Author Archives: Jenny Hwang

Insights into Honors College and Honors Program

So, you have heard great things about honors colleges and college honors programs. Now what? In this blog post, Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Meilin Obinata will guide you through various factors to help you figure out if one of these would be a good fit for you (or not).


What is an Honors College ?

insights into honors college program and benefitsUsually, an honors college is part of a larger school, such as a university system, but often has its own funding sources, residential buildings, and activities specifically designated for honors students to use, live in, and participate in. I tell my students that these big schools often want to offer honors students some of the warm and fuzzy feelings of a liberal arts college, which is dedicated to giving undergraduates more attention and care than a typical big research university would.



Some perks and requirements you may find within an honors college:

    • Separate application guidelines, with distinct prompts and specific restrictions about who can write your letters of recommendation
    • Small living communities with other honors students
    • Social / networking opportunities with other honors students, faculty, or professionals
    • Priority class registration
    • Smaller class sizes
    • Exclusive classes, events, and scholarship opportunities
    • Mandatory thesis /capstone projects
    • Access to internships or research opportunities designated for honors students
    • Additional required coursework or assignments


Honors colleges vary widely. So, it is important to dig deep to understand if their philosophy of learning and living is a match for you if you were to be accepted.

Read more: Why It Is Important to Find Your “Best Fit” College

From an admissions standpoint, an honors college will have an admit rate much, much lower than the school in general. For example, sometimes students do not realize that applying to Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University is very selective because they are thinking of the overall admit rate to ASU, which is very generous (as of today at least). This means you will need to take this into account when building your college list – an honors college may very well be a “dream” or “reach” choice when the college at large may occupy a different category of risk.

honors program insights to help you decide if you should apply to college

You may also want to research honors colleges with a very clear view of how these programs intersect with your life goals inside the college and beyond college. Schreyer’s Honors College students at Pennsylvania State University can apply to an Early Assurance Program for Penn State’s medical school, which could be very attractive if you wish to become a doctor one day, for example.


What is a college’s Honors Program ?

These are programs often requiring students to meet a variety of standards, such as keeping a certain grade point average or completing specific courses within a major or department. This is more like an academic lane. Students may need to complete additional assignments and/or projects in order to graduate “with honors.”


One of my students was interested in the University of Washington, and I encouraged her to consider the honors program because of the interdisciplinary nature of the subjects and activities that she pursued in high school. She applied – and that program turned out to be one of her acceptances. She ultimately decided to attend the University of Washington because of the opportunities related to that specific program.


What should you think about before applying?

    • Treat the application as an entirely separate entry on your college list, as in, it should “count” in your mind as a separate college, with its own category of risk.
    • Research honors programs and colleges deeply before deciding to apply – don’t underestimate the work involved with applying to one of these. You might ultimately decide to apply to another college instead of applying to an honors option due to your overall workload in the application process.
    • As wonderful as these might be, you might look at the requirements for being a student in an honors college or honors program and decide – hey, this is too restrictive for my needs!


We hope you learned more about honors options so that you are better prepared for your college research process. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Insight counselor. Cheers!

Not an Insight Counseling family yet? No problem! CONTACT US to schedule a 1-hour personalized college planning session with an experienced admissions counselor. 

Written by Meilin Obinata

This article is written by Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Meilin Obinata.

Meilin Obinata is a Senior College Counselor who enjoys learning from her students. She believes education is a creative endeavor and creates a space that allows students to explore new ideas. As a Bay Area native who grew up in Santa Cruz, she is familiar with the local schools. Read her full bio here.

Happy College Signing Day, Insight Class of 2023!

On May 1st, we celebrate our amazing Class of 2023! It has been our privilege as a team to work with the students and families that entrusted us during this process. We are so proud of all the hard work, resilience, creativity, and dedication shown by our students. 


Below is a snapshot of some of the colleges our Class of 2023 were accepted to! 


As it’s very challenging to fit all the logos of these great schools onto a map, below is a list of schools our Class of 2023 were accepted to and will be attending! A huge congratulations again to our wonderful group of students, and all students that are celebrating #CollegeSigningDay today! 


  • Arizona State University
  • Boston College
  • Boston University
  • Bowdoin College
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Chapman University
  • Cal Poly SLO
  • Cal Poly Pomona
  • Columbia
  • Dartmouth
  • UC Berkeley 
  • UC Irvine
  • UC Davis
  • UCLA 
  • UC San Diego
  • UC Santa Barbara
  • UC Riverside
  • UC Merced
  • UC Santa Cruz
  • University of Southern California (USC)
  • De Anza College 
  • Drexel University
  • Emerson College
  • Florida Institute of Technology
  • Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
  • George Washington University
  • Georgia Tech
  • Indiana Bloomington
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Northeastern University
  • NYU
  • Northwestern University
  • Oregon State College
  • Ohio State
  • Penn State
  • Purdue
  • Reed College
  • Rice University
  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • San Jose State
  • San Diego State
  • San Francisco State
  • Santa Clara University
  • Texas A & M University
  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • Tufts
  • Trinity College
  • University of Colorado Boulder
  • University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • University of Cincinnati – Main Campus
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
  • University of Massachusetts – Amherst
  • University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  • University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Oregon
  • UPenn
  • University of Portland
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Rochester
  • University of Washington – Seattle
  • Washington University in St Louis (WuStL)
  • Wesleyan University



Admitted! Which College Offer Should I Accept?

Congratulations! Around this time of the year, all of us at Team Insight have the privilege to share the joy of our students and families as they receive acceptance letters. Now comes the next big question: “which school should I go to?”

Didn’t get into your top-choice college? Check out our articles on Waitlist and Appeal.

Visiting the colleges you’ve been admitted to is a great opportunity to help inform you about what college is the best fit for you. Many colleges will have an admit visit day—where students across the country can come and visit the schools and programs they were admitted to before they decide which one to attend in the fall. These visits are extremely helpful and informative. For the student, this is your time to really experience the school and see if this is the place you will call home for the next four years.


As you go on your visits, it’s important to take into consideration a few things. Ask yourself a few questions—


location matters when you are deciding which college to go toLocation/Living experience:

Do you like the campus? What is the dorm situation like? Where do most freshmen live? What food choices do you have- dining halls, cafés, grocery options? Do most students live on campus all 4 years? What are the housing options around campus? What are the different transportation options on campus/ to and from campus?




Community/Extracurricular experience:

What activities are there offered for you as a new student to get plugged into the community? Do they have clubs and organizations you would want to join? When and what resources do they have for mental health/ health?


Major/Career experience:learn what support you will have for your potential major and future career

Who is your counselor for your major? How often do you meet with them? What help do you get on your graduation plan and registering for courses? How do you get connected to the tutoring center if you need help with coursework? What opportunities do they offer current students for career exploration/internships/resume help/job fairs? What opportunities do they offer to help with graduate school applications?


The next month is an exciting time as you are deciding on which community you will be investing in for the next 4+ years. Remember, this is the place where you will gain the skills you need for the next place of your journey and a place where you will choose to invest your time and resources as well. Pay attention to your own feelings around this choice and be sure to think about where you will be happy and thrive as you pursue your degree and step into your career!

Read more: Explaining “SIR” – Statement of Intent to Register


Written by Jenny Bloom

This article is written by Insight Senior Counselor Jenny Bloom.

Jenny has worked with a variety of students since 2012 to help them take the right steps to achieve their academic goals. Part of her philosophy is to guide students to consider how they will build and hone their skills and talents to make a difference in the world around them. Contact Insight Education today to schedule an initial consultation with Jenny. Read her full bio here.

Waitlist and Appeal – What Should You Do?

We always look forward to this time of year filled with excitement — the time when college decisions are released. It marks years of hard work and dedication. It also brings with it hope for the future and a new beginning. And while we celebrate acceptances and struggle with denials, many don’t know how to react to getting waitlisted. In this article, we will explain waitlisting and what you can do, as well as whether you should appeal a denial.


(More of a visual learner? Check out our video on Waitlist and Appeal HERE.)


What is a waitlist offer?

A waitlist offer means that the college finds that you are a great fit, but it cannot offer you a position at this stage. The reason that you are on the waitlist may vary from school to school and from year to year. Being on the waitlist tends to conjure more disappointment than hope. This is mainly because most don’t understand what the waitlist means and because students are truly just tired of waiting any longer. Many students take this to mean that they fell short or that they are a college’s second, third, or the 40th choice.


But what does being offered a position on the waitlist mean?

Colleges have limited seats available to offer which leaves admissions officers having to make some tough choices. When they are offering you a waitlist position, they are sending you the message that they think you are a great fit for the class and your accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. You would be a fantastic addition to the campus, but they need to see how many admitted students will accept their offers of admissions before they pull students off the waitlist to fill any open spots in the freshman class.

Most waitlists are unranked. Colleges are not lying when they say that. It is not some ploy to appease you. Remember that admissions officers are trying to build a well-rounded class. Once the college receives the decisions from its admitted students, they then go through the waitlist to see which students would best complement the incoming class.

At this point, they may also need to evaluate the financial aid it has available to offer students. Accordingly, they will admit students off the waitlist in small batches, offering more spots as they become available. This process is usually complete no later than June, but in very rare situations we have seen students get an offer of admission from the waitlist in early August. This was particularly true during the summer of 2020 due to the impact that Covid had on admissions outcomes for the high school class of 2020.

Wondering what you can do to get off the waitlsit? Contact us today!

Although in our experience students do indeed get off waitlists successfully, it is vitally important that you not rely on a waitlist position. Unfortunately, some colleges are putting thousands of kids on a waitlist and admitting few students. In 2019, 48% of schools admitted less than 10% of students that accepted a waitlist position. Seven percent admitted no one. In that same year, the University of Michigan offered more than 12,000 students a waitlist position and only admitted 89 students. Similarly, UC Irvine offered a waitlist position to more than 17,000 students (about the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden and almost twice the size of the incoming freshman class) and offered spots to 1,600 students. Private schools are no less predictable. Dartmouth took no one off the waitlist while Boston University later offered spots to 11% of students that accepted the waitlist. Conversely, Vanderbilt is well known for the fact that ten percent of its freshman class has historically come from an original waitlist position.

While you are waiting for the waitlists to clear, you should accept a position at another school before May 1st. You should also be excited about that offer and have the full intention of attending and graduating from that university. If a waitlist offer from a school you love DOES come through, you will absolutely have the option to accept that position and withdraw from your original school. In some years, waitlists can clear as late as just a couple of weeks before classes start. You don’t want to be waiting by the mailbox – virtual or real.


What can I do about being waitlisted?

It may sound like the college has all the power in this situation. But you do not need to just comply and play the waiting game. Think clearly about whether or not the school or schools that offered you waitlist positions are among your top choices. You are not obligated to accept the position. If it is not a school you would seriously consider, politely turn it down and give another student a chance. Chances are that by declining a waitlist spot you are helping a student or even a close friend at your own high school. Collecting admissions offers is not the goal of the admissions process. Finding a school where you thrive both academically and socially is the actual goal.

If you do want to stay on the waitlist, you are unlikely to get a decision back before the May 1 Statement of Intent to Register (SIR) deadline. This means you must decide among the colleges that accepted you where you will attend. Do not rely on the waitlist. It is completely unpredictable how many students will be offered spots off the list. It can vary from 0 to 300 depending on the college and the year.

While you wait, be excited about your other prospects. Do your due diligence. Visit colleges. Talk to current students. Get engaged with the school you accept. Chances are strong that the college where you submit your Intent to Register is where you will be in Fall.

If you are accepted from a waitlist, you will have very little time to decide. If you decide to accept, you will need to first withdraw your Statement of Intent to Register from the school you accepted. Chances are your family will lose the deposit. It is an extremely straightforward process, and it happens every year. You are not violating any agreements or laws. They may ask you for proof that you were admitted from a waitlist.


Can I do something about denials? Should I appeal?

Yes, and no. We get a lot of requests to help with appeals for students who just can’t understand why they received the decision that they did. As tough as it can be to hear, more often than not, the denial decision from a college is the final decision, and launching an appeal process will be unsuccessful because they do not allow them.

However, a great reason to put an appeal together, assuming the university in question offers an appeal process, is if there was something missing from your application. Something you didn’t tell colleges about that you probably should have!

We have worked with students who have successfully appealed a denial because they were afraid to discuss something like a personal struggle that would have given colleges context about why their academic performance wasn’t as strong as it otherwise may have been. Or, not explaining a dip in grades in their application and just glossing over it, hoping that the college didn’t notice.

Another reason could be a major accomplishment may have occurred in the time between submitting the application and receiving the decision! This can be a wonderful thing to make sure the college is aware of. Not all schools will look at new information, so do your research on what constitutes the basis of an appropriate appeal for each university.

Whatever the reason may be for why essential information wasn’t included in the application, those are the types of things we will be looking for if a student comes to us wanting to launch an appeal. It needs to be based on some information that you are ADDING to your file that was missing from the original application.

So, when you receive your decisions and start to think about your next steps, keep in mind the types of information necessary to launch a successful appeal and see if you have any of those. Completing an appeal takes work, time, and emotional energy, so it is important to make sure you understand all your options and if this is the right one for you.

We work with students and families on appeals, waitlists, and college decision meetings. Reach out to us today at for more information!


All the very best!

Team Insight

ChatGPT vs. Admissions Counselors: Can AI write a compelling college essay?

Will ChatGPT affect your college essay? Are you no longer just competing with your peers in school when applying to college but with artificial intelligence (AI) as well? The new AI-based writing tool, ChatGPT, has been in the headlines. From writing funny song lyrics to writing essays and papers, people are in awe of this tool. More than one million people signed up to test it in the first five days after its release.

However, with ChatGPT’s endless possibilities comes many concerns. Some of our students are concerned that their college application essays will no longer be as powerful. Can the college admissions office even tell? We decided to put that to the test in our video: “ChatGPT vs. Purvi Mody: Can a ChatGPT college essay fool an admissions counselor?

(Some of our other counselors will be doing this challenge too! Check back for their videos!)


Is ChatGPT the Tool for Writing Your College Application Essays?

As we played around with ChatGPT and asking it to write different essays, we noticed that sometimes it brings in flawed examples or will completely just make up stories. For example, Purvi tried to ask ChatGPT to write an essay about how a student might use music to express him or herself. The essay contained inaccuracy notes on battling anxiety through music. In addition to fabricating content, ChatGPT also tends to have a much more superficial, generic tone. In short, no, it’s not intended to write your personal statement or college supplement essays for you.


For now, ChatGPT’s possibilities may seem limitless. However, for college applications, we should step back and really think about what a college essay is actually about. While it is something that is very scary for many students (and families) to approach, let’s reframe and look at this as an opportunity. This is your chance to tell the admissions offices almost anything that you want and to show them the side of you that is not evident anywhere else in the college application. It is also a method for you to learn more about yourself, your values, and your growth. Writing college essays is a huge task, but it is also rewarding. If you put in the hard work, you will come out of this process feeling more in tune with who you are.


Should I still use ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is a great tool, and we’re certainly not avoiding ChatGPT at Insight! Our team is playing around with it. We’re learning more about it. We’re trying to see its possibilities and how we can use it effectively. The biggest limitation, and why we advise against using it to write your college essays, is that ChatGPT is not you. It can mimic your voice, but it cannot replace who you are. When you’re writing your college essays, you need to come alive on the pages. Who you are needs to shine through. Thus, when you know yourself well, you don’t need a tool to tell your story. In fact, you are wasting more time to teach ChatGPT to tell your story accurately and authentically.


As you become a rising senior or a senior, your time is very precious. You want to spend time thinking through what you want to convey. Use that time to get to know yourself better. Think about what that you want to get across to college admissions office. We say this at Insight often, the most important part of your college essay is your voice. We know what a 17-year-old sounds like, so admissions officers are super aware of what a 17-year-old sounds like. This is why Insight counselors don’t even want parents touching their children’s college essays because the perspective is very different. When you use a tool that could lead you to losing your voice, you’re sacrificing the most important thing that you are adding to your own college application.

Insights to the New Digital SAT

In early 2022, College Board announced their plan to launch a new, digital SAT. To many, the timing of this announcement does not come as a shock. During the Covid pandemic, millions of students lost access to testing centers for both the SAT and ACT, and many colleges have moved to test-optional in response to that. In this article, we will walk you through the changes and timeline of the new digital SAT, as well as the best ways to prepare!

Not sure whether to take the SAT or ACT? Check out our insights into ACT vs. SAT: Which Test Should You Take?


Who does this change affect?

If you are currently in the Class of 2025, you will most likely be taking the new digital SAT. It will be administered internationally on March 11th, 2023. For U.S. students, the digital SAT will be administered effectively Spring of 2024.

Want to know how this affects your testing and college admissions strategy? Schedule a 1-hour, personalized college planning session with an experienced admissions expert today!


Why the Change?

the paper and pencil SAT will soon be replaced by the new digital SATAccording to College Board, the move to a new digital SAT offers a few benefits:

1. Shorter test experience for students

Compared to the current pencil and paper SAT, the digital SAT is 45 minutes shorter. You no longer need to devote most of your Saturday morning to taking the SAT. The new digital SAT is a 2-hour-and-15-minute exam with shorter reading passages and fewer sections.


2. Faster score report

No longer will you need to be at the edge of your seat, wondering if you did well or not. In June 2021, the College Board eliminated the SAT essay component, and that expedited the SAT score reports being released in two weeks. Now without having manually scanned each student’s answer booklet, College Board expects to be able to release the scores reports in days rather than weeks.


3. Fewer test cancellations due to security issues

Have you ever wondered how your SAT arrived on your desk at the testing center? From the distribution center, the tests were sealed and shipped to each testing center. The testing centers then have the latest SAT under lock and key until it is the big test date. Each step proposes a security risk, and historically, some students could not take their tests because their SAT tests fell out of a UPS truck. With the new digital SAT, you will use College Board’s software to take the test on an approved personal device or a school device at the test center. At the beginning of the digital SAT, your device will load the test module, and you will be on your way to taking the test.


Our admissions counselors and test prep experts suspect there may be a few other reasons for College Board to make the change now. Here are our insights:

4. Availability of personal devices

Previously, administering a digital exam would be challenging because not many schools or testing centers have access to the number of computers needed. In one way, time solves the problem for College Board, and Covid did the final push. Now, it is common for students to have access to a laptop or a tablet, so schools or testing centers will only need to provide some devices to accommodate those who need a device on testing day.


5. Ease of offering the digital SAT

This can be seen as an extension of the previous insight. Since schools won’t need big computer labs to offer the digital SAT and the test will only take up two periods of class time, it’s easy for more schools to offer the exam. During Covid, we are already seeing some schools having an SAT day during school time, so we expect more schools may be on board to offer the digital test on a school day.


What do students need to know about the new digital SAT?

We’ve already mentioned the shorter testing time and fewer sections. Another good news for students is that the new digital SAT eliminates the no-calculator math section! However, before you throw your study materials away and scream ‘hooray,’ just know that – “a shorter exam does not mean an easier exam.” If you rely on using the calculator for every math question, you may very easily run out of time.

insights into new digital SAT comparison to the paper and pencil SAT

In addition, the new digital SAT is an adaptive test. For the parents reading this, some of you may have heard of adaptive testing if you have taken the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). The digital SAT will be more like the GMAT than the GRE in the sense that it is a “Section Adaptive Test,” not a question-by-question adaptive test.


Understanding the Multistage Adaptive Test

By now, you may be wondering or worried about Internet connectivity. What if you have a bad connection during the exam and your answers weren’t submitted? You’d be right to be concerned. That’s why the digital SAT is a sectional, multistage test, meaning your questions for each stage are downloaded at the beginning of the exam and your answers are uploaded at the end of each section. This means smaller chunks of information go through the internet, and you won’t suddenly lose your test halfway through. For students, this means that the new digital SAT will still resemble the paper and pencil SAT because you can skip a question or go back to review your answers (as long as you are in the same stage or module).


Let’s get to the adaptive part. This means that stages of the new digital SAT will act as the Sorting Hat. On the new digital SAT, there are two sections: the Evidence-Based Reading/Writing (EBRW) Section and the Mathematics Section. These two sections are further divided into two modules each. The first module will have an equal mix of easy, medium, and hard questions. Based on how you did in the first module, your next module will either be a level up or down. What does this mean for students? Doing well on the first module is important! While we do not have insights into how College Board will weigh each question based on difficulties, you want to get to the more advanced questions to ensure a higher score.

Insights into new digital SAT adaptive test module


What content will you be tested on?

Earlier we mentioned that the new digital SAT is broken down into two main sections: Reading/Writing and Mathematics. In each section, there are two modules. Within each module, questions are grouped together either by question type (Reading and Writing) or difficulty (Math). Let’s take a closer look at what each section entails.


Digital SAT – Reading and Writing Section:

The new SAT Reading and Writing Section will be similar to the pencil and paper SAT. Students will need to show their mastery of English in four areas: Craft and Structure (reading comprehension), Information and Ideas (interpretation, inference, and analysis), Standard English Conventions (grammar), and Expression of Ideas (revision and sentence improvement). The digital SAT Reading and Writing section will contain questions from all four areas IN ORDER. In other words, questions that test similar knowledge and skills are grouped together and arranged from easiest to hardest.


Instead of four long 500- to 700-word reading passages, you are dealing with 54 short passages. On the digital SAT, each question will have its own passage (or passage pair) consisting of three to five sentences. These passages will come from a wide range of topic that represents the college-level content you are preparing for.


Reading 54 short passages may sound jarring and tiring. However, the good news is that if you are stuck on a challenging passage, you may only miss that one question. You may also worry about how to discern between a grammar question and a reading comprehension problem. According to Insight’s SAT experts, the phrasing of the question will give you the best clue about the type of problem you are dealing with.


Digital SAT – Math Section:

Other than answering questions on a computer, the new SAT math section is essentially like the old SAT you may already be familiar with. You will be tested on Algebra, Polynomial, Exponential, Nonlinear Equations, Data Analysis, Geometry, and Trigonometry. The questions in the digital SAT math sections will appear in order from easiest to hardest.


Calculators will be allowed throughout the math section, and a graphing DESMO calculator is built into the digital SAT testing portal. You can also use an approved calculator on the test day, too.


Another good news is for those who dread word problems; the average length of those questions is reduced. If English is your second language or you struggle with word problems in general, the shorter in-context questions will allow you to demonstrate your mastery of math without making you jump through hoops on reading comprehension at the same time.


The following table breaks down all the sectional content, timing, and question distribution.


 Time / Number of Questions Breakdown

  What is being tested on?

SAT Reading and Writing
  • Total 64 minutes and 54 questions (approx. 1.2 minutes per question)
  • The total time and number of questions are broken down evenly into two modules
  • In each module, you will have 32 minutes to answer 27 questions

In each module, you will need to demonstrate knowledge of these content or skills. The questions will be closely grouped in the order listed below:

  1. Words in context, text structure and purpose, cross-text connections (28% of the questions)
  2. Main ideas and details, textual and quantitative supporting evidence, inference (26% of the questions)
  3. Standard English sentence structure, usage, and punctuation (26% of the questions)
  4. Rhetorical synthesis, written expression, transitions (20% of the questions)
Break  You will have a 10-minute break between the two sections of the digital SAT
SAT Math
  • Total 70 minutes and 44 questions (approx. 1.6 minutes per question)
  • The total time and number of questions are broken down evenly into two modules
  • In each module, you will have 35 minutes to answer 22 questions

In each module, you will need to demonstrate knowledge of these content or skills. The questions will be ordered by difficulty level.

  1. Linear equations in one or two variables, linear functions, system of linear equations, linear inequality (35% of the questions)
  2. Equivalent expressions, nonlinear equations in one variable, system of nonlinear equations in two variables, nonlinear functions (35% of the questions)
  3. Ratios, rates, percentages, proportional relationships and units; one-variable data distribution and measure of the center and the spread; two-variable data models and scatter plot; probabilities; statistical inference and margin of error; evaluation of statistical claims (15% of the questions)
  4. Area and volume; lines, angles, and triangles; right triangles and trigonometry; circles (15% of the questions)



Will the new digital SAT have a different scoring system?

No, at the current stage, the College Board states that the scoring system will remain similar to the pencil and paper test. Within days of taking the digital SAT, you will receive three scores: Reading and Writing score, Math score, and the total score. The scoring scale also remains the same, your total score is between 400-1600 in 10-point intervals and the section score scale is between 200-800 (also in 10-point intervals).


How should you prepare for the new digital SAT?

Here are our top insights into how you can prepare for the digital SAT:

studying for the pencil and paper SAT can help you on the digital SATLearn the content and master each question type through pencil and paper SAT

Although you will be taking your SAT on a tablet or a computer, the knowledge and content for the digital SAT are still similar to the pencil and paper SAT. It’s not likely that CollegeBoard will abandon its many years of SAT question bank to create a brand new set of questions to evaluate your college readiness. Take advantage of all the available resources out there to learn the test on paper.


Drill down your mental math

While the digital SAT allows calculators for the entire math section, you have approximately 1.6 minutes per question. If you need to punch out the answer to every question, you will run out of time. In addition, time management is very important. You want to fly by the easier questions in the beginning with accuracy and confidence, so you have time to focus on the harder questions later. Just like sports, practice with intention. Build your mental math muscle.


Get familiar with the digital SAT testing app

The best way to do that right now is to sign up to take the PSAT in Fall 2023 and utilize the sample testing app available on College Board’s website. Getting familiar with the software with help ease the angst on your real test, but don’t focus solely on practicing on your device. Learn and review the content that will appear on the digital SAT. Hone your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Build a good study routine and devote time to study for the SAT. These will help you prepare for both the digital SAT and college life!


This would be the third revamp for the SAT since Insight Education was established, and our instructors have been working tirelessly to update our SAT curriculum since the announcement. In the meantime, check out our SAT Test Prep Courses or ACT Boot Camps! If you would like a more personalized approach (like 1:1 tutoring) or have questions about test scores in college admissions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us (!

Accepted, Deferred, or Denied: Understand Early Admissions Results

If you submitted your college application early back in October or November, late December and early January is usually a very exciting time for you as you are starting to hear back your early admissions results.


Not sure when will you know your early decision or early action results? Check out Class of 2027 Early Decision / Early Action Notification Dates.


There are three possible results that can happen: accepted, deferred, or denied. In this article, Insight’s Head of College Admissions Counseling Purvi Mody shares what each admissions decision can mean for you and what you can do!


(More of an audio learner? Check out Purvi’s YouTube video here.)



Congratulations! You may have one or several colleges to attend in Fall 2023. Whether or not you have to accept the school’s offer depends on the early admissions plan you chose when you applied. If you applied for early decision (ED), it is binding and means you are bound to attend that university. In other words, now that you are accepted in the ED round, you can celebrate! You are done. Don’t forget to withdraw all your other college applications, turn down any other offers, and get your new college swags!


Binding or nonbinding? Early Decision vs. Early Action – Which to Choose?


If you are accepted into your dream schools, congratulations! That is amazing news, and you have accomplished a huge feat. This does NOT mean you can just party all the way till Fall. What this means is that now you can enjoy your senior year of high school. Spend time with your friends and family (especially if you are going far to college). Make the most of it while keeping up your academics.


Why can’t you just take things easy? First, you don’t want colleges to rescind your offers. Your grades will have to drop significantly for colleges to take back the offers, but the chance is never zero. The other reason (possibly the more important one) is that you are going to be a college student in a few months. Odds are that you are going to a college filled with brilliant, smart cookies like yourself. You want to keep up the rigor, the stamina, and the work ethic, so that when you start college, you are already used to the pace. If you start to take things too easy now, then you will have to work extra hard to level back up when you start college.


Keep working hard and finish your senior year strong! The beautiful thing is that now you are studying just for yourself. I hope you are always working hard for yourself, but admittedly, I know that college admissions are always in the back of our minds. Now, with your early acceptance, you are truly 100% doing this for yourself. So please keep up your rigor and continue to work hard for you!



Whether you chose early decision, early action, or restrictive/single-choice early action, if you are deferred from the early admissions round, all that means is the colleges want to view your application in the context of their regular applicant pool. It is not a rejection. The college admissions office still finds you interesting and your college application compelling. In some cases, the admissions office wants more information before they can make a decision.


If you are deferred, continue to work on other college applications and apply during the regular decision deadlines. If you applied ED but were deferred and then later accepted in the regular round, you are no longer bound by the ED agreement. In short, if you are deferred and then accepted, you don’t have to attend that school. You are free to choose other colleges that offer a better financial package or a more appealing program.


What if you REALLY REALLY want to go to this college but got deferred; what should you do? Remember, you submitted your application back in October or early November. Now you have accomplished new things, such as your first semester’s grades, new activity achievements, or new responsibilities. Many colleges will allow you to submit an update or a letter of continued interest (LoCI). Some universities will have very specific forms that you need to fill out while others treat LoCI as optional. Be sure to check each school’s requirements carefully, so you continue to make a good impression.


Keep in mind that you are now competing with applicants in the regular round, and they will have at least six more weeks’ worth of information that they are submitting. You want to make sure you’re doing the same in your letter of continued interest. The information you want to include in your letter of continued interest could be

 1. academic performance (without restating info from your mid-year report)
 2. extracurricular activities (without repeating what is already on your application)
 3. new hobbies or responsibilities
 4. and any new achievements or awards


Finally, a few more key notes on the letter of continued interest:

 1. Keep it short and succinct. Ideally, your LoCI should not exceed one page.
 2. Check the university’s policy. Will they accept a LoCI? What should the format be? Follow those policies closely!
 3. Spend some time working on it, just like you would on your college essays.
 4. Send in ONLY ONE thorough update. Do not repeat information that is already in your mid-year report or college applications.
 5. Make sure you send it at an appropriate time. Usually, this is mid-January, though different colleges have different specifications.


Read more on Writing A Letter of Continued Interest


If you are denied in the early round, that college application is completed for this year. The college does not want any additional information, and you cannot appeal that decision. You also can no longer apply for the same college this admissions cycle.


Sometimes a student may ask, “If I am denied in the early admissions round, can I apply to the same college in the regular deadline?” No. In one admission year, you can only apply to one time to a given school.


This is not the end of the world. This does not mean you are not hardworking or driven. It does not mean your college application was terrible. There are many, many great schools out there, and we hope that some of those colleges made it into your college list. In this case, you should focus on other colleges, polish your college essays, and perhaps submit additional college applications.


Concluding thoughts: 

Those are the three early admissions results and what you should do in each case. The determining factor is your early admissions option. If you apply early action or restrictive early action, the result is not binding. You can still consider other offers as they come in. Though, I will say this final piece of advice: if you are accepted early into a college you’re definitely going to attend, stop applying. Give other applicants the spot. Alleviate yourself from the stress and time. Focus on making the most of your senior year!


If you are a sophomore or a junior planning ahead, don’t wait! Early application requires careful strategizing and early planning. Contact us today and schedule a 1-hour personalized college planning session with our experienced college admissions counselor to see how you can maximize your admissions chance!



Written by Purvi Mody

This article was written by Insight’s Co-Founder and Head of Counseling Purvi Mody.

Since 1998, Purvi has dedicated her career to education and is exceedingly well-versed in the college admissions process. Her philosophy centers around helping kids identify and apply to the schools that are the best fit for them and then develop applications that emphasize their unique attributes and talents.

23 amazing years of Insight!

2022, another amazing year for Team Insight!

We have been so blessed to share so many milestones and journeys with Insight’s students and families over the past 23 years. In 2022, our office is fully in-person, and we couldn’t be happier to see everyone and hear laughter in the office! Below is a recap of all the fun we had.


We started the year with a wonderful team-building event at Top Golf. There were quite some hilarious missed swings. College Admissions Counselor Priya and Star Instructor Jennifer spent the majority of time teaching the rest of us Golf Techniques 101.


For the first time since 2020, we hosted our annual Truth behind College Admissions event in person. Thanks to all the team members who created the content, provided thoughtful feedback, and supported the actual event!


This year, we celebrated Senior College Admissions Counselor Jenny Bloom’s 10 years of Insight! Day in and day out, her dedication and commitment to her students are an inspiration to us all.


Team Insight took part in the 19th Bay Area Diwali Festival hosted by the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce on a beautiful sunny day. 


We also hosted our annual Summer Opportunities Fair, sharing local volunteering, internships, and research programs for high school students and their families! Even with the gloomy cloudy weather, more than 250 people showed up throughout the day, and we had the pleasure of meeting three new programs with great opportunities!


New team members joined us in 2022. We are happy to have Kevin joining our Counseling Team and Mary as a part of our Admin Team.


And through it all, we made sure to enjoy our team, collaborate, celebrate, and be silly.


From all of us at Team Insight – Happy Holidays! 


Top 3 College Admissions Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Picture this. You are sitting in front of your computer, smiling as wide as you can. You hope the person at the other end of the video call can’t see you sweat. Your heart is pounding so hard that you can hear it through your headphones. Yes, this is it. This is your college admissions interview!

Continue reading

Insight Alma Mater: Penn State

For people who grew up in State College, Pennsylvania, applying to Penn State is a no-brainer. Like so many college towns, the university is the lifeblood of our little community. Businesses follow the beats of the semester, locals (affectionately known as “townies”) plan their weekends around avoiding game day traffic, and everyone, regardless of their enrollment status, owns something with a Nittany Lion on it. I was no different. When it came time to apply to colleges, despite my eagerness to leave my hometown, I begrudgingly added Penn State to my list.


Insight Alma Mater Penn State

A childhood photo of Melina playing in front of the Old Main

I had decided early on in my high school career that I had wanted to pursue a degree in music but wanted the flexibility to explore more contemporary styles in addition to a classical education. My college list reflected that. Back when recordings and pre-screenings were less ubiquitous, applying to a program meant committing to travel for an audition and preparing to stay the entire day for theory tests, sight-singing assessments, and interviews with faculty. As a result, my college list was small, but targeted, including only a handful of programs: University of Northern Texas, Westminster Choir College, Berklee College of Music, and Penn State (my safety). Armed with a fierce determination to leave Pennsylvania behind, I began working with my studio teacher to prepare and refine my repertoire ahead of auditions.


I hadn’t seriously considered Penn State as a viable option when I submitted my application. It was local, it was convenient, and both of my parents worked there (and still do!) as professors. In short, it was boring. I changed my mind the day I set foot on campus for my audition.


Penn State was one of my first auditions, but it was the most memorable. As soon as I entered the School of Music, I was greeted by a flurry of student volunteers – familiar faces, as I had gone to high school with many of them myself. The audition room was no different. Instead of feeling nervous, I looked across the row of faculty panelists and found people I had grown up with. I had seen Dr. Spivey attend our school plays and choir concerts and Professor Jayne Glocke regularly sang in the church I attended every Sunday. I had seen Professors Trost and Kennedy perform in a beautiful trio with my then voice teacher, and Dr. Kiver had led an inspiring conducting workshop at my high school’s annual Maroon and Grey concert. When it came time for my interview and mock voice lesson, I immediately felt at ease. Even though I hadn’t attended yet, Penn State was already my community.


Starting with a comfortable audition is the best way to gear up towards the big one. But as each subsequent audition passed, I found myself coming back to reflect on that first experience. As the weeks went on, I felt a growing sense of anxiety waiting for my decision letter. So much so that even as other acceptances rolled in (including from schools I thought I was dead set on attending), I hardly felt ready to celebrate. By the time my letter from Penn State had finally arrived in the mail, my mind was made. The sense of community I felt from the Penn State School of Music ultimately drove my decision to attend.


Through my many conversations with faculty and alums, I got the sense that the music program operated as a tight-knit community. This could not have been truer. Looking back on my college experience, I have always felt supported not just by the voice faculty, but the entire School of Music. The professors are friendly, approachable, and most importantly, invested in student success – you can ask any one of them a question and receive thoughtful answers and feedback. Walking into my jury at the end of each semester (the end-of-semester performance exams), I always felt excited to share what I had been working on with the dedicated team of professors who had all helped me grow as a musician.

Penn State Music Major

Melina performing in Bach’s Lunch


Penn State is a large school, but the music department is quite small, which lends itself well to an individualized academic experience. While at Penn State, I had the opportunity conduct independent musicological research, participate in the graduate opera scenes program, premier new music, and even help found Penn State’s first vocal jazz ensemble, a feat that would not be possible without the enthusiasm and support of the faculty. Beyond that, I made life-long friends and gained valuable mentors through close contact with graduate students and upper classmen.


While I was very familiar with the University Park before attending – I was practically raised at Fenske Lab – I was delighted to re-discover the campus from a student’s perspective. There’s nothing quite like staying up late studying in the stacks at Patee, meeting up with friends at the Hub, or climbing the trees at Old Main. I was very grateful for the opportunity to explore and establish my independence in the community I had grown up in but had only recently begun to appreciate.


While I still might complain about the upsets during THON weekend and roll my eyes when tailgaters cause traffic jams downtown, I secretly (and maybe not so secretly) love it. From townie to Penn Stater to alum, Penn State is, and always will be, my home.


Written by Zach Pava

This article is written by Melina Matsoukas.

Melina works as an administrative assistant for #TeamInsight. Other than helping families and making sure everything runs smoothly, she also assists Insight’s Counseling Team in reviewing college applications during admissions season.