Prepare as you might for a standardized exam, your test-day strategy will factor heavily into your outcome. Anthony Russo, a senior at Summit High School in New Jersey, has taken the SAT five times. He shared that the difference between his lowest and highest test scores could be explained by test prep and strategy.
“Taking Manhattan Review’s test prep course initially raised my SAT score by 60 points,” Russo shared. “But more than that, my private tutor gave me a plan for approaching the test more tactically.” Want to boost your SAT score just by shifting your behavior? Here are a few ways to maximize your test-taking potential. These tips have helped students, including Anthony, enhance their performance to achieve results in the 98th and 99th percentiles.
- Set the right pace. Think of the SAT like a long race, each question a short hurdle bringing you closer to the finish line. Stopping too long on one question can prove disastrous for the long haul. Each question is worth the same number of points. If a question becomes too time-consuming, don’t stumble and lose your stamina. Move on to the next question, and go back to re-try the most confusing questions. Continue moving forward, answering as many questions as you can with confidence. Accuracy will prove a much more effective tool than speed.
- Start with the easiest questions. Keeping with the SAT-as-a-marathon mentality, everything starts off easiest. Your mind is still fresh, plus the SAT is organized in order of difficulty. As you begin with the easiest questions, calibrate your pace to match the level of difficulty. Don’t allow yourself to become mired down early in the game. Don’t skip around, creating a confusing and disjointed course to follow. Knock out the easiest SAT questions first and stay focused for the more challenging questions to come.
- Never question common sense. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t just choose option B and hope for the best. Use logic to answer the harder questions by turning your guess into a formidable hypothesis. Eliminate as many incorrect answers as you can. As long as you are able to eliminate at least one wrong answer, you should make a guess instead of skipping the question. If you can’t make an educated guess, go ahead and skip the question. You don’t want to roll the dice on SAT questions when you are penalized for wrong answers.
- Master the material with test prep. Cramming won’t work. To prepare for the SAT – as with the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and TOEFL – strategic test prep brings the best results. At Manhattan Review, we offer a range of prep test courses customized to the learning needs of each student. Before making flashcards and memorizing countless math formulas, try the most efficient and effective study methods. Limit your studies to what actually shows up on the SAT, and you’ll conquer the curriculum in no time.
- Practice, practice, practice. We offer plenty of SAT practice tests because they are a sure-fire way to increase SAT scores. Develop test-taking strategies like internalizing your pace. Continue taking practice tests until you finish all SAT questions comfortably and with time leftover.
Anthony summed it up best, saying, “You want to find your test-taking comfort level before you go into the exam. Manhattan Review’s SAT practice exams made finishing the test easier. It probably helped too that I knew more of the answers.“
Many high school seniors try to ease the uncertainty of applying to schools by applying early admission. What is early admission, you might be wondering? Early admission binds both the student and the college into admittance months earlier than the regular admission deadline is due. Even in this touch-and-go economy, early admittance seems to be increasing, not decreasing. Here is a list of several schools which have published their early admittance increases, thanks to The New York Times.
Duke: 31% increase
Northwestern: 11% increase
Cornell: 4% increase
Dartmouth: 3% increase
Occidental: 40% increase (Note: Occidental has a very small program, not totaling over 157 applicants this year.)
The Times goes onto say that Wesleyan, Emory, Pomona and Grinnell were colleges that saw no increase or decrease, but were about even with their early admittance percentages compared to last year.
Some colleges have a non-binding early admittance program, like Stanford, where you have the choice of whether you want to attend the school or not when applying early. Stanford saw its early admittance rate go up by about 4% this year. Yale, on the other hand, with a program very similar to Stanford’s, saw its applications drop 5%, along with Amherst, Swarthmore and Hamilton.
Is it good to know your statistics of early admittance before applying to schools? The Times brings up this important question, ultimately saying “yes” – that even though the reality can be somewhat grim in terms of the freshmen seats being given away to early admittance applicants, it’s still important to be aware of your changes of getting in. For example, Cornell offered binding acceptances to 1,167 applicants, which totals to about 40% of its freshmen class. This is a good percentage to know when waiting for those acceptance or rejection letters to come in.
However, early admittance students should be careful when applying to schools with binding programs. Counselors often discourage early admittance because it decreases your chances of obtaining stellar financial aid in the bargaining process. Should you decide to apply early with binding or non-binding agreements to colleges and universities, make sure the agreement is the right one for you.
For any college admissions help, consult with our experts at Manhattan Review.
Do you ever wonder which is more important to high school seniors: the ACT or SAT? It appears they are both equally important as some admissions offices even consider both tests to be cut-off points for a certain percentage of students.
According to the New York Times, there was a report published through the National Association of College Admission Counseling, where researchers asked 250 colleges whether they used either the SAT or ACT as a cut-off for admission. Of those who participated in the report and accepted the SAT, 1 in 5 said they used certain scores as a “threshold” for admission. Those who claimed to use the ACT for admission purposes used 1 in 4 said they used a similar cut-off, too.
There is good news, though, for students not in the top percentile of both tests. According to the study, three-quarters of the colleges report using scores “holistically.” What does that mean? Typically, that means the tests are just one factor out of many in how a candidate is evaluated. After-school activities, recommendations, GPA and their curriculums are taken into consideration, as well. Also, according to the study, “strength of curriculum” and “grades in college prep courses” appear to matter most when reviewing a candidate.
The colleges and universities that said they use SAT and ACT grades as cut-offs chose not to disclose their names. However, the New York Times claims that using SAT and ACT grades as cut-off points might be at odds with the highly venerated “Principles of Good Practice,” which states they “cannot use test scores as the sole criterion for admission.”
In essence, what’s the difference between the SAT and ACT? Here are some quick facts about both tests that might give light to any confusion.
SAT: Originally, the SAT was designed to democratize admissions and has been around for more than 80 years. In 1999, the SAT was more popular amongst test-takers by about 10%, but now both the SAT and ACT are even.
ACT: The ACT was created more recently than the SAT and was initially aimed at measuring classroom achievement rather than internal ability. For a number of years the test was only popular in the Midwest and states in the surrounding area, but has branched out nationwide as of late.
The acceptance rate of the super-selective Ivy League is extremely low. There is a record number of high school students who are applying for college straight out of high school – more than 60 percent, according to David Hawkins, director at the National Association of College Admission Counseling. Meantime, the number of students applying for college is increasing each year. According to the federal Department of Education, this year will feature the highest number of high school graduates, 3.2, almost a million up from five years ago.
Recent admission trends indicate that even though you have a high GPA and good or perfect SAT scores, it’s not a given that you’ll get admission to your first choice school, so it’s wise to have as many back-ups as you can to optimize the final result of your college application process without waiting for another entire year. As a matter of fact, many students are applying to as many as 10 or 15 universities. This is primarily attributed to the Common Application form, which can be downloaded from the Internet and sent online to as many as 300 schools nationwide.
However, the results of this survey of first-year college students is relieving: 70% of these students say that they ended up at their first choice school, and most students are ultimately happy with their choice of college. At first this may seem surprising, especially since schools like Yale accepted fewer than ten percent of the 20,000 students who applied last year, and both Harvard and Columbia accepted just more than 10 percent, but there are many reasons why students end up at specific schools, as both the students and the college make great endeavors to find a right fit.
With the high price of college tuition in today’s uncertain economic climate, most students who apply for university admission will attempt to secure some financial aid. The most common form of financial aid is based on need, and is determined by the FAFSA form submitted by the student along with his or her application.
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) determines a student’s eligibility for federal loans and other aid packages; much like submitting the application itself, sending in your FAFSA early increases your chances of receiving aid from this limited amount of funding. If you are applying for college entry shortly after high school graduation, your parents’ finances will be examined in addition to your own.
Many colleges and universities offer Merit-Based Scholarships. These are sometimes offered to students on the basis of their academic achievement in high school, or for exceptional SAT scores. Frequently, lower-ranked colleges will offer merit-based scholarships to encourage good students to attend, which improves the quality of the student body, and often makes college affordable for good students with less money. Do inquire about school-specific scholarships through your guidance counselor at school, or through the university’s financial aid office – you may need to do more than just keep earning good grades!
This brings us to Non-Institution-Based Scholarships and Grants – the least-understood source of funding for college applicants. These scholarships and grants vary widely and can be researched in many different ways. Did you know that you might qualify for a scholarship because…
- You plan to pursue a specific major?
- You belong to a specific ethnic or religious group?
- You have a specific career goal?
- You or your family has worked at a specific company?
- You have participated in specific volunteer work?
- You have a disability?
- You can speak a particular foreign language?
- You are an athlete?
- You or a family member is a veteran?
- You and/or your family have experienced a particular hardship (Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, etc.)?
You, as an individual, may qualify for many different scholarships, many with quickly approaching deadlines, so it is important to stay on top of things. Check out some scholarship books, like the College Board’s Scholarship Handbook, or Peterson’s Scholarships, Grants and Prizes. Register yourself on scholarships.com, fastweb.com, finaid.com, or any of the many scholarship websites right away; they may notify you when a new scholarship that fits your profile appears, so don’t forget to keep your profile up-to-date with all of your latest successes! Scholarships listed on these websites are frequently nationwide or international, and receive many applications, so don’t forget to research Local Scholarships as well, such as grants from:
- Alumni of your high school
- Local businesses and corporations
- Community groups, like the Elks, the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, or Masons
- Your local Department of Education
The best way to learn about Local Scholarships to ask your school or the organizations directly in a respectful and mature way – don’t have a parent write or telephone on your behalf!
Making a Compelling Application
When your application arrives at your favorite college, the officers are not deciding whether to accept or reject you, but rather your application. Therefore, you need to make your application reflect your abilities, personality, background, interests, and past performance.
Don’t Hesitate – Starting Early Pays Off
Don’t wait until senior year to download the applications you need. Ideally, you will begin familiarizing yourself with your college applications and their requirements during the spring of your junior year. You will need time to carefully gather the necessary information and compile lists of activities and honors. If you can begin writing your essays over the summer, you will save plenty of time; just make sure to ask the admissions offices whether or not they plan on changing the essays in the fall.
Submitting your application as early as possible is always beneficial. Close to the deadline date, admissions officers must read close to 100 applications a day, but early in the season, they read only a handful a day. If the admissions officer has more time to consider your application in a thoughtful way, your chances are greatly improved. Also, an early submission suggests that you are quite serious about your interest in the school, even when you do not select Early Action or another similar option.
Extracurricular Activities and Your Application
You cannot fool college admissions officers by presenting an extremely long list of extracurricular activities in your application. While it is true that colleges want to make sure that you are doing something worthwhile in your spare time, it is not necessary to be a member of 20 different clubs, sports, or organizations. However, if you spend 20 hours a week at one particular activity, and you have become the mainstay of that organization, that’s impressive.
Extracurricular activity lists should demonstrate:
- Dedication and Loyalty
- Social Awareness and Sophistication
- Leadership Capacity
First Jobs and Student Resumes
As a high school student, it is not expected that you will have a lengthy resume. However, having a job in high school can impress admissions officers. It is a good idea include the number of hours per week you normally work at your job, and any leadership positions that you’ve held. Your job doesn’t need to be unusual, but your dedication is what matters. Some schools permit additional recommendation letters from job supervisors, and a glowing report of your maturity, work ethic, and problem-solving skills can be a real boon.
Look after your applications! If you apply online, always save a copy of your essays on your hard drive, and also a backup copy on CD or other removable drive. Take your time, and do your best to present yourself in the best light possible.
Colleges want students that have excellent grades and SAT scores, but these criteria are frequently not the make-or-break factors that influence acceptance, particularly at highly selective schools. Colleges have to work hard to keep or make their good reputations, just like students, and therefore need to choose the right students. Unfortunately, sometimes that means that qualified students don’t get accepted to particular schools – but that does not mean that these students are any less qualified than before they got their thin envelope!
Colleges want specific and unique individuals to attend their schools, not walking transcripts! But since colleges probably won’t come looking for you (you’re probably not worried about being accepted to college if they are!), you need to find your special niche yourself.
Remember, even when you get accepted to the school of your dreams, no college acceptance letter guarantees a good education, a good job, or a happy life. Even if you make it to Harvard, there’s no guarantee that your life will be perfect.
Who Gets Accepted?
Today, more students than ever are applying for highly selective colleges; more students overall are planning on attending college after high school, and more successful students are seeking diplomas from big-name schools. This means that many highly-qualified candidates are rejected from the most selective schools. Can you believe…
- Students with perfect SAT scores
- Winners of famous, private scholarships
… all can get rejected from the most selective (and even less selective!) schools?
The Game Plan:
How can you increase your odds of acceptance into a school that is not only prestigious, but that will give you the best shot at an exemplary education? Research colleges thoroughly; sometimes colleges are just looking for someone very specific – an oboe player for the orchestra, a star quarterback for the football team, a speaker of Korean to help improve the language department, or a student council star to take over campus government.
Use your Interview to find out whether your specific skill set is particularly desired by a specific school. Your interview is not only a great way to make a good impression on the admissions officers, but also the easiest way to find out about the kind of students that each college needs. Come prepared, and don’t be afraid to ask very frank questions about the student body. It will not harm your chances; in fact, your serious interest in finding the best match for you can only reflect positively on your application.
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