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.
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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.
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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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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 makes them unique and stand out?
A child’s personality and character have always been important to the independent school admission process, but they did not have a tool to measure the character skills a student is developing or has already developed.
A tool is now available. It is called The Character Skills Snapshot, which is a new online assessment that provides schools with a more holistic view of your child. It measures your child’s character skill development and is meant to complement more traditional assessments, such as the SSAT, the ISEE or the HSPT. The Character Skills Snapshot gives admission teams richer holistic information and illuminates areas where their school can help your child grow, thrive, and shine.
Why should you care about the Character Skills Snapshot? Remember that one of the reasons you want your child in an independent school is an education that focuses on instilling character values and encouraging personal growth.
Schools know that a complete picture of your child contains much more than grades and test scores. That’s why they are asking your child to take The Character Skills Snapshot as part of their application. It will give them richer information about your child, and show them areas where they can help your child grow.
Admission teams will use the information provided from The Character Skills Snapshot to complement ISEE or SSAT test scores, interviews, grades, letters of recommendation, and other information.
The Character Snapshot
Snapshot was designed by test experts and independent school admission professionals to measure eight skills they deemed important when considering applications: intellectual curiosity, teamwork, initiative, responsibility, resilience, self-control, open-mindedness, and social awareness.
If you need help in applying to private high schools and/or want help on preparing for the ISEE and/or SSAT tests, please feel free to contact us. We offer high school admission consulting and ISEE/SSAT test prep.
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The 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is now available! If you plan to attend college between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, you should fill out your FAFSA form as soon as possible. Before you rush to fill it, read this blog to make sure you don’t make one of these common mistakes:
1. Not Completing the FAFSA Form
Here are the top reasons why people don't complete it:
It does matter. For one, contrary to popular belief, there is no income “cut-off” when it comes to federal student aid. You can always get an unsecured loan. Also, the FAFSA form is not just the application for federal grants such as the Federal Pell Grant, it’s also the application for Federal Work-Study funds, federal student loans, and even scholarships and grants offered by your state, school, or private organization. If you don’t complete the FAFSA form, you could lose out on thousands of dollars to help you pay for college. It takes little time to complete, and there are “Help and Hints” provided throughout the application.
If you want to get the most financial aid possible, fill out the FAFSA form ASAP after Oct. 1. Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and some states and colleges run out of money early. Even if it seems like your school’s deadline is far off in the future, get your FAFSA form done ASAP.
3. Not Getting an FSA ID
It’s important to get an FSA ID before filling out the FAFSA form. Why? Well, because when you register for an FSA ID, you may need to wait up to three days before you can use it to sign your FAFSA form electronically. An FSA ID is a username and password that you use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education websites, including fafsa.gov. Do not wait! Create an FSA ID now: StudentAid.gov/fsaid.
4. Not Using Your FSA ID to Start the FAFSA Form
When you go to fafsa.gov, you will be given two options to log in:
1) Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID
2) Enter the student’s information
If you’re the student, you should choose the first option. Why? When you do, some of your personal information (name, Social Security number, date of birth, etc.) will be automatically loaded into your application. This will prevent you from running into a common error that occurs when your verified FSA ID information doesn’t match the information on your FAFSA form. Also, you won’t have to enter your FSA ID again to transfer your information from the IRS or to sign your FAFSA form electronically.
5. Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT)
Note: The IRS DRT will return with the 2018–19 FAFSA form on Oct. 1, 2017, with additional security and privacy protections added.
For many applicants, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA form is entering the financial information. But thanks to a partnership with the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer their necessary 2016 tax information into the 2018–19 FAFSA form using the IRS DRT. It’s the fastest, most accurate way to enter your tax return information into the FAFSA form, so if you’re given the option to “LINK TO IRS” button, take advantage of it!
How America Pays For College
Students and parents equally share responsibility for paying college costs
While scholarships and grants remained the number one source of funding, the contribution from students was the highest since 2011-12, and nearly equaled the contribution from parents.
Nearly half of families use scholarships for college
Students expect to step up when it's time to pay back
Amounts spent and attitudes vary across the country
Most families expect their child to go to college, but many don’t have a plan for paying
Not all B Students are the same. Some got 'B' grades because they did not have test taking skills and/or lacked precision in their concepts. If you are a bright student and deserve to get into a great school, how do you compensate for your B grades and get into a great school?
Your grades are the most important factor that colleges use when they determine whether or not to admit you. This is even true today when there is grade inflation and close to 50% of students are getting A grades! If you get a few B grades you are going to fall behind and may not get into the school of your choice. If you still have time before you submit your college applications, we recommend you focus on improving your grades and/or taking honor or AP classes.
A student who got all B’s in regular classes is going to be a much less qualified applicant than a student who got B’s in honors and AP classes. The difference will be reflected in your weighted GPA, which is what most colleges use to assess your GPA for admission.
Given the intense competition—from all over the world—you have to treat your academics almost like a sport. Just like in the 100m dash, fractions of seconds matter; the same goes for your grades and test scores, and well, even your essays. Talk to a Hillview Prep advisor on how to select the best honors or AP classes for you to boost your weighted GPA.
Test Scores Matter
Given that close to 50% of students are getting A grades, your test scores are one key way to differentiate yourself. We recommend to take both and SAT and the ACT. This way you will have both bases covered as well as be able to differentiate yourself.
And yes, you can get a great score! Remember, the tests cover material that you have already studied. If you are struggling, it is either you are not strong conceptually or are making silly errors and not pacing yourself. Our Smart Scoring System can help you improve your scores dramatically by pinpointing, very quickly, where you are struggling, and how to use your strengths to conquer your weaknesses.
Free Image from Pixabay
Each student struggles in a unique way.
Everyone knows that homework is usually a pain, but often you may not be aware of your student's actual struggle. You have to find out your student's real challenge. Here are some ways your student might be struggling.
How do we solve these problems? Here are some solutions.
“So I didn’t understand why so many of them were enrolled in the optional SAT prep section of our summer program. Why would such impressive high achievers spend their summer nights storming through a massive SAT book? Many of them already took weekend SAT prep courses back home. Did they just think it was fun to time one another on practice sets?”
A story in the New York Times talks about a student from a modest background wondering why his rich co-students were taking summer SAT prep classes.
His family and friends from home thought it was weird that he went to “school” during his summers. His fellow students saw it otherwise; they saw summer academic programs as normal and enjoyable. They approached studying for the SAT with a near-professional intensity that was alien to him.
“I realized that they didn’t just want to score exceptionally well on the SAT. They were gunning for a score on the Preliminary SAT exams that would put them in the top percentile of students in the United States and make them National Merit Scholars in the fall.”
The majority of low- and middle-income 11th graders he knew didn’t even sit for the preliminary exams. Most took the SAT cold. Few were privy to the upper-middle-class secret: To get into elite colleges, one must train for standardized tests with the intensity of an athlete.
Yes, train with the intensity of an athlete. How do you do that?
A Hillview Prep graduate, Cindy, is going to college this year! Exciting times, but she is also a bit apprehensive. We asked her what is she worried about. She said: her room mate!!
Room mate? We asked. Cindy said, yes. We asked her why is that a big concern? She said that the room mate gives her the creeps. She does not like her at all. We asked her how did she meet her room mate. And Cindy said it was via roomsync.com.
This app is a great idea, and we asked Cindy how did she pick her room mate. She said it was the room mate who picked her! Cindy said she does not like her room mate's personality and other things. We asked her why didn't she just say 'No'??
And that is the problem. Too many people are afraid to say 'no'. They think saying 'no' is hurting other people. In fact, nothing can be further than the truth. A 'no' protects you. It gives you time to consider your decision. A hurried 'yes' is the worst decision you can make.
Since you will be living with someone for at least a year in your freshman year, you should take the time to get to know people. Roomsync is great, but you should take time to get to know the person. Do a Skype call. See the other person in action. If possible, even go meet the other student and her family.
Technology can speed up finding things and making connections. However, it does not necessarily help you make a good decision. Don't be seduced by technology.
What will Cindy do? We don't know, but we have some tips for you to find a good room mate.
In a previous post, we talked about one of the greatest fear some students have in going to college. This post will discuss the second biggest fear in college. Can you guess what it is?
We have a student at Hillview Prep who is a good student but is apprehensive in going to college. She is going to a great school, one of her top choices, but she is nervous.
She is nervous about doing well in school.
This is a very common concern, and it is definitely not misguided. The expectations in college are much higher than in school. Often bright students underestimate what it takes to succeed in college and simply burn out. A lot depends on your high school background. For example, we have a student who did not take any programming courses in high school. For college he chose electrical engineering, and in his classes he encountered C++. He crashed. Some of his fellow high school friends had no problems because they knew Python and/or Java. The student also struggled in other courses despite being an 'A' student in high school. He needed to do some courses to bridge the gap from high school to college. He didn't know that there was a major gap in knowledge between high school and college that he needed to bridge. So he crashed and burned. He left his college and went to a community college, where he is taking courses that amount to bridge courses.
Then there are kids who got top grades in high school and earned high SAT/ACT scores. In college, they continue their hard work, but somehow fall behind. There are several reasons. Students struggle to wake up in time for class, procrastinate on long-term assignments, and neglect to do their work without the kinds of reminders and cues that their parents and school teachers used to provide. Unlike high school, where performance is closely tracked, in college you just have mid-terms and then the final grade. Often, professors in big universities are better researchers than teachers, so students struggle and have to learn everything on their own.
If you are struggling in college, or are concerned about how to approach college, here are some tips to do well.
A Hillview Prep student is going to college this fall, to UC Davis. She is a good student, talented and makes her own money working during the summer. She knows what she wants. She is becoming more and more independent. She is exciting about going to college, to pursue her passion of what she wants to do in her life.
Yet she is apprehensive about college. Can you guess her two big fears?
Her two big fears are not making friends and not getting good grades in college.
We will address her one big fear in this blog post: not making friends. Here are 7 tips to make friends in college.
1. Be yourself.
Many self-conscious students are afraid to be themselves. Often, they fear what people think of them. Maybe they will be rejected by their peers. That is a big error and will cost you angst and grief. Don't care about what others think of you. You should focus on your values, what is important to you and you will find people in college you share your interests and personality. Also, often you may be attracted to people with a different personality. If you are an introvert, you may enjoy the company of an extrovert, and vice-versa.
Our student at Hillview Prep is an introvert. She does not like approaching people. Well, you don't have to do much. Just be yourself and the right people will come to you. The only thing you have to do is go mingle with your peers.
2. Make the dorm your second home.
Dorms are filled with other college freshmen going through similar experiences. Reach out to them and just say hello, even if you are shy. Just say hello. You will be surprised what reaction you will get. You will find many are eager to make friends too and share the same fear of not making friends like you do. Some will be rude or just reject. This may not be a bad thing, since they are either not the right fit for you, or they are reacting out of fear. Say hello again to them later, and they may reciprocate.
The Hillview Prep student loves to bake. We suggested she should bake cookies. People would come like bees to honey!!
3. Do extracurriculars.
Invest in your hobbies! Whatever they are, you will find something on campus. If you can't find it, create your own club. Extracurriculars are a great way to meet people and make friends and invest in your interests.
4. Never eat alone!
As Keith Ferrazi, author of 'Never Eat Alone' suggests to have meals with people. People have bonded over food throughout history. College is no different. Go out for meals with friends or to make new ones.
5. Be curious
Show interest in other people, especially those you like and are genuinely interested in. People will sense that you are interested in them and will talk to you. Remember, people love talking about themselves!
6. Join an intramural or club sports team.
Sports are a great way to meet new people and stay healthy. Join a sports team and have fun. If you are not competitive, join inter-murals and meet people who just like to play and have fun.
7. Get a job.
Often, getting a job as a tour guide, a clerk in the bookstore or cafeteria, or working for a professor will allow you to form common bonds with other students. And you will make money and learn useful skills.
8. Invite solitary people.
There are many shy students and those who are focused on their activities. Some are athlete students and don't have much time to socializing. If you like their activity, say running, ask them if you could join them. They would appreciate that and you may end up developing a good friendship.
So don't be fearful. You will make friends. Just keep it simple. Be curious and open to meeting new people.
Highly successful people know there are 1,440 minutes in every day and there is nothing more valuable than time. As legendary Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller said, "To this day, I keep a schedule that is almost minute by minute."
You must master your minutes to master your life — and your academic life. Mastering your minutes does not mean counting or keeping score of each minute, but it means what you do with them, how you study and what you study. You can spend an hour and not learn much, while you could just spend 15-20 minutes and learn a lot.
We developed the Smart Scoring System to help you learn faster, test smarter and score higher. It compresses the time it takes to prepare for a test.
Many students Take too many classes, and therefore have too much homework. School can become burdensome. Often, students reread what they already learned in school. At other times, the instruction was not clear or not clear to them, so they spend time floundering. The Smart Scoring System can figure out what is going on really quickly. Do you understand the concept? Are you making silly errors? Are your using poor reading skills? Are you using keywords? Etc.
If you are falling behind in homework and at school, try the Smart Scoring System. Contact us to learn more how it can help you.
If you are feeling competitive pressure the Smart Scoring System makes you a better learner and a superior tester in a shorter time. Often competition creates focus, but if you do not have the right tools, you will lose your focus rather quickly and fall behind. The Smart Scoring System can quickly evaluate your strengths and help use your strengths to conquer your weaknesses. You can then learn faster in a shorter amount of time, thereby gaining an advantage over your peers. Plus, you will score higher in your tests. Contact us to learn more.
Everyone has 24 hours, but athlete students have to juggle between athletics and academics. There is no more time available. According to The Los Angeles Times, an average teenager spends about 3.5 hours a day just on homework. Athlete students in particular have a major challenge in balancing athletics and school work. They may find themselves unable to keep up with both athletics and academics, and sooner or later one of these two will suffer. The students will continue to try to balance the two, and frankly, there is no such thing as balance!
Take the case of Sasha, who plays volleyball and hopes to get a scholarship for college. She practices volleyball 20+ hours a week on top of school and homework. She has the same hours as everyone else, but her work load is much more than others. How can she make the best use of her time to excel in both sports and academics?
Do you love Pixar movies? Do you want to do computer animations and work on cool projects like Pixar movies? If so, you should read this blog.
If you are a good physics and math student, you will have no problem with animation. Interestingly, according to Tony DeRose, Pixar's Senior Scientist, computer animation models objects at greater scale and detail than even physics. For example, a big challenge in animation is quickly generating smooth curves with high fidelity.
For years, in both computer animation and video games, researchers mapped 3D objects with polygons. But the problem with polygons is that at close detail, you can see every one of them — a fatal problem when the illusion depends on ignoring individual frames and pixels. The trend has been is to replace polygons with parabolas, curving surfaces that are continuous at arbitrary levels of detail. But you still need to define these curves quickly to match a finite number of points or planes. So mathematicians have worked to develop different methods for quickly generating smoothly curved surfaces. These are typically called subdivision surfaces because of how they're calculated, by repeatedly splitting and averaging the midpoint of a line.
Today more high school teachers are handing out A's. They have a stack of A's to give out. You should be delighted with your A's. You can show it to your family, your friends, your neighbors. They will give you an attaboy or an attagirl and you will be tickled pink. You will feel you own the universe.
A fool's gold?
Recent findings show that nearly half of America's Class of 2016 are A students, up from 38.9% in 1998 to 47% in 2016. Yes, half of your classmates have an A grade.
According to Michael Hurwitz of the College Board, the folks who bring you the SAT, and Jason Lee, a doctoral student at the University of Georgia’s Institute of Higher Education, the rise of the A average is "really stunning." Interestingly, in the same period, 1998 to 2016, the average SAT score fell from 1,026 to 1,002 on a 1,600-point scale.
Recent research suggests that the problem isn’t just showing up in high school. Even in colleges, most popular grade is now an A, according to Stuart Rojstaczer, a former Duke University scholar and founder of the website GradeInflation.com.
Does this suggest that all these A's on your report cards are just a fool's gold?
USA's public high schools are graduating a record number of students: the graduation rate is now 83%, according to federal statistics. But that's not always translating into success: more college diplomas and good jobs. A recent study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education found that just 56% of college students complete a four-year degree within six years of entering college. For students who start at two-year colleges, it's even worse: Just 29% earn a degree within three years.
So if half of students are getting A's, why are they failing? And what can you do about your situation?
College Application Rates are the Highest while Acceptance Rates are the Lowest in History. Got Rejected? This is What You Need to do.
Free Image from Pixabay
It is crazy out there in the college world.
College application numbers for the Class of 2021 defied expectations, setting records at many universities. The number of application for the Class of 2022 is expected to be even higher. While there are record number of applications, the acceptance rates at Ivy Leagues and other top ranked universities have tanked. Well, it makes sense. They have a limited number of seats, so if there are more applicants the acceptance rates will drop. Simple math.
Cornell University got more than 47,000 apps and said accepted only 12.5%. The University of Pennsylvania got more than 40,000 applications, including both early and regular apps, and they admitted only 9.15%. The acceptance rate is the lowest in UPenn’s history. Brown received their highest number of applications with 32,724 and accepted a record low of 8.3%. Yale University accepted the largest freshman class in its history of 2,272 (normal class is 2,000). They got a record of 32,900 overall applicants — both early and regular decision applications — and accepted only 6.9%. Harvard University received 39,000 apps and accepted only 5.2%. Princeton University accepted 6.1% of over 31,000 applications. At Columbia University, early applicants set a new record – but accepted only 5.8%. Stanford University was the most selected: Out of a record 44,073 applications, they accepted a mere 4.65%.
Even state colleges are tougher to get in today. San Diego State University and Cal State-Long Beach are currently among the most competitive, with acceptance rates around 34%. And California Polytechnic accepts about 30% of applicants.
The internet and the common app makes it easier to apply -- and in some cases spam. People are just applying for the sake of applying hoping that they get in. This makes it harder for good students to get in. There are strategies to stand out. For example, this is what Eni did.
Anyway, you worked hard and applied to a good school, but got rejected. Your plan A failed. What can you do now? If you are in California, you can do 2 things (other states may be similar).
#1. California State Schools
California State schools are actually making it easier to get in. Yes, you did not read this wrong.
So while many qualified students have been rejected in the past from these schools due to competition, a new initiative could open the door for more students trying to get into the system.
According to California’s new budget deal, all — all — students who qualify to get into CSU will be admitted into one of the 23 campuses within its system.
“I think that this is such a positive movement and a positive step forward,” says Riley Nilsen, student body president at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. “I think that this gives more students access to higher education.”
“Take what you want, and pay for it.”
There is only one catch! You have to pay for it, as the new admission policy comes amid a tuition increase. Annual tuition is set to go up by about 5%, or $270 per student. However, that should not be a deterrent to get into a college.
According to the university, in the 2015-16 school year, 80% of the student body received financial aid. In-state tuition for the 2016-17 school year was $5,472. 52% of undergraduates receive federal Pell grants.
In addition, you can win scholarships. For more information, check out Hillview Prep's Scholarship Page here.
#2. Community Colleges
Yes, go to your local community college. Many such colleges have transfers to larger schools like the University of California. You can save a lot of money going to community colleges and take your credits there. Once you met the basic requirements, you have the opportunity to transfer to a 4-year college -- perhaps of your choice.
Let us know if you need support. We have helped students get to UC Berkeley via the community college route. You can even speak with one of Hillview Prep former students, who we helped get into UC Berkeley via the community college route. Perhaps, we can help you as well. Do not hesitate to contact us.