Fun Facts about Austin Motley

Here are some quick facts about Austin

1) I have played 4 instruments in my life starting in second grade (Piano, Guitar, French Horn, and Mellophone).

2) I love barbeque (especially KC barbeque).

3) I love dogs and have never met one that didn’t warm up to me eventually .

4) During my senior year of high school I was part of a team that designed and built an electric racing car. Oh and I got to drive it on Kansas Speedway.

5) I love watching sports with my family and I am a Kansas City die hard.

6) I have never left the country (though I hope to change that soon) but I have seen both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.

7) I have been married to my wonderful wife Brittany for three years and we have been together since we were 16 years old .

8) I love reading fantasy books ( Lord of the Rings is my favorite).

9) I graduated from Kansas State University with a Degree in Mechanical Engineering. ( Go Wildcats!).

10) I believe the best way to build relationships is to compete together. And I love playing everything from board games to basketball.

The Hazards of Anecdotal Advice

Preparing for the ACT or SAT can seem daunting. Often, people instinctively turn to friends or online articles for advice. While some guidance from these sources is helpful, it’s important to examine the limitations of students who could be referencing an outdated version of the test, whose only knowledge of the exam comes from taking it, and who may have needs that are dramatically different from your own.

Our students commonly pass along what they’ve heard from their peers, and while some of it is good, solid information, a lot of it rings completely or, at least, partially false. For instance, some students will swear that “C” is correct the majority of the time when in reality, the answers on the test are evenly distributed throughout the exam – so C is no more likely than any of the other options. Another common tip passed around among high schoolers is to take the test on a particular date – take June, for example – because it’s easier than the others. There are several issues with this. Maybe June felt easier for one particular student, but, as everyone’s strengths are different, that didn’t necessarily hold true for others. Additionally, if the June test in 2015 truly was easier for most students, that doesn’t mean that the 2016 test will follow suit. Most importantly, the curve on the ACT renders any differences in difficulty irrelevant. If the June test truly was less difficult, then the curve would just be harsher.

Additionally, we recently worked with a student who scored higher on the ACT, but was told by a friend at Harvard that she should take the SAT solely because she had already taken the ACT previously. This was amidst the new changes (which made the SAT unstable and a bad choice for the majority of students). Combine that with the fact that every college will accept either exam, and her friend’s direction amounts to some pretty rotten advice. In the end, the student remained focused on her stronger test and exceeded even her expectations.

Looking to current college students for help – particularly those who attend prestigious schools – seems intuitive on the surface. However, students who attend top schools are often scoring in the top 99th percentile of college bound students nationwide, and therefore do not reflect the reality for the majority of other students. Also, these students have a very limited experience. Scoring well on a test does not make you an expert – especially as the tests continue to evolve.

The newly revised SAT gives a perfect example of this. In this article, Business Insider presents the perspective of a “Harvard grad with a perfect score on the SAT.” In the article, Chris Ryan (the aforementioned Harvard alum) offers last minute tips to scoring well on the SAT. There’s a major problem with taking his advice: the test that Ryan took years ago hardly resembles the current SAT.

In another article, titled “College Students Share Their Best SAT, ACT Test Strategies,” students from Washington University in St. Louis and Harvard University are consulted. Their advice includes some valuable tidbits, such as beginning to study well before the test, striving to learn new strategies, realizing that these tests are “not the be-all, end-all,” and the importance of skipping questions that are sucking up all of your time. Alternatively, some of the advice falls flat and illustrates a lack of expertise. When counseling students on time management, the WashU student claims that you should skip passages on the ACT Science section that include charts if you struggle with reading them. This information is not only inaccurate, it’s potentially quite harmful. Of the six ACT Science passages, five of them will reliably have charts, while only one may not. If a student were to try to follow this advice on test day, they’d end up frantic and confused – as they’d potentially be trying to skip over all of the passages.

Overall, it’s vital to use discretion when following advice about college entrance exams that comes from friends or articles. While some of it may be valid, keep the source in mind. Just because your uncle recently had his home remodeled, that doesn’t mean you’d want him creating blueprints for yours. Instead, you’d turn to the experts.

4 Steps to Begin Your Scholarship Search

College is a huge investment. While the benefits of higher education are undeniable, another truth is just as evident. College is expensive. Given this reality, scholarships can be a college student’s best friend; after all, it’s money you don’t have to pay back! When it comes to college scholarship applications, it definitely pays (both literally and figuratively) to put in the extra work. So where to begin? Just follow these simple steps to begin your college scholarship search!

Set Up a Meeting With Your School Guidance Counselor

Your school counselor should have a great idea of scholarships that are available within your area. They also have experience assisting former students with the various application procedures, as well as the knowledge of what successful applicants have done in the past. Before your meeting, be sure to prepare a list of colleges you are interested in applying to and a list of activities or organizations you are currently associated with. This information will help your counselor identify scholarship opportunities that are tailored to your specific interests and needs.

Visit Your Dream School’s Website

A college’s website or financial aid office is the best resource to find out about university specific scholarship opportunities. Even if you haven’t started applying for admission yet, visiting your prospective schools’ websites can give you an idea of when scholarship applications are due as well as GPA or test score requirements for different levels of merit-based aid. Many schools have a scholarship application process that is separate from the admissions application, so don’t assume that by applying for admission you are also applying for aid.

Check Out Employers

Many companies offer scholarships or tuition assistance programs to their employees and their family members. Simply being related to someone who works for an organization that offers scholarships or grants could be a new opportunity, so be sure to ask your parents or other family members for that matter (Holiday get-togethers could be a great time to ask around!). If you have a part-time job, don’t forget to check with your employer as well. Who knows, maybe your weekend job could end up providing you more than just gas money!

Search the Internet

A simple Google search will yield more scholarship opportunities than you could ever have the time to explore. Thankfully, there are many scholarship search engines that make the process a lot easier to digest. A great place to begin is the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool. There, you may search for scholarships by keyword or filter by location or demographic details. There are many similar websites that offer similar services, so be sure to look around until you find one that works well for you.

By Jennifer Murphy, Standard-Level Tutor @ Get Smarter Prep

 

Changes to the 2017-18 FAFSA Process

If you’re planning to attend college next year, chances are you’ve heard of FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. FAFSA is the form that all U.S. college students fill out in order to be considered for need-based financial aid. This aid includes federal grants and loans, state and school based scholarships and college work-study opportunities.

Beginning this year, there are two changes to be aware of regarding filing for FAFSA:

  1. You can submit the FAFSA earlier. The 2017-18 FAFSA will launch on October 1, 2016. This is three months sooner than the January 1 launch date in place for previous FAFSA years. Earlier availability allows students additional time to meet deadlines, especially for aid which is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
  2. You will use earlier income information. The 2017-18 FAFSA will ask for information from 2015 federal tax return instead of 2016. This use of earlier tax information eliminates the need to use estimates or to update information at a later date after taxes have been filed.

So, who should fill out the FAFSA? The Federal Student Aid website dispels common myths surrounding financial aid and the application process:

Myth: “My parents make too much money for me to qualify for student aid.”
Truth: There is no income cut off for student aid qualification. Income is only one factor for determining student aid eligibility. In fact, by filling out the FAFSA, you are also applying for state funding and possibly scholarships from your school.

Myth: “I’m ineligible for aid due to my ethnicity or age”
Truth: While there are basic eligibility requirements, ethnicity and age are not considered on the FAFSA.

Myth: “My grades aren’t good enough to get financial aid.”
Truth: The majority of federal aid programs do not take grade point average into consideration when determining eligibility. It is still true that grades will impact a student’s acceptance to certain schools as well as their eligibility for merit based scholarships.

Bottom line, if you are planning to attend college for the 2017-18 school year, there is absolutely no harm in filling out the FAFSA, even if you don’t believe you will qualify for aid. The process only takes about half an hour and you might be surprised by what you qualify for!

fafsa

 

Written by: Jennifer Murphy, Standard-Level Tutor

 

Test-Optional Schools: Just how optional are those test scores?

Since the spring of 2015, 44 colleges have made the decision to drop the requirement of college admission test scores from their application process. According to FairTest, this brings the total number of test-optional colleges and universities to over 850. Unfortunately, it seems this growing trend in higher education holds more benefits for the schools who implement this policy than it does for their potential applicants.

Test-optional universities typically get a boost in the number of total applications received. In turn, this influx of applications results in more rejections which brings down the school’s acceptance rate, creating the illusion that the university has become more exclusive. Additionally, schools expect low scoring students to opt out of reporting test scores, which in turn could raise the average test score of the student population by removing many of the lowest scores from the equation. These statistics favorably impact college rankings for test-optional colleges.

Not all test-optional schools are created equally. The application process varies greatly from institution to institution. In fact, scores may not be optional for homeschooled students or in order to be considered for scholarships or financial aid packages. Many schools also require extra essays or minimum GPA requirements for students to forego the test scores submission process.

It is important to remember that even if you choose not to disclose your ACT/SAT scores when applying to a test-optional university, you will still be competing for admission with applicants who have submitted their scores for review. The general assumption schools make is that applicants who choose not to submit test scores do so out of fear that the score would weaken their application. Therefore, other aspects of the student’s application will be reviewed with a greater level of scrutiny. Test-optional schools are a great option for students who are otherwise well-rounded or who possess a specific skill or talent but perform poorly on test day.* The test-optional application process most certainly is not a simplified procedure but rather an alternative to the traditional path toward college acceptance.

            *It’s important to note that while many students score lower than they anticipated,
             only a very small percentage of students can’t improve their test scores in a meaningful way.

Written by Standard-Level Tutor, Jennifer Murphy

ACT & New SAT Compared

Section breakdown of the ACT and SAT (including breaks):

ACT

Revised SAT

English – 75 questions, 45 minutes

Reading – 52 questions, 65 minutes

Math – 60 questions, 60 minutes

Break – 10 minutes

Break – 10 minutes

Writing and Language – 44 questions, 35 minutes

Reading – 40 questions, 35 minutes

Math (no calculator) – 20 questions, 25 minutes

Science – 40 questions, 35 minutes

Break – 5 minutes

Break – 10 minutes (with writing)

Math (calculator) – 38 questions, 55 minutes

Writing – 40 minutes (optional)

 

Break – 2 minutes, can’t leave room (with writing)

Test is finished

Writing – 50 minutes (optional)

Total time (without writing): 3 hours, 5 minutes

Total time (ACT + writing): 3 hours, 55 minutes

Total time (without writing): 3 hours, 15 minutes

Total time (SAT + writing): 4 hours, 7 minutes

Many of the changes to the SAT bring it closer to the ACT: the longer sections, the switch to an optional essay, the content of the math test (pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, and trig), the graph questions sprinkled throughout the test (resembling ACT Science questions), the elimination of short essay passages in the reading, the removal of archaic, obscure vocabulary questions, and the transition to four answer choices instead of five.

But while the tests look more alike than they have in the past, there are also differences between the revised SAT and the ACT. In the Reading section of the SAT, students can expect five passages instead of four. There are also questions that evaluate a student’s ability to interpret the emotions of characters within a passage, which is something that is largely absent from the ACT. There are also new, evidence-based questions that require students to answer questions that give support for previous questions they’ve answered. If they miss the first question, it will be difficult to get the second one correct.

On the Writing and Language test, the question types are almost identical to those found on the ACT English section, but on the SAT, students will have 36% more time to answer those questions. On the surface, that extra time seems advantageous. Timing on the ACT English section is not, however, usually a problem for students. With so much extra time on the SAT, they might find themselves second guessing and changing correct answers in the remaining time.

The SAT math test now focuses less on geometry and more on algebra – another point of differentiation between the two exams. The questions are generally more difficult, but students have more time to solve them. There’s also an emphasis placed on solving systems of equations. The no calculator section of the test could pose a new challenge for students who typically rely on them heavily. Student produced response questions (often referred to as “grid-in” questions by students), where students must supply their own answer to instead of choose from provided multiple choice options, are still present on the SAT and not on the ACT.

Overall, students can expect trickier wording on the SAT. The longer sections will make it difficult for some students to concentrate. The advantage of timing, however, likely still rests with the SAT: students have more time per question in each section of the exam than they do on the ACT. Some students, however, may find this more hurtful than helpful. There’s still a stronger emphasis on vocabulary than there is on the ACT, but the words being testing are not as difficult. At the end of the day, which test is “better” or “easier” is extremely subjective; different students will prefer and perform better on different things. That’s why it’s important, as always, for students to take both an ACT and a SAT practice test to see where their strengths lie.

 

New Office in Mission

Get Smarter Prep is excited to announce a brand new office located at 5920 Nall Avenue, right in the heart of Mission, KS!

The Mission Office is replacing our Overland Park Office on 87th street. We opened our doors to the new location on March 16th, 2016. Alongside our Leawood Office, Mission is now offering all of our tutoring services.

We’re happy to be part of such a vibrant neighborhood that’s full of other local businesses and attractions. While in the area, you can grab a coffee or pastry at Dips & Sips or pick up a new novel at Rainy Day Books. We are adjacent to Pearl Harbor Park and a historic site of a watering hole along the Sante Fe Trail. We’re also only 8 minutes from the Plaza!

Also, we’re excited to be in a better position for our families. We’re now just 5 minutes from both Pembroke Hill and Bishop Miege, 7 minutes from Kansas City Christian, 8 minutes from Shawnee Mission East, 10 minutes from St. Teresa’s Academy, less than 15 from Maranatha, and 15 minutes from Park Hill South.

Check out more photos on our Facebook page!

 

Western Illinois University

Name: Caitlin Pennington
College: Western Illinois University      
Major: Music Therapy

  1. What first drew you to Western Illinois University?

I was first drawn to WIU when I learned about the music therapy program. I was also very interested in the Western Commitment scholarship program.

  1. What other colleges were you considering?

I was also considering Maryville University, Drury University, University of Missouri – Kansas City, and University of Kansas.

  1. How was the adjustment from high school to college?

Adjustment from high school to college was easy in some ways and more difficult in others. I was very excited for the independence that comes with living on your own, but I was not prepared for the level of independence that was expected by the professors. I also was not prepared for the amount of time that was not spent in class. Unlike high school, you may only be in class for two or three hours a day; the rest of the day is yours to spend how you want/need. Getting a planner and managing my free time wisely was imperative for my success. Getting involved on campus (but not overextending myself) was also a huge help in adjusting to college.

  1. What was your favorite class? Why?

My favorite class was Music Therapy Clinical Skills (even if it was at 8:00 AM). This course allowed me to learn the basics of being a clinician and offered hands-on experience in music therapy. This was the first experience I had in actually planning and executing interventions that I will be using in my career.

  1. What clubs or groups were you involved in?

I am involved in the Western Illinois University Singers, Madrigal Singers, and Concert Choir. I am also a member of Mu Phi Epsilon, a professional music fraternity, and the WIU Music Therapy Association. Outside of school, I sing in a church choir in Macomb.

  1. Anything else you want to tell us?

Buy a planner!! There is no way I would have survived if I hadn’t written everything, and I mean everything, down.

  1. In one sentence, what do you love about your school?

I love the opportunities that Western provides for its students; from the incredibly knowledgeable professors and advisors, to the free activities around campus, to the great scholarship program, Western provides the opportunity for all students to succeed.

ACT Essay Score Issues

Have you noticed a discrepancy between your ACT multiple-choice scores and your Writing score? You’re not alone. Since the new essay debuted in September, students have been frustrated and alarmed by low essay scores. The concordance between the old and new essay scores equates an old 8/12 with a new 23/36, but an old 9/12 with a 30/36 – a huge gap. Many students who are scoring in the 30s on their multiple choice sections are seeing essay scores in the low to mid 20s, and they are understandably concerned.

The Washington Post spoke to the parents of a student who took the ACT in September. He received “a 19 on the writing section and 30s on the rest of the test.” When the student requested a rescore of his essay, the score increased – to a 31. Based on the new essay scoring, that jump – from a 19 to a 31 – represents a change from the 63rd percentile to the 98th.

Wait, you’re thinking, a 19 is the 63rd percentile? Yes, on the Writing, it is. For comparison, a 19 on English is the 45th percentile. On the Science section, a 19 is in the 40th.

Top Tier Admissions wrote of the new ACT essay scoring, “Imagine a teacher giving a test where a 70% was the highest score out of a thousand students, but then deciding not to curve the test. That is what is happening right now on this new writing section.”

Criticism of the new ACT essay has been widespread, so if you’re feeling concern or even shock about your essay score, know that you’re not alone. Resist the temptation to compare your 1-36 essay scores with the 1-36 scores in the other sections: look at the percentiles, instead. If you’re considering retaking the ACT just to boost your essay, check in with your admissions reps at your top-choice colleges first. More colleges, including Tufts, Penn, Brown, and Swarthmore, are opting not to require the essay portion of the exam at all.

Even if your college does require it, it may not be worth retaking the whole exam if you’re pleased with the rest of your scores. Talking with your admissions representative may help you determine how important that score is – or isn’t.

Tufts University – College Profile

Tufts University

Quick Facts:

Institution type: private university
Founded: 1852
Location: Medford, MA
Undergraduate students: 5131
Mascot: Jumbo (elephant)
Acceptance rate: 16%
Testing requirements: ACT or SAT (if SAT, two subject tests also required)
Middle 50% ACT score range: 30-33
Middle 50% SAT score range: CR 680-750, M 690-770
Superscore: Yes
Website: www.tufts.edu

One student’s perspective:

Name: Sally Williams

Grad year: 2019

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were in the process of applying and selecting your college or university? What surprised you?

I wish I had listened to people when they told me to look at schools without bias. I went into the college application process with an idea of the outcome I wanted and the schools I thought were a perfect fit. In the end, Tufts turned out to be the best school for me and I would never have even applied without my mother’s advice to do so. It’s the schools you least expect that end up being the perfect place.

What’s your favorite thing about your school?

I love that it’s an Ivy League education without the title. There’s no cut-throat competition here, unlike Harvard (that’s only a T-stop away and throws some great parties ;)). People are genuine and diverse. You can create the experience you want, be it with Greek life, mathletes, or a cappella groups. Everyone here is a genius, but they don’t have an ego.

What else would you like people to know about Tufts?

It is a melting pot. There are people from all around who are all talented and intelligent in their own right, but are also incredibly different. Tufts allows everyone to find their niche. I have yet to meet a person here who isn’t genuinely happy with their decision to enroll here. You’re never bored. Tufts is surrounded by (and happens to be on par with) some of the top schools in the world. You can always meet new people.

Also, the city of Boston is only 20 minutes away and such an incredible escape sometimes. Here, at Tufts, you can truly become your own person, without judgment by others. It is an inclusive and incredible atmosphere filled with thriving, ambitious people.