Tag: sat

Be Smart About Homeschooling-Investigate The Mathnasium Method

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The number of children getting their education in a homeschooled setting is increasing and will continue to do so. Most parents providing homeschooling can sufficiently provide a sound, base level math education using their homeschooling tools and connections. “However, it is not uncommon for the parent to “hit a wall” when their child begins to enter the world of algebra”, says Jim Trexler, Mathnasium of Roland Park, Center Director. At this point, the parent begins exploring options with fellow homeschooling parents. Those options range from teaming with other parents, on-line tools, individual tutors, and supplemental learning companies like Mathnasium.

Making Your College Application Stand Out – Focus on What Makes You Unique

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Editor’s Note: This is a sponsored post by professional tutor Ian Siegel, who owns and operates Streamline Tutors.

College-Application-FormIt used to be that GPA and SAT scores dictated where a student would be accepted into college. Now high scores and top grades only get a student considered at selective colleges and universities. The admissions office at Harvard, for one, reports that over 70 percent of its applicants are more than prepared to succeed there.

On the other hand, I have been told by admissions insiders at several large universities that applications with numbers that aren’t up to snuff are read by part-timers who only suggest a second look to admissions when other intangible aspects of an application appear especially unique and impressive. In other words, they stand out.

Tailoring SAT/PSAT Strategy to Fit a Student’s Needs

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With just a few days left until winter break, high school sophomores and juniors across Baltimore are powering through remaining tests and papers before the holiday vacation begins. But they’re also getting scores back from a standardized test they took in October: the PSAT.

Students across the nation take the PSAT as a form of preparation for the SAT. The PSAT, although half the size, possesses similar questions, organization, and time constraints as the SAT. Indeed, a section from a PSAT is almost indistinguishable from an SAT section. This is why a PSAT score is a solid indicator of an SAT score; just throw an extra zero at the end of the cumulative score and you’ll have a decent idea of how the same student would score if he or she took the SAT tomorrow.

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But no one will take the official test tomorrow, and most will follow the recommendation stated at the bottom of the PSAT score report and take the SAT for the first time in the spring of junior year. Ostensibly, the suggestion makes good sense because students are at the furthest point in their schooling and still have the time to retake the SAT, if needed, in the fall of senior year. But, like most advice, it does not apply to everyone, and the implied logic behind the suggestion tends to be ill-founded.

Savvy parents of high school athletes, for example, realize that a strong SAT score early in high school plays a pivotal role in the recruitment process. This is especially true for the 99 percent of recruited athletes whose mailboxes are not jammed with letters from college coaches. These athletes must advocate for themselves by proactively contacting coaches and sending them updates about their GPA, SAT scores, and athletic accomplishments. Coaches begin building their freshmen classes years in advance, and they won’t hesitate to convey that strong academic numbers are crucial to getting on the list.

Give Yourself an Early Holiday Present: Make Your Teachers and Counselors Your Best Advocates

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Some consider teacher and counselor recommendations to be the icing on the cake of a stellar college application, but they serve an integral role in the college application process.

Most understand that the strongest recommendations don’t succumb to platitudes like, “Johnny is a great, hardworking student,” or “Sarah always goes the extra mile in class,” but use anecdotes and examples to illustrate a student’s unique brand of excellence.

The best recommendations, however, also accomplish even more, like corroborating the writing ability in Johnny’s essays or explaining the extenuating circumstances that had an impact on Sarah’s grades.  Recommendations provide context to the many intangible aspects of a college application.

On the Common Application’s recommendation form, for example, teachers are required to rate each student according to 15 qualities that don’t necessarily factor into a student’s GPA (see below).  In my opinion,

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it’s no coincidence that academic achievement, intellectual promise, quality of writing, creative thought, and productive class discussion feature at the top of the list.  After all, what college professor wouldn’t want a class full of students who excel in those five categories?

College counselors, on the other hand, fill out a form called the Secondary School Report in which, among other things, they rate the level of challenge of a student’s course selection.  Colleges take this evaluation very seriously: it helps them measure the quality of an applicant’s GPA.  All else being equal, a class schedule filled with honors and AP classes will always trump one without in the admissions process.

Is the Ivy League Out of Reach for Most Baltimore Students?

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Last year, Baltimore Fishbowl writer Rachel Monroe reported on the parental angst incited by the low acceptance rates of Baltimore students at elite colleges.  Since then, not much has changed: acceptance rates remain relatively low at area high schools while  New England’s best prep schools still send students by the dozens to top colleges.  Why is this so?  Myths abound claiming either children of billionaires or impoverished students who have overcome impossible circumstances have the advantage, but, in truth, these applicants remain the exception.

Well, what’s the difference?  Do the most competitive colleges have a prejudice against Baltimore?  Not at all.  The difference lies in a simple reality: Baltimore is situated in one of the most competitive geographic regions in the nation.  Colleges first evaluate applicants on a regional basis, and the vast majority of admissions offices group Baltimore with the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.  Savvy D.C. parents—like those in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston—understand the level of competition and realize that, in college admissions, doing well at a good school is only half the battle.  That’s why those aforementioned markets are saturated with excellent SAT tutors, subject tutors, and private admissions consultants.

In this respect, Baltimore lags behind.  Indeed, many Baltimore parents might balk at the rates that the best SAT tutors and private college counselors charge in hyper-competitive markets.  But in New York, $150 an hour for a private SAT tutor is considered on the low end.  Similarly, private counselors offer packages that range from $4,000 to $15,000.  That might sound pricey, too, but these counselors get results.  The best test prep consultants help students achieve an average 300-350 point increase on the SAT, which can make a significant difference in an applicant’s chances for admission.

Local Schools Announce National Merit Semifinalists

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For the fifty eighth year running, the list of semifinalists in the annual National Merit Scholarship Program has been announced. Kids at local schools, both public and private, make the list.

Maryland SAT Scores Down (Barely), AP Scores Up (Slightly)

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What are we  to do? Maryland students’ average SAT score slipped by five points on the 2,400-point test last year. Who’s to blame?

Well, with 1,800 points up for grabs in the SAT (the lowest possible score in each section is 200), an average drop of five points is pretty minuscule. If the test were scored out of 100, it would be a loss of a little more than a quarter of a point. So, I don’t know, maybe a butterfly sneezed in West Virginia, or something.

The Aftermath of the SAT Cheating Scandal

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Remember those SAT scammers from Long Island? Although they didn’t end up getting away with their scheme, they can at least rest happy that their actions resulted in lasting change. Their legacy:  Starting in September, test-takers will have to provide a photo when applying to take the test. Then, when they actually show up at the testing site, test officials will make sure that that photo matches both the photo ID provided and the student standing in front of them.

This is a clear reaction to the New York scandal, in which Sam Eshaghoff, then a student at Emory University, used fake IDs in order to take the test on behalf of several students, including one girl. As the case developed, four other students were arrested for being paid to take the tests; each got paid between $500 and $3,500 per test.

Eshaghoff and his cronies accepted plea deals to avoid prison time. In a lovely instance of the punishment fitting the crime, Eshaghoff must spend his community service hours tutoring low-income students on SAT test-taking strategies.

Colleges Cheat on the SAT, Too

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Maybe Sam Eshaghoff, the student accused of running an SAT-cheating ring in  New York, should have gone to Claremont McKenna College? He would’ve fit right in at the school, which announced that it had falsified its average SAT scores for the past six years in order to rise in the rankings.

The school — which claims that Richard Vos, vice president and dean of admissions, was the sole figure responsible for the fraudulent data — inflated its average SAT scores by about 10 or 20 points. Like all good cheaters, they knew not to show extravagant improvements… which is maybe why they got away with it for so long.

Is changing a median SAT score of 1400 to a 1410 really worth it? Well, in our rankings-dominated world, colleges can become obsessed with where they stand relative to other schools. Just like the highly-competitive (and highly pressured) students they’re hoping to admit, schools do everything they can to make sure they stand out from the crowd. For some, this includes bending the rules — or even outright lying.

The New York Times lists a few other instances of schools that have attempted to game the rankings. Iona College in New York lied about pretty much all of its stats, and subsequently rose from 50th to 30th in its region; Baylor University paid students to re-take the SATs, hoping their second scores would be higher, thus bumping up the school’s average. And many schools routinely hold off on admitting students with lower SATs until January, so their scores aren’t included in the university’s average.

Is this a sign that the college rankings obsession has gone too far?

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