The Value of the SAT

Everyone knows that the SAT is important, but in recent years, its value has only increased. Close to 1.6 million students graduating from high school in 2010 took the SAT, this is a higher percentage of graduates than ever before. Minority participation in the SAT is also up compared to past years. The SAT is increasingly becoming an assumed part of the high school to college transition and can be a valuable resource for college admissions.

Studies have revealed that performance on the SAT is an excellent predictor of college readiness. High school grade point average and SAT scores are of equal value in predicting students’ first year college grade point average. By looking at the combination of the two, colleges can get a fairly accurate reading of how prepared a student is for college coursework.

While having a strong knowledge base from high school classes is certainly part of good SAT scores and being prepared for the college, the SAT tests a lot more than that. By taking time to study for the SAT through SAT prep and online classes, students can demonstrate their ability to prepare for a big test and retain information. These are skills that will continue to serve students well in college and contribute to better grades and a higher likelihood that they will finish college.

SAT scores matter, now more than ever, and college admissions offices will be looking at them for a glimpse into how well a student will handle college-level work and how well students can budget their time, follow directions, and prepare material for a test.

In 2010, 80.8% of the students graduating who took the SAT also took the PSAT. The PSAT can provide an opportunity for students to see how the test day will work so that they feel comfortable for the SAT. PSAT scores are also a good way to get a better idea of which areas of the test will need the most work during SAT prep.

The College Board anticipates that upcoming studies will reveal the impact that SAT scores have on college performance after the first year and college retention for all four years. This is valuable information that can be gleamed from test performance early in student’s academic careers.

How Do I Choose a College From My Accepted List?

It’s a great thing to know that you’ve been accepted to multiple colleges. After years of researching colleges, preparing for the SAT, and keeping your high school transcript strong, you can relax and know that you have some real options for next year. For some students, choosing the top college from the accepted list is easy, one has stood out all along. For many high school students, however, choosing a college from the accepted list can be a challenging and nerve wracking process. There are several factors that can help you to narrow your list down to the perfect college.

Financial Aid
One important factor that high school students should discuss with their parents is the financial aid packages that have been offered by each college. If one stands out as a great deal, it may be too good to pass up. College is expensive and being given a significant financial aid package or scholarship from one of your top-choice schools can be a huge relief for the family.

Location
Once you have visited the colleges on your list, you can think about how their locations will affect your college experience. Maybe you always anticipated going to school far away, but as the time draws nearer, that school one-hour away seems like a much better choice. For other students, proximity to a favorite city or a certain landscape may make the next four years seem a lot better. Location is important and it’s okay to factor that in when you choose a school. Remember, you’re also choosing a new temporary home.

Campus Visits
Thinking back to campus visits can be a deciding factor in the college decision process. Was there one school that felt like home from the beginning or a place where you really saw yourself fitting in with the current students on campus? If you can’t remember details from a college, you may not have been very impressed with the school. If professors stand out in your mind as being great teachers or you really had a great day during your tour, that can help to make your decision a lot easier.

Don’t Stress!
Remember, while it’s tempting to think that you are searching for that one perfect school, chances are you will be happy on any number of college campuses. You have already put in the effort and narrowed schools down from your original list to come up with the very best fits for you. In the end, it’s all about making an informed decision.

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Planning out the Application process

There are many steps and requirements in the college application process. In the beginning, you will want to be preparing for the SAT test, exploring your options, and planning for campus tours and information sessions at colleges that you want to consider. This is the time to narrow your list of colleges to a manageable pool where you will be sending applications. Once you have a list of the colleges where you will be applying, it is time to focus on completing all of the application materials for each school.

Time management and organizational skills are critical to the process. You will also hone your information-gathering skills. During your campus tour and visit with the admissions office, you may have learned about the admissions requirements. You will want to locate all of the information for each college and put together a master chart of the materials that each school will require in your application packet. Create a chart with parts that you can check off for each school and be sure to list the application deadlines for each individual college where you will be submitting an application-the deadlines will also vary between colleges. Having this master chart will help you to feel organized, manage your applications, and be confident that you are sending complete applications to each college.

Many colleges use a general application, sometimes referred to as the “common app”, but these schools may still require supplemental short-answer questions, forms, or other materials from applicants. Requirements about letters of recommendation often vary slightly as well. Other schools will have their own unique application that you will need to complete. It is important for you to have all of your information before you begin the process. This will help to avoid any problems close to the deadline. If you have questions about the requirements, you can always contact the admissions office for answers.

Your high school guidance counselor can be another source of support as you are taking the SAT test, balancing your high school course load, and completing college applications. He or she has helped many students prepare college applications and can help you to get organized and keep deadlines. Make an appointment early in the process to be sure that you are on track and ask any questions that you may have about college applications.

Planning out your college applications can be a lengthy and detailed process, but with good organization and some hard work, your applications will arrive complete and on-time. A well-planned college application is the first step towards getting into the right school for you.

Community College Vs. Four Year University; Which Is Right For You?

There are reasons that high school students choose to attend a community college and reasons that they choose a four-year college. The right choice will be different for everyone and depend on the individual’s projected career path, financial situation, academic interests, and what they are looking for in a college experience.

Cost can be a large factor in determining whether a student chooses community college or a four-year college. Community colleges are typically much less expensive and may provide an affordable option for students who cannot find a way to afford a four-year college, but want to continue their education. If your financial situation might stand in the way of a four-year college, community college can be a great option. It is also worth exploring financial aid options, including grants, scholarships, and loans that may be available to students entering four-year colleges to help lessen the financial burden.

Your intended career path and academic interests can also be factors in choosing between a community college a four-year degree. A community college can also be a good choice for someone who doesn’t know if they want to enter a profession that will require a four-year degree. Community college will give you two years to explore your interests and make decisions about your future career. After two years, you will have an Associates Degree and can decide if you will enter a career or transfer to a four-year college with a better idea of what you plan to do. Most community college credits will transfer to a four-year college and can be used towards your Bachelors Degree. A four-year degree is often the preferred choice for students who have career goals that will require at least a Bachelors Degree or graduate school.

The atmosphere on campus can be very different between a community college and a four-year college. Many community colleges are non-residential, with students living off campus instead of in dorms and campus housing options. A four-year college will generally have more resources available to students as far as a comprehensive library, an alumni network, and access to sports and clubs.

Beginning at a four-year college also ensures that you are taking the right classes from the very beginning to count towards general requirements and major requirements. Alternatively, community colleges are a great place to catch up on material from high school so that you can get into a better four-year college and not spend time there taking courses to fulfill requirements.

If you are considering transferring to a four-year college after community college, it is important to talk to staff at the community college to find out about credit transfers and assistance with the process. Speaking with college administrators and staff will often help you to make your decision. High school guidance counselors can also be a great resource in helping you to decide between a community college and a four-year college.

Choosing a college major

As you prepare for the SAT with online practice exams, complete SAT test prep, and prepare for test day, many students begin to think seriously about college and their options for the future.

For some students, choosing a major will not be a difficult decision. If you have known what you want to do after college for awhile, you can take this knowledge into account as you are choosing a college. Knowing your major early on gives you the opportunity to speak with professors in your intended major, ask about the program and find out what alumni from that major are doing now.

For other students, choosing a major is a decision that can feel overwhelming. At most colleges, it is completely normal for students to be undecided during the first year of college. This is something that you can ask about during college visits. Many schools have required classes that will fill up your first few semesters and allow you to try courses from many different departments. This is a great way to try new things and find the major that will be the best fit for you.

When choosing a major, it is important to consider the type of job you would like to have after college. If your career path is undecided or could accommodate many different majors, your best plan is to consider your academic strengths and interests. Choosing a major that you love will ensure that you put a lot of effort into your classes and finish college with a strong academic record. This will help you as you apply for graduate school, apply for fellowships after college, or look for your first job.

It’s also important to plan your course schedule to be sure that you will graduate on time with your major. Good planning will also allow you the option of adding a second major, minor, or concentration if you would like to take courses in different areas. These are all great ways to add another interest to your academic track and a good way to set your resume apart from others.

It is also common for students to change majors during college. This is always easier to do sooner rather than later, while you still have plenty of time to complete the course load. Before changing your major, you will want to speak with your current academic adviser and a professor in the department that you are considering. Find out just what the switch will entail and then you will be able to decide if it the right choice.

How to Get a Killer Letter of Recommendation

Getting a killer letter of recommendation can be a valuable addition to your college or grad school applications. While you cannot dictate exactly what will go into your letter of recommendation, there are many ways to ensure that you will get the best letter of recommendation possible.

Selecting the right person to write a letter of recommendation is an important decision that deserves some thought. Try to select people that have been important to you during your education. People who know you well will have more to say than a teacher or professor who knew you only through one class. Select your guidance counselor only if you had a close relationship during your high school years. A teacher who was a mentor throughout high school or a professor who served as your adviser throughout college will be in a good position to write a good letter of recommendation.

In addition to choosing someone who knows you well, you may consider subject areas. For example, if you are applying to medical school, your undergraduate biology professor would be a better choice than your French professor. For undergraduate applications, most students will want to consider variety. Choose teachers who know you in different contexts and will be able to speak to your different skills and strengths. You want your letters of recommendations to make a cohesive picture of you as a student and as an individual.

It is always a good idea to give the people you select plenty of time to write the letter of recommendation. Make time to go see them in person to ask if they would be willing to write the letter in the first place. Discussing it in person will give you a chance to let them know more about your goals and why it would mean a lot to you to receive their letter of recommendation. Planning ahead will ensure that they have time to write the letter you deserve. Follow up with a reminder visit, phone call, or email if you or your guidance counselor have not received the letter within a week or two of the deadline.

Finally, don’t be shy about telling the person writing your letter of recommendation more about what you want to convey in your application. You can frame this more as a discussion about your future goals, but it is also a way to help them know how to best frame your letter. Your teachers and professors want to write the best letter possible, so giving them more information is always appreciated. You can also let them know that they can always ask if they have questions as they write your letter. Let them know that you appreciate their work and be sure to thank them and keep them updated on your application process. These are often the people who you want to remain engaged in your education and to keep as mentors in the future.

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What to Look for When Deciding Where to Apply to College

Part of the reason that the college search can seem so daunting to high school students is that there are many factors to consider. Isolating things that really matter can be challenging, but with a little research, you’ll be able to make good choices about your college applications.

One basic decision you will need to make is how far from home you would like to be during college. Some students prefer to stay close by, while others will want to be within a few hours drive from their families. Other students think nothing of applying to schools across the country or around the world. This is a personal decision, but one that will greatly impact your college decisions.

The type of location is another important factor. Some students will want a college located in the heart of a city, while others won’t mind being in a rural setting. Along the same lines, consider if you want to be part of a large campus or a university with graduate students on campus too. Some students prefer a large college environment while others want a smaller school where there is often more interaction between students and professors.

Rankings are often an important tool for high school students. Look at the average SAT scores and percentage of applicants that are accepted. A high school guidance counselor can also help you to pinpoint schools that are a good fit for you academically. When you look at rankings, you may also want to look at the retention rate or how many students continue on at the college after the first year.

When you visit a college campus, talk to as many students and professors as possible. Students will be great for honest advice and a look at the type of people you would be living and learning with on campus. Ask them about their classes, their favorite part of campus, and why they chose the school. Ask professors to describe the average student on campus and to tell you what you can expect from their department.

Another factor has to be finances. Many public schools will offer lower tuition to in-state students and many are very affordable. Most private colleges are more expensive, but many offer excellent financial aid packages. If cost is a factor, get all of the information you can about financial aid packages and what the average student ends up actually paying.

What You Should be Asking Your High School Guidance Counselor?

The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to make time to speak with your high school guidance counselor. Guidance counselors can be a great hub of information and a wonderful resource throughout your high school career and college application process. The more information your guidance counselor has about you and your goals for the year and for the future, the better he or she can help you to succeed.

For underclassmen, guidance counselors can be very helpful in planning out your courses for upcoming years. Ask them what they recommend based on your past transcript and what you are interested in studying. Guidance counselors can often help you to find information about college requirements for high school courses and help you to put together the best schedule to meet your needs. They can also help you to build good study skills and be sure that you have the right tools to do well in your courses.

When it comes to SAT preparation, guidance counselors can be a great place to go for advice. They can help you to identify goals and organization skills to develop a preparation plan. A good plan for test prep will ensure that you can come away with the best SAT score possible. Guidance counselors have helped many students through the process and can be a great source of advice.

Guidance counselors are a great resource when you are applying for colleges. Not only can they help you to prepare the best application possible, but they can help you to work through the college search process and weigh the various options available. Based on your transcript and SAT score, counselors can also help you to be sure you are applying to a range of schools to provide you with good options.

If you can communicate openly with your guidance counselor about what you are looking for in a college experience, he or she can help determine if your current schools are a good match. Ask if there are students from your school who went on to your college, they can often help answer questions about the application process and the experience they have had in college so far.

Having an open and positive relationship with your guidance counselor is a great step to success in your academic career. He or she will be able to advocate for your needs, support your decisions, and help you to make good choices about college and career plans. Making an appointment and asking the right questions can make all the difference.

GMAT To Include Integrated Reasoning Section Starting June 2012

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) recently announced changes to the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) that are set to take effect June 4, 2012. The test, called Next Generation GMAT, will include an integrated reasoning section. The goal of this new section is to provide insight into how the test taker will perform in today’s information-filled business environment.

The integrated reasoning section will evaluate the test taker’s ability to evaluate and synthesize information from multiple sources. These sources may include graphs, charts, and spreadsheets. Test takers will also be asked to evaluate trade-offs, interpret visual data representations, and determine probability and statistics. While question types are still in testing, the GMAC predicts that some questions will have multiple parts and more than one correct answer. They have not yet decided whether partial credit will be an option on these questions.

For the past four years, the GMAC has conducted surveys of business school faculties in order to evaluate the current test and pinpoint improvements that could be made to the test for the future. The integrated reasoning section is the primary result of these surveys. Faculties expressed the need for incoming students to be able to integrate data, work through complex problems, and make statistical inferences. Next Generation GMAT seeks to make the test more applicable to business schools by asking test takers to complete problems that are similar to the work they will face once in graduate school.

The GMAT will still take three and a half hours to complete. The 30 minutes integrated reasoning section will replace one of the two essays in the analytical writing section.

Currently, the GMAT analytical writing section contains one Analysis of an Issue essay and one Analysis of an Argument essay. The Next Generation GMAT will only include one essay, but students could be assigned either an Analysis of an Issue prompt or an Analysis of an Argument prompt. Therefore, test takers will still need to prepare for both types of essay during their GMAT test preparation. Business school admissions officers have stated that the two current essay test scores are highly correlated. For this reason, they anticipate that one essay will continue to provide a fair and accurate measure of test takers’ abilities.

Scoring on the Next Generation GMAT will change only slightly. The verbal and quantitative sections of the GMAT will remain the same and will continue to be scored on a scale of 200-800. There will be a separate score for the single essay in the analytical writing section and a second separate score for the integrated reasoning section.

The GMAC assures future test takers that more information about specific question types and sample tests for Next Generation GMAT will be available closer to the time of the test’s release. A GMAT course will help people planning to take the GMAT after June 2012 to prepare for the test, including the new section. Developing a comprehensive study plan is the best way to ensure success on the GMAT. Making time for GMAT test preparation and taking Next Generation GMAT practice tests are generally the best way to enter the exam confident and prepared.

Senior Year Planning

Senior year of high school can be an extremely busy time. Many deadlines and decisions are on the horizon and it can be overwhelming for students to balance all of their responsibilities. Developing a solid plan for senior year can help you to avoid stress and assure that everything is done on time.

Fall

The fall of senior year is often the time students choose to devote to taking the SAT. Schedule the test and begin to devote time to studying and preparing for the test. Online test prep is one good option to help SAT test prep fit into an already busy school schedule.

The fall is also the time to seriously narrow down college options. Once you have a list of the schools where you will be applying, organize important dates and deadlines onto a master calendar.

Researching financial aid is another important task for the fall. This involves researching student loan options, scholarships and grants, and options available at each of your colleges.

Winter

Winter of senior year is the time to focus on completing college applications. Many will use the same common application supplemented by some additional questions and information. Take time to write your essays and be sure they are a good reflection of your strengths. Be sure to ask for letters of recommendations early on in the process so that you give your teachers, guidance counselors, and employers plenty of time to write the recommendation.

Once everything is complete, be sure to double check that all parts of the application are there and send them in. Most high schools will provide resources to help students prepare the final application packet.

At this point, many colleges will also want to schedule a personal interview. This is both a time for the college to speak with you and gain additional insight into your application and also a time for you to ask questions about the selection process and why you should choose their college. Viewing the interview as a conversation will keep you from being nervous and help you get the most out of this experience.

Spring

By spring of senior year, you will have heard back from your colleges and it is time to focus on making a decision. If you were accepted to multiple schools, it is often worthwhile to visit these colleges once again. These campus visits can help you to make a confident decision. While on campus, you will want to take another tour, sit in on a class, and talk to current students about their college experience. Be sure to ask plenty of questions of students, staff, and representatives in the admissions office.

Before making a decision, you will also want to discuss your plans with your family, particularly concerning financial aid and how you will be paying for college. Once you have reached a decision, send out your acceptance and rejection letters to all the colleges that accepted you. Your school will soon be sending you more information and you’ll be busy planning for next year. You can now proudly announce your college plans and enjoy the conclusion of your high school career.


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