To The Class of 2020

Your Sophomore Year is most likely going to be awesome!  You may start to think about college in the aspect that it’s not too far away and you have to start to prepare soon, but nothing really has to be done right now…right?!?  Actually, now is the perfect time to start taking action steps towards college.  Here are five tangible goals to achieve your sophomore year: Continue to do well in school, take as many AP classes as possible, join clubs and sports teams that interest you (don’t sign-up for everything!), develop a list of potential colleges you would like to attend, and lastly, take a practice ACT or SAT test. Let’s further break down those steps.

 

Step One: Continue to do well in school. This one seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, some high school sophomores seem to fall into a slump often pegged, “the sophomore slump”.  Students find their stride as sophomores and are content with their classes, schedule, and homework levels.  Some students tend to hit cruise control and coast through the year. After all, everyone knows you take the ACT/SAT next year and get “really serious” about looking at colleges as a Junior. Not true. Now is the time to focus on your grades to build the foundation you’ve already set as a freshman. Sophomores need to at least maintain, if not improve their grades to set the standard for the rest of their high school career.

 

Step Two: Take as many AP classes as possible. Taking AP classes is a great way to beef up your high school resume and challenge you throughout your high school career. These college-level classes are a great way to gain experience that colleges will recognize on your high school transcript. If you can maintain a good grade in these rigorous classes they are worth it.  However, if you find they are bringing down your grades, which will lead to a lower grade point average, then it may not be worth your time.  Know your limits and decide if it’s right for you.

 

Step Three: Join clubs and sports teams that interest you.  Let me preface, I didn’t say sign up for every club and sports team imaginable.  Only sign up for ones that you are genuinely interested in and you will enjoy. If you sign up for everything, you will get burned out, especially if you are keeping your grades up and challenging yourself with AP classes.  Start an activity resume you can use in a college interview and applications process. Activities are an intricate part of athletic recruiting and fine arts opportunities. Don’t be afraid to join a club that isn’t well-known or popular. If that’s what piques your interest, go ahead and join! Colleges will find a lesser-known club perhaps more interesting than a well-known club half of the college applicants are a part of. Stay interesting!

 

Step Four: Develop a list of potential colleges you would like to attend.  Start with local colleges, state colleges, ivy-league colleges, or just a college based on location! The point is to start looking to see which schools you may be interested in. Many factors play into deciding on a college that’s right for you, such as a college major, size of college, location of college, religious beliefs, your own ACT/SAT score and/or GPA. Create a list that is both realistic and challenging for you.  Resist the urge to settle for a school that’s so-so.  As a sophomore, you have time to increase your GPA, study for the ACT/SAT, take AP classes, and join clubs, but if you don’t have a list of potential colleges, what’s the point of working so diligently?

 

Step Five: Take a practice ACT or SAT test.  Get Smarter Prep offers Free Practice Tests every Saturday morning. There is no excuse not to take a practice test.  The purpose of a practice test is to offer a baseline score of where you stand with either the ACT or the SAT. Are you much stronger in the math section than the reading section?  Or do you score evenly in English, Math, Reading, and Science? How do you feel about the timing piece of the test? Did you feel rushed on the ACT, but not the SAT? Are you comfortable with the score you received on the practice test or do you need tutoring? These are all questions we can give you answers to after you take a practice test. Plus, it’s always a bonus to take a practice test before the real deal to become more comfortable and acquainted with the type of questions the test makers are looking for. Sign up for a practice test today. 

 

Is your sophomore year going to be the best year for you in high school?  Of course we can’t answer that question, but we want you to be aware of the potential your sophomore year has on your college process. Now is the time to start planning for your future. Good luck!

Realistic Expectations

When you think about the ACT, what do you imagine? Do you picture a calm setting, pencil in hand, calculator charged, and the feel of confidence rushing over you? Or, do you picture standing in line, calculator out of batteries, rumbling stomach, and the weariness of an impending test? Both scenarios could turn out to be real life for many students.  The question is, how do you prepare for both scenarios or a combination of both scenarios? Do you have realistic expectations for your ACT test?

 

Each school district has a number of Test Center Locations that offer ACT testing throughout the year, but not all test centers are created equal. You may get a proctor who is running late, or has gotten sick. There may be a student who tries to enter the test location after the test has begun or a student whose watch starts beeping in the middle of the Math section.  There may be a dog barking down the street or the classroom may be too hot.  Regardless of the circumstance, how prepared are you for any of these situations?

Setting realistic expectations

 

To prepare yourself, eliminate what you can control.  Get a good night’s rest, eat a healthy breakfast, charge your calculator the night before, make sure you have your ACT ticket with you, and last but definitely not least, be prepared for the test. Walk into the test with confidence!

 

Get Smarter Prep has a number of different courses ranging from One-On-One Private Tutoring, to Semi-Private Tutoring, to Group classes depending on the students’ scoring range.  Each class or tutorial will equip you with more knowledge, insight, and confidence to walk into the ACT knowing what kind of questions will be on each section of the test, strategies to approach each section, and time management skills to get through each section of the ACT.

 

Study hard, prepare the best you can, and be confident in the skills you’ve learned for this test.  The more you prepare for the test, the more confident you will be.  However, at the end of the day, the ACT is one test.  I guarantee no one will remember their ACT score in 5 years, so don’t put added pressure on yourself! Take a deep breath, walk into the test with your head held high, and dominate the ACT!

College Abroad? Does It Make Sense for You?

Many of us have dreamt about attending college abroad at one point or another. The food, the sights, the experiences.  But is it a reality? If it is a reality, how much does it cost compared to a degree here in the states?  In the United States, a “moderate” college budget for an in-state public college averaged $24,610 including room and board. A “moderate” budget for a private college averaged $49,320 also including housing and meals. How much more can college abroad cost?    

There are a couple of factors that need to be considered if you want to study in Europe. First there is the obvious, average tuition fees.  Secondly, the average living costs. Let’s take a look at some of the top countries to study abroad.

Coming in at #1 is Italy. No surprise there. The incredible food, the culture, and the history of Italy is enough for anyone to visit, let alone stay for a year. The average annual tuition fees is $920-$1,100 at undergraduate level at public universities. The average living costs is $15,600 per year. Still too costly for you?  We have good news. The same scholarships and grants that are offered to local students are also offered to international students. 

If your goal is to immerse yourself in Spanish history and rich culture, then you should study abroad in Spain, which comes in at #2.  The average annual tuition fees at undergraduate level in public universities is $1,430-$1,620. The average living costs are $11,800-$14,400.  You may begin your academic year with broken Spanish, but you may very well complete the year speaking Spanish fluently.

If Harry Potter is more up your alley, then the #3 location is right for you. England is a fantastic choice if you want to indulge in a different culture, but aren’t interested in learning a new language. English is spoken everywhere, although with a slightly diverse accent in different parts of the country. The average annual tuition fees at undergraduate level is between $20,000-$40,000. The average living costs are $12,400 – $14,000.

Another option that most people are unaware of are Consortiums; an association of two or more individualscompaniesorganizations or governments (or any combination of these entities) with the objective of participating in a common activity or pooling their resources for achieving a common goal.  There are numerous Consortiums around the Unites States, with programs running throughout the world. One of the most popular Consortiums is perhaps the Big Academic Alliance who collaborates with ten well known Universities including, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, and Purdue University among others. Not only are the students able to study at ten different Universities in the U.S., but they also include study abroad programs at more than 70 locations worldwide. Different study abroad programs vary from two weeks to six weeks to a semester or even a full academic year. Costs vary tremendously depending on the length of the study abroad program as well as the chosen destination.

If a liberal arts college is right for you, there is a Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, which is similar to a Consortium.  The CCCU includes over 180 Christian institutions around the world, with 30 or more institutions in 18 countries.  Their study abroad program, perfectly titled Best Semester, includes study abroad programs in Australia, Costa Rica, the Middle East, Northern Ireland, England, and Uganda. The average semester tuition fees range from $12,000-$19,000 and does include full room and board.

Study Abroad programs are available throughout many college institutions, but the difficult question is which one to choose from? Where do you have your heart set on exploring? Which culture do you want to dive into? Who says you have to pick one location?  Some programs offer numerous city destinations within a country or you may want to explore on your own and travel to two, three, four or five different countries while studying abroad.  No matter which path you choose, broadening your horizons and learning about a culture outside of your own will surely enlighten you and open your eyes to the diversity in our world.

Attending College in the EU

Attending College in Europe

Last Minute Tips for AP Exams

Spring semester is rushing by, and AP exams are just around the corner. How prepared do you feel? While there isn’t a ton of time remaining, here are some tips for earning your best score!

First, make sure you’re familiar with the structure of each test. Some teachers spend more time than others on this piece. If you feel secure in the content but not as comfortable with the actual exam, the College Board provides a lot of information about the each exam. You should be familiar with each test you take before test day, as you don’t want to waste valuable time decoding complex instructions that you could have reviewed in advance.

If at all possible, if you haven’t done so, take a practice version of each exam before test day. You may not have time to take a whole practice exam in one sitting, so break it up. Take a Calculus AP multiple choice section today and a European History AP Free Response section tomorrow. Focus on the sections you’re most nervous about – AP Comp Synthesis Essay, anyone? – and make sure to leave some time to review what’s working for you and what isn’t.

It’s impossible to review every topic, but select a few key topics for review. Your practice may help inform what to focus on, but looking over your course notes can help as well. Don’t plan to make 15,000 flash cards in a week. Zone in on what is going to deliver the most impact in terms of points, and be realistic about how much time you have.

Practice is important, but so is rest. Heading into your exams in a state of exhaustion or overwhelm is not the best approach. Know when to put the books and flashcards down. Eat regular meals and get enough sleep. Especially if you’re taking several exams, the next couple of weeks can be a test of endurance. Take care of yourself, and good luck!

By Audrey Hazzard, Premier-Level Tutor

The GRE, GMAT, and LSAT – Which Test to Take?

In the past, deciding which exam to take in preparation for graduate level education was relatively straightforward: the GMAT for business school, the LSAT for law school, and the GRE for almost everything else. However, more recently, more business schools have begun to accept the GRE in addition to the GMAT. The GRE’s homepage calls the test “the smartest way to graduate and business school.”

In addition, Harvard Law has recently announced that they will accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT. Although Harvard is only the second law school program to make this move, their prominence lends a credibility to the test substitution, signaling the possibility of a major change in law school admissions overall.

So which test is for you?

We say this a lot at Get Smarter Prep, but this decision does depend significantly on which school you want to attend. If you’re looking at a graduate program outside of business or law, then the GRE is the pretty clear choice. For business schools, the picture is a little more complicated. A significant number of business schools accept the GRE, but not all do.  Beyond that, even if your school does accept the GRE, they may prefer the GMAT, or they may view a student who submits a GRE score as less serious about the business school path than one who submits a GMAT score. This makes a bit of sense, at least – if I want to keep my options open, I am more likely to take a GRE, which is accepted for multiple kinds of programs. But these hypotheticals depend upon the business schools on your list. If you do find that the schools to which you’ll apply will accept either, consider taking a practice version of each test to see where you fare better. ETS has released a comparison tool that might help you evaluate scores.

For prospective law school students, at least for now, the picture is a bit clearer. After many years of pushing back against any school that deigned to break away from the mandatory-LSAT track, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) is considering revising their rules to permit schools to use the GRE. Any changes likely would not be in effect until the 2018-2019 admission cycle, so depending on when you plan to apply, these potential changes may not impact you at all. If the rules are changed, it would be a significant change for LSAC, and for students going through the application process. But unless the only two law schools on your list are ASU and Harvard, for the moment, it looks like you’ll be diagramming logic games with the rest of us.

 

How to Plan a College Visit


Source: Fix.com Blog

ACT Announces July Test Date for 2018

Students often look to the summer as a perfect time to prepare for the ACT. Most students have considerably more time over the summer, and Junior year, especially, can be over-full with academic and extra-curricular commitments.

Attempting to develop a prep schedule that takes full advantage of summer’s bounty of free time, however, can be tricky. After the June ACT, there isn’t another test date until mid-September, meaning that even a full 10-week prep schedule won’t begin until July. Many students and parents begin the summer ready to dive into studying, but working on ACT prep for 3-4 straight months just doesn’t make sense for most students, and studying that doesn’t lead directly to a test date (taking an ACT class in June, for example, and not taking the test until September) is often times counter-productive. Our brains have a lot of interesting things to occupy them, and given the opportunity, ACT strategies are quickly replaced by other, more compelling ideas.

For these reasons, we at Get Smarter Prep were excited to see the ACT announce that they will offer a July test date starting in 2018. This will likely be a great fit for students just finishing either Sophomore (c/o 2020) or Junior year (c/o 2019) who have very limited time for prep during the school year. Having another option will make it easier to find a test date that works for you!

By Audrey Hazzard, Premier-Level Tutor

Debunking Common Testing Myths – Part 1/3

We’ve all been exposed to a variety of folklore at one point or another. Whether we were exploring the Scottish roots of the Loch Ness Monster, sitting around a campfire telling stories about how Big Foot uses logs for toothpicks, or dreading the day we lost a tooth and we would be visited by the portly Tooth Fairy, who was known to accidentally fall on children in their sleep and smother them. We’ve all heard them! Wait – your older brother didn’t tell you that one about the tooth fairy? Maybe that was just me.  

Well, guess what? There are many myths out there about the ACT and SAT as well! We, at GSP, are here to help you navigate the testing process a little more smoothly and put you in a better position to make the best decision for you or your child. The challenge with college entrance myths is that many of them are rooted in some truth. If someone tells you something that seems too good to be true, you’re probably right. A good rule of thumb is to remain skeptical, and confirm with an authority on the topic!

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll provide insight into some of the most common myths. Here are the first three (in no particular order):

  • Myth 1: Since the ACT & SAT are college entrance exams, doing well in my classes as a Junior or Senior are the best/only way to prepare.

 

Ironically, most of the content that is necessary to do well on the ACT is learned by the end of sophomore year. For instance, much of the content found in the English section of the ACT or Writing & Language section of the SAT is taught in elementary school and in middle school. Very little of a student’s high school curriculum is focused on basic grammar rules. And, believe it or not, your science classes will help you very little on the Science section of the ACT! We have seen students who have never taken traditional Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Earth Science courses perform VERY well on the Science section of the ACT. Even the Math section – which mirrors “high school” curriculum better than the other sections – still has components that most students learned years ago, won’t learn for another year, or, in some cases, may never learn.

  • Myth 2: The best and easiest way to improve on the ACT or SAT is to take the test over and over again.

 

While practice is certainly one component of getting better at something, think about the last game or concert you prepared for… did you just run around the field or push random valves or keys when you were practicing? Did you have anyone in charge, like a coach or conductor, helping you learn the best way to swing a bat or play a particular scale? If you learn poor mechanics in sports or begin your singing career with terrible pitch, the more you do that task incorrectly, the more ingrained that bad habit can become, making it more and more difficult to improve in the long run! 

Learning how to do something correctly the first time, and then practicing it the right way, whether it be a sport, music, or the ACT, will almost always lead to the best results.

“Perfect practice makes perfect.” – Cal Ripken, Sr.

  • Myth 3: I only have to send my best scores to colleges when I apply.

 

When you apply to colleges, they will expect to receive all pertinent data in order to help them make the best admission decision possible. This is why almost every college will ask you all of your scores on the application, just as they’ll ask for all of your high school grades! It’s not that they won’t also receive your transcripts with your grades, they just want to make sure they have all your information and that you’re being forthright. In fact, almost all college applications will ask you to sign the application (electronically in most cases) to confirm that you are providing fully accurate and complete information!

There are several other ways in which colleges can/will get your complete testing history, so not disclosing all your scores can also work as a disadvantage if/when colleges find out you didn’t provide them with the full story.

Next week, I’ll debunk three more common myths, like, my scores are too low to get into college, all the “jocks” take the test on a certain date – so I should too, &  everyone I know seems to be scoring a 30!

-By Caleb Pierce, President, Premier-Level Tutor