Thoughts on the New SAT From the People Who Matter- Students

On Saturday, March 5th, the new SAT was finally administered to over 300,000 lucky students. PBS NewsHour provided a comprehensive overview of the changes made to the test and the continued debate about the validity of standardized testing as an accurate predictor of student success. While educators (and the media) continue to deliberate about the validity of the tests, students seemed focused on one thing: getting through it.

Jed Applerouth, from Applerouth Tutoring Services, provided insights from the students who utilized the company’s services. In his article, he quotes students who took the old SAT and the new SAT.

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Bubble style test form
Bubble style test form

Overall, students stated that the “wordiness” of the math section was challenging, and the non-calculator math section proved to be difficult.

CNN.com also reported on a survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep and an official survey administered by The College Board. Based on the numbers from the two surveys, students seem to be reporting that the new SAT is about what they expected. The College Board survey is reporting “by a 6 to 1” margin that students prefer the new SAT.

Additionally, USA Today reported that an astounding one million high school students have used free online test prep tools to prepare for the new SAT.   This new number shows that Khan Academy is reaching huge numbers of students- more than commercial test prep.   However, the Boston Globe reported on the huge jump in revenue for the commercial test prep industry, which is expected to reach $200 billion worldwide by 2020.

Overall, the new SAT seems to be living up to expectations- good or bad. It is more aligned with what students are learning in the classroom and all students have access to high-quality, free test prep through Khan Academy. Whether or not the new SAT is an accurate predictor of student success, well, we will just have wait and see.

 

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#1 Tip For Students Beginning the College Process

SALE 1.46.04 PM (1)Whether a student has dreamed of attending a certain college since the age of 5 or has not even thought about what they want from their college experience, I always give students who are beginning the college process the same piece of advice: Do “practice” college visits.

It is difficult to expect students to articulate any thoughts about the college process if they have never been on a college campus. Doing “practice” college visits is a practical way for students to begin formulating an opinion on what they are looking for in their college experience.

To do “practice” college visits, you don’t need to spend a lot of money and travel across the country to see “best” university out there. You should begin with a college that is within driving distance of your home.  The purpose of a “practice” visit is to collect general information, rather than expressing interest in that particular college.  The student can be adamant that they won’t apply to the college or university  you visit (and that is perfectly fine).

When planning a “practice” visit, you need to register for the information session and campus tour through the admissions page of the college’s website. Many schools offer Saturday visit times, so look at your schedule and simply pick a day to attend.

Look for local colleges that can offer varying perspectives. Visit a small, medium and large university to gain perspective on size. Try to visit rural, urban and suburban schools to learn how locations vary.

As you visit campuses, pay attention to:

  1. The size. Whether it is a small liberal arts college or a large research institution, you can usually tell immediately if you are comfortable with the size of the school.
  2. The location. Is the college you are visiting in a city or near farmlands? What is the surrounding community like? Can you see yourself living there for four years?
  3. Academic programs offered. Since you are just beginning your college process, you may not have given a second thought to what you want to major in. During your “practice” visits, pay attention to the academic programs described. Are students doing research? Are they participating in hands-on projects? Are they working in the local community?  What catches your attention?  What majors do you want to learn more about?
  4. Note what you like- and what you don’t like. I always tell my students to document ALL of their impressions of a school. These insights can help you research additional options later on.

If you don’t have different types of colleges and universities near you, try to do a few visits while on a family vacation. Taking a road trip this summer? See what colleges are on the way to your final destination. Again, the point is not to spend a lot of money if you are just beginning to formulate ideas about your college process.

A “practice” visit should be relaxed- designed to ease the student into the idea of college. By doing a “practice” visit (or two) you will be able to shape your college criteria and then create a true list of schools you are interested in exploring.

Need more direction for your college process?  Check out the Ideal College Planning Timeline to get started!

Happy touring!

5 Ways to Handle Waiting for College Application Decisions

Seize the Day-2The applications, standardized test scores, recommendation letters, transcripts and perfect essays are submitted. Your applications are complete and all you can do now is wait.

Easy, right?

Noooo! Waiting for your admissions decisions can be the worst part of the admissions process. You check your email 20 times a day. You are stalking your mailbox and  your stomach drops every time someone asks, “Have you heard anything?”

If the stress of anticipating your college decisions is getting to you, here are 5 ways to keep your sanity:

1. Focus on what you have control over. Right now, application decisions are more than likely done (insert scream here). Admissions offices are just finalizing the details. At this point, you have little control over what your decision will be, so focus on what you do have control over.

  • Concentrate on your schoolwork (remember they will look at your final grades).

  • Thank everyone who wrote your letters of recommendation, edited your essays, or just offered advice (baked goods or chocolate are always appreciated).

  • Continue being involved in your extracurricular activities and start mentoring peers who will take over your leadership roles next year (they will be lost without you).

2. Process the stress- your way. Some people like to talk about how they are feeling and others don’t. If you want to discuss every possible outcome of your college decisions, find a trusted (and patient) individual to talk to. If you would prefer not to discuss the college process any further, tell everyone around you (so they will stop asking questions). If you don’t process out loud, write it down. Journaling is a great way to organize everything that is floating around in your head.

3. Don’t second-guess your list. You could lose a lot of sleep wondering, “What if?” Don’t think about the schools you didn’t apply to. Stop questioning if your “reach” school is too far out of reach. Have confidence in the list of schools you applied to. At this point it can be easy to forget all of the hours you spent researching, asking questions and even visiting colleges.

4. Remain positive. Part of remaining positive is knowing that you have a solid plan- not matter what happens. You may not be admitted to your “first choice” school, but knowing that you will have other options should be your main focus. If it helps, make a list of all the pros and cons of all of the schools you applied to. You may find that you have more positive options than you think.

5. Reflect. Look back on what you have accomplished. A year ago, you did not even know where you were going to apply. You have come a long way from staring at a blank Common Application.

Anticipating the future can be stressful, but in just a few short weeks, you will know. April 1st will be here before you know it and after that, you are back in control of your college process. You will make the final decision of where you will attend college- and all the anticipation will be worth it!