Category: Undergrad

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!

Graduation season has passed, and it’s time to think about college applications! Recent college admissions trends offer important information to students applying in the next few months…

The Importance of a High School Record.

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, your child’s high school record is the number-one most important factor in college admissions. Good grades, rigorous course loads, and challenging courses have a stronger influence on admissions decisions than class rank or even standardized test scores. Essentially, colleges want to see that you’ve taken the most challenging classes that your school has to offer, and that you received strong grades in these classes.

College Applications Increase.

Students are sending out more college applications than they used to, and so colleges and universities around the U.S. are getting more and more applications every year. In 2011, 29 percent of the pool of college applicants sent seven or more applications (up from 9 percent in 1990), and the average number of applications per student has increased since then. This increase in the average number of applications per student has resulted in a negative cycle: more applications lead to lower admission rates, which leads to more applications as students try to hedge their bets, and so on.

Acceptance Rates are Dropping.

The lowest recorded admission rate (5.07%, according to research from Ivy Wise) happened this year. The average overall admission rate is probably closer to 50% or more, and several Ivy League colleges are accepting a higher rate of applications for the class of 2018 than they did for last year’s class; however the difference is not great. Many Ivy League schools received a higher number of early decision applications. Since most schools accept a significantly higher percentage of early applicants over regular submission applicants, early decision is to your student’s advantage. Also, now that colleges are receiving so many (and not accepting) applications, it’s critical that students find a way to break through the noise.

Demonstrated Interest is Key.

Most selective schools are becoming even more selective in their admissions decisions. Colleges and universities nationwide are placing stronger emphasis on students’ demonstrated interest in attending their school. They track student visits and interviews, check to see if the student has contacted faculty or alumni, and analyze their supplemental essays to gauge how well the student knows the school (and therefore, the likelihood of enrolling). College admissions officers want to see that your student has done his or her homework on the school. They will almost always look at your child’s social media profiles, too, so remind your student to be careful!

Contact us to learn about test preparation, tutoring, and admissions counseling services to help your student through the college application process.

Featured photo from here, labeled for reuse.

Most high school juniors have taken the SAT or ACT by now, and it’s time to focus on the next steps in college preparation. The top things juniors should be focused on through the spring are:

 1. AP Exams and/or SAT Subject Tests (if applicable to your student)

This May, students will have the opportunity to take AP exams to determine their eligibility for college credit and/or placement beyond prerequisite introductory college courses. Now is the time to enroll in AP reviews and classes, or to prepare for the exams and SAT Subject Tests with individual and/or small group tutoring.

2. Finishing junior year with strong grades

Good grades should be at the top of your student’s list of academic goals this season, since junior year grades are probably the most important ones for the purpose of applying to college. They show colleges that you have learned how to be a good student, particularly if they are stronger than your grades from 9th or 10th grade. Colleges will look at your first semester grades from senior year, but won’t have a chance to do so if you choose to apply Early Decision or Early Action, and have to submit your application by November.

3. Retaking the SAT or ACT (if needed)

If your student received a less-than-desirable score on the SAT or ACT, it may be wise to retake the test now in the late spring of his or her junior year, or later in the fall of his or her senior year. Click here for data on students retaking the SAT, or click here for data on retaking the ACT. We have SAT and ACT test prep courses coming up in late spring. Our SAT test prep course for the June 7th exam is starting next week on April 26th in Seattle, or 27th in Bellevue. Sandweiss Test Prep’s ACT course for the June 14th exam is beginning April 26th in Bellevue and 27th in Seattle.

Remember, the time to finalize the “college list” will come in the fall. There is still plenty of time to visit colleges throughout the spring and summer, and even in late August, when many colleges begin their school year. If your junior waits until this fall when he or she is a senior, there will likely be more access to dorm stays and campus interviews, since most schools only extend this option to seniors.


Over at the New York Times’ college admissions blog “The Choice,” the deans of admission at Penn and Michigan reveal how they consider test scores on a college application.

The Takeaway:

  • SAT and ACT scores aren’t everything, though they are important. Admissions counselors go over scores quickly, and there are no minimum cutoff points.
  • In order for your application to be competitive, you’ll want to aim for the scores of a college class’s middle 50 percent test range.
  • Academic grades are as, if not more important than test scores.


The Pew Research Center recently surveyed adults ages 18 and higher in the U.S. on what they think of the state of college education in this country. Here’s what they said:

  • A majority of Americans say the higher education system in the U.S. fails to provide students and their families good value for their money.
  • Adults who graduated from a four-year college believe that they are earning about $20,000 more a year as a result of having gotten that degree–and they are.
  • About half of students say that paying off student loans has made it harder to pay other bills.
  • It was worth it: 74% of college grads say their college education was very useful in helping them grow intellectually, 69% say it was very useful in helping them grow and mature as a person, and 55% say it was very useful in helping them prepare for a job or career.


You’ve got a few months off which means, yes, more work. But trust us, you want to do it now before the chaos of senior year takes over your life.

Here are six tips from the NYT’s Choice blog for working on your college essay over the summer:

1. Clear your head. Find some solitude and have a good think.

2. Ask yourself exploratory questions in order to find your essay topic. E.g. What has been the hardest thing I have ever had to face? What is the reason I wake up in the morning? etc.

3. Write it down. Wherever you go, carry a pen and paper in case inspiration strikes.

4. Learn how to tell a story. Your essay should be a story rather than a dry explanation–you want to keep those admissions counselors engaged.

5. Chill. This is summer, remember, so put down the laptop and go outside for a few hours.

6. Own your essay. Don’t let anyone else write it for you; colleges want to hear yourvoice. If you think of your essay as a means of self-expression, you might even have some fun.

And the best piece of college essay-related advice your faithful blogger has: Don’t start by trying to answer their question, whatever it is. Start by figuring out what you want to tell colleges about yourself–then, adapt it to the specific prompt. Good luck, and happy writing! (If you’re in the Seattle area and need help, check us out!)