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Category: USA

Insider’s Guide to Admissions: Standardized Tests

SAT, ACT, IELTS, TOEFL, APs, AHH! No that last one wasn’t an acronym but it was an attempt at capturing the frustration and confusion students experience as they go through the complicated and sometimes overwhelming process of applying abroad.

This Insider’s Guide to Admissions is here to give you guidance and direction. This particular article is covering Standardized Tests – what are they, how are they different and who needs them.

SAT: For applicants to the US, the SAT has become a bit of a household name. However, the SAT recently changed evolving into the New SAT. This New SAT has a few cosmetic changes (e.g. scored out of 1600 now instead of 2400, doesn’t have negative marking any more) and some content changes (e.g. no more Writing section). It basically consists of two sections – English and Mathematics. Internationally, the test is offered six times a year – January, May, June, October, November and December.

Pro Tip: While the essay is Optional, don’t skip it. A number of colleges require them including the University of California colleges (UCLA, UC Berkeley etc.)

ACT: An alternative to the SAT, the ACT has been gaining popularity in India of late. While SAT is out of 1600, ACT is graded out of 36. Unlike the SAT, the ACT covers three basic areas – English, Mathematics and Science. The science section in ACT is easy to master, unless you completely hate science. In that case, the New SAT is your savior! Anecdotally, English is easier on the ACT while Math is not really harder but faster. The test is offered six times a year – February, April, June, September, October and December.

Pro Tip: Whether it’s the ACT or SAT, plan to give your first attempt in Grade 11. Most people take 2 attempts to get their idealized score.

Choosing between the ACT and SAT: Let me make one thing very clear, SAT and ACT are equally accepted in universities abroad. If you want a competitive college application, you need high test scores. And if you want high test scores, you need to take the right test. Most importantly, you should focus all your efforts on taking one test. So, you really need to choose between SAT and ACT, and that too well in time because time is precious. Ideally, you should take a Diagnostic or Practice Exam in each one of the two exams. Compare the scores and then decide. Check out our blog post on this for more tips www.collegecore.in/blog

Pro Tip: SAT and ACT not for you? You’re not the only one. In fact, there are a number of universities that are going SAT-independent, eliminating the requirement to do the tests. Check out the list on FairTestPrep.org

TOEFL / IELTS: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) as the names suggest, are tests to gauge your command over the English Language. These tests are Visa Requirements for the most part. TOEFL is more popular with U.S. and Canada while IELTS is what the U.K. colleges prefer. Requirements differ by colleges – some colleges specify that if you have over 650 in the SAT English section the requirement is waived, others waive it for U.S. Citizens living abroad while still others will require it no matter what. The test is offered fairly regularly. You should check the official websites for the dates.

Pro Tip: ETS, the TOEFL organizers have begun offering a free online course to study for the test. While on the other hand, the British Council, the IELTS organizers often hold in person workshops to train you for them.

While we’ve covered the major ones, a few other tests you to keep in mind:

PSAT & Pre-ACT: Say you’re in the Ninth or Tenth grade, and you have your sights set on the United States of America as your intended college destination. You have all the plans to get yourself ready for the mad rush of Grade 12 but why not start earlier? The PSAT or Preliminary SAT offers the opportunity to get a head start on the preparation for the standardized tests. Moreover, the most competitive summer schools often request the PSAT or the SAT as a part of the evaluation. The test is only offered in October each year.

The Pre-ACT is new, in fact it only was announced in 2016. Its function is similar to the PSAT and like the ACT is an alternative to the SAT, the Pre-ACT is an alternative to the PSAT. It’s yet to come to India though. Read more about it on the ACT website.

SAT Subject Tests: While the SAT and ACT focus primarily on English and Math, the SAT Subject Tests are subject specific. SAT Subject Tests are available in 20 subjects (12 are in various languages), and allow a student to be able to show their academic strength in specific subjects. Some universities require Subject Tests, others recommend them, while still others don’t want them at all. Sometimes, universities will require specific tests depending on the major you’re applying for. For example, Engineering majors are often required to give the Physics and Math Level II SAT Subject Test.

APs: APs or Advanced Placements are the ‘New Kid on the Block’ at least in the Indian Standardized Tests landscape. The exam takes place in May each year and is offered in a number of different subjects – 37 subjects as of 2016 – so you can show your interest in Psychology or Economics which is not offered as a Subject Test. It’s graded from 1 to 5, 5 being the highest. The results of these exams are widely accepted and since they are considered “college-level” are used by colleges for college credit AFTER a student has been admitted. However, for Indian students applying from a curriculum that doesn’t offer APs in school, the results are not considered for admissions. Check out more on specific pros and cons and whether you should take APs on our blog www.collegecore.in/blog

Passport to the World: A Snapshot View of College Education around the World

Its May! And even though traditionally December is the end of the year, for students May can often represent that end, especially since they have their eye on summer vacation around the corner. May 1st brings an end to the admissions cycle for US applicants who may their final decisions on colleges. Later in May, as Board results come out, other college decisions are made.

However, for other students, namely those starting their college journey, May is the beginning! Summer vacation brings holidays to fun places, catching up with school and working through reading lists. And so, as you explore higher-education opportunities around the world, we at CollegeCore decided to create a quick introduction to approaching college applications to colleges and universities around the world.

United States of America (USA): The idea of the American Dream isn’t a new one. Nor is the fact that US colleges and universities consistently rank amongst the best in the world. Which is why it isn’t surprising that the United States is probably the most popular destination for students venturing out of their home countries to study abroad. Most US institutions offer flexible programmes for all students, which help them find their interest before deciding on a major; this is particularly interesting to students coming from rigid curriculums like the majority of those offered in India. However, with 3000 incredible universities and an application process which is both involved and complicated, it is no wonder CollegeCore helps dozens of students through their applications every year! Whether its understanding the difference between Ivy-League and Public-Ivies, figuring out whether to ACT or SAT and wading through dozens of essays, the US application is a convoluted process with big rewards at the end of the journey.

Canada: Oh Canada! Now, more than ever, students applying to college in the US are also looking to Canada for more college and university options (especially considering the tenuous political climate and its impact on employment in the US). With incredible, world class universities to choose from, co-op programs which allow students to blend studying with valuable work experience and a more welcoming employment environment than the country to its south, Canada is an option we see more and more of our students choosing each year. And to great success! We have students attending all the top 10 universities in Canada with students making a clean sweep in their applications every year so consider Canada (though beware the cold weather that impacts the majority of universities). Like the US, Canada offers 4 year programs. However, co-op programs which includes work experience along with the academic course extends 4 year college to 5 year.

United Kingdom (UK): UK is a popular destination for students from India and why not! The UK and India may have had a difficult history fraught with conflict but there is immense familiarity in the education systems – three year programs, academically driven college decisions and education in English. But as is the case with most academic driven college decisions, competition is tough and so, we guide students as they apply to Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, UCL and LSE, truly the best of the best universities. With only one application allowing you to apply to a maximum of five schools, every step of the application counts to secure the college of your dreams. The UCASApplication form allows you to apply to 5 programs. It could be 5 different universities or 5 different programs in 1 or more universities. Moreover, it is important to note that due to the Oxbridge system, students can only apply to Oxford OR Cambridge, not both. While UK is still understanding the impacts of Brexit, the education system has felt no big impacts.

Singapore (S’Pore): With its relatively affordable education and top-notch courses in computer science, applied science, law and economics, Singapore is an excellent destination for students who are academically inclined and ready to perform their best. Being geographically proximate to India also means getting the chance to study abroad without ever feeling too far from home. Its rigorous curriculum, world-recognized degrees and a Ministry of Education Tuition Subsidy (Scholarship) to ease the financial expenses, mean that Singapore attracts more and more students to every year. The Ministry of Education Tuition Subsidy requires the recipient to work in a Singapore-based company for three years after graduation but is an excellent opportunity. Moreover, Singapore list of top universities universities also include Yale-NUS, which is the Asia location for Yale’s excellent faculty allowing students to access incredible education closer to home. Yale-NUS has the same application needs as US universities so it is different from the other Singapore universities such as NUS and SMU which are focused on grades to make admissions decisions.

Hong Kong (HK): What is it that your mind conjures when you hear the words ‘Hong Kong’? If you are thinking about a city of skyscrapers, busy businesses and maybe Bruce Lee movies, then your guess is right. But Hong Kong is also one of the major hubs for education in Asia, giving Singapore stiff competition as an excellent place to study STEM courses and engineering. Students can make the most of these technical courses taught in English Language while successfully positioning themselves to get great jobs in its fast-paced economy. So whether its HKU, HKUST or City University of HK, Hong Kong is definitely becoming a strong study-abroad destination for students who are looking for the next hub in Asia.

Europe: For the longest period of time an education in Europe meant studying in the UK. And though the UK continues to be a strong favourite, stricter visa rules and the decreasing number of employment opportunities are resulting in students considering other choices. And for good reason! European colleges offer great education but they also offer the opportunity to experience cultural diversity. However, language of instruction is often in the local language so we encourage students to take that into consideration when applying. If you don’t know French or German reconsider the application or look for programs in English which are limited. So whether you want to study Hotel Management in Switzerland, Engineering in Germany or Political Science at Sciences Po France, explore Europe as more than just a vacation spot.

ApplicationsDurationStyleCost
USACommon App+
Individual
Apps
4 yearsLiberal
Arts – allows
flexibility
to study beyond
major
Approx.
35-45
lakhs
Canada Individual
Apps
4 years (5
with co-op)
Flexible but less
than USA
Approx.
35 lakhs
UKCommon App
(UCAS)
3 years (4
in a few)
Restricts classes
to major
Approx.
25-35 lakhs
EuropeIndividual
Apps
Depends on
major
Restricts classes
to major
Differs by
college &
degree
S’PoreIndividual
Apps
4 yearsRestricts classes
to major
Approx.
18-25 lakhs
HKIndividual
Apps
4 yearsRestricts classes
to major
Approx.
18-25 lakhs

With the myriad of opportunities out there, we encourage students to use their summer break to explore, bring thoughtfulness and clear direction to their application process, and seize those passports to explore the world!

CollegeCore works with students applying to a myriad of colleges around the world and has been doing so for well over 17 years. Reach out if we can help you seize your passport to the world.

Rejected: Class of 2021

Rejection

Apr 1st, 2017. You wish someone would jump out and yell “April Fools Day!!!!” but they didn’t. #IvyDay has come and gone. Your dream school has crushed those elaborate castles of whimsy you had built in your head about your lives together. And life plain SUCKS. Like SUCKS!!

Rejection 2

They built you up with posts saying “COME TO US!” only to rip you right down to this stage.

Dealing with rejection is difficult. Most students take it personally that they were turned down. Some compare it to a break up. They feel like the “Sorry we can’t offer you a place in the Class of 2021…” really stands for “You Suck” but nothing could be further from that. And we aren’t just trying to make you feel better.

Hell, check out Frank Bruni’s awesome article on this from last year – College Admissions Shocker. 

Its not you, it really IS THEM! It becomes a game of Supply and Demand really – too many students are applying and there are only a handful of seats available.

So take a little time to feel upset – you worked hard for it. But then, pick yourself up and dust yourself off. Accept that this may be the first big rejection but that life hasn’t come to a standstill. You may do incredibly well in the college you have been accepted to and that could set you on a path for success. You could perhaps even apply to your dream college for grad school (applications? AGAIN?) Really though, embrace the school that embraced you and move on.

In case you are stuck in Waitlist Limbo, check out our advice on working through the 5 stages of Grief.

Summer School? But its not even Spring!!

While winter is barely over, and Grade 12 students are in the midst of exams and preparation, it’s time to think of Summer Schools for students in Grade 9, 10 and 11!

You may think college applications are long off but unfortunately, time goes by faster than you think. Every year we get lots of people reaching out to discuss summer schools in May, but the time to apply is NOW. January and February are the best times to start planning for summer schools abroad.

But wait, even though, the trend of attending a summer program by high school students is really catching on in India and the BIG question is that is it really worth all the effort, time and money spent?

Is it becoming just about keeping up with that one kid in your class or is there a link between that an admissions? There is a lot to unpack in this article.

Well first thing to know is…

Q. What is a Summer School or a Summer Program?

A. Summer school is known to be a great way for students to pursue new interests, enhance existing talents, and build new contacts.

Q. Do they ACTUALLY act as a catalyst in gaining admission to a college of your choice?

A. In a simple way, we have parents each year asking, “If my child goes to Harvard Summer School, does that mean he will get into Harvard?” Here is the truth.

Attending a summer program no doubt indicates to colleges that you’re dedicated to studying and gaining knowledge. However, when you talk to admission officers they are of the opinion that these summer programs rarely give student that much of advantage when the time comes for them to apply to college. Yes, they do add great value to your resume/CV but understand that this is not your ticket to your desired college.

WAIT! Before you stop reading though… 

Q. Why should you consider pursuing a summer school/program?

– Summer program is the best way for students to fulfill their aspiration for global exploration and at the same time be committed to making the most of campus life. It’s a chance to figure out if they are ready.

– Explore new areas of interest, strengthen interest in a particular major and illustrate their readiness for the education system to admissions officers.

– Chance to experience what classes will be like and the level of work you will need to put in to succeed.

– Get hands on experience with international companies in form of internships which is inbuilt in some programs

– Possibility of incorporating your summer school experience in your essays

Q. What should I look for in a program?

– Is it the right time to dedicate to a summer program? AP exams are in the summer and sometimes Summer School overlaps with regular term for students. In some schools that means missing class and even exams.

– Is the school/program selective or does it take anyone who applies? If a selective program like Yale (YYGS), Boston Univ (PROMYS), Stanford (SuMAC), Princeton Journalism or UPenn LBW accepts you it is an indicator that 1) You are stronger than some of your peers 2) You are ready for a rigorous college curriculum

However, other programs that you can pay for and get in are less valuable in terms of being “an indicator” because even the admissions officers know they are not selective

Q. Do I have to go abroad?

A. No! Going to summer school abroad can cost as much as $10,000 for two weeks. Don’t waste your money on a non-selective program that won’t add too much value. Colleges are coming to us! Whether it’sAshoka’s High School Program, UChicago Summer School, Columbia University programs or MIT, the schools are coming to us and you should make the most of these opportunities.

Q. Should I go this year or next year?

A. Well, this is rather subjective and really depends from student to student. As per our experience we believe that you should join a summer program in the summer of your grade 10 and/or grade 11. The reason being that this time you are relatively free and have more time in hand as compared to when you are in grade 12 trying hard to balance your school life and college application work.

So going back to the big question, should I apply?

A. YES! Summer School is worth it if

– Your timing is right

– You can afford it

– If the program adds value to your application process either as a selective program that is an indicator or an exploratory program that allows you to show interest in a major

 

What should you do when deferred?

Deferred

When applying to colleges in the early round – Early Decision or Early Action, there are three possible outcomes:

– Accepted – Yay!

– Rejected – 🙁

– Deferred – ?

I think a deferral notification can feel mildly traumatic – “This must mean I won’t get accepted anywhere!” 

Deferred1

So lets explain what is going on.

Deferral means that you are neither in nor out, but the university will review your application along with the pool of regular applicants. So don’t lose hope just as yet, this is not a rejection! However, it is important to take some constructive action to tilt the balance in your favor the next time around your application file is reviewed.

Even though the university does not consider you their top choice they are reasonably impressed with your applicant credentials to review your application with the larger pool of applicants in the regular round. If they were certain of not admitting you, they would have denied you outright!

What are my chances in Regular Decision? 

Deferred 5

Once you are deferred you are automatically reconsidered in the next round. There is NO ADVANTAGE or DISADVANTAGE for being deferred. And so, believe it when I say that a deferral isn’t just a “polite rejection.” Being deferred means you’re going to get another fair shot. It’s not a denial. I promise.

Should I ask them what went wrong?

No. Decisions are made as a collective process in a group where students are compared to each other and discussed by a number of people. No one person can give you an answer, in fact, legally, they probably can’t.

What should I do?

– Read the deferral letter carefully, please send any additional material requested like the Mid-Year Grades, additional standardized test scores, anything else.

– Please ensure your Mid-Year grades show an upward trend over the last scores reported on your High School Transcript. Colleges do value better academic grades the most!

Deferred 4

– Send an update to the university of any achievements, academic or extra-curricular since the submission of your early application. E.g. an Excellence Award received on Founder’s Day, House Colors, a research paper published etc. This information can be sent in one well drafter letter rather than as weekly updates!

– Reach out to your interviewer to inform them of your deferral and seek their advice.

– Perhaps, an additional recommendation from someone like your Debate Coach, your Tutor in school, a research mentor can be sent only if the college is receptive of receiving additional material. You should check with the college before sending additional recommendations.

 What should I NOT do?

Deferred 2  …cry hysterically. The world has not come to an end.

…pester your parents to plan a visit to the college to show your interest.

…inundate the admissions office with multiple emails just to show you are interested. It is good to establish contact with your admissions officer but not at the cost of being labeled a stalker!Stalker

…lose hope. But do re-look at your university list. Ensure you have some Safeties on your list, otherwise add some NOW!!