College Admissions: SAT vs. ACT

sat vs act One of the most important things you will do as a high schooler is take a standardized test; more specifically, the ACT or the SAT. Each test, lasting approximately four hours long, will help colleges determine if you are a strong candidate for their school.

Deciding which test to take could be challenging because while they seem the same, the two exams actually test you on very different things. Universities accept either of these exams equally so in the end, the one you scored higher one would probably be the better alternative. But before you decide which test you want to focus on, read the following comparisons in order to evaluate which test would be most beneficial to you.

1. The SAT has ten sections while the ACT has five
While they’re both almost equal in length, the SAT has twice as many section as the ACT. The SAT splits its reading, writing and math into smaller sections and disperses them throughout the test while the ACT has four long sections as well as an optional writing section at the end. If you prefer to space out your subjects and brake your work into smaller bits, the SAT might be better but if you like to immerse yourself into the subject and get it out of the way, the ACT would be more helpful to you.

2. The ACT has a science section
It certainly came as a surprise to me but the ACT does indeed have a science section. You don’t necessarily need to know any scientific information to get a high score (although it wouldn’t hurt) because this section mainly tests you on how well you can locate information based on graphs, charts and hypotheses. I find this section to be the hardest but several friends of mine complete this section on practice tests and receive a full score. Try to complete a practice science section or two to see if you would be interested in this form of assessment.

3. The SAT has more vocabulary than the ACT
The SAT is vocabulary heavy. Meaning that there will be about five to eight vocabulary questions in each reading section. If you are good at memorizing definitions, the SAT could be a better option.

4. The ACT questions are more straightforward but have a stricter time limit
Many say that the questions on the ACT are easier to understand than those on the SAT but it’s important to keep in mind that the ACT has a harsher time limit. For instance, in the writing section, you are given forty-five minutes to answer seventy-five questions. SAT questions are more complex and require more time to think. An example from the Princeton Review of the same question posed on the SAT and the ACT:
SAT: What is your view of the claim that something unsuccessful can still have some value?
ACT: In your view, should high schools become more tolerant of cheating?

5. How colleges look at these scores
Universities tend to look more closely at the individual sections of the SAT rather than the ACT, where they prefer to look at the composite score. Excelling in one subject while being weaker in another could still give you a strong ACT score. The same scenario could happen with the SAT where your scores will not be added together, easily highlighting your strengths without having them weighed down by your weaknesses.

After you compare and decide which test would give you the highest score, I still recommend that you take both tests. I focused on the SAT for most of my junior year because I thought that it was the test for me but after taking the ACT once in my senior year, I realized that my score went up dramatically. Don’t rule either test out but it would be helpful to set some sort of priority for either exam so that your free time is not completely taken up by studying.

This is a guest post by Noa Livneh, a high school senior in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dealing with College Midterms

Dealing with College Midterms It’s October. You’re finally settling into your new college surroundings. You are comfortable in your new home, content with your new roommates and alright with being away from home. But just when you start to ease into the school year, you suddenly find yourself hit by a wild storm of heavy-duty midterms.

In college, midterms are no joke. They’re not usually something to simply write off, and a low score can spell the end of your hope for an A in the class. With so much riding on a single test, it’s tempting to shut yourself off from the light of day and become a dormitory vampire and rely only on ramen noodles and coffee for sustenance.

And though this extreme might feel like the right way to go when your future depends on next week’s chemistry midterm, it is important to remember that it IS possible to be successful without cutting yourself off from campus life.

Finding a good balance between your academic life and your social life is important for many reasons. Not only will polarized habits isolate you from your college peer group, but they’ll also make for unhealthy tendencies in the work world and take a toll on your happiness.

Balance is vital for your mental health. By shutting yourself in to spend all your waking hours in front of a textbook, you will inevitably make significant sacrifices to your social life. By allotting time for both friends and coursework, you can keep up your grades as well as your mood, even in the midst of midterms.

As you grow up, you’ll find this delicate balance to be important in your work life as well. Connecting with people is part of achieving success, and by focusing 100 percent of your energy on working solo, you’ll cut into your time for networking, socializing and honing those valuable communication skills.

And obviously, hiding away from your friends can take a toll on your social life. And really, what is college without good friends?

But staying social during midterms doesn’t mean that you should go out partying the night before the test. Naturally, as we all know, some amount of sacrifice is necessary.

Of course, this ‘sacrifice’ and a ‘good balance’ entail something different for every person. Figure out what proportion of studying vs. socializing works best for you and plan your test season accordingly. Stay away from extremes on either end of the spectrum, and you’ll be able to maintain a successful college career both academically and socially.

6 Tips for Paying off Student Loans

Tips for Paying Off Student LoansThere’s no doubt that a college education is pricey. Currently, the average cost for a private school is $44,000 per year (including room and board). Over the four years it takes to earn a degree, that adds up to $176,000–more than three times the average college graduate’s annual salary of $52,000.

So, you have to wonder, how is it mathematically possible for anyone to pay off such hefty loans on an entry-level salary?

Paying off student loans isn’t easy, but it’s definitely possible. With a little strategic planning and a lot of self-discipline, you can slowly but surely pay off your student loans. Here are six tips to get you on the right track when it comes to dealing with student debt (and any debt).

1. Do the math. Sit down with a pen and paper, or an app, and add everything up. Come up with a final number of what you owe right now, and given your interest, what you’ll owe five years from now.

2. Run the numbers. Figure out exactly how much of your salary is left after you’ve paid for rent, groceries, travel and any other necessities. Then calculate the bare minimum of what you need to pay off (hint: the magic number that will bring your debt down rather than letting it build up).

3. Make a plan. Determine how much you can expect to pay off each year and plan your personal budget accordingly. That way, you’ll know exactly what percentage of each paycheck you’ll need to dedicate to shrinking your debt.

4. Give yourself a reasonable deadline (and keep your budget in mind!). It could be three, five or ten years down the road, but it’s helpful to commit to an end date. So even if you’re a little strapped for cash one month, you’ll keep your deadline in mind and make it up when you’ve got more money at hand.

5. Prioritize your spending. It’s always important to know what’s truly necessary, but never more so than when you’re living on a budget. Don’t indulge yourself too often, and make wise choices in your spending.

6. Save some money for later. While you’re likely very anxious to be debt free, it’s important not to put all your savings toward the past but to also prepare for the future. Sure, it can be hard to multi-task by simultaneously paying off debt and building savings, but a bulky savings account is just what you’ll need to avoid taking out loans again.

While paying off debt is never easy, it is definitely doable. With a little planning, patience and persistence, you’ll find yourself debt-free in a few short years.

Halloween in College: 4 Tips for Staying Safe

College HalloweenAs a kid, Halloween meant candy, costumes, trick-or-treats and pumpkin carving. You’d count down the days until the 31st of October, passing the time creating pathetic excuses for Jack-o’-lanterns. And when finally, Halloween arrived, you’d stay out “late” filling giant sacks with cheap candy, then savor your spoils for the next six months (or until your parents secretly finished it all).

The Halloween of days gone by was something sweet, simple and sometimes spooky. But as you grow up and head off to college, you’ll see the innocent Halloween that you knew and loved morph into an entirely different animal.

Of course, that’s just part of growing up. It’d be a little weird for an 18-year old to go from house to house trick-or-treating anyway, right? (More power to you, if that’s your thing!) But on campus, Halloween usually entails little more than skimpy costumes and heavy drinking.

Sure, this activity is rather ordinary for the American college campus. Though somehow, the combination of costumes and the typical party activities makes for an exceptionally rowdy time.

And while everyone loves a party, it’s important to celebrate responsibly. The swollen crowds of intoxicated college students can lead to some unnecessarily precarious situations. Here are a few precautions you can take to celebrating safely:

1. Choose a costume that you’re comfortable wearing. Your wellbeing starts before the party does; don’t feel pressured to slip into something skimpy just because other people are wearing barely-there costumes. If you’re uncomfortable with showing skin, then don’t—it’s as simple as that.

2. Use the buddy system—go to the party with a friend and be conscious of each other’s whereabouts the entire time. This might seem like a bit of an inconvenience, but Halloween gatherings in college have a tendency to be especially chaotic and should anything happen to you, it’s smart to have someone who will notice and do something about it.

3. Go easy on the drinks. In overcrowded Halloween parties, it’s essential to be coherent and aware of your surroundings. Obviously, swilling mind-altering beverages is not a great way to stay alert. And as a bonus, by remaining lucid, you’ll likely prevent yourself from making any number of bad decisions.

4. Tell a friend when you leave. Ideally, you should always be walking with at least one friend at night. But since that’s not always possible, opt for the next best arrangement: communication with friends. Let a friend know when you leave the party, and send a text when you get home.

Halloween can be a fun opportunity to dress up and socialize with friends. Just make sure you do so safely.

What Is The Best Time to Apply to College?

when to apply to collegeEveryone knows that college admissions begin in the fall and end at the end of the year but not everyone realizes that your chances of getting in are largely affected by what time you decide to submit your application.

Although a strong application is strong whether you submit it on November first or January first, it’s good to know when your chances of getting in are the highest. I learned about these different types of admissions relatively late so my options were limited when it came to the timing of submission.

There are many concepts that students should learn early when it comes to different types of deadlines so that they can be ready to submit their applications without having to worry about having any missing information, such as test scores and teacher recommendations.

The most popular deadline is the “regular admissions deadline”, typically January 1st. Most students submit their applications on this deadline, making the pool of applicants much greater. But you can take advantage of the “early decision deadline” or the “early action deadline,” both usually due by November 1st. If you apply by this date, you will get your decision notification letter earlier than regular admissions.

The early decision deadline is a binding application; meaning that if you submit this application and get accepted into that school, you must withdraw the rest of your applications and attend that university. The early action deadline is non-binding, so you will have the chance to know if you got in or not earlier than regular decision, but you will not have to attend the school.

The last type of admission is “rolling admission.” This is when a school offers to read your application the moment it arrives and will give you their decision in as early as one to two months. Some schools only have a limited number of seats they are going to give to rolling admissions, so if you decide to apply with rolling applications, make sure that you do it early. For example, rolling admissions to University of Washington begins on October 1st, which is even earlier than the early decision/action deadline.

The benefits of applying to a school under the regular admission deadline is that you are being compared to the entire application pool. To some, this might be a disadvantage but if you feel like the school is somewhat of a reach, I would recommend you wait and not apply early. The reasoning for this is because the applicants who do apply early are those who have worked very hard to make their applications fit the school, greatly increasing their chances of getting in. If you are being compared to the normal applicants, your application might look stronger and therefore increase your chance of acceptance.

Another benefit is that you can take standardized tests even during your senior year of high school. Because the deadline is so late, you will have the chance to get results back from the ACT and SAT and use them in your application instead of having to tell them that you will be sending the scores in later (like they do with Early and Rolling admissions).

If you believe that your application is very strong for the school and that your chances of getting in are high, then by all means apply early. It’s good to apply early to a school that you know you have a high chance of admittance into, because it will ease your mind as the other decisions begin to come. This is also true for the rolling admissions. Once you get into a school that you will be happy attending, you can drop the other safety (and maybe even target) schools and focus your energy on dream schools. When you apply early, take into account that you should have your testing scores ready to go because your application will not be as strong if it has to wait for those scores to come in November.

Although the quality of your application is the most important thing, timing does make a difference, so make sure that you research and decide what time is the best to apply to which school. Remember that you can only apply to one early admissions school, so choose wisely. Most importantly: whether you are applying regular, early decision, early action or rolling admissions, you will end up going to the school that’s right for you.

This is a guest post by Noa Livneh, a high school senior in the San Francisco Bay Area.

7 Tips for Avoiding, and Dealing with, Dorm Sickness

Sickness in CollegeDorm life is a lot of fun. Living in such small quarters with hundreds of other students brings everyone close together, not only in terms of space but also in terms of friendship. But this intimate living situation can unfortunately also bring an unhindered exchange of germs and sickness.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should lock yourself in your dorm room and cease to interact with anyone else. But it is important to be mindful of your health. Here are seven ways that you can mitigate the risk of falling ill while living in the dorms.

1. Wash your hands (with soap!). I know, that seems pretty obvious. But keeping your hands germ-free (or as germ-free as possible) will minimize the threat of sickness.

2. Get enough sleep. As the age-old college students’ saying goes, you have the option to choose two from this list of three: sleep, socialize, good grades. And while of those three potential activities, sleeping might seem like the most shortsighted, it is in fact the most vital to your overall health. By depriving yourself of sleep you’ll leave yourself vulnerable to all sorts of ilness, thereby making it extra hard to socialize and get good grades.

3. Keep your space clean. Don’t let dirty clothing, dishes or rotting food lay around your room. These items can function as breeding ground for harmful bacteria, so the best defense is to not create these environments at all.

4. Eat a balanced diet. During test season, it can be all too easy to find yourself eating a bag of chips for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make sure that no matter how busy you are, you’re still consuming all essential nutrients as part of a well-balanced diet.

5. Recognize when you are getting sick. Stay in tune with your body and pay attention to signs of sickness. That way, you’ll be able to deal with any issue before it gets out of hand.

6. If you do fall ill, go to your campus health center. The health center is proximate, cheap and easy. They will be happy to diagnose you and prescribe whatever medications will get you back on track.

7. Let others know that you’re sick. Even though you’re surrounded by people, college can be very “every man for himself.” Everyone is doing their own things and caught up in their own lives. So, if you find yourself under the weather, make sure that a friend or roommate knows to check in on you.

While I certainly don’t propose that anyone turn into a full-fledged hypochondriac, it is essential to be conscious of your health on campus. Do what you can to prevent illness, and if you do end up getting sick, make sure to put your health first. Because college is going to be a lot more fun when you’re healthy.

How to Stay Organized in College

College Organized You’re in college, and there’s a lot to do. Between homework, student groups, studying, sports, work, and whatever else you might be doing (or even just thinking of doing), it can be hard to keep your to-do list in order. It can be all too easy for you to lose track of your various engagements, even if they’re a regular part of your daily routine. When you’ve got so much going on, you’re extremely liable to have something slip your mind.

So, in order to prevent an embarrassing or even detrimental situation, it’s especially important that you stay organized, whatever that might mean to you—whether it’s using a Google Calendar, a daily planner, Post-It notes or a simple to-do list. Make sure that you have a functional system to track your due dates, meetings, office hours, social engagements, workouts and anything else that you don’t want to forget. Writing things down will not only serve as a reminder later on, but it’ll also help you to commit these arrangements to memory.

And if all the action items on your daily schedule seem like a lot to handle, the potential activities and achieving your long-term goals can feel especially overwhelming. And thus, it’s equally, if not more, important to keep your ultimate ambition in mind. That way, you’ll remain goal oriented and stay focused on your journey from Point A to Point Z by slowly plotting out the various points along the way. Keep in mind that making it from Point A to Point Z is no easy task—it’ll likely take years to accomplish. But by picking a path, you will be able to start moving toward a goal of some sort.

Even though it’s helpful to have some a final objective, it’s also important that you’re open-minded to other paths. Having a goal sets you in a direction that you think will be suitable to you, but realistically, you’re only aware of a small fraction of the careers, job titles and organizations that exist. Perhaps somewhere along your way to becoming the President of the United States, you’ll realize that you’ll be much happier and better suited as the head of an organization that works to fix America’s broken prison system.

But though you should bear in mind a highly flexible end goal, college shouldn’t simply be a means to an end. Make sure to take advantage of all the activities, information and people who might not necessarily lead you anywhere. Make sure to do things for yourself and spend time in activities that you enjoy. Not only will you experience more opportunities to learn about yourself and what makes you tick, you’ll also enjoy your college experience.