If your son or daughter is taking the SAT or ACT in the coming weeks, here are some tips to help them maximize their score:
Take practice tests under real test-taking conditions - over and over again!
Let me elaborate. Many students spend a lot of time looking for hacks, tricks, and shortcuts to improve their test scores. They also normally study in "short bursts" (e.g. Study Math for 40 minutes every M, W, F) - when they really should be spending a lot more time and effort simply taking more full-length tests.
In my opinion, a large component of how well you perform on the test will be based on how much mental endurance you have built up by test day.
Most high school students aren't...
Back in the day, highly-selective schools were impressed by the proverbial "well-rounded student" who seemed capable of doing just about anything - from sports, to academics, to community service.
"Old School" Well-Rounded Student:
College Admissions Officers used to assemble their incoming classes by selecting many of these "well-rounded" applicants.
Campuses eventually became havens for lots of students who were good at lots of things.
Today, things are different.
In fact, many schools today are not as impressed by generic "well-rounded" students and have turned their attention to more "angular" students.
Angular students take a deep dive into one (or two) core activities - often at the exclusion of others - to become world-class in their field.
"Modern Day" Angular Student:
A Broken Model
After years of engaging with hundreds of high school students, parents, and guidance counselors from around the country, I've witnessed an unfortunate pattern.
These individuals continue to operate under the assumption that "college preparation" should begin in junior year.
I strongly disagree.
In fact, before stepping one foot into junior year, students should have a firm understanding of the expectations, milestones, and context for what lies ahead. [More on exactly what these factors are in a subesquent post].
Otherwise, students (and parents) risk feeling overwhelmed, paralyzed, and ill-prepared to manage the onslaught of information dumped in their laps. Once a student enters junior year, there are no do-overs.
In my private counseling practice, I find that a student's freshman and sophomore years (The Golden Years) have disproportionate impact on their readiness for the college admissions process, college selection, and life itself.
They are - as an economist...
Your number #1 priority this summer is to prepare for your official standardized test at the end of August or beginning of September.
This is what you should do:
Let me remind you why I recommend this strategy in case you start to waver on implementing any of these steps:
As a college admissions counselor specializing in students with big ambitions (e.g. Ivy League, Military Service Academies/ROTC, Athletic scholarships), I have seen dreams realized, shattered, and everything in between.
In this case study, I reveal what goes through a college admissions officer's mind as they review an application. What do they care about, what do they disregard, what jumps out, and what factors might seal the deal (for good or bad)?
In this blog, I review Erin's profile. Erin is a junior at a public high school in CA. She's an elite soccer player, near straight-A student, member of student government, and involved in community service.
Many parents of talented 9th and 10th-grade athletes tell me similar stories. They want to know their child's chances.
Here's how the story goes:
Hi, Phil. I've heard you're the expert in helping kids get into highly-selective colleges by mentoring them early in their high school careers. Can I tell...
Many young athletes today aspire to play Division I sports in college. This dream is fueled, in part, by the prospect of securing the ever-elusive "full-ride athletic scholarship".
The dream often originates as early as 3rd or 4th grade, when young athletes are shunted onto "elite" travel teams if they show above-average skill for their age. Unfortunately, once this train leaves the station - it's hard to get off.
For the next 4-6 years, most weekends and holidays are dedicated entirely to the sport - no matter the cost, travel, time, or energy required. And the beat goes on for years - with an unwavering devotion. Parents and children are equally afraid to step off the train for the fear of missing out.
Though rarely admitted in public, most parents mistakenly assume that their child is on a path to some type of athletic scholarship. They don't really know what this means exactly - and are afraid to ask too many presumptuous questions - but they sure hear a lot of chatter...