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Fall…

It’s just around the corner and many high school seniors still aren’t ready for college and the Jr’s are still picking their nose waiting for their moms and dads to make them fill out paperwork. If you don’t start pulling your act together (and I mean you high school freshman out there), you are going to miss prime deadlines for the best scholarships, grants, and other admissions requirements. All this means to you is that by dragging your feet YOU LOSE.

I once spoke with a parent who told me (over the phone) that he didn’t think it was a good idea that his daughter (who was a sophomore in high school at the time) needed to start thinking about college because he believed two things, 1) that the college admissions standards would be changing drastically, and 2) he didn’t think his daughter needed to be thinking about such things so soon, she was still so young! I know two things about this well-meaning father, 1) that he has a limited understanding of the college admissions process, and 2) that he still views his daughter as the little girl who once sat upon his knee and to whom he once read bed-time stories. This however lack of understanding doesn’t serve his “little girl”, it sets her back.

This is the first post that has gone up in over 6 months, primarily because I have been in Guatemala, working with my wife to establish a non-profit organization that serves the disabled there. Our primary focus was establishing Guatemalan leaders to run the organization. But secondarily we aided in the purchasing and distribution of food for the malnourished, therapy for the physically disabled, and education for local business leaders including English as a second language, as well as leadership and business principles.

The point is that hesitation in planning for the future will not enable success. There is a quote, it states, “If you aim for nothing, you are sure to hit it.” We must take aim at our futures and fire shots based on calculated reasons, any other way is simply foolish. College Life Planning exists to help students and parents plan for college and career, we exist to help find that lighted path that will lead to success and happiness in our future generations.

Package Yourself Well

I talk with students regularly looking for a “magic-plan”. This plan will somehow transform mediocre work into something amazing and these “C” students will somehow be admitted into Yale. The reality is far from that. Do you know who gets into Yale? Smart people. This is most often reflected in their grades and test scores; that is why they get into Yale. But with an acceptance rate (according to College Board) of 8%, being smart isn’t good enough- you also have to be wise. Wisdom is a word that isn’t used much in America today, but it really is needed in order to get really bright students where they ought to be. This short article is about “packaging yourself” for the college admissions process.

The truth about the Ivy’s is that they are great universities, but equal in truth is the reality that there are hundreds of great universities around the country and you need to open yourself- it’s just about getting into the best school, it’s about getting into the right school. It is about getting into the school that will help you to fulfill your dreams and hopes and aspirations.

These days getting into any school has become a challenge and with budget cuts, increases in class sizes and reduction in counseling departments, finding good help can be difficult, and even pricey! College Life Planning hopes to bring some light into the college guidance world, give you some solid information you can run with, and save you money.

Back to packaging yourself. When it comes time to apply to college, you are a senior and you have been busting your behind to get everything in the right order. You have taken the right classes, you’ve been dedicated to the homeless ministry at your church, you studied for the SAT and got a great score, you even have a recommendation from a federal judge- you are ready! But the reality is that there are literally 40,000 other students who look exactly the same on paper. Great grades, good test scores, and involved. So how do you stand out?

There is a phrase that goes something like this, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” This is very true, especially when it comes to your admissions applications! You have got to let your application come alive, this is not just a piece of paper that determines your future- it is your story.

Here is a silly video you may enjoy:

It is a bit long, so I’m not offended if you just jumped right back into where I was going with all this (I know you’re riveted by my writing and style)…

Here are the top four things you must include in your admissions application:

  1. All the normal stuff: This is your transcripts with the most rigorous courses your school offered (or the most rigorous you could stand) with the grades to show your dedication and commitment. Your SAT or ACT scores would be sent to the colleges directly from College Board and these are critical. Study for this test, and take it at least two times. etc etc. You get the point; you apply to the schools that are within a range of your abilities with some obvious shoe-ins (for you) on one hand and on the other, some reach schools that would be difficult for you to get into.
  2. The recommendations: These are often very important int he admissions process. Who recommends you and what they say about you is vital! So with this in mind, choose people you know and more importantly, who know you (well). In addition, be sure to get recommendations from people whoa re in a field of study that you hope to continue into college. If you want to pursue biology, but your recommendations are from your AutoShop class and Spanish… there might be a disconnect there- and colleges can see it. One other point, ask your recommender to review their recommendation of you. They may say “no”, and that settles it, but they will probably be willing to show you what they wrote, and then you can ask for clarification and even give some coaching.
  3. Your extracurricular activities: These will NOT get you into college. But they sure help! When you are working with a pool of potential college applicants as big as Lake Michigan you need to go above the pack. Mike Moyer over at http://www.collegepeas.com says one way to set yourself apart is with an NTA, or a non-teenager activity. He defines this as, “quite simply, any activity that other teenagers don’t typically do. By choosing an NTA you will differentiate yourself in a way that will have a very positive impact on your chances of getting into college.” Need some ideas? Contact us.
  4. Your personal Statement: This is a key component because it is your chance to tell your story. The truth is that the entire application for admission is telling your story, but the personal statement/essays might be a way to share the more personal side. This is a chance to demonstrate that it’s not just a number on an application, this is YOUR life. And you are living and breathing and your life matters. And with this life you have you are going to make a difference no matter the odds, no matter the circumstances, good or bad; you will be a difference maker, in your own way. You are saying to the admissions officer, “you already have my grades, activities, clubs, jobs, passions; you know all the facts about my life; no let me introduce myself to you.”

At the end of the day you are “selling” yourself. Don’t get me wrong, the colleges need you too! That is an entirely different post. But you are showcasing your achievements, your passions, your values, and you are pleading your case on why you not only deserve to go the school you are applying to, they would be remiss if they didn’t accept you, leaving a gaping hole in their university. So choose which school you are going to attend, and then package yourself well.

Juniors… Get Ready!

High School Juniors prepare for CollegeJuniors

Hopefully, you have been examining your profile and doing everything you can do to make yourself ready for college. The admissions process isn’t overwhelming unless you procrastinate! Here’s the point of this article- next year you will start applying at the colleges that you have chosen. If you’re struggling to decide how to pick a college, you might want to check this article out or use the awesome AdmissionsSplash Facebook app. I want to go through the top 4 things that, as a junior, you ought to be doing over the course of the next year.

  1. Look over your High school Academic Transcript: This is your grades, your accomplishments… it’s you on paper. This document will help you to set realistic goals for which college to apply to based on your accomplishments. What are Admissions Officers looking for in a high school transcript? The extent to which you challenge yourself academically relative to the resources available to you. Academic areas that interest you. Your ability to perform; in other words, what do your grades reflect? The degree to which these factors overlap with the university’s character and priorities. Eva Ostrum in her book, The Thinking Parent’s Guide to College Admissions states, “Deans of admission around the country can usually characterize in a phrase or two what they hope a transcript will reflect about a student. Jim Sumner at Grinnell College hopes to see “intellectual engagement.” Harold Wingood at Clark University describes the ideal entering students as “academically independent, willing to take academic risks.” So this summer, look over your high school grades and look for these things: Letter grades and GPA, the difficulty of the course work, the types of classes (did you focus more in one or two subjects than in others?).
  2. Examine your extracurricular activities: Aren’t you glad to hear that it isn’t all about grades? Well, it is mostly about your grades and most colleges are really looking for students with a strong academic profile. You can, however, increase your chances of enrollment into your reach schools by supplementing your academic profile with strong extracurricular activities; and you can have a lot of fun in the process!  “Admissions officers at selective colleges and universities want to see commitment to activities over time rather than a series of single-year affiliations with various clubs or committees” (Ostrum). So there you have it, get involved with an organization or an activity and stay involved!
  3. Study for your Standardized Tests: Next to grades, your scores on the ACT or SAT (I & II) will be the most important part of the admissions process. Make sure that you take this test seriously. BY simply studying, you can raise your scores and by taking the tests more than once you can dramatically increase your score. This could be the difference between your reach school and your match school. Students who do not take these tests seriously do themselves a major dis-service. You will want a review time before you take the tests of about 8-12 weeks and you can utilize books, online test prep services (ePrep), or a tutor. Use the resources available to you and study for your tests. Also, plan to take the test at least twice.
  4. Essays: These essays are critical! If you have the grades and the test scores, then your college admissions essays need to help set you apart from the other 10,000 applicants who also have excellent grades and test scores. In order to have a winning essay, you will want to have help. Have one of your parents read it over and give you input, show it to your guidance counselor or a favorite teacher, or you can have someone like me look it over and provide feedback. Some characteristics of a winning college application essay are: They tell a story; They provide vivid examples that allow the reader to put himself in the student’s situation or mindset; They sound authentic, like they are coming from the student herself, rather than from a college-essay coach; and finally The writer gets to the heart of what she wants to say, so that the essay reflects who she is and what she cares about. Long story short, make it interesting and get to the point.

There are so many other things that go into preparing for college, but as a junior, you ought to be thinking about these key areas right now and you may want to consider some help. I offer a variety of services for students (and parents) to help students get ready for college. CAP is my online college prep course that will cover these things (and a lot more) in a four week online course. It is self directed and very easy to take so you can take the course as you need it, and once you sign up, you have access for an entire year! I also offer comprehensive in-person services that can help prepare you for college and help you get into the best school possible.

You can always call me: (619) 823-5974 (Nathan) or email me: info@collegelifeplanning.com

C.A.P. First Release… Success? Or failure?

We released the first CAP workshop to a group of great teens this past month, they paid between $20 and $30 for this first release course and they helped us to work through some of the bugs and concerns and questions that we had about the course. College Admissions Prep is an online, 4-week college prep course that students direct themselves through to learn about how to prepare for college. It is cheap, and an easy way for parents and students to get ready for college admissions!

But was it a success?

Well, yes and no. Every student I talked to said they loved the content, what they read and how they read it was funny and easy to read. They even said they learned something they didn’t know before about planning for college. They liked the videos, they liked the discussion posts, and they felt that they learned something valuable as a result of taking this course.

On the other hand… Only about 35% of the enrolled students participated in the discussions, and only 1 in 14 completed the final assignment, a short essay, geared at helping students get ready for the college admissions essay. She wrote an excellent essay by the way and, with some minor tweaking, will be a great college admissions essay!

So what’s the problem?

It’s a question of motivation. Why would a group of kids complete an online course helping them get ready for college? That’s an excellent question, one that I haven’t effectually answered in full. However, I know it is a multifaceted issue. First, parents must be willing to help motivate their kids. One student actually suggested that if I raised the price, parents are much more inclined to care about it and thus provide that parental motivation teens often need. For example, “I paid [insert expensive amount here] for that college prep course and you’re going to do it whether you like it or not!” Adding an explicative or two might depend on the family you come from.

Truly, many students are genuinely busy, so another route I am researching is a way to get teachers on board by offering extra credit or some other external motivation that may help increase student involvement. Do you think that would help?

Lastly, we are and will continue to offer fun drawings for iTunes gift cards, and increasingly more expensive tech toys like iPads to help motivate students that may not have the intrinsic drive to succeed.

So, which is it?

It was a huge success in my book, one that I have learned from. One that I am growing from and have already made huge improvements and set some more realistic goals. If you were waiting to find out what would happen with this release, there you go. For what it’s worth, I’d like you to take a risk and have your kids sign up for the course, there is a 110% money back guarantee if you don’t like it, and really- you will probably learn as much as your kids will; so make the investment and start preparing for college NOW!

www.CollegeLifePlanning.com/Workshop

Grades, Test Prep and Extra Curricular Activities

Grades/Test Prep/Extra Curricular Activities

Preparing for college admissions takes a well-rounded understanding of how to get a better GPA, whether or not to take any honors courses or AP courses as well as which AP/Honors courses you should take. It also includes knowing study skills and resources for study help. There is a difference between a weighted and a non-weighted GPA and knowing the difference will help you immensely.

I am calling this section the “Real Deal” session because this stuff matters, more than any other part of the admissions process. If you don’t have the grades, the test scores, and the activities; you will be fighting an uphill battle to admission. If you can get these things in order, you will have your pick of colleges, in fact, they will be scrambling to have you! This means more acceptance letters, more scholarships and more merit-aid.

Why does this matter?!

A GPA is a representation of your accumulative grades throughout high school. The best ways to get a better GPA start with understanding how important it is to your college acceptance. Being aware of the weight that a GPA holds for your future can add positive stress to your academic career, encouraging you to begin by balancing your time between academics and a social life. Maintaining a straight A transcript can be the most important factor for you, but for most people, it is healthier to maintain a balance so that you are not too burned out before college even arrives, rewarding you for your hard work. Each teacher should outline the course requirements in high school with a syllabus. Holding on to each of these and writing down major due dates and test dates in a large monthly calendar will help you to put your schedule into perspective and learn time management.

If you’re playing the GPA game (trying to get a high GPA) and taking a light schedule that isn’t challenging, it will catch up with you at the college level very quickly. One of the things admissions officers pay attention to, besides GPA, is course selection throughout high school and especially senior year. They like to see students have momentum going into the freshman year (of College). If you sit back your senior year, it’s hard to recapture that momentum.

One thing which will help your GPA is taking AP or honors courses. These courses are generally more difficult and are what contribute to a weighted GPA or a non-weighted GPA. See the table for an explanation of how this works. For AP and honors courses, each grade is increased by one number. This makes an A worth five points, a B worth four points, and so on, which can provide you with a higher GPA. The reality is that colleges know that the GPA is weighted, but they also know that AP/Honors courses are more challenging, this is the point, and this is what colleges are concerned about, did this student challenge herself?

College Prep: Un-weighted AP/Honors: Weighted
Grade: “A”= 4 points (4.0) Grade: “A”= 5 points (5.0)
Grade: “B” = 3 points (3.0) Grade: “B” = 4 points (4.0)
Grade: “C” = 2 points (2.0) Grade: “C” = 3 points (3.0)
Grade: “D” = 1 points (1.0) Grade: “D” = 0 points (0.0)

Taking AP courses means that you get to take AP tests at the end of each academic year. If you score high enough on these tests, then you can be exempt from remedial college courses. These cover a wide variety of subject, allowing you to utilize specific skills or interests for particular areas of study while in high school. If you are better at math as opposed to history, then a B in history can be compensated for by an A in an AP math course.

Tests required for college are:

* SAT I
* Subject tests referred to as SAT II: These include subjects such as Spanish, French, Physics, U.S. History, Literature, Mathematics level 1 and 2, Biology, Chemistry, German, Modern Hebrew, Latin, and World History (you only need to take 2-3 subject tests, NOT all of them!)
* OR the ACT

In order to prepare for any of these tests, there are online preparatory courses available which mimic the actual test. The U.S. Department of Education supports practice with practice questions or samples on sites such as Collegeboard.com and the affiliated websites for each test company. Also, SAT hosts practice exams. ePrep is an excellent online program you can utilize with hundreds of practice problems and videos to go with the explanation. This is especially helpful for visual learners (Know Thyself!) and those on a tight budget.

When preparing for either the SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Tests/AP exams, you should start test preparation six months to one year before taking the exam. The official SAT site offers daily questions emailed to you as well as practice questions from all of the sections of the test with an immediate score provided upon finish, FOR FREE. The Official SAT Study Guide includes ten previous tests and test taking tips. Utilizing any and all of these relieves stress from the process and can take place with a tutor, through a class study group, online courses, a formal class on the weekends or evenings, or self-preparation through texts and online resources.

One week before taking either the practice exams or the actual exams, you should review your material again and then relax the night before. Taking the practice SAT is recommended by experts so that you understand the format and how the process works, familiarizing yourself with the structure. Each of the different methods of practice should be used in conjunction with the rest. Note: It is either the SAT OR the ACT, you don’t need to take both.

Testing TIPS for the SAT:
OVERALL TEST TACTICS:

1. Learn the section directions now. Use the time saved during the test to work on questions.
2. Answer easy questions first. Mark skipped questions in your exam book so you can quickly return to them later.
3. Guess…if you can eliminate at least one choice.
4. You can write in the test book: cross out wrong answers; do scratch work.
5. Take care when filling in the answer grid for the student-produced response questions.

6. Avoid stray marks on the answer sheet. A machine scores your test and can’t distinguish between a correct answer and a careless doodle.
7. Easy questions usually precede hard ones.
8. Mark only one answer per question.
9. Skip any question if you haven’t the faintest idea about the answer. You don’t lose points.
10. Understand the scoring! You get a point for a right answer. You lose a fractional point for a wrong answer. There is no deduction for omitted answers, or for wrong answers in the math section’s student-produced response questions.
11. Keep checking that you are placing your answer in the correct section and number on the answer sheet.
12. Don’t spend too much time on any one question. You should spend only seconds on the easiest questions, and hesitate to spend more than 1-2 minutes on even the hardest ones.
13. Practice, practice, practice!
14. Remember that the SAT consists of a series of small, timed, mini-tests. Keep track of the time you’re allotted for each one and how much time remains.
15. Bring a watch to the test center. You can’t be guaranteed that there’ll be a working clock there.
16. Don’t change an answer unless you’re sure you made an error.
17. Read the words in the question carefully. Be sure to answer the question asked and not the question you recall from a practice test.
18. Know the Question Types to Expect on the SAT I: * 19 sentence completion * 40 reading comprehension * 35 math multiple-choices * 10 student-produced responses

SPECIFIC SECTIONAL STRATEGIES
CRITICAL READING Section — SENTENCE COMPLETION:

1. Before looking at the answers, try to complete the sentence with words that make sense to you.
2. Don’t rush your selection. Consider all the answers to make the best choice.
3. Use the context of nearby words to figure out unknown words.
4. Don’t overlook the reversing effect of negative words (like not) or prefixes (like un-).
5. If you’re really stuck for the meaning of a word, try to think of other words that have similar prefixes, roots, or suffixes.
6. Eliminate choices in double-blank questions if the first word alone doesn’t make sense in the sentence.
7. Let transition words (like although and likewise) help suggest the best answer.

CRITICAL READING Section — READING COMPREHENSION (Short and Long):

1. You should base your answers to the questions solely on what is stated or implied in the passages.
2. Read the italicized introductory text.
3. Skip questions you don’t know. Return to them after answering other easier questions.
4. First and last sentences of each paragraph are critical.
5. Find the right spot in a passage by using any line reference numbers that appear in the questions.
6. Answer questions on familiar topics before unfamiliar topics.
7. Read the passages before reading the questions.
8. Don’t waste time memorizing details.
9. Passage content comes from the Humanities, Social Science, Science, and Literal Fiction.
10. Some passages are presented in pairs. Read the brief introduction first to see how they relate.
11. Spend more time on answering the questions than on reading the text.

WRITING Section — WRITTEN ESSAY:

1. Write a short (about 250-300 words), persuasive essay on an assigned topic.
2. Keep in mind the structure of an essay – 5 paragraphs consisting of an: Introduction, Body (about 3 paragraphs), Conclusion
3. The allotted time frame is 25 minutes. Read the essay question quickly and think about the topic (about 5 minutes). Allow most of your time (about 15 minutes) to write the essay. Spend the remaining 5 minutes reviewing and editing your work.
4. Introductory Paragraph should state the position that is being taken. It should also state about 3 points that support this position.
5. The Body Paragraphs should expand the points that you present with specific detail and examples.
6. The Concluding Paragraph should summarize your point of view by restating the thesis statement in a revised format.
7. Keep your writing simple.
8. Avoid wordiness.
9. Avoid slang.

WRITING SECTION — MULTIPLE CHOICE: Usage, Sentence Correction, and Paragraph Correction

1. Think about the question before you answer it.
2. Move around within a Section.
3. Usage & Sentence Correction questions are based on individual sentences. They test basic grammar, sentence structure, and word choice.
4. Paragraph Correction questions are based on 2 brief passages, with several questions per passage.
5. Read the questions carefully.

MATH Section — STUDENT PRODUCED RESPONSE (GRID):

1. Guess if you can’t figure it out. There is no penalty for wrong answers in this section.
2. Negative numbers are not possible as answers in this section. If your answer comes up negative, do it again.
3. You may begin to enter a short answer in any column. For instance, .6 can be entered in columns 1-2, or 2-3, or 3-4.
4. If an answer is a repeating decimal (like .33333333), just enter as many decimals as will fit in the grid (.333).
5. You may enter an equivalent decimal for a fraction as your answer, but why waste the time evaluating the fraction?
6. Do not try to enter mixed numbers. For example, if your answer is 3 1/2, enter it as 3.5 or 7/2.

MATH Section – STANDARD MULTIPLE CHOICE:

1. Read the question well. Be sure to select the best answer for the variable, value, or expression that is requested!
2. Learn in advance all of the critical definitions, formulas, and concepts that appear in common questions.
3. Remember to use the test booklet for scratch work, as well as for marking up any diagrams/graphs.
4. Early questions in this section are easier. Spend less time on them.
5. Don’t get carried away with detailed calculations. Look for a trick or a shortcut if the question seems time consuming.
6. When a question contains a weird symbol, just substitute the accompanying definition when figuring out the best answer choice.

Extra Curricular Activities
Other ways to help ease the admissions process is selecting and using the appropriate extra-curricular activities. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that you take on the activities early and consistently, and that activities which work in conjunction with your field are a great start. However, expound upon that and take part in some which are outside of your field and comfort zone.

By doing this, you will put yourself above every other applicant in your field who took on the same activities. Keeping a broad range of activities will demonstrate to the application committee that you are a well-rounded student. Things like the essays and extra-curricular activities can be a way that colleges separate the good from the great, but grades and test scores are still king.

You must make sure that you keep up with your grades in the middle of all the extra stuff you also want and need to do. The purpose of the extracurricular activity is to enhance and compliment your “star quality.” When the admissions counselor looks at your file, they will do the following:

* Was the application turned in on time?
* Does this student have the minimum grade and test scores?
* Are there essays attached?
* Is this student involved?

Once these requirements are met, then they start to look at who you are. They will take a look at your grades and see how challenged you were in high school. Then they’ll take a look at how you did on your SAT and/or your ACT, then they will read your essay, then they’ll look at your recommendations, and then they will examine your extracurricular activities. The truth is, “Class rank is only used by 50 percent of schools, and fewer colleges are relying on SAT scores, one aspect recruiters are taking a closer look at is an applicant’s extracurricular activities. So what makes your extracurricular activities stand out from the rest? Here is a list of ideas that you may want to consider” (Gail Oliver, 2009).

Some ideas include:

* Coaching for a disadvantaged soccer or baseball team
* Start a book club with friends
* Start an online movement through Facebook
* Organize an annual blood drive
* Start a small business like landscape maintenance, or some kind of online business
* Volunteer serving the homeless
* Go build houses in a 3rd world country
* Volunteer at a local school helping ESL kids learn how to read
* Get involved in politics and volunteer for a campaign
* Show your unique characteristics and run a marathon, spice it up by running for a cause like breast-cancer awareness, stopping child trafficking etc.

The longer you were involved in the activity the better. It shows that you can stick with things and see them through. Also, you don’t need to list a ton of extracurricular activities on your college application. Just three or four that you are really passionate about will do.

After the last session, this one NEEDED to be shorter. Make sure that you participate in the discussion forum and ask other students questions, there are also CLP administrators online to help answer questions and give you some extra guidance.

Complete the short (and easy) quiz!

Grades/Test Prep/Extra Curricular Activities

Preparing for college admissions takes a well-rounded understanding of how to get a better GPA, whether or not to take any honors courses or AP courses as well as which AP/Honors courses you should take. It also includes knowing study skills and resources for study help. There is a difference between a weighted and a non-weighted GPA and knowing the difference will help you immensely.

I am calling this section the “Real Deal” session because this stuff matters, more than any other part of the admissions process. If you don’t have the grades, the test scores, and the activities; you will be fighting an uphill battle to admission. If you can get these things in order, you will have your pick of colleges, in fact, they will be scrambling to have you! This means more acceptance letters, more scholarships and more merit-aid.

Why does this matter?!

A GPA is a representation of your accumulative grades throughout high school. The best ways to get a better GPA start with understanding how important it is to your college acceptance. Being aware of the weight that a GPA holds for your future can add positive stress to your academic career, encouraging you to begin by balancing your time between academics and a social life. Maintaining a straight A transcript can be the most important factor for you, but for most people, it is healthier to maintain a balance so that you are not too burned out before college even arrives, rewarding you for your hard work. Each teacher should outline the course requirements in high school with a syllabus. Holding on to each of these and writing down major due dates and test dates in a large monthly calendar will help you to put your schedule into perspective and learn time management.

If you’re playing the GPA game (trying to get a high GPA) and taking a light schedule that isn’t challenging, it will catch up with you at the college level very quickly. One of the things admissions officers pay attention to, besides GPA, is course selection throughout high school and especially senior year. They like to see students have momentum going into the freshman year (of College). If you sit back your senior year, it’s hard to recapture that momentum.

One thing which will help your GPA is taking AP or honors courses. These courses are generally more difficult and are what contribute to a weighted GPA or a non-weighted GPA. See the table for an explanation of how this works. For AP and honors courses, each grade is increased by one number. This makes an A worth five points, a B worth four points, and so on, which can provide you with a higher GPA. The reality is that colleges know that the GPA is weighted, but they also know that AP/Honors courses are more challenging, this is the point, and this is what colleges are concerned about, did this student challenge herself?

College Prep: Un-weighted AP/Honors: Weighted
Grade: “A”= 4 points (4.0) Grade: “A”= 5 points (5.0)
Grade: “B” = 3 points (3.0) Grade: “B” = 4 points (4.0)
Grade: “C” = 2 points (2.0) Grade: “C” = 3 points (3.0)
Grade: “D” = 1 points (1.0) Grade: “D” = 0 points (0.0)

Taking AP courses means that you get to take AP tests at the end of each academic year. If you score high enough on these tests, then you can be exempt from remedial college courses. These cover a wide variety of subject, allowing you to utilize specific skills or interests for particular areas of study while in high school. If you are better at math as opposed to history, then a B in history can be compensated for by an A in an AP math course.

Tests required for college are:

* SAT I
* Subject tests referred to as SAT II: These include subjects such as Spanish, French, Physics, U.S. History, Literature, Mathematics level 1 and 2, Biology, Chemistry, German, Modern Hebrew, Latin, and World History (you only need to take 2-3 subject tests, NOT all of them!)
* OR the ACT

In order to prepare for any of these tests, there are online preparatory courses available which mimic the actual test. The U.S. Department of Education supports practice with practice questions or samples on sites such as Collegeboard.com and the affiliated websites for each test company. Also, SAT hosts practice exams. ePrep is an excellent online program you can utilize with hundreds of practice problems and videos to go with the explanation. This is especially helpful for visual learners (Know Thyself!) and those on a tight budget.

When preparing for either the SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Tests/AP exams, you should start test preparation six months to one year before taking the exam. The official SAT site offers daily questions emailed to you as well as practice questions from all of the sections of the test with an immediate score provided upon finish, FOR FREE. The Official SAT Study Guide includes ten previous tests and test taking tips. Utilizing any and all of these relieves stress from the process and can take place with a tutor, through a class study group, online courses, a formal class on the weekends or evenings, or self-preparation through texts and online resources.

One week before taking either the practice exams or the actual exams, you should review your material again and then relax the night before. Taking the practice SAT is recommended by experts so that you understand the format and how the process works, familiarizing yourself with the structure. Each of the different methods of practice should be used in conjunction with the rest. Note: It is either the SAT OR the ACT, you don’t need to take both.

Testing TIPS for the SAT:
OVERALL TEST TACTICS:

1. Learn the section directions now. Use the time saved during the test to work on questions.
2. Answer easy questions first. Mark skipped questions in your exam book so you can quickly return to them later.
3. Guess…if you can eliminate at least one choice.
4. You can write in the test book: cross out wrong answers; do scratch work.
5. Take care when filling in the answer grid for the student-produced response questions.

6. Avoid stray marks on the answer sheet. A machine scores your test and can’t distinguish between a correct answer and a careless doodle.
7. Easy questions usually precede hard ones.
8. Mark only one answer per question.
9. Skip any question if you haven’t the faintest idea about the answer. You don’t lose points.
10. Understand the scoring! You get a point for a right answer. You lose a fractional point for a wrong answer. There is no deduction for omitted answers, or for wrong answers in the math section’s student-produced response questions.
11. Keep checking that you are placing your answer in the correct section and number on the answer sheet.
12. Don’t spend too much time on any one question. You should spend only seconds on the easiest questions, and hesitate to spend more than 1-2 minutes on even the hardest ones.
13. Practice, practice, practice!
14. Remember that the SAT consists of a series of small, timed, mini-tests. Keep track of the time you’re allotted for each one and how much time remains.
15. Bring a watch to the test center. You can’t be guaranteed that there’ll be a working clock there.
16. Don’t change an answer unless you’re sure you made an error.
17. Read the words in the question carefully. Be sure to answer the question asked and not the question you recall from a practice test.
18. Know the Question Types to Expect on the SAT I: * 19 sentence completion * 40 reading comprehension * 35 math multiple-choices * 10 student-produced responses

SPECIFIC SECTIONAL STRATEGIES
CRITICAL READING Section — SENTENCE COMPLETION:

1. Before looking at the answers, try to complete the sentence with words that make sense to you.
2. Don’t rush your selection. Consider all the answers to make the best choice.
3. Use the context of nearby words to figure out unknown words.
4. Don’t overlook the reversing effect of negative words (like not) or prefixes (like un-).
5. If you’re really stuck for the meaning of a word, try to think of other words that have similar prefixes, roots, or suffixes.
6. Eliminate choices in double-blank questions if the first word alone doesn’t make sense in the sentence.
7. Let transition words (like although and likewise) help suggest the best answer.

CRITICAL READING Section — READING COMPREHENSION (Short and Long):

1. You should base your answers to the questions solely on what is stated or implied in the passages.
2. Read the italicized introductory text.
3. Skip questions you don’t know. Return to them after answering other easier questions.
4. First and last sentences of each paragraph are critical.
5. Find the right spot in a passage by using any line reference numbers that appear in the questions.
6. Answer questions on familiar topics before unfamiliar topics.
7. Read the passages before reading the questions.
8. Don’t waste time memorizing details.
9. Passage content comes from the Humanities, Social Science, Science, and Literal Fiction.
10. Some passages are presented in pairs. Read the brief introduction first to see how they relate.
11. Spend more time on answering the questions than on reading the text.

WRITING Section — WRITTEN ESSAY:

1. Write a short (about 250-300 words), persuasive essay on an assigned topic.
2. Keep in mind the structure of an essay – 5 paragraphs consisting of an: Introduction, Body (about 3 paragraphs), Conclusion
3. The allotted time frame is 25 minutes. Read the essay question quickly and think about the topic (about 5 minutes). Allow most of your time (about 15 minutes) to write the essay. Spend the remaining 5 minutes reviewing and editing your work.
4. Introductory Paragraph should state the position that is being taken. It should also state about 3 points that support this position.
5. The Body Paragraphs should expand the points that you present with specific detail and examples.
6. The Concluding Paragraph should summarize your point of view by restating the thesis statement in a revised format.
7. Keep your writing simple.
8. Avoid wordiness.
9. Avoid slang.

WRITING SECTION — MULTIPLE CHOICE: Usage, Sentence Correction, and Paragraph Correction

1. Think about the question before you answer it.
2. Move around within a Section.
3. Usage & Sentence Correction questions are based on individual sentences. They test basic grammar, sentence structure, and word choice.
4. Paragraph Correction questions are based on 2 brief passages, with several questions per passage.
5. Read the questions carefully.

MATH Section — STUDENT PRODUCED RESPONSE (GRID):

1. Guess if you can’t figure it out. There is no penalty for wrong answers in this section.
2. Negative numbers are not possible as answers in this section. If your answer comes up negative, do it again.
3. You may begin to enter a short answer in any column. For instance, .6 can be entered in columns 1-2, or 2-3, or 3-4.
4. If an answer is a repeating decimal (like .33333333), just enter as many decimals as will fit in the grid (.333).
5. You may enter an equivalent decimal for a fraction as your answer, but why waste the time evaluating the fraction?
6. Do not try to enter mixed numbers. For example, if your answer is 3 1/2, enter it as 3.5 or 7/2.

MATH Section – STANDARD MULTIPLE CHOICE:

1. Read the question well. Be sure to select the best answer for the variable, value, or expression that is requested!
2. Learn in advance all of the critical definitions, formulas, and concepts that appear in common questions.
3. Remember to use the test booklet for scratch work, as well as for marking up any diagrams/graphs.
4. Early questions in this section are easier. Spend less time on them.
5. Don’t get carried away with detailed calculations. Look for a trick or a shortcut if the question seems time consuming.
6. When a question contains a weird symbol, just substitute the accompanying definition when figuring out the best answer choice.

Extra Curricular Activities
Other ways to help ease the admissions process is selecting and using the appropriate extra-curricular activities. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that you take on the activities early and consistently, and that activities which work in conjunction with your field are a great start. However, expound upon that and take part in some which are outside of your field and comfort zone.

By doing this, you will put yourself above every other applicant in your field who took on the same activities. Keeping a broad range of activities will demonstrate to the application committee that you are a well-rounded student. Things like the essays and extra-curricular activities can be a way that colleges separate the good from the great, but grades and test scores are still king.

You must make sure that you keep up with your grades in the middle of all the extra stuff you also want and need to do. The purpose of the extracurricular activity is to enhance and compliment your “star quality.” When the admissions counselor looks at your file, they will do the following:

* Was the application turned in on time?
* Does this student have the minimum grade and test scores?
* Are there essays attached?
* Is this student involved?

Once these requirements are met, then they start to look at who you are. They will take a look at your grades and see how challenged you were in high school. Then they’ll take a look at how you did on your SAT and/or your ACT, then they will read your essay, then they’ll look at your recommendations, and then they will examine your extracurricular activities. The truth is, “Class rank is only used by 50 percent of schools, and fewer colleges are relying on SAT scores, one aspect recruiters are taking a closer look at is an applicant’s extracurricular activities. So what makes your extracurricular activities stand out from the rest? Here is a list of ideas that you may want to consider” (Gail Oliver, 2009).

Some ideas include:

* Coaching for a disadvantaged soccer or baseball team
* Start a book club with friends
* Start an online movement through Facebook
* Organize an annual blood drive
* Start a small business like landscape maintenance, or some kind of online business
* Volunteer serving the homeless
* Go build houses in a 3rd world country
* Volunteer at a local school helping ESL kids learn how to read
* Get involved in politics and volunteer for a campaign
* Show your unique characteristics and run a marathon, spice it up by running for a cause like breast-cancer awareness, stopping child trafficking etc.

The longer you were involved in the activity the better. It shows that you can stick with things and see them through. Also, you don’t need to list a ton of extracurricular activities on your college application. Just three or four that you are really passionate about will do.

After the last session, this one NEEDED to be shorter. Make sure that you participate in the discussion forum and ask other students questions, there are also CLP administrators online to help answer questions and give you some extra guidance.

Complete the short (and easy) quiz!

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