The Last SAT: Here Are 3 Things to Do on Test Day to Rock the Final 2400 Exam

SAT 2400If you’re trying to nail the final 2400 SAT, then you’re probably trying to figure out which tips (given the endless amount of SAT strategies already out there) will truly impact your score. While I do recommend using these remaining two weeks to improve your grasp of content and of strategies (viz., don’t skimp on learning vocabulary words or on practicing tricky word problems), there are a few key habits that you should implement on test day to ensure you perform at your highest level.

1. Be Aware Of Order Of Difficulty
Imagine it’s test day. You’re near the end of the long Writing Section. You’re feeling good; so far, you’ve answered every question with confidence, and you only have a couple of questions left to answer. You know you’re close to that dream score you’ve been working hard for. You take a quick look at one of the final grammar-based questions before you begin the paragraph corrections:

 

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This question seems easy enough. There aren’t any glaring mistakes, such as subject-verb disagreement. And if you ignore the descriptive phrases (such as “Not very particular in nesting sites…”) you’ll notice that the sentence also makes sense, meaning there aren’t any problems with sentence construction. You may be tempted to choose E, No error, and move on.

Unfortunately, if you did think the answer was E, you fell for a classic SAT trap. There in fact is a mistake in this sentence! So let’s consider it more carefully. For example, when you look at A, rather than just giving a knee-jerk answer, try using the phrase “not very particular ___ …” in your own sentence. How would you say “my sister is not very particular ____ what she wears”?

Hopefully, you realized that you would say “my sister is not very particular about what she wears”. Therefore, “particular in” is an idiomatic error, because in English, we say “particular about”.

Maybe you’re groaning and thinking to yourself that you’ll never be able to tell the difference between plain easy questions and tricky questions on the SAT. However, if you pay attention to Order of Difficulty, you actually can predict when you are likely to see tricky questions. That is, on the SAT, difficult questions tend to appear near the end of the section, say about the last 5 – 6 problems. So, although you may be able to do a writing or math or vocab question at the beginning of a section in less than thirty seconds, if you do a question at the end of the section easily and in little time, chances are you fell for a trap! In fact, if a problem at the end of the section seems strangely easy, an alarm bell should go off in your head. So, my first tip for you is this: on test day, whenever you are at the end of a section, be sure to always pause and carefully consider an ostensibly easy question, rather than just circling the first plausible answer.

2. Skip and Return
Skipping tricky questions on multiple-choice tests (so as to return to them later) is one of the oldest tricks in the book, so I’m sure you’re familiar. However, I want to break down this trick a little further, because although many students do use this strategy, not all of them do so as well as they could.

First off, let’s identify under what circumstances you should absolutely skip, versus when you should stick it out. You should skip whenever:

-You don’t understand what the question is asking, or the question really confuses you.
-You can’t eliminate more than one answer choice.

Some test prep companies recommend guessing when you can eliminate just one answer. The reasoning is that you have a 25% chance of guessing correctly, which will outweigh the ¼-point guessing penalty that is in effect on the 2400 SAT. However, this isn’t really good advice, because students rarely guess without any partiality towards certain answer choices. In other words, when students are presented with four answer choices, they are more likely to choose some answers than others. And unsurprisingly, the College Board leverages this by purposely making some answer choices look more appealing than others on difficult questions. So, when you guess between four answer choices, you actually don’t have a 25% chance of guessing correctly. Your chance of guessing correctly will always be lower than 25%. Therefore, only guess if you can eliminate two or more answer choices.

Take a look at the following difficult question from a SAT Reading Section:

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Can you eliminate more than one answer? If you can’t, this is the type of question you should skip and leave blank.

Can you eliminate more than one answer? If yes, you should work through this question as best as you can, even if you can’t instantly identify the correct answer. Although you sometimes will have to skip some hard questions because they are either too confusing or too time-consuming, you should not skip every single difficult question on the SAT. In fact, being able to work through hard questions is what sets apart top test takers.

Looking at this question again, let’s say that you were able to eliminate C, steadfast, and E, frank, because you know both of those words have positive connotations and you’ve figured out that the word in the blank must have a negative connotation. However, now you feel stuck, because you don’t know what convivial, steadfast, or clandestine mean.

The good news is that you can continue to work through this problem, even though you don’t know the exact definitions of the words. So, rather than guessing randomly between the three, or deciding to return to the question later, you could use two Veritas Prep strategies to continue to eliminate answer choices. Notice that convivial has the root viv. If you know Spanish or Latin, you can intelligently guess that viv probably means life. This means that answer A likely has a positive connotation, and should be eliminated. Also, notice that fortuitous sounds like fortune, which means that it also has a good chance of being related to the word fortune, another word with a positive connotation. Thus, you should eliminate answer D, and choose B, which in fact is the correct answer.

Now that we’ve talked about when you should skip versus when you should stick it out, let’s talk about when you should skip and return. Take a look at the following math problem, which was taken from near the end of a SAT Math Section :

 

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The question seems simple enough. You might think to yourself that if the can is eight inches tall, then four of the pencils cannot fit entirely inside the can. However, this question is from the end of a SAT section, so it shouldn’t be easy to solve.

So when should you skip a question like this, to return to later?

I recommend skipping a question like this when you don’t have a lot of time. For example, let’s say you still have 4 math questions, and you only have 4 minutes left, and you can only eliminate one answer – answer choice D, because it’s too obvious an answer. Unless you can quickly think of a method for working through this problem, I would advise skipping it, and returning to it if you have any remaining time.

Note: At the end of this blog post, I’ve included an explanation for this problem. Once you finish reading these test-day tips, try to solve the problem yourself before reading the explanation.

3. Set Pacing Goals
One of the most avoidable ways students miss points on the SAT is by not working quickly enough. Thus, it’s essential that you set pacing goals for yourself whenever you do practice sections. For example, if you regularly don’t finish the 35-question Writing Section, then you should try to do the first half of it (approximately questions 1-18) in no more than twelves minutes. That means that at around question 9, you should check your watch to see if you’re on target. If you’ve spent more than six minutes on the first nine questions, then you’re falling behind, and you need to speed up.

Note that it isn’t a good idea to check your watch either after every single question, as that will just disrupt your flow. It’s also ineffective to check your watch only near the end of the section, as that may not leave you enough time to finish. Thus, it’s essential that you set simple but effect pacing goals for yourself (i.e., every 5 minutes, I finish 9 questions) so that on test day, you can keep track of your pace. Pacing goals will be different for different students, so use these next two weeks to develop goals that work for you.

Before you take a crack at that hard math question with the pencils, I want to give you one last piece of advice. Studies show that resting before a major exam is just as essential as studying, so, be sure to get a good night’s sleep on the two nights leading up to the test. You’ll only perform at your best on test day if you take good care of yourself!

Explanation for math problem:

One great way to deal with geometry-based questions at the end of the math section is to draw on the provided diagrams as you think your way through the problem -in other words, thinking visually. Doing will help you consider possible solutions you may otherwise overlook, such as in this tricky problem. So, let’s start by “drawing” the nine inch pencil in the tin can:
rita-4

 

 

 

 

 

Clearly, the pencil sticks out of the can. But, seeing the pencil sticking nearly straight up from inside the can gives me a new idea: what if the pencil were tilted? Couldn’t a pencil longer than eight inches fit inside the can? And if so, what would be the longest possible length of a titled pencil that could fit entirely inside the can?

To get a better grasp of this idea, I would draw the longest possible tilted line that fit inside the can, meaning a line starting in a bottom corner of the can, and stretching to the top corner, like so:

rita-5

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, the line that represents the longest possible length of a pencil that fits entirely inside the can is also the hypotenuse of a right triangle with side lengths of 6 inches and 8 inches. Because I can identify the side lengths of this triangle as multiples of the lengths of a 3-4-5 triangle, I know the hypotenuse is 10 inches, meaning that any pencils less than or equal to 10 inches long can fit inside the can. Therefore, my answer is B: only two of the pencils cannot fit entirely inside of the can.

Good luck on the final 2400 SAT!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

 

Back to the Grind: 3 Tips on Handling Your Final Months as a Senior in High School

Run OnIf you’re a senior heading back from winter break, you probably feel a strange combination of excitement and weariness. You’re done with college applications and ACT and SAT prep; you’re probably already looking forward to your senior trip or the other activities for seniors that your school has planned; you are so close to finally enjoying the fruits of your hard work. That being said, you also have to muster the energy to get through either AP or IB testing, spring sports, and final projects.

If you don’t have senioritis already, trust me, it’s going to hit hard during these final months of high school. You’ll find yourself tempted to slack off a bit in the grades department, not to mention showing up to class on time. While some relaxation and celebration is healthy, it’s important that you don’t stop pushing yourself. The better you do on your AP and IB exams, the more likely you’ll earn credits at your college, meaning that you get to pass out of general courses, and move onto the more advanced, detailed courses that distinguish a college education from a high school education. Also, you’ve worked so hard to get where you are – if you keep straight A’s, or run your fastest mile in high school track this spring, it’s something you’ll remember with pride when you’re much older. So, without further ado, here are a few tips from a former senior on how you can jump back into your final months of high school:

1. Get to Bed
You’ve probably been staying up late this winter break – and maybe you’ve been eating more sweets than you should, too. One of the simplest and most effective things you can do this January is getting back to a lifestyle that fits with your school schedule. It doesn’t matter how great a student you are – if you can’t get yourself to bed by a reasonable time, senioritis is going to hit you early this semester. So, although your diet and sleep might not seem significant, I’d recommend getting those on lock down as early as possible this semester.

2. Take Care of the Details Now, Not in April
In addition to sleeping at a reasonable time, look for other small habits you can adjust to improve your studying and your overall health. Were you on Facebook 24/7 this winter break? Did you spend the last few weeks plugged into your Netflix account? Now that you have to meet deadlines and prepare for your AP and IB exams, it’s time for you to unplug and find a quiet place to study. If you do waste time on the internet, consider downloading Self-control, an app that you can program to block distracting websites.

3. Work on Developing College-Ready Study Habits
Speaking of studying, not only should you get off Facebook, but you should also use these months to begin forming college-ready study habits. From kindergarten all the way through high school, your teachers have been structuring your classes – assigning homework that they regularly grade, giving frequent quizzes and in-class exercises – so as to make practice and learning easy. In college, it’s a different ball-game. For the most part, professors will assign less homework and less quizzes. So, it will be up to you to figure out how to digest new material you’ve learned in class. In college, you will have to teach yourself how to learn.

Because college is so much less structured than high school, one of the study habits I had to learn in college was pacing. In high school, I used to do “marathon” study sessions. For example, if I had been busy all week preparing for a Varsity track meet and for my IB exams, I might not have had the time I needed to study for an in-class physics test. So, the night before, I’d sit down with my notes, and study them for 3 straight hours until I’d learned everything. While this method can work in high school, I found that in college the material was so much more demanding that I couldn’t learn it in a couple hours, especially because I wasn’t regularly practicing it by doing homework. To get A’s, I needed to study on a daily basis (or every few days). Also, because the material in college is so complicated, I would find that my brain would simply tire out after two hours if I tried to learn it all in one go.

I know you’re going to be dragging your feet a little when you have to start waking up at 7 AM again for school. However, if you can see this as an opportunity to practice good study habits, you’ll be laying a great foundation for your academic life in college. For example, why not jump into your final semester by making a resolution to be more organized. Rather than cram for four straight hours the night before a test, start studying two days before. And when you do study, rather than do a marathon session, study for an hour, and then take a 15 minute break – whether that’s going for a walk around the block, listening to a few songs, or having a healthy snack. Repeat this hour of studying followed by 15 minutes of relaxing two to three times, and then do something entirely different, such as going on a jog.

Enjoy the last few months of senior year and best of luck preparing for your freshman year of College!

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Rita Pearson

4 Ways to Handle the Pressures of College Homework

Summer BooksWhen you first get to college, you’ll probably be overwhelmed with more homework than you’ve ever had before. The readings, papers, projects, problem sets, and exams sometimes feel like they never end.

Given this, it’s not hard to fall behind. Keeping up with all of the work, getting enough sleep, and finding time to make friends and relax is a tall task. I’ll be honest: it took me a while to figure out how to best complete all my homework. The first couple weeks of the semester I was incredibly inefficient. Finishing my assignments and readings took way longer than I wanted it to. Eventually I got fed up with all the time I was wasting and decided to do a little critical reflection on how I could change my homework habits to optimize my productivity. Here are some bits of advice I discovered that have really helped me manage my homework load better:

1. Mix up the types of assignments you do. If you take a balanced mix of classes, you’re bound to end up with different types of homework assignments. Make good use of this by varying the types of homework you do each day. It can get monotonous to try to all of your readings in one short period of time, but if you stagger, say, readings with problem sets, you’ll keep your energy up for longer.

2. Know where you work best. For me at least, different types of homework are conducive to different locations for working. Instead of wandering around and just doing homework wherever you happen to be, it’s helpful to understood which assignments correspond well with certain study spots. For me, I do textbook reading in the quiet library section, essay writing in a library cubicle, readings in bed or on the main green, and problem sets in study lounges. Know where you work best, because putting yourself in an environment that’s conducive to the task at hand is crucial in doing efficient work.

3. Give yourself breaks. What? But doesn’t college give too much homework to take breaks? My answer to that question is a resounding NO. It is super important that you don’t work so much that you burn out. Not only is overworking bad for your health, it’s also bad for your productivity. Humans can only focus on the same task for a limited amount of time. If you try to push past this limit and do homework for obscene amounts of time, you’ll end up working really slowly and retaining little of what you were trying to learn. My advice is to break up your homework into manageable chunks and give yourself breaks in between. You’ll accomplish more by working in segments of 35 minutes “on” and 10 minutes “off” than you will by trying to focus nonstop for hours at a time.

4. Take classes you enjoy. This might seem obvious, but it is still of critical importance. By taking classes you’re enthused about the large piles of homework you have won’t be so daunting. Sure, doing homework is rarely at the top of anyone’s preference list; however, if the homework you’re doing is interesting to you’re more likely to feel excited about doing it than anxious about getting it done.

It’s true that keeping up with homework well in college will be a difficult thing to accomplish. However, with the right mindset and good habits, you’ll conquer the pressure of college-level homework and discover an incredible perseverance within yourself in no time.

Planning to work on your college applications during Winter Break? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Aidan Calvelli.

ACT Science: What To Do on Test Day

SATIn my last post, I covered why the ACT science test is so difficult, and what habits you can develop to overcome its particular pitfalls and obstacles. However, with an ACT coming up in mid-December, you might not have time to fully perfect those habits. As the saying goes, no plan survives the first bullet; I’m sure no one is a stranger to the awful experience of totally freezing up on a timed test. Here are two strategies that could come in handy on test day in case you do get stumped on the Science Test:

1) Skip and Do What You Can
On nearly any given section on the science test, some questions will be significantly easier than others. As noted in my last post, when a question begins with the phrase “according to figure x…” or “according to the results of…” you probably can get the answer (in well under a minute!) by studying the relevant graph or table. However, some questions aren’t as straightforward, so one way you may lose a significant number of points in a section is if you get hung up on a tricky question. Some questions are so jargon heavy that they simply don’t make sense on a first read-through. Others require you to make logical inferences based on multiple paragraphs and corresponding visuals, making it unclear where to get the information you need from. The number one mistake students make when encountering such a question (either one they don’t understand or one they don’t know how to answer) is wasting too much time reading the adjoining dense paragraphs. There will always be more information in the accompanying piece than you need, so if you begin reading through it without an idea of what you need to look for, you’re likely to get bogged down in technical details. It’s easy to waste two or three minutes trying to answer a question this way.

In such situations, it’s much more pragmatic for you to identify which questions you can answer in the section. Chances are, there will be two or more questions that can be answered by looking at the provided visuals and ignoring everything else. And if you are sure to answer the easy questions first, then at least you’re making sure not to miss out on any easy points.

2) When You Return, Start Fresh
Although I do recommend initially skipping questions that seem unapproachable, I still think that all students can answer them correctly. That’s because the two major advantages of skipping hard questions are that 1) you have a chance to calm down and rebuild your confidence on easy questions and 2)you’ll have a chance to look at the hard question again with fresh eyes. If you answer all of the easy questions in the Science Test quickly (which you can do if you remember that tables and graphs are your friend!) you will have enough time left to work through the more difficult questions. And when you look at them a second time, you’ll also have to chance to use strategies you may have forgotten to use the first time. For example, take a look at the following difficult question:

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The first time I ever did this question, it stumped me, because the corresponding tables (copied below) didn’t mention either paper or plastic.

So, I skipped the question, finished the rest of the questions, and then returned to it. The rest of the Science Test went more smoothly, so by the time I was back to the question, I was feeling more relaxed and confident. I even remembered my strategy: that whenever the tables didn’t provide enough information to answer a question, I needed to scan the paragraphs for the important words (in this case, paper and plastic, which aren’t listed on the tables). When I did, I found exactly what I needed:

dec11-RP4

 

By reading just the smallest chunk of each experiment description, I was able to realize that Experiment 1 measured how well tape stuck to paper, and that Experiment 2 measured how well tape stuck to plastic. I then noticed that, according to the tables,* it took more force to remove brand X tape from paper than it did plastic. Thus, I correctly chose answer A.

 

 

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

*Table 1 tells the results of Experiment 1, and Table 2 tells the results of Experiment 2

3 Ways to Be a Successful Writer in College

EssaysAs you might expect, writing in college is very different from writing in high school. There are different types of assignments, different expectations, different grading, and different time structures. Yes, writing is still writing, but both the process and the end result are quite distinctive.

In high school, writing assignments are usually clearly defined. There are set topics and set ways to format the essay. The expectation in high school is that you will be able to effectively regurgitate other people’s ideas and research, with your own opinion relegated to a background role.

On the other hand, college assignments are often quite open ended. Gone are the days of uniform essay prompts and hand-holding guides to walk you through your paper! Professors will also expect their students to develop their own unique arguments and justifications for those arguments. Oh, and not to mention, college papers can be really long! If this sounds scary to you, don’t worry; it’s not so bad. Writing in college can actually be really fun. Just because college writing is different doesn’t mean you won’t be able to handle it. If you do need some help making the leap, here are some ways to make the transition from high school to college writing as smooth as can be:

1. Be confident in your own opinions. As 18-year olds talking about ideas that the big time academics have debated for years, there is a tendency to defer to the bigwigs’ thoughts and research. Describing instead of evaluating is a hallmark of a young, unconfident writer. In college, this won’t fly; instead, you need to stake out your own positions and defend them with your own crisp reasoning. You can use scholarly research to inform your opinions, but ultimately a good college paper hinges on proposing a unique, critically developed argument.

2. Make concrete plans – with incentives. The lack of structure on college writing assignments can be disconcerting. Sometimes professors will hand out essay topics one day and not mention the paper again until the day you hand it in. In order to avoid waiting around for help (that likely won’t come unless you seek it out…) and stressfully leaving it for the last day (trust me, it’s a bad idea…), it’s crucial that you make a writing plan and stick to it. Plan out when you’ll research. Plan out when you’ll take notes. Plan out when you’ll make an outline. Plan out when you’ll write the final essay. In short, plan! Writing your plan down, in a planner, scheduler, or your online calendar, is a good way to make it more concrete. Finally, take a hard look at yourself and realize what incentive you need to stick to your plan. Some people reward themselves with nice meals for accomplishing their goals. Other people force themselves to give away money if they fall behind. Find what works for you, and hold yourself to it!

3. Take advantage of all the writing resources at your disposal. It can often seem like you’re all on your own for papers in college. This lack of structure and aid is understandably scary. But never fear! There are always people to help you out, if you’re brave enough to seek them out. You can go to your professor’s office hours to bounce ideas off of her. You can meet with TA’s for more specific questions about content, style, and structure. If you’re lucky, your college will have a writing center that works with students on their writing assignments. If you did get this lucky (or were smart and chose a college that provided writing aid to students), definitely take advantage of this. The more smart people you have looking at your essay, the better the final product will be. Once you start searching around, you’ll find plenty of people willing and eager to help you out.

As long as you’re confident, disciplined, and willing to seek out help, success in college writing is right within your grasp!

Are you starting to work on your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation
By Aidan Calvelli

The Science Behind the ACT Science Test: Part 2

professor futuramaWelcome back ACT Preppies! If you recall from last weeks blog post, we started to deconstruct the ACT science section. We reviewed the first part of the strategy “changing where you first look.” Now, let’s go over the second step.

As you may have noticed, some questions refer to information from the dense paragraphs that accompany tables. In these cases, language in the question will tip you off; for example, the question will read something like this:

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Notice that the question asks you about the design of the study. Whenever you are asked about the design or set-up, rather than just the results, you should know to immediately look at the referenced study, because the tables will not give you enough information. Note, in addition to looking first at the referenced study, you should specifically look for words from the answer choices, since those are the relevant terms to pay attention to.

Here are the related paragraphs in the section. Give them a read, and then see if you can answer the question on your own, before looking at the explanation:

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Explanation:

The correct answer is G. Given that a controlled variable is one that scientists keep constant in order to measure other variables, the line “two seed dishes were placed in each site” clearly communicates that the dishes are the controlled variable.

In sum, the most important habit you can develop to master the ACT Science Test is always looking at the most relevant piece of information first. When you are asked about the results*, always look at the tables or other relevant visual information pieces. When you are asked about experiment design or underlying concepts in the experiments, use the terms in the answer choices to skim the dense paragraphs.

Footnote

*When you are asked about simple relationships between variables:

Tables, graphs, and visual information pieces are often also often the best places to find your answer. The question will usually begin with a phrase like,” According to Figure, Graph, or Chart x…”, which will tip you off as to which graph you should look at. Consider:

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Even without knowing anything about the study, you can answer this question if you just look at the axis of Figure 1:

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Answer: C!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

 

The Science Behind the ACT Science Test: Part 1

science flaskIf you’re like 90% of my students, then you find the ACT Science Test to be the either the first or second most difficult section on the ACT. Which makes total sense, given that you are dealing with questions such as this:

Scientist 2 says that a protein may be trapped in a moderately high-energy shape. Which of the following findings, if true, could be used to counter this argument?

  1. A) Once a protein has achieved its tertiary structure, all of the folding patterns at the local level are stable.
  2. B) Enough energy is available in the environment to overcome local energy barriers, driving the protein to its lowest energy shape.
  3. C) During protein synthesis, the secondary structure of a protein is determined before the tertiary structure is formed.
  4. D) Proteins that lose their tertiary or quaternary structure also tend to lose their biological functions.

And this:

Which of the following equations correctly calculates R (in nm) for Objective Lens 2, using light with a wavelength of 425nm?

  1. A) R = 425 / 2(.10)
  2. B) R = 425 / 2(.25)
  3. C) R = 10/ 2(425)
  4. D) R = 0.25 / 2(425)

Questions like these seem challenging for two related reasons. The first reason has to do with the technical jargon (i.e. all those headache-inducing terms like “moderately high-energy shape”, “wavelength of 425nm”  and  “tertiary structure”) that seems to complicate both of the above questions. In brief, as Daniel Kahneman describes in his magnum opus, Thinking, Fast and Slow, when a person encounters anything unfamiliar, including words she rarely comes across in everyday life, she is more likely to feel drained and/or frustrated. This is exactly what happens to many students when they read the above questions; almost right away, they feel stressed. And notably, their first reaction is to assume that because of all the big, ugly words, the question will be difficult to answer.

This brings us to the second reason as to why these questions are challenging. Because most students immediately assume that such questions will be difficult to answer, they don’t search for an easy way to solve them. For example, they waste time by reading the dense paragraphs that accompany the tables or by trying to understand the exact meanings of complicated words. In order to help my students get in the habit of finding more efficient and less-stressful approaches (which do exist!) to solving such problems, I teach them the following test strategy, which I call “change where you first look”.

The most important habit you need to learn to tackle the ACT section:

Let’s take a look at some real ACT Science questions chalk full of technical jargon.

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The biggest mistake a student answering these questions could make would be to read the accompanying paragraphs to try to understand what the heck “elaisome” is, or why “ant-planted’ plants survive longer. The reason you don’t need to waste time doing this? Whenever you see questions that say “according to the results of the studies”, nine times out of ten you only have to look at the provided tables, graphs, or charts, to find the all information you need to answer the questions. And on the ACT Science Test, tables are your best friend. I’ll show you what I mean; take a look at the following tables that will give us the answers to the above questions:

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The key to reading these tables is to look along their rows and columns to find the labels that match the terms (the technical jargon) in the questions. For example, notice that the answer choices in the first question match the row labels on Table 3 (seeds that germinated, plants alive after 1 year, plants alive after 2 years, seeds produced per plant after 2 years), and that the question (what can be said when comparing hand-planted and ant-planted seeds) corresponds to the column labels on Table 3. In other words, all you have to do to find the answer is find which answer choice correctly matches one of the rows. And that would be answer choice A; according to the table 39 ant-planted seeds germinated, whereas only hand-planted seeds germinated.

Now that you’ve seen the power of using tables, go ahead and see if you can answer the second question on your own! All the information you need to answer is on Table 1.

Explanation for second question: The correct answer is C. Both species have elaisome masses of 6.2, so their masses of such are the same.

Stay tuned to next week for a second step to this strategy! See you next Monday!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

What Will YOU Pay for School, and When?

BailoutFiguring out your financial aid package is often not a thrilling pre-college activity. While actual financial aid award letters may appear to be simple, it’s not always easy to figure out exactly what needs to be paid by you or your family, and when. Here, I’ll break down the typical elements of aid packages, and show how and when the costs impact you and your family.

1. Expected Family Contribution. Often times, a financial aid award letter begins with information about the overall cost to attend that school, and how much that school has determined that your family (or both you and your family) can pay. You’ll be given a total amount expected to be contributed by you and your family. Any money expected to be paid by you and your family is needed by the time of your first tuition payment (around the time when you start school); however, many schools allow you to pay in monthly installments (which involve an extra fee). If your school lists you separately from your family, your contribution will be expected to come from a summer job between your last year of high school and your first semester and/or from any savings or trust fund listed in your application. International students are usually not expected to work in the summer before attending college.

2. Your Financial Aid Award. Next will be information about your actual financial aid award, which will be based on that family contribution mentioned above. So, if your school has determined that your family can’t pay $27,000 of your tuition, room and board, and fees, your aid will cover that amount of need. In this section, a school may list some sources of funds that are not required to be paid back. These include scholarships and grants. Hopefully you’ll have a few of those!

3. Loans & Work Study. The rest of your aid award letter will be self-help. Here, you’ll see loans and possibly work study. You’re required to pay back loans, and the exact amount of repayment is determined by how much money you borrowed, the interest on the loan, and the repayment plan you choose. You’ll be expected to start paying most of them back after you’ve graduated and started working, although if you drop below half-time enrollment or leave school, you’ll be expected to pay them back then. Finally, work study may be offered to you to help cover your personal expenses during the school year. I didn’t understand this initially when I was in college, but you’re not required to pay this money to your school. You’ll simply have to get a part time job (usually one on campus) that participates in a federal work study program, and the government will help pay part of your salary.

There are so many different combinations of financial aid awards, so these aren’t always hard-and-fast rules. But if you keep these general guidelines in mind, you’ll be much better able to plan your finances in college, and beyond!

Dakotah Eddy is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant, and the Assistant Director of Admissions Consulting. She received both her bachelor’s degree and MBA from Cornell University (Go Big Red!), with the aid of several scholarships, grants, fellowships. She enjoys creating: from culinary masterpieces, to wearable art, to tech solutions.

 

 

The Cliché Advice is Pretty Good Advice: 5 Ways to Handle Social Anxiety in College

Letter of RecommendationGoing off to college can be scary for a lot of reasons. The difficult academics and the fact that it’s many people’s first time away from home are big challenges, but the fear of not fitting in socially is incredibly common among soon-to-be college freshmen. During orientation, there will be throngs of new people, forced and awkward interactions, and a pervading sense that everyone else has already gotten everything figured out. All these forces – coupled with the transition to an entirely new way of life (college living) – can be quite daunting when a person starts to think about how he or she is going to go about making meaningful friendships.

If this sounds like you, don’t be afraid! Feeling nervous about making friends and fitting in is a perfectly normal part of the transition to college. Being thrown from a position where you’ve known everyone in your school for your whole childhood into a place where every face is unrecognizable is a scary thing for anyone, regardless of what they might tell you. Never fear, though, these worries are easily overcome: here are a few tips and things to keep in mind as you try to navigate the collegiate friend-making process.

1. Remember that everyone is in the same position as you. It’s helpful to keep in mind that you aren’t alone in feeling nervous. Everyone has been thrust into the same new situation that you are in. This does mean that other people are nervous, but it also means that they are actively seeking out new friends; when two people who are looking for friends meet each other, there’s a good chance they will find something to be friendly about! If that doesn’t convince, you, just remember that millions of people have already gone through the same process and came out all right. Think of the stories your uncle has probably told you about the fun, crazy times he had with his freshman roommate!

2. The people who look like they have everything figured out, don’t! It’s too easy to look around at all the smiling faces around you and worry that everyone else has already found their best friends.  Most of the time, those people are just really good actors. As the saying goes, people will “fake it ‘til they make it,” so there’s no need to feel behind if you don’t yet feel like you’re the pinnacle of popularity.

3. Go outside your comfort zone – but stay true to yourself. If you’re anything like me (a pretty hard core introvert), the prospect of going to a random meet-and-greet sounds about as fun as counting blades of grass. However, I dragged myself out to class gatherings on the main green during my orientation, and while I didn’t find any of my best friends there, it is nice to see people around campus that I met during my first few days at school. Be social and say yes to things when you’re on the fence, but once you’re actually at an event, make sure to be yourself. After all, you’ll only find real friends if they get to know the real you.

4. The cliché advice is pretty good advice. I’m sure you’ve heard the same refrains over and over again: Join clubs! Meet people in classes! Talk to your neighbors! These might sound cheesy or overused, but they’re actually not bad pieces of advice. Orientation events can expose you to a wide variety of people, but clubs and classes are places where you’re likely to meet people who have similar interests and hobbies. Additionally, it’s nice for your dorm to be a homey atmosphere, and being friendly with your dorm-mates only contributes to that good feeling!

5. Keep a long-term perspective. Making friends is hard, and it takes time. Manage your expectations so you don’t feel bad about yourself at all if you haven’t found the best friends you’ve ever met within the first two weeks of school. It’s okay if you’re not in love with every new person you meet. If you keep searching around and approach the endeavor with a positive attitude, sooner or later you will find a group of people that you can’t remember ever being in college without.

Take a breath, be yourself, and eschew any nervousness of being awkward. Chances are most people won’t remember you anyway, so go out, have fun, and make some great new pals!

Are you starting to work on your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Aidan Calvelli

Should You Take the ACT Plus Writing Test?

Essay As an ACT tutor, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked by students is whether or not they should take the ACT Plus Writing test. Don’t let the fancy name throw you off; the ACT Plus Writing Test is just the ACT with an essay added onto the end. Unlike the SAT essay, however, the ACT essay is optional, so most ACT-takers inevitably wonder if it’s worth the extra time and effort to prepare for the ACT essay.

When I speak to any of my students about this in person, I always ask them the following questions, which I’ll now give to you:

  • Do the colleges you are applying to require it?
  • How much time do you have to prepare for the upcoming ACT?
  • How comfortable are you with timed and/or in-class essays in general?

So, let’s start with question 1. If you can’t answer that question now, not to worry, this handy search engine on the ACT website can find out the answer for you. I would recommend that you search for the requirements of both your “reach schools” and your “safety schools”. I say this because you’ll find as you get deeper into the college application process, you may change your mind about which school you actually want to attend. Maybe you thought that you wanted to go out of state, to one of your reach schools, but now you’ve decided that you’d like to stay closer to home. Or maybe you’ll realize that you could be a candidate for scholarship to a school that wasn’t on your mind a few months ago, because it didn’t have an elite name. In other words, be sure to cover all of your bases, so that you don’t run into a situation where you have to take an additional ACT just to get the essay score, because now you’re trying to get into a school (that requires the essay) that you’d previously overlooked.

An aside, your essay score will not affect your score for the English section, nor will it affect your composite score. In other words, if you get your dream composite score on the ACT (like a 32 or higher!) and you don’t do so hot on the essay, your overall score won’t drop. The only additional thing that happens when you take the ACT essay is that you will receive a Writing test score on a scale of 1-36 (as well as individual scores for Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions) and an image of your essay will be available to colleges that you have the ACT send that test date’s scores to. This means that worrying about how the ACT essay will “make you appear to colleges” shouldn’t be a determining factor in your decision. The primary factor that will help you choose whether or not to do the essay is whether or not any of your reach or safety schools require the essay.

Onto question two. If you are, at the moment, fairly certain that you won’t be applying to schools that require the essay, you may still be one the fence about taking it because you can’t quite dismiss the thought that in the future you may want to apply to a college that does require it. This is especially relevant if you are a junior, since you still have a good deal of time to get your dream score and figure out what colleges you want to apply to. If this is you, I would ask you to consider how much time you have to prepare for the upcoming ACT. If you are extremely busy in the morning, afternoon, and night with homework, extra-curriculas, and other work, and you only have a month or so until the ACT, you may want to spend your time focusing on studying for the other four sections. Basically, it may be a better use of your time to focus on less, that way you can really improve your test-taking habits, rather than to try to cram everything in at once. However, once you’ve taken one official ACT, if you do need to get an essay score, you will want to start carving out time to add the essay to your studying plan.

As a tutor, I believe that the ACT essay is actually fairly straightforward to prepare for, just as long as you have enough time. So, if you can commit to both writing at least 3 or 4 practice essays before test day and reviewing those tests using the ACT grading rubric so that you can steadily improve, I’d tell you to go ahead and do it.

Finally, my last question for you is how comfortable you feel writing in-class essays or timed essays in general.  If you struggle with these, the ACT Plus Writing may actually be an opportunity for you to improve this skill. It is a skill! In college, you will regularly be asked to write in-class essays on both your mid-terms and your finals, so learning how to write an essay under timed conditions while you are still in high school is a skill with long term benefits.

Happy Studying!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

Did You Get a B- on Your Last Exam? Here Are 4 New Ways to Think About Your Grades in College.

report cardGrades are, to most people, a big deal. People obsess about grades. Grades stress people out. People think grades are the end goal of school. People give up sleep to boost their grades. Although these ideas are quite common, be careful not to stifle your learning or emotional health.

In both high school and college there seems to exist a mindset that you always need to worry about getting the best grades possible. This pressure can come from all around: parents, teachers, oneself, college applications, friends, and social institutions all can contribute to this in some way. But just because this feeling of pressure is pervasive doesn’t mean that it’s good or right. Here are some ways to re-imagine how to think about grades and change your learning approach in college:

  1. Grades are just one measure of academic performance. Right now you might be thinking, “no duh.” What I mean is that it’s crucial to not get caught up in the flawed concept that “grades are the ultimate measure of a person’s self-worth.” Grades are designed to assess students on their academic progress and give them an understanding of how they are doing in class. Getting an “A” doesn’t mean you’re smart and getting a “C” doesn’t mean you’re dumb; all those letters show you is how your teacher thinks you’re doing in one specific class at one specific point in time. Academic performance is important, but make sure you don’t think the grade you get as the definitive statement on your intelligence and future prospects.
  1. Learning is an end in itself. Many students treat grades as the goal of school, and learning merely as the means of achieving that goal. This makes learning a lot less important than it should be. Much of the magnificent progress in the world has come from people who are dedicated to learning and understanding for its own sake. People like Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin didn’t do their great work so that someone could give them a grade for it; rather, they did it with the understanding that knowledge, in itself, has the power to make the world a better place.
  1. Focus on the thrill of discovery. If you focus on the thrill of discovery and develop a love for learning, school will be a lot less stressful and more enjoyable. You’ll also find yourself free from the stress that comes from worrying about what grade your teachers will assign you, and instead you will have the time and energy to do good work that you like and find meaning in. Incidentally, this works out really well for your grades; the more you enjoy the work you do, the better it will likely be. The better the work is, the higher the grade you’ll receive! It sounds paradoxical, but the less you focus on grades and the more you focus on learning, the better your grades will end up being.
  1. Set your own standards of success. Keep in mind that a grade is an individual measure. Never use a grade to compare yourself to others, whether positively or negatively. Keep your grades to yourself and use them just as one factor in motivating yourself to change your study habits, and you’ll find that you are a lot less worried about the grades you get. A big part of human anxiety comes when we judge ourselves relative to other people; when it comes to grades, it’s healthier and more beneficial to avoid that problem entirely. Although grades do act as a sort of standard, it’s vital that you don’t hold yourself to an unrealistic standard of perfection, especially one that you don’t have direct control over. Pushing yourself to be your best is an important part of life, but it is even more important that how you ultimately see yourself originates from inside of you, not from some letter a teacher decides to put on your report card.

To sum up – enjoy how much you’re learning, keep happiness one of your central goals, and remember that the better you are as a self-motivated learner, the more fun you’ll have succeeding in school!

Are you starting to work on your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Aidan Calvelli

Do You Know the 4 Ways to Make Your Personal Statement Stand Out?

writing essayYour personal statement is a very large aspect of your college application, and often an element of the application that takes the most time to complete. Your personal statement is your opportunity to show your strengths and qualifications to your target schools while highlighting your accomplishments and differentiating yourself from the thousands of other applications stacked on the table.

While sometimes writing a personal statement can seem overwhelming and stressful, it should also be simple and approachable – you’re just talking about yourself, right? Here are 4 quick tips to successfully write a stand-out personal statement.

  1. Follow Directions. This seems so simple and hard to overlook, but I can’t tell you how many applicants simply miss the easiest instruction. While it is important to create a narrative that accurately reflects who you are, always make sure to answer the actual question or prompt.
  1. Be True to Yourself. Your personal statement is your opportunity to showcase an aspect of yourself that hasn’t been noted or discussed anywhere else on your application. It’s probably true that your personal experiences are not the same experiences as every other applicant to your target schools, so think critically about what sets you apart and own your story. Admissions committees are looking to learn more about you and the unique qualities that you would bring to their universities. Be authentically you, it’s the best version of yourself anyway!
  1. Tailor your Approach. It’s not to your benefit to copy and paste the same personal statement into each of the applications you submit. Not only will the prompts possibly be different, but each school and the type of student they are looking for may be different, too. Take time to do your research about each school and think critically about how you can portray yourself and your story in a way that accurately reflects each campus.
  1. Tell a Story. Well-written and well-told stories are impossible to overlook and very hard to forget. Admissions committees will read hundreds of applications each season, and the best way for yours to stand out is if you tell a memorable story. When selecting which story you’d like to tell, brainstorm a list of every possible topics – these could be personal experiences, obstacles you’ve overcome, a huge accomplishment that has shaped your future goals etc. Once you’ve selected your topic, find the right angle to tell you story and make sure your angle is memorable.

There you have it! 4 quick tips to successfully writing a stand-out personal statement. Now get your pen to paper and good luck!

Need help prepping your early college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.

3 Most Common Mistakes You Want to Avoid On the ACT Math Section

Veritas Prep ACTThe ACT Math has one major advantage compared to the ACT English and Reading portions: no “best answer” choices. Instead, there will be only one possible, objective, absolute correct selection to make. So if your calculator spits out a number that isn’t A, B, C, D, or E, you know you need to re-do your math.

If you’ve taken algebra and geometry classes in your high school career, you will know 99% of the content of the exam. The trick is avoiding simple errors in your calculations that also yield a multiple choice answer. The following is an example excerpted from a sample math question on the ACT website:

 

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This is a simple solve-for-x scenario that most ACT Math test-takers are familiar with. Note the answer choices.

 

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With both sides of the equation balanced properly, the correct answer is E.

 

Say, for instance, that a student who knew how to balance equations accidentally added three instead of subtracting 3 to one side. The answer yielded, “1,” is among of the multiple choice. C.

 

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In this way, the multiple choice selections for the majority of the ACT Math portion rely on students making errors in basic operations. Below are a few of those common errors:

 

  1. Distributing the Negative

-2(x+2) does NOT equal -2x+4.

-2(x+2) = -2x 4.

It’s a simple rule, but always be wary of negative signs on the ACT Math.

  1. Square Roots:

The square root of 64 is 8. But it’s not the *only* square root. -8 is the other.

This detail is especially important on questions that concern quadratic functions or ask for the “number of possible solutions.”        

  1. Percent Change:

Take the given, simplified example: “A $100,000 investment grows by 50 percent in the course of 2015.=

What is it’s new value in 2016?”

Too many students will solve this question using the equation below:

100,000 x .50 = $50,000

Whenever calculating new value in a percent growth problem, the solution must be higher than the original value.

100,000 x 1.50 = $150,000   ==> This is correct.

The new value = $150,000.

The difference = $50,000.

As always, if time allows, the most valuable strategy is to check your answers before proceeding to the next problem. A quick calculation to make sure that your multiple choice selection satisfies the conditions and equations of the original question will catch most of these errors!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Madeline Ewbank is an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where she produces student films, interns for the Department of State, and teaches ACT 36 courses. She is excited to help students achieve their college aspirations as a member of the Veritas Prep team.

7 Tips That Will Keep You Awake and Focused While Studying

StudentI didn’t have much trouble doing well in high school. Unfortunately, this meant that I never felt much pressure to develop focus skills. I regularly zoned out in class and procrastinated on my homework. In my senior year, I even won the yearbook award for Most Likely to Fall Asleep In Class.

Enter UC Berkeley, known globally for its competitive student body and academic rigor. I was thrilled to be in such an enriching and challenging environment, but I struggled in freshman year to keep up with everyone around me. I simply couldn’t sit down and pay attention, even though I loved what I was studying.

I’ve gotten much better at it, but I still have trouble focusing now and again.  Fortunately, over the years I’ve come up with a set of go-to remedies:

  1. Switch tasks. I often find that a lack of focus is just boredom in disguise. Changing assignments, books, or subjects can sometimes provide enough variety to shake it off.
  1. Move to another table, room, or study space. Sometimes changing tasks just isn’t enough variety to wake me up. Other times, something in my room is distracting me without my even noticing it. Moving to another spot can often solve both problems.
  1. Make a really detailed to-do list. For instance, if I need to write a short paper, I’ll list “come up with a title”, “write introduction”, “first draft”, “edit”, and “conclusion” as separate items. Once I see all my work listed out, I feel less overwhelmed by it—plus, I get the simple but sweet satisfaction of checking off items as I finish them.
  1. Grab a healthy snack, go for a run, or take a nap. Focus problems can come from physical problems. I tend to semi-consciously eat less, sleep less, and exercise less when I’m really swamped in work, so a brief check-in with my body can work wonders.
  1. Turn off the music. I try to work to music sometimes to keep myself awake and energetic, but other times it’s distracting.
  1. Turn on a song. If I just need a brain break, I’ll sometimes choose exactly one fun song, promise myself that I’ll get right back to work the moment it’s over, and spend a few minutes lost in the music.
  1. Turn on SelfControl, if I find myself drifting onto Facebook or surfing the web instead of working. SelfControl is a fantastic study app for both Mac and Windows that lets you set up your own custom website blacklist and then block access to those sites for however long you need to study.

Keep these things in mind and you’re bound to find success while studying. Best of luck with your finals this semester!

Are you starting to plan for your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

Here is How You Navigate and Understand the Endless Mass of College Mailings

brochureDuring junior and senior year of high school you will probably receive literally thousands of letters, emails, and solicitations from colleges trying to convince you to apply and attend them. On top of this, you’ll also tour potentially dozens of colleges, adding even more information to your already stuffed brain. Given the sheer volume of this info and the uniform positivity that colleges like to present themselves with, it is no surprise that many students get overwhelmed and don’t know how to sift through it all. If you do feel overwhelmed, know that you aren’t alone. It’s really difficult to differentiate between colleges when all of their mailings seem to be saying the same thing. To overcome this it’s key to train your eye to look beyond the gloss and see the information for what it really is.

The first step to being productive with college information is understanding the college’s perspective in sending things to you. Colleges always want to paint themselves in a positive light. No matter what the situation is, a college will never portray itself as a bad place to attend. If a school is large it will emphasize its abundance of opportunities; if a school is small it will emphasize its intimate learning environment. Never does a large school say you’ll just be a face in the crowd, nor does a small school say you’ll feel constricted. The perspectives colleges show you are always skewed. Students featured in pamphlets will be the ones who are incredibly involved and filled with school spirit; rarely do they reflect the average attendee. Tour guides are often on script and relay information and opinions they may not entirely agree with.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that all the information colleges present you with is wrong; it does mean, however, that students need to look beyond the face value of the words and think critically about whether a school is really a good fit. Admissions officers’ job is to make their colleges seem appealing; your job is to consider whether the college is appealing to you.

Okay, now you know what colleges are trying to accomplish in their solicitations. The next step is figuring out what to do with this now decipherable information. Being an active reader and seeker of specific information is a great way to accomplish this. Colleges fill their letters with positive information, so you have to figure out what positive adjectives really mean the most to you. While “intellectual curiosity,” “diversity,” “collaborative,” and “friendly” are all ostensibly good things, it’s the students’ job to figure out which of those (and other characteristics) are most important to them. Otherwise, every college will seem like the best place on earth and there will be no way to decide where to attend. Pick a few characteristics that are really important to you and seek those out when reading college mail. This filter will make the endless stream of mail a bit easier to sift through.

Once you’ve figured out the sort of vibe you want from your college and have found seem to at least somewhat comply with that, it’s then time to add some more depth to your search. The standard advice is to visit and tour the colleges you are particularly interested in. I wholeheartedly agree with this counsel, but I also think it’s important to go beyond the standard activities that colleges offer to prospective students. Tours are great for seeing campus, getting a general feel for a school, and developing a sense of whether you feel at home at a school; however, real life is not like a college tour. Be sure to look beyond the tour and check out what the students on campus seem like. Do they look busy? Rushed? Engaged in fascinating conversations? Happy to be there? Like people you might be friend with? It’s crucial that the day-to-day vibe of a college campus feels good to you, since you have to make sure you’ll enjoy the everyday grind of your life at the college you decide on. After all, a typical day in college involves going to class and doing homework, not being shepherded around campus learning where the libraries are!

It’s equally important to spend time on campus doing things that aren’t sanctioned by the admissions office. Just like in the letters they send you, admissions office-approved events will be designed to paint the school in an attractive light. These events are valuable, but complementing them with sitting in on classes and talking to random students significantly adds to the value of your visit. If you can, talk to professors and students and ask them the tough questions that mean a lot to you. These people are more likely to be unfiltered and can help you gain a fuller understanding of what life at a college is really like. Adding together this candid feedback and the well-manicured information from prospective student brochures allows you to get a diverse variety of perspectives that you can then apply your own filter to in order to make your college decisions.

Above all else, remember that your college decision is ultimately your decision. You want it to be guided by a genuine understanding of what different colleges are like. To do this most accurately you have to see through schools’ facades and seek out ways to see what life is really like at the colleges you’re interested in attending.  Happy searching!

Trying to figure out the college for you? Have you figured out where you want to apply and need help with your application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Aidan Calvelli

Here Are 5 College Resources You Should Definitely Take Advantage Of

Group MBA Admissions InterviewThere are so many opportunities on a college campus, it’s hard to know where to start! College campuses pride themselves on the unique opportunities they provide to their students – whether it’s bringing a famous singer to perform, offering free academic services or supporting hundreds of extracurricular activities and clubs – colleges and universities are always striving to improve campus life and meet the needs of their students.

So often, though, students don’t recognize the slew of resources and opportunities that are available to them during their undergraduate experience! Many times, these resources may not be properly marketed, and other times, they just simply are overlooked. So, while you think about your weekend plans or start to plan for final examinations, I’d like to remind you to check out your campus resources and take advantage of them, too!

  1. Academic Resources: This is a biggie. Many campuses offer a wide variety of academic resources – from private tutoring, group tutoring and essay reviews. They may also offer test prep courses for the GRE, GMAT or LSAT! Often times, your tuition will cover a few sessions of tutoring or an essay review or two. It is to your benefit to take advantage of these services!
  1. Mental Health Services: College can be an overwhelming time, and many college students would benefit from speaking to licensed psychologists at some point or another. This resource is often overlooked, but is offered as part of your tuition on many campuses.
  1. Extracurricular Activities & Clubs: Do you ever walk through an academic building in the evening and see a group of students in a meeting? Or, do you walk by open fields and see a group of friends playing Frisbee? In many cases, these could be established, organized clubs that receive funding from the school for their activities. Check out your campus organization list – if you don’t see the organization you’re looking for, start a new one!
  1. Career Services: Once you start approaching your senior year, more and more people in your life will start to ask you, “What are you going to do after college?” The question can be daunting if you haven’t really sat down to think about your post-college goals. This is where Career Services kicks in! Their offices aren’t just for seniors, and they can often help you research and secure internships, put together your resume, prep for interviews and assist you in finding opportunities after college.
  1. Spiritual Life Services: Whether you’re looking for more formal spiritual experiences, or just a group of students who have similar beliefs to yours, there are many opportunities to connect spiritually during your undergraduate career. If this is an area you found value in before college, or an area you are curious about, it is absolutely a resource you can pursue on your college campus.

Most campuses offer their students a slew of amazing resources, it is just up to the student to take advantage of them. These types of resources don’t always exist in the “real world,” and when they do, the often come at a cost. Be sure to put those tuition dollars to use and take full advantage of everything that is offered to you while you are a member of the campus community!

Need help prepping your early college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.

Reflections of a Graduating Senior: Here Are 4 Things I Wish I’d Done Better in College

walking studentAll in all, I did pretty well in college. I maintained a high GPA, earned and kept scholarships and a job, landed four internships and a yearlong research apprenticeship in my field, studied and traveled abroad, and am all set to graduate on time at the end of the school year. On paper, I did just about everything a good college student is supposed to do.

As the real world looms closer, however, I find myself spending more and more time thinking about ways I could have better prepared myself for job searches and grad school. I’m not just paranoid; it’s old news now that the job market isn’t at its friendliest these days, and it’s an even older joke that political science majors all end up having to move back in with their parents after graduation. Just doing well in school isn’t enough anymore. I don’t know yet how it’ll all turn out for me, but I do know that there are plenty of things I wish I had done more of before my last semester. Here are a few…

  • Paying attention in class. We all zone out once in a while, but we’re all too frequently reassured that it’s fine to do so as long as we keep our grades up and our assignments on time. The problem is that education isn’t measured in points and percentages; it’s measured in the things we actually learn. These days I find myself having to research and reread things I know I’ve already been taught, since I didn’t learn them well enough the first time around.
  • On the same note: recognize that college material is way more relevant to my future than high school material was. In high school, I justified forgetting how to balance a chemical equation by telling myself that I wasn’t going to grow up to be a scientist. In college, though, all my classes had to do with the field I’d chosen for myself—the same field I’m trying to explore now as a graduate.
  • Doing all the readings. I learn so much more in my classes and discussions now that I’ve begun to do all the readings assigned, every time. My classes are easier, more productive, and more fun now that I can follow and contextualize everything my professor and classmates talk about, instead of sweating in my chair hoping not to get called on to talk about the reading I missed.
  • Taking fewer classes. I used to be proud of the fact that I could handle heavy course loads every semester, but I’ve realized now that it doesn’t matter how many classes I take if I’m not getting as much out of each of them. I’m currently taking fewer units than I’ve ever taken before, but I’m learning more than I ever have because I have the time and attention to really engage with and be interested in the work I do.

If you are starting your college career, or even if you are midway through, keep a few of the above points in mind as you get closer to graduation. Have a great Winter Break!

Have you been putting off your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

 

Undecided: 3 Reasons to Go to College Without Choosing a Major

student reseachIf you are anything like me, you change your mind on things all the time. A month ago I liked vanilla ice cream; now I like chocolate. 4 years ago I listened to Eminem; now I listen to Coldplay. I used to believe in Santa Claus; now I’m a bit more skeptical. I could go on, but the point is that I’m 18 years old and my views shift almost constantly. This is totally normal. After all, I would be a pretty boring person if I always stubbornly stuck with the opinions I developed as a little kid. At this point you might be thinking: what relevance does this have to college? Don’t worry, I’m getting there.

Even though many kids believe that it is okay (even good!) to have an open mind, there seems to be one problematic and common exception to that rule: deciding on a college major before getting to college.

It sometimes seems like high school students feel like they have to have a defined major and path for their life before even showing up for the first day of college. How many 18 year olds already know by that point in their life what subject they love the most and want to study for 4 years? The world of academia is so wide and complex that a high school education just doesn’t expose students to all the possible fields of study they can take. In my opinion, going in to college undecided does a lot more good than harm. I understand this might be totally contradictory to what you hear from parents, teachers, friends, etc., so here are three reasons why it’s great to be undecided.

  1. There’s more to school than the typical core subjects. High schools mainly offer course in traditional disciplines like math, history, and English. In college there are a world of possibilities that many students have likely never heard of. The people who want to decide on a major before getting to college likely will choose something they’re familiar with, thereby cutting off their chance to study a less well-known subject. Only an open-minded student will be cognizant of taking advantage of, say, an Egyptology department!
  1. It’s nice to explore without being swamped in requirements. Students who are pre-decided on a major often find their course decisions dictated primarily by requirements. On top of general education requirements, underclassmen who have already decided their major can feel pressure to start knocking off requirements for their major too, limiting their ability to freely explore their ever-changing interests. Undecided students will feel less constrained by onerous requirements and will instead have more liberty to branch out.
  1. There’s no pressure to stick to your original plan. For many people, it’s a fact of human nature that we are hesitant to give up on things once we have started them. While sometimes this is a good thing, when it comes to choosing a college major it can be very pernicious. Ideally your choice in college major is dictated by what subject you feel most passionate about. When students come in fiercely decided on a certain major but then realize they don’t like it as much as they thought they would, stressful conflicts arise as to whether they want to stick to the original plan or change direction entirely. By coming in undecided, students won’t have this conflict, and instead will be able to make their major decision based on their current feelings, not their past promises.

I’m in the midst of my freshman year and am still exploring all my options. When people ask me what I’m majoring in, I give them the same answer I’ve been giving since my college search started: I’m undecided, and I’m proud of it.

Do you need some guidance with your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Aidan Calvelli

 

4 Tips for Taking Advantage of the Upcoming Holiday Break

taylor swiftWinter break is upon us!

The seasons are starting to change and we’re all starting to anticipate the holiday break that is merely weeks away. While the break is certainly a good time for relaxing, drinking some hot cider and spending time with family and friends, there are opportunities to get ahead while catching up on your sleep, too!

Here are four things to keep in mind for the upcoming holiday break.

  1. Network. You’re already going to be chatting with your friends & family, but now you can start these conversations with a purpose. Reach out to people who may have attended a school you’re applying to or someone who is currently a student. Pick their brain about student experiences, tips for the final stages of your application or prominent academic programs. Your best scoop on a college is an insider’s perspective, so take advantage of the people around you this holiday season who may be able to offer some good insight.
  2. Get involved. There are always a dozen ways to be involved in your community over the holiday breaks – whether you coordinate a book drive or cook and serve food to the homeless, the holidays are always a great time to give. If you don’t see the community service opportunity you’re looking for, create something of your own! It will be a satisfying experience, and college admissions committees will be happy to see that you took initiative to support your community.
  1. Fill out the FAFSA/CSS Profile. These applications for financial aid become available on January 1st, and your holiday break is a great time to get ahead on this process. Imagine how good you will feel knowing that this is completely taken care of when the March 1 deadline rolls around!
  1. Relax! High school can be stressful, and these breaks are given to you for a reason. While you shouldn’t sleep your break away, it is certainly recommended to take advantage of your days off and allow yourself to refocus. Give yourself some “me-time” and get yourself mentally prepared to kick off the New Year on a high note!

Be sure to use this time away from school to focus on your next academic adventure – college! Enjoy your winter break!

Need help prepping your early college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.

 

 

A Survivor’s Guide to College Apartment Living

apartmentI love college, and I love my apartment—I’ll be sad to leave. That doesn’t mean, however, that I didn’t have my share of rough spots along the way.

Before moving out of my freshman dorm I had never lived apart from my parents before, much less found my own apartment, chosen my own roommates, or paid my own bills. The learning curve was steep.

Three years later, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  • While apartment hunting, find a balance between high rent and comfortable living. Stay within your budget because college is expensive, but if at all possible don’t sacrifice your happiness and peace of mind; college can be hard and stressful, and often the thing you’ll want most is a comfortable room to retreat to when the going gets tough. The deciding questions to ask aren’t whether you really like high ceilings or whether you just have to have a gas stove instead of an electric one. Instead, check whether the walls are insulated, whether appliances are clean (or cleanable) and functional, and whether you’re sure you can afford it. If you’re living with roommates: Do you have enough space to avoid living on top of one another? Do you feel safe in the area? If forced to choose, remember that budget and comfort come first, and that you’ll only be there at most for a few years.
  • Consider subletting. It’s more short term, but it’s probably cheaper and it’s a great way to meet new people.
  • Any room or apartment, no matter how small or old or dark, can be made a lot more livable with a little love and care. If you choose a less attractive room or apartment in order to cut costs, bring in lights, rugs, furniture, or other décor to brighten it up. Room décor doesn’t need to be expensive (think Ikea or secondhand stores), and a few well-chosen items can do wonders. It’s worth the fairly small investment to have a nice place to call home.
  • Choose your roommates wisely. Roommates are a great way to keep living costs down and to make great friends. However, roommates you don’t get along with can be worse than not having roommates at all. Before committing to spending a year or more sharing a room with someone, consider whether your personalities mesh well, whether one of you is messier than the other, whether he/she is financially stable enough to pay his/her part of the rent on time, etc.
  • Having less stuff will make both moving and living a lot easier. Clutter occupies the living space as well as mental space, even if you don’t notice it, and will affect your roommates as well. Throw away or donate things you don’t need and keep tidy in order to make a small space feel bigger and more comfortable.

Remember, you’ll want to find a place that is safe and quiet so that you can be successful in your studies and also balance your social life. Happy apartment hunting!

Are you still trying to figure out how to handle your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

4 Ways Sleep Can Make or Break Your SAT or ACT Score

sleepYou have a big test coming up at the end of the week. You’re a dedicated, hard-working student, so you know you have to study to do well. The nights before the test, you stay up late, pushing yourself to review and learn as much as you can.

However, while taking the test, you can’t remember a lot of the information you spent so much time going over. Focusing on longer questions is more of a struggle than it should be, and you get irritated or panicked easily when you can’t figure out the answer. In the end, when you see your score, you feel that all that hard work and those late nights didn’t pay off as much as they should have. You wonder what you could have done wrong.

If this story sounds familiar, as it should to many ambitious high schoolers, it’s because you’ve experienced for yourself how sleep deprivation can hurt your performance on test day. Getting enough sleep is one of the most crucial steps you can take to achieve your highest potential score. Here’s how to make sure sleep deprivation isn’t holding you back:

1. Know how much you need. Several recent studies have shown that high school students are chronically sleep-deprived. Sleep scientists agree that adults need at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and teenagers probably need even more. If you’re consistently falling behind these numbers, you’ll need to make some changes in your schedule if you really want to get that high score you’re after.

2. Know you might not realize you’re sleep-deprived. Most people assume that as long as they don’t feel tired and drowsy, they aren’t really behind on sleep. In fact, studies show a person can become used to sleep deprivation to the point that they no longer recognize that they’re tired. However, the negative consequences of sleep deprivation still persist. Just because you’re not yawning, it doesn’t mean you’re fully awake and alert.

3. Know what the consequences are. Sleep loss can cause a host of problems for any high-achieving student. Lack of sleep leads to lapses in focus, difficulty memorizing new information, inability to recall important words and facts, problems with multitasking, increased irritability and stress, and quite a few other issues. If you want all your studying to pay off on test day, you have to eliminate these problems. Put simply, you have to get enough sleep to be the best test-taker you can be.

4. Know how to catch up. It’s not enough just to sleep 8 or 9 hours the night before your test. Due to a phenomenon called “sleep debt,” sleep loss actually accumulates over time. Essentially, every time you sleep 5 hours instead of 8, you fall that much further behind the sleep you need. The only way to catch up and get back to your peak self is to sleep well for several nights in a row. You’ll need to plan ahead and make sleep a priority in the week before the test.

Stay well rested and you’ll be at your best on test day! Good luck with the SAT tomorrow!

Are you uncertain about your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Cambrian Thomas-Adams

You’re Hired! 3 Ways to Handle Your First Job Interview in College

HandshakeBy the time students get to college, most have experienced what an academic interview is like. The interviewer asks about your scholastic interests, the particular reason why the school or program is exciting to you, and other questions relating to academics. However, once you get to college, you will be moving on to more professional interviews for internships and potential job opportunities. Many of the same rules apply to these settings, but there are even more particulars to be on the lookout for in order to succeed in this setting. Here are a few to keep in mind.

1. GET INVESTED. First and foremost, make sure you care about the position you are interviewing for. This should be a prerequisite for any situation, but a lot of times students don’t care that much and it shows in the lack of passion they have for the position. This is a major problem and something you definitely want to avoid in order to be successful.

In relation to this, make sure you know why exactly you want the position and some of the specific characteristics of the job. While a lot of times the interviews will start out with basic questions that help the interviewer get to know you, the ultimate goal of any of these interviews is to see if you a good fit for the position. In order to prove you are the right person for the job, it is crucial to demonstrate both your ability and understanding of the task at hand. Referencing specific responsibilities and job functions will allow you to show the interviewer that you mean business.

2. SHOW YOU FIT THE ROLE. It’s important to present a picture of yourself that shows why you are a good candidate for the job. Every company wants to get to know you, but you don’t have to tell them everything about yourself. This doesn’t mean lie at all, but include pertinent information and experiences that you have had that relate to the job opening. This is your chance to tell a story about yourself, so make sure it is one the interviewer will want to read from start to finish.

3. FIND SOMETHING IN COMMON. Finally, the most important thing you should do in this interview (and any interview in general) is connect with the person asking you questions. Multiple studies show that the more someone likes you, the greater chance you have of getting the job. No two interviews are the same in terms of connecting, so your best bet is to feel the situation out.

Does your interviewer seem like the type of person who would appreciate if you ask deep, insightful questions about the position? Or more direct, specific questions about the tasks you will perform? Sometimes, it is a mix and other times they like talking about their own experiences. Whatever the case may be, it is a good idea to make sure you do your best to truly connect with the interviewer. Ultimately they are either making the decision on whether or not you get hired, or they are offering a recommendation that will play a role in the process.

If you are able to check off most of these boxes as you prepare and experience your first professional interview, than you will be in a great position to succeed and earn the position you covet. Best of luck in your interviews!

Are you uncertain about your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

The Unexpected Perks of a Minimalist Lifestyle in College

StuffMinimalist living—living with fewer items—has become something of a fad. Pinterest infographics, Buzzfeed links, blogs, and even Atlantic articles extol the environmental, personal, and spiritual virtues of tiny houses, small closets, and clutter-free living. I’ve never liked jumping onto fads, but this one resonated with me.

I brought almost everything I owned with me to college, largely because my parents’ house didn’t have much space for me to leave things behind. Through the moving process, I realized I owned a lot more stuff than I realized, and much more stuff than I ever actually used or needed: I found middle school clothes that no longer fit, letters from people I couldn’t remember, Happy Meal toys, Beanie Babies, ninth grade math homework, and more. I thought I had finished purging all the junk by the time I pulled up to the parking lot to my dorm building, but was disappointed to find that even a few trash bags later, all my things still didn’t fit into my tiny new shared room.

I began selling and donating old clothes and extra things in freshman year to save up extra cash, fit more school spirit gear into my wardrobe, and clear space in my cramped dorm room. I also promised myself that I’d only ever buy new things if I didn’t already own something similar. It was hard at first, but I found that the more unnecessary things I got rid of the nicer my life became. It became easier to keep my room clean (ish), which kept my mind clearer and helped me stay focused while studying. It was easier to choose outfits in the morning, since I only kept items I either wore regularly or really liked. Extra pocket money didn’t hurt, either.

I continued getting rid of unnecessary belongings as I moved through my undergraduate career, and was surprised that I kept finding unexpected perks to a more minimalist lifestyle. When increasing rent convinced me to move from a dorm room to an apartment, and then from a double room to a triple room, I had little trouble fitting my things into smaller and smaller spaces, which saved me both money and peace of mind. When I studied and traveled abroad, I left behind fewer things (and therefore didn’t need to spend as much on storage). I stopped thinking of shopping as a pastime, which saved me time and money for more important things like travel and my education. I even began dressing better, since getting rid of things I didn’t need made me think hard about what styles I did and didn’t like.

I don’t know if I’ll keep up with a minimalist lifestyle after college, but it worked wonders for me as an undergraduate, both financially and personally. Hoarding belongings is a hard habit to break, but in my experience there’s no better time to break it than in college!

Need help prepping your college application? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

3 Freshmen Year Blunders that You’ll Want to Avoid

pass classFreshman year can be a trying time for a wide variety of reasons. Students are in a new environment, and experiencing the most independence they have had in their lives. While this can produce a lot of great experiences, it can also lead to many mistakes. Some of these mistakes are natural and even expected, and others are more costly. Whatever the case may be, here are three of the most common mistakes of freshman year and how to best avoid them.

1. You Don’t Get Enough Sleep. In the first few months of freshman year, there is so much to do and see. For many, it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day, and ultimately the thing many students cut is sleep. For a few days, this may work, but over the course of the semester it will catch up to you. A lack of sleep makes you more susceptible to sickness, stress, and doesn’t allow you to perform your best in the classroom. While it may seem like you are missing out if you turn in early some nights, in actuality you are pacing yourself to enjoy the entire semester and not just the next few days. There is nothing worse than falling in a hole because you missed class, or were too sick to perform on a test.

The solution to this is to identify a couple of activities that are musts for you and other ones that you will do if you have extra time. If you approach extracurricular activities from this perspective, sleep won’t seem like an optional task and you won’t suffer many of the pitfalls associated with sleep deprivation. Making sleep a bigger priority than some activities that you only have a passing interest in is a great way to avoid this mistake.

2. You Skip Your Classes. Even if you are in a 200 person general education lecture hall, it still is important to go to class. First, there is a direct correlation between showing up and your academic success. Second, you never know what you will learn in certain classes. Sometimes, connecting the dots between disciplines leads to your biggest academic breakthroughs. After all, you are in college first and foremost to expand your mind.

It’s much easier said than done to get to class every day, so create an incentive for attending class. Either treat yourself to breaks, food, or any other reward or go the other way and owe a friend lunch if you miss class. Whatever system you set up, make sure you do something because it will go a very long way in ensuring your continued presence in class.

3. You Close Yourself Off. College is a time to venture out and explore. There is a tendency for many students to stick to the activities they did in high school, or not really do much at all. It may be nice to have this free time for a couple weeks, but there is a reason clubs and groups are one of students’ favorite parts about college. The bonds you make and experiences you have in these settings are something every student should experience.

To avoid this mistake, just make sure you are saying yes enough to potential opportunities. This doesn’t mean over extend yourself and get involved in everything, but if you have an inkling for something then try it out. Again, it’s important to temper the balance between being involved and being over involved. Make sure you are able to walk this fine line so your studies don’t suffer.

Need help prepping your college application? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

3 Tips to Nail That College Interview

InterviewOf all the steps in the college application process, interviews might be the most terrifying. There’s no keyboard to hide behind and no time to sleep on a difficult question; it’s live and face-to-face.

These unpredictable elements aside, it’s also one of the easiest ways to demonstrate interest and get to know alumni from a particular college. Just by following these three, simple steps, the college interview can be an enormous benefit (instead of an enormous burden) to chances of admission:

1. Be On-Time and Professional

This one is fairly obvious, but it’s worth repeating. Plan to arrive at least 10 minutes early and dressed in your best business casual. Showing up late or in casual clothing (unless specifically requested by the interviewer) not only indicates irresponsibility, but a lack of respect and interest for the college itself.

2. Embrace Tough Queries

Every college interview is bound to include a quirky curveball that’s impossible to prepare for: “If you could have lunch with any historical figure, who would it be?”

Here’s the trick: the answer is pretty irrelevant. Especially for the above example, there’s no historical figure more “correct” than another. Instead, the interviewer is hoping to catch a glimpse of the interviewee’s inner passions. Let them be a tangent for digressions about favorite subjects/books/movies/hobbies/etc: “Leo Tolstoy. Have you read ‘Anna Karenina?’”

3. Come Prepared with Questions

Do the research! Interviewers will ask plenty of questions about extracurriculars, academics, etc, but towards the end of the interview (if not sooner), it’ll be the interviewee’s turn to ask questions. One exchange that should *never* occur in a college interview: “Now, do you have any questions for me?” “No…” This a terrible waste of an opportunity to learn more about the college. Moreover, it reflects poorly on an interviewee’s intellect and curiosity.

In a worst case scenario (“I forgot all of my questions!” or “I didn’t have time to research!”), the following are useful to end an interview:

– What is your favorite thing about ________? What is your least favorite thing?

– Is there an opportunity you wish you seized while you were a student/freshman at ________?

– In your opinion, what are the most important attributes that a student at ________ can have?

– Where is the best food on campus?

Most important of all: If a chance to interview presents itself, you should always take it! As long as you don’t arrive 20 minutes late in sweatpants while spouting profanities, a college interview is an excellent way to prove your enthusiasm and get to know the campus culture. Best of luck!

Do you need help crafting your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Madeline Ewbank is an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where she produces student films, interns for the US Department of State, and teaches ACT 36 courses. She is excited to help students achieve their college aspirations as a member of the Veritas Prep team.

3 Ways to Stay Out of Trouble Your Freshman Year of College

free-mba-admissions-guidesFreshman year of college is an entirely new experience, one replete with many highs and many lows. One of these lows is a new form of peer pressure that may be a little different than what one experienced in high school. For the first time in many people’s lives, they are on their own. This independence comes with a lot of benefits, but can also be potentially detrimental if not balanced well.

One of the virtues of independence is not having to work on anyone else’s schedule, which for some freshmen can be a tricky thing to balance. With no one checking on your every move, it might be easy to slip into a pattern of skipping classes, staying out late, and not doing the work you should. One reason a lot of these things happen is that friends and other external influences might try to convince you to engage in certain activities that might not be in your best interest. While some of these things might seem fun in the short term, the novelty will soon wear off and your academic well-being will suffer.

To avoid falling into this common situation freshman year, here are some wise moves to make.

1. Pick friends with similar interests

Try to find a group that has commonalities with yourself. Whether that is studying, sports, or anything else if you feel you share a common bond. Feeling like you “belong” is a great way to get acclimated to college. If you feel an urge to change your behavior or alter how you speak to fit in, that setting probably is not conducive to your success or well-being in college.

Additionally, if you find a group that cares about you, they won’t want to see you struggle or fail, which means that they will be completely understanding if you have to turn in early or not go out one night to prep for a big test.

2. Stay in some nights

In college there is something going on every night. While at first it might feel fun to try and experience it all, this can be overwhelming and actually diminish the enjoyment you get from each individual outing. If something that is normally exciting becomes routine, it can very easily lose its appeal. Additionally, if you are out every night it is very hard to excel in school and really succeed in a learning environment.

One way to cope with the constant pressure from friends and the atmosphere to go out is to designate certain nights as stay in nights. No matter what is going on, you have a deal with yourself to stay in and possibly get to bed early or catch up on some work. This enables you to keep a schedule and a good balance between school and fun, making each night you do go out that much better because it feels rewarding.

3. Get involved on campus

If you find something that you are passionate about that will keep you busy, you will most likely stay out of trouble. If it is an activity or sport, often your focus will motivate you to stay away from partying too hard so that your performance doesn’t suffer. Similarly with clubs that are more academic based, you will want to be rested and have a sharp mind to be part of the team or show your leadership. Getting involved on campus is a great way to stay busy and avoid peer pressures of your first year.

College is an incredible amount of fun, it is just about making sure you can temper the balance between all of the different pressures, and making sure that other people don’t run your own college experience.

Are you uncertain about your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

 

Get Ahead: Steps to Success for Early College Applications

AdmissionStudents around the country are jumping into the college application process – selecting schools, writing essays and requesting letters of recommendation. There are many steps involved, and the entire process gets condensed into an even shorter timeframe when you plan to submit early applications.

If you plan on applying to any schools for early deadlines, keep reading for some helpful information and tips for success! First, there are two different kinds of early applications:

Early Decision

  • This is a binding application, which means that if you are accepted, you are obligated to enroll there for your freshman year.
  • You can only apply to one school under an Early Decision deadline.
  • You may apply to additional schools, but if you are accepted to a school through Early Decision, you should withdraw your applications to other schools.
  • A great choice for students who have a clear choice for their top school and want to find out sooner than later if they are admitted.

Early Action

  • You can apply to more than one school through Early Action.
  • This is not a binding application, which means that if you are admitted, you can choose to accept or deny the offer.
  • A great choice for students who want to indicate to a few different schools that they are his/her top choice, but don’t want to commit to an Early Decision application at just one school.

Now that we’ve gone over the types of early applications, let’s dive into some steps to success for submitting early applications.

  1. Do your research & finalize your college list. First things, first. You should finalize your list of top choice schools and do some research to find out which schools accept early applications. Then, you need to dig deeper. Go on a college tour if you are able and haven’t already! Learn as much as you can about each of your top schools. If you are submitting early applications, it means you really want to attend that school, so do your due diligence to determine if each of your top schools are places you can truly see yourself next year.
  1. Make a plan. This is a tedious, but necessary step. Take a look at the early applications you are submitting and all of the required elements for each application. Make a plan for tackling these applications so that you aren’t crunched for time a week before the deadline.
  1. Get moving! It’s time to make things happen! Since you are going to be on a tighter timeframe than regular deadlines, you should start moving down your checklist with vigor! Reach out to the people who you’d like to write your recommendations and get them started on that process. Make sure you’ve built a good relationship with the college counseling department at school so you have no trouble obtaining official transcripts. Double-check to make sure that all of your test scores have been submitted to your top schools.

Good luck!

Need help prepping your early college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.

College Decisions And Neapolitan Ice Cream

Neapolitan Ice CreamIf you’re anything like me, the world is full of too many universities to choose from. I investigated hundreds of colleges in my research, contacted thirty, visited twenty, and eventually applied to ten. I spent months determining the proper formula of schools to apply to: how many was too many? Did I apply to enough options?

With all of these thoughts running through my mind, I developed a formula to assemble the perfect range of colleges on your application list and, borrowing a metaphor from my favorite college admissions guidebook – it’s as simple as Neapolitan ice cream. First though, you need to understand what the “Middle 50%” means.

THE MIDDLE 50%

These are statistics provided by every university that can be found online or on their admissions page. It represents the average range for ACT/SAT scores of accepted students. It’s also an extremely useful tool for determining the likelihood of your admission. For instance, my score on the ACT was a 33. One of my safety schools was the University of Washington (click on the “Achievement” tab to view Middle 50%); I knew it was a safety school, because most accepted students had an ACT score between 25 and 31. My score was higher, so I knew that my chances of admission were higher. Some schools might offer variations on this statistic. I also applied to Reed College, whose average ACT score is 31. This was close to my number, so I knew that it classified as a compromise school for me. Now, let’s have some ice cream!

CHOCOLATE = REACH SCHOOLS. The Middle 50% of admitted students’ test scores are higher than your own OR the admissions rate is at/below 15%. These are the colleges that everyone and their sister want to attend. It’s a highly desirable academic environment with competitive admissions. Scholarships might be difficult to receive given the high volume of applicants.

VANILLA = COMPROMISE SCHOOLS. The Middle 50% of admitted students’ test scores match your own.

These are colleges are still great schools that anyone would be happy to attend, but they’re slightly less competitive and less prestigious than reach schools. Scholarships are handed out to students of merit more frequently.

STRAWBERRY = SAFETY SCHOOLS. The Middle 50% of admitted students’ test scores are lower than your own. These colleges are significantly less competitive in their admissions and most often large public schools or small, local private schools. Depending on your interests, this might also be a community college. Merit-based scholarships are more readily available to students with competitive applications.

Use these classifications to balance your college application list. Aim to perfectly divide your options into thirds between chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry schools. If you apply to three schools, hit one of each. If you apply to nine schools, include three of each.

Strawberry schools are extremely important to pay attention to, and perhaps one of the most important elements of your college search. In April, they’ll give you a variety of options with better financial aid (at least in my experience) than your vanilla and chocolate choices. Too many students apply to strawberry schools that they aren’t really interested in attending; this is a fatal mistake.

The goal is to have a wide array of options when it is time to make the final decision and ample choices to find the closest (and most realistic) fit of financial aid, academic rigor, class sizes, location, and personal interest— so it’s possible to attend the best university for you. Best of luck with your applications!

Do you need help crafting your college applications to your chocolate schools? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Madeline Ewbank now happily attends Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Her favorite things about her college decision are its proximity to improv theater, free student admission to the Art Institute of Chicago, and the opportunity to teach ACT 36 classes just 5 minutes from campus. She is excited to help students achieve their college a

Do You Know the 5 Ways to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen?

junk foodI didn’t exactly pick up the freshman fifteen—the weight gain that so many new students experience in their first semester of college—but I did certainly gain at least a freshman seven or ten, and didn’t shake it off until halfway through my sophomore year.

I was luckier than many of my classmates in that I am naturally thin and I actually like working out, but there are still plenty of things I wish I had done in order to stay fit. Here are 5 different ways to avoid those extra pounds your first year of college:

1. Recognize that just because you’re at a buffet doesn’t mean you have to try every item on the menu. Meal plans mean dining halls, and dining halls mean food set up to feed thousands of students quickly and cheaply. Eating everything you see behind the counter is tempting, but all that will accomplish is 1) expanding your waistline, and 2) getting you more tired of the food earlier in the semester.

2. Sign up for a physical education class, if it’s available. Two out of my three workouts every week are scheduled P.E. courses that I’m getting graded for. If I wasn’t in those classes, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gotten beyond a single workout each week. They’re short, free (usually), worth an easy (if small) GPA boost, and great motivation to actually haul your tail to the gym.

3. Find out if your university gives you a free gym membership. If so, use it—even if only because affordable gym memberships are hard to come by.

4. Put mealtimes into your schedule, and stick to it. College schedules are often less regular than high school schedules, so the shift away from regular mealtimes can be jarring for both your routine and your metabolism. Eating constantly is hard habit to notice, an even harder habit to break, and an easy way to eat far more than you mean to.

5. Buy healthy choices. For any meals you eat outside of the dining halls: Healthy food is both worth paying for and worth walking to the grocery store for. Buying five bags of Cheetos for dinner from your in-dorm stop-n-shop does not count as dinner, and deep down you definitely know that.

Be sure to keep these things in mind, and you’re bound to stay clear of those extra (sneaky) lbs freshman year. Happy snacking!

Are you starting to think about applying to college? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

 

The 5 Dos and Don’ts of Studying Abroad

study aboard girlSo you’ve chosen your study abroad program, and now you want to figure out what to do (or not do) while you’re away. Studying abroad can be one of the most fantastic and eye-opening adventures of your college experience, but it can also be the most intimidating. With four or more months in a totally new environment, you’ll want to balance your time so you make the most of it, while avoiding common pitfalls.

Things you want to DO while studying abroad:

  1. Absorb the local culture. I know: this is a broad to-do. However, it’s probably the most important! We humans are creatures of comfort, and it’s easy to get sucked into old habits of what you used to do in your home country. Explore your new neighborhood, your abroad university campus, and public transportation. Embrace your new home and friends, and don’t worry too much if you make mistakes: you’ll catch on.
  2. Maintain a budget. Especially if you plan on traveling to other countries and cities, you may break the bank sooner than later. Use tickets stubs and receipts as personal souvenirs rather than more expensive and [possibly] useless items. Find cheap flights and trains. If you’re stationed in one country, you might even get a part-time job to help cover some of your food and entertainment costs. That will also help you immerse yourself in the culture!

Things you DON’T want to do while studying abroad:

  1. Don’t assume people speak English. While it’s true that English is the lingua franca of academia and business—the language that people turn to when communicating and doing commerce across borders—you shouldn’t rely on that fact to get around. Taking a language course is often a required part of abroad curriculum, but even if it’s not a requirement, try speaking in the local tongue when you can. Locals will respect you more if they see your effort! I also had a translation app on my smartphone just in case.
  2. Don’t book all of your extra trips ahead of time. It can be quick and inexpensive to get to nearby countries and cities on weekends, but don’t plan everything too far ahead. I went to an abroad program that provided students an easy way to plan and purchase our trips well in advance of departure from the U.S.; but when I arrived abroad, there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room for spontaneity, and booking trips with my new friends. Also, last-minute bookings can still be cheap for hostels and budget airlines.
  3. Don’t only hang out with students from your home country. Similar to the first “do” item, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the full experience of being abroad. Sticking too close to comfort might make you closer to your friends, but not closer to a memorable cultural experience. If you want to hang out with people from home, you might as well have stayed there!

Need help prepping your college application? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Dakotah Eddy is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant, and the Assistant Director of Admissions Consulting. She received both her bachelor’s degree and MBA from Cornell University (Go Big Red!), and studied abroad on Semester at Sea. She enjoys creating: from culinary masterpieces, to wearable art, to tech solutions.

How to Make The Most Of Your Senior Year at College

RutgersAfter three arduous years of work at a college, many young people see their final year of college in much the same way that they saw the final year of high school: an opportunity to make up for the merrymaking they didn’t get to in their previous years. This is a natural instinct, and there will certainly be time to indulge in some of the new privileges that your early twenties provide, but the senior year of college is also the transition point from having a clear structure, support system, and road map for how to accomplish whatever goals a student might have, into the wide world where all of these things become less available. For this reason, the most important thing to do your senior year is to develop a plan for the years to come and start using the resources of the college to set that plan in motion. Here are some useful questions to ask to help you make the most of your senior year in college.

What’s Next?

For many students, the answer is more education, whether that is in the form of graduate school, a fellowship, or some occupation-specific training program. For whatever the next leg of your journey is, make sure that you set yourself up with all the tools necessary to succeed. Make sure that all necessary transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation happen early. Getting recommendation letters is a pesky step that is required by most schools and fellowships and professors are getting A LOT of requests for letters. Ask professors early, and as soon as you receive the parameters of the recommendation send them to the person writing the recommendation. It is terrible to wake up one morning and realize that you may miss your deadline because you are waiting on a professor, who you have little power to cajole into working any faster, to give some necessary piece of the puzzle.

How do I get there?

The process of getting fellowships and getting into grad schools is pretty straightforward, but what if your goal is to get your feet wet in the working world? Your school can provide you with great tools in order to accomplish this goal as well. Ask advisors if the university has any partnerships with companies in the field in which you wish to work. If there are former students that work at an institution, reach out. No need to be pushy, a statement that you are a student that loves the organization and would like to someday be involved will suffice. Nothing is a guarantee, but it is good to lay the groundwork for applying to an institution when you still have the luxury of the support provided by the school. Another great tool is an internship. Internships are a divisive topic, as asking people to work for free in the hope that they will someday be able to work for pay can be problematic, but while in school, internships can often be applied for credit and thus provide some compensation beyond the experience of working in the field. Internships are also a great way to get your foot in the door with an organization and to develop the occupational skills and the relationships to increase the probability of getting hired out of school. If you are in a field like math or computer science, you can likely forego the unpaid step and get right into the field, but it’s still not a bad idea to try a paid internship as a way for you to take a trial run of the job.

What do I need?

This topic has already been broached in the previous sections, but figuring out what the institution of learning you are a part of can provide you to help you make the transition to the next chapter of your life is vital. It may be that there are postgraduate research grants that are available to you, or there may be job fairs that are organized by the school. The school might have contacts with recruiters if you are in a field that is highly recruited, and there could be many more helpful postgraduate tools that your school provides. The school WANTS you to be successful and make a ton of money so that they can pester you for donations for the rest of your life, so ask them for help! It is not imposing on anyone to be very clear about your needs and ask for the tools to have them met.

Of course in your final year you want to make the most of the social connections you have formed and the carefree nature of having your basic needs met by an institution, but it’s also important to start planning for the vast future outside of school. Whether it is by solidifying relationships with professors in order to prepare for letters of recommendation or applying for internships to give you the connections to have a job waiting for you after school, make sure to use your senior year to create a roadmap for life beyond your school.

Do you have younger friends who need help with their college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.

 

Roomie Etiquette 101: How to Establish Respect and Friendship With Your New Housemate

roomieYou’ve emailed with your new roommate over the summer but now it’s real. After you set up your twin bed and photomontage on the wall, you hear the door open and a female voice yells “hey there!” from the living room.

The roomie has arrived.

You exit your bedroom for the official meet and greet. You’re excited. The start of a beautiful friendship! As you begin this new journey in a shared living space, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind to ensure your roommate feels appreciated and respected. Here are just a few…

RESPECT. You’re used to dumping dirty dishes into the sink and watching your little brother rinse them before loading the dishwasher. College life is quite different. Sure, dump the dishes, but have common courtesy for your new housemate and hand wash them before bed. It may take an extra ten minutes, but you, and your roomie, will be happy to wake up to an empty sink and clean smell in the kitchen. This applies to all common areas like the living room (take your belongings back to your room – no one wants a sweatshirt graveyard!), as well as the bathroom. Try not to dominate this intimate shared space with multiple hair and body products. Keep a few things in the shower, but store excessive items in your room.

CONNECT. It is not always going to be easy, but if you find yourself looking to your roomie for companionship, be honest and transparent. Living together often ends in naturally finding out a lot about the person. To start off on the right foot, ask your new housemate questions about their interests and passions. You can offer your own stories of family, friends, or girlfriend/boyfriend experiences. Storytelling is valuable when it comes to relating to one another. You are bound to find common ground and connecting in this way can solidify your friendship early on.

ACTIVITIES. Try to find an activity on campus to help create a bond that can carry over to your living space. It is helpful to find something that will give you and your roommate an opportunity to shine. Are you creative? Attend the Fall Arts display that demonstrates new artists. Is your roomie an avid snowboarder? Ask if he/she would want to join the on campus ski/board club … and if they would be open to teaching you! Selecting a few common activities helps keep the roommate relationship strong throughout the academic year.

Living with a stranger can be hard. But if you connect and show respect, you’ll find ease in co-habitating with your roommate and perhaps even find a lifelong friend.

Do you have questions about college admissions or your application?  Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Shay Davis

 

 

Tackling the Tricky “Best Answer”: 3 Steps to Succeed on the ACT Reading

writing essayUnlike the ACT Math, in which there is only one correct possibility, the ACT Reading will present multiple interpretations of a passage that are defensible. Rarely will one choice distinguish itself as the clear solution or, in the language of the exam, as the “best answer.”

Obviously, in literature classes, there really are no “best answers” for interpreting subjective art, poetry, and prose. But as far as the ACT Reading is concerned, here’s a simple formula for determining the correct multiple choice:

1. Identify which is wordier: the question or the possible answers?

If the question is longer, jump to 2A. If the possible answers are longer, jump to 2B.

ME - Oct 9 _1ME - Oct 9 _2

2A. Simplify the question.

*This sample question is excerpted from Passage 5.B of the ACT’s Sample Reading Questions. The original passage can be found here. Try it out for practice!

Distill the original question into its most significant question words. In this example, the question is very specific about the comparison. In this example, the correct answer will very specifically relate the narrator’s expectations to reality— be wary of options that open with the wrong claim, such as “similar,” but follow-up with a soundproof justification for why the expectations are dissimilar from reality.

ME - Oct 9 _3ME - Oct 9 _4

 

2B. Simplify the multiple choice.

*This sample question is excerpted from Passage 5.A of the ACT’s Sample Reading Questions. The original passage can be found here. Try it out for practice!

Before reading too deeply into the nuances of A, B, C, and D, break them down into their core essences (ideally 4-8 words). Using the example above, which best describes the transition? A description to a reflection? Or an overview to an explanation? The “best answer” will usually be the most apt summary of a passage, even in the simplest of terms.

3. Check your work

Confirm that all parts of the multiple choice selection are accurate. For instance, using the example question provided for 2B: If A, “a description of events,” was the best general summary, read the whole of option A to verify its accuracy.

If “a description of events leading up to sudden action by the narrator to a reflection on the intentions and meanings behind that action” is 100% correct, great! Bubble it in on the answer sheet.

If it’s not— in this case, the passage might not reflect on the meaning behind an action— don’t bubble it in. An answer must be 100% correct to be the “best answer.” If any part of a multiple choice selection is fallible, the whole thing is wrong. (One bad apple spoils the bunch.)

Just try again with another simplified summary!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, check out our free online ACT resources, and be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Madeline Ewbank is an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where she produces student films, interns for the Department of State, and teaches ACT 36 courses. She is excited to help students achieve their college aspirations as a member of the Veritas Prep team.

 

4 Easy Ways to Develop Relationships with Your Professors

In ClassCollege can be demanding in a number of ways. There are the social demands that can take up large swaths of time in the evening, academic demands, the more existential demands with regard to what path you will follow in your studies and beyond. But – besides all that – there is the added demand to be noticed among the potentially hundreds of students a professor may teach. The benefits of developing a relationship with professors are numerous, from potential connections to job providers within your field, to having a person to heap praises on you (I am speaking of the dreaded letters of recommendation). Recommendations are needed by the fistful when students get to the place in their studies when they start applying for grants, internships, fellowships, and higher degrees. These pesky pieces of paper are the bane of many student’s existence and are especially tricky to obtain if you are not a student who easily forms relationships with teachers and other mentor figures. For those who may not have their professors on speed dial, here are some tips for how to develop a relationship with professors.

1. Connect with a professor you actually respect.

Ideally, the professors that you end up forging a connection with will be renowned in their field, but if professors really rub you the wrong way, it will be extremely difficult to maintain any kind of meaningful relationship with them. It is likely that all the faculty in your program are pretty good at what they do, so allow the natural compatibility that helps all relationships form to act in the realm of professor-students relationships as well.

2. Connect with a professor whose field of study interests you.

One of the best resources that professors can offer beyond advice and letters of recommendation is an opportunity to connect you to work in their field, either by employing you directly or connecting you with others in the field who may need interns or employees. For this reason it is extremely important to connect with professors whose work you find interesting. Having access as an undergraduate to someone who is knowledgeable and passionate about a field of study is extremely helpful, especially for those interested in a field that could involve undergraduate research, as it creates a built in mentor who you can aid in research and who can help you in doing your own independent investigations.

3. Don’t just go to office hours if you have a question about class materials (though definitely go to office hours if you have questions about class materials).

Office hours are built into a professor’s schedule so that students can have access to the faculty one on one. Utilize this time! Certainly go if you’d like clarification on a topic from the lecture, but also just go and chat! Ask the professor about their research, ask what is hard and what is rewarding about their field, ask what advice they would give themselves at your age. People love to talk about themselves, so this will not be an inconvenience. This is also a great opportunity to talk about your own personal goals and ask for advice on how to achieve them. These conversations not only demonstrate that you are passionate enough to make time to talk, but will also give the professor things to chat about should you need to ask them for a letter of recommendation.

4. Follow up.

In general, this little networking trick is a great way to stay present in a person’s experience. If you have a good conversation with a professor, or you enjoyed their class, or you are just feeling a bit sycophantic, send your professor an email. Sending something short and kind, even something as short as, “Thanks for making the time to chat with me today. I really appreciated your insights” can go a long way toward starting a relationship with a professor. Don’t be afraid to follow up, as long as you aren’t asking for anything specific, most people are happy to receive kind follow up emails. A nice follow up can also help to establish a correspondence which can be useful should you actually need something like a recommendation or advice on where to apply for a job.

These are all pretty straight forward techniques, but don’t be afraid to use them. Professors are paid, often quite generously, to be available to students. So ask for help, ask for guidance, and make yourself known. It will be extremely beneficial down the line and will make the time when you need advice, recommendations, or referrals much easier.

Need help prepping your college application? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.

You Can Afford College! A Guide to Scholarship Resources

PiggyBankCost is one of the most prominent reasons that high school students choose not to apply to college. After nearly nine years helping students get into college, I can confidently say that you can afford college! There are many sources of financial aid—money that organizations and the government give or lend to you to help you pay for higher education—including grants, loans, work study, and scholarships. Scholarships are attractive because they don’t have to be repaid. Let’s explore the broad spectrum of scholarship resources.

There are scholarships for all types of students. They may be granted to members of certain religious, ethnic, age, gender, or regional groups. They may be awarded based on interest in a certain subject, volunteerism, for athletic and academic aptitude. Because there are so many scholarships out there, your scholarship search will probably be the most daunting aspect of securing scholarships.

It’s useful to start your search on a scholarship-specific search engine. (Using a mainstream search engine, like Google, may return several million results.) Some top scholarship search engines are CollegeBoard.com, fastweb.com, CollegeNET.com, scholarships.com, and ScholarshipMonkey.com. CollegeBoard’s scholarships only include scholarships from reputable and established organizations. CollegeNET.com offers peer-voted scholarships that aren’t based on traditional factors such as GPA or income, in addition to the search engine. Fastweb contains the most up-to-date scholarships, as they update their databases daily! Explore these sites to determine which yields the best results for you.

Millions of students rely on these scholarship search engines, so you should also supplement your search with more personally-tailored resources. You will find school-specific scholarships and fellowships at your target colleges, so make sure to familiarize yourself with their sites. Prospective post-graduation employers that interest you may offer scholarships; many organizations also offer scholarships to children of employees. Your high school guidance counselor will also receive scholarship information that may be more aligned to your community.

When you’ve identified scholarships to apply to, there are several factors to keep in mind. Start looking for scholarships early and continue to search for them [even after you’re enrolled in college]. Take some time to learn about each organization that is awarding the scholarships you’re applying to, so that your essays are personally tailored to each.

Remember, there’s a scholarship for everything, so never assume you can’t afford school!

Need some help with your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Dakotah Eddy is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant, and the Assistant Director of Admissions Consulting. She received both her bachelor’s degree and MBA from Cornell University (Go Big Red!), with the aid of several scholarships, grants, fellowships. She enjoys creating: from culinary masterpieces, to wearable art, to tech solutions.

 

 

An Introvert’s Survival Guide to College: The Importance of “Me” Time

peaceAll I ever did in my freshman year of college was sleep, socialize, and work. Predictably, I burned out only a little more than halfway through the semester.

I’ve always been fairly introverted, but until college I had never felt any significant pressure to be any other way. Socially speaking, elementary school prepared me well for middle school, which prepared me well for high school. I always had structured work time, structured social time, structured free time (leisure hours after school) and structured alone time (home hours after leisure hours). “Me” time was abundant, automatic, and sometimes even boring. I even had my own room throughout middle school and high school, where I regularly hid from the world to relax, reflect, and recharge my social batteries.

The opposite was true in college. I shared a dorm room with another freshman, lived in a packed and noisy eight-floor dorm building in a six-building dorm unit, and was bombarded every day with people I wanted to meet and people who wanted to meet me. During the day I networked obsessively for reliable study friends, smart project partners, internships, research positions, and club leadership positions; at night, I bonded with dorm-mates, explored parties on frat row (overrated), and attended sorority recruitment events.

The result of all this was that I ended up with almost no “me” time at all, not including hours spent catching up on homework. I got so carried away by my excitement about college that I forgot to pay attention to my own needs. Even though I was getting all of my work done (usually in groggy frenzies twenty minutes before my 10am class), I was selling myself short mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

As the novelty of college life wore off, I realized that I had built up an unhealthy lifestyle. It was hard to accept at first, but I eventually came to terms with the fact that I was simply not made for the routine in which so many of my more extroverted friends seemed to thrive.

I soon became very sure that the reason I felt so burned out was that my demanding course load required not only intellectual energy but also enthusiasm and focus, which I was only able to sustainably generate when I felt settled and healthy. I began whittling down my social commitments, turning down or rescheduling invitations, and cutting my personal party time allowance to no more than one or two nights a week. I ate more healthily and worked out more, I became more aware and appreciative of my small circle of truly close friends, and my grades went up.

I realize now that the problem was that I had failed to recognize how valuable my own time was. I thoughtlessly committed the limited hours in my day to every passing event, extracurricular, or outing that happened to pique my interest. I know now that because I’m introverted, I badly need to keep some of that time to myself if I’m to benefit from the time that I do choose to spend being productive or social. I’m happy to say I learned my lesson: these days I make sure to save a block of time every week just for me, and I can’t imagine life without it.

Are you starting to think about applying to college? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

 

3 Ways to Spice Up Studying: How to Overcome That Boring Class

procrastinationMost colleges have general education requirements outside of one’s major. While this is great, and extremely important, for building a well-rounded student, it can sometimes lead to less than exciting class choices. Having a liberal arts educational base helps many students develop as critical thinkers, but in the moment it may not be the most enjoyable process. Sometimes, it is hard to just get started to study for these classes. If they don’t necessarily connect to your future employment prospects, and it’s something you are utterly disinterested in, here are some things to do to get your excitement juices flowing.

1. Turn it into a contest

Nothing gets people excited like a little healthy competition. Find some friends in the class, and turn study time into fun academic type contests. While this certainly sounds a little nerdy, it can help compensate for the lack of excitement these classes create. It may not be that intriguing to you to learn about architecture in Egypt in 1000 BCE, but if you can beat a friend by memorizing a couple facts, the motivation to study becomes slightly more compelling.

Now this is not to say you should turn your general education class into a high stakes gambling ring, but tying the class to external incentives may just give you the pop you need to get into action and really start hitting the books. Whether it is figuring out who knows the material the best, or seeing who will get the best score on a test, any type of healthy competition can be good for studying.

2. Tie it into something you care about

You may not be that interested in East Asian art from 2500 BCE, or early Greek scientific hypotheses, but something within that content has to be interesting and connected to your major or a hobby. Take some time and explore the subject in detail, which also gets you studying, and try to find connections to things you care about. However loose they may be, a connection that adds a personal interest or pushes you to crack open a textbook is extremely helpful in spicing up your study habits.

If you are a business major and in a history class, try to figure out what the commerce was at the time. How did merchants succeed in a different economy and what can you take from that to apply it to your life? If you are a premed student and learning about early English poetry, what kind of subjects did they discuss in relation to medicine. How far have people advanced. The world is full of connections, it is just about making them to ensure your study process is somewhat enjoyable.

3. Challenge yourself

Finally, challenge yourself. If you force yourself to sit front and center in the classroom, you will feel a personal motivation to study. Nothing is more embarrassing than being called out by a professor, and not knowing the answer to the question. Sitting in the front turns on a type of self-preservation that will motivate you to study no matter what the class is. If you know that you will be called on, it doesn’t matter how disinterested you are in the subject, you will be studying and paying attention in class.

This may seem a little cruel and unusual, but it is a good strategy! Whatever the case is, you will be thankful you learned these somewhat random subjects later on, as you never know when they will come in handy to discuss.

Need help prepping your college application? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

 

5 Tips for Ivy-Worthy Extracurriculars

clubsExtracurricular activities are an enormous part of your college application; they’re the main tool that admissions counselors use to imagine your contributions to campus life and culture. They’re also enormous time commitments, so choose wisely. Below are a few tips to help you figure out which ones to choose…

1. Quality, Not Quantity
Take this advice from someone who is always spread too thin: it’s not worth it. It’s OK in your freshman year to be involved with a number of extracurricular activities, but as you progress through high school, find the extracurriculars that you value most and actively search for more meaningful ways to participate.

I didn’t have enough space on my Common Application to include all of the clubs and activities from my four years of high school. But frankly, I’d wager that only 2-3 of those extracurriculars — the handful that I deeply committed to during my senior year — mattered to admissions counselors.

2. Seek Leadership Positions
College admissions counselors look for initiative and influence in prospective students. This doesn’t mean that you need to be the president of every single group you’re in, but it does mean that you need to show personal growth and engagement in each activity. Be cognizant of tangible ways to display your individual achievement— possibly by running for club treasurer, representing your organization at community events, or submitting your extracurricular work for awards.

3. Dare To Be Different
Activities such as school sports, community service, debate, yearbook, and orchestra demonstrate well-rounded skill sets, but they aren’t especially unique. There’s nothing wrong with joining the clubs that your friends are in, but be aware that following the crowd in all of your activities will make standing out that much harder.

One of my most significant extracurriculars was an internship with my National Public Radio affiliate. Radio journalism opened my mind to a new spectrum of careers, introduced me to friends from distant neighborhoods, and distinguished my work experience dramatically from the rest of my peers.

4. D.I.Y.
If your dream extracurricular doesn’t exist, make it happen. This is another great way to demonstrate your leadership skills, in addition to your own powers of innovation. I really enjoyed theater in high school, but none of the local troupes were performing the types of plays that interested me. So I co-founded a teen-powered theater company dedicated to performing student-written work and sci-fi productions. It ended up being one of the most fun and rewarding decisions I’ve ever made.

5. Love What You Do, Do What You Love
Never ever, ever, ever join an extracurricular for the sake of your college application. Extracurriculars are an opportunity to enrich yourself with connections, experiences, and insights that you wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. A college acceptance is just one of the many, many benefits to engaging with your passions and your community.

Remember, extracurricular activities are an enormous part of your college application, so be sure to stay active and involved things you are most passionate about. Best of luck in preparing your applications!

Need help prepping your college application? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Madeline Ewbank is an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Her current extracurriculars include producing feature-length student films, interning for the U.S. Department of State, and teaching ACT 36 courses. She is excited to help students achieve their college aspirations as a member of the Veritas Prep team.

What 3 Things Should You Do On Orientation Day?

College orientation is one of the most exciting days ever! For the first time, students are in an entirely new environment taking on an entirely new challenge. Orientation can seem daunting at first, but really it is one of the best ways to start your college experience.

For some, this is the first new school they have gone to since freshman year of high school. Even if you have already met your admissions counselor, there will definitely be a plethora of new people who you haven’t met . Orientation is the perfect place to meet your roommate/floormate and practice getting comfortable in naturally uncomfortable settings.

You may be a little nervous about this event, but the good news is many other students feel the same way you do! There is no need to be anxious or concerned about going up to a complete stranger – this is what advisors, counselors, and professors are hoping you will do. That is just one of the many secrets of orientation, and here are a couple more to help you start your new college experience on a high note.

1. Make friends with your orientation advisor

Every school has orientation advisors; these are current students who work to make the orientation process an exciting one. These students are passionate about the university, knowledgeable about classes and majors, and most importantly – willing to be of assistance to new students. It may be intimidating to try and befriend one of these orientation advisors but that is what they are there for. Plus, it is really the first chance for you to communicate with a classmate in college. In high school it was normal to be friends with primarily students in your grade. While that also happens in college, it’s perfectly natural to make friends with seniors, juniors, and sophomores as well.

2. Pay attention during the information sessions

Getting off to a strong academic start as a freshman will put you ahead of the general population who may struggle their first few weeks. One of the best ways to be prepared academically, is to pay attention during the information sessions at orientation. Sometimes orientations can take place two months before your freshman year will start, othertimes, they are only days away from the first day of school. It is important to stay motivated to pay close attention to what the advisors are saying. Try your best to focus and soak up all the pertinent information related to your major because it will come in handy later.

3. Schedule your classes

Many universities have dedicated time to schedule your classes during orientation. This is a new process for incoming students, and having advisors and current students there to help is an invaluable resource that you should use. Sometimes, students like to put this off until they can do more research and figure out the best classes to take. You can always reschedule or further customize your classes, so get something down on paper during orientation.

Overall, keep these things in mind (and remember to have fun!) during student orientation. Navigating through this event will lead you to success  your freshmen year and set you up for a great first start of college!

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Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

New School, New Friends: 2 Things to Remember When Communicating in Your New College Community

roomateYou’ve probably heard adults say that college is “an important learning experience”, but you may not have realized that in college, you’re learning more than high-level academic content. For example, the instant you leave your hometown – and with it, your family and childhood friends – to begin life in your college dorm, you’ll be learning how to live with strangers, which, I can say with certainty, is a skill. In fact, your whole social and personal life is going to “restart” once you go to college, because you won’t be waking up to your mom’s or dad’s breakfast anymore, or going to classes with people you’ve known for years. With a few exceptions, you’re going to be surrounded by veritable strangers 24/7, which is a thrilling and a nerve-wracking prospect: thrilling, because you’ll have a chance to meet all sorts of new unique people, and scary because, well, who doesn’t feel a little anxious about getting along with people they don’t know?

A lot of the advice I’m going to give you is only going to make sense once you’ve been in college for a while. Even so, the following can help you navigate the social element of the “college experience” as you begin to figure out what you want in your adult life.

Balance community events and one-on-one hang-outs

When you first get to college, you and many other freshman will be “on the hunt” for new friends – seriously, it’s a little like speed-dating. Roommates will ask you to come to parties with them; peers living on your floor will ask you if you want to grab lunch after class; you’ll get 14 new friend requests a day on Facebook from people you hardly know, etc. However, despite all of this feverish socializing, you may find that you aren’t forming any deep connections, at least not right away. My advice to you is to attend community events – whether they take the form of sport games, barbecues, a new club meeting, or a lecture – that you are interested in, and also make it a point to ask some people you meet at these events to hang out one-on-one. Why? Community events in college can give you a feel of the campus vibe, can help you make form new interests, and can introduce you to people who are looking for similar things as you – whether that’s sustainable living, or learning new languages, or cooking together. So, if you aren’t finding close friends in your dorm or your classes, you can meet other people by getting involved in community life. And don’t be shy about asking people you meet to hang out – you’ll be amazed to find how many other underclassmen are still looking for close friends, even many months into college.

It’s important to also consider the fact that once you graduate college, you may move to a new city to start your career. That means that developing the abilities to get out to local and community events, and to meet people at them, will be useful and necessary in your adult life.

Communicate clearly and kindly with your roommate:

Passive aggressive relationships between roommates are far too common in college, which is a shame, because they are stressful (to the point that they can affect academics) and easily avoidable. Even if you’ve shared a room with a sibling or with another kid before at a summer camp, sharing a room in a college dorm is a different ball-game. First of all, you won’t know your roommate as well as you do a sibling, so there’s a good chance you’ll find it more difficult to tell him or her why he/she needs to turn down his/her music, or pick his/her clothes up off the floor, etc. Second of all, it’s easy to quickly develop poor communication habits with a roommate, and as I said, this can affect your academics.

When I was in college, I saw far too many situations in which roommates were extremely upset with each other over relatively minor problems (like cleaning dishes) because neither had taken the time to sit down with the other person, discuss their schedules, and figure out a compromise that everyone could accept. Instead, both parties complained about the other, meaning the apartment wasn’t amicable for anyone.

Given that there’s a good chance you’ll end up living with apartment-mates if you move to a city after college, being able to 1) speak directly to your housemates about your needs and 2) be considerate of your housemates’ needs is one of the more important sets of skills you can learn in college. For example, when you get upset over something, it’s important to tell your housemates why, and to do so in a constructive fashion. I.e., telling your roommates that when they don’t clean the dishes, you aren’t able to cook dinner, which is impacting your schedule, in a firm but calm tone, is much more constructive than calling your housemates ‘a bunch of slobs’. And if you can also pay attention to your housemates’ needs and schedules, and work towards an empathetic agreement that takes everyone into consideration, you’ll be demonstrating true leadership, which is one of the most important signs of real maturity.

Need some help with your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Rita Pearson