Tag: sat

Five Crucial College Admissions Tips from Johns Hopkins

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The Hopkins Insider blog is a great resource for students applying to Johns Hopkins — or to any college at all, really. The site offers an inside peek at the mystifying world of college admissions. This week, Daniel Creasy tells readers his approach to reviewing applications. We gleaned five crucial tips from his account. Read on — some of them may surprise you!

1) Your future matters more than your past
Frankly put, admissions officers want to pick the people who will make the best college students, not those who were the best high school students. This is a fine distinction, of course, since the way schools figure out if you’re strong college material is to review how you did in high school. But the key here is to remember that potential matters more than past perfection. What does this mean? Well, you can chill out a little bit if you’re not captain of the softball team, yearbook editor, valedictorian, and volunteer extraordinaire. You don’t want to be the kind of person who peaks in high school. To make admissions officers sit up and take notice, show evidence of abiding interests (academic or extracurricular) that you’ll be able to continue and deepen during your time at college. It also means that a freshman year slip-up is looked at way more leniently than plummeting grades in a student’s senior year, even if the end-result GPA remains the same.

2) Your “deeper qualities” matter more than your grades
It’s easy to get hung up on minute differences in SAT scores, GPA, and other quantitative measures. But remember:  competitive schools could stock themselves with 4.0-GPA robots if they wanted; the fact that they don’t means that they value other qualities beyond brute academic force. “Such an approach values interpersonal qualities and actual experiences and engagement, over raw data,”says Creasy.

3) Persistence is the “deeper quality” that matters most
Flashes of genius are great, but they’re just that — flashes. What impresses admissions committees more than moments of brilliance, according to Creasy, is “what a student does on a day-to-day basis.” In other words, given a student who spent a week building orphanages in Cameroon and another who spent four years tutoring low-income students at a school down the street, the student with the less flashy (but more consistent) tutoring experience is more impressive.

4) Test scores matter less than you think
Students tend to obsess about the SAT — they buy practice books, sign up for courses, and some even try to pull elaborate scams to get higher scores. But for the Johns Hopkins admissions team, at least, the test scores are not as definitive in determining admission as many students think. “Test scores are important, but the high school transcript holds much more importance in my analysis than do the test scores. I look at the test scores to see if they reflect what I expect a student’s standardized performance would be after reviewing the transcript. If they match, which they typically do, I move on. If they don’t, I ask why and then move on,” Creasy writes.

5) And recommendation letters matter more
“A recommendation tells much more about a student than a test score, and a recommendation is better evidence of future success, whereas a test score is simply an evaluation of performance,” Creasy notes. So get to know your teachers. It’s great if they can praise your classroom performance, and even better if they can speak to those value-added qualities mentioned above. Does your English teacher know about your spoken-word poetry? Can your biology teacher mention your volunteer work at the hospital in her recommendation letter? All the better to make you stand out as a candidate.

SAT Cheating Scandal Widens

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Back in September, Sam Eshaghoff was arrested and charged with helping other students cheat on college admissions tests. Eshaghoff, who had graduated from high school in 2010, got paid a few thousand dollars to take the SAT and ACT while posing as other students — one of them a girl.

And now, according to the New York Times, several of those involved in the scandal are expected to turn themselves in today. The Times‘s anonymous source claims that at least four students who paid for stand-in test takers and three more test-takers are going to speak up. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg — a total of 35 students are under investigation. And while when the story first broke, it sounded like it was limited to Great Neck High students, now prosecutors believe that students from two public and three private schools are involved. (Some of the students may be off the hook because the statute of limitations have expired; others were under 18 at the time, and so will face only misdemeanor charges.)

Long Island residents seem both shocked and not shocked. “The pressure from parents and peer groups to get into Ivy League schools is incredible,” a local teacher explained. If it’s happening in Long Island, do you think it’s happening in Baltimore, too?

SAT Cheating Scandal: Just the Tip of the Iceberg?

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Schools worry about test-hackers and computer-aided cheating, but Sam Eshaghoff pulled an SAT scam the old-fashioned way… by using fake IDs. According to allegations, the 19-year old from Long Island took the test seven times, once on his own behalf and then passing as six others (including a girl with a gender-neutral name!).

The fraud itself sounds so basic that Eshagoff can’t be the only mastermind attempting something like this:

Que Sera, Sera. Test Results Will Be What they Will Be…

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When the PSAT scores came home earlier this year that envelope was opened as fast as any birthday present. I’m not sure, really, what the results actually mean. They say the scores are rough predictors of future SAT scores. So, for instance, if you earn a 200 on your combined PSAT, you can expect to earn about a 2000 on your combined SATs. 2400 is the Holy Grail.
There are, however, some variables, they say. Your student will be months older when he or she takes the actual SAT (for the first time). He or she will have had those additional months of substantive instruction. And, very importantly, he or she might have taken an SAT prep course. Omni Test, Horizons, Kaplan, Sylvan, you name it. We willingly pay the small fortune for these courses, in hopes of helping our children improve their SAT scores by 100, 200, some say even as much as 400 points. These can be life-changing numbers for a kid whose GPA alone won’t earn that letter of admission. Or so we believe.
Oddly, we heard no comparisons. There was no chat about who in the class had done well and who had not. Something good has happened with our children, and they have learned to respect each other’s privacy. Or, perhaps they have learned to protect themselves. If you are not asking, then you are also not telling. Maybe they have begun to mature or evolve to that place where we adults now stand, where your position relative to others in the professional world is not something you talk about with polite company—it is a subject reserved for you and your supervisor, or you and your spouse or partner or closest friend.
 
For most of us, our kids have also taken the SAT by now…  Scores are in, and I can tell you the numbers do not always go up from PSAT to SAT.  I think the truth is, “test day” may be as important as the number of prep classes your child has taken.  Our daughter took SATs on the Saturday following mid-term exams.  She was fried.  No matter she had learned all the tricks for easy elimination on the multiple choice format, no matter that she understands the quadratic equation.  She was tired, and a tired kid is not a good test taker.  They don’t really focus on these common sense pieces to test prep at the fee-for-service operations.  We know she will take the SAT again – most kids do.  But now we know it is not all about the prep course (although we remain hopeful that our investment is not a waste!).  Tests are tests are tests, and sometimes your teenager performs to ability, and sometimes not.  
So, congratulations, I say! Whatever that PSAT or SAT score was, I say “good job!” As we do for ourselves in real life, I will encourage our kids to try harder, do better if they can the next time, and learn something. But, as in real life, we must acknowledge where we stand right now. Not everyone will get that 2400 on the SAT, and not everyone can be the MVP at work. For all you overachievers out there, a disappointing score might spur you to action. But for the regular kids, I say love yourself. The world will meet you where you are.    

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