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GPA Test Prep College Admissions

Top 3 Tips to Help You Start to Prepare for College Admissions

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought changes to every aspect of our lives, from how we socialize to how we learn, and of course, to how we need to prepare for college admissions. If you are still unsure about which path to take on your college admissions journey, don’t worry – you’re not the only one.

 

While we don’t have the superpower to predict the future, Team Insight has been keeping a close monitor on the latest college admissions news and making projections that can help keep your options open as we gear up for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle.

 

Now, let’s dive in!

 

Insight Advice #1: Provide Positive Data (as much as you can).

 

A solid GPA, a progressively challenging curriculum, and well-written college essays – all of these are considered positive data about yourself. College admissions offices want to see that you can handle the academic work, but they also want to get to know you. What are your values? How do you spend your spare time? What are you devoting your time to during the summer?

 

In addition to GPA, academic profile, college essays, extracurricular activities, and awards, another positive data you can provide on your college application is test scores. A strong ACT or SAT score adds value to your college application, even for test-optional schools. In 2021, more than half of the applicants chose to submit their test scores. From the data, those who included their test scores have a higher chance of acceptance. Approximately 60% of the students who applied for Rice University submit a test score. Of the students accepted by Rice University, 80% submitted an SAT or an ACT score.

 

Insight Advice #2: Stay Informed. Prepare Ahead.

 

While we are uncertain whether test-optional admissions policies will continue, what you can do is research thoroughly into the school of your choice. Stay informed about their testing policies. Check the admissions website and their emails to see if there are any changes in test-optional policies. Most importantly, don’t wait till the last minute! It takes time to prepare for the ACT or the SAT, so plan enough time for test prep.

 

Read more: How to approach standardized testing this summer

 

At Insight, we use the term “relative to your peers” as a guide. What does it mean? In the case of testing, if your friends are planning on taking the SAT or ACT in the fall, it may be a good idea for you to take the test, too. When the admissions office evaluates your college application, they are comparing you to those similar to you, such as your high school’s graduating class. In addition, if you are applying to a competitive school or program that may have many applicants with test scores, you should also prepare for the ACT/SAT.

 

Need help improving your SAT test scores? CLICK HERE to see our summer programs

Taking the ACT instead? CHECK OUT our ACT summer boot camps

 

Insight Advice #3: Research. Research. Research.

 

The biggest 2021 college admissions trend we’ve noticed at Insight is the rise of virtual sessions. Learning about your potential school is now as easy as tapping a few keys. Attend virtual college tours. Ask your questions at virtual info sessions. Use different websites to gather information about a school of your choice. At Insight, our counselors guide students to conduct college research starting in May or earlier, and we continuously revise their list with them.

 

Read more: How to conduct virtual college visits?

 

Another trend that has been accelerated during this time is more students are applying to selective schools, which leads to decreasing acceptance rates. For example, the acceptance rate at the University of Pennsylvania in the 90s was 39%; the acceptance rate in 2021 for UPenn was 9.9%. So be practical when building your college list. Remember, every college on your list, even your safety school needs to be a school you can see yourself in.

 

Read more: Why is it important to find your Best-Fit college?

 

Concluding Thoughts

 

Even if your top schools remain test-optional, remember that test scores may still be required for scholarships or other funding opportunities. During transitions like this, you want to remain flexible and keep your options open. This may mean spending part of your summer doing test prep, but the upside is that you will not be scrambling to take the SAT or ACT at the last minute. Keeping your options open may also mean joining a virtual tour of a college you have not heard of, but you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find. As always, we are here for you! Reach out if you have any questions!

Top 3 Tips to Help You Prepare for College Admissions

 

 

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

Warren Buffett (Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway). George Lucas (creator of “Star Wars”). Larry Page (co-founder of Google). Jerry Jones (owner of the Dallas Cowboys). Arnold Schwarzenegger (former Governor of California, movie star). Oprah Winfrey (media executive, former talk show host, actress, etc.).

 

What do all these people have in common? You might be thinking that they are all extremely successful and some of them are even billionaires. That is correct. But what you might not know is that while they are all extremely successful, another commonality is that none of them earned an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school.

 

Insight #1: It’s more important what you do at college, not which college you attend

Warren Buffett graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  George Lucas graduated from USC (but first attended Modesto Junior College).  Larry Page graduated from the University of Michigan.  Jerry Jones graduated from the University of Arkansas.  Arnold Schwarzenegger graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Superior (but first attended a community college, Santa Monica College).  Oprah Winfrey graduated from Tennessee State University.   

 

With college decisions being released and high school seniors deciding where they will go to college, it’s important to remember that what matters most is not what college or university you attend, it’s what you do while you’re there.  Regardless of what college or university you attend, the most important thing is that you excel at whichever of the thousands of institutions of higher learning you decide to attend—whatever that means to you.  It’s important to take advantage of internship or work opportunities, to make connections with your classmates and professors, and to attend your classes and do as well in them as possible.  Also, college is an amazing time in life—in addition to building up your resume, remember to have a little fun.

 

Insight #2: Sometimes it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond

Sometimes it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond, rather than the other way around. In other words, if you attend Harvard, you are going to be one of thousands of students who did extremely well in high school and probably had perfect or near-perfect standardized test scores. You will be surrounded by extremely accomplished people, and therefore, it may be harder for you to get noticed or make yourself stand out from the crowd.

 

But don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to Harvard. If you are lucky enough to be accepted by Harvard and think you can thrive in a very competitive academic environment, then Harvard may be the place for you. What I am saying, however, is that if you are one of the tens of thousands of students that don’t get admitted to Harvard every year, don’t dismay—that rejection can open new doors for you.

 

Insight #3: Find your “best fit” college, not simply the most highly ranked college that accepted you

The most important aspect of college admissions is finding the “best fit” college. Maybe the best fit is Harvard. Maybe it’s a large state school. Maybe it’s a small liberal arts school back east. Everyone is different and thus the “best fit” college for your best friend may not be the “best fit” college for you.

 

And maybe the “best fit” college for you is a place where you can be a big fish in a small pond. There is a lot to be said about attending a school where you can build up your self-confidence by being near the top of your class, having real relationships with your classmates and professors, and not having to worry about being in a cutthroat environment.

 

The bottom line is this: if you are one of the few to be accepted by an Ivy League school, that is awesome; and if you decide it’s the “best fit” school for you, more power to you. However, if you are like most students, who are not accepted by an Ivy League school, you should remember that it’s more important that you attend a college where you will thrive, rather than blindly attending the most highly ranked school that accepted you.

 

 


Written by Jason Katz

This article was written by Insight Counselor Jason Katz.

Jason has helped hundreds of students gain admission to their best-fit universities. In addition, he wrote more than 170 college admissions/college life columns for the Palo Alto Daily News and the San Jose Mercury News. Read his full bio here.

Early Decision vs. Early Action – Which to Choose?

If you are entering the college admissions process, you might have heard of these terms. You might even wonder what they are. What is the difference? Which is better for your college admissions strategy, if at all? Insight College Admissions counselor Amy Brennen is here to share with you all the insights on Early Decision and Early Action, so you can pick the option that best suits your needs.

Quick Summary

  –   Both Early action and early decision have earlier application deadlines than regular admissions.

  –   You will also receive college admissions decisions earlier, usually starting in mid-December.

  –   You can apply to as many schools as you want using EA.

  –   ED is for only one school, and it is a binding agreement, which means you have to attend when you are accepted.

“Early Decision” and “Early Action” are likely terms that you have heard before when talking about the college application process. The biggest thing to get your head around – what is the difference between the two? They have similar names but are quite different in their outcomes. 

 

 

What is Early Action?

As the name implies, your college applications are due earlier than regular application deadlines. Typical deadlines for regular applications can be December 1st and January 15, whereas early deadlines mean you’re probably submitting around November 1st. For some schools and majors, you need to complete your admissions file by mid-October.

 

There is no limit to the number of schools you can apply to using early action. This can be a great option because it means you have submitted applications to schools early in the season – they’re off your plate! But why would you want to submit your applications a month before everyone else?

 

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), early action means that “students apply early and receive a decision well in advance of the institution’s regular response date.” And that is a big advantage. You will receive your admissions decisions back earlier! You may find out in December or January about where you stand with your dream school. That may also mean you can relax and enjoy the rest of your senior year.

 

Another advantage with early action is that you do not need to commit until May 1 (the national response date), so you have almost half a year to decide and to compare financial aid packages. 

 

Though to make things confusing, some schools use restrictive early action (or single-choice early action), which is exactly like early decisions. The restrictive early action limits you to using the process only once. Thus, be diligent in your college research and weigh your options carefully before committing to applying early. 

 

What is Early Decision?

Unlike early action, early decision is binding! You can apply to only one because you are saying that if the school accepts you, you will 100% attend. Because of this commitment, colleges require signatures from you, your family, and a school counselor in order for you to apply early decision.

 

Early decision benefits students who know their first-choice college and who are confident in their odds of getting accepted. Similar to early action, you will also receive an admissions decision early, usually in December.

 

One of the challenges with early decision can be that you will not find out about other schools until later in the year. If you get into a different school that you’d actually like to attend more than your early decision school, you don’t have the option to switch. So be 100% certain about your early decision school. If you are torn on which school you would ultimately like to attend, or which major you’d like to do, early decision might not be for you.

 

Another aspect of early decision to consider is the financial side of it all. If you apply early decision, you’re telling the school that you will attend no matter what. This means they are less likely to offer you a scholarship or financial aid because they know they don’t need to add those incentives to sway you to attend their school. If you are counting on some financial help, early decision again may not be right for you.

 

What Are the Benefits of Applying Early?

By applying early, you stagger the deadlines, which alleviate the stress that comes with stacked regular admissions. Early action allows you until May 1 to decide whether or not you want to attend that school. Both early action and early decision show the schools that you have done your research and you are interested in these schools.

 

Something else to keep in mind is that some colleges do take a substantial amount of their incoming class from that early decision pool. Many elite schools look at early decision as a way to separate the students that are “kind of interested” from the students that are willing to commit 100% to that school. 

 

Should I Apply Early?

With all the advantages, it may seem compelling to apply early. Keep in mind that the early admissions process works best for students who know their dream school(s) and who feel they are competitive applicants.

 

How do you know if you are competitive? Check the school’s website. Most schools give you an idea of their applicant profile. In addition to your application, you need to thoroughly research the schools. It is not a blanket statement that “all elite schools will take a higher percentage of their class from the early decision applicants”. Some schools only take a slightly higher percentage, and in some cases, the difference between early and regular admissions round is not noticeable at all. Other than the academic offerings, campus, school culture, and location, you should also research the different available financial aid packages. 

 

Our biggest tip is to do your research! Talk to your school (and Insight) counselor, your parents, and family members. Figure out if you have a school on your list that might be a good candidate for early decision, and if you do, make sure you are prepared for the financially and mentally to commit to that school.

How to find your college match if you have learning challenges

Finding Your College Match If You Have Learning Challenges

Have you ever wondered how to find a good college match if you have learning challenges?  In order to answer that question and provide insight, I conducted interviews via email and phone with Gabrielle E. Miller, Ed.D., Assistant Vice Provost, Learning Services and Executive Director of the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques (SALT) Center at the University of Arizona and Julie Yindra, Director of Student Access Services at Hofstra University.  Both of these women are experts in the field of university services for students with learning challenges at two of the most highly rated and respected university programs for students with learning challenges.  Dr. Miller and Ms. Yindra provide invaluable insights into how to choose a college if you have learning challenges and offer details about their university’s programs for students with learning challenges.

 

What are some tips to find a good college match for students with learning challenges? 

Dr. Miller:  With thousands of colleges to choose from, finding the right fit can feel like an overwhelming task, especially if you don’t know where to start or what to ask. That’s why, even before diving into the college search process, I recommend that students with learning challenges spend some time asking themselves some questions to ensure they have a good sense of what they will need from a college.

As students reflect on their past educational experiences, they might start by asking themselves questions like: What types of academic support and adjustments have I found to be helpful thus far? Do I need extra test time, tutoring, study apps, regular meetings with an advisor? Do my parents or teachers have anything else to add? Write down the responses and start organizing them making special note of those things which are most important to you. Also, ask yourself about the type of college experience you would like to have. For example: Do I want to attend a school near my family or go out-of-state? Do I want to attend a school specifically for students with LDs or would I be more comfortable at a traditional college?

This self-reflection exercise will help form the basis of an individualized checklist that you can use to narrow down your selection and then take to colleges to make sure that their level of support matches up with your unique needs.

After having asked themselves some tough questions, the next step I recommend is for students to turn around and start asking probing questions of the colleges they are considering. These days, a lot of information can be gathered quickly online or with the help of college guidebooks. Other insightful details you’ll need to contact the colleges to get. You can use a spreadsheet or notebook to keep your findings organized.

knowing your needs and asking universities the right questions can help

Here are some additional questions you might find useful while remembering to adapt them to your personal circumstances.

        • How often do students meet with support staff or tutors?
        • Are the staff and tutors specifically trained or experienced in working with students with learning and attention challenges?
        • What percentage of students graduate within 6 years?
        • How many students attend this school?
        • What kind of sports and extracurricular activities are available?
        • Is support available for online classes?
        • How long has the school or support program been around?
        • What degrees does the school offer?
        • Is the school well known or ranked for my major?
        • How do you help students as they prepare to transition into the workplace or graduate school?
        • What is the average starting salary of recent graduates?
        • What is the surrounding community like?
        • Can I come and tour the campus and different programs?
        • Can I talk to students enrolled in the program or alumni to get their perspective?

Ms. Yindra:  Go visit the campus, ask to meet students, ask to meet with the office that provides accommodations—the manner in which they offer accommodations, and how, makes a big difference.  If they begrudgingly hand you a form to fill out or if they are truly interested in helping and getting to know you, makes a big difference. 

Many communities have private K-12 schools for students with learning challenges.  Take advantage of these schools as resources and ask them where they’re sending their students to college.

In addition to visiting campuses, use the Click Test. 

The Click Test is going on a university’s website and figuring out how many clicks it takes to get to the learning challenges part of the school’s website.  This can be very telling.  Is the learning challenges page of the website front and center or does it take many clicks to find it?

how many click does it take you to the information you need

Also, search for colleges that are looking for students with learning challenges.  Reach out to someone who works in the learning challenges program and they should get back to you.  The speed with which they get back to you can also be very telling.

What specifically does the SALT Center offer for students with learning challenges?

Dr. Miller:  The SALT Center offers a suite of comprehensive services designed to maximize student engagement and success at the University of Arizona.

For most of our students, this success grows out of a close relationship with their specific Student Support Specialist, an experienced professional that meets with them every week to implement an individualized learning plan, help them explore study strategies, stay organized, and navigate the complex college environment.

Students also benefit from our robust array of tutoring services. With around 100 peer tutors on staff, we’re able to offer one-on-one and small group tutoring appointments for almost any undergraduate class at convenient times throughout the week. Students can also visit our drop-in tutoring labs for help with most reading, writing, math, science, and business courses. Our CRLA certified tutors are specifically trained to help students with learning and attention challenges and endeavor to create a learning environment that facilitates independent and lifelong learning.

know what support the university can offer you

Another popular service that we offer is our educational technology support. Students can consult with a student Tech Coach or the Educational Technology Coordinator for help with a specific tech concern or explore different apps and tech tools to get better organized or study more effectively.

For students experiencing significant emotional health concerns, we’re able to offer our in-house psychological services. Generally, our psychological team assists with issues related to anxiety, depression, stress, grief and loss, substance abuse, sleep disorders, and managing life in college. These confidential meetings with qualified staff provide students with a clinical assessment, treatment plan, additional supportive strategies, and if deemed necessary, referral for outside resources.

Throughout the semester we also put on a variety of workshops designed to give students the opportunity to learn new skills and academic strategies, provide a better understanding of their learning challenges, and explore ways to adapt learning strategies to best suit their individual learning styles.

In addition to our core offerings, students are also provided with various opportunities to develop their social and leadership skills in both formal and informal settings. These include regular outings with a member of the university faculty, career readiness events provided with assistance from SALT Center alumni, small-group social skills workshops for students needing additional focused support, and opportunities for employment as a SALT Center Ambassador, Peer Tutor or Tech Coach.

What specifically does the Program for Academic Learning Skills (PALS) offer for students with learning challenges?

Ms. Yindra:  PALS is a comprehensive fee-based program.  PALS pairs students with a Learning Specialist.  Students have regular one on one meetings with their Learning Specialist to discuss better ways to write a paper, better ways to study for a test, etc.  They really do a deep dive into the student and get to know the student well.  Learning Specialists do not necessarily tutor in a particular subject per se, but it is the job of the Learning Specialist to make sure the student gets connected with a tutor from whatever particular subject the student is struggling with.  The Learning Specialist helps with learning skills and acts as the student’s caseworker and helps them coordinate all of their support team.  Learning Specialists help students organize and manage their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly schedules, etc.

What sets the SALT Center apart from other universities’ support services for students with learning challenges?

Dr. Miller:  Since our founding in 1980, our approach has been widely recognized as one of the most effective in helping undergraduates thrive in higher education. I feel that much of this success is a result of our unique position as one of the world’s only comprehensive academic support programs housed within a top tier research university.

As an integral part of the university community, we have long been at the forefront of developing and pioneering research-informed interventions. We have strong national and international research partnerships and a history of collaborating with researchers from around the globe. Bartlett Labs, our in-house research division, orchestrates these efforts and strives to ensure that our students are benefitting from the resulting discoveries.

As part of our commitment to providing students with the highest quality support, we also make it a priority to invest heavily in the professional development and continuing education of our staff. We work closely with our campus community of educational and wellness practitioners to provide relevant training and opportunities for collaboration and exchange. Additionally, we are continually evaluating our approach and processes adjusting them to ensure that we are not only in compliance with best practices but setting a new standard for excellence.

Lessons gleaned from decades of LD research inform everything we do all the way down to the design and construction of our award-winning, 21,000 square ft., building. Our center was custom built to meet the unique needs of our staff and students and integrates the latest in educational technology systems, collaborative work areas, and modular learning spaces spread over three different levels.

SALT is a program by university of arizona

Students at the SALT Center also have the benefit of attending a university filled with some of education’s brightest minds from across the academic spectrum. Most professors are keenly aware of our efforts and are eager to learn how they can enhance their instruction to better work with students who learn differently. To amplify our impact and raise awareness of our mission, we regularly meet with instructors and advisors from across campus, holding training and forging partnerships that open doors for our students to be better understood and valued as important members of the learning community.

The last thing that I would say sets our program apart is the degree to which we partner with students to foster their self-awareness, confidence, resilience, and growth.

Many of our students view the SALT Center as their second home and spend several hours a week with us where they are taught to embrace their hardships and learn from their failures. A growth mindset is at the heart of everything we do, and we often hear from alumni that their time at the SALT Center altered the trajectory of their lives giving them the self-confidence and attitude to thrive as adults.

Click Here to Learn More About SALT.

What sets PALS apart from other universities’ support services for students with learning challenges?

Ms. Yindra:  The way that PALS is structured—it is a very long-term commitment.  Many students meet with their Learning Specialist all four years, while others attend regular meetings for the first year and then feel confident enough to tackle the rest of college on their own. 

However, PALS is always there for students with learning challenges.  When you’re a junior or senior and applying for an internship or a graduate program, PALS Learning Specialists will write recommendations for students, etc.

Another thing that sets PALS apart is that it is embedded in the campus community at Hofstra, where we communicate and collaborate across all departments at Hofstra.  The Learning Specialist is not only in close communication with the student but also with tutors and all across campus.  This sets PALS apart from other programs.  Our PALS program generates an 85% success rate in terms of freshman to sophomore year retention.  The graduation rate of students in the PALS program is the same as, or sometimes slightly higher than, the graduation rate of the general population at Hofstra.

Click Here to Learn More About PALS.


Written by Jason Katz

This interview article was conducted and written by Insight Counselor Jason Katz.

Jason has helped hundreds of students gain admission to their best-fit universities. In addition, he wrote more than 170 college admissions/college life columns for the Palo Alto Daily News and the San Jose Mercury News.