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Category: High school

The jump from middle school to high school is a big transition. As an incoming freshman, not only are you moving to a new school, there may be many new people to meet, and different types of courses and activities available.  This is the first year that your decisions in and out of school, including your academic transcript, actually “count” for college applications and can potentially influence your future.  Although you’re likely not yet starting to think about where you want to go to college, remember that the effort you put forth in and out of school from this point on will help to determine your options.  Here are a few suggestions to help you start your high school career on a strong note:

Extracurricular Activities

Consider what might interest you and join a few school clubs or teams.   If your school doesn’t have a club you want to join, follow your passion and start one!  By doing so, you’ll gain valuable organizational and leadership skills that can really help to set you apart down the road.  Whatever your interests, get involved!  If you’re thinking about pursuing a major or career in technology, perhaps you can join the robotics club; sports enthusiasts can demonstrate teamwork skills by participating on an after-school sports team, creative students can audition for a drama production, join an art club, write for the school newspaper, and/or play in their high school’s band or orchestra.  If you like to be in charge and/or enjoy making decisions, consider joining your school’s student government.  Activities such as these may help you to develop friendships with like-minded students, and facilitate your inclusion in the social group of your choice.  Progressing through the years in some of these clubs can also contribute to your development of the leadership skills that many colleges desire in students they admit.

Challenging Courses and Test Prep

Many colleges view the rigor of your high school curriculum as an important factor in their admissions decisions.  A somewhat lower grade in an honors course can count for just as much if not more than an “A” in a regular-level course.  Now is the time to start challenging yourself!   If you haven’t taken any advanced or honors classes, consider trying one now; keep it up if you’re already on a rigorous course track.  Most schools don’t offer AP or IB level courses to freshmen, but the honors courses can help set you up for success in them later on.  If you need academic tutoring for particularly challenging courses, contact us for help.  We can also help you with SAT and ACT preparation down the road.  But for now, the most important things you can do for yourself, are to develop good study habits, take challenging courses and get the best grades you can, and either figure out your academic and extra-curricular interests or continue to fine-tune and develop the interests you already have.

Make the most of your freshman year both socially and academically, and you’re sure to have a bright future.

On September 14, 2015, important new changes were announced regarding the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for students applying to college for the 2017-2018 school year and beyond. The FAFSA is one of the two financial aid forms that students and parents must fill out while applying to college or trade schools; the other required financial aid form, which is mostly requested by private schools, is the College Board’s CSS Profile.  The FAFSA is widely used to determine eligibility for federal aid, as well as for some state and  private student aid, including grants and scholarships, loans and work study opportunities. If you are, or have, a high school junior or younger, read on!

For the 2017-2018 school year, students will be able to access and submit the FAFSA as early as October 1st, 2016! Previously, this form was not available until January 1st of the application year, which led to some delays in finalizing student aid packages. Families first had to complete an estimated FAFSA in the fall of the student’s senior year, and submit completed tax forms from prior years, which then needed to be replaced with more current forms. Now, families will be able to finalize their submitted FAFSAs with their most recently completed tax forms right away.  The earlier date will simplify the filing of the FAFSA by reducing or eliminating the need for verification with more current tax data submitted later on. It will also enable students to submit their FAFSA, along with the CSS Profile, to their Early Decision and Early Action schools in order to get a more accurate and realistic picture of their federal aid options along with their early application responses.  These changes should help to reduce some of the stress associated with applying for financial aid in order to go to college.
For more need-to-know information for college-bound students, contact us at Sandweiss Test Prep!  We have been helping students in the local Seattle and Greater Eastside area with college planning and testing resources since 2005!  

A “Gap Year” is something many graduating seniors consider. Rather than going to college immediately, students take a year to intern, work, volunteer, travel, or perhaps complete a project. Though the practice has always been common in Europe, it’s recently started gaining popularity among American students as well.

Many schools value students who take a gap year and understand the potential impact it can have on a student’s maturity level and ability to more fully partake in their educational opportunities.  There’s no right answer as to whether or not you should or shouldn’t take a gap year; every student will need to decide this for him or herself. However, if you do choose this option, there are a number of things you can do to make the most of your time.

1.) Apply for College Senior Year

If you are planning to attend college, but just want or need a year off from the rigors of structured education, you should still apply to most colleges while you’re still in high school. High schools generally have programs designed to facilitate your college application process, and it will be much easier for you to gather letters of recommendation, send transcripts, and complete standardized tests while you’re still in attendance. Especially if you plan on going abroad during your gap year, it can be very difficult to gather and send your documentation from a foreign country, and you don’t want to curtail your trip in order to come home and apply. Some schools will allow you to defer your admission for a year, and some–like Princeton, University of North Carolina, Harvard, or Tufts–even offer incentives or special programs for students interested in taking gap years.

2.) Strengthen Your Applications

Furthermore, if you don’t get into the school or program of your choice, a gap year is a great opportunity to strengthen your application and re-apply. Volunteering or working at an internship  – possibly even one that’s related to your intended major – will give you real-world experience many other applicants lack.  If you were a competitive candidate who was nonetheless wait-listed or not admitted, this additional experience could tip the scales in your favor. You’ll also have an opportunity to earn new or superior letters of recommendation from your mentors during your gap year, and it’s possible that their words may carry more weight than your high school teachers because their insights may be more interesting, original, and applicable to your real-world skills.

3.) Be Smart with Your Money

Bear in mind that your gap year isn’t an all-expenses-paid vacation. While many gap year opportunities can be very costly–especially those involving travel—it’s wise to make sure they do not put you or your family in debt. For many students, this may mean spending some time working. Holding down a job for all or part of your gap year will not only be a great opportunity to save money and develop an understanding of adult finances, but it will reflect well with colleges who want grounded and responsible applicants. Check out the International Volunteer HQ, WWOOF-USA, or City Year for some affordable opportunities that will also provide incredible learning experiences.

4.) Make the Most of This Opportunity

Treat your gap year as an investment in your education and future. It can be an extremely valuable experience not only for learning more about yourself as an independent adult, and developing a little more maturity and perspective on life, but also possibly creating or eliminating paths of study. Explore your curiosities and passions in practical ways. The worst thing you can do is spend a year on your parent’s couch–get out there and learn about yourself, your interests, and the world!

Finally, if you’re a parent concerned that your student might lose direction by taking a break from academia, know that research has shown that 90 percent of students who take gap years return to college within a year. The most important thing is that students make the most of their gap year! If you want to learn more, contact us at Sandweiss Test Prep! We would love to talk to you about this or about anything else related to your student’s academic and personal success.

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!

At Sandweiss, we help prepare students for a variety of tests. We cover a wide range of standardized test preparation and offer tutoring on many subjects customized to your specific learning needs. We also help students who are struggling with their studying process by offering tips and tricks that can boost academic scores and help them feel more prepared for test day. Here are our 5 study tips to ace your tests:

5. Prepare

This is the most crucial step and one that students very often ignore. By preparing yourself for a long-term studying process, you can better organize the material you need to review and still plan time for extra-curricular activities. In a recent New York Times article, researchers reported that students who regularly reviewed and were quizzed on the course material throughout their Intro to Psych course did significantly better on their final exam than did students who only reviewed the material at the end of the semester, just prior to the final. Why?

retrieving facts, formulas or concepts is a threefold mental act: finding the sought-after information in the vast catacombs of the brain; bringing it consciously to mind; and finally, storing it. That newly stored memory will be embedded in a host of additional associations and connections and will be much easier to recall later than if you’d merely read it again. 

The author, Benedict Carey, closed the article by stating: “Testing in all its permutations, subtle and otherwise, convinces the brain that the knowledge is useful, and important. And by varying one’s testing strategies, the actual final exam — the dreaded assessment — isn’t nearly as scary.” Practice tests, quizzes, and reviews of the final material over a long-term period haven been shown to increase final grades and improve memory retention in students.

4. Study Effectively

How much time do you spend checking email, your phone, or social media? It may not feel like much because they’re very quick interactions, but they build up throughout the day. Having the discipline to shut off your notifications and internet connection for a solid chunk of time could be the difference between studying effectively and not retaining enough of the needed information. Give yourself 25-50 uninterrupted minutes of studying, then take 5 minutes to goof around on your phone or get a cup of coffee. Taking breaks is important, but only if you’re truly using your time effectively.

3. Eat Well

The worst thing you can do for your brain and your body during intense reading and information processing is to consume unhealthy food. Soda, sugar, and fats feel like a good way to get a quick, easy burst of energy, but they lead to crashes (which many people counteract with caffeine). Throughout the day, make sure you’re eating fruits, vegetables, and healthy sources of protein and carbohydrates. You’re going to be burning a lot of energy, so making sure your body recovers after a long study session is also important. Think of long durations of studying like you would approach sustained athletic activity. Take care of yourself and your brain and body will reward you.

2. Try Different Techniques

Your brain is a muscle and muscles need different forms of exercise to grow and develop. Even if you have a tried-and-true studying technique, it may be helpful to try different strategies when facing tough material. Word associations, singsongs, or analogies that relate to your subjects may help you to remember complicated acronyms or formulas.

1. Get Help

Explaining the material to someone else and verbalizing complex information can help you understand whether you truly know a subject or are just getting by. Speak with your teachers, parents, friends and tutors if you’re struggling.  Find a classmate who is studying the same material as you and talk about it – or argue about it! Exposing yourself to different opinions on academic subjects can broaden your own perspective and open up different avenues of thought. Just don’t rely on Google to answer all of your questions; the Internet is a hit-or-miss resource for many academic subjects.

Sandweiss Test Prep offers individual tutoring and group tutoring on a variety of subjects. We can help you with your studying process or help prepare you for major exams like the ACT, SAT, or AP and SAT subject tests. Contact us today to discuss your academic goals and find out how a Sandweiss tutor or class can help you achieve them.

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Chances are that if you’re a junior in high school or are the parent of one, you’re probably starting to seriously consider college options. A great way to be more appealing to college admissions departments is to boost those SAT/ACT scores.

Why take the tests so early? Giving yourself time to get results back and allow for the possibility to retake them again in the spring will only help with your peace of mind and free you up to focus on other activities.

Students that aren’t prepared for either test shouldn’t feel rushed into taking one. Allowing time to prepare and seek any instructional guidance in advance is better than taking a test multiple times hoping that your score will improve.

The next SAT exam dates are December 6th and January 24th. The ACT tests are on December 13th and February 7th. If you’re going to be taking next available test and you haven’t been studying or you don’t feel prepared, consider enrolling in one of our test prep courses. Courses are still available for the ACT sections and we’re currently offering a condensed SAT course starting Saturday, November 1st for the December 6th exam for $499.

All course prices include a textbook and other study materials as well as access to our weekly Study Hall – perfect for a flexible homework help session! And if you’re unsure which test you should take, we offer diagnostic tests for both the SAT and the ACT. From there, you can prepare for the test that’s best for you.

Totally lost? Here’s a video that explains the differences between the SAT and the ACT tests.

Contact Sandweiss today to discuss your test preparation options and get a head start on the upcoming SAT or ACT tests. Don’t put this off until the last available date – these tests are important and could help determine a student’s future.

So, you got your test results back and you’re not happy with the score. Take a deep breath, there’s no need to panic! College hopefuls can retake the SAT and ACT until they reach their ideal score. Depending on the requirements for your target colleges and your position in high school, retaking these standardized tests may be the right decision. Although it is possible to retake the ACT up to 12 times and the SAT as many times as you want, it is recommended to keep retakes to under 3 times for the sake of how it looks on your applications.

Besides the test fee, there isn’t any penalty to take the test again. It is common for students to take the SAT or ACT for the first time their junior year of high school and again during their senior year. Colleges will look at the best scores from each section of the tests when considering your application, and seeing an improvement after re-takes can be an indicator of your work ethic.

According to the College Board, 55 percent of high school juniors who retook the test as seniors saw an improvement in their scores, while 35 percent had score drops and 10 percent had no change. The lower a student’s initial score, the more likely the score will improve. Juniors who retook the test as seniors saw an average of a 40-point improvement in combined writing, reading, and math scores.

The ACT administration reports that 57 percent of students increased their composite score when retaking the test. It is common for students to take the ACT twice, generally once as a junior and again as a senior.

Another factor to consider are SAT subject tests. These hour-long exams focus on specific areas of study so that you can showcase your strengths and interests to colleges. Many colleges recommend or require subject tests for admission and course placement, or you may choose to take one to showcase a specific area of knowledge. These are the only national admissions tests where you can choose a subject that best fits your achievements. Click here to register for an SAT subject test.

Click here to register for the next ACT on September 13th.

Click here to register for the next SAT on October 11th.

Sandweiss Test Prep offers SAT and ACT prep courses, as well as free diagnostic tests. Contact us to register!

Similar to the college admissions process, many private elementary and secondary schools require prospective students to submit scores from standardized admissions tests. Along with other factors, the scores from these exams influence a student’s chance of admission. These tests include the Independent Schools Entrance Exam (ISEE) and the Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT).

The SSAT is the required test for students entering grades 4-12 who are seeking entrance to private schools. It is administered in three levels—elementary, middle and upper—and is designed to measure a student’s critical thinking and problem solving skills. The ISEE is a standardized test is the most advanced form of admissions test for independent schools. It is also administered at three levels for students entering grades 5-12, and is designed to measure a student’s verbal and quantitative skills.

With grade-level private school admissions applications increasing, the SSAT is gaining popularity in the Seattle area. This influx of prospective students is driven in part by two of the Northwest’s top independent institutions, Lakeside and Overlake. “The collective wisdom and experience in our office indicated that the SSAT is the best independent school admission test on the market,” said the Director of Lakeside School in a statement. “SSAT is focused on the future… the SSAT organization is committed to holistic evaluation—just as Lakeside is. That’s why the SSAT is a good fit for Lakeside.”

At Sandweiss Test Prep, we strive to create a comfortable environment for students and cater our teaching styles to each individual’s needs. Our qualified SSAT and ISEE tutors have extensive experience working with school-aged students.

Register here for a free ISEE or SSAT diagnostic test, which provides the student with an idea of what the test is like and shows us which areas your child needs the most help in. Take a look at a list of which exams are required for entrance to Seattle area schools.

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