The Big Test: Tips for SAT & ACT Preparation

Is your SAT or ACT testing date around the corner? Here is some advice I give to students who are preparing for the big day:

Focus on using your strengths versus fixing your weaknesses. There is not enough time to become a math whiz before your exam or to master critical reading skills that perhaps you have struggled with throughout school. And, I would argue, this is not the best use of your time. Research has shown that focusing on your strengths instead of your weaknesses is often more productive and results in greater success (here is a good Forbes article that explains this further). Honing in on those natural talents and applying them to the task at hand is the key to preparing for the parts of the test that make you the most nervous.

Student to Scholar has Strengths Sessions that will help you identify these skills and apply them to your college journey.

Actively prepare for the test environment. As with all things, knowledge is power. Having all the details and preparing for them ahead of time can make or break your exam performance. The College Board provides a nice overview of the SAT test day, as well as a test day checklist.

 Schedule your study time, and stick to it. Most college students I know have a lot going on, so simply saying that you will study for the SAT or ACT during “down time” usually doesn’t cut it. Grab your calendar or weekly planner and schedule study time like you would any other extra-curricular activity or big event.

A bonus tip on study time: people tend to lose concentration and productivity after more than 45 minutes, so try to avoid study periods that last longer than this.

Best of luck on the big day!

SAT & ACT Tutoring!

Students, it’s that time of year…time to gear up for your ACT and SAT tests! Lucky for you, Student to Scholar is ready to get your testing muscles in shape and ready for the big game.

All tutoring is one-on-one (unless group tutoring is requested and arranged ahead of time) and can take place in person or online.

Sign up now as spaces are limited and going fast!

 

It’s that time, seniors…time for your Admissions Essay Boot Camp!

Trust me: you do not want to be that person frantically writing your college essay the night before the application is due. You have put so much time and energy into your academics and extra-curricular activities in the hopes of impressing those admissions readers. Why should preparing your college application be any different?

Admissions Essay Boot Camp is comprised of two half-day Saturday workshops, with one-on-one consultation in between to review drafts and receive feedback. These writing boot camp sessions will include:

  • “Mind Mapping” techniques for organizing and tailoring a strong admissions essay
  • From Drafting to Submitting: a comprehensive checklist (that we will complete together!)
  • One-on-one feedback on essay drafts in between the Saturday sessions

Sign up for a boot camp today. Those end-of-the-year application deadlines will be here before you know it!

Mark your calendars!

Student to Scholar has some great workshops coming up!

July 12 & 26, 1-5pm: Admissions Essay Boot Camp (Thousand Oaks)

Free Parent Workshop Series in August:

The Brochure Battle: Helping Your Student Find the Right College Campus Fit
Saturday, August 2, 11am-12:30pm
Oak Park Library (Oak Park, CA)
or
Wednesday, August 6, 5:30-7pm
Carpinteria Library (Carpinteria, CA) 

A Parent’s Guide to Navigating the College Application Process
Saturday, August 16, 11am-12:30pm
Oak Park Library, (Oak Park, CA)
or
Wednesday, August 20, 5:30-7pm
Carpinteria Library (Carpinteria, CA)

August 9 & 23, 1-5pm: Admissions Essay Boot Camp (Santa Barbara)

Don’t forget to sign up for our e-mail newsletter, which includes up-to-date information on all our events and workshops.

Deciding on the Perfect Campus Fit

Congratulations! The waiting period is over and you have finally heard back after several months of anxious waiting. Your hard work has paid off, and now you might find yourself in the position of choosing amongst a variety of great options. If you are like Kwasi Enin, these decisions involve selecting from a variety of highly respected institutions of higher learning.

So, where do you start? Here are a few ideas:

Don’t underestimate the power of a good pro-con list. I know it may sound cheesy (or outdated), but this can be a very effective method as it allows you to visually process both sides of your decision. Check out this article by the blog Unclutterer on how to make the most effective pro-con list for your college decision process.

Drown out the noise around rankings and prestige. I have spoken to students whose college decisions were based around rankings, and many of these experiences were either miserable or ended with a transfer to another university. It is great to be excited about a particular academic program or specific faculty from whom you would have the chance to learn. This shows that you’ve done your research and are truly looking for a solid academic fit. However, basing your personal college experience on what the Princeton Review or U.S. News & World Report believes to be the “best” institution is a very large gamble. This Huffington Post piece about college rankings summarizes this issue nicely.

Schedule an appointment and let us help you! We would love to chat with you about the exciting options before you, and how to most successfully select a campus that fits your needs and educational aspirations.

When the Decision is No…

Choosing the right college or university is a difficult process for many students and their families; so many factors have to be considered (affordability, distance from home, campus environment, just to name a few). Many students are then left with the task of narrowing down their admissions offers to the final campus that they will call home for the next four years.

I want to address the students who are grappling with the letters that regret to inform them they have not been selected to the universities of their choice. For many of you who are facing this, it is the first time you have experienced what feels like real rejection. It is an uncomfortable and overwhelming feeling. While I know there is little that can be said to immediately relieve this, there are important things to keep in mind as you navigate this experience.

Give yourself the space to process and feel upset. In a previous blog post, I talk about the importance of celebrating others when they receive good news. It is just as important that you make time to work through the emotions you feel and allow yourself to be disappointed. Acknowledging and sitting with the emotion you are feeling is really the most effective way to move forward. 

Resist the urge to call the Admissions office. In the majority of cases, an admissions officer will not be able to give you a concrete reason for denial into their incoming class. This is because application review processes are much more complex than a simple “you needed a better grade in Algebra 2” or “we wanted more community service hours” answer. Unless you have a very compelling reason to request further review (and this reason or circumstance was not already stated in your original application), or the college has encouraged you to be in touch with them, I would not recommend calling. It only prolongs the frustration and disappointment.

Your academic future is far from over. There are many options if you do not get into your university of choice. Taking a “gap” year has become a common experience after high school, and some of the best college applications I have read were from gap year students whose passions and educational goals were discovered during that time. Spending time at a community college and re-applying as a transfer student is a legitimate option as well.

Whatever direction you choose to take, do not give up. What feels like a setback now is really just a different  path leading you exactly where you are meant to be.

The Big Wait

As I described in my earlier blog post, this time of year is known to many high school students as “the Big Wait.” In addition to my advice to celebrate with those who receive early admissions news, here are some tasks to keep you busy:

  • Thank you cards: get them written and in the mail! Thank you cards can be easy to forget once the excitement of your acceptance letters and planning for the fall sets in. Sending them now also tells people that regardless of where you end up attending, you are grateful for their support. Remember to include helpful teachers and guidance counselors, individuals who served as essay readers and editors, and hosts for college visits.
  • Final senior grades do count. I know—I’m not the first one to remind you about this, so I will keep it short and sweet. Ending your high school academic career with the same strength and gusto with which you began is the best way to prepare for your next academic chapter.
  • Organize and de-clutter your space. College residence hall rooms tend to be on the smaller side; start de-cluttering now and preparing for your physical transition. This is also a way to overcome anxiety about the future and instead put positive energy towards the exciting next chapter that is about to start. Here is a helpful Becoming Minimalist blog post with ten ways to approach this task.

 Tip of the day: Today’s easy online access means you could probably log in and find out your admissions status anywhere (as most universities have moved to an electronic notification process). When the big decision does come in, wait until you are at home or in the company of family and friends to check.

Celebrating the Success of Others

It has started. Last week I saw the first flood of excited Tweets from students who had received early acceptance decisions and were offered a spot in this year’s incoming class.  The excitement was palpable, and it brought a smile to my face to (virtually) hear their joy and be a part of their big moment.

It also reminded me that for the majority of students who are still anxiously waiting for their own big moment to occur, watching friends receive good news can be difficult. The college admissions process can feel like a competition amongst peers, and nowhere is this more apparent than during the release of decisions.

My advice for anyone in this situation is simple: jump in and celebrate with them. Do not let the anxiety of the unknown stop you from whole-heartedly congratulating others. Even if you don’t buy into the good-karma philosophy, I can promise you that you will feel better, physically and emotionally.

For more thoughts on this, I recommend a Huntington Post article that I read recently. Now go forth and find someone to celebrate!

Why Final Editing is So Very, Very Important

I am guessing that I am not the first person to lecture about the importance of editing an essay thoroughly before final submission. I’m also confident that this advice is even more urgent when it applies to a college application essay. This week, I heard an example that validates everything I believe in as an editor.

Several years ago, a good friend serves as an admissions reader for a large, selective university. This friend was in the process of reading an admissions essay that started off heartfelt, compelling, and well written. The student shared experiences of being bullied, followed by the desire to help others who had endured the same type of abuse in school. As my friend was finishing the essay, the very last sentence practically knocked this reader over. The sentence was an insult towards a specific person, someone the writer must have known—first and last name were included—and an extremely vulgar curse word.

The reader’s best guess is that the applicant probably sent the essay to a friend (perhaps for editing or feedback), the friend inserted this line as a “joke,” and the applicant failed to notice it during the cut-and-paste process. Unfortunately, this applicant did not abide by the always-do-a-final-read-before-clicking-submit rule, and the extremely distasteful last line made its way into the final college application. To make matters worse, this was on a common application that was read by every university to which the applicant applied.

In the end, a final edit is not just about catching an absent comma or misspelled word. It is about ensuring that a mistake like this does not happen to you.

Tip of the Day: Read your drafts out loud. Studies show that when we read the same material silently, we are less likely to see obvious mistakes. Check out this article by Lifehack for more editing tips that improve writing.  

New Year’s Advice for Freshmen, Sophomores, & Juniors

 Happy New Year! While everyone is focusing on resolutions and breaking bad habits, I have a challenge for all the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors out there (Seniors, I know you are recovering from application fatigue, so I’m granting you rest for now). 

There are still five months, give or take, between you and blissful summer. Make the most of this time by doing some organizing and evaluating of your high school involvement, in preparation for the college application journey to come. Here are a few New Year tips to consider:

  • Keep a running résumé. Trust me, trying to remember all of the clubs and leadership opportunities and school awards you’ve racked up, while frantically trying to complete your online application on time, will result in things getting missed. Start putting all of these details down on paper now. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You will thank me for this.
  • Start practicing time management now. The number one lesson college freshmen learn the hard way is time management. Imagine the distractions you experience now, and triple them; this makes proactively managing your schedule a top priority. Some easy ways to start doing this include keeping a day planner, scheduling your study time (and sticking to it), and tracking the amount of time you put into an involvement and the outcome that results (for example: does your club meeting take up two hours of time, and in the end there are no decisions made or projects accomplished? You might want to reconsider how you are benefiting from that involvement).
  • Take the time to develop your top talents and strengths. Research has shown that the most successful individuals focus on their innate strengths, rather than dwelling on the need to improve their weaknesses. One tool for doing this is through a Student to Scholar’s Strengths-based coaching session. Interested in learning more?  Contact us about attending one of the sessions that we offer for high school students.

Higher Education Professional, College Consultant, Expert in the College Transition