Monday, March 14, 2016

Sophomores and Juniors Need To Get a Jump On Testing, Campus Tours

Our 2.20.2016 post got sophomores thinking about the Big Picture. Here is Part Two for sophomores and juniors.

Start your serious campus visit effort easily. Stay local. Walk around. Find three places on campus you read about online. Sample the food; you get bonus points by walking up to a student and explaining you are eager to learn what they think of their college choice. Then actually visit schools fitting into the small-medium-large genre to see if something catches your attention. We know teens who attend really big high schools who want to downside their college experience…and many from a tiny school who transition successfully to big State U. See the dorms; visit a classroom; learn how to compare school types, locations and distances from home, and especially, majors. By all means, try the food on campus. Remember, you are going to spend four years eating that food regularly. It may give you new insight into how mom/dad fed you your favorite meal three times a week all those formative years.

Many high schools put on a College Night. There is a mind-boggling amount of information at these events, but remember all the printed stuff is written by marketing people who want to promote their best face. It is worth your time to come with a list of five questions specific to your situation and ask the person on the other side of the table these Q’s. You will gain more insight in those five minutes than an hour spent reading marketing material. You could streamline your personal college short-list selection effort by weeks. This is now a great time to take your new list and re-read your Fiske or Princeton Review guide for greater clarity.

Standardized testing involves the three "P's"- planning, preparing for and practicing.  A standardized test tutor is extremely valuable for even the best students and is worth a few hundred dollars of investment. You are allowed to take the ACT and SAT as many times as you want...but three attempts seems optimal. Take the PLAN in October. The PSAT is what gets you into the National Merit Scholarship program. Take it your sophomore year and you will be much better prepared for the Grade 11 PSAT, which is the one that will count for entering the NMS program. Preparing for every standardized test you take helps develop crucial skills such as the ability to dig down to “the four levels of meaning within text” —word/sentence/passage/story. The sooner you become an expert at this learning tool, the better your testing skills improve. While taking the PSAT, consider the prize: becoming one of the 14,000 National Merit Scholarship Finalists. There are both NMS and corporate sponsor scholarship funds available. But bumping up the percentage of NMS Finalists is a huge boon to universities, especially in the way national school rankings are scored. Here is one example for 2016: There is Arizona State University, which has around 83,000 students and a reputation as something of a party school. But much less known is its esteemed Barrett Honors College, which touts itself as the "best honors college" in the U.S. For the 2016 NMS Finalist who picks Barrett as first choice for NMS Corp., ASU is offering:
A one-on-one personalized tour.
Eight semesters of non-resident tuition (worth more than $100,000).
$1,500 in research support and $1,000 in travel.
Imagine telling mom and dad you've got tuition covered. Smiles all around.
We'll have more tips down the road on the positioning of the high-achieving student.
- Mike Ryan