So the new SAT has been a hot button issue that’s a long time coming. They’re essentially trying to take the BS out of the test and make it more applicable to real-world (or real academia-world) skills.
So yes, it’s good that they’re getting rid of those dumb vocab words and the writing section that colleges didn’t ever use in admissions decisions.
However, there’s another side to the story.
It might just be that Collegeboard is trying to level the playing field.
The age-old “hue” example of how vocab essentially just translates to your socioeconomic status, rather than your aptitude is true.
In fact, if you let me get on my soapbox for a second, the vocabulary section is essentially a measure of how much test prep you’ve done.
The same with the canned essay. If you have a tutor who can go through examples with you and have you practice essays, you’re going to be in much better shape than someone who simply uses their school-taught skills. Other things that suggest the “level the playing field” theory is the Collegeboard sponsored free online prep.
If the test prep is of high quality (and I’m sure it will be) this could be huge in narrowing the gap. Though the SAT is not meant to test achievement but instead academic skills, it’s undeniable that there’s a huge advantage to those who can afford to prep. This is a huge step, though it will require an Internet connection and as hard as it is to wrap one’s head around, there are people who truly don’t have easy or reliable Internet access.
Another huge thing is a no-hassle waver that will go out to quote unquote “low to middle income” students. Now I’m not sure what the cut-offs for this will be (and hopefully it will be set to the state) but this is, again, a huge step in the right direction. Fee wavers exist, but this makes them easier and more available. Four may not seem like enough to everyone, but the majority of students in the US only apply to a small handful of state and community colleges.
The first class to take the new SAT will be this year’s freshman, but it looks like Collegeboard is actually doing the right thing.
One of the most common questions I get, both online and in life, is “Why admissions?”
The answer is that I thought I wanted to be a guidance counselor. So I asked a guidance counselor what I should do if that’s the path I wanted to go down.
And he told me that college and grad school would teach me the counseling part, but that the college and career planning was the majority of the job, and that I would have to learn that on my own.
If you have an idea of what you want to do, ask someone who is already doing it.
Obviously the world changes and people of our parents’ generation will have probably had an easier path. So careers that didn’t need college then probably do now. However, more than anything, they’ll know the skills you need.
I have a friend who wanted to be a doctor. So she asked her pediatrician what she should look for in a college, and what she should do to get into grad school.
Her doctor told her she should make sure to do research undergrad, and she did.
She ended up loving research and is now in a PhD program instead of med school.
It’s also good to ask someone if there’s a variety of degrees in your field. Over the weekend I had my dad (an engineer/architect) to show me an example of a curriculum that would be best for my little brother (an aspiring architect).
He pulled up a school that has the “gold standard” of undergraduate 4-year architecture programs, and told me what I needed to search for to add schools to my brother’s list.
I quickly learned that there’s a big difference between architecture and architectural studies and, much to my surprise, discovered that a BA was preferable to a BS or a BFA for undergraduate architecture.
Obviously you need to take things with a grain of salt, and apply things to your own life. But asking someone in the know can give you a big clue as to what you’re actually looking for in a school.
Last night I spoke about college to a friend of my brother (a current Junior) who was telling me about his preemptive list. He listed off a few schools that didn’t ring right in my ear, and I asked him about them. He conceded that he didn’t really see himself at one of those giant schools, but that the programs for his major were top-notch.
This got me thinking about the eternal struggle, the program vs. the school.
For the lucky ones, this has never been a debate. Either every school has the program you’re looking for, or you’re not sure what you want, or the schools with your program perfectly match up with your interests.
Or you could be on the opposite end.
What are you supposed to do if you want a program that’s only available at schools that aren’t a great fit?
Well… A few things
Pro/Con and Compromise-
Let’s say that you really want a BA in Architecture that will prep you to get your license undergrad. But you feel you’d fit in best with a tiny liberal arts school, specifically one with an open curriculum and a more liberal approach to education.
Well… Since there are very few programs that fit that criteria you’re going to have to compromise on one of those things.
So figure out what your alternatives are, and be ready to compromise.
Let’s say Path 1 is to go to a school with your program… You’re going to have to work a little harder to find your niche, and you might not have the learning or social environment you want.
Path 2 is to pick a college that matches you, but to go on to graduate school and get your masters in Architecture.
Both are tricky, both compromises, and you need to figure out what is the better path for you.
Be Honest With Yourself and Know Your Backups-
What if the program ends up not being the right fit? Then you’re at a school that wasn’t really right for you, and stuck doing something you don’t love.
Know how dead-set you are on your major. Most of us change our minds, and that’s perfectly okay.
Don’t pigeonhole yourself. Pick schools that have a few things that interest you. If the only thing you like about the school is the program for your major, keep moving, it’s not the right fit.
This is the same with a school where you like everything but the program for your major. When I was looking at schools there was a school that I loved loved loved everything except for the curriculum in their psych major. Much as I loved the school, it wasn’t right for me.
Try to Find the Middle Ground-
Honestly, my opinion is that no program is worth going to a school that will make you miserable. However, with very few exceptions, there is usually more than 1 school with any given program.
So maybe you’ll go to a school where you think you can be happy, there are things you like, but perhaps isn’t your “ideal” but you choose it because it has a great program in what you want.
This is usually the better option over going to a school with an environment you hate with a kick butt program in your major.
But at the same time, for some people (and some majors) going to a school that fits you well is sometimes the best option. You can always go on to grad school (and in many majors, that’s what you’ll need either way).
So know yourself, know what your priorities are, and take a hard look at the program and the school before you make any choices.
Thank you all so much for your support. I briefly took a hiatus from both my work here and at The Prospect due to the death of my Nana (my mom’s mom). Honestly it was a difficult time, and being able to have the support of my family and to support them back with no distractions from school, work, or the internet helped with the healing process.
It was difficult to find words in the past week, but they’re starting to come back slowly.
I am back, hopefully full time.
One of my favorite movie scenes is Dory and the Jellyfish in Finding Nemo.
You know, she finds her squishy and she’s going to have it forever (or so she thinks?).
When it comes to your college search, the end goal is to find your squishy.
You might find it early and hold on to it the whole time. It might sting you and run far far away, leaving you to find your new squishy.
It might keep you in stasis for months, just out of reach.
No matter the path, you’re going to have one eventually.
Do a happy dance! You have something that’s yours!
When you decide on a school, get excited about it. Even if it wasn’t your first choice. Even if it’s a bit of a surprise to you.
This school is going to be yours, so take ownership of it. Find the things you love. Find the things to brag about. Find the things you’re excited about.
If it’s an unexpected result, do your research. Find out what makes that school special, and make yourself pumped for it. They were cool enough to accept you, so let them sell themselves. Give them the time of day.
You’ll love it. Just wait.
The insane warm snap we’ve been having has put the thought of summer in my mind.
Summer “break” should be anything but a vacation. It’s the time to enjoy yourself and to explore your interests, but it is not the time to sit back and veg out for three months.
What you do in the summer isn’t as valuable as you’d think (the activities you do year round and juggle with school will have much more weight), but making use of that time is highly important.
Don’t stress about what you’re doing. If you want to do a highly prestigious program that’s great. If you want to take classes in something you love, that’s great. If you want to travel, awesome. If you want to go to summer camp have fun. If you want to work a job, save up that cash.
The only “wrong” summer choice is doing nothing.
Because it makes you look unmotivated.
Needing to refuel and take a break is one thing.
But sitting around for three months is quite another.
Colleges want self-motivators who will make their own opportunities, and summer is your first trial run of this. Instead of pre-made clubs, you’ll need to make your own activities.
Find something to do. Don’t worry about what it is as long as it personally has value to you. You can make money, learn a skill, or just enjoy yourself.
But summer matters. Do something.
And I almost got struck by lighting today. MOVING ON
I think it doesn’t hurt to sit for both to see what you’re better at, especially since you have time to study.
It’ll just make the status all the sweeter when you can post it!
I haven’t! I’ll need to check it out.
MIA as in? What? You should be hounding her at this point and telling her how important it is that you get it in (politely of course).
SATs? Psh. GPA? Ha. Resume? Child’s play.
Know what the worst part of the admissions process is? Waiting.
It manifests itself in insomnia. In panic attacks. In zits so large and so long lasting you feel the urge to name them.
Life becomes a herculean task of trying to distract yourself while a shadow of uncertainty looms.
Waiting is heavy. It’s tangible.
When things suck, the best thing to do is to distract and channel.
So the nervous jumpy anxiety of waiting? Channel it into something you love. Learn a new skill. Go to the gym. Over-Interpret the crap out of season 2 of House of Cards.
That looming awful all-encompassing fear of waiting? Work to distract yourself from it in the most productive way possible. If you’re a skimmer/sparknoter do all of your readings and focus on that. Knock senioritis to the curb by researching the crap out of the paper you need to write for science. Practice your oral presentation until it’s perfect.
Waiting sucks, you can make it suck less.
March 8th will be the first time many of you sit for the SAT.
Hopefully you’ve been prepping, but if you haven’t started yet don’t worry.
SAT training is just like training for anything else. You have your practices and your drills.
Here’s how you should treat your last two weeks of prep time before this test.
You have two weeks, so here’s how you should be spending them. You should be training every day in some form or another. Here’s what I recommend
Two Weeks Out
3 Days A Week: Individual Sections
Take an individual section of Math, Writing, or CR. Immediately check your answers and correct the ones that you got wrong. Don’t just write the right answer; figure out WHY it’s the right answer. If it’s math re-do the problem, if it’s writing figure out what the rule is and why you did it, if it’s CR re-read the passage and see why the answer is what it is.
3 Days A Week: Drill All Your Sections
Write a full essay, do a set of 100 flashcards, go over 5 chapters in your review book. This is not a day to sit down and do a section (because that would get exhausting), but rather to sharpen your skills.
1 Day: A Full Timed Test
Test Stamina is a highly underrated skill. Sit down in a quiet room with a full practice test, and do the entire thing timed. In one sitting. With breaks modeled after the real SAT breaks. If you live in a loud house (I have a lot of siblings) tell your parents/siblings/etc what you’re doing, ask for silence, and try to find a door to do the test behind. Give yourself a few hours between taking the test and grading it, and then correct your test. Figure out what types of questions you’re getting wrong, and make sure you study them on drill days.
The Week Before:
3 Days A Week: Full Timed Tests
This one is tricky, but will be your saving grace. Marathon runners don’t just run 26 miles in a day. They get that stamina up. If you do fully timed tests several times that week, you’ll have enough stamina to get through the real SAT no problem.
2 Days A Week: Drill Your Weak Skills
At this point in your training there will be some things that you’re inherently weak at. So pick and choose which skills you need the most time on, and drill them hard. This is what you should be doing the day before the test.
2 Days A Week: Review
You can do this by reviewing the full tests you take, doing sections in review books, or taking individual sections. But these days should be your easy days. Simply go over what you know. Make sure you’re hitting all three sections, but don’t pressure yourself to do a full test. Study, but don’t have the pressure of a drill day.
Additionally, make sure you’re exercising and getting enough sleep. I know that’s a tall order, but if you feel good, you’ll do a million times better.