Competition to enter the job market or be admitted to colleges is increasing every year. More international students are gaining entry into top US universities. At the same time, top sectors of job growth in the STEM arena are constantly expanding and searching for qualified candidates. However, American students are losing out on those jobs at startling rates.
To help students compete and reach the necessary benchmarks, states have been reforming and renewing graduation protocols for the past few years. In Florida, students are required to take the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test or PERT. The test is designed to determine readiness for Intermediate Algebra and Freshman Composition I. This system was launched in 2010 with the intention of helping better prepare Florida students for the world beyond high school.
Overcoming the Curve
While all students must complete the PERT to graduate, graduating is not a magical key to success in today’s world. Students need to go above and beyond basic qualification with AP courses and college entrance exams. Many teachers follow the PERT student study guide leading up to the test. Putting in a little extra work, however, can pay off for test takers.
An oft-overlooked reason for scholastic underachieving is being ill-prepared. Many children are never taught how to study properly. They procrastinate, try to cram useless information, and fail to plan ahead. Focus on teaching your children how to organize their work schedules and use alternative study methods from a young age.
As published in National Geographic, memory is more easily accessed by using visual and tactile experience. Listening attentively in class is often not enough to retain information.
This reinforces the importance of multisensory learning and shows that the tactile can be very important,” says John Black, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor in the Department of Human Development at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Getting your children involved in educational after-school programs or groups is another great way to help them get a leg up on the competition. There are many STEM camps and programs available for bright children in Florida. Getting young children involved in STEM is a great predictor of future success, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. Thanks to these findings, many states have recently enacted STEM learning requirements for early childhood education.
Parents should take note and use this valuable information to give young students the headstart they need in STEM. Don’t leave it up to the school to introduce STEM topics or your child will continue to lag behind.
Test Prep Programs
Once you’ve given your child a solid foundation for academic achievement, you can enroll them in an online program which will develop their skills. Some programs can tailor material to align with state standards and prepare students for their assessments. This step enables students to work independently of their peers and often results in higher exam scores.
Another prime opportunity exists in PERT practice tests. Students who undergo practice exams for the PERT or other college entrance exams generally score higher on the final test. This is because they gain confidence in the test format and content through practice. Encourage your child to take the practice exam before they take the real test. This strategy can help them relax on exam day and reach their full potential.
In Florida, there are several factors which can determine your student’s college readiness and future success. The state administers the PERT, to assess student preparedness to enter universities after graduation. The SAT and ACT are also available for college-bound teens. However, the picture we get when we look at the performance of Florida students is that they are improving year to year.
With all the requirements needed to get into a good college and on the right track, sometimes it’s hard to focus on any one thing. Students need extracurriculars, sports, clubs, languages, volunteer work and more just to be competitive when they apply for college. And let’s not forget high grade-point averages, SAT and ACT scores, and AP courses. With everything your student needs to keep track of, it’s easy to forget one tiny detail.
The state of Ohio requires students to complete a number of tests to graduate. There are different rules, depending on performance and the tests chosen. However, entering the world without a high school diploma would be detrimental to your student’s future. As a parent, you should understand the graduation rules and requirements.
Ohio graduation requirements say students need to earn a minimum of 20 credits. Further, they are required to complete a minimum of two semesters of fine arts, and courses in financial literacy and economics. On top of coursework, students must choose one of the following pathways to earn their diploma.
Ohio’s Graduation Tests (OGT)
Students can take the seven-part end-of-course state tests, known as the OGT. They must earn 18 out of 35 possible points. Each test is worth up to five points, depending on performance. Students need a minimum of four points in math, four points in English language arts, and six points between science and social studies.
Students can choose to earn an industry-recognized credential or a group of credentials which equal 12 points and earn the required score on the WorkKeys test. Ohio pays for students to take the test one time. In some districts, the Senior Only program allows kids to earn credentials in one school year.
ACT or SAT
Each district dictates whether students may take theSAT or the ACT. The chosen test allows students to earn remediation-free scores, determined by Ohio’s university presidents, in math and English language arts. The one-time statewide spring test is administered in grade 11 free of charge.
|English Language Arts||English subscore of 18 (or higher)||Writing 430
|Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) 480 (or higher)|
|Entered high school prior to July 1, 2014, reading subscore of 21 (or higher)||Reading 450
|Entered high school after July 1, 2014, reading subscore of 22 (or higher)|
|Mathematics||Mathematics subscore of 22
Ohio students score higher than the national average, according to the 2017 ACT College and Career Readiness Report. Data from the Nation’s Report Card agrees, showing Ohio in line with median performance across the country. This means graduating students have a better than average chance at obtaining gainful employment or continuing on to higher education. However, that doesn’t mean your student can sit back and relax.
Since each graduation pathway requires different courses and tests, students should choose wisely. Helping your student make this decision, based on his or her graduation plans, is the best option. If your student plans to apply to four-year colleges, the SAT or ACT will be unavoidable. For those wanting to jump into the job market, a workforce certification may be the answer. Likewise, for those students who plan to attend community college, practicing for the OGT would be best.
Regardless of the path chosen, your student should begin preparation early to ensure timely graduation. Failure to complete the requirements could result in missed chances for your high school senior.
For those students completing the OGT, practice tests can be invaluable. Since your child will have to undergo seven different tests, scheduling practice sessions and organizing time is important for success. There are also test prep tools available online which can focus your student’s study efforts towards the test of their choice.
Even the College Board has recently begun touting the value of online test prep websites. In 2016, they released a statement which included the following quote:
“In addition to the 115-point average score increase associated with 20 hours of practice, shorter practice periods also correlate with meaningful score gains. For example, 6 to 8 hours of practice on Official SAT Practice is associated with an average 90-point increase.”
From this statement, we can see that even the makers of the SAT agree that test prep can make a meaningful difference in your student’s score. This same principle can be applied to students taking the OGT, workforce readiness courses and the ACT. Using personalized tutoring apps and services in short sessions, rather than cramming before a test, can increase understanding and performance.
There is a lot to consider regarding graduation when you take everything into account for your Ohio student. However, each child is an individual, and the graduation pathways allow for customized choices, based on your student’s goals and interests. The best thing is to make the most of the choice your student makes by helping them focus, prepare, and have confidence for test days.
Teachers have real challenges ahead of them each year when it comes to helping students succeed in school. Earning a diploma and moving on to higher education are increasingly important each year. Without these markers for aptitude, graduates are hard pressed to find gainful employment.
Students who graduate ill-prepared for college are unlikely to pursue higher education and later find satisfactory employment. For that reason, the Arkansas Department of Education has recently implemented teacher training and changed the yearly benchmarks to improve student performance. The ADE has adopted a new annual standardized testing model tailored to specific programs within schools and designed to achieve higher competency scores across disciplines.
Adopting ACT Aspire
For students in Arkansas, academic understanding is now measured in benchmarks by administration of the ACT Aspire test. The ACT Aspire was approved in 2015 for students grades 3 through 10. The test measures comprehension in English, reading, math, science, and writing. Additionally, ninth and tenth graders receive a predicted score for the ACT.
Since the new regimen was adopted in 2015, we can expect teachers and students alike to undergo a learning curve. Arkansas’ teachers are invited to summer workshops on preparing students for the ACT Aspire tests. Hopefully, the coming years will show an upswing in student mastery of the areas addressed.
Steps to Help Your Students Succeed
If you’re reading all this as a parent, you may wonder how all these scores and tests can help your child. The answer is this: Knowledge is power. Knowing how the school system is preparing your child and what obstacles may impede them is paramount for overcoming possible hurdles.
You can help your student surpass state standards by using practice exams and taking advantage of test preparation tools online. Many tools can help your student learn the concepts needed for every stage of the ACT Aspire test and, later, the ACT.
Teach Good Study Habits
Many students suffer from poor study habits. Things like procrastination can hurt a student’s chances in school and in life. Help your student organize their homework schedule beginning at a young age. Use calendars and planners to ensure that study time is divided equitably between subjects.
Invest in Online Supplements
Find an online program which uses your the Arkansas standards to inform its program. These types of platforms use games, quizzes and video lessons to help your classes grasp core concepts. You can use an online study site to bridge gaps during breaks or to help your students stay ahead of the curve at school.
Play to Your Students’ Strengths
Every kid has individual interests and talents, and it’s important to encourage their evolution. Children learn more and retain better when they’re having fun. For that reason, make learning fun at school and at home. The future of the nation depends on our children. Recent changes to the state assessments are a good sign for the future of Arkansas. To improve your students’ college readiness, use all the tools at your disposal and make education a priority!
Students in Tennessee prepare every year to take the TNReady test and prove they have learned enough to enter the world or proceed to college. The tests are an important benchmark for student progress. They are intended to measure understanding instead of memorization.
Students in third through eighth grade take TNReady assessments in English language arts, math, science, and social studies at the end of each school year. Teachers cover necessary materials to help their classes prepare for the assessments. This year, technical difficulties impeded the test’s efficacy, and lawmakers agreed to wipe the slate clean for students. That means negative results won’t be counted against test-takers for the 2018 cycle. Next year, however, the test will be back in full force. Parents and teachers alike can help students prepare for the 2019 TNReady in many ways.
Focus on Healthy Habits
Children need help learning how to study and learn effectively. They should be encouraged to follow a balanced schedule for homework and extra study. Using calendars and rewards for younger children can help them learn to pace themselves and manage their own time. Students are often guilty of procrastination which can make keeping up with study work difficult. Teaching your kids to be proactive in their own education will make them better able to succeed in school.
Make Learning Fun
Studies show that children better remember concepts they learn in a multitude of ways. Tactile learning is more valuable because of its impact. An article from National Geographic reminds us to help our children interact with their environment for better results. Interactive courses can have a real influence on students:
“Our auditory memory isn’t as robust as we might like to think it is,” says Amy Poremba. “We think that we are great at integrating all the senses,” but the experiment shows that tactile and visual memory easily trumped auditory memory.
Consider enrolling your child in a Minecraft program, science workshop, or STEM summer camps.
Enlist Test Prep Help
Another way you can help your child succeed in school, on the TNReady test, and future placement exams is to enroll them in an online test prep course. The structured setting of most test prep sites allows students to work within the standards through a variety of exercises. Students can enjoy games, video lessons, and practice quizzes, all directed at helping them understand test materials.
Your third to the eighth-grade student can benefit in many ways from small adjustments to their routine. Taking time to help them learn how to study properly is the first step towards school success. Enrolling your student in interesting extracurriculars or summer programs can give them a leg up in school. Lastly, using test prep websites is a great way to improve your child’s confidence in his or her abilities. Since confidence is key for test takers, never underestimate this last perk.
Are we here already? Is it testing season again? Well of course it is, and just like death, taxes, and another movie based on a comic book, we’ve got to deal with it. Students- and parents- will stress and fret, and there is nothing we can do to prevent that. There are, however, some nuggets of wisdom we can try to impart to help them deal with this time of year. What follows is some advice I’ve given to my own students over the years.
– Sleep… Wonderful, Wonderful Sleep. We all know that young people need more sleep. While teachers may not be able to do much to get students to go to sleep at home, it’s something worth telling them- and parents- over and over.
– DO.NOT.CRAM. Make sure to tell students this well ahead of time, not just the days before SOL testing. Rather than rush to shove one’s mind full of information, emphasize to students the need to review often in the days and weeks before the test.
– Fuel Up! Students need to eat a good breakfast and drink plenty of water before their SOL tests. Have them avoid sugary, high carb foods, and instead focus on choices packed with protein.
– Water, Water Everywhere. Massive infusions of caffeine is a great way to wipe out focus. Urge them NOT to binge on coffee and energy drinks. Instead, H20 is the way to go. Hydrate in the days leading up to testing, not just the day of or the day before.
– Move It! Students need to get rid of stress during this time of the year. Encourage them to go for a run, shoot some baskets, or anything that will help them to blow off some steam before and after studying and SOL testing.
– Prepare For the Ice Age. Testing rooms are notoriously arctic-like in the morning. Encourage students to dress in layers so they can peel off a light jacket or sweater as the day heats up. They should be focused on their test, not on worrying about hypothermia or frostbite.
– Good Old #2. If they’re using pencils, be sure they bring plenty of them- all sharpened- to the testing facility. Time wasted looking for or sharpening pencils is not time that can be won back.
As spring approaches, teachers, students, and parents in the great state of Indiana have much for which to prepare. The iLearn measures student achievement from 3rd through 8th and 10th grade. The two-part testing system checks student understanding of English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.
The combined results of these exams are used to measure the efficacy of the Indiana school system as a whole. Additionally, the class of 2019 will be required to pass the English and Mathematics portion for graduation. For those reasons, test preparation is paramount.
Depending on your teaching style, you may use iLearn practice guides throughout the year, or only in the months leading up to exams. Either way, a program like that provided by USATestPrep can be invaluable to teachers and pupils alike.
Our standards-based program allows you to integrate iLearn study into daily assignments, technology-enhanced practice, educational games, and more. The dynamic classroom assistant can even track progress and help students engage in performance-guided remediation. Further, USATestPrep provides an overview of the state standards for each grade level and subject.
To help you get the most out of iLearn practice, we’ve compiled some study tips and strategies which will boost student performance.
1. Use Dynamic Lessons for Content Comprehension
Since students learn in a variety of ways, teaching them with more than one tactic is the best route to encourage understanding. Incorporating games, bell ringers, videos, performance tasks, puzzles, and more can liven up test preparation and improve student retention. Group activities and periodic quizzes can also help pupils remember content under pressure.
USATestprep ensures that all supplementary learning items are standards-based for optimal student comprehension. The program also includes understanding checks for the provided material, as seen below.
Memory retention is more natural when we care about what we’re learning. That’s why students get better grades in the classes which they enjoy. The obvious approach is to engage your class in innovative learning modules to spark their curiosity, imagination and, ultimately, their memories.
2. Familiarize Students with Test Mechanics
The iLearn consists of two parts, given between February and May. Each section includes English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. The ELA part is 3 hours and 45 minutes, while Math is given 2 hours. The result is a very long test for children to focus on and attempt to complete. Especially for younger or more restless pupils, practice is critical.
Working with your students on practice exams and modules specifically designed for the iLearn is paramount in helping children endure such an extended set of tests. Since the test can be administered online or on paper, students should be familiarized with both options. If your class has sufficiently learned the material, testing should be easy.
However, students can be intimidated by the iLearn. Allowing your pupils to track their progress with the class scoreboard function can encourage confidence in their abilities. Sometimes the difference between passing and failing is only believing you could pass.
3. Demystify Technology-enhanced Items
The iLearn makes use of technology-enhanced modules to assess student computer skills within the test setting. It would be a mistake to let your pupils encounter these types of questions on the exam only. Instead, assigning online coursework through USATestprep will familiarize your students with technology-enhanced items.
Content such as drag-and-drop questions, graphs, visual representations and more are tailored to the iLearn standards and at your fingertips for classroom activities, homework and more. Assigning technology-enhanced modules on a regular basis will lead to higher student confidence when faced with the real test.
4. Improve Student Focus
Lengthy tests are challenging for students who have trouble focusing. Even if your class understands the concepts discussed empirically, they may not perform well on exams. To combat this problem try focus exercises or self-regulation techniques.
In Canada, students are regularly trusted with greater control of their education. Teachers observe children and try to suggest ways to overcome stress, hyperactivity, and lethargy. Students are then expected to engage themselves when necessary to return focus to their lessons. The model of self-regulating can look different for each pupil. It may mean a student jogging to release unnecessary energy or approaching teachings in an unconventional way.
In the US, flipped classrooms rely on students to manage their time at home and participate in engaging classroom modules as a group. The approach can only succeed if students are sufficiently invested in their education.
Favorite ways to improve focus in a group include breaking up long activities into short tasks, getting kids moving, utilizing attention breaks and playing memory games. With USATestprep, you can use flash cards, short videos, games, and puzzles to improve pupil concentration.
Making learning fun and hands-on is a popular and effective method to help students take charge of their futures. Oftentimes, kids are expected to sit and listen to teachers riddle off facts, but their brains don’t work that way. Switching up your routines can eliminate fidgeting and complaints in class.
5. Bolster Student Confidence
Since students who feel comfortable and able will score better on exams, you need to pave the way for students to know they are capable. The scoreboard can help show students their improvement in a visual way. Meanwhile, audible praise can be a motivator for many pupils. Additionally, many children feel more confident when given greater responsibility.
An idea you may like is to create peer tutoring across grade levels. This approach allows each class to feel capable and take ownership of their understanding of the material. The National Education Association encourages peer tutoring to improve student performance.
As a teacher, you have vested interest in your student’s iLearn performance. Now you can have a partner in improving student test scores. Employing the help of a standards-based study and classroom model can lead you to a whole new way of encountering iLearn preparation.
You’ve dreamed about this since you were old enough to cheer for their sports teams. You’ve imagined yourself enmeshed in the campus life you’ve seen pictures of online. You’ve talked to your friends and family about achieving this goal you’ve had for so long – being accepted to your dream college. But how do you do that? Sitting back wishing and hoping isn’t enough. Just because you have the school’s emblem drawn all over the cover of your school notebook, you know all the stats of their basketball team, or your closet is full of their school colors does not mean that you are an automatic shoe-in, given what is likely some very stiff acceptance competition.
Dreams don’t generally come true from sitting back and waiting for them to happen – you have to take charge and make things happen! That includes preparing for success at your dream school: It takes thoughtful planning ahead of time. While there are no guarantees for acceptance to any particular school, there are some things you can do to give yourself an advantage over the competition. Here are some tips to help you increase your chances of making that dream come true.
Grades Matter – Schools look at your transcripts, GPA, and test scores in determining whether or not you would be a good fit for their expectations. Generally speaking, colleges don’t want to have to babysit those who are unprepared for the rigors of college-level work, by offering remedial classes. In high school, take classes that will prepare you for the rigors of college – and excel at them! While you may have some hiccups in your transcript history (like that science class you earned a D in), that doesn’t necessarily mean your ship is sunk. But it does mean that you need to be aware of it and be ready to explain what happened and, more importantly, what you learned from the experience. So, you made it up in summer school and earned a B: great. But what did you learn as a result of having to retake the course? Have your time management skills improved? Do you better understand and appreciate the work required to write a complete lab report? Schools want to see that you are resilient and that you take every stumble as an opportunity to learn and grow. While there is usually an opportunity at some point in the application process to explain low grades, too many low grades cannot be excused or overlooked. This brings us to the topic of what kinds of classes appear on your transcript.
There are conflicting views on whether it is better for students to take higher-level courses like Honors, AP, or IB and perhaps risk not getting all As, or whether it is better to take “easier” classes to keep a high GPA. Ultimately, the decision is yours. Challenging higher-level courses indicate something about your personality – that you are willing to work hard, to take risks, to challenge yourself; but not doing well in them could sink your GPA. Taking lower-level courses also says something about your academic drive, the value you place on education, and your personal push to learn. Balancing your course load in a way that will allow for both challenge and success is probably the best way to go.
Test Scores Matter – As much as society doesn’t like the idea of “teaching to the test,” test scores matter. In both state or district testing, as well as national testing like the SAT or ACT, the scores matter. Many people experience test anxiety and, as a result of nerves and self-inflicted pressure to be perfect, may not test well. To help combat this, take as many practice tests as you can. Your high school may offer free or reduced cost opportunities to take the PSAT or other standardized tests. The more practice you get with them, the more comfortable you may feel and the easier you may find it to navigate through them. If test-taking really makes you nauseous, consider enrolling in test-taking support courses that will teach you hints and tips for the process. Sometimes there are even free workshops offered at local schools, libraries, or community centers. And take as many AP tests as you can; they are good practice for test-taking, and the credits you earn from the scores you receive may transfer to your school of choice and allow you to start with higher-level courses once you get there. Taking the test also demonstrates that you were serious about the studies and weren’t just taking the class so it would look good on your transcripts.
Activities Help – Participation in clubs, activities, and other extracurricular events looks good on your academic resume, but there’s a balance to strike between
quantity and quality. Rather than attempting to join 30 different clubs, stick to several that are meaningful to you and that you enjoy participating in. Being in clubs and organizations that promote community volunteer work and allow you to “give back” shows a sense of social awareness and concern for others. Participation in one-day events or trying different types of clubs and organizations is good to help you find what you like, but once you find something, stick with it for an extended period of time. Jumping from activity to activity can make you appear flighty on your application and doesn’t speak to the dedication that you may have for a particular cause or organization.
Look for Opportunities Everywhere – When you are trying to figure out where to spend your activities time, keep in mind that there is a variety of places and ways to get involved. Joining academic clubs and activities at school, academic societies or organizations like NHS or Scholar-Athletes, being part of a sports team (either at school or through the community), religious-based service organizations, or community-based programs and clubs are all great ways to be involved in the community and show that you are engaged with the world around you.
Be an Active Participant at School – Being a part of your high school’s sports team shows dedication, time management, collaboration and a team-player mentality. But there are other ways to get involved at school as well. Try out for the school choir or music program. Studies show that students who are involved with music have higher math scores. Join the speech and debate team, which builds public speaking skills and effective argument structure and delivery, in addition to critical thinking skills. Become a part of the yearbook staff or join the journalism club and hone those language and communication skills (along with graphic design and computer skills in this digital age). Run for student council: You may not be elected President, but cabinet members have responsibilities and participation in student government shows that you can work collaboratively with others to achieve a common goal. If your school doesn’t offer a club or organization that you think would be beneficial to the students or community, take an active leadership role and start a club or local chapter on campus! Participation in clubs shows that you can both give and take direction and instruction and work collaboratively with others. Starting a club takes initiative and a sense of awareness that will help you stand out from the applicant crowd.
Expand Your Horizons – Many of the activities you can participate in school offer another benefit: travel opportunities to participate in competitions. Even if it’s just travel across town, getting out of your bubble and broadening your horizons by participating in these types of experiences help you stand out from other applicants. Another great way to expand your understanding of the global community is by participating in a foreign exchange student program, either as a student traveler to another country or as a host family for a foreign student. Immersion in another country or hosting a student from another culture gives you unique experiences and understandings to share in your application process.
Here are some student exchange program links for you to explore:
https://exchanges.state.gov/us/high-school (this site also has links to scholarship opportunities that can help make exchange programs more affordable!)
Be an Active Member of Your Community – Giving of your time and actively participating in your community signal to schools that you will probably be an engaged and involved student on their campus. Whether volunteering at an elementary school, helping the little kids with their homework, at an animal shelter walking the dogs or cleaning out kennels, or feeding the homeless, a variety of volunteer experiences will help the admissions panel get a better sense of who you are and what is important to you. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity and American Red Cross, and local organizations all have volunteer opportunities for teens to get involved.
Ask What You Can Do for Them – Consider the strengths and talents that you can bring to your dream school campus. It’s not enough to be there soaking in the greatness of others – you must contribute greatness as well! What are some of your strengths or talents that you can share with others and lend to the school community to make it even greater? Think about adjectives that describe you and how those qualities would benefit the campus community. In your application process, take every opportunity to showcase and brag about the unique attributes that you bring.
Have a Back-Up Plan – Yes, you have applied to your dream school, you can practically envision the set-up of your dorm room, the taste the cafeteria food, but…what if the school you long to attend isn’t as enthusiastic about inviting you to be a student? All is not lost, even if there is a rejection letter sent your way. Find out: Is there a waitlist? How long before you’ll know for sure? Can you transfer in after freshman year? What are the requirements to do so? If none of these are possibilities or if your love for this school quickly dissipates with the rejection, what is your backup plan? Whether it is applying to a second-choice school or taking a gap year to work or travel, you need to have other options in mind, just in case the unthinkable happens.
Be Ready to Brag – Some people have a very difficult time writing about themselves in a positive way because they have been taught to be “humble” and not brag. Other people have a low self-esteem and genuinely struggle with finding positive aspects of themselves to share with others. Regardless, your college application requires a certain level of bragging – because if you’re not going to toot your own horn and explain to complete strangers what makes you special and unique and worth their consideration in attending their school who will? If you are having a difficult time coming up with an extensive list of adjectives that describe you, ask a trusted friend or family member to compile a list of words they think describe your personality and your accomplishments. Reminisce with others about experiences you’ve had or things you’ve done that maybe you haven’t thought about or considered in quite some time, but which were impactful moments in your life and could lend themselves to strong application essays.
Who to Help You Brag – Most college applications will ask for letters of recommendation in addition to your application. These letters of recommendation should be written by people who really know you and can speak to your great qualities. A teacher who still has to check the seating chart to be certain of your name is probably not going to be able to write the most glowing recommendation. Letters of recommendation should be written by people who can provide specific examples of things you have done or how they have seen your characteristics at work. Asking a teacher or counselor who is overwhelmed by other commitments, who doesn’t really know you or your background, is not a good choice to write your letter. Consider asking managers at work, coaches, or academic advisors to write your letter. Do not pick a family member, even if you “worked” for them by babysitting or helping in the summer. You want non-familial people who can be objective but who respect and admire you enough to write a strong letter of recommendation.
Watch your Social Media Activity – Think what you tweet to your friends or post on Facebook stays within friendly territory? Not so much. Everything you post, every comment you make, is accessible to school admissions officers if it is on a public social media platform. As with employers these days, admissions officers can and do check the social media accounts of prospective students. And if they don’t like what they see, they may not choose to invite you to be a part of their school. So be smart about what you post, both words and pictures. Be careful how and to what you reply and comment on – Big Brother may be watching! This link will share with you some of the warnings about the impact your social media presence can have on your chances for admission.
Let Your Creativity Shine – Have you heard about the high school student who wrote her application essay on the effects of Costco on her life? It was brilliantly creative and wildly imaginative and allowed her to stand out from the competition. It also helped gain her acceptance to five Ivy League schools. So be creative in your approach to your application essays! Consider the thousands of commonplace responses admissions officers must read through and then think outside the box. Allow your personality to come through. But never, ever, lie on your application.
Plan Ahead – Despite what you might think, your best writing comes when there is time to reread and revise. Don’t wait until the last minute. After you write your application essays and paragraphs, let them sit and marinate for at least 24 hours, then look at them again with a fresh and critical eye. Take your time filling out applications; don’t try to do 5 in one night. They are long and tend to be pretty boring and if you’re not your sharpest self when filling them out, you may miss something important. For application essays, make sure that each one is tailored to the school to which you are applying. Use specific references to the school to show that you’ve done your homework and researched what the school has to offer and how you are going to take advantage of those offerings. Also, apply for every scholarship available – it gives you practice writing and may earn you money as well. There are thousands of scholarship opportunities out there, so do some legwork and find ones that apply to you. Don’t forget about local and community-based scholarships. The national ones may have hundreds of thousands of students vying for them, but with scholarships offered through your high school or community, the applicant pool drops significantly. Some scholarships can even be applied for before you are a senior, so you don’t have to wait and be burdened by all of them at once – check out what’s available to you to apply to as a freshman, sophomore, or junior.
Remember Your Audience – When you write your application essays and writing tasks, remember your audience. The admissions officers are not your pals. They are educated people representing institutions of higher learning. That doesn’t mean that you should use the thesaurus app with every word, but do proofread your work and see where you can substitute more elevated language that demonstrates you are a thoughtful, educated person who would be an asset to this school.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize – It can be tiring towards the end of your high school journey. You’ve spent 12 or more years working hard, cramming for tests, preparing reports, and the end is so close. But your senior year is not the time to kick back and coast. Although many students see their senior year as a months-long party, enjoying all of the perks and privileges that tend to come along with being a senior, it is important to keep challenging yourself and to not slack off or pick up poor study habits. Stay strong! Don’t give in to the peer pressure and drama that can get you off-track and derail the success and hard work you’ve put in so far. Take a full load of academic classes, even in your senior year. Or, if you’re not taking a full load of classes, make sure that you are using that extra time working a part-time job or participating in community events and activities that will show you are a compassionate, involved member of your community. Commitments to responsibilities both in and out of school impress admissions officers.
There is a LOT to balance and keep track of in high school. However, if you can fit in a part-time job or you have passions or hobbies, make sure that you are using your time wisely and in a way that will be advantageous to you. Playing video games all night in the basement may be fun, and, if you are applying to a computer graphics or gaming program might be very appropriate. For the average college applicant, however, this is not a productive use of time. You should balance work and play and relaxation, but make sure that there is a balance.
In Conclusion… With some hard work and focus, admission to your dream school is not out of the realm of possibility. Take into consideration the advice provided here and continue to do some more research on your own about hints and tips to help ensure your success. You CAN do this, but it will take work on your part. So, you can make excuses or you can make it happen! Dream big and best of luck!
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“My child has a 3.90 GPA, always aces math tests, and excels in AP English, but can’t seem to figure out the SAT!”
This is something we hear from parents at least a few times a week. To them, and especially to students, the stark incongruity between a student’s notable academic performance and not-so-notable SAT or ACT scores is difficult to reconcile, and can be extremely discouraging. This is especially so when there are students in your child’s peer group who seem to just “get it.” They barely study for the SAT or ACT and come out with off-the-charts scores.
If the situation above sounds familiar, we’re here to assure you that this is not a problem unique to you and your child: High-achievers struggle with the SAT and ACT all the time. Understanding the major reasons why top students run into standardized testing roadblocks is the first step in conquering the challenges these exams present.
The styles of the SAT and ACT deviate greatly from what students are used to seeing
Current high school curricula present information in a very cookie-cutter way. In their English classes, students are presented with fifteen vocabulary words on Monday, and told they will have a quiz on those words on Friday. They study those words, define them on the quiz (and maybe use them in sentences), and that’s it. For their reading responsibilities, students might be assigned a chapter in a book and told to write a reflection focusing on the use of three specific literary elements in the text. Students read the chapter, discuss it with friends and the teacher, and present their reflections. In their mathematics classes, students learn a topic, are taught how to solve two or three different sub-types of questions relevant to that topic, and see pretty much the same thing on the next exam. Topics are segregated, and quizzes and tests are often not cumulative.
Unfortunately, the SAT and ACT are entirely different. Different topics are mixed together, and it’s not necessarily the case that the student will have recently reviewed the strategy needed to solve any given problem.
Much of the mathematics on the SAT and ACT is foundational
“The SAT and ACT test easy math.”
For any advanced student, hearing that line from educators and fellow students is galling. But it’s true! The SAT and ACT test basic mathematics concepts, the foundations of which are usually taught in the 8th and 9th grade…and this is the major problem! Because most students are exposed to many “simple” concepts tested on the SAT and ACT––ratios, fractions, proportions, patterns, strange symbols, among many others––in late middle school or early high school, they may not recall how to deal with them by the time they’re high school juniors and see these concepts again on the SAT and ACT. Further, the fundamentals of these topics may never have been solidified in the first place. For example, it’s often the case that more abstract concepts like fractions and percentages don’t “sink in” the first time around. Unfortunately, the current system makes it difficult to fix these problems. Teachers of more advanced high school mathematics courses like Geometry, Algebra 2, Trigonometry, and Precalculus, are often bound by rigid and packed curricula, and thus have no choice but to assume their students have these fundamentals down; there isn’t time for them to go back and reteach what the students are supposed to have under their belts.
All reading is not equal
The SAT and ACT emphasize reading for broad ideas and understanding the intention and direction of an author’s argument. Once again, by the time they reach high school, students are presumed to have mastered these abilities, and are tasked with more intellectually advanced approaches with respect to the literature they read: providing thematic and character analyses, exposing and explaining literary elements in the texts, etc. However, many students simply don’t have a strong ability to do what is assumed to be the most fundamental of reading tasks: “getting the point” of a passage. This can spell disaster on either the SAT or ACT.
What are students to do?
The most important thing for advanced students to keep in mind is this: Great performance in school by no means guarantees great performance on the SAT or ACT. There are many things to know that will help you succeed on these tests, but the first step is to make sure your fundamentals are solid. Only then are you ready to learn the techniques and strategies specific to the SAT and ACT. If you have difficulties with things like fractions, percents, finding the main idea, and dealing with difficult words, consider seeking help to address these issues. In this way, you can ensure that you’re putting your best effort forward on your standardized college admissions exams!
About the Author
Evan Wessler graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Bucknell University with a degree in Biology in 2009. Evan‘s experience has given him the ability to excel as a top educator at Method Test Prep. In his early days, Evan aspired to be an astronomer. One of his life goals is to travel the world in hopes of finding inspiration to write a work of fiction. A natural planner, Evan lives by the quote, “Previous planning prevents poor performance.”