The news from Parkland, Florida, this past week is heartbreaking. The loss of life is tragic, unnecessary, and painful for another community afflicted by the scourge of gun violence.
However, it is worth highlighting that the response to this shooting is different. Instead of relying on elected leaders to send their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families, the survivors, high school students, are taking the lead to ensure that this massacre does not happen again: marching on the State Capitol in Tallahassee, staging walk outs across the country, confronting politicians, and circulating petitions to encourage companies to drop their ties to the gun lobby.
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are doing what no adult in Washington DC has been able to do: demand meaningful legislation to curb gun violence.
Their courage is inspiration for us all, and especially for other high school students. From their example, our kids can learn that they can advocate for themselves and be the change they wish to see in the world. Whatever it is that they feel most strongly about, our students can bring about real change.
Part of the college admissions process calls on applicants to find their voices. They need to write about themselves, what inspires them, and how they can add value to a college. Colleges are looking for the next generation of leaders that propel their campuses and communities forward. Students who can show that they can make a difference are the ones that earn admission.
Whatever it is your child is passionate about—whether it is gun safety, the environment, or any other cause—encourage your child to take a stand for what she believes in. Let it guide how she spends her time engaged in the community. Encourage your child to become an advocate—for herself and for the future. This will benefit her application by providing her with relevant experiences that demonstrate an ability to make a difference in your community. However, far more important than the college applications, this will give your child the opportunity to find her voice and discover how to apply it to make the world a better place.
With Spring Break around the corner, the second half of the school year is in full swing and flying by. Students currently enrolled in AP/IB/Advanced should consider signing up for SAT Subject Tests if there is a Subject Test that overlaps with their advanced class. I know what you are thinking, not another test, but these ones are different and can help your child build her application theme by demonstrating mastery of core high school subjects relevant to her intended path.
What are the Subject Tests?
The Subject Tests are administered by the College Board, the same organization that offers the SAT. These are one-hour-long multiple-choice tests that are designed to test knowledge of content from core high school classes. A student can take up to three tests on test day, and the Subject Tests are offered at the same date and test centers as the SAT I Reasoning Test. Unlike the SAT which tests verbal and mathematical reasoning abilities, these specialized tests are offered in Literature (English), Math (testing up to precalculus), History (world and US), Science (biology, chemistry, and physics), and foreign languages (i.e. Spanish, Chinese, French, etc.).
These tests are scored on a curve, and students currently enrolled in an AP/IB class that overlaps with the subject tend to score the highest on these. Like the SAT I, each test is scored from 200 to 800.
Are the Subject Tests Required?
These tests are optional for all but a few colleges and specific programs, so it is critical to understand your dream school’s policy.
For families that are feeling test-fatigued with the SAT/ACT and AP/IB testing, many students find these tests far easier to prepare for since they are multiple choice and test content, not reasoning. There is a lot of overlap with AP tests, so students may just need to study a few concepts that were not part of their in-class AP prep.
Which Tests Should My Child Take?
It is worth mentioning that on the Common Application, which most students use to apply to college, there is no place to input AP scores. However, for a student wishing to demonstrate mastery of a particular subject relevant to their intended path, there is the opportunity to report SAT Subject Test Scores. These tests are an excellent opportunity for students to build their application theme.
Your child should consider taking a Subject Test if enrolled in the most advanced class in the field that is offered. For example, if your child is an aspiring engineer, and currently enrolled in AP Chemistry, consider taking the Chemistry Subject Test in June after the AP exam (before the knowledge goes stale). Any student currently enrolled in precalculus or Calculus has the curriculum background to take the Math Level 2 exam as well.
Do not wait until Senior Year to take them all. By then, your child will have forgotten concepts she learned as a sophomore or junior, making prep much more difficult.
While an added layer of testing, take comfort knowing that these tests are easier to prepare for because they test concepts your child has learned in class. Use them to your advantage as another easy to understand data point. If you have specific questions about which tests to take based on your child’s intended major or class schedule, please contact us to discuss further.
It should come as little surprise that great readers become great writers.
This is good news for students preparing for the competitive college admissions process, because essays matter. There are enough students with perfect SAT/ACT scores and GPAs to fill every spot at highly selective colleges many times over. Once a student has demonstrated that she is qualified to be admitted to a college, admissions officers turn to an applicant’s extracurricular activities and essays to make decisions as to who adds the most value to their campus, and earns a coveted spot at their school.
Application essays cause some students anxiety because they know how much is riding on them. Regardless of the school or the AP/IB/honors program, students feel more comfortable discussing an author’s tone or the significance of a work of fiction than their own perspective or ability to add to their dream college.
This is why I suggest to all of my students to read for fun outside of class. Yes, I know how busy students are, but even if it is just a few pages a night instead of a never-ending Snap Chat conversation with a friend, I want my students to gain exposure to books that inspire them and prepare them to write great essays when applying. By also reading books of their own choice, students are more likely to get away from ‘rote answers’ and will be able to write and talk spontaneously about something that has truly captivated their interest.
More importantly, reading consistently throughout high school will help students prepare for the reading comprehension sections of the SAT and ACT. The iGen’s eyes are different than their parents’ due to so much screen time. Reading printed paper (aka a book) prepares them for the test.
There is not a one-size-fits-all approach for what students should read. Many schools ask applicants to list the books they read for fun in the last few years. By recognizing now that a college may ask your child this question, she can avoid the discomfort of not being able to answer because she did not read anything outside the curriculum. Consider books that showcase academic passions or interest in other parts of the world. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to what a student should read. If the book is celebrated for its contribution to society or showcases who your child is, then it will add to her application.
Feel free to email us for specific recommendations based on your child’s interests.
Wishing you fun reads that make your child a better test taker and writer!