The Second Year of College and Selecting a Major

This past week, we took our oldest daughter back for her second year of college.  It was a good drop off.  I was glad to have the first year separation over and done as the second year drop off was much easier emotionally.  We had survived one year apart, we were ready to do it again.  It did scare me that after this year, there are only two more years (potentially) before she is out of school and off on her own.  It’s hard to imagine her living and working on her own.  I can’t picture what she will be doing, mostly because she has no idea what she wants to do.

Our daughter has not decided what to study yet and she is very stressed out about this as she starts her second year of college.  As with most schools, her college requires her to declare a major by the end of her sophomore year.  She is worried that she won’t pick a major that will lead her into a good career field – one that pays well and is also something she enjoys.

I read an interesting article this week that questions the value of a student’s field of study, grades, and school selection for potential employers, The Thing Employers Look For When Hiring Recent Graduates.  According to the article, even the college major takes a backseat to internships and employment during college.  Unfortunately, that will be of little comfort to a student like my daughter who is looking for a “sign” to point her to the right field of study.  She has great aptitude and interest in Art History, but is worried that this will not lead her to a successful career.

So what advice do you give to a kid who is afraid of selecting a major and making the wrong choice?

According to Carmen Varejcka-McGee, an academic adviser at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, in a US News article, “”The tough idea for students today to grasp is that they can choose to study something that they are passionate about, an academic area that they love, without knowing what vocational path that might lead to.”   She also says, “Many students get stuck on the idea that they have to have a clear vocational goal in order to choose a major.”

I think this is the key point to get across to your child.  Many of the jobs of the future don’t even exist today.  Just because a field they are interested in doesn’t look like it will result in a “dream job” doesn’t mean there isn’t one just waiting to be invented.  It is often about combining the right mix of skills and experience into something someone never would have thought of doing.  Or it’s about using your skills and experience in a position where it wasn’t obvious these skills would even apply.

The best advice you can give the child struggling with selecting a major includes the following:

  • Major in something you really enjoy
  • Don’t worry about how much money you will make
  • Apply for internships early in your college career
  • Meet with professors who teach a class you really love to get their thoughts
  • Go for supplementary areas that will give you a well-rounded skill base (second majors and/or minors)
  • Get a job during college that will also round out your base of skills (especially “soft skills“)
  • Look for other opportunities that will help shape your future – off-campus/study abroad programs, volunteering, summer jobs, on campus leadership, etc.

I am confident that the classes my daughter is taking this year will help her in her final decision.  She is taking classes with two professors she really clicked with last year and they sounded more than willing to help her mold her course of study.  Selecting a college major isn’t the only key to your student’s future.  It’s really important to look for opportunities to build a great skill base that goes beyond just the major field of study. 


After the College Choice

Is Your Child’s Dream School a Financial Nightmare?

Today’s post is a guest post from Shanice Miller of DebtFreeCollegeGrad.com.  She wants to make sure parents understand the financial differences between the three major types of colleges: private colleges, public colleges and community colleges.

If you have a child that is a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior in high school, you’re probably starting to think about college and how you’re going to afford it. While some parents have started 529 plans and saved $40,000 or more to put towards their child’s college education, that number might not be enough to cover the child’s college costs. With some colleges costing as much as $60,000 for only a single year, your child’s dream school can quickly turn into a financial nightmare unless the child has a full-ride scholarship.

So how do you prevent your child’s dream school from becoming a financial nightmare and breaking your checking, savings, and retirement accounts? The first step is to understand exactly how much your child’s dream school will cost. You can easily do this by knowing what category your child’s dream school will fall into.

There are 3 different categories of colleges: Private colleges, public colleges, and community colleges.

Private Colleges

Private colleges are the most expensive of the 3 types of colleges. However, don’t rule these out just yet. Some private colleges can offer a lot of merit scholarships. Merit scholarships are based solely on the student’s academic achievements like their GPA (grade point averages), SAT scores, and athletic abilities. These scholarships can provide your child with tens of thousands of dollars to attend, which might make the college affordable and the price tag not as steep as you once thought.

According to the College Board, the average cost of attending a private college is about $41,000 per year— this includes room and board costs. Harvard University, Howard University, and Boston College are all examples of private colleges. Let’s look at their total college costs. Harvard University and Boston College cost about $60,000 per year to attend while Howard University costs about $40,000 per year. This means if your child’s dream school is a private school, make sure that you have approximately $164,000 in your budget for all 4 years.

Public Colleges

Public colleges are less expensive than private colleges. However, there are two types of public colleges— in-state public colleges and out-of-state public colleges. In-state public colleges are colleges in your state of residence while out-of-state public colleges are colleges that are in any other state besides the state that you reside in.

The College Board averages the cost of in-state public colleges at $18,000 per year and out-of-state public colleges at about $32,000 per year. The University of Houston and the University of California Los Angeles are both public colleges. Let’s look at their total college costs as an in-state resident in comparison to an out-of-state resident. For in-state residents, the University of Houston costs about $18,500 each year while an out-of-state resident would have to pay $27,000. For UCLA (University of California Los Angeles), in-state residents have to pay $28,700 per year while out-of-state residents have to pay $51,600. This means if your child’s dream school is a public in-state college, make sure that you have approximately $72,000 for all four years, but if the child’s dream college is an out-of-state public college, be prepared to pay $128,000.

Community College

Community colleges are the least expensive of the three types of colleges; however, tuition costs for community colleges will increase if your child wants to attend a community college that is not in your county of residence or in your state of residence. The College Board estimates community colleges costing $3,264 per year. Part of the reason that community colleges are so affordable is because they do not offer housing options and meal plans. Also, community college programs typically are two year programs where your child can receive an associate’s degree or switch to a 4-year institution where your child can continue his last two years of studies and receive a bachelor’s degree.

Some examples of community colleges are Anne Arundel Community College and Baltimore City Community College. Anne Arundel Community College costs $6,990 while Baltimore City Community College costs $2,460 each year. So if your child’s dream school is a community college, have an average of $6,528 in your budget for her associate’s degree or first two years of college.

As you can see, not all colleges are the same when it comes to the price. Knowing the cost of your child’s dream college can really prevent surprises in your budget and lifestyle.

Shanice Miller is the author of “How to Graduate College Debt-Free with Money in the Bank” and a personal scholarship coach. Learn more about her at DebtFreeCollegeGrad.com.


College Search

College Search Math: “Hard” vs. “Soft” Factors

Today’s post is a guest post from Steve Palley, CEO and co-founder of ApplyMap, a new website that helps high school students decide where to apply to college. He is also an academic and educator at UCLA.

Although most professionals working in the space would never describe it this way, I think that college admissions is the world’s most important numbers game. By and large, admissions officers truly care about the students they evaluate, and if they had unlimited resources they would get to know every applicant personally.

But the bottom line is that admissions offices are bureaucracies that have to process huge amounts of data quickly, reliably, and consistently. That means boiling real people down to a set of numbers.

As a statistician who studies the college admissions process, parents are always asking me how this works. How is it possible to take a complex, multifaceted young person and summarize them so decisively? It all starts with two numbers in particular, high school GPA and standardized test scores–the “hard factors” in a student’s application.

Why are grades and test scores called “hard factors”? One common explanation is that they are somehow more objective than the other parts of the application simply because they’re numerical. But that’s not really true, because context is everything. If you think about it, no two 4.0 GPAs or 2150 SATs are really the same, either within or between schools. They are themselves composite measurements of many different factors.

Furthermore, the “soft factors”–essays, extracurriculars, recommendations, and so on–get numbers too, applicants just don’t know what they are. For instance, admissions officers usually sort personal statements into scored categories based on a rubric, just like SAT essay readers do. The difference is that in the latter case, we know that roughly 1 out of 20 SAT-takers will receive a 780 or greater on the Writing section of the exam. The numbers for the soft factors are every bit as real, but they are hidden behind the walls of the admissions office.

Another difference between “hard” and “soft” factors has to do with the relative importance of each to the admissions decision. Admissions data from the 1600 schools in our database tell us that hard and soft factors weigh about equally into any individual admissions decision in 2014, with a slight edge going to hard factors overall.

But a closer look reveals more complex patterns. Hard factors start to lose their meaning as we move from lower-ranked to higher-ranked schools, because of the self-selecting nature of the students applying to top schools. So many of them have perfect grades and great test scores that the only way to really distinguish one from another is to do a deep dive into the soft factors. There’s a reason why application fees at the top schools have been increasing so rapidly in recent years!

A similar principle comes into play at schools that get enormous numbers of applicants, whether they are prestigious or not. In these cases, the hard factors often are used in a first pass across tens thousands of applicants in order to winnow the pool down to a more manageable number. Once the applicant pool is small enough, the more labor-intensive soft factors can come into play.

The opposite can also be true. In some cases, if a student’s hard factors are good enough, soft factors don’t matter at all. For example, the University of Texas automatically accepts the top 10% of that state’s high school students by class rank, and admission to most California State Universities is governed by a computer program called the eligibility index.

Most parents don’t like the idea of their teens being quantified by admissions professionals because numbers will never be able to capture the full reality of who they are as a person. But I think that admissions offices generally do a good job of making tough decisions based on limited information. With that in mind, the best thing to do as a parent is to embrace the uncertainty of the process as much as you can. Make sure your son or daughter is applying to a balanced list of 8-12 schools, and also be sure to remind them–and yourself!–to relax, joke, and smile. A sense of humor goes a long way during college season.


College Search

Accelerate Your College Search Now!

Are you the parent of a rising high school junior or senior who feels “behind the game” in the college search process? 

Are you overwhelmed with college options, college costs and terminology? 

Do you need to a quick way to find schools you can afford?

If so, I have a recommendation.  My friend in the college advice business, Michelle Kretzschmar, is offering a new online class starting August 14th that will help you build a list of “best fit” and affordable colleges fast!  You can even take the introductory lessons for free.  hasilyhahzifkphgzzgppqgvl_usermedia

Check out this class on Michelle’s DIY College Rankings website.

Michelle has created an Excel spreadsheet that contains data on over 1,500 colleges.  It is a real time saver in the college search process.  Instead of going to a college search website and plugging in criteria to build a list of schools that may be good for your child, Michelle starts with everything and lets you filter and sort as you narrow down what your child needs in a school.  The DIY College Rankings spreadsheet is filled with reliable data you can use to find the best college deals.

You can purchase the DIY College Rankings spreadsheet for $42 and I believe it will be a tremendous time saver in your college search process.  For just an additional $57 ($99 total cost with coupon code WENDY50), you can take Michelle’s online class for four weeks along with the spreadsheet.  You will learn the following, and more:

  • How to calculate your Expected Family Contribution
  • What types of financial aid are offered to help you afford college
  • What schools will offer the most need-based aid
  • Where to find merit aid
  • How to determine schools that are the best fit for your student
  • How to use the DIY College Rankings spreadsheet effectively

Michelle is offering you this special price for her class starting August 14, 2014 when you sign up using the coupon code WENDY50 I don’t get paid for promoting her class, I just believe in her materials and extensive knowledge on how to find the best college deals.


College Search

College Search Resources You Should Be Using

ChecklistThere are so many resources available to parents and students during the college search process that it can become very overwhelming.  One of the main reasons I started My Kid’s College Choice is to point parents and students in the right direction to find the best college search resources.

The College Search Resources You Should Be Using and Why

  1. A college search spreadsheet to track your potential schools – This helps you stay organized when it comes to schools to visit, schools to apply to and more.  Use my free college search spreadsheet template or create your own.
  2. A good college search website/search engine – This helps you identify potential schools that meet the criteria you are looking for.  I have done a comparison of 14 sites and the criteria you can search on each.  My personal favorites are CollegeData, Big Future, and Noodle.
  3. If you don’t have time to create your own college list, check out the DIY College Rankings College Search Spreadsheet.  Michelle Kretzschmar has done the work for you and you just filter to find what you want.
  4. FAFSA4caster – Make sure you know what your expected family contribution is estimated to be.  The FAFSA4caster gives you an initial idea of what colleges will expect you to pay out of pocket for your kid’s college education.
  5. College websites – Explore the websites for your student’s potential schools to narrow down whether a school is really a viable option.  You can find information on merit scholarships, admission criteria, statistics on who usually gets admitted, college visit options, majors offered and more.  Make sure to look for the school’s net price calculator so you can see what this school may offer in financial aid based on your student’s circumstances.  The best net price calculators also estimate merit aid based on your student’s GPA and test scores.

As a parent navigating through the college search process, the key things you need to know are:

  • What schools might be right for my student?
  • How much is college going to cost me?
  • What will it take for my student to be admitted?

The right college search resources can help you answer those questions.  Then you need a place to keep track of all those answers.  That’s where the college search spreadsheet comes in.

If you stick to these basic college search resources, and maybe throw in a few articles/opinions on what to look for in a college, it can make the college search process much easier to navigate.


College Search

Competing for Full-Ride Scholarships

1317230_29811116The majority of full-ride scholarships and full-tuition scholarships offered directly by colleges are competitive, meaning they aren’t automatically offered to all students meeting certain GPA and ACT/SAT criteria.  On my Full Scholarship List, almost 300 of the current 440 scholarships listed are competitive.  So, how does a student have a chance competing for full-ride scholarships?  There is no sure thing, no “absolutely how to win a scholarship tip.” If anyone tells you that there is, they are just trying to sell you something.  However, there are some common sense, important steps that will increase your student’s chances.

Tips on Competing for Full-Ride Scholarships:

  1. Communication – The beauty of competing for full-ride scholarships offered by schools, instead of private scholarships is that the student has a chance to establish a relationship with the school first.  The people reviewing scholarship applications may or may not be the same ones granting admissions, but applicants are building a personal file with the school.  “Demonstrated interest” may go a long way in the scholarship process.   This means the student should be in touch with the admissions office early and often to express his or her interest in the school and interest in any scholarships offered.  A question like “What can I do to increase my chances for merit scholarships?” is a great one to start with.  Many of the full-ride scholarships require admissions counselors to invite prospective students to compete.  The more a counselor knows about a particular student and his or her interest in the school and the competition, the more likely that student will be invited (assuming he or she meets all qualifications) to compete for full-ride scholarships.
  2. Scholarship Qualifications – Your student will have a much better chance at winning full-ride scholarships, or any other scholarships, when he or she exceeds the basic scholarship qualifications.  If the scholarship qualifications include a specific minimum ACT or SAT score, scores above the minimum will naturally look more impressive.  If the scholarship qualifications include “demonstration of leadership skills,” the depth of experience will be much more important than the breadth.  Many articles have been written regarding what college admissions offices look for in extracurricular activities.  The consensus is quality over quantity.  With leadership, the schools are looking for students who really made a difference.  If your student doesn’t have a great defining experience to talk about, he or she may not be qualified for a full-ride scholarship looking for more than just a great GPA and test score.  There will be a lot of students who meet or exceed basic scholarship qualifications.  The students who stand out from the crowd will be the ones who win.
  3. Preparation -  In researching full-ride scholarships for the Full Scholarship List, I found two ways students are competing for these scholarships.  Some schools just use the admissions application or require a separate scholarship application and select the winners from there.  For this type of competition, the student needs to nail the essay or personal statement and establish great communication with the school.  If the school offers admissions interviews, even if they are optional, students interested in scholarships should schedule one.  Other schools invite students to an in-person competition.  This is the student’s chance to really stand out.  Most in-person competitions require at least an interview and many also have a writing component.  Your student should make the following preparations for in-person scholarship competitions:
  • Know what to expect - if you didn’t get materials explaining what is involved in the competition, ask.  Things to know include – time limit for essay writing and potential types of topics, how many people will be interviewing you, are they one candidate at a time interviews.  You may not be given all the answers, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.  It shows that you are really interested in doing a good job.
  • Dress like you are going on an important job interview – neat and polished clothing and shoes, conservative hair and makeup, and well-manicured nails are in order for most colleges.  A parent, counselor, teacher or other adult mentor should be able to help you look your best.
  • Practice the art of essay writing – this is the time to put those five-paragraph essay skills from high school to practice.  A proper intro paragraph with a good “hook,” well-formed transitions and a solid conclusion will be important.  Practice writing on a variety of topics with a time limit.
  • Practice interview skills – Read up on what makes a good interview, how to answer questions well and how to appear poised and professional.  Do some mock interviewing with a parent, friend or mentor so you are ready for the real thing.

There are many full-ride scholarships out there and most of them are competitive.  Don’t let your student shy away from these for fear of competing.  Think of it like a really important job interview.  At the very least, it will be great practice for similar opportunities your student will face in the future.

Top students all of the country will be competing for opportunities like the ones I have listed on my Full Scholarship List.  If you don’t know how to find these opportunities, I have done the work for you by compiling almost 300 competitive full-ride scholarships and full-tuition scholarships on my list.  I’m sure there are more out there and I am constantly adding new ones as I find them.  If you don’t have a copy of the Full Scholarship List, you can use the link above to order your copy.


Uncategorized

Rising Juniors – Summer College Search Checklist

blue-flip-flops-mdLast week I talked about what rising high school seniors should be doing over the summer to prep for college applications in the fall.  This week, I am focusing on what rising high school juniors should do over the summer to further the college search process.

Rising high school juniors are entering a critical point in the college search process where prep work should happen for the college application process.  Staying on track junior year avoids scramble senior year and will help your future high school senior focus on college applications and scholarship applications.

Some of the key college search activities for junior year are:

  • PSAT test and ACT or SAT tests
  • College visits
  • High school activity/award resume building
  • Getting great grades
  • Creating a college list
  • Developing teacher and mentor relationships

These are the things your rising high school junior can be doing this summer to prepare for these activities:

  • Test Prep – There are great and inexpensive test prep resources for PSAT, SAT and ACT.  If your student plans on taking the ACT, check out my list of ACT Prep Resources.  Similar resources exist for PSAT and SAT.  For PSAT, you may just want to pick up a PSAT Prep Guide.  Amazon or your local bookstore will have several good options.
  • Start the College List – I offer a great free tool for keeping track of the colleges your students wants to visit and/or explore further, College Search Spreadsheet.  One first step for the college search spreadsheet is to decide what information you want to track for each school.  You can edit the columns on the spreadsheet to include these things.
  • College Visits – This summer is a good time for initial college visits.  Read The Summer College Visit for more information on the pros and cons of doing summer visits.  In addition, it’s a good time to look up visit days for the schools that are on your initial college list.  You can find these visit days on the college’s website.  Add these to your college search spreadsheet and start blocking off your calendar to accommodate them.
  • College Search Homework – Summer is a great time to read up on preparing for college applications.  The more your student understands what the expectations are, the less stressful it will be later on.  A book that I found tremendously helpful is B+ Grades, A+ College Application.  It is meant to be read by students, but will be very helpful for parents as well.  Parents, also check out my Start Here page for tips on what to read to be well-informed.

High school juniors will have a very busy and exciting year – lots of extra-curricular activities, difficult classes, standardized tests, college visits, and more.  Help your student stay organized now and be ready for a great year by doing some summer college search preparation.


College Search, High School Preparation

Rising Seniors Summer Check-In – Prepare for College Apps

beach-chair-and-umbrella-mdIn my area, school has already been out for over a month and mid-August will mark the start of the new school year.  For rising seniors, that means time to start college applications is right around the corner.  It’s a good time to do a summer check-in to make sure your rising senior is on track to start college applications this fall.

I have compiled a list of the things I recommend checking in with your rising senior on this summer.  Either have a conversation with them or print these as things that need to be “checked off” this summer.

Rising Seniors Summer Checklist:

  • Recommendation letters – Pick 2 or 3 teachers to write recommendation letters and start thinking about what these teachers need to know to write a good recommendation for you.  These recommendations will be important both for college applications and scholarship applications.
  • High school resume – Start a high school resume of extra-curricular activities, jobs and honors/awards or update your current one.  This will also be used for college applications and scholarship applications.
  • College list – Start finalizing the list of colleges to apply to.  These days, 3 – 10 schools is pretty typical.  If you don’t have a way to track these schools, download my free college search spreadsheet.
  • College visits – Make a list of schools that need another visit for determining whether or not to apply (or schools you haven’t gotten to yet).  Start planning when those visits can happen.  Summer visits are fine for first visits, but for making a final decision on whether a school should be on or off your list, it’s best to visit during the school year.
  • ACT/SAT plan – Are you satisfied with your current scores or do you want to take the test one more time in the fall?  My oldest daughter was glad she took the ACT one more time her senior year because she had her best composite score.  It gets really hectic trying to juggle this in with everything else going on senior year, but it is often worth giving it a shot for potentially qualifying for more merit scholarship money or very selective admissions.
  • College application essay – Summer is a great time to start thinking about college application essay topics.  A great website to help you start brainstorming is Essay Hell.
  • Interviews – Do any of the colleges on your list require or recommend interviews?  If so, now is a great time to get these scheduled.
  • College contact – Do the schools you are going to apply to know you are interested?  If not, start making contact.  Find out who your admissions officer will be and start by emailing him or her to express your interest in the school and ask what he or she recommends you do to be ready to apply.
  • Common App – The Common App for next year’s applications will be available August 1.  If you are applying to any schools that use the Common App, create an account and start looking at the application in August.

Once senior year starts, it’s going to get pretty crazy fitting college applications and preparation in with everything else going on.  Doing some summer preparation now will help avoid stress later.


Applying to Colleges, High School Preparation

Best College Search Resources

search-thAs a parent starting the college search with your high school student, how do you find the best college search resources? It’s a difficult quest in a world full of opinions and the millions of results that will display in your online search.

Here are some of the best college search resources I have found:

  1. CollegeData website – This site has a robust college search function that is very data based.  You can include things like “freshman satisfaction” rate, graduation rate, percent of financial need met, and percent of students receiving merit aid.  CollegeData provides detailed statistics for each school.  Especially helpful are the Admissions and Money Matters statistics.  You can see how many students with financial need have their need fully met and the average percentage of need that is met.  This will be especially helpful for families who know that they should be eligible for at least some financial aid.  You can assess your student’s chance of being offered a substantial amount of aid by a particular school.  For example, if a school shows that the average percent of need met is 50% and you are counting on financial aid to send your student to college, that might not be a college you can count on.  On the other hand, if a school shows average percent of need met is 95%, that’s pretty encouraging.  CollegeData includes lots of other statistics regarding financial aid and merit aid, what is important for admission, and more.  Go to CollegeData when your student is building a potential list of colleges to get a good overall picture of whether or not a school will meet your family’s requirements.  Also, go to CollegeData for help building an initial list of schools.
  2. Niche College Prowler - The best thing about this site is the college reviews by students.  It is always interesting to hear what current students have to say about their school.  Of course you need to look at these in aggregate and not take any one person’s comments too seriously.  As with most “user reviews,” there will be a wide variety from lovers to haters and everything in between.  Both you and your student will enjoy reading the college reviews on Niche College Prowler.
  3. Cutting the Cost of College – This is an online class offered by Lynn O’Shaughnessy of The College SolutionIt will teach you how to find the best deals on colleges.  I participated in the pilot of this class and found the information extremely helpful for any parents worried about finding affordable schools.  It is taught in a very interactive way and you will learn from Lynn as well as other parents in the class.

I know from experience that it is easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of information out there pertaining to the college search.  These are just a few of the best college search resources I have found.  For a broader list of sites you may want to check out, go to the list of My Top 10 College Search Information Websites.


College Search ,

Why SAT and ACT Tutoring Makes Sense, Even for Smart Students

Standardized TestThis post is a reprint from Danh Le of Underground Academy.  Underground Academy specializes in individual online PSAT, SAT and ACT tutoring.  I think this approach makes sense and I am going to try it for my middle daughter.  As Danh mentions, high scores can increase the possibility of full-tuition / full-ride scholarships.  Check out my Full Scholarship List to see many of these great opportunities and check out Underground Academy for more information on this great tutoring option.

Why You Need a SAT and ACT Tutor Even if Your Child is “Smart”

A common question I get from parents is
“I have a bright child.  Why should I still get tutoring?”Up until a few years ago, I didn’t think tutoring was that valuable. Growing up, I never had a tutor, and I was fine self-studying. However, I finally realized I had something I rarely find in students I tutor: well-defined goals and lots of intrinsic (inner) motivation.  Also I did not have too many extracurricular activities to distract me or take up my time. These things allowed me to get away with not having a tutor.

Well-Defined Goals and Motivation Within

I wanted to get an 800 or as high as possible due to several reasons:1) Increased options where I could go to college
2) I understood the math behind the loans and debt of college, so wanted increased scholarship chances.
3) Possibilities of getting full-tuition/ full-ride scholarships just due to 2 numbers: test scores and gpa.  I hate essay writing, participated in only in a few clubs (none leadership positions), and knew the SAT and ACT tests gave me the most efficient way to get this free money
4) I’ve always been a straight A student, so it bugged my ego that I couldn’t score high my first couple times with this test.

These goals pushed me to succeed and find out as much as I could about the test and do all the things that a regular smart student wouldn’t do.

The Problem With Smart Students

Smart students think their good school scores automatically translate over to  high test scores and so are lackadaisical the first one or two times they take the test.  The truth is a good GPA rarely translates over to high test scores the first time the test is taken.  The SAT and ACT test different things from a normal high school curriculum, and students need to learn the skill of beating the test.  Unfortunately, most parents are too late in the preparation (which is primarily the fault of the school system) that by the time students take this once or twice, it’s already the end of junior year and the low scores are worrisome

How Tutoring Fixes the Problem

So tutoring makes the entire process more efficient regardless of what level the student is at.  I know exactly what materials to use, how to use them, and where to find extra FREE help outside of tutoring and other free resources, thus saving a lot of time.  I pinpoint the errors that a student is making and show the steps needed to correct it.  Having regular meetings also helps the student be accountable to doing her work on a strict schedule.I try to go one step further by discussing and teaching life skills such as goal setting, stress management, better study habits, and improved productivity.

The thing I or anyone else in the world can’t do is get the student to open the book and do the work when I’m not around.  Score increases are 20% the tutor, 80% the student.  As you can see, the potential downside of tutoring is if the student thinks having a tutor automatically guarantees score increases and thus doesn’t work as hard as she should because she thinks the tutor will bail her out.  Even in these situations the score with tutoring should be better than without tutoring. How much so, unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you since it has too many other factors.

A Prescription for a Better SAT and ACT Score

So the best thing to do would be to cultivate intrinsic motivation + tutoring.  That would allow for the biggest score increases.  I’m okay with extrinsic motivation but if I were really good I’d be charging a lot more.  But no matter how good the outside motivation is, if the student doesn’t want it bad enough, she won’t get her highest potential score. Cultivating intrinsic motivation requires tinkering with the 4 reasons I mentioned above to suit your child’s personality and wants.  If your child doesn’t understand how much money will be automatically deducted from her paycheck month after month for years after college, show her some calculations. (Make sure to translate it to something they understand, like actual hours of work.) Perhaps your child wants to travel or wants a car.  If she studies hard enough to get a huge scholarship, I think that’d save you enough money to get her something nice that she wants.2nd best thing is probably just cultivating intrinsic motivation.  If you believe your child has the will, find some SAT or ACT materials and books off amazon.com or from the library.  Alternatively, for a fee, I can set a student up with all the tools I use, so she can go through them at her own pace.

3rd best would be tutoring alone.

Whatever you do, it’s a smart decision to act earlier rather than later (that is, 2nd semester of junior year when AP time is around and end of year projects, finals, etc consume a ton of a student’s time)

Best of luck

You can find more information about SAT and ACT tutoring on the Underground Academy website.


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