There are numerous smart students who fail to score their best and come in short--and they don't why. One of the biggest mistakes students make is misunderstanding how to prepare for the GMAT. The GMAT is a unique test. It is not testing your knowledge; rather, it tests your abilities. In a very short amount of time you have to find clever strategies to answer questions.
Your first step is designing an effective study plan, so you avoid wasting your time and effort on the wrong strategies.
1. Don’t Underestimate the GMAT
Many students underestimate the GMAT and what it takes to prepare for it. They think it is like any other test and give themselves only a few days to prepare--or prepare the wrong things. They leave a week or a month for preparation. Unfortunately, that does not work with GMAT. According to GMAC, the average prospective MBA student spends a year on the process. If you don’t, you may find yourself trying to cram for the GMAT. And that will not work.
2. Don't Underestimate the Competition
GMAT students typically are ambitious and have degrees. They believe in doing their best and usually do. Unfortunately, the GMAT is cut-throat!! It is very competitive and pits you against other test-takers from all around the world. Your score is determined by how you perform in relation to your peers. And it is getting more and more competitive as strategies (like the ones here) and test material are now available to more people around the world. You better believe that you are in a very competitive ring, with invisible and smart opponents. You have to put your A game on--always!
3. Don't Study; Practice
GMAT tests your skills and not your knowledge. You already have enough knowledge, so spending time rote learning the concepts is a waste of time. Most of your learning will be problem solving the GMAT style questions. It is almost like learning a new language. You build your cognitive abilities through practice and you build your skills little by little and over time.
4. Don't Rely on Substitutes
The GMAT is very specific, and you can get trapped if you use material made by others. Be careful! Use the official test questions, and use them wisely. This is not to suggest that you should only prepare with official test questions. Look at other publishers to gain an understanding of the GMAT, and then use the official test questions to understand where you are having problems. Use your official tests strategically. Don't use them early on, and don't use them to get comfortable. Use them when you think you know enough of what is asked on the GMAT. Then test yourself with the real questions and learn what problems you are having. And then practice.
4. Don't Forget to Know Thyself!
Know thyself sounds like a cliche, but it is true. You have to know what kinds of questions you get wrong and why. You have to know what is easy for you. Each person's decision making is unique. You have to understand how you make decisions and how you think. Is inference hard or easy for you? That is particularly important as GMAT is very inferential. Improve your inferential thinking by studying great fiction! Yes, reading is a big deal.
5. Don't Forget to read, read, read
University of Virginia professor Mark Edmundson argues eloquently that reading should not be an academic exercise, but should be for the purpose, in words he borrows from Keats, of “soul-forming.” The value of reading is “the joy of seeing the world through the eyes of people who—let us admit it—are more sensitive, more articulate, shrewder, sharper, more alive than [we ourselves] are. The experience of merging minds and hearts with Proust or James or Austen makes you see that there is more to the world than you had ever imagined. You see that life is bigger, sweeter, more tragic and intense—more alive with meaning than you had thought.”
So go read some great fiction and improve your expertise in grasping inferences!
6. Don't Neglect the Verbal Section
Many test takers are intimidated by the GMAT’s quantitative section, especially if they don't have a strong analytical background. But don’t neglect the verbal section. Your final score out of 800 is weighted slightly more in favor of the verbal section.
The verbal reasoning section tests your reasoning ability. It is not about business English. It is not about vocabulary. Many native English-speakers have found out the hard way that being native speakers is not sufficient to get a good score. You will be challenged on your verbal reasoning ability. There are GMAT-specific rules that are not always intuitive, so be careful.
If you want to work on your GMAT preparation, give us a shot. Sign up today!
It is a common phenomenon where students are not able to get their test-day scores to match their practice test scores. To them the gap seems unsurmountable. No matter how much they work hard, or how many practice tests they take, they underperform at the actual test.
If you are one of such students, we suggest to read this blog. There are a few common reasons that official scores remain persistently lower than practice scores.
1. Test taking anxiety--fast and slow
It is natural for you to feel anxious on a test. That can manifest in many ways. You could freeze and lose confidence and try to over thing thus missing a few questions. Or, you could speed up, trying to do everything as fast as possible and start making mistakes.
If you are a slow test taker, speed up. Don't over think. If you are a fast test taker, slow down. There is usually more time than you think.
At Hillview Prep, we use an interval based strategy to teach you the right pacing for your test. Test taking is mostly about learning how to take tests when you know the material. Our methods will train you how to pace yourself correctly and bridge your performance gap.
2. Are you taking the wrong tests?!
Third-party tests (Kaplan, Barron’s, Princeton Review, etc.) are not interchangeable with the real thing. They are good to improve your understanding and abilities, but they are not the real tests. The questions they ask are different and that may be one reason why your official test scores are different than your practice ones.
At Hillview Prep, we carefully plan your learning. We interleave the third-party tests with the real tests so you build your stamina and experience in answering test questions. We make sure that you see different publishers, but not lose sight of the real tests. We also make sure you are not just using old tests.
3. Are you second guessing your answers?
Often students second guess themselves. They go back and check and double-check their answers, and end up changing the right answers to wrong ones. Many students lose points this way.
At Hillview Prep, we teach you how to guess when you are unsure of your answers. Our deducting reasoning methodology limits the number of pure guesses, so you don't have to go back and second guess your answers all the time.
4. Beware the distractions!
At home you can concentrate easily, as long as you put away your digital devices and other distractions. During the official tests, many students get distracted because their concentration got thrown off by the test taker in front of them. Maybe they were kicking their chairs, humming a tune or tapping their pencils. If someone in the room is really being loud, you can obviously ask your proctor to stop the distractor.
At Hillview Prep, we organize bootcamps and classes which mimic real test conditions. You will be taking tests with other kids, which means distractions. You could take tests using earplugs, but they may not be allowed in the real test centers due to past cheating scandals.
5. Can you sustain your focus?
Real tests are long, and unlike studying at home, you don't have access to your phone, or frequent breaks, etc. If you are not used to focusing for long periods, your performance in the real test will suffer.
At Hillview Prep, our interval pacing strategy trains you to focus for longer periods of time, thus building your test taking endurance. We teach you how to pace yourself, how to take short mental breaks without losing the flow of the test. Just like you would train for a marathon, we train you to build your endurance for the grueling test.
6. Are you being stubborn and not applying better test strategies?
We have seen smart students underperform in actual tests. The reason is that they are stubborn and refuse to implement the strategies we teach. A case in point. A bright, straight-A student came to us for ACT test prep. We coached him in better test taking strategies. He refused to use your strategies and ended up scoring a 30. We believe he could have scored a 34, given his high level of knowledge and expertise, but he refused to implement better strategies.
At Hillview Prep, we try to match our strategies with your strengths and coach you how to use your strengths to conquer your weaknesses. However, if you refuse to implement good strategies, you will underperform in your tests.
Contact us if you need help on your test prep. Call today!
The cost of college is a serious issue in the United States. Remember though, that the US has the best colleges in the world, and like anything else, there is a price to pay for that. Nevertheless, the true cost of college is misleading. Top colleges are cheaper than you think, says the New York Times, which compiled data from an online calculator.
The key finding is that top colleges are more affordable than many people realize – both for poor and for middle-class students.
Low-Income, Middle Class, and The Affluent
How much do lower-income students pay? Lower-income students – defined as families with $50,000 or less in annual income – pay only $6,000. Students can often cover that cost through part-time work and a small annual loan.
Middle-class families pay a higher price, but nowhere near the list price. Only affluent families pay close to the list price. New York Times defines affluent families with an annual income of at least $175,000 and a net worth of a half-million dollars or more. College bill at many private colleges, including tuition, fees, room and board, has reached the sum of $70,000 a year. For affluent families this can be unpleasant, but not enough to disrupt their lives, which is what colleges look at.
The findings are summarized in the figure below.
High vs Low Prices
The New York Times argues that colleges with huge list prices aren’t the biggest problem because they often offer substantial financial aid and have high graduation rates. Low-income students at least graduate with manageable amounts of debt and get good jobs.
The real problem is with lower list prices -- private and public colleges -- because of lower graduation rates. So students emerge with debt and no degree, which is a terrible combination. You can find more info here.
Costs at colleges are not identical. Not surprisingly, colleges that charge more tend to have smaller endowments, giving that they have fewer resources to pay for financial aid. Some of the least expensive selective colleges for poor and middle-class students often have the largest endowments. Amherst, Dartmouth and Williams are all examples. Yale stands out for providing the most financial aid to middle-class students, charging them only slightly more than poor students. Harvard, Princeton and Stanford have similar policies.
For both poor and middle-class students, such colleges tend to be significantly cheaper than even four-year public universities! So don't assume that private colleges are more expensive than the public ones. Often they are not. Do your research and find out.
Are you prepared for college? Many high schools do not adequately prepare students for the rigor of college, and many students struggle during their freshmen year. Some burn out. Some quit. If high school was easy for you, make sure you take more advanced classes, including programming in Python and Java, if you are pursuing an engineering, math or science degree. There are many college courses available on Coursera and edX. Check them out to see if you are ready or not for college. We at Hillview Prep would be happy to guide you through the process.
It is important to plan carefully for college, as you very well know. However, given people's busy schedules, it is easier said than done. We at Hillview Prep specialize in college test prep, scholarships and applications. We would be happy to help you with college consulting -- from finding the best scholarships to financial aid to choosing the colleges that fits you the best. If interested, sign up below!
How Many Colleges Should You Apply To?
There are many answers, but experts suggest that you should have no more than eight or nine colleges on your list. We recommend three target schools, three safety schools, and three reach schools. Safety schools are colleges and universities that are almost certain to admit applicants. Pick two four-year colleges, and one community college if your GPA and test scores are low. Also, if you cannot afford a four-year school, a community college is a good alternative to save money and transfer to a four-year college later. Target schools are likely to take applicants and reach schools are those that are highly competitive and is going to be tough getting in, but well worth it and usually are the 'dream' schools. You can determine which category a school falls into based on the average test scores and GPA for its incoming students.
If you apply to too many school, it will cost you money (application fees, visits, etc.) and loss of focus. And it can be quite challenging when it's time to write application essays, which is one thing where you can differentiate yourself. You want to do a great job with your application, including visits and on going communication with schools of your choice. Having too many schools poses a challenge to your time, money and energy.
Although the Common Application has made college application easier, you still have to pay admissions fees for each institution. And we recommend visiting the specific campuses of interest and to make connections with faculty and staff. All of this takes time, money and energy.
Preserve your money and energy and focus only on a few schools. Applying to colleges takes work, and submitting applications to a large number of schools may ruin the quality of your applications. If you don’t know the school really well, then it’s hard to write really good essays and stand out from the thousands of applications the school receives each year. Remember, the acceptance rate is very low nowadays, mainly because anyone with a computer from around the world can apply. So standing out from the crowd is really tough. So focus on a few applications.
However, do not apply to a very small number either, say one or two. This may prevent you from maximizing your financial aid offers. If you apply to more schools, you are likely to get multiple financial aid offers, and you can use those offers to negotiate aid with schools.
Also, consider the academic quality and range of schools. If you apply to only two or three schools, and if they happen to be academically similar, you might risk getting rejected from all of them.
The only exception is if you are going for an early decision school. Schools like Duke University and University of Chicago offer early decision admissions, which requires you to attend the school if you are accepted early! This is different from the early action admissions, which allows you to apply before the regular admissions cycle, but does not require you to enroll if you are admitted.
And finally, you should think of the fit. Which schools will really prepare you for success? Are you really excited about going to the school? Or, are you going there because of family and peer pressure, or because it is well known? What is the campus size? Where is it located? Etc. You have to think of your own values and make a decision. Be motivated by love of your values and not by fear from peer pressure or anything else.
In college applications, quality trumps quantity. Focus on nine schools and create a compelling application for each. Even the safety schools should be the ones you would want to go to. Don't short change yourself. If you work hard, you deserve to go to a school of your choice.
And we at Hillview Prep are here to help you guide through your journey if you need some test prep or counseling help. We will work hard with you to maximize your chances of getting into your target and dream schools. Do not hesitate to contact us!
List of reasons why applicants overreach and are disappointed in April with their college admission outcomes:
Free Image from Pixabay
The Graduate Management Admission Council announced that it was cutting the length of the GMAT by 30 minutes.
The new shortened exam will last for three and a half hours instead of four starting April 16, 2018. There is no change in the content of the GMAT itself.
Why the change? It seems that the change is in response to the growing competition from the GRE, as more business schools are accepting the GRE. There is a market share battle between the GRE and the GMAT, just like there is a battle between the SAT and the ACT. Admissions trends are showing that business schools are looking for applicants with more than just a business background, and that means that the GRE has become popular for admissions to business school.
The GMAT’s time savings targets the two two long sections of the exam: Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning. It reduces the number of un-scored, research questions in those sections. Several tutorial and instruction screens have also been simplified. There are no changes to the Analytical Writing or Integrated Reasoning sections.
“This change will not affect GMAT exam scoring as the number of scored questions will not change,” said Vineet Chhabra, senior director of product management for GMAC. “The scoring algorithm will be the same.”
What does this mean and how does this change impact the GMAT takers? Chhabra of GMAC said that candidates will be “less anxious and feel better prepared” for the test as a result of the time reduction. So endurance becomes less of an issue.
The GMAT might still give MBA applicants an edge at some business schools over the GRE. According to a 2017 Kaplan survey, 21% of MBA programs said those who submit a GMAT score have an advantage over those who submit a GRE score. Only 1% said GRE takers had the advantage. Will that advantage hold that the GMAT is easier? Only time will tell.
What would we recommend?
We believe that if you have test taking challenges, consult with us to learn test-taking skills. And take both the tests! Fundamentally, GRE and GMAT have more in common than they have differences. To succeed at either, you will need to master math--algebra, arithmetic, geometry, data analysis—as well as language--reading reading and critical reasoning skills. And you need to hone them with efficient test-taking strategies. We suggest to take the GRE first, and if you do really well, take the GMAT. You have nothing to lose. The key is to prepare well and to take these tests seriously as many smart students underestimate the challenge in taking these tests.
If you want to work for management consulting firms or investment banking firms, they require job applicants to submit their GMAT scores. MBA applicants who plan on working for management consulting firms or investment banking firms.
After learning test-taking skills, if you still lean towards either math or verbal, stick with your strengths. The GMAT is considered tougher in the math department due to its data sufficiency questions, while the GRE Verbal section's emphasis on vocabulary.
Test drive our GRE/GMAT bootcamp. Sign up below.
Most students (and parents) make several seemingly benign errors in their college admissions process that can cost them dearly. Below are nine ways families make common mistakes and suggestions how to avoid them. If you like the tips, do let us know what you think.
1. Dropping Context
Context is critical in the admissions process. What is context? It is your background. Your family's background. For example, applicants from low socio-economic backgrounds are measured with a different yardstick than affluent applicants who have had numerous opportunities for personal and academic growth and exploration. Those who have to work to help with family finances simply do not have the time to take extracurricular activities or even AP classes. Some students may have a learning disability or a physical handicap, or a difficult family situation. Colleges look at all of this information.
Make it easy for colleges to know your context. Where do you live? What kind of family responsibilities do you have? What kind of difficulties do you face? What opportunities you have had that you made good use of? Do not leave our vital personal story. If you do, you will lose out in the admission game. You want to stand out and therefore make sure that the admissions committee sees the real you.
2. Lack of Balance
Be mindful of the number of times you use “I” in your essays. Do you give credit to teachers, mentors, parents, and others who have helped you along the way? Of course, you have to write about yourself and talk about yourself as the unique individual you are. At the same time, however, you have to talk about how you can contribute to the college. For example, if you an art major and the school of your dreams has a great theater program, think of how you can add to the value of the program. Or, if you have an interest in science, think of what unique work you want to do that will help the science program at your college. Etc.
3. Lack of Ambition and Vision
If you are applying to a top school, you must demonstrate ambition and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish there. Don't say that I just want a job after graduation. You can go to a community college (and save a lot of money) and do just that.
Think about what you want to do after college. What will you learn in the school that will help you achieve your goals? Which courses? The more specific you are, the more you will impress the admissions officers. Plus, it will show that you know what you want and have done your homework about the school.
4. Not Improving your IQ (Interest Quotient)
Today, college admissions are ultra competitive. Many students have similar GPAs, test scores, and even extracurricular activities. You will need recommendations and your Interest Quotient (IQ)--your demonstrated interest--to tip the scale in your favor.
According to the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC), from 2003 to 2011, the percentage of colleges rating demonstrated interest as a “considerably important” factor increased from 7% to 21%.
Schools want to admit students who genuinely know and like the school, and if admitted, want to attend the school. How do you then demonstrate your interest? First, you have to increase you IQ (interest quotient).
5. Writing One Essay for All
It’s tough applying to 10 schools while you’re juggling a busy school schedule. It’s tempting to try to answer the essay prompts for all 10 supplements with that one great essay you worked so hard on -- but be careful. You can score low marks on the demonstrated interest test if it is obvious to the reader that you have repurposed an essay for another school. Admission officers usually know the prompts from competitive institutions, so they could notice and be unimpressed with your essay.
6. Poor Grammar & Punctuation
You are expected to have a strong command of proper grammar and punctuation. In today's age, you have no excuse given the grammar tools available. You don’t want to give the admission committee ANY reasons to put your application in the reject pile, but poor grammar and punctuation will get you there quick. Even if English is your second language, try to have a native speaker review your application for glaring errors in grammar, word choice, and punctuation. Use a grammar and spelling tool to correct obvious mistakes.
7. Not Proofreading
Having mentioned spell-check and other word processor tools, don't just rely on them. They can also fail you. There is a lot riding on your college application. Treat it as very important and not a chore you got to do. That is not the attitude you should have. And that is why we advise to focus only on your top 10-15 -- one by one.
8. Forgetting the Admissions Rubric
Admissions officers use a “rubric” as a guide. They differ from school to school, but their function is to evaluate core components of a student’s profile:
Be aware of this rubric. Make sure you have addressed the rubric in your application.
9. Not Understanding the 'Yield'
Yield in college admissions is the percent of students who choose to enroll in a particular college or university after having been offered admission. [Source: Wikipedia]
Schools like to manage their yield, or the percentage of admitted students who actually enroll, and IQ can be a great predictor for that. Many students do not enroll due to various reasons: money, girl or boy friend, family, fear of the unknown or distance from home, etc. The top, top students may not go to a specific college, given they have a plethora of choices. You can increase your opportunity by helping the school increase its yield. Increase your IQ (interest quotient) for the colleges in your list.
If you need support and have questions, do not hesitate to consult with the Hillview Prep team!
“I am absolutely, unequivocally and categorically scared to enter the college admissions process. And chances are that if you are a rising high school senior, you are too. In the increasingly competitive milieu that is college admissions, no college is a “safe school.” Acceptance letters from dream schools couldn’t be more hard found, nor rejection letters more prevalent.”
Following is a list of students' concerns:
1. What if I don’t get accepted?
Admission rates at the 100 or so most selective colleges have declined significantly over the past 30 years, from 54 percent in 1984 to 32 percent in 2012. Numbers at the Ivies are daunting: 6 percent at Harvard, 6 percent at Yale, 7 percent at Columbia. It is 5 percent at Stanford.
However, top colleges have gotten a lot bigger. Many of the universities have added seats (like Michigan, Berkeley and Boston University), while some huge schools have joined the ranks of the elite (think NYU, USC and UCLA).
There are 55 percent more seats available today than there were 30 years ago. Even considering the increase in international applicants, there are 44 percent more seats for every American student than in the early 1980s.
While it's more difficult to get into any one top college, getting into one of the top colleges is much easier. We suggest to apply to several schools and not to set your heart on one or two schools only.
2. Am I SMART enough?
“My biggest fear was not being good enough. I knew that I was going to a big college where many brilliant students were going to attend, so competition for scholarships was going to be tough. I overcame this fear by focusing on my learning. Instead of thinking about average exam scores or grades in a class (which can be easy to compare yourself to), I thought about how I could improve my test scores and focused more on what I wanted my grade to be, regardless of others.”
If you got into the college, the admissions department obviously thinks you can handle the work. So don’t sell yourself short. Surround yourself with people who want to succeed, too. They’ll be the people to turn to when times get tough. Start by getting organized: follow the course syllabus and meet your professors.
3. How am I going to pay for college?
Fill out the FAFSA form, even if you don't qualify for the Federal needs based criteria. Did you know that any student who fills out a FAFSA—no matter how wealthy—can take a federal “unsubsidized” loan? The key word here is “unsubsidized”. Check out Advice from Students About Paying for College for some great tips.
Finally, check out Hillview Prep's Ultimate Guide for Scholarships. Here you can find many different scholarships that you can apply for and help pay for college.
Image from Pixabay
"They need to fall in love with you."
College admissions @Duke
“I tell kids that their job is to make the [officer] fall in love with you,” Toor says. “I’ve written many notes to students asking them to meet me as soon as they get to campus.”
~ Hillview Prep: Showcase your unique personality with your essays. Contact us if you want our help.
Assistant Director @USC
"Become familiar with what the university can offer you in terms of academic and extracurricular experiences, but then think one step further. What do you offer the university? Imagine being here--how will you spend your time? What do you want to explore or improve? What will be your contributions to the community? Don't underestimate yourself! Articulating your potential impact will give us a better sense of who you are and whether USC is a good fit for you."
Dean of Admissions @MIT
“What I tell students, and my own kids, is that you don’t have to take every advanced class. My high school daughter, for example, is taking advanced math and science courses but chose not to take advanced English and history. You should challenge yourself. For some students this might mean taking the most advanced classes, but it also might mean taking the most advanced classes appropriate for that student, and not spreading themselves too thin.”
Applicants do not need to tick off a laundry list of engagement in every field, like art, music, sports, Mr. Schmill explains. “M.I.T., and other highly selective colleges, want students who prioritize quality over quantity.” Mr. Schmill offers high school students this litmus test when choosing extracurricular activities: “If you couldn’t write about this on your college application, would you still do it?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ then you shouldn’t be doing it.”
Assistant Director @USC
"Identify all of your strengths and interests, and do your homework on how you could fit in here at USC. Do not be afraid to step out of your box and be unique."
Associate Director, Office of Admissions @Texas A&M University
"I wish students knew to contact their universities of interest and research the steps of the application process before their senior year. Pre-planning can eliminate some of the trials and errors of applying to school. The sooner students conduct research on the application process and what it takes to be admitted, the better they understand which classes they need to take and how they should organize their past, current and future activities."
Senior Assistant Director @USC
"Take chances. Allow your application to be a true representation of who you are, not who you think we want you to be. By demonstrating your individuality – your quirks, your unique perspective, your heart – you will set yourself apart from other applicants."
~ Hillview Prep: How do you set yourself apart? Contact us if you want our help.
Former Admissions Officer @Cornell
Friedfeld says universities are essentially looking for community residents with a four-year lease. “As an admissions officer, you’re picking people to enroll in your community, your space, for the next four years. They’re going to choose who they like and who they want to get to know.” At AcceptU, Friedfeld hands out sample essays, then asks students their thoughts. “They’ll say they liked the writing. It’s not about that. It’s about whether you liked who wrote it.”
Senior Assistant Director @USC
Choose a major that you are actually passionate about and want to pursue. Your interest (or lack thereof) for that field is obvious. If you don’t know what you’re interested in, or are still deciding, then choosing “undecided” is okay, you have plenty of time to figure that out.
"I’ve run into many students over the years who are not aware that some colleges to which they are applying track every contact point the students has had with that college or university as a way to gauge a student’s “demonstrated interest.”
My advice to students is to do whatever you can do to leave a paper trail that demonstrate interest in the colleges you to which you apply (i.e. visit, email their admissions offices, call them, join their mailing lists, open their emails, interview etc.)."
Micah A. E. Canal
Chief Admission Officer @Antioch College
College ‘Fit’ Goes Both WaysI wish more students applying to college understood just how important “right-fit” is. Do we want to see people who were successful in high school and had a bunch of extracurricular activates? Yes, absolutely. But you can make an even better case for admission by showing us that you are going to be able to be highly successful and benefit most from the uniqueness of our institution.
Do your research. Don’t only make the case that you’re great, make the case that you’re a great match great for us.
International Admission Officer @USC
"Tell us your unique and individual story – and if you don’t think you have one, I promise you that you do. Consult your friends, teachers, parents, counselors if you’re stuck. Don’t tell me what you think I want to know to hear, because I have probably seen it before and it will not help you stand out. Have confidence in yourself and your story and convey it to us with passion and enthusiasm. These small things can make a huge difference!"
College admissions @Duke
“Two letters of endorsement are enough,” she says, “unless a third can really shed new light on the student.” The record at Duke was 32 letters, though Toor once heard Georgetown had an application with 70. “We used to joke that the thicker the file, the thicker the kid.”
"The three rates that give parents and students peace of mind"
Associate VP and Dean of Admission @University of Richmond
“As my son prepares his college list, I’m going to hand him a spreadsheet. Across the top will be the schools, and down the side will be the list of things he feels are most important to him in a college. When he visits these schools and does his research, he’ll fill in the spreadsheet, and it will be a nice road map for him. At some point, once you visit two or three schools in a day or five schools a week, they begin to blend, and you definitely want some bread crumbs to remind you of where you’ve been.”
“On the same spreadsheet, I’ll have him track what I call the ‘three rates’ for each college. The first is the retention rate: Are students returning as sophomores? Because if they are, then I make the argument that they have had a very good experience, their needs are met. Next is the graduation rate. A fifth year or a sixth year in a college represents forgone income or time that you are not in graduate school — and you are not going to get that back. The last rate is the placement rate or ‘student outcomes.’ What are students doing six months, a year or five years after graduation? Are they employed, are they in graduate school, what type of companies or organizations do they work for? The three rates gives parents and students peace of mind that they’ve done their research.”
VP of Enrollment Management @Valparaiso University
"Choosing a college is a long but rewarding process. It takes time to find which college is the best fit for you. The sooner you complete your application (including transcripts, test scores, personal essay, and so on) the sooner you will receive a decision and your merit scholarship award. This provides you more time to investigate and weigh your options."
The 2018-19 Common Application Essay Prompts
Now you have the prompts. How should you proceed? If you need help, please do not hesitate in contacting us for help in writing your essay. Remember, you get only one chance to impress the college admissions committee!
Image from Pixabay
When a colleague puts down the phone and exclaims, 'That person was rude!,' I would immediately ask which applicant or prospective student was involved. Once the applicant or prospect is identified, a note gets promptly placed in the student's file. Duly noted!"— José Román, Former Assistant Director of Admissions, Yale University.
1. You are Tracked!"
Your and your family interaction matters. Be aware that treating people poorly has consequences. As the quote about shows, people will note it and hold it against you. Especially, be nice to the administration staff. They are there to help you. A kind gesture can go a long way.
College admissions is a stressful process because the outcome is uncertain. Do not fall into the trap of "resulting". Do not focus on just the results. Trust your process. You cannot control the results. Someone else has to make a decision for the result to go your way.
College admissions is a stressful process. But that never means you can be rude or pushy to anyone (ANYONE) working in or near an admissions office. Many schools track your or your parents' communication with that college, and even if they don't actively track your interest, admissions officers still take notes!
Even on the phone with administrators, make sure you present yourself the way you want to be viewed by your application reader. This one is good life advice in general: Be nice.
"As an admissions evaluator at Brown, we really had to keep up a rigorous reading pace with the regular decision applicant pool. We were expected to read 5 applications per hour, which equates to twelve minutes per application. In those twelve minutes, I reviewed the application, standardized test scores, the transcript, the personal statement, and multiple supplemental essays—all while taking notes and making a decision on the admissibility of the applicant."—Erica Curtis, Former Admissions Evaluator, Brown University
2. You have only 12 Minutes!
Think of the admissions officer! She has only twelve minutes to read and make a decision. Knowing this, how would you construct your application? What should come first? How organized should you be? How many extra letters of recommendation would you send? How much more do you want to convey in 12 minutes? Or, should you be precise and up to the point?
Let us know if you want craft a laser sharp application material. We will be glad to help you with your essays and application material.
"At Stanford, when reading applications, we did use one acronym in particular—SP ("standard positive"), which indicated that the student was solid and had an overall positive application, but unfortunately was just standard."—Anonymous, Former Admissions Reader, Stanford University
3. Don't be a "Standard Positive"!
Given that there are thousands of applicants from all around the world, how do you stand out? You do not want to just be 'standard', or in another words 'good'. You want to be memorable, or to use another Stanford lingo - angular!
"Before a student gets her admissions decision, she can go from admit to defer/waitlist or vice versa. Until the Dean of Admissions starts to shape the class, nothing is final. Sometimes admissions officers get lucky and can add back in one or two of their favorite students (who made it through committee, but for one reason or another were moved to "defer" or "waitlist" along the way). Admissions officers really care about the students for whom they advocate, but often it comes down to the needs of the school and the desire to have a well-rounded incoming class."—Natalia Ostrowski, Former Assistant Director of Admissions, University of Chicago
4. Beware of the Shaper!
Even if they expect you be 'angular', the schools want to develop a well-rounded class. You can be an outstanding candidate, but because of the desire to shape the class, you will go into the defer or waitlist.
If you find yourself in such a predicament, talk to us. We have some advice for you.
"As an admissions officer, I analyzed students' personalities. If I read an admissions essay, and the student came off as arrogant, entitled, mean, selfish, or, on the flip side, funny, charming, generous, witty, I wrote that exact trait in my notes. It's not enough just to be smart at top schools. Students must also show that they'll be good classmates and community builders."—Angela Dunnham, Former Assistant Director of Admissions, Dartmouth College
5. Showcase your Personality
Personality matters to admissions officers. They want to know you. Unfortunately, they have only twelve minutes to make a judgment. Don't come off as entitled or arrogant. Be polite and come across as passionate about your interests and goals. Take a look at this story of Eni here. We are sure you will be inspired by her.
If you need help with your essay, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to show you how to write an essay that can make you stand out.
"If you are assigned an MIT alumni interviewer, definitely take advantage. There is a slightly higher admit rate for those applicants who take advantage of the interview." --Vincent James, Former Assistant Director of Admissions, MIT
6. Interview Matters
Just like for job applicants interviews matter. And getting an interview is a key to getting a job or admissions to a college. If you got called for an interview, do not blow it. A college interview is your chance to bring some more color and personality to your application. Conduct a great interview and you can potentially get into the college of your dreams.
"My biggest pet peeve as an Admissions Officer was when a kid would visit the office, expect to have an audience with me, and then have no questions at all. Not even easy ones the website could answer! That tells me a lot about the student, not much of it good."
7. Be Curious. Ask Questions!
Ask questions! A big mistake students and job applicants make is not asking questions. You make a big impression on the other person or people. Remember, a lasting impression lasts more than a first impression, and you can leave a lasting impression by standing out -- with questions.
What questions should you ask? Well, that depends on your goals and the schools. We would be happy to help you craft some great questions that will not only impress your interviewer but also inform you where you stand in the admissions process.
Do not hesitate to contact us, if you need any help with your college admissions.
Words have the power to influence your audience.
If you are applying to college, your audience is the admissions committee. They receive thousands of essays each year. Many of them are boring and the language is cliched. You can make your essay stand out by using the power words and avoiding weak words.
Remember, when it comes to language, less is more. In your essays, avoid the following words.
1. Stop protecting yourself with “Just”, "I think..." and "Arguably"
You may be using words that protect yourself, words like "just', "I think" and "arguably". You are either afraid of offending someone or bracing for a strong disagreement. You may not realize it, but these words broadcast to the world that you may be wrong but that is okay because it is only what you think. It projects that your view is not important. It is a way to protect yourself from an attack, should someone hold a different opinion, or may dislike you. This can come across as passive aggressive, which can create resentment and lessen your value, or simply confuse people what you are communicating about.
The words you use to protect yourself from a verbal attack or negative impressions are undermining your power. You are entitled to your opinion. Don’t undermine your viewpoints. Sharing your opinion without hesitation, even if others disagree, can help you garner respect and influence people. This is really critical in your essays for college admission. You want to come across as a critical thinker and a good communicator. Remember, you are communicating your value to the college. What is in for them to have you as a student? If you are not clear about that, you will reduce your chances of getting in.
2. Stop the Drama with “Very,” “Absolutely” and “Totally”
Words such as “very,” “absolutely” or “totally” do not add value to the noun you want to describe or highlight. You do not need to say, “I’m very afraid.” Saying “I’m afraid”, or better, "I'm terrified" does the trick. Superfluous adverbs and adjectives can add unnecessary drama, but they do not convey much. Here is a list of words to substitute "very". Reviewing the list will also improve your vocabulary.
When you appreciate the power of words, you use less of them to communicate the same thing. When you use fewer words, each word becomes more powerful and can be better appreciated by others. So stop using"very", "absolutely" and "totally" in your writing.
3. Stop using filler words: “Like,” “Whatever,” “Etcetera” and “…and so on and so forth”
Keep the “likes” and similar phrases to a minimum. These are common filler words used in everyday speech. They are not for writing essays because they dilute the potency of the words you use. Remember, spoken language is different than formal, written language.
4. Don't act superior. Avoid “Actually” and “Obviously”
Words such as “actually” and “obviously” can rub people the wrong way. "Obviously" makes an assumption that they overlooked something simple. They may feel stupid or inferior. "Actually" doesn't really add anything except pointing that the other party overlooked something. Do not make assumptions about people. You could come across as someone who shows a lack of understanding and can annoy or frustrate others and cause people to disrespect you.
5. Avoid common crutches like "That"
"That" whenever possible. “That” is a handy word that isn't always useless. However, it's also commonly a crutch without a purpose. Whenever you're about to use the word, ask yourself if there is a better way to avoid it. Consider this sentence: “I found a gem that is beautiful.” The sentence is weak. "That" here is similar to "very" here. Change “that” by rewriting it to “I found an exquisite gem.” The sentence sounds much more powerful and conveys the message clearer.
6. Avoid the credibility killers: "Basically", "Probably", "Definitely", "Virtually", "Certainly"
These "credibility killers” -- fluency disruptions -- communicate doubt. Also, some people use these words, especially "basically" repeatedly. That sounds annoying as well. Avoid such language in your essays. It makes people think you don't know what you are talking about.
College Selection Questions
College Admissions Questions
Standardized Testing Questions
High School Class Questions
Growth & Potential Questions
Interests & Activities Questions
Character & Personality Questions
Contribution to the College Questions
If you feel you are not getting appropriate guidance at your school, or would like another view, the Hillview Prep team would be happy to help you with your preparation for college, from choosing wisely to writing essays. Please feel free to reach out to us as below.
What is the ISEE?
The ISEE consists of five sections at three levels designed to measure the verbal and quantitative reasoning and achievement of students in grades 4–11 seeking admission to grades 5–12 in independent schools. Students seeking admission to grades 5 or 6 take the Lower Level; students seeking admission to grades 7 or 8 take the Middle Level; and students seeking admission to grades 9–12 take the Upper Level.
When can you take the ISEE?
Students can take the ISEE up to three times in a 12-month admission cycle, once in any or all of the three testing seasons. The seasons are Fall (August–November), Winter (December–March), and Spring/Summer (April–July).
What is tested on the ISEE?
The five sections that make up the ISEE are (in order of testing): Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Mathematics Achievement, and an Essay which is written by the student in response to a given writing prompt.
What do all these acronyms stand for?
What types of questions are on the ISEE?
The Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Math Achievement sections contain only multiple-choice questions. Each question has four choices. Only one answer is the correct or “best” answer. The Essay section requires the student to write an essay in response to a prompt.
How long is the ISEE Lower Level Test (Grades 4-5)?
Total: 2 hours, 20 minutes
How long is the ISEE Middle Level Test (Grades 6-7)?
Total: 2 hours, 40 minutes
How long is the ISEE Upper Level Test (Grades 8-11)?
Total: 2 hours, 40 minutes
What does the ISEE measure?
The ISEE does not measure your student's IQ. It measures the readiness level of the student and academic standing. Is the student prepared for the school of his or her choice?
Are there any breaks during the test?
There are two breaks—one following the Quantitative Reasoning section and another following the Math Achievement section. Each break is five to ten minutes long.
How soon will I receive my student's scores?
The ISR is posted to the parent online account after scoring, which is approximately 10–14 days after testing. For paper testing, optional expedited receipt of scores online is available to you for an additional $40. This enables the parent to receive the scores on the day the test is scored. An email will be sent to notify you when the scores have posted to your online account, usually the Monday, Wednesday, or Friday after the test.
What happens to my scores?
After paper testing, answers and essays are sent to the ISEE Operations Office for scoring of the four multiple choice sections and production of the Individual Student Report (ISR). Copies of the ISR may be emailed to the parent, ERB members, or both. The ISR is posted to the parent online account after scoring, which is approximately 10–14 days after testing. The essay, which is not scored and not released to the parent, is released online (with the ISR) to ERB members. School score reports do not list any recipients other than the individual school receiving the report.
What materials should students bring to the test?
For paper testing only, students should bring four #2 pencils and two pens with either blue or black ink. Students may choose to use erasable ink.
What materials are prohibited during the test?
Most materials other than writing implements are prohibited. Specifically, scratch paper, calculators, calculator watches, rulers, protractors, compasses, dictionaries, and thesauruses are NOT permitted during the actual test.
Will my student be penalized for wrong answers?
Scores are based on the number of correct answers. There is no penalty for wrong answers on the ISEE. So, answer every question, and guess when necessary.
What is the difference between the 'raw' and 'scaled' scores?
A raw score represents the number correct. If a student got 31 items correct, then the raw score is simply 31. A scaled score is a raw score that has been converted to a different numerical scale, e.g., 200–800. The raw score scale ranges from 0–maximum score, while the scaled score range consists of higher numbers with a somewhat arbitrary minimum and maximum score. The range of scaled scores on the ISEE is 760–940.
What in the world is a 'stanine'?
The test is the same for different grade levels, e.g. upper level is for 8 to 11 graders. How will be my student judged?
A stanine score is based on percentile ranks. Percentile ranks range from 1–99, while stanines range from 1–9. In general, a stanine score of 1–3 is below average, 4–6 is average, and 7–9 is above average.
Percentile Rank Stanine
This is a common question parents have. Your student gets a percentile rank and is only compared to students at the same grade level over the past 3 years. So a 9th grader will only be compared to other 9th graders.
How do I sign up for the test?
Sign up here! https://iseeonline.erblearn.org/
What is a Superscore?
Many students take the SAT and the ACT more than once. The question that students often have is which scores should they send to colleges to present their best self?
It depends on the school. Some colleges want all test scores from all the dates. So you cannot be selective. Some schools consider your highest overall score from a single test date, and others would consider a composite of your highest section scores from all test dates. The last one is the Superscore of your test scores.
How To Calculate Your Superscore
Your SAT Score Strategy
If you take the SAT, you will have the option through the College Board’s reporting tool Score Choice™ to decide by test date which scores will appear on the score reports that the College Board will send to colleges. You may choose, for example, to eliminate your lowest test score from the report for those colleges that don’t require you to send all test scores.
Your ACT Score Strategy
If you take the ACT, a record is created each time you take the test, and you tell ACT which test records to release to schools. ACT will send only the test dates you request. Decide which and how many dates to send based on your scores and the school's guidelines about super scoring. If a college requests all of your ACT scores, it’s up to you to ensure that all your test records are released to that school. Also remember you can always cancel your ACT scores even after receiving it!
List of Colleges that Superscore the ACT and the SAT
A Plan That Worked
This blog is not about a student who got a perfect score on the ACT. This about a student who was struggling, is not a top student, but worked diligently with us and used the Smart Scoring System to succeed. You can see the improvement below.
A 4 point improvement on the composite score. That is huge!
And notice the improvement in science and reading. In science, she went from a terrible score of 16 to an okay, if not stellar, score of 23. That is a 7 point improvement in just 12 hours of coaching. And the reading scores went from 22 to a very good score of 30! That is an 8 point improvement. And she improved her scores in English and Math, her weakest subject, as well. We say, bravo!
You may be wondering how she did it. She used our Smart Scoring system to maximize her talent. What is the Smart Scoring System?
The Smart Scoring System
In essence, the Smart Scoring System is a personalized trainer. It does real-time assessment, feedback, coaching and training.
The Smart Scoring System can identify your academic strengths and weaknesses and understand your learning style. It is the ultimate guide for discovering the most effective methods and strategies that make you learn faster and succeed in less time.
The Smart Scoring System tests the following:
We invite you to test drive the Smart Scoring System. Below is a list of our ACT offerings. If interested, please choose one that works best for you.
The Biggest Source of Confusion and the Unknown
If college admissions process is a mystery to you, then you are not alone. Every year millions of students apply to colleges--all over the world--hoping to get into the college of their dreams. Many are smart and have the ability to do the required course work. Most of them fail to get into a top school.
The number of applicants keep on rising, but the number of seats haven't increased, at least in the top schools. The truth is that many of these smart students are not really competitive for the top universities, like the Ivy Leagues, Stanford, Caltech and MIT.
There is a big difference between the ability to do the work and actually getting in. This gap between ability and acceptance is the biggest source of confusion and unknown for college admissions.
And this is the bad news for many smart, accomplished students. They have good grades, they are smart, they have extracurricular activities, and they are ambitious and want to do the work, both at getting into their dream colleges as well as doing the work in college. But students and their parents ignore the odds and hope they can get in.
Ask the Right Questions
What should they do instead? The first step is to ask the right questions. Most people ask, "Can I get into ______?" That is the wrong question! The right question to ask is, "Am I the best student in my class?"
What do you mean by the best student? It is not just grades. It means both grades and challenging coursework. Have you taken the most rigorous curriculum available at your school? That means math, science, history/social science, English, and foreign language—all four years, and going to the highest level available in each by the time you are a senior. And you need to get A’s. Not A-‘s. Not a combination of A’s and B’s. Just A’s.
Standardized Test Scores Expectations:
The next question to ask is, “Are my SAT/ACT scores as strong as my grades?” For Ivies and similarly selective places like MIT, Caltech, and Stanford, that means a minimum composite ACT of a 34. Of course, getting a 35 or 36 is even better. On the SAT and subject tests, it means shooting for a 750 or higher on both sections and on all subject tests. And on AP tests, it means primarily scores of 5.
You may think this is crazy. These are almost perfect scores! Yes, they are. The fact is that students around the world are getting such scores--and they’re all in these applicant pools. That is the reality.
Extra-curricula Activities Expectations:
Most students ask, "am I involved in the right extracurricular activities?" The answer is not straight forward. The secret is that there is no right or wrong answer. Yes, you do not have to take several activities, or be on the debate team, or club president. Whatever you do, you have to ask the question, "Can I quantify it?"
By now you should have gotten a sense of how the admission committee thinks. They want the top performer in every arena. You may protest, but that is a fact. It is like in sports. Nobody protests that, so why protest in college admissions?
The next question is, "Do I excel at what I'am doing outside the classroom?" Just showing up is not good enough. They’re looking for evidence of strength in your areas of interest. As part of your application, you’ll be required to tally up your participation by hours per week, weeks per year, and years of involvement. Admissions officers are looking for evidence of deep commitment to your extracurricular activities. Don't try to fool the admissions folks. They have seen thousands of applications and many of them say the same things. Also, just joining clubs for the sake of joining is not going to fool them. They know that this is a ploy and there is no real commitment.
Are you a leader? The most selective colleges are looking for significant leadership roles and there is no one type or position that will guarantee acceptance. Again, do not become leader for the sake of becoming a leader. It also depends on your area of interest. If you have no interest in French and becoming editor-in-chief of the French club magazine or starting a French club won't make the difference. Find out what you want to do in college and then start doing it. If you are interested in computer science, start programming and then teach programming to other high schoolers and maybe even teach it online! Create an app that people want to use, etc.
If the above sounds too daunting, and for most students it is daunting, focus on other schools. There are many fine schools that you can get admission into. Find a school where you can thrive and don't go just for the name brand and reputation.
1. Look Beyond the Top Schools
The acceptance rate at top colleges is very low. The Ivy Leagues and other top schools are only admitting 5-10% of applicants. However, the number of seats in the top 100 schools have increased. Check out our blog here for more details. There are even A grade colleges for B grade students! Check out blog here for more details.
2. Consider Community Colleges
As the cost of colleges rise, community colleges are becoming an attractive alternative. You can go there for 2 years and then transfer to a great school and still get a four year degree from the great school! You can cut 50% off your expensive college costs. Also, community colleges generally have better teachers. Professors who teach at community colleges primarily focus on teaching, while regular college professors are mostly interested in research, and grad students are doing a lot of the teaching.
The top schools are looking for top achievers. Yes, there are often exceptions. Maybe your neighbor's kid went to an Ivy League with an ACT score of 32. That always happens, but you cannot plan on exceptions. Understanding your competitiveness will give you more focus on which colleges to apply. If you want more guidance, we would be happy to help you in your quest for finding a college that will fit you best. Just let us know.
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Is retesting really worth it?
According to a study done by ACT, there is a consistent pattern of gains can be established across all incidences of retesting. They found:
In order to succeed on the ACT, or any test, you need to learn test taking strategies and time management. Studying alone can help, but tutoring and practice tests have more of a positive impact on a students score. In fact, we think testing is better than studying. It is the foundation of our Smart Scoring System.
There are several factors that come into play the first time a student takes the ACT.
One section of the test can significantly impact the composite score. So, how does one make sure a retest is successful?
1. Learn from the First Test
Most students are able to isolate whether they are better at Math, Science or English, but they don't understand how to deal with inferential questions and time management strategies. Plus, often they are stubborn learners, so they don't see that they have to change their approach rather than practicing more the same way.
2. Rethink your strategy
Our advice is to rethink your strategy. Remember, ACT is testing what you already learned at school. If you didn't do well, it is because you have some conceptual weaknesses, poor test taking strategies or a poor approach to solving problems and reading comprehension. All of these can be addressed and you can increase your score. Recently, one Hillview Prep student's ACT composite score went from 26 to 30, and from 18 to 28 in English!
How did he do that?
3. Use The Smart Scoring System
If you are interested in learning faster, testing smarter and scoring higher, check out our ACT classes and bootcamps below.
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What does the SAT Measure?
The SAT measures the skills and knowledge that research shows are the most important for success in college and career. It includes the following sections.
Average SAT Scores
Below are the average SAT scores from 2010 to 2016. One can observe that the scores have gone down a bit. This creates an opportunity for the student who wants to study and score high on the SAT.
A student’s percentile rank represents the percentage of students whose score is equal to or lower than their score. For example, if a student’s score is in the 75th percentile, 75% of a comparison group achieved scores at or below that student’s score.
Nationally Representative Sample Percentiles are derived from a research study of U.S. students in grades 11 and 12 and are weighted to represent all U.S. students in those grades, regardless of whether they typically take the SAT.
SAT User Percentiles are based on the actual scores of students in the graduating class of 2017 who took the new SAT (first offered in March 2016).
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Are you worried about what your student loans might mean to your future?
You are not alone. Parents fret about it and so do some colleges and universities. In fact, several colleges and universities have adopted generous “no loans” financial aid policies, where grants replace loans in your financial aid package. While most institutions offer a no-loans policy to families from low-income backgrounds, a small number extend the policy to all of their students.
A no-loans policy replaces federal student loans with grants that the university pays.
However, note that most colleges with “no loans” financial aid policies aren’t truly eliminating all loans. Many of these colleges require a minimum student contribution that could include part-time student employment and/or student loans. Instead of a “no loans” policy, some colleges have adopted a low cap on the amount students can borrow. Even so, your average debt at graduation is likely to be much lower than at other schools.
Here is one secret that you may not know. All of the Ivy League institutions (Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Brown and Dartmouth) have “no loans” policies.
See the next page for a list of no-loan schools. Also, if you are interested in a college consultation with our experts, let us know.
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Work on you daily character and you can enter the school of your choice! ~ Hillview Prep
What is Character?
A dictionary definition of character is: "the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual."
That is exactly what schools are looking for. They want to know you -- your mental and moral qualities. Many students get A+ grades and perfect or almost perfect test scores, but what about their distinctive mental and moral qualities--their character?
Most people accept moral values from people around them and never even think of building their own character. They also absorb mental qualities and habits by osmosis, by mimicking others, or go by whatever works in the moment. There is no technology out there that helps them build it. But that is about to change.
Angela Duckworth, is the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, a New York Times best seller, and Founder & CEO of the Character Lab. According to her, there is now overwhelming scientific evidence that character strengths are as important as IQ and socioeconomic status to academic achievement and well-being. Although character strengths are known to be malleable, surprisingly little is known about how to cultivate them intentionally. The key word here is intentionally.
Prof. Duckworth categorizes three distinct clusters of character strengths. They are 'Strengths of Heart', 'Strengths of Mind', and 'Strengths of Will'.
Most people do not focus on working on their character. Yes, it is actually work. You might have heard of the phrase 'character building', but how do you do that?
How to Build your Character?
In order to build and strengthen your character, you have to know what to focus on. We will follow Angela Duckworth's clusters and discuss on how to work on your character.
1. Strengths of Heart
These are the "emotional" strengths. They help you relate in positive ways to events and people. Examples of this strength are expressing gratitude and having purpose.
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful to opportunities, abundance, good fortune and kindness of other people.
Those who demonstrate gratitude—and those who don’t—see life differently. Individuals demonstrating gratitude tend to emphasize language related to gifts, blessings, fortune, and abundance. Individuals who don’t demonstrate gratitude, on the other hand, tend to focus on deprivation, deservingness, regrets, lack, need, scarcity, and loss.
How do you cultivate gratitude? According to psychologist Martin Seligman, if you write three good things that happened to you each night before going to bed, it will increase your happiness. It inculcates gratitude about the good things in life you already have. Try the exercise yourself and see what happens.
Parents: Write three good things that happened to you each day and share them with your teen. Sharing good things is a great way of building a bond with your family.
Teens: Try the exercise and share it with your family. I know you want to watch Youtube or be on Instagram/Snapchat, but take some time to share three good things with your family.
2. Strengths of Mind
These are the "intellectual" or “thinking” strengths. They enable a fertile and independent life of the mind.
Curiosity is a strong desire to learn or know something—a search for information for its own sake. It’s also about leaving your mind open to possibilities and being honest about what you do and don’t know. Curiosity is an important aspect of learning because it is a source of motivation.
Most kids are naturally curious. Unfortunately, by the time most children hit their teens, their curiosity diminishes and they become 'I know it all' types. This attitude stunts growth and achievement.
How can you flex your curiosity muscle? Yes, it is a muscle like anything else!
Teachers: Curiosity is contagious. If you are curious so will your students. Ask open ended questions, who, what, how, when and why. Don't just lecture or give facts. Try the following.
Teens: Be curious about things around you and not just Instagram or Snapchat. Ask your family to take a trip to a new place. Learn a new skill.
Zest—also referred to as vitality—is an approach to life that is filled with excitement and energy.
Zest is about exhibiting enthusiasm and feeling energized. But zest doesn’t need to be loud—a quiet, introverted artist can approach her latest project with zest, even if she is alone in her studio.
Most kids have enthusiasm for something. Unfortunately, as kids grow older, the zest for life often gets diminished because of negative feedback, fear of what others think, fear of failure, and pressure from peers and family.
How can you increase or maintain your zest?
Teachers: Did you know that zestful teachers are better at their jobs? Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, be zestful. Try these:
Teens: Actively participate in your classes, do more sport, sleep well, and be curious.
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Guest post by Anna Salieva, a Hillview Prep student
If you’re planning on studying some form of an art major, you may be considering going to an art school. But is it really that much better? Both art schools and universities have their own advantages when it comes to studying your art major. Here’s what you need to know.
Many art schools don’t require you to submit your test scores and GPA, and instead evaluate you solely based on your talents. This may give you an advantage in getting in, if you feel like your skills greatly outweigh your academics. However, if you are a strong student all around, but may still want to show that off to your colleges.
Art schools have many more options when it comes to artistic majors. Whether you’re planning on majoring in animation or environmental design, without a doubt a school that specializes in art will give you many more fields of study to choose from, unlike a standard university, which will have a much smaller art department and only a handful of majors.
In an art school, everyone you know is an artist. Surrounded by like-minded people, it could be extremely easy for you to make friends, and what better place to get advice and inspiration than from the hundreds of other artists surrounding you every day of your life? Exchanging ideas and asking for help on your projects and portfolios is extremely. Not to mention the sense of spirit you feel around people who have the same passions and ideals.
However, there are many more benefits from going to a regular university.
Diversity: not everyone may be an artist, but so what? You are surrounded not just by painters and designers in your regular classes, but by scientists, mathematicians, engineers, writers, critics, historians, athletes. Having such a great diversity around you can help you not only in terms of inspiration, but life skills as well. Communicating and spending time with all kinds of people will fill up your internal reserve of ideas even more. Life is the best place to gain inspiration from, and such a great diversity can inspire you and give you even more ideas.
You get more options in terms of career. If you plan on taking a double major, a university can give you much more options in what you can study. If you’re planning on being an interface designer, computer science is a good major or minor to be interested in. If you want to be a writer and illustrate your own books, a double major or a major and minor combination of illustration and creative writing will definitely interest you. Art schools may have more options in terms of art, but a big university will have more options open for you in general.
Whether you choose an art school or a university to study in is up to you. Just know all the benefits of both and choose wisely.
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Guest post by Anna Salieva, a Hillview Prep student
One of the biggest challenges you face in high school is applying for colleges. Yes, it’s exciting. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s nerve-wracking to talk to your parents about it. The most important part to remember about this stressful time is to be smart about what colleges you’re applying to, and not simply doing what the people in your life want you to do.
Being smart about your college list means to understand where your chances are in getting into all of them. You should always have one or two backup colleges, just in case the worst case scenario happens, but make sure the colleges you pick for that position are ones you wouldn’t mind going to. If you’re picking backups for the sake of backups, you’re just going to be disappointed if you end up going to one of these schools. If the academic requirements are lower than what you are capable of, find other aspects of the college that you may enjoy. It may be their clubs, or their sports, or their campus, but if there’s something in that college that draws you in despite the low average GPA, apply to that one.
Being smart also means that your list is balanced. Having 90% of your picks be Ivies or other exclusive colleges will only lower your chances of getting into any of them. If you want to apply to an Ivy, do that, but most of your applications should be to schools that are at your level, or “target schools”. If your GPA matches their average, or is slightly below that, what you’re looking at is a target school. These schools will give you a good challenge when it comes to academics, but are less likely to burn you out than an Ivy is.
Visit your colleges. You may thing your first choice is the college of your dreams, but when you get into it, you realize that the dorms have no air conditioning. Now, this may not deter some people, but others will be very disappointed. Researching every aspect of college life is important when it comes to picking your college. And seeing the environment and the people that go there may greatly impact your decisions when it comes to picking it.
Finally, don’t let peer pressure influence your decisions. Talk to your parents about your college list, but don’t be a doormat at apply to only the colleges they want you to. Remember, it is your life you are deciding, not theirs. Do your best to strike a compromise if your idea and their idea of colleges are disagreeing. College applications are a stressful time to everyone, but getting support and encouragement from your family will greatly help you in the process.
Thomas Frank has some good advice on how to stop falling behind on homework. He has a 3 step method to help you stay on track. We are summarizing his views below and adding our own perspective to it, so do read the blog and not just watch the video!
1. Calendar and to-do list: organize and keep it up to date
Put you stuff outside of your head into an external system so your brain does not have to worry about it. This is excellent advice given by productivity experts like David Allen, who advises us that the mind is for having ideas, and not for holding them. If you want to learn more, read his seminal book on Getting Things Done.
Start early in the semester. Take the syllabus and schedule and transfer it to your calendar and to-do list. Keep on adding assignments and to-dos on your task management system. You can either use a paper calendar/to-do system or an app on your phone.
Some of the tasks will pile up. Establish a review day during the week and go through your to-do list and check them off and decide when to do what is not done.
2. Break down the tasks into smaller chunks
And set deadlines for each chunk! Do this consistently and your work will be more manageable and you won't fall behind. Break down your studying as well as tasks. Don't put off things. Just do them in small chunks and do them consistently.
Breaking down your projects into smaller pieces also helps you in getting started because it is doable. Also, set a deadline for your first micro task the day you got the assignment. This way you can get started when the project is fresh in your mind. This way you can deal with procrastination.
3. Work every day to stay sharp and on task
Try to do something every day. This will give you continuous momentum and help deal with resistance and motivation. To help with this idea, find a time and place where you can do your work. This is quite important. For example, I don't like to work in public places. I don't know why, but I don't. I like to work at home or at a place where I can personalize my setting. You need to find places where you like to work. And then the time. What times you will do your homework? What times do you like to read interesting material related to what you have learned in school? Etc.
Many students have several activities besides studying and doing homework. Find out what works for you. Maybe going to a tutoring service, like Hillview Prep :-), may give you the space and time you need to work on your assignments. Plus, you can get instant help from a tutor.
4. Find a solution if you are falling behind
Well, you will occasionally fall behind. It could be an illness, unanticipated events, unplanned activities, tasks and activities taking longer than you expected, etc. In such cases, accept the reality and find a solution. Maybe, come to a tutoring service, like ours, during the weekend or after school. We also offer bootcamps and online classes.
Image from Pixabay
Guest post by Anna Salieva, a Hillview Prep student
Is your class grade shifting to a B- because of poor test scores? Is the material just not sinking in? Do you have to spend too much time late at night studying? Here are some helpful tips on how to avoid stress and get those straight A’s you want in your grade book.
Hope you found this helpful and good luck getting those A's! Contact the Hillview Prep team if you need help in getting A's in school and in learning faster, testing smarter and scoring higher on the SAT and ACT.
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