SAT

Are your test scores good?

Are your test scores good?

It’s a question I hear all the time: “I got _____ on the SAT. Is that good?” Everyone would like to know that their test scores are good. That they’re valuable, that they’re going to help a student get what she wants, like admission to a top-choice college or a scholarship. The problem, of course, is that none of us are quite sure what makes a test score “good.”

What I’d like to do today is go over all the ways I can think to answer that question, from the fairly objective to the completely dysfunctional. There are a lot of ways to think about your test scores.

Things I say all the time

Things I say all the time

We’ve all got those words, phrases, and sentences that we use all the time. I over-use the word “apparently,” and some quick searches through this blog make me realize I apparently also over-use the phrase “all the time.” But behind the words and sentences that we repeat often are the ideas and worldviews that drive us. So this week I thought I’d explain the thoughts and motives behind some of the sentences I use most in my job as someone who writes about college admissions and advises students on their own admissions paths.

You're not trying to impress anyone

You're not trying to impress anyone

If you’re hoping to get into college by impressing the admissions office, I want you to let go of that idea right now. You’re not going to impress them. Your SAT or ACT scores—even if perfect—are not going to impress them. Your GPA is not going to impress them. Your list of activities and awards is not going to impress them. Your letters of recommendation are not going to impress them. If your college admissions strategy is to impress, rethink your strategy.

I know this sounds gloomy, but it’s not. Stay with me.

Four things juniors should do before the end of the school year

Four things juniors should do before the end of the school year

It’s been a week since most college-bound seniors made their final decision and commitment about where they will be next year. That means the clock is really ticking for current juniors, who have another 51 weeks to complete their own admissions process. An entire year from now may seem like a long time to get it all done. It may seem like a really short time. Both are true: it’s still plenty of time, but it will go by really quick.

The Glossary: the basics

The Glossary: the basics

I want to go over the basic terminology necessary to understand college applications. So many of us—college consultants, high school counselors, teachers, parents, university admissions departments—take it for granted that our students are completely aware of all the terms and lingo, even though the terms are rarely actually taught. If you’re trying to be a first-generation college student, came to this country recently and are new to the system, and/or go to a high school that doesn’t emphasize college preparedness, then some (or a lot) if this may be understandably new.

Test-optional isn't going to last

Test-optional isn't going to last

Maybe required testing will make a come-back, maybe some new test will come to dominate SAT and ACT, or maybe (but less likely) standardized testing will disappear. But the middle ground of “send us scores if you want to” won’t be around for too long, because there’s no good reason for it to exist.

What are good test scores?

What are good test scores?

It’s a question I hear all the time: “I got _____ on the SAT. Is that good?” Everyone would like to know that their test scores are good. That they’re valuable, that they’re going to help a student get what she wants, like admission to a top-choice college or a scholarship. The problem, of course, is that none of us are quite sure what makes a test score “good.”

What I’d like to do today is go over all the ways I can think to answer that question, from the fairly objective to the completely dysfunctional. There are a lot of ways to think about your test scores.

What should seniors and juniors be doing right now?

What should seniors and juniors be doing right now?

This is a tough line to walk, senior year. On one hand, you really ought to be shifting your focus to next year. You have a lot of big decisions to make, and you need to allocate time and resources to working on strong applications and making informed decisions. Your daily high school homework isn’t quite as compelling as it was a year ago. On the other hand, you also need to be preparing yourself to be a good college student, and the best way to prepare for college is to be a good high school student.

SAT scores should look a lot more like AP scores

SAT scores should look a lot more like AP scores

SAT scores are weird. You get a number, ending in a zero, on a scale of 200 to 800, twice: one for reading & writing, one for math. You get a total score between 400 and 1600...except, of course, for those years when the writing was separate and you got somewhere between 600 and 2400. You're allowed to take the test multiple times and combine your highest reading & writing score with your highest math score, giving you a "superscore" that's higher than the total scores you got any of the individual times you took the test.

And then what? What does that number even mean?