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May 16th, 2022

#SummerGoals: Write your college application essay!

With so many moving parts to the college admissions process, it can be challenging to know when or where to start. Summertime presents an ideal time to focus on the college essay, without the pressures of school, homework, and extracurricular activities. Many students find that they’re more inspired and motivated to write their essay 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 three 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 to first 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 whom you trust to review your essay and provide both 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 a couple of breaks in between your re-writes 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 Test Preps’ College Essay Workshops in June, July, or August. We have several options to fit your summer schedule. Private tutoring options are also available. If you have any questions, please contact us for more information!

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.

February 24th, 2020

Great College Visit Questions (Part One: 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 as it can be an important factor 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 a lot 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 the one 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 to 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!

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

Stay tuned for Great College Visit Questions (Part Two: Academics).

*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 Student 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 can be priority class registration and 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, masters programs will look favorably on an honors program’s rigorous course of study. Similarly, potential employers recruit graduates with have critical thinking skills.

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

First and foremost, there’s no getting around that 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 a certain number of Honors College events.

Honors College isn’t for everyone, but for motivated students who are accustomed to a challenging workload and high achievement, the benefits are undeniable. 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 23rd, 2019

College athletics and the SAT/ACT: Get ready!

“I’m a top athlete… I don’t need to be concerned about my ACT/SAT score, right?”

While being a competitive athlete in a DI or DII collegiate sport can help you with college admissions, that doesn’t mean you can ignore the SAT or ACT. The NCAA (which governs college sports) has academic Eligibility Standards and dictates what SAT or ACT score you will need (based on your GPA) in order to play for a college. The lower your high school GPA, the higher your test scores need to be.

For example, if you are looking to play at the DI level but you are a middle “C” student with a GPA of 2.50, you would need your total SAT score to be 900 (out of 1600). If you are barely a “B” student with a 3.0, you need a 720 total combined score. ACT scores are comparable. 

The bar for a decent SAT/ACT score for an athlete isn’t all that tough. But keep in mind that if a coach is choosing between two great baseball players and one is close to the line of being academically ineligible, the coach is much wiser in giving his limited roster spots to the player who won’t end up on academic probation in their first or second semester of college. And no one wants to be sitting on the sidelines while their teams moves towards success, so why put yourself on the bench?

Therefore, it is important to put honest effort into your SAT/ACT preparation. Additional practice and retaking may give you an advantage when initially meeting with coaches and later applying to colleges. Just as you wouldn’t show up for a game unprepared or without your gear, don’t show up for the SAT or ACT cold and unfamiliar with the test.

Playing sports in college can be an amazing experience so make sure your SAT/ACT scores help you stand out to coaches in a positive way. Reassure coaches that you are recruitable and will be immediately academically eligible with a strong ACT/SAT score!  For more information about how Test Preps can help you achieve an SAT or ACT score needed for college sports, contact us today!

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash
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. (ACT option 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 with 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. When he tried the PSAT, it 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, a presidential scholarship from University at Buffalo, then as a National Merit Scholar, and finally, with an additional $1500 award by 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 diligently prepare for college testing, Test Preps can help! Contact us well before their junior year to talk about how they can benefit from early preparation for the SAT or ACT.

*Thank you to my colleague D. Cicero for sharing her wealth of knowledge and her son’s PSAT experience in this guest post!
October 23rd, 2018

Living on Campus or Commuting?

College admission involves many big decisions and for high school seniors who will be attending college locally, determining whether to live on campus or commute is certainly one of them. Some students and parents define the true “college experience” as living on campus, while others are resistant to dorm life for a variety of reasons. If you’re torn between living on campus or commuting to college, here are some key factors to keep in mind.

Community and social life

One of the main benefits of living on campus is the opportunity to connect with peers and become immersed in the school community. If a student’s social life is a priority, dorming is a great way to make friends and partake in new activities. For obvious reasons, living right at the college makes it easier to join clubs, study with friends at the library, and attend social events on campus. However, commuters can also do all these things – as long as they make an effort to get involved in campus, rather than go home right after class. Many colleges even offer programs and perks specifically designed to support commuters – like a dedicated commuter lounge for studying in between classes and meeting other local students.

Cost

Cost is one of the most predominant factors involved in making this decision. Annual room and board costs can be significant, with average costs in 2018 ranging from $10,800 at four-year public schools to $12,210 at private schools. If a student’s goal is to reduce the amount of loans they’ll need to take out, cutting out room and board expenses can be very cost effective.

For students with financial limitations, there are still some potential campus living options to consider. For example, a student can choose to live on campus during their freshman year and then commute or live in off-campus housing (such as a nearby apartment) during the remainder of college. This is often an ideal option for students who want to make new friends their first year and become acclimated with their campus community. Another factor to consider is the cost of the college itself. With tuition costs at private schools being higher than those for public schools, many students opt to attend their local state university, so they can more easily afford to live on campus.

Independence

Living on campus certainly affords students a sense of newfound independence. It is often a life-changing experience in learning how to live on their own, managing their time effectively and expanding their horizons in ways that encourage personal growth and development. While living on campus inherently fosters independence, commuting can also have the same benefits. Students who commute to class every day, especially those who also work a part-time job, must manage a busy schedule while staying on top of their studies.

No matter how you look at it, the choice to live on campus or commute is a big deal. Ultimately, every student needs to make a decision that’s best for them academically, socially and financially.

Source:
www.Collegeboard.org
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

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