Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Standardized Tests

Millions of dollars are spent on pre-test tutors and coaching each year and yet test results are not the first thing colleges look at, nor are they the most important (ranking 3rd of the top 10 – see below).

Not all colleges even require standardized tests for admission, but when they do, the tests are either the SAT or the ACT.

The SAT is fundamentally an east coast phenomena (and a North East coast one at that). The ACT is the test used by most of the rest of the country and one can understand why:

· The ACT has four sections: reading, math, writing and scientific reasoning. There is an optional essay. The amount of time the student is given to complete each section is longer and contiguous – e.g., rather than a 15 minute section of reading followed by a 20 minute section of math, followed by 15 minutes of English and another 15 minute math, there is one reading section which lasts 30 minutes and one math section which lasts an hour. In addition, the student gets to chose which ACT scores to send to the college so if he or she has taken the test 3 times, s/he can select the best scores and send only those. ACT’s are graded on a scale of 1-36, with a 32 being the approximate equivalent of a 2200 on the new SAT. Finally, ACT’s are comprehensive enough that special subject tests are not required.

· The SAT covers math, writing and reading, and as of 2005, the essay counts. Many schools require SAT II’s or subject matter tests in addition to the regular SAT. The sections on the SAT bounce around from math to reading, back to math and then to writing. Students cannot select which SAT scores to send – so if the student takes the SAT three times and bombs miserably the 1st time, that test score is sent along to the college with the better scores – though students can request, in writing, that the college ignore certain scores.

Online College Application Platforms

The Common Application ( . As the name suggests, it is a standard application and used by many colleges – however – some colleges require additional information (check the admissions website).

The Princeton Review ( . Contains many different apps, including the Common App. It functions as a warehouse of different apps and once you’ve entered your data once, it is stored for later retrieval.

Florida, Texas, New York and California state universities also have their own application platforms:

TOP TEN Things Colleges Look For

1. Strength of curriculum and school profile. This should be on this is on your school district’s website)

2. Grades – judged against strength of curriculum

3. Standardized test results

4. Teacher/Counselor/Personal recommendations

5. Class standing – rank

6. Depth of extra-curricular activities

7. Application essay

8. Leadership – not just elected positions at school, but also situations in which the students has taken initiative

9. Variety or breadth of activities

10. Demonstrated level of interest in the college – schools track each time the student contacts them and how

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rolling vs. Regular vs. Early Decision

There are three core admissions terms:

1. Rolling
2. Regular
3. Preferential

Rolling Admissions: Colleges review applications on an on-going basis and make decisions about who to accept as they review. However, once the college reaches its maximum number, it does not accept anyone else. So you could apply on December 1st, and the might be full. With Rolling Admissions it's best to apply early.

Regular Admissions: The college establishes a deadline by which all applications are due, and then reviews all apps at the same time. Doesn't seem to be a benefit to applying early here - unless someone knows something else?

Preferential: There are 3 sub-sets of preferential. They are: Early Decision, Early Action, and Single Choice Early Action.
Early Decision: first, your students can only apply to one school for Early Decision. Apparently colleges pool this data. In addition, once your kid applies, he/she is obligated to go to that school if accepted - however, he/she can still apply to other schools via Early Action or Regular admissions. The upside of Early Decision is that your kid is in a smaller pool of applicants.
Early Action: Smaller pool, earlier deadline, however the application is non-binding and the student can submit to multiple schools.
Single Choice Early Action: Similar to Early Decision, but no commitment is necessary to attend if accepted. However, your kid can only apply to one school this way.

The College Admissions Game - and How to Finance It Once They're In

There are endless guide books and seminars about how to get your kid through the admissions process and into college. But I find that, like early childhood parenting, the best tips come from other parents. Since most of us no longer hang out at the playground in the afternoon with other parents, I've created this blog to share and swap info about the college admissions game and how to pay for it once they're in.

Note: A lot of information in this blog comes from Cigus Vanni, a high school counselor and former college admissions director. He is generous with his knowledge and shares it during multiple sessions at community centers and libraries. He also gives away free college t-shirts!