons to write your college essay during the summer:

Brainstorming  – before you begin!

The idea that optimal performance can be done under pressure does not hold true for the college essay. Formulating a well-written, high-quality essay requires a significant chunk of time. In fact, you may want first to read some sample college essays online before you begin writing. Many colleges post great examples of essays from accepted students that they loved, and you can learn a lot from perusing these essays. Reading a wide range of college essays will help you tremendously when brainstorming what you want to share about yourself with prospective colleges. Keep a running list of ideas on your phone so that when it’s time to write, you’ve got some material to start with!

Get some feedback

Fall is a busy time for both students and teachers, so it’s in your best interest to get feedback about your essay before the start of the school year. Be sure to have at least one or two people you trust to review your essay and provide support and constructive criticism. It’s important to seek feedback and insight from others who have experience reviewing many college essays, as they will be able to provide the most valuable critique.

Edits and rewrites are key

It’s a given that you’ll have to rewrite your essay many times until you finalize your finished product. Summer offers a stress-free time to work on your essay without worrying about academic homework, tests, and grades. Because you don’t have a tight deadline, you can take some breaks between your rewrites and revisit your drafts at your own pace. This will help you be more creative in crafting an outstanding college essay that reveals who you really are!

Being proactive about your college essay this summer will take a lot off your plate this fall. This gives you more time to complete other college application requirements, including the Common Application. You may even enjoy the essay process more when you can relax a little and write at your leisure.

 

Are you ready to make a plan to write your college essay this summer?

Check out our Buffalo partner Stress Free Admissions for their summer 2024 College Application Workshop held in August – just after the Common Application opens up. This intensive four-day, sixteen-hour IN PERSON workshop allows students to get a head start on college applications BEFORE the first day of senior year!

September 29th, 2020

Test-Optional is not Test-Blind

 

If you are a high school junior, deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT when so many colleges have adopted a test-optional admissions policy is a conundrum. So, what’s the difference between test-optional and test-blind? And what does it mean for you?

In a nutshell, test-blind means a school won’t accept standardized test scores. At all. If you send them, they won’t look at them.

Test-optional means that standardized test scores are not required for an application, but they are welcomed and valued in the competitive process of college admissions.

So, should a college-bound junior sign up to try the SAT or ACT? In a word: YES!

3 reasons to try an SAT or ACT 

  1. Test-optional colleges will look at SAT and ACT scores. All other things being equal, in an application, a higher test score might earn the acceptance letter. Furthermore, test score submission rates at prominent test-optional schools indicate that the majority of applicants still submit their scores.

 

  1. If you are planning on applying to more affordable state schools, guess what? A lot of families are making the same financially prudent choice during these uncertain times. Having a solid SAT or ACT score can help a student distinguish themselves in the crowded admission process.

 

  1. Many schools require standardized test scores for out-of-state students and athletes. In addition, merit aid, scholarship applications, and honors programs may still require a standardized test score.

Finally, nothing ventured, nothing gained! Take the test. If the score is above average, send it. If it isn’t, you can still apply test-optional.

Test Preps still remains devoted to our small-group SAT/ACT preparation programs. Our sessions begin 5-6 weeks before the test, and our tutors would love to help you get a leg up on the college competition.

So get ready. Get set. Prepare for possibilities! Contact Test Preps to talk about a plan that fits your school schedule, and join us for a small group SAT or ACT Course. Private tutoring options also available. We’ve got you covered.

 

February 24th, 2020

Great College Visit Questions – Student Life

“Boots on the ground” was one of the best pieces of advice I heard while my oldest child and I were beginning the college process.College visits - Boots on the ground!

I looked blankly at the woman who said it to me. “Go on some college visits,” she repeated.

Ahhhh. That made sense! I promptly started scheduling college visits to my daughter’s prospective campuses. This is also an important way to show interest in a college to Admissions. Learn more about demonstrated interest, which can be important in boosting a college application. Another perk: some schools will waive the application fee if you make a registered college visit to the campus.

Your teen can learn much about a school’s culture by walking around the campus, talking to students, and asking questions. Of course, which questions to ask will depend on what’s important to your student. My main question probably isn’t what you might expect: I wanted to know where students hung out. Fortunately, my daughter has always done well academically, and I can reasonably hope that she will continue in college. However, studying is generally done alone. I wanted to know where my daughter, a social creature, could find new friends and have fun. Don’t worry; I also asked where students like to study!

Some other questions we asked on our college visit about student life:

  • Do most students stay on campus on the weekend?

  • What’s your favorite thing about (insert university name)?

  • Is there anything fun to do off-campus?

  • How’s the Wi-Fi?

Our college visit questions will probably be different from your questions. Make sure you visit the school’s website and check out the FAQ. It’s a great place to start your list! Then, think about what is essential to your teen’s happiness. A great gym? Make sure you visit the athletic center while you’re on campus. Find out what it offers and when it’s open. Is your teen particular about food? Ask your tour guide where to find the best food on campus. And the best latte… Is your teen a sports fan? Do tons of students attend games? Or is school spirit kind of meh?

As we continue to navigate the college process, I’m glad my daughter put boots on the ground at some of her prospective schools, so at least she had the answer to these crucial questions: how does the campus feel? Can she see herself as a student there for the next four years? If that answer is yes, then we can probably figure out the rest of it…and so can you. To get you started on this process, check out US News College Search to compare information from 1900 colleges!

Test Preps is always available to help with your SAT and ACT preparation needs.

*Thank you to my bff Amanda for sharing her experiences as she navigates the college process with her own teens in this series of guest posts!

 

January 16th, 2020

Should your teen apply to an Honors College?

I asked a college sophomore in the Honors College at Duquesne University, and her response was: “Absolutely! You get priority scheduling, better class selection, and usually nicer dorms.”

So, if your teen is a high achiever and is looking at schools with an Honors College, he or she should definitely consider applying. Academic benefits can include smaller class sizes with more meaningful discussions and interaction with their professors. Access to professors is limited in a larger lecture setting, and office hours may be inconvenient. Other benefits include priority class registration, nicer dorms, or a dedicated space where honors students can study and hang out. Sometimes, honors students take a series of classes together, so faces become familiar more quickly in the smaller-group setting. Honors programs can have professional benefits as well. If your teen plans to pursue a higher degree, master’s programs will look favorably on an honors program’s rigorous course of study. Similarly, potential employers recruit graduates who have critical thinking skills.

Now let’s consider the possible challenges of an Honors College program…

First and foremost, there’s no getting around the fact that an honors program is extra work. The classes are smaller and require more participation, which makes it more difficult to “coast.” If your teen hates public speaking, he or she might prefer to be in a large lecture hall where there’s less chance of being singled out. Often, there’s a required GPA to maintain Honors College standing or housing, and some schools may ask students to attend several Honors College events.

Honors College isn’t for everyone, but the benefits are undeniable for motivated students who are accustomed to a challenging workload and high achievement. At Test Preps, we excel at helping students achieve their goals. Contact us today if you’d like to learn how your teen can improve their ACT/SAT score for any program!

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
April 4th, 2019

PSAT Primer for Accelerated Students

Everyone knows that high SAT or ACT scores can be rewarded with scholarships, tuition assistance and other great benefits. But the PSAT can also be worth money if you test exceptionally well. Standardized testing is a part of every high school student’s path to college. For strong students who are accelerated in their coursework, preparing for an SAT or ACT before taking the PSAT can be a savvy option. Besides getting an early start on test preparation before junior year becomes busy with AP work and extracurricular activities, early test prep can also ready a student for the PSAT and possible National Merit recognition and money.

About 1.6 million U.S. students take the PSAT each year. However, only scores achieved during junior year are eligible for National Merit rewards. If you score in the top 3 to 4% of PSAT test takers in your state, you move on to the Commended Scholar level. Every state’s required score is different and changes each year, depending on what scores are produced that given year. “Commended Scholar” is a nice line on your college application resume and your PSAT journey is over.

But let’s say you score really well and are in the top 1% of your state’s test takers – congratulations! You are then considered one of about 16,000 National Merit Semifinalists. That’s an even better line to put on your application, just from scoring exceptionally well on the PSAT.

Here is the tricky part. Those 16,000 National Merit Scholars are asked to take either the SAT or ACT and score high enough to validate that their PSAT score wasn’t a fluke. (The ACT option was just added for the class of 2020!) Also, there is an application package to complete, which includes an essay.

About 8,000 (or half) of these National Merit Scholars will be given money. Some will earn $2,500 as a one-time payment straight from the National Merit organization. Some will get money right from their intended college. Others can earn money from corporate sponsors – typically $10,000 divided into four payments. Colleges may even reward National Merit Finalists in addition to the student getting a corporate scholarship. Click here for more information about the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Here’s where early test preparation can help a serious student excel not only on the SAT/ACT but also on the PSAT. In my personal experience, my son took an ACT preparation course at the end of his sophomore year and got a great first score on the June ACT. With additional preparation and practice, he achieved a perfect score on the ACT in the fall of his junior year. Trying the PSAT was easier because he already knew how to attack a standardized test. He seriously prepared for these tests and was rewarded for his efforts. First, he received a presidential scholarship from the University at Buffalo, then as a National Merit Scholar, and finally, he received an additional $1500 award from the college when the National Merit money was applied during his freshman year. It certainly added up!  Additionally, prepping early in junior year avoids a heavy load in the spring during AP exam testing and finals.

The PSAT can be more than a warm-up for the SAT; it can be an avenue to additional accolades and money for college. If your teen is accelerated in their high school coursework and ready to prepare for college testing diligently, Test Preps can help! Contact us well before their junior year to discuss how they can benefit from early preparation for the SAT or ACT.

*Thank you to my colleague Donna for sharing her wealth of knowledge and her son’s PSAT experience in this guest post!
September 17th, 2018

Developing a College List

 

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

The THINKING involves an introspective examination of you and your lived experiences. You must reflect on several dimensions of yourself related to academic, personal, social, and career aspirations. For some, familial aspirations 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 aligns 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 a 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, it’s time to begin 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.
  • When creating a list of 10 schools, consider reach schools, target schools, and safety schools. Consider a ratio of 3:4:3 to ensure a balanced list, as a top-heavy list can yield disastrous outcomes. Be realistic.
  • Do talk to your counselors, teachers, parents, and other relatives who have gone to college. Ask them about their collegiate experiences, from application to graduation. Keep in mind that 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 clubs/organizations of interest? Visit the academic departmental webpage for your major to gain insight into faculty expertise. Look into their published and ongoing research for possible alignment with yours. This is handy for integration into your supplemental essay on “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 the 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 beyond rankings and dig deeper into an institution’s soul, asking whether it aligns 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.

 

August 16th, 2018

Superscoring: What you need to know!

Is your teen currently preparing for the SAT or ACT and wondering how colleges will consider all their scores? 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 scored 650 on the critical reading section and 550 on the math section. On her second SAT, she scored 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 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 by 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.

Remember 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 that 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 more and more schools are becoming “test-flexible” and embracing superscoring each year. 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

May 31st, 2018

College Recommendation Letters 101

With so much going on in the college admissions process, it’s easy to forget that acquiring college recommendation letters requires strategic planning. Experts suggest that students give thought and attention to their recommendation letters as early as junior year.

Letters of recommendation complement your college applications, showcasing your character, skills, and abilities. Typically, most colleges will require two letters from teachers and a letter from your guidance counselor. However, colleges have different requirements, so it’s important to refer to each school’s website or admissions department.

Who to ask?

Start with teachers you have known for a long time and have developed a meaningful relationship with throughout high school. This may be a teacher who has mentored you in a particular subject area or even a teacher who helped you get through a difficult course. Any instructor who has witnessed you excelling or working hard to overcome academic challenges could be well-suited to write a letter on your behalf.

Additionally, many students choose to ask coaches, club advisors, or employers for a third letter of recommendation. Letters written by these individuals can speak to your talents outside the classroom and highlight your commitment to extracurricular activities, such as a sport, music program, or internship. Employers can write about your work ethic and responsibility.

When to ask?

Each year, multiple seniors ask teachers to write recommendation letters. To avoid “competing” with other students’ requests, reaching out to recommenders at the end of junior year rather than waiting until fall of senior year is best. This will allow you to pass along your resume and share your goals and achievements with them. Most importantly, it gives your teachers time over the summer to write your letters – before they receive a flood of requests in the fall!

General tips

After speaking with your recommenders, be sure to provide them with all the information they need to submit their letters. They must be aware of your college’s deadlines and have access to the forms or links required for submission. Be sure to send hand-written thank you notes after your applications are completed!

Your recommendation letters are a key component of your admissions profile. Planning ahead will help both you and your recommenders manage the process in the best way possible.

Source:
https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/your-high-school-record/how-to-get-a-great-letter-of-recommendation
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, most people forget that asking the right 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 and 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 every campus has an active residence life. There are many colleges often referred to as “commuter schools” where students who dorm on campus tend to go home frequently on the weekends. If you’re visiting a college far from home, you’ll likely want to pick a school where students are regularly engaged in campus activities on 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 college is earning 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 to complete 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 remember during college visits. By planning your questions ahead of time, you can make the most of your visits and ensure you have all the information you need to evaluate the colleges on your list effectively.

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 or call (716) 574-7349.

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