Category: College Admissions

Visiting colleges can help high school students fine-tune the list of schools to which they’ll be applying.  College visits can also help with the final decision regarding which school to attend once students have been accepted.  These visits are often the first glimpse into college life.   It’s crucial to make the most of them, and there are a number of things to accomplish before, during, and after these trips.

When to Visit

We recommend going during a high school break that coincides with times your prospective schools are in session. For juniors, the upcoming Mid-Winter and Spring breaks may work.  Seniors who need additional input about a school, or who have not yet seen a college they’re considering, will want to go as soon as possible.  It’s much better to visit a campus when classes are in session, so you can get an accurate picture of what life is like there.

Before You Go

As soon as you know the dates of your visit, there are a number of things you’ll need to schedule.   A campus tour can give you a general sense of the school’s programs and the campus layout.  To get even more of a sense of what it would be like to attend a college, you’ll want to set up meetings with faculty or students in the departments and organizations that interest you.  Ask the admissions department to arrange for you to sit in on a class or two to allow you to really see what the learning environment can be like.  If admissions interviews are recommended or required by a school, try to set one up for while you’re there.  Finally, ask if prospective students are allowed to stay in a dorm overnight with a current undergraduate.  If so, this may be a great opportunity to meet students and to really experience campus life.

While You’re There

There are two main areas of focus: academic resources and lifestyle features. You’ll want to visit the libraries, computer labs, practice rooms, or whatever else you think could be integral to your academic and social experience.   Some of this can happen on your campus tour, and in the other activities you scheduled before arriving.  Don’t forget to check out the off campus sights and services to figure out if the school is in a location where you can see yourself living for four years.

After You’ve Left

Don’t forget to send thank you notes to anyone you want to remember you, such as admissions personnel or professors or even some of the students.  

For more advice regarding college tours or other college admissions issues, contact Sandweiss Test Prep!

At many colleges and universities, admissions officers face the difficult task of sifting through thousands of files to determine which applicants will be a good fit for their school. While strong grades and test scores are necessary for gaining entrance to selective schools, they are not sufficient. In many cases, it is your application essays that can make or break your chances of getting in to your top choice schools. These essays are your big chance to show the admissions committee a side of yourself that would not be evident in the rest of your application, and a great opportunity to demonstrate why you would be the right fit for their school.  

If you’re applying to any of the several hundred schools that use the Common App, you’re going to have a choice of five  prompts for the main essay. (You will also need to respond to some supplemental essay questions that are customized for each school to which you are applying). Make sure to pick the prompt that will enable you to relate a good story—one that captures an aspect of your life that shows why you would be a valuable addition to next year’s freshman class.

Admissions personnel generally read hundreds of personal statements each year, so it’s vitally important to make sure that your essay avoids clichés and maintains the reader’s interest. Your essay needs to be thoughtful and reflective, but it should also convey your passions and provide a sense of what makes you unique. Since you only have a few hundred words to accomplish this goal, many of the most successful essays relate a brief story or anecdote that sheds light on both your personality and your goals.

Perhaps you think that your life has not been that remarkable so far, but everyone has a story to tell.  If youre struggling with your personal statement, we can help!  Our experienced admissions counselors can assist you in figuring out what kinds of stories will be relevant for your essay prompts, or even which prompts to choose.  We’d be happy to meet with you to explore your background and your goals, and to share our experience and knowledge about what makes a great application essay. Call Sandweiss Test Prep today!

There are over 2,000 four year colleges in the United States, and choosing which handful you should apply to can be a daunting task, especially when the next four or more years of your life may be determined by this decision. So what’s the key to choosing the right set of colleges? Variety.

The college prep industry uses the terms safety school, target school, and reach school to describe the different levels of competitiveness applicants face at the colleges to which they’re applying, and students should have a mix of these types on their list. Of course, everybody’s background and qualifications are different, and someone’s reach school might be someone else’s safety. Here is how these terms are generally defined:

Safety School

This is a college to which you are virtually certain you’ll be granted admittance. Your ACT or SAT scores and grades are above their average. Note: Even though it may be less competitive than the other colleges and universities on your list, we only recommend applying if you really would be interested in attending the school.

Target School

These institutions have admissions standards that are aligned with your own application statistics. You probably see no reason why your application might be rejected out of hand, yet some seemingly capricious act of an admissions officer might result in a waitlist or rejection, so be sure you have a few target schools and at least one safety, too!

Reach School

People tend to think of reach schools as “dream schools,” but there should be a degree of realistic possibility in your application. Don’t throw away your time, money, and energy applying to a school you have no chance of being admitted to. However, since it’s also true that schools try to have a diverse incoming freshman class, if you have a talent or skill or accomplishment they might be interested in, you might consider throwing your hat in the ring.

Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into choosing schools than just admissions standards. You’ll want to consider location, costs, public or private, and the department for your intended major (if you have one). And don’t discount a program that looks perfect for you just because you might be able to get in somewhere “better,” because there are many factors that contribute to finding the right fit and academic competitiveness is only one of them! Take a look at our Admission Consulting to see how we can help get into your preferred school.

The SAT has recently undergone a major shift in its design. The SAT has returned to the 1600-point system, made the essay “optional,” and restyled the exam questions to emphasize interpreting evidence and using skills in context. The College Board hopes that these changes will reduce some of the socio-economic bias inherent in standardized testing.

How has the the test changed? In general, it’s been redesigned to more closely resemble the ACT, which has recently surpassed the SAT in popularity for the first time in history. But the easiest way to understand what has changed is to look at what has been added and what’s been removed from the test.

What’s Gone?

  • There are no longer 5 options for multiple choice questions. The reduction to only four options will simplify the test and eliminate students’ potential for confusion.
  • There are no longer quarter-point penalties for incorrect answers, which encourages students to take their best educated guess at questions for which they are not quite certain of the answers.

What’s New?

  • There will be more graphs and charts and a greater emphasis on visual understanding, both for the reading section and the math section.
  • There will be more “great texts,” especially foundational American documents. Though familiarity with these documents isn’t necessary for the comprehension questions, it may reward a strong foundation in those texts.

Deep Focus on Evidence in Language

Above all, the new SAT focuses more strongly on evidence than ever before, and on a student’s ability to gather and interpret that evidence and apply contextual learning.

For the previous essay section of the SAT, students were asked to write an essay expressing an opinion. Now, students are instead asked to analyze a passage from a text in terms of what evidence the author is offering to support a point. This is much more akin to what college students will actually be writing for college courses, and de-emphasizes personal opinion or personal experience.

The vocabulary section also focuses on evidence-based understanding of the words. The vocabulary words in general will be less obscure than before, and replaced with “high utility” words that are used often and in different contexts.


Don’t worry—pretty much everyone is! The new SAT has students, teachers, and admissions officers everywhere buzzing with speculation as to whether the new test is better, easier, harder, fairer, etc. If you’re one of the many who feels confused by these changes, we can help you figure out whether to prepare for the SAT or the ACT, and how to best prepare for either exam. Contact Sandweiss Test Prep today to get started!

Students in the class of 2017 have more options than they can easily navigate. Should they take the old SAT, the new SAT, or the ACT?

There are arguments to be made for each test, and it mostly boils down to the strengths and needs of the individual. Here are a few of the key reasons you might choose each:

Why take the Old/Current SAT?  The SAT has been the standard college exam for many decades, and there is a wealth of preparation materials and strategies out there for how to take and ace this test. If you’re not easily confused by burdened sentence structure and obscure vocabulary, the last administration of this exam – January 23rd – might work in your favor.

Why wait to take the New SAT?  This test will surely have kinks to work out, and there is not a lot of practice material available for students.  There are also many new types of questions that need to be validated over several administrations of the exam.  The norms for scoring have yet to be developed and colleges may find it challenging to interpret the results with the limited sample of students who have taken the exam by next Spring.  In the long run, we are hopeful that this will be a better SAT than the current exam, but we are recommending the ACT for most of the Juniors who work with us this year.

Why take the ACT this year? The ACT has generally been considered to be a very reliable indicator of college readiness and a more straightforward test than the SAT.  It has been accepted equally with the SAT by colleges for many years now.  With the changing SAT, it will be more readily understood by admissions personnel who will already know how it’s scoring relates to their admissions goals and enrollment management needs.

As we’ve mentioned in past blogs, we don’t recommend that students take the new SAT on the first three or so test dates so as to ensure that there is adequate practice material available and they aren’t just the “guinea pigs” of the College Board test designers. For the first few rounds, this new SAT should still be considered a work in progress, but we do believe the result is going to be a much better test, and one that will offer a better potential alternative to the ACT than the current SAT has been.

College-bound high school students may feel burned out and just want to relax all summer long.  While that’s certainly one option, summertime can also be a great opportunity for rising juniors and seniors to have many interesting new experiences while also enhancing their college resumes.  This can be done in so many ways including learning and developing new skills, gaining experience in a field of interest as a summer intern or volunteer, earning some money for college, or just having fun in a structured program with other students.  Summer activities can influence a student’s admissions potential at some institutions.  Here are some of the seemingly endless possibilities for summer:

Obtain an internship or perform volunteer work

Internships and volunteer positions can give students opportunities to learn new information and develop skills, as well as help to solve problems they would never have known about otherwise.  Students can enter an internship in an area of interest, as a way to help figure out if they are indeed suited for that field.  They can find a volunteer position that enables them to pursue one of their passions.  For example, a potential pre-med student can get a position working in a research lab or hospital.  A potential business student can volunteer in a marketing or public relations firm.  A current or future environmentalist can work with rangers in a forest or as a docent in a zoo or aquarium.  The possibilities are endless.  All it takes is the will to figure out where these opportunities exist and how to access them.  Here are a couple of links where you can find many summer programs, volunteer, or internship opportunities for teens.

Attend an academic summer program

Summertime can be great for further developing current academic interests or pursuing new ones.  Many local, national and international colleges offer summer classes for high school students.  Here’s a link to some local or statewide university opportunities. Students can follow a passion, improve their academic prowess in a field in which they’d struggled or learn about something completely new and different.  The residential college programs can give students a taste of what it would be like to live in a dorm.  Local students can still get a sense of what a college campus is like and what they might prefer in the size of, or class offerings at a particular school.  Students can study computer and technology related subjects, as well as writing, science, movement and exercise, or they can even study ancient artifacts.  The highly academic programs can help students to develop their skills for the college level work that awaits them.

Attend a summer camp or travel program

These can be local, national or international.  They range from technology camps held on the University of Washington campus to rafting and hiking with Outward Bound in Costa Rica.  International volunteer programs can help students to see how people around the world live and enable them to be involved in solving global problems.  Here’s a link to one website that offers many affordable international volunteer opportunities for high school and college students.  International travel programs can also simply enable students to go to parts of the world where they’ve never been, although these basic travel programs tend to be the most costly.

Study for standardized tests and work on college essays

Both rising juniors and seniors can work on first taking or on improving their SAT or ACT scores, as well as their SAT Subject Tests.  Rising seniors can also start working on their college essays once the prompts are released from their colleges of choice or the Common App.  Studying for these tests and working on the essays can alleviate some of the stress of trying to both study for school and do test preparation during the school year.  Summertime test prep can allow students more time to keep up or improve their grades to make their high school transcripts really shine prior to submitting them to colleges during their application season in the fall of their senior year.

Get a job

This is a great choice for those students who need to help pay for their college and who want or need to provide for their own spending money.  College admissions officials will likely look upon a summer job as a sign that a student is a hard worker.  It will give the student an employment history, and if the job is actually in one of the student’s fields of interest, it may improve his or her job prospects in that field after college.

Sandweiss Test Prep offers summer SAT/ACT courses, as well as private tutoring and admissions consulting services to assist you in making the best decisions about your academic future. Contact us today to learn more.


Colleges and universities offer plenty of opportunities to help potential new students learn and love their respective campuses. Orientation sessions, department meet and greets, and high school open houses can give a good sense of the overall feeling and vibe of the school, but there are plenty of benefits of attending a group tour or shadowing a student for a day on campus. Here are 5 reasons to arrange a guide college tour this spring:

1. Better Sense of College Life

University officials and attending students likely have vastly different views, connections, and opinions on the lifestyle of the school. Having a guided tour by a student or friend can give you a much clearer perspective on what to expect going into your first year of classes.

2. Learn Beyond the Brochure         

Universities have a lot to gain by putting their best foot forward, but you can actually learn a lot more about the quality of a school or how in-sync your goals are with the offerings of various departments by talking with someone who’s experiencing it every day. Maybe one school’s computer science department looks good on paper, but they’re using outdated equipment or curriculum. You never know until you dig deeper.

3. Discover the Campus Itself

If your heart is set on one school over another, it would be prudent to show up to your alternative choices to see the campus for yourself. How easy is it to get from the furthest dorm to the most distant classroom? What’s the public transit like? How do off-campus students get around? What’s parking availability like? These are all questions to ask students who are attending that school right now.

4. Explore Academic Options

Talk with the admissions department about the various potential majors you’re interested in and reach out to those departments to see if you can sit in on a class or two. Getting a sense of what the professors are like, the students’ relationships with them, and what the coursework entails on a first-hand basis can help you make your final decision.

5. Venture Off-Campus

If you decide to attend, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the surrounding area and city over the next 4-7 years. Take time to find out about the town’s relationship with the school, extra activities available to students, and potential for part-time employment in the surrounding area. Looking beyond your first year of school could save you a transfer later on.

If you’re still preparing for your first year of college and haven’t taken your ACT or SAT tests yet, there’s still time to get fully prepared. Sandweiss Test Prep can be your guide through the stressful months leading up to the exam dates. Find an available slot in one of our comprehensive test prep courses or contact us to learn more about our services.

If you’re a junior in high school and you’re thinking about coasting the rest of the way through to your senior year, think again. Planning for college should have already begun, but if you’re behind due to schoolwork or extra curricular activities, there’s still time to get your ducks in a row so you can enjoy your summer break. Here are 5 things juniors in high school should do before the end of the school year:

1. Narrow Your Field of Study

While it’s not essential that you decide exactly what you want to focus your studies on right away, it will help you with the college selection process if you narrow it down to 3 or 4 potentials before the end of the year. Take some time to talk with friends, family, teachers, and school career counselors to discuss what you’re good at and what your interests are – they may know about certain career paths you’ve never considered.

2. Prepare for College Visits

The first step here is to determine which colleges you’d be interested in. Several factors should go into this decision: How far are they from home? Can you afford the tuition? What programs do they offer? How’s the campus life? Do some research online before committing to a college visit, but actually going and spending a couple of days on campus can really help with your decision.

3. Take the SAT/ACT

You should plan to take at least one of the two major standardized tests before your senior year. This will help you focus on the individual tests themselves for a longer period of time without overlapping and give you time to retake either the ACT or the SAT if you’re not satisfied with the result the first time around.

4. Consider Your Financial Aid Strategy

Have a frank conversation about your family’s financial ability to pay for your education. Talk with your parents about your college fund (if there is one) and think about which schools you can afford to attend. Begin researching and applying for scholarships to help alleviate the burden on yourself and your family. Remember – the less you have to borrow now, the easier it’ll be post-graduation.

5. Seek Outside Support

If you’re struggling with your college admissions process, seek help from a guidance counselor. Their experience can be a great benefit to you during this transitional period of your life. For students who are worried about the ACT/SAT preparation process, a test preparation course may be the best option to boost scores and better prepare yourself for the test date.

Sandweiss Test Prep is the Seattle area’s premier test preparation organization and has been helping students achieve their academic goals since 1998. As part of our guided test preparation courses, students have the opportunity to ask questions and develop their own strategies for tackling the SAT or ACT with the help from instructors.

For more information about our test prep courses, visit our site or contact Sandweiss Test Prep by using this form.

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