…from GuidedPath Edge Guru

  • SAT Subject Tests

    SAT Subject tests are based on curriculum you have in class.  It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your mastery of a particular subject. According to the College Board, 

    “The SAT Subject Tests offer you an additional opportunity to show colleges what you know and what you know you can do. Many colleges use the SAT Subject Tests for admission, for course placement, and to advise students about course selection. Some colleges specify the SAT Subject Tests that they require for admission or placement; others allow applicants to choose which tests to take.” 

    Only a handful of colleges require SAT subject tests from students, but many will use SAT Subject test scores as a part of your admissions profile or for placement purposes (especially in foreign language). 

    What subject tests can I take? 

    There are 20 subject tests to choose from.  A majority of the tests are in foreign languages, with English, History, Math and Science thrown in too. The subject tests are broken down as follows:

    Are the subject tests the same as the AP tests? 

    No. There are more AP tests than there are subject tests.  For example, there are five Arts AP tests, and no Arts Subject tests. 

    What about the ACT? 

    The ACT does not offer Subject tests. They are only offered by the SAT/College Board. 

    When should I take the Subject tests? 

    The best time to take a subject test is right after you finish the class. It is also good to take the subject test at the same time you are taking an AP or other subject exam.  Schedule subject tests in May of your sophomore or junior year, and November of your senior year. 

    How long is a subject test? 

    Most subject tests are 1 hour in length. 

    How many Subject tests can I take at a time? 

    You can schedule and take up to 3 tests in one sitting.  Most colleges will use your best two scores. Some colleges will use 3 subject tests for admissions.  Check college website for testing requirements. 

    When are the subject tests offered? 

    They are offered 6 times each year: August, October, November, December, May and June.  Subject tests are NOT offered in March. Only the SAT is offered then.  

    Are all subject tests offered six times a year? 

    No.  Not every subject test is offered six times a year.  Plan carefully when you want to take any of the following tests: 

    Which tests can I take on any date? 

    The following seven tests are offered every time a Subject test is offered.

    Can I see my scores before I send them to a college? 

    Yes. You can use score choice to see your scores and decide which scores to send to colleges.  Remember to check college policies. Some colleges require you to send ALL your test scores. 

    What is the latest date I can take the subject scores in my senior year? 

    The latest you should schedule subject tests in your senior year is December.  If you are applying to any of your colleges early (Early Action or Early Decision) you should schedule them for October or November. 

    Do all colleges require the SAT Subject tests? 

    No. Many colleges do not consider Subject tests for admission purposes. Check the college website carefully for each college’s policy on Subject tests. 

    Do I need to take specific Subject tests for my major? 

    Sometimes.  Many colleges have specific subject test requirements for specific majors.  Engineering, science and math majors often require or highly recommend subject tests.  This is particularly true if you are applying to any of the University of California campuses. UC’s can’t require a subject test, but if it is highly recommended for your major, you will be more competitive if you take the recommended subject test. 

    How can I prepare to take the SAT Subject tests? 

    You can prepare for the subject tests in many ways. The CollegeBoard website has subject test prep.  Check for local SAT Test Preparation options. Check online. Check with friends and create your own subject study groups. 

    Take Action 
    Update your Testing schedule in GuidedPath with all your tests: ACT, SAT and SAT Subjects. Include PSAT, AP, or other tests you are planning to take. 

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  • Seniors: A Novel Idea – A Gap Year!

    marie_schwartzGuest Blog:  Marie Schwartz, CEO and founder of TeenLife.  Visit the TeenLife website to find “the web’s most comprehensive directory of STEM, gap year, pre-college, overnight summer and community service programs for students in grades 7-12.” Learn more about Gap year opportunities.

    A Novel Idea

    It’s high season for college applications. Students are polishing off college essays, waiting on final test scores, pushing for that last GPA point. Meanwhile, parents are biting their nails and wrestling with financial aid forms. 

    So, let’s talk about postponing college. 

    What? Is that insane?! Not at all. This is the perfect moment to take a deep breath and consider taking a break from school before plunging into the next pressurized step. Now is the time to think about a gap year or semester that allows time and opportunity to refocus, polish skills, explore an interest, or simply re-energize. 

    Gap years are more common in places like the United Kingdom where up to 25 percent of students who go to college take a year off. In the United States, that number is closer to 1 percent, according to the nonprofit Higher Education Research Institute. The statistics don’t tell why students take off a year, but the American Gap Association (AGA) reports increasing interest and attendance at the gap year fairs it holds around the country to familiarize students with gap programs. 

    Why even consider a gap? For starters, researchers in Australia found that taking time out from school helped with motivation once students got to college. Gap benefits even outweighed other variables for college success, such as gender and socio-economic status. Researchers even argued that their 2007 survey of 338 gap year students showed that taking a break helped students focus on what they were going to do after college. 

    And more than 90 percent of 600 gap students responding to a 2015 AGA survey said their time off from school increased confidence, maturity, communication skills, or the ability to get along with people with backgrounds different from their own. 

    A gap gives teenagers that important chance to be independent outside of the structure of school and athletics and away from the watchful eyes of the usual mentors – parents, teachers, and coaches. It can help develop the grit that students need to be independent and resilient once they get to college. 

    Gaps have become so acceptable that some colleges, such as Princeton, have set up their own fully-funded programs to encourage students to explore the world and themselves before entering college. 

    Don’t be swayed by some of the myths about “gap years.”  

    Myth: A gap lasts a year. 

    Fact: A gap can be whatever length works with your plan. It could be just a semester or quarter of work and travel, interning, or participation in a political campaign or community service program. Many colleges offer January start dates. 

    Myth: A gap is exotic. 

    Fact: Of the students surveyed by AGA, the largest percentage spent their gaps in the United States. A teenager could work on language skills, for example, tutoring in a local immigrant center. 

    Myth: A gap is out of reach financially. 

    Fact: A student might work part of a year or semester and use that money to travel or pay for a structured gap program. Some programs or schools offer financial aid or fellowships. And crowdfunding gives students more options to raise money to support time off from school. 

    Myth: A gap is just for kids who are unmotivated or unsure about college. 

    Fact: All students can benefit from a break to learn problem-solving, dealing with conflict, understanding their own limits, managing time, and being responsible for themselves in ways that are so very, very important freshman year. 

    If you’re considering taking a “pause” from your studies, go through the college application process but ask about deferral policies both for academics and financial aid. Thinking about those things now provides time to decide if a gap is a practical option. In the meantime, start exploring gap programs and options. Do you want something structured or freewheeling? Do you want to climb a mountain or work with children? Is this a time to work in a lab or volunteer at an animal hospital? Would you like to become fluent in a language, understand the inner workings of health care, or meet decision makers in Washington, D.C.? You can do all those and more on a gap. 

    College application season is a stressful time but it’s also the moment to be expanding your world and thinking about what you want out of life. Isn’t it worth some time to explore?

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  • When do you select a major?

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    Many college applications require you to select a major or state that you are “undeclared”. But what is the best way to choose a major? Here are 5 ideas to guide you. 

    1. Start early.  It’s never too early or too late to start exploring your interests and connecting them to majors or careers.  
    2. Learn about yourself. Take advantage of career surveys, interest inventories or other questionnaires or resources available to you. The more you understand yourself, the better prepared you are for next steps.  
    3. Research.  Use the Internet and other research tools available to you to explore what majors are needed for careers you are interested in.  Taking classes in subjects required for a major or profession helps you learn more too. 
    4. Try it on. Arrange to do a job shadow or to interview someone in careers you are interested in.  
    5. Make a short list. Once you have done your research and talked to people in professions, narrow your list of majors to pursue. Often there are many majors you can select from to get to a chosen career or area of interest.  

    Ode to the Undeclared Major  

    One of the most popular majors at universities is the “undeclared” major. Many universities or colleges recognize you may not be ready to declare a major when you start as a freshman. Often you do not have to declare your major until sometime in your sophomore year.  There are a few universities that don’t offer “undeclared” as an option. You will know which colleges require majors from their websites and applications. 

    Take Action 

    Take the Find My Spark survey in GuidedPath. Use it to learn more about your personality and preferences. Use the list of majors or careers to explore professions in the Occupational Outlook Handbook. 

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  • Seniors: 5 Tips for Making College Applications Easier

    checkered flag

    You are on the home stretch!  Only a few more weeks and your college applications will soon be done. Here are 5 ways you can keep sane during these last few weeks! 

    1. Set up Application Plans. Know what is needed to make a complete application at each college you are applying to.  Need recommendations? Transcripts? Essays? Make a list to keep track of. 
    2. Check Application Deadlines.  How many Early Action, Early Decision or Priority applications are you submitting?  Don’t forget – you can only apply to one school as an Early Decision applicant.  
    3. Organize your calendar.  Create a calendar with due dates for applications and other tasks you need to complete for your applications. 
    4. Track Progress. Feel a sense of pride and relief as you check off each task, knowing you are one step closer to getting in to college. 
    5. Keep in touch with an advisor or teacher.  Enlist the help of others. Your school or advisor may have deadlines or processes for you to follow. Check in with them often. 

    Take Action 

    Use the application dashboard for a “summary view” of your applications and status.  Never miss a deadline! Keep track of your college application deadlines on your Calendar! 

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  • Seniors: How do you measure your chances for admission?

    my chances copy

    How competitive for admissions will you be at a given school? This is based on several factors. Some factors are more objectively measurable in the college applications process than others. The easily measured factors include: 

    • Your GPA 
    • Your tests scores on ACT, SAT, Subject Tests and AP.   

     Less measurable, but equally important in your college application process are: 

    • The quality (rigor) of your course schedule 
    • Your resume of activities, work, and other experiences 
    • Contributions you made to your community 
    • Your love of learning 
    • Your life’s experiences 

     Using Measurable Factors 

    Check admissions data for each college on your list.  Look at the range of SAT or ACT scores, and GPA’s. Your test scores will put you in one of three zones for the college: green, yellow or red. 

     What puts a school in your GREEN zone? 

    • your test scores are in the top 25% of students 
    • the college has acceptance rates of 60-100% 

     What puts a school in your YELLOW zone? 

    • your test scores are in the mid 50% range, along with most other students 
    • the college has an acceptance rate of 20-60% 

     What puts a school in your RED zone? 

    • your test scores are lower than the average scores at the college 
    • the college has a low acceptance rate (typically under 20%)  

     How many schools should you have in each zone? 

    • 1-4 in the GREEN zone.  These are your SURE BETS or SAFETY colleges. For schools in this zone you can often expect to receive merit scholarship awards. 
    • 2-5 in the YELLOW zone.  These are your EXPECTED or TARGET colleges. A majority of your college list should be in this zone. It is your sweet spot for college admissions. 
    • 1-3 in the RED zone.  These are your REACH colleges. This is where immeasurable factors can be very influential. 

    Take Action 

    Use My Chances to do a final check of your college list.  Note: My Chances is not a guarantee or a prediction of admission. It is a comparison of data.  However, it’s a useful tool in gauging whether you have a balance of colleges from the different zones.    

    Follow these steps to check your zones: 

    1. Make sure your test scores are up to date in GuidedPath.  
    2. View My Chances under Colleges.  
    3. Change “Display All” to “My Colleges”.  
    4. Count how many of your colleges are in the Red, Yellow and Green zones.  
    5. Adjust your list if needed! 

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  • Seniors: Do early birds really have an edge in admissions?

     

    Do early birds really have an edge in admissions?  The answer is often yes!  The purpose of submitting an application to a college early is to indicate your top preference for that college or a small group of colleges.  Colleges appreciate knowing you are likely to enroll if admitted. With Early Action and Early Decision, you hear sooner whether you’ve been accepted to your “dream” school” and there is often a significant admission advantage to applying early.   

    What is the difference between the three early application types? 

    • Early Action is a plan offered by colleges allowing students to apply early and receive an admissions decision earlier than the regular decision dates. Early Action is typically non-binding (i.e. you are not required to enroll if you are accepted) and you may submit early action applications to more than one school. You can apply regular admissions to any other colleges. 
    • Restrictive Early Action (REA) “restricts” you from applying to any other school under an early action or early decision plan. With REA, you may only submit one early application, however the admission decision is non-binding (you are not required to enroll if you are accepted). In this case, you should decide if this college is your “Dream School”.  If Yes – apply using the restrictive early action plan. If No – apply regular decision so that you may submit early applications to other schools that are higher on your list. You can apply regular admissions to any other colleges.
       
    • Early Decision is the most restrictive of all the early plans.  Students may only submit one Early Decision
      application and if you are admitted, you are committed to enrolling at the college.  If you are accepted early decision, you must also withdraw your applications to any other college you’ve applied to.  

    Why Apply Early? 

    There are advantages or disadvantages to applying early. However, the following table shows an advantage in admissions when applying Early Decision at some of the top universities in the country.  If you have a school that clearly stands out as your “Top Choice”, it may be wise to apply Early Decision to gain a better chance of admission.

    Financial Aid 

    You can now submit financial aid forms starting Oct. 1, using last year’s taxes.  This gives colleges an opportunity to consider your financial aid or merit awards along with your admissions decision.  Often students who apply early are offered more financial aid. 

    Take Action 

    GuidedPath is designed to help you maximize early applications.  To manage Early applications: 

    1. Set up your application plans. For each school, decide which type of application you will submit – Early Action, Early Decision or Regular Decision.  
    2. Remember – you may have only one Early Decision or Restrictive Early Action application.  Be sure that school is your first choice.

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