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3 Questions You Never Thought to Ask Your College Tour Guide

Posted by: Website Administrator on 6/17/2015

On a college tour, you’ll learn a great deal about a school, but it can sometimes be difficult to get a more in-depth understanding of its personality. Looking ahead to your college tours this spring, keep these questions in mind to help you develop greater understanding of the schools you visit.

  • Where are the best places to study outside your dorm room?  At some point during college, either by choice or necessity, you’ll need to find a place to study outside your dorm room. You’ll often learn that there are multiple libraries or library spaces with different ambiences (for instance, places that are super quiet and places that are known for being a bit more social). In addition, there may be lounges, cafes, and lobbies that also offer space to buckle down and get some work done. Asking about study spaces will help you gain insight into how students like to get their work done at a college, and possibly help you learn about some cool spaces on campus.
  • What are some lesser known majors at your school?  Knowing which majors are the most popular can give you a sense of the academic interests of the student body – but it’s worth asking about the lesser-known programs, as well. Lesser-known majors may be unique to the college, and you could also learn about some majors you didn’t even know existed. Because your tour guide won’t be familiar with the entire course catalog, be sure to check out the full list of majors at schools to ensure that you can see the range of academic options available to you.
  • What are the quintessential experiences every student should have at your school?  When you visit a college, you’ll probably learn about requirements such as general education credits or a thesis, but you can also learn a lot about a school through the “unofficial” things students say you must experience during your time there as a student. This question is a great way to find out what students like to do for fun, and give you a sense of the range of available activities outside the classroom. Just keep in mind that your tour guide’s experience is not necessarily representative of what the whole student body likes to do, so try to ask more than one person about this.

Asking questions that are a bit off the beaten path will help you gain even greater insight into the life of a college and help you further distinguish between the places you visit.

Should I Take the SAT or ACT?

Posted by: Website Administrator on 2/26/2014

You might be wondering how to decide between taking the SAT or ACT. Pretty much all colleges will accept either test, so the decision of which to take depends on your personal preference. As you think about preparing for the SAT or ACT, keep some of these important differences in mind.

Sections. The SAT has 3 sections: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. The ACT has 4 sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning. The ACT also has an optional Writing section, which some colleges will require you to take.

Content. The SAT is designed to test critical reasoning and thinking skills, while the ACT is designed to test curricular knowledge (what you learn in school). The math on the SAT goes up to Algebra II, while the math on the ACT goes up to Trigonometry.

Length. Both the SAT and ACT are long tests, but the SAT is just a bit longer. The SAT takes 3 hours and 45 minutes, including a 25 minute experimental section (you won’t know which one it is, though, so you have to take it). The ACT is 3 hours and 25 minutes, including the optional Writing section.

Number of Questions. The ACT has more questions than the SAT. There are 215 multiple choice questions on the ACT, and 1 optional essay prompt. The SAT has 170 questions (most of which will be multiple choice with a few fill-in questions), and 1 essay prompt.

Structure. On the ACT, you take one section at a time. You complete the entire English section, followed by Math, then Reading, then Science, and finally, the Writing Section. On the SAT, Math, Critical Reading, and Writing are divided into shorter subsections, and you will jump around between subjects. You might take a subsection of Critical Reading, then a subsection of Math, a subsection of Writing, and then back to Math or Critical Reading.

Scoring. On the SAT, you’re given a score between 200 and 800 in each section. The sum of your scores in all three sections is your total score. On the ACT, you’re given a score between 1 and 36 in each section (except for the Writing subscore, which is out of 12). The average of your scores in each section is your Composite score. The Writing subscore is noted separately.

Additional Scoring Information. On the ACT, you gain points for each correct answer, but you don’t lose points for incorrect or blank answers. On the SAT, you gain points for each correct answer, no points are deducted for blank answers, but you do lose ¼ of a point for incorrect answers (except for the fill-in math questions, where there are no points deducted for incorrect answers).

It’s up to you to decide if you want to take the SAT or ACT, which means you need to determine which one is best for you. Being familiar with the structure and content of the tests is important, but before you decide, be sure to take a practice test in each. With a little research and a couple of practice tests, you’ll be in a strong position to decide between the SAT and ACT. 

*NOTE* The SAT is changing and will be in a new format starting March 2016. You can read about the changes here.

Reasons to Begin the College Search Now

Posted by: Website Administrator on 1/31/2014

Now that spring semester of junior year is well under way, you might want to think about beginning your college search. It might seem early, but there are several important reasons to start the process now instead of waiting for summer vacation or fall of senior year.

Early Application Deadlines. Most college and university early application deadlines are in the first half of November. You want to give yourself a couple of months to work on those applications, sign up for interviews, and write your supplemental essays. If you wait to begin the college search until the summer, or the fall of senior year, you might not have enough time to decide on your top-choice schools and complete your applications with the care and attention they need.

Spring College Visits. You might be planning to wait to explore and visit colleges during your summer vacation, when you don’t have to worry about missing school or catching up on homework. However, the best time to visit colleges is when the fall or spring semester is in session. That is when most students are around and the campus vibe is at its liveliest. If you begin your college search now, you can identify a few colleges to visit while school is still in session. If you wait until the summer, college campuses will be much quieter, and it will be harder to get a sense of what it’s “really” like to go to school there.

SAT Subject Tests. Another reason to begin the college search now is so that you have enough time to decide if you want or need to take SAT Subject Tests. Subject Tests generally correlate with the curriculum of advanced courses in high school, specifically AP courses, but other honors or advanced courses can be good preparation, as well. If you begin the college search now, you will get a sense of if you’re interested in schools that require SAT Subject Tests. That will give you enough time to register and prepare for the tests in May or June, to correlate with cumulative exams at the end of this year.

Even though spring semester of junior year is packed – applying to summer programs, preparing for the SAT or ACT, and just keeping up with your schoolwork and extracurricular activities – it’s important to carve out some time to devote to your college search. You’ll want to have plenty of time to visit colleges while school is in session, decide on Subject Tests, and have plenty of time to work on your Early Action and/or Early Decision applications. The extra time devoted to the college search now will help make the process more manageable later on.

Introduction to Honor Code Colleges

Posted by: Website Administrator on 7/23/2013

All colleges have rules regarding academic honesty that students are expected to abide by. After all, academic integrity is a presumed part of college life, regardless of where you go to school. But some schools take things a step further and have something called an Honor Code that’s central not only to academic life, but also to campus life, more generally.

For example, at an Honor Code college, exams might be unproctored or offered in a take-home format, and it would be normal to see laptops left unattended as you walk through a study area in the library. Students sign the Honor Code when they arrive on campus (often a ceremony steeped in tradition), and they may also be expected to report to an honor committee or judicial board when they observe dishonest activity. Honor codes are in place at a wide range of schools – from small liberal arts colleges to the Ivy League to flagship state universities. As you conduct your college search, here some representative examples to consider.

Haverford College – At Haverford, the honor code is entirely student-run, and affects the academic and social life of the college. Not only do students take tests without proctors and schedule their own final exams, but the dorms have no RAs. At Haverford, when you accept your offer of admission, you don’t need to submit an enrollment deposit to secure your spot; this is because it’s assumed that you’ll honor your commitment. In addition, the Haverford honor code is dynamic: the entire student body meets every year to debate and revise the code as a group, ensuring it remains current and up-to-date.

Davidson College – Davidson actually has two honor codes: the Honor Code and the Code of Responsibility, both of which are adhered to by students, faculty, and staff. The Honor Code applies to academic integrity, and the Code of Responsibility applies to general social expectations in 13 areas to create an environment of trust and respect. Tests are unproctored, and professors often assign take-home exams. Final exams are self-scheduled, as well.

University of Virginia – UVA’s Honor System is the nation’s oldest student-run honor system. Students are bound by the honor code not to lie, cheat, or steal. While expected to uphold the honor code at all times, they’re officially obligated to follow it only when they are in Charlottesville or Abemarle County (where UVA is located), and when they identify themselves as University of Virginia students (for example, when studying abroad). Offenses are presented to a judiciary body made up entirely of students. Board members investigate allegations and assist students through every step of the Honor System process.

Princeton University – Princeton is the only school in the Ivy League with an honor code. The honor code focuses specifically on academic honesty, and is entirely student-run. Students are responsible for following the code themselves, signing a pledge when they matriculate, and on every exam they take. Students are also expected to report violations to the Honor Committee, a board of students that reviews all honor violations.

Remember, all colleges will expect academic honesty and have policies in place to address cheating and plagiarism. However, colleges with honor codes give students more responsibility and autonomy in maintaining an atmosphere of academic integrity, not to mention an open and safe campus environment. 

College Consortiums

Posted by: Website Administrator on 5/8/2013

Many colleges throughout the U.S. collaborate through consortiums to provide students with additional access to academic and extracurricular resources. Consortiums provide students at smaller schools with access to the resources of a larger university, while still retaining the intimate learning environment and close-knit community of a small college. Consortiums can also give students at larger schools the opportunity to experience a small school environment.

Read on for details about some college consortiums to consider as you conduct your college search.

Claremont Colleges: Claremont, CA 
The Claremont College Consortium consists of five distinct colleges on adjoining campuses, each with its own distinctive mission and purpose. Students officially enroll at PomonaScrippsHarvey MuddClaremont McKenna, or Pitzer, but can take classes at any of the five. The colleges not only share library and research facilities, but athletic teams, as well. Students may eat at any dining hall, participate in student organizations, and even live in the dorms across all five campuses. Each Claremont College has fewer than 1500 students, but together, they have a student body of nearly 7000. 

Five College Consortium: Western Massachusetts 
The Five College Consortium consists of AmherstHampshireMount HolyokeSmith, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Students have access to top liberal arts colleges, women’s colleges, and a public flagship institution. The colleges share library resources, museums, several joint departments and programs, and a fair amount of social programming. In addition, students can easily cross-register. The colleges are spread out across three towns, but the farthest away, Smith, is only a 20 minute drive to any of the other schools. Free transportation is provided for students between campuses.  

Quaker Consortium: Philadelphia Area, PA
The Quaker Consortium consists of four colleges with Quaker roots: Bryn MawrSwarthmoreHaverford, and theUniversity of Pennsylvania. As with most consortiums, students can cross-register across all four schools. UPenn’s association with the consortium is limited to cross-registration, while the other three are more integrated on multiple levels. Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore offer free transportation between their schools, but not to UPenn. Haverford and Bryn Mawr in particular have a close relationship: students can live and eat on either campus, and they even publish a joint newspaper.

If you like the idea of going to one college, but having access to the resources of several, then you may want to consider including some consortium members on your college list.

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