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Should You Take Easier Classes to Earn Better Grades?

This time of year, as the clock on summer runs down, you might have the opportunity to review and adjust your class schedule for the upcoming school year. If yours has been a relaxing summer, it’s easy to see words like ‘honors’ and ‘AP’ on your schedule and feel a tinge of nervous anticipation. Man, that’ll be a ton of work. Wouldn’t it be easier if I made my AP courses honors courses and my honors courses regular courses? That way I can make straight As next year. Yeah…

If you have one or more APs on your schedule, you probably already know where this article is going: you should take the more difficult classes. But unlike other articles that offer this advice, I’m going to avoid the ‘You must apply a Puritanical work ethic in high school so you can crush your enemies, also known as your peers, when it comes time to apply to college’ manta other articles espouse. So why should you take more difficult classes? The answer’s easy:

As long as you pass, you have nothing to lose.

Let me explain.

Let’s Break Down the Numbers and Letters

So you’re taking a course load full of honors and APs. That’s great. But oh no! You’ve made a B in an honors class and a C in an AP class one quarter. What will the colleges you apply to think?

They probably won’t care.

Follow my reasoning. First of all, if you get a B or C one quarter, you still have time to fix it in the next quarter and improve your overall semester grade. More importantly, not all letters are created equal. Earning a B in an honors class might as well be an A in a regular class. You can say the same thing about a C in an AP class. The fact that you’re 16/17 years old and passing a college-level class says a ton of positive things about you as a prospective college student.

Let’s take this reasoning one step further. If you make As in honors classes and Bs in AP classes, you’re ahead of the game in more ways than one. In the eyes of college admission counselors, you are a more attractive candidate than every student who made straight As in regular courses.

To put it another way, by taking honors/APs, you get to make some mistakes and get ahead; if you take regular classes and make straight As, others will still surpass you no matter what. Students who take regular level classes to make straight As always lose the college admission game….unless their school doesn’t offer honors or AP courses, which believe it or not, is still the case in some parts of the country.

Gotta Love Grit

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: college admission counselors love grit. Grit says more about a college applicant than GPA, AP scores, or extracurricular activities.

If you take a look at the link in the previous paragraph, you’ll see that teachers around the nation are trying to teach their students grit. As a former teacher, I’m not too sure if you can teach grit like you can teach an academic subject. But it is possible to encourage someone to improve their grit, which is what I’m going to do right now. If you want to up your grit game, do so with something that has nothing to do with school. My suggestion: buy a moderately hard puzzle toy and stick with it until you solve it. Oh, it’ll frustrate and confuse you, but that’s the point. You have to strengthen your grit muscles if you want to excel in your classes next year.

Being Bored Stinks

Just think about it: being stuck in 6-7 courses that are way too easy, the clock ticking away at an agonizingly slow rate…

I think I’ve made my point.

Final Thoughts

Instead of the standard wrap up, I want to end this article by discussing a BIG EXCEPTION to the advice I’ve given in this article. Over the last decade, more and more high schools have started to offer 1-2 APs to incoming freshmen. This situation doesn’t sit right with me. Except in the very rarest of circumstances, high-achieving students still need a year to adjust to high school before they can tackle APs. By all means, take as many honors courses as you want to your freshman year. Strengthen those grit muscles and grow up a bit before jumping into APs as a sophomore.

Good luck in the coming year!

Top 50 Best Colleges in the United States: myKlovr 2018 Rankings

Your virtual college counselor has arranged a list of 2018’s 50 best colleges and universities in the U.S. MyKlovr arranged a ranking-scale by combining the average ranking and data of some of the most reliable college rankings, including sources such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Niche, and more.

 

1) Harvard University

  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 29,652
  • College Type: Private

The oldest institute of higher learning in the country, Harvard is well known for its political science, social science, and law programs. With a beautiful campus and an 87% graduation rate in the standard four years, Harvard is the most prestigious and sought after university in the country.

 

2) Stanford

  • Location: Stanford, CA
  • Student Enrollment: 16,980
  • College Type: Private

Known for their Computer Science program, Stanford enrolls nearly 17,000 students with average ACT scores hovering between 31 – 36 points. Stanford’s location, close in proximity to Silicon Valley is a great incentive for living arrangements for many applicants.

 

3) Yale University

  • Location: New Haven, CT
  • Student Enrollment: 12,385
  • College Type: Private

Yale University is arguably the most selective Ivy League school with a rich history, tight community, and impressive alumni organization. Yale is also the alma mater of 5 U.S. presidents and 20 living billionaires.

 

4) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 11,311
  • College Type: Private

Opened up to students in 1865 after the Civil War, MIT, is worldwide leader in physical sciences, engineering, economics, and biology.

 

5) California Institute of Technology

  • Location: Pasadena, California
  • Student Enrollment: 2,255
  • College Type: Private

CalTech is best known for their prestigious engineering program, social life, sports teams, and famous beaver mascot. The extremely small student body can be extremely appealing or problematic to potential applicants depending upon their individual interests.

 

6) University of Pennsylvania

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 24,876
  • College Type: Private

Upenn’s motto is “Leges sine moribus vanae,” meaning “Laws without morals are useless.” The competitive, yet respected reputation, as well as the city-feel location of this Ivy-League school is a huge reason why Upenn receives well over 37,000 applications each year.

 

7) Princeton University

  • Location: Princeton, NJ
  • Student Enrollment: 8,143
  • College Type: Private

Formerly known as the college of New Jersey in the 1800’s, Princeton is well known for their Econ concentration. It is no surprise that they also have a phenomenal financial aid program, graduating 83% of their students without student debt.

 

8) Duke University

  • Location: Durham, NC
  • Student Enrollment: 15,984
  • College Type: Private

With a shockingly small faculty to student ratio of 7:1, The majority of Duke’s students are enrolled in the graduate school. With a wide variety of majors to choose from, Duke is known for their top-tier athletic teams and facilities, including their lacrosse team who has won 3 national championships.

 

9) University of Chicago

  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Student Enrollment: 15,391
  • College Type: Private

The university is composed of the College, various graduate programs and committees organized into five academic research divisions and seven professional schools. The University of Chicago scholars have played a major role in the development of many academic disciplines, including sociology, literary criticism, religion, and more.

 

10) Dartmouth College

  • Location: Hanover, NH
  • Student Enrollment: 6,350
  • College Type: Private

Dartmouth provides 57 majors for their students throughout their quarter plan. The most popular of these majors are Economics and Political Science. Dartmouth also has a unique Center for Professional Development, in which faculty members work with students and employers to achieve post-graduate success.

 

11) Rice University

  • Location: Houston, TX
  • Student Enrollment: 6,719
  • College Type: Private

With a competitive acceptance rate and 6:1 faculty to student ratio, Rice places great emphasis and support on academic achievement, as well as their sports teams, including their 14 Division one programs and wide variety of intramural sports.

 

12) Brown University

  • Location: Providence, RI
  • Student Enrollment: 9,458
  • College Type: Private

With an incredibly long history, Brown was the first school in the Ivy League, 7th oldest college in the country, and the first to admit students regardless of their religious affiliation. The unique city of Providence is also another reason many students chose to apply here.

 

13) University of Notre Dame

  • Location: Notre Dame, IN
  • Student Enrollment: 12,292
  • College Type: Private

Most Notre Dame students live on campus, hovering around 80% of the student-body. This is huge factor in the incredible turn-outs of their sporting events at Notre Dame Stadium, specifically football games, seating over 80,000 fans. Popular majors include finance, marketing, and accounting.

 

14) Vanderbilt

  • Location: Nashville, TN
  • Student Enrollment: 12,567
  • College Type: Private

Located in the middle of Nashville, Vanderbilt is known for their strong curriculum and upstanding reputation. Vanderbilt accepts students with average SAT scores between 1,430-1,580 and ACT scores between 32-36.

 

15) Washington University in St. Louis

  • Location: Lexington, VA
  • Student Enrollment: 2,172
  • College Type: Private

Named after George Washington and Robert E. Lee, W&L offers a wide variety of majors and minors. Their school motto is Non Incautus Futuri, meaning not unmindful of the future.

 

16) Amherst College

  • Location: Amherst, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,849
  • College Type: Private

Amherst is often referred to as the best liberal arts college in the country. Their academic reputation, political engagement, and scenic campus is a large factor in why students choose this school over many Ivy-League schools.

 

17) Georgetown University

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Student Enrollment: 18,459
  • College Type: Private

Offering around 50 majors, Georgetown is made up of 9 grad and under-grad schools. They are best known for their Economics, Political Science, and Finance programs. They are also regarded as having a very active student body, especially when it comes to their sports teams.

 

18) Harvey Mudd College

  • Location: Claremont, CA
  • Student Enrollment: 800
  • College Type: Private

With an extremely small student body, Harvey Mudd’s mission is fairly simple and straight forward. As a liberal arts college, they aim to educate future mathematicians, engineers, and scientists. In fact, they have one of the best engineering programs in the nation.

 

19) University of California – Berkley

  • Location: Berkley, California
  • Student Enrollment: 40,154
  • College Type: Public

Often considered as the best public school in the country, UC Berkley specializes in Social Sciences, Engineering, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies, and Mathematics and Statistics. Although the school has a massive student body, 52.3 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students. It is also interesting to note that the average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 97 percent.

 

20) Swarthmore College

  • Location: Swarthmore, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,581
  • College Type: Private

Founded by Quakers in 1864, Swarthmore was one of the first coeducational schools in the U.S. It has an 89% four-year graduation rate. They also have a very small student-to-faculty ratio of roughly 8:1, giving students plenty of face to face exposure with their professors.

 

21) Williams College

  • Location: Williamstown, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 2,171
  • College Type: Private

Known as being one of the oldest and most prestigious colleges in the U.S., Williams was founded in 1793. They are also known for meeting 100% of admitted students’ financial needs.

 

22) University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

  • Location: Ann Arbor, MI
  • Student Enrollment: 43,651
  • College Type: Public

Michigan has an extremely unique curriculum when it comes to choosing fields of interests. Their most popular majors include more general studies such as Business, Economics, Psychology, and Computer Sciences. They also have a flourishing social scene that revolves around their top-notch sports programs including football, hockey, and basketball.

 

23) Johns Hopkins University

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Student Enrollment: 22,686
  • College Type: Private

Founded in 1876, Johns Hopkins is known for their incredible medical school. It is no wonder that their most popular undergraduate majors are Nursing, Public Health, and Biomedical Engineering. Many students here have a lot of pride in their school and sports teams, specifically the lacrosse team.

 

24) Carnegie Mellon University

  • Location: Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
  • Student Enrollment: 13,503
  • College Type: Private

Carnegie Mellon is known for its programs in science and technology, but its seven schools and colleges include the College of Fine Arts and the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. They are also known for their acclaimed grad-programs.

 

25) Tufts University

  • Location: Medford, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 11,137
  • College Type: Private

Tufts has a slim 16.1% acceptance rate. There is also a 9:1 student to faculty ratio at this university, creating a small, yet close culture. Their mascot, Jumbo the Elephant is very popular among their student-body and athletic programs.

 

26) Pomona College

  • Location: Claremont, CA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,663
  • College Type: Private

The top 4 most popular majors at Pomona are Economics, Mathematics, Biology, and Neuroscience. As you would guess, the student to faculty ratio and the class sizes are extremely small. It is also interesting to note that the average SAT and ACT scores for admitted students fall around the 95th percentile.

 

27) Claremont Mckenna College

  • Location: Claremont, CA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,349
  • College Type: Private

With a huge emphasis on academic achievement and athletic support, Claremont McKenna College was originally an all-boys college, but opened their doors to women in in the 70’s. For whatever reason, their men’s sports teams play as the Stags, while the women play as the Athenas.

 

28) University of California – Los Angeles

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Student Enrollment: 41,908
  • College Type: Public

At UCLA, the two most popular majors are Political Science and Psychology. They also have a phenomenal Economics program which is very popular among under-grads. The LA location is also a large factor in why students chose this University.

 

29) United States Military Academy

  • Location: West Point, VA
  • Student Enrollment: 4,348
  • College Type: Public

Students come to Army from all over the country to follow their code “a cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” interestingly, the Cadets have a 93% first-year retention rate and an extremely small faculty to student ration, allowing for plenty of hands-on learning and engagement with USMA educators.

 

30) Carleton College

  • Location: Northfield, Minnesota
  • Student Enrollment: 2,105
  • College Type: Private

Carleton has a rural setting with a campus size of 955 acres. It utilizes a trimester-based academic calendar and ranks as the 8th best Liberal Arts College in the 2018 edition of Best Colleges. Tuition and fees hover around $52,782 a year.

 

31) United States Naval Academy

  • Location: Annapolis, MD
  • Student Enrollment: 4,525
  • College Type: Public

Located a little over 30 miles away from Washington D.C., Navy has an incredible 98% first-year retention rate and an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Students love to support the blue and gold at their division one sporting events, including football and basketball.

 

32) University of Virginia

  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Student Enrollment: 23,883
  • College Type: Public

UVA specializes in liberal arts studies and business as their students’ most preferred majors. They also have an amazing alumni association. Olympians, astronauts, and U.S. political leaders have all graduated from the University of Virginia.

 

33) Haverford College

  • Location: Haverford, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,233
  • College Type: Private

Haverford offers a wide variety of majors. The most popular include Psychology, Biology, Economics, and English. The average SAT scores range between 1,350-1,530.

 

34) Emory University

  • Location: Atlanta, GA
  • Student Enrollment: 13,788
  • College Type: Private
  • year or above

Heavily affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Emory is one of the oldest private Universities in the country. Emory specializes in Business Administration and Management.

 

35) Middlebury College

  • Location: Middlebury, VT
  • Student Enrollment: 2,558
  • College Type: Private

This liberal arts school has a competitive 17.4% acceptance rate and has an 8:1 student to faculty ratio. With a beautiful north eastern campus and close-knit community, Middlebury has a 97% first year retention rate, a great indicator of freshmen satisfaction.

 

36) United States Air Force Academy

  • Location: USAFA, CO
  • Student Enrollment: 4,111
  • College Type: Public

All cadets at Air Force participate in intercollegiate or intramural athletics, a specialized leadership curriculum, and an intense training program. The Academy’s mission is “to educate, train, and inspire men and women to become leaders of character, motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.”

 

37) University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

  • Location: Chapel Hill, NC
  • Student Enrollment: 29,084
  • College Type: Public

UNC is tied with two other colleges as the oldest public university in the United States, dating back to 1795. Students can participate in over 550 officially recognized student organizations and are known for their talented sports teams, beautiful facilities, and strong social scenes and events.

 

38) Wellesley College

  • Location: Wellesley, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 2,510
  • College Type: Private

One of the original Seven Sisters Colleges, Wellesley is arguably one of the most famous women’s colleges in the world. Notable alumni include Katharine Lee Bates, Diane Sawyer, and Hillary Clinton. Their most preferred major is Economics.

 

39) New York University

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Student Enrollment: 50,027
  • College Type: Private

NYU is an extremely culturally diverse and international university that offers a wide variety of majors. They have campuses in Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Madrid, Paris, Prague, New York City, Sydney, and Washington D.C. NYU also has an impressive list of notable alumni, including CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, Olympians, heads of state, astronauts, and more.

 

40) Davidson College

  • Location: Davidson, NC
  • Student Enrollment: 1,784
  • College Type: Private

Known as the Wildcats, Davidson students have an average SAT score of 1,280–1,430. Their motto is “Let learning be cherished where liberty has arisen,” which is instilled among their high-achieving students and strong reputation.

 

41) Wake Forest University

  • Location: Winston-Salem, NC
  • Student Enrollment: 7,591
  • College Type: Private

Located just a few hours from the Blue Ridge Mountains and beaches of South Carolina, Wake Forest has a beautiful campus that offers intramural sports and plenty of outdoor trips.  Of the 6 schools that make up Wake Forest, the School of Law, School of Business, and School of Medicine are extremely competitive. Undergraduates are enrolled in either Wake Forest College or the business school.

 

42) College of William and Mary

  • Location: Williamsburg, VA
  • Student Enrollment: 8,484
  • College Type: Public

William and Mary has more than 30 undergraduate programs and more than 10 graduate and professional degree programs. Of their highly ranked grad schools, the first law school in the U.S. is one of them. William and Mary is also responsible for the nation’s first academic Greek society, Phi Betta Kappa.

 

43) Colgate University

  • Location: Hamilton, NY
  • Student Enrollment: 2,882
  • College Type: Private

Colgate’s academic departments and majors fall into one of four general divisions: humanities, natural sciences and mathematics, social sciences and university studies. Greek life plays a significant role in student life, representing nearly half of sophomores, juniors and seniors.

 

44) Boston College

  • Location: Chestnut Hill, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 14,354
  • College Type: Private

Boston College, founded in 1863 by the Society of Jesus is a Jesuit Catholic school that has been classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a university with high research activity. BC is made up of nine schools, including grad-programs, and competes in nearly 30 NCAA Division I varsity sports.

 

45) Lehigh University

  • Location: Bethlehem, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 7,119
  • College Type: Private

Lehigh is considered one of the twenty-four Hidden Ivies in the Northeastern U.S. They have four colleges: the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business and Economics, and the College of Education. The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest, which roughly consists of 40% of their students.

 

46) Santa Clara University

  • Location: Santa Clara, CA
  • Student Enrollment: 8,680
  • College Type: Private

Santa Clara is the oldest currently operating institution of higher education in California and offers a wide variety of majors, as well as 17 varsity athletic programs competing at the division one program. Students at this highly selective school tend to have ACT scores between 27–32 and SAT scores between 1,220–1,410.

 

47) Vassar College

  • Location: Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Student Enrollment: 2,436
  • College Type: Private

Vassar college is a top-tier liberal arts college that offers over 100 clubs and organizations for students to get involved with. Almost all students live on campus in 1 of 12 resident halls. Vassar has a solid 90% four-year graduation rate, and a 94% first year retention rate.

 

48) Barnard College

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Student Enrollment: 2,573
  • College Type: Private

Barnard College is comprised of two schools, offering a small, yet strong liberal arts school and a large, coeducational Ivy League institution, both in NYC. Barnard is an all-female college in Manhattan with a co-ed partnership with Columbia University, across the street.

 

49) Bucknell University

  • Location: Lewisburg, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 3,625
  • College Type: Private

Bucknell, being a very diverse institution offers nearly 50 majors and over 60 minors. Bucknell’s most popular are Economics, Political Science, Accounting, Finance, and Biology. They have an impressive first year retention rate of 93%.

 

50) Colby College

  • Location: Waterville, ME
  • Student Enrollment: 1815
  • College Type: Private

Colby’s campus encompasses a wildlife refuge and is close in proximity to a preserved lakefront property for environmental studies. There are approximately 100 student-run clubs and organizations on campus, ranging from the Colby Ballroom Dance Club to the Society Organized Against Racism. More than one-third of students are members of Colby’s intercollegiate varsity sports teams, the Mules.

 

So there you have it, top 50 colleges and universities in the U.S. ranked by myKlovr. If you are still not sure what schools to apply to, check out our college finder to find your perfect match today!

 

Sources:

 

College Fun Facts

Good day, loyal myKlovr readers. As we’re in the dog days of summer, the standard advice column doesn’t seem right. Instead, let’s beat the heat with some college fun facts!

Don’t Waste Your Plague Break

When you think of unexpected breaks from school, images of snow, flooding, or other inclement weather might come to mind. However, disease can have the same effect. Every year, flu season shuts down school districts across the nation.

But did you know that back in the day, college students got out of school for bubonic plague? It’s true, and the story of what one student did with his plague break changed the world forever.

The year was 1665, and Jolly Olde England was suffering from the plague. Cambridge University had to shut its doors for a year. At the time, Isaac Newton had just started his graduate education. Like the other students, Isaac was forced to return to his family home. But did he spend the next year just sitting around playing Fortnite? Well…of course not. Fortnite didn’t exist back then. Electricity didn’t exist back then. Duh.

So what did Isaac Newton do with his time? Oh, not much. He just invented a little thing called Calculus and worked on his theory of gravity. So the next time you want to thank a falling apple for Newton’s grand revelation, thank the plague instead. And whenever you get another unexpected day off from school, make Isaac proud by getting out there and curing cancer. 😉

The Ivy League Exists Because of Football

If you attend an Ivy League school, there’s a good chance that you’ll see some actual ivy. However, the Ivy League did not get its name due to the reputation of its schools or the large amount of ivy that grows on the members’ campuses.

It was all about football.

You see, a long, long time ago (the 1930s), the eight schools that make up the Ivy League got together to form an athletic league. Even back then, each Ivy League school was already well known for its academics. So thank football, and not the mystical powers of ivy to imbue students with knowledge, for the Ivy League.

You Thought American Colleges Were Big

America sure has some big colleges. The University of Central Florida comes out at just over 55,000 undergraduates. Phew. That’s more people than the town where I grew up! But UCF doesn’t hold a candle to the biggest university in the world: Indira Gandhi National Open University. How much bigger than UCF are we talking about? Twice as big? Ten times as big? Twenty times as big?

Try 72 times as big. That’s over 4,000,000 students. Thankfully, students take courses online or through the mail. Can you imagine the commute to that campus?

Movies About College Are Sweet, Sweet Lies

When I was a kid, I watched a bunch of Saved by the Bell. Even then, I wondered how the characters could spend so much time talking in the halls. Didn’t they have classes to go to? When I got to high school, I found out that Saved by the Bell and other TV shows about high school were lies. I only had minutes to run between classes among hundreds of other loud, pushy teenagers.

Unfortunately, college movies are just the same: sweet, sweet lies. Sorry, readers, but in real life, the same fate would befall Van Wilder, Frank the Tank, and every member of Delta House:

They would all be rotting in a federal penitentiary.  🙁

The Birth of the Hot Pocket – Sort Of

When you earn your bachelor’s degree, the graduation garb is fairly straightforward: jet black muumuu and a cardboard hat. On the other end of the spectrum, graduates earning their doctorates wear fancy robes with stripes and all sorts of colors that scream ‘Look at me! I spent so much money on this degree!’

The outfit for graduates earning their master’s degrees is somewhere in between. However, the sleeves contain small pockets that extend past the cuffs. Why are they there?

Potato storage.

The story goes that back in the day master’s graduates were so poor that they had no other way to transport food but in their clothes. Thus potato pockets were born. So when you get your master’s degree, don’t feel bad if you get weird looks when you whip out a loaded baked potato during the graduation ceremony.

Hey, it’s a long ceremony. Why should you go hungry?

Final Thoughts

Well, myKlovr readers, I hope this article has enlightened you a bit about the stranger side of the college experience. That being said, get some rest during these final days of summer. If your high school schedule for the coming year includes a lot of honors, AP, or IB courses, you’ll need your rest.

The Power of Surrounding Yourself with Positive and Like-minded Individuals

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers, and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it in yourself.” – Steve Jobs.

For those who say that your success falls solely on your shoulders are wrong. If they weren’t, then Sociology wouldn’t be part of thousands of curricula across the nation, Malcom Gladwell’s The Outliers wouldn’t be a #1 National Best Seller, and the argument of Nature versus Nurture wouldn’t be discussed every other day in your Psychology class.

You’re a product of the social environment and culture that you are a part of.

The truth is that your success in the classroom or in the office falls on your shoulders, as well as those who you consistently choose to surround yourself with outside of the classroom or office. Being around a positive group of people who share similar goals and interests can be the single greatest catalyst to help you “make it…”

whether that might mean getting into the college of your dreams, making the JV basketball team, landing an internship or job, or simply passing a chemistry project that’s due tomorrow.

Actively look to place yourself around the people who live the lifestyle that you want… people who are going to help you get there. You might just learn some of your most important life-lessons from these people over a cup of coffee or long car ride.

I’ll give you an example of one of mine. My oldest brother, Pete, was once a Division I collegiate athlete, captain of his team, and bright and ambitious student in the classroom. It is no wonder that he is now a very successful lawyer… one of those positive individuals who seem to affect everyone around him by just believing in them.

One afternoon I was riding around in the passenger seat of his Jeep with him as he began lecturing me about his captainship. “I’m running sprints next to three of my teammates,” he said. “They’re winded and they’re dogging it. If I want to push them to get better, I need to know them. I need to know how to bring out the best in them, what works and what doesn’t with each teammate.

I speed up to the most gifted player in first place and make a remark about how he let someone as slow as me catch up to him. I slow down to the middle guy and tell him that he could be better than the first guy if he worked twice as hard. I slow down again to the last guy and tell him to try to finish the drill and beat his personal best time,” he said.

“We did this week after week. The guy who was in first place went on to be an All-American. The guy who was in second became a captain the following year. The guy in third earned the starting spot he waited his entire career for.”

Everything he said had gone right over my head. Years later I realized that he wasn’t boasting about himself or his teammates. He wasn’t talking about athletics at all.

He was trying to teach me the power of contagious emotion… how one individual can affect the rest of the environment, especially when that environment is comprised of likeminded individuals.

It is teammates, classmates, co-workers like Pete that serve as a catalyst to help those around them achieve success. No matter what grade you are in, or what stage of life you are about to endure, place yourself around individuals who are going to help you “get there.”

4 Mistakes to Avoid During the College Selection Process

You’re a Die-hard Fan

Everyone has their favorite college football or basketball program. But picking a school because you like their sports teams or because your parents went there isn’t always in your best long term interest.

After all, your college experience is about you, more specifically about what you learn that will make you a better, smarter, and happier person. Although school comradery is important, you’re not there to spend your college career in the cheering section.

 

They Specialize in your Favorite Subject:

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 80 percent of students in the United States end up changing their major at least once. On average, college students change their major at least three times over the course of their college career. No one is telling you not to follow your passion or desired career path.

However, it is important to note that you will most likely be changing your major throughout your college career. That’s why most schools give you at least a year or two before choosing a major is required.

To put things into perspective for you, I once knew a kid who chose his school based on what he thought he wanted to major in. He loved Economics in high school and wanted to attend a college that had the best Econ program that he could get into.

Two years in and he realized that this was nothing like the experience he was anticipating. He decided to change his major from Econ to a less strenuous business concentration such as Marketing or Entrepreneurship.

At that point, he began wishing he hadn’t chosen the best Economics school that he could find, but perhaps the best general business school… a school with a wider variety of strengths that he could have explored before picking his concentration.

 

Being a Follower

Whatever you do, do not follow a friend or significant other to the college of their choice. This piece of advice is very simply, yet extremely important. Remember that college is one of the most critical and momentous times of your life. Try to make the decision that is best for you and your future, not your temporary demands or desires.

Although following a friend might seem like a good idea at the time, there will come a point in your relationship where you are presented with a crossroad. Either that relationship will end which means maybe this decision was in everyone’s best interest, or become stronger, overcoming distance, as well as time.

 

Temptation of Partying

Now this potential mistake might seem obvious to avoid, but it can be a tough subconscious concept for many eager students to grasp, especially when you are looking forward to moving away from Mom and Dad and into the college environment for the first time. Actively remind yourself what your end goal is.

As you begin to make your final decision on selecting your college, remember the increase in responsibilities and decisions that you will face. Don’t compensate your future for the short term happiness that a big warm party school might provide, especially in one of the most pivotal points of your life. Because at the end of the day, these are only four years, but they’ll have an impact on each one to come. How are you going to use them?

Top Ten Summer Activities for Students

The final weeks of school can be so hectic that planning the following three months often comes as an afterthought. With assignments, tests and early bus rides behind them, students are left to wonder, “what should I do this summer?”

We have the answer. Here’s a list of the top ten ways that you should spend your time this summer.

 

Explore the Great Outdoors

With flourishing trees and fully blossomed flowers, it’s arguable that nature reaches its peak in the summer.  Getting outside and exploring its beauty is best done by taking the time to walk through and embrace it. You can even make a multi-day adventure out of hiking by pitching a tent with a few friends or family.

Camping is an excellent way to take advantage of the cool summer nights and maximize your time enjoying the country’s wildlife. From dazzling beaches to soaring mountains, dense forests to vast plains, the U.S. is full of beauty calling for you to explore. The National Park Service has some handy resources for locating parks and trails near you.

 

Escape the Heat and Take a Dip

In most areas of the country, the weather is only suitable for swimming for a short period of time. Take advantage of the warmth and sunshine by going for a dip in the oceans, rivers, lakes, swimming pools, water parks or whatever you have access to in your area. There is nothing more refreshing than wading in the water on a hot summer day.

With so many public access points at most bodies of water, there is no reason not to visit the thousands of water-spots in the country.

 

Become an Expert on History and Culture

Museums act as a window into places separated by time and location. They provide the tools to educate people on the history of our predecessors and the world’s intercultural development through the ages. From instructive science exhibits to experiential art displays, museums have a lot to offer for those with an open mind and a will to learn.

Make a day trip to a local museum or plan a vacation around seeing multiple exhibits across the country. If you’re on a tight budget, do not fret. There are loads of free museums just a google search away. Check out National Geographic’s list of 20 free U.S. museums that are worth checking out.

 

Witness the World’s Wildlife

America is home to some of the best zoos and aquariums in the world. When looking into visiting a zoo or aquarium, you must consider the quality of the establishment. It is no secret that sometimes these institutions do not uphold the best treatment for animals. Despite the negligent ones, there are several zoos that do a great job caring for their animals. Read more about how to identify a good zoo.

Once you weed out the bad zoos and aquariums in your own research, there is an immense amount that society can take away from the high quality ones. They help conserve the extensive list of species at risk of becoming extinct, provide an outlet for scientists and animal-life experts to conduct research, and educate the public about our planet’s wildlife.

Something to note is that if you research different zoos and aquariums in advance, you will most likely find some limited edition exhibits that pique your interest, so start planning today.

 

Earn Some Cash and Build Your Resume

With all of the spare time in the summer, getting a part-time job can never hurt. Whether you are saving up for college or earning some money to help fund your summer excursions, it is no doubt that the three month break from school is a wonderful opportunity to earn some extra cash.

Aside from the financial aspect of getting a job, it is never too early to start gaining work experience. There is something to learn from any job you have, no matter how simple it may seem. Some examples of part-time jobs good for high school students include lifeguarding, working as a cashier, host/hostessing at a restaurant, or being a camp counselor.

If you already have a pretty firm grasp on what you want to study in your post-secondary studies, the summer is perfect for seeking opportunities such as internships or specialty camps that provide insight into your desired field of study.

When looking for a job later down the line, it may be beneficial to prove to the potential employer that you had an early interest in the field and have several years of experience. Even if you are unsure of your interest, these programs can give you an idea of whether or not it is a profession that you would like to further consider.

 

Declutter and Dispose with a Garage Sale

Summer break is a time for not only cleansing your mind, but for purging unused or unwanted possessions. Whether you’re going off to college in the fall or simply need a fresh start, garage and yard sales are a great way for you to declutter your living space and get rid of those belongings that you haven’t touched in years.

If you’re having trouble getting this project rolling, let the thought of earning a few extra dollars motivate you. All you have to do to start is throw open your attic door, have two boxes labeled “Keep” and “Sell,” and get to sorting. Pick a day that works for you and list your yard sale in the appropriate classified sections of both Craigslist and your local newspaper.

People won’t know you’re selling all this great stuff if you don’t advertise the event. Whatever you don’t sell, you can donate to local charities or even friends and family.

 

Explore Yourself through Self Expression

Ever have a hairstyle or cool outfit you wanted to sport? With three months away from your peers and teachers, it’s your time to explore yourself without fear of judgement. Summer is the perfect opportunity for you to test out new ways of expressing yourself and find out just what it is you have to offer the world.

This doesn’t stop at your appearance. With your spare time, you can sign up for a dance class, learn an instrument, stylize your room, join a sports team and so much more. Live your best life this summer and have fun finding yourself.

 

Visit Places Only Your Imagination Can Take You

During the year, it can be difficult to read for leisure when you’re constantly bombarded with reading assignments at school. This summer, take the time to read something for yourself without any deadlines or papers in the mix.

You might be surprised where your imagination takes you and what you can learn from a good book. If you don’t know how to find the right book for you, join a local reading club or check TIME’s list of 100 best books for young adults.

 

Have Fun on the Fairgrounds

Carnival rides and fair food are the pinnacle of American culture. Each summer, people travel from surrounding towns to go to the nearest fairgrounds and come together for a celebration of life.

If you’re on social media, you most likely have seen Ferris wheels and funnel cake flood your Instagram feed when the season rolls around. The truth is, it’s usually as fun as the pictures suggest.

Many of these fairs offer petting zoos, games, rides and other festivities perfect for a day of fun with your family, friends, or romantic interest. Look up county and state fairs that are happening near you and start planning your visit today.

 

Put Others Before Yourself

Don’t feel bad if you’re spending your summer focusing on yourself, but if you have the time, you can do some work for others. Completing community service leaves you with a feeling of fulfillment and a sense of achievement.

You can always log your hours and add the experience to your resume. If you’re a college-bound teen, volunteering your time is a great way to stand out to college admissions counselors and show them your quality of character. Read more about why volunteering is a key component in the college admissions process.

The opportunities are endless when it comes to deciding how to spend your summer. No matter how you choose to spend it, the important part is that you have fun and stay safe. Be proactive and make the most of your time this summer.

What Are College Tiers?

It’s summer, which means that up-and-coming high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors like you are going on college tours and performing other important work that will increase your chances of college admission success.

As you’re performing research into different schools, I bet you’ve come across the term ‘college tier,’ such as “You should apply to a few second-tier schools in addition to your top choices,” or “Going to a third-tier school is a waste of money.”

In a nutshell, college tiers resemble the tiers in the cereal aisle. On the top shelf are the name-brand cereals, and with that name brand comes a high price. On the middle shelf are the lesser-known cereals and the generic, store-brand varieties. Finally, on the bottom shelf are low-priced bulk cereals. You know the ones – they come in big plastic bags.

In this article, we’ll take a trip down the “college aisle” to examine the different tiers. While there we’ll discuss why a college ends up in a particular tier and if tiers say anything about the quality of education students receive.

The Tiers: A Breakdown

First off, there are four college tiers. Let’s learn a little about each one:

  • Tier 1: Private schools that invest as much (or more) in research than educating undergraduates
    • Cost to Attend: $40,000-$50,000/year
  • Tier 2: Private liberal arts colleges that do not focus on research
    • Cost to Attend: $30,000-$40,000/year
  • Tier 3: Major public research universities
    • Cost to Attend: $10,000-$30,000/year
  • Tier 4: Every other college including each state’s community college system
    • Cost to Attend: $0-$30,000/year

Something interesting to note is that before the mid-1980s, the concept of college tiers didn’t exist. What was just a term used by statisticians became a successful marketing ploy that big-name colleges use to build their brands.

So if tiers are mostly about marketing, will they impact your life during and after college?

What Tiers Mean for You

If you have plans to earn a master’s or doctoral degree, then college tiers matter when you’re applying to graduate school. In a nutshell, graduate programs at tier 1 and 2 schools want applicants who earned their bachelor’s degrees from tier 1 and 2 schools. The reasons for this are two-fold. First of all, when reviewing applicants that graduated from tier 1 and 2 schools, admission counselors know that the quality of education these applicants received was on par with or exceeded that of the programs at their university. Secondly, it looks better for them if they accept more candidates from these schools. But if you’re not planning to go beyond your bachelor’s, then it doesn’t matter where you receive your degree.

No matter your final level of education, where you earned your degree quickly falls in significance compared to your on-the-job performance after graduation. Apply this line of thinking to the colleges and universities on your short list by considering the questions below:

Tiers 1 & 2 

  • Will attending mean that I go into debt?
    • If the answer is ‘yes,’ you may want to reconsider.
  • Despite the school’s big name and reputation, does it offer academic programs that interest me?
    • This is also a vital tier 3 and 4 question.

Tiers 3 & 4 

  • Does this program provide a good education?
    • Research what former students are saying about their experiences. Although the college landscape has improved in the last few years, there are still many ‘colleges’ that do a poor job educating students or rip them off.
  • Am I interested in starting my degree at one of these schools before transferring to a tier 1 or 2 school?
    • Many undergraduates choose this route to save money on their educations.

Final Thoughts

If you aspire to a career in academia, then yes, college tiers matter a lot. If other career paths interest you, college tiers take a backseat to other factors such as your ability to pay. So don’t let advertising alone reel you in. Do your research, and apply to the colleges and universities where you can get the best bang for your buck.

Students of all Achievement Levels Cheating. But who’s to Blame?

Whether your parents like it or not, cheating has been a part of academia since the beginning. The nature of cheating, however, is rapidly changing. There have always been struggling students who cheat so survive.

However, more and more studies in the past few years have shown that higher achieving students are beginning to cheat to get ahead, and stay ahead. According to the NY Times, studies on student behavior have shown that the majority of students violate academic standards and integrity to some degree.

The reason is fairly simple. It’s easy. As Gen Z is growing up using conveniently enhanced technology at their fingertips throughout the school day (or at home), students are tempted to compromise their integrity and work ethic for a better grade or less time spent completing an assignment.

Not to mention, educators, parents, and leaders of society are failing to alleviate this world-wide academic phenomenon in a couple ways. Between new media outlets and downloadable pieces of software, the internet truly has changed perceptions on what exactly we consider “ownership.” No one is pointing fingers there… yet.

However, as a result, students are unclear about the guidelines of assignments, especially when a lack of differentiation is given on which resources are allowed and which are not. Take a look at the Harvard cheating scandal from 2012.

A professor issued a take-home final with directions on the first page reading as follows, “The exam is completely open book, open note, open internet, etc. However, in all other regards, this should fall under similar guidelines that apply to in-class exams. More specifically, students may not discuss the exam with others—this includes resident tutors, writing centers, etc.”

Why would a professor use “etc.” in his policies? What other “open” resources are allowed, then?? Regardless, the scandal lead to an investigation of half of the 279 students enrolled in the course, around 2 percent of the undergraduate body, leading to law suits from each side, as well as a number of various and severe disciplinary actions… an absolute catastrophe.

Who was guilty and who was not is not the point. It is the systematic approach from both sides of the cheating phenomenon that must be corrected. Howard Gardner, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education said that over the 20 years he has studied professional and academic integrity, “the ethical muscles have atrophied,” in part because of a culture that exalts success, however it is attained.”

Cheating may be easy. Cheating may be unclearly defined. However, do yourself a favor and think about what’s at stake next time you contemplate cheating. Most students feel the need to cheat from factors such as academic pressure, lack of organization and preparedness, or poor communication and understanding.

Let myKlovr 2.0 take care of these influences for you by using this application to help you earn your desired grades, college experience, job placement, and future.

3 Tips for Incoming College Students

You are what you like

Attention class of 2018. Whether you are dying to start fresh with the next stage of your life, or you simply want to preserve a reputation that you built over the past 4 years, you are going to be presented with a plethora of opportunities to re-market yourself to a new network of peers.

As you enter college, your digital voice is about to exponentially grow. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, that new LinkedIn account that your parents told you to make, your school’s social education platform, you name it.

Regardless of the media outlet, be cautious of what content you are associating yourself with. Leave the childish or inappropriate retweets and likes in high school. Scratch that, don’t leave them there. Delete them.

You never know when they could be used against you. Conversely, liking, creating, or sharing inspirational and informative content that you want to be associated with is a great way of letting old friends know what you are up to, as well as marketing yourself to new ones.

 

Creativity is your new currency

As generation Z is growing up with far more technology and purchasing power than any other previous generation, more and more educational institutions are incorporating free-flowing and team-oriented creativity into their curriculums.

For example, take a glance at Bryant University, a small school in Smithfield, Rhode Island. Here at Bryant, each freshman, regardless of their intended major, endures a 3-day intensive program (16 hours each day) that attempts to maximize potential customers of a local business by improving their business plan and creating a prototype to be pitched to alumni.

Whether you like it or not, the design thinking process will most likely be part of your curriculum, and probably even more so, part of your career path. Use it to your advantage and start learning about the concept of innovation.

Many students compete against each other for the best grades and achievements while having many of the same skills. However, what students are failing to realize is that their ideas and creativity are the X factors to the tipping point of their success.

 

Be present

Thank you notes, networking emails, chatting with with professors after an interesting class… Anything you could think of to be present in the moment that you are in by communicating and learning from the people that you want to know a little bit better.

Although preparing for your future is imperative to educational and professional success, do not take your current opportunities for granted by failing to be attentive and present each day, each class, each moment.

The late Brian Fleury, former athletic director and mentor at Delbarton School, one of America’s most prestigious high schools in academics and in athletics once said, “Attitude. This is what I want to end with…please pay attention to how you approach each and every day of your life. Make the decision – and it is an individual, conscious decision – to be positive about the day ahead of you.

Like I talk to you about all the time, be present, be where you are, care about what you claim to care about, love the things you claim to love…”

The Importance of Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is a fantastic time: 10 weeks when just about anything is possible every single day. For some of you, retaking a standardized test, going on college tours, or even beginning to write your college essays will use up some of your time. I want to use this article to challenge you to do something beyond the standard list of summer activities:

Have a transformational experience.

You see, admission counselors like applicants who are not only open to new experiences but also recognize that even the smallest experience can change one’s life forever. This may seem like small potatoes compared to the importance put on standardized test scores and grades, but think of it another way. For most young people, going to college is the most significant transformational experience of their lives up until that point. Admission counselors want students who will embrace change and leave a positive impact on their college community.

So where do you find transformational experiences during the summer?

Short answer: just about everywhere.

Long answer: in this article, we’ll explore two ways you can find an experience that will leave its mark on you forever. You’ll also learn how to discuss this experience in your college essays.

Travel

Out of all the transformational experiences out there, travel ranks at or near the top. Going to a new continent, country, state, or even town can tweak your worldview and overall look on life. To put it another way, you don’t need to walk on the Great Wall of China or stand at the top of the Eiffel Tower for you to have an epiphany about life, the world, and everything.

Here’s What You Do

I bet you have at least one trip planned for this summer. Let’s use it as our example. From the moment you leave home, PAY ATTENTION TO EVERYTHING. Even if your memory is an iron trap, bring along a journal and chronicle your days on the road, air, or sea. Not only will journaling help you better appreciate your experience, but it’ll also come in handy when it comes time to write your college essays.

So what do you do besides writing down observations? Easy: get out of your comfort zone. If you’re going to a new city, take a walking tour with no route in mind, or get off the subway at a random stop and see what’s near the station. It’s through this kind of exploration that people stumble upon great restaurants, amazing sights, and unexpected adventures. And since I mentioned food, try a local dish. Who knows, you may love it.

“But I’m not going on any trips!”

If you don’t have anything planned, or money is an issue, consider applying to one of the many travel programs that help high school students travel the nation and the world. Your school may have a partnership with one of these programs. If not, here are two organizations that award travel scholarships to students with financial need.

  • Global Navigator Scholarship: CIEE is one of the most respected programs that help American high school and college students study abroad. CIEE offers more than a dozen summer travel opportunities that last 3-4 weeks. The Global Navigator scholarship covers 20-50% of the total cost. (I wholly recommend CIEE, as they coordinated my study-abroad program when I was in college.)
  • School Tours of America: School Tours of America provides funding to students that go towards a School Tours of America tour within the United States. In addition to these scholarships, the website includes links to scholarship boards exclusive to students who want to travel during the summer.

So yes, there are options for you to travel no matter your family’s financial situation.

Volunteering & Internships

So maybe travel isn’t your thing. That’s fine. In this section, let’s discuss how volunteering and internships can help you have a transformational experience.

Finding Somewhere to Volunteer or Intern 

Right off the bat, college admission counselors love applicants with volunteer or internship experience. Just as important, though, is where an application chooses to volunteer or intern. What this means for you is that you should aim for something that fits your interests. Want to help the needy? Volunteer at a food bank. Want to enact change at the local or state level? Volunteer with a political organization. Aspire to specific career after college? Intern with a local company in that field.

Once You Start Work 

It’s impossible to journal when you work, so write journal entries at the end of each day you volunteer or intern. You might realize that you like the work more (or less) than you initially thought. That’s the kind of realization that makes for a transformational experience.

Finally, when the internship or volunteer experience ends, it never hurts to ask your manager or supervisor if they would write you a letter of recommendation for your college application portfolio. 🙂

Writing Your College Essays

Just about every college essay has a prompt. However, all of them boil down to one fundamental question: Could you tell us about yourself? Invest some time to brainstorm how to link your experience with the prompt. In most cases, the experience will come up as an example to prove a more significant point. Here’s an example using a typical college essay topic:

What do you want your future roommate to know about you?

“I would like my roommate to know I am open to new experiences. For example, last summer I [insert transformational experience story here.]”

Wasn’t that easy?

Final Thoughts

As someone with a few transformational experiences his belt, I encourage you to get out there this summer and discover what the world has to offer. Don’t worry; I promise that there will still be plenty of time to lounge on the couch, go swimming, and eat a few hot dogs on the 4th of July.

5 Simple Tricks to Relieve Academic-Related Stress

“Worrying is often triggered by wanting to make the perfect choice or by trying to maximize everything. When buying a used car, you want one that is cheap, reliable, safe, sexy, the right color, and fuel efficient.

Unfortunately, no single option is likely to be the best in all those dimensions. If you try to have the best of everything, you’re likely to be paralyzed by indecision or dissatisfied with your choice.” (Alex Corb, author of the Upward Spiral).

Studies have shown that academic-related stress is sky rocketing among high school students each decade. As the academic level of competition rises between teenagers, along with it comes an increased national average of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, or even alcohol and substance abuse.

However, I’m here to tell you 5 simple tricks that will help you relieve stress, increase focus, and produce healthier and more effective results on a daily basis.

 

1) Write down things you look forward to and be mindful of them

According to studies in The Happiness Advantage, setting a date for a potentially enjoyable experience raises endorphin levels in your brain by 27%. No matter what you have going on in your day, keep a sticky note in your backpack of all the enjoyable events coming up in the next month.

That might be something as simple as grabbing a slice of pizza with a friend this weekend, seeing a movie with your family, going for a walk with your dog after school, or planning a social event with classmates, teammates, or co-workers next week. Creating positive anticipation in your life will increase neurotransmitters, raising endorphin levels and reducing stress and anxiety.

 

2) Exercise!

No one likes being told to exercise… (especially with an exclamation point at the end of it). But I promise you it helps not only from a physical standpoint, but from a mental standpoint as well.

A Harvard study has shown that regular exercise creates health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure. “High-intensity exercise releases the body’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins, resulting in the “runner’s high” that joggers report,” ultimately reducing depression symptoms (Harvard Health Letter).

 

3) Organization and Routine

If your stressed out with academics, athletics, job hunting, or your internship, take a look at your daily routine and see if you could find the source.

Get up before school with twenty minutes to spare (reducing anxiety of being late or forgetful), take the time to eat a healthy breakfast to fuel your energy for the day, do your homework at the same time every day to get in a systematic routine, take another twenty minutes to review your notes after your school day to help you consistently reinforce the processing of class material, and even say hi or socialize with one person every day that you wouldn’t normally have a conversation with (I promise you it will get easier).

An organized routine of healthy habits is the easiest way to create that neurological upward spiral.

 

4) Find a mentor

This one is fairly simple. Find an upperclassman, teacher, relative, or teammate that you respect and can confide in, specifically someone who is older than you and has gone through your current stage of life.

This type of mentor can serve as a knowledgeable guide that can give you academic and career advice, or when you are just feeling stressed out after a tough day.

 

5) Sleep

No one can have a healthy and productive day without sleep. I don’t care who they are or how much money they’ve made. Sleep is the foundation from which your energy and motivation comes from.

If you get the 8 hours of sleep that your body needs each night, you will be more focused and attentive throughout your day. The last thing you need is to be caught snoozing in class when your crush finally complements your new hair-cut.

4 Ways for Students to Build their Personal Brand

1) Social Media

We live in a society where social media seems to dominate our reputations.  In fact, social media has gotten so personal in the past decade that concerns of privacy are becoming increasingly prevalent. For example, just look at Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook trial back in April regarding violations and infringements of data usage given to advertisers to target potential consumers. Horrifying.

Although social media is a scary concept with many negative components bringing stress to millions of Gen Z and Millennials, it can be used as an extremely effective marketing tool in order to build your personal brand… if you know how to harness it.

Whether you use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat (the list goes on), or all of the mainstream mediums, you have the potential to gain a vast collective following, and therefore a digital voice that can be heard, regardless of your end goal.

That means putting your best foot forward. When it comes to social media, you want to have the right quantity of activity with content targeted towards the right market. Everyone is unique and different which means content should vary on a creative and individualized basis. This means updating your bio with interesting personal information.

If you’re a high school or college student, maybe put your school(s), grad year(s), and a quote that you live by as your bio. If you’re a start-up company, maybe put your brand’s slogan and your top services provided. Make sure you have your best profile picture available, perhaps a clear edited head shot incorporating the rule-of-thirds.

Be active on multiple forms of social media, especially LinkedIn in order to receive job updates, build connections, follow intriguing social media influencers and companies, read articles that interest you, and discover your passion(s).

Grow your follower base by keeping track of your personal analytical following through applications in the app store (unfollowing people you want to cut out of your life), using clever or comical captions and SEO trending hashtags, and staying engaged with comments, replies, likes etc.

Social media is an extremely informative marketing tool that anyone can use to market themselves to employers, friends, and potential connections.

 

2) On-Campus-Internships

If you’re a high school or college student who does not have time for a job or think it will take away from your academics during the school year, there are plenty of on-campus-internships at universities, as well as remote internships that will enhance your resume to future potential employers without consuming too much of your time.

Remote internships are a great way to get your foot in the door in the corporate world and can be tremendous learning experiences, especially if your field of interests are any of the following: communications, marketing, writing/journalism, psychology, social media, analytics, data research, and more.

These subjects are typically the most common among remote internships since more and more companies are finding it easier to get work done by students of these subjects even if they’re not physically in the office. In fact, many even offer college credits, giving you the option to save money that would be spent on taking another class.

 

3) Expanding Your Network

Being able to expand your network is one of the greatest “real-world” skills that a student or individual of any age can learn. This can be done via social media, including LinkedIn, representing the largest and most advanced form of your resume possible, connecting with companies that interest you, exploring myKlovr 2.0’s chat features after the launch, and reaching out to your connections.

For students looking to gain exposure to colleges, internships, jobs, or even just for fun, creating your own personal blog is another effective way to grow your network and personal brand, expand your following, and have your voice heard. You can write and publish articles on any topics you choose. Examples of popular blogging templates include WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, and many more.

When you submit a formal application to many colleges or employment opportunities, the recipient often times will ask for your “personal website” if you have one. Sharing your content on your personal blog is a great way to give insight of who you are and what you are passionate about. Use this opportunity to your advantage and start building that personal brand.

 

4) Daring to be Different

It is perfectly okay to step outside of your comfort zone. After all, this is what applications are all about. Learn what you are passionate about as soon as possible and attack that opportunity. For example, join that school club you always secretly wanted to get involved in, learn how to play that instrument you’ve been wanting to play, chase that crazy business idea, or even get involved in more athletics to learn how to work in a team environment.

Whether you’re a high school, college, or grad student, now is the time to learn about yourself and figure out your passion. Most people your age don’t know what that passion is yet, and that is okay. That is why you step out of your comfort zone to try new things. If you get involved by attempting to tackle new and productive challenges, your resume, applications, and personal brand will build themselves.

How to Help Your Parents Help You with College Admissions

The early 1990s were an exciting time. America had won the Cold War. Trappers Keepers were the bane of elementary school teachers around the country. (Teachers hated them because of the noisy velcro.) And on the news, reporters were talking about a newfangled technology called the Internet.

Why am I waxing on about part of a decade that I was too young to remember? It’s to get across the fact that a lot has changed since the days when airports and hotels were full of payphones. And your parents, who probably went to college in the early 90s, aren’t up to speed on how the college application process has evolved since then.

In this article, we’ll examine how you can help your parents help you. That phrase may seem a bit contradictory (or just confusing), but let me convince that if you invest a little time educating your parents about how applying to college works in 2018, they will become fully prepared to help you gain admission to your dream college.

Why Bother?

You ever know someone who had good intentions but made things worse because they didn’t know what they were doing? If you don’t educate your parents about modern college admissions, you and they may fall into the same trap. Also, since they’re family, your relationships might become strained as a result.

There’s a lot of risks involved keeping your parents in the dark. Let’s change that. The sooner you get started, the sooner your parents will be able to bring their skills to the table knowledgeably and productively.

What to Bring Up

The path to college has changed a lot in the last 25 years. Going over everything with your parents would take forever, so at a minimum, hit the following high notes when you talk to them.

Acceptance Rates Have Plummeted

When your parents applied to college, there were plenty of colleges and universities that were difficult to get into. Back then the Ivy League was closed off to all but the super smart or well connected.

In 2018, getting into any one of the top 75 colleges/universities is just as tricky as it was to get into the Ivy League 25 years ago. And with more high school seniors reaching for those top colleges every year, the odds of getting in are ever dwindling. When I graduated Vanderbilt in 2008, it was a running joke that no one in the class of 2008 would have been accepted for the class of 2012.

How do you get this point across to your parents? Show them the admissions data from their colleges since they graduated. Even if they attended a public college or university, you would still discover the trend I described in the previous paragraph.

Tuition Has Skyrocketed

If your parents went to a private college, they should know from experience that college can be pricey. Even so, tuition just about everywhere has gone through the roof. Like with acceptance rates, convey this information to your parents through a few relevant examples. If you haven’t already, now would be a great time to discuss just how much financial support your parents are willing to give you when you go to college.

(Just About) Everything’s Done Online

When I applied to college in the fall of 2003, about 50% of everything I submitted was done online. Today it’s approaching 100%. Don’t be surprised if some colleges ask for digital copies of your transcripts.

Once you have finished your college list, tell your parents how the application process works for each school. This way they will better understand and be able to help you throughout the process. Making them members of your myKlovr support team doesn’t hurt either. 😉

Standardized Test Scores Ain’t What They Used to Be

Your parents took the SAT/ACT when they were high school students. Yes, the tests have changed in the last 25 years, but not so much that your parents couldn’t recognize the modern versions. Also, your parents may even be able to help you prepare for the Reading or English sections. I wouldn’t count on Math, though. Everybody forgets high school Math.

The biggest change your parents should recognize is that the way college admissions counselors view these tests has changed significantly over the past 25 years. Back then, an impressive SAT/ACT score was a golden ticket to admissions success. Since then, the growing number of applicants along with the ballooning test-prep industry has made the value of a perfect or near-perfect score fall faster than a meteor falling to Earth.

What does this mean for you and your parents? The main point you need to get across to them is that yes, SAT/ACT scores still matter, but their importance has shrunk A LOT in the past quarter-century. Stress that college admissions counselors, especially those at the most competitive schools, want to see well-rounded candidates who excel in the academic, extracurricular, and community realms.

Benefits

So you’ve caught your parents up to speed, and they’re still willing to help out. That’s great! Here are a few crucial ways they can assist you throughout the process:

  • Buying organizational materials such as folders or organizational apps for your phone/computer.
  • Proofreading college essays or investing in Grammarly (or a similar app).
  • Hiring a standardized test or subject-specific tutor.
  • Researching scholarship opportunities.
  • Teaching you financial planning tips to budget for college expenses.

Final Thoughts

A little knowledge goes a long way. For you, imparting a little knowledge to your parents about the modern college admissions experience can go a long way to help you get into your dream college. Along with your parents, be sure to invite other trusted adults to your myKlovr support team. Over the following months (or years if you’re still a high school underclassman), use these adults as valuable resources.

Last, but certainly not least, happy beginning of summer break! 🙂

Your Ticket to Academic Success

It’s no secret ladies and gentleman. High school is one of the most imperative milestones in setting up a brighter and happier future. Everyone wants to perform at their best, keep parents off their back with a stellar GPA, and most importantly, land that dreamy college experience and education.

However, in today’s fast pace and chaotic education system, many skills to achieving success are often times overlooked. Everyone’s heard fellow classmates and friends blame their grades on study habits, poor time management skills, IQ, or even raw genetics. Us students seem to be losing sight of the level of control that we have over our future. And it’s easier than you would think.

The answer? Organization. Organization is a tool that everyone is born with, but not everyone unlocks. What separates the most successful students from the underachieving students has less to do with native intelligence indicated by IQ tests, background, or social class than one would guess. It is about the conscious choice of organization. Take a look at KIPP’s cultural organization, for example. KIPP is a free nationwide network of college-prep schools, originally started in New York City.

Examining the KIPP school in Brooklyn, “the children come from circumstances that lead regularly to academic failure and dropping out, but in this school they do very well indeed. By the end of 8th grade, 84 percent of the students perform at or above grade level, compared to a figure for the district schools in the area of 16 percent.” (Malcom Gladwell). It is cultural organization-based institutions like these that disrupt the education process in a positive manner.

How does KIPP help their students produce such successful results, you’re probably wondering. KIPP instills the practice of hard work and organization among their students at a very young age. KIPP educators inspire this regularly practiced skill set among their students by having them get up unusally early in order to make it to morning class on time, manage deadlines and assignments on a strict curriculum, set academic goals on a weekly and monthly basis, plan out ways to achieve them, and are checked in on periodically. 

It is prioritization tools like these that separate a student’s academic achievements in order to create an upward spiral for a healthier and happier life. In fact, don’t forget to check out the tool for helping you achieve those goals, upon myKlovr 2.0’s launching date.

Juniors! Use Summer Break to Starting Writing Your College Essays

It’s May, which means the school year is winding down like a neglected grandfather clock. The days are warmer, the seconds seem to tick by slower, and the only reason high school students like you endure it at all is that summer break is just a few short days away.

For you juniors reading this article, the next few months will be your last summer break as a high school student. By all means, indulge in some rest and relaxation. However, if applying to college is on your radar, you need to set aside some time for activities that will increase your chances of college admission success. For some students, these proactive steps include college tours and retaking the SAT or ACT. These activities may also apply to you, too, but I want to discuss something else entirely: getting a head start on your college admissions essays.

Though I understand your distaste at the prospect of writing one or more essays over the summer, let me use this article to convince you that summer break is the perfect time to write the first draft.

Why Not Wait?

To be honest, I didn’t start writing my college admissions essays until the fall of my senior year. And as a result, they weren’t that great. To this day I still believe that the University of Chicago rejected my application due to my poor, hastily written essays. Also, admissions essays were just one of the dozens of things I was juggling that fall: AP/IB courses, ACT/SAT retakes, keeping everything organized, etc.

Learn from my mistake: start early. The more time you can commit to college application essays during the summer will translate into both better essays and a less stressful fall semester.

Distractions Are at a Minimum

Initially, I was going to write “There Are No Distractions,” but then I remembered that the summer break before senior year isn’t totally free: studying for ACT/SAT retakes, summer jobs, family vacations, etc. For some up-and-coming seniors, summer can feel just as busy as the school year.

Overall, you should have fewer distractions during the summer months. With less on your plate, you can dedicate not only time but also energy (and hopefully some passion, too) into writing the best first draft you can.

Just like with writing an academic essay, select a time and place that fits your writing style. If your room is too distracting, go to the library. If writing on the computer means that you’re tempted to go online or play games, use a paper and pencil for your first draft.

Review Your myKlovr Student Portfolio

The summer before your senior year is a great time to review your myKlovr student portfolio. Reading through your academic, extracurricular, and personal progress will help you brainstorm anecdotes that will eventually appear in your essay.

Begin the Editing Process

Let’s say you finish the first draft over the summer. First of all, that’s great! You’re already ahead of the game. Though I wouldn’t begrudge you if you decided to take the rest of the summer off, you may want to begin the editing process.

Here’s one thing you can try: email one or more of your teachers over the summer and see if they will critique your draft. As long as you’re polite, it never hurts to ask. Many teachers don’t check their email over the summer, which means you may not hear back. Please don’t feel offended if this happens to you.

Let’s say you get lucky and your teacher agrees. You’ve just won the lottery. Why? Just like you, your teachers aren’t as busy over summer break. They will be able to read your essay without a thousand other things vying for their attention. As a result, their feedback will likely be better than if you had asked for it after the school year begins.

Final Thoughts

Depending on the colleges where you will apply this fall, your essay ranks second or third in importance in your college application portfolio. Your words give college admissions counselors a personal view of you as an individual. By starting the writing process in the summer, you guarantee that your best self shines on the page.

Start Planning Summer College Tours Now

Are you a high school freshman, sophomore, or junior? If so, I bet you’re already looking forward to summer break. Do you have a summer job or internship lined up? Or maybe you’re going to be lounging by the pool or ocean. Either way, summer break is the perfect time for a few college tours with the family. And you know what, it never hurts to start planning for them in advance.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to plan your summer college tours depending on what grade you’re wrapping up this spring.

If You’re a Freshman

If you’re a freshman, you have a simple task: go on a single college tour.

Yep, that’s it. After all, as a freshman, college is still a long way off. At this point, it’s okay to have NO IDEA about where you want to go to college or what you want to study once you get there. So to simplify the process, choose a college within driving distance that you and your family can visit over summer break.

Researching which colleges to tour will also introduce you to many facets of the college experience. Here’s all the information you can learn from just a few minutes reading a college’s website:

  • Majors offered
  • Tuition
  • Housing

Learning about these (and more) topics for the first time will lead to more questions, but that’s okay. By familiarizing yourself now with the ins and outs of the college experience, you’ll be better prepared as the transition to college approaches.

On Your Tour

So it’s summer, and you and your family have arrived on campus. As an up-and-coming sophomore, all you should be doing is listening/taking mental notes. The other students on the tour will be older and might have very specific questions about the college. Pay attention to their questions and the answers they receive.

Since this is your first college tour, you may quickly realize that this particular college isn’t for you. That’s okay, too! The experience is still extremely valuable, however, as the tour will expose you to much about the college experience that is identical no matter where you eventually end up going.

If You’re a Sophomore

In the sophomore year, you take either the PLAN or PSAT to gauge your readiness for the ACT or SAT. The companies who make these tests sell your information to colleges across the nation. Depending on your scores, you may have received dozens of letters from colleges vying for your attention. With such a large stack of letters, it can be intimidating to sort through them all. Your job between now and summer break is to choose three colleges which you would like to tour.

Now that you’re halfway done with high school, you should have a firm grasp on which subjects you enjoy. While rifling through potential colleges, ask yourself some fundamental questions:

  • Which colleges have strong programs that align with my interests?
  • Do I want to be close to home or far away?
  • What can my family afford?

These questions should help you turn a long list of potential colleges into a manageable few. You are now ready to go on some tours.

On the Tours 

This summer, I want you asking questions (lots of them) on your college tours. If you’ve done your research, there is a good chance that one of the schools you visit this summer will be where you go to college. Here are some potential questions to get you started:

  • Can I sit in on a summer class?
  • What work opportunities exist on campus?
  • How does Greek life play a part in campus culture?

Also, while on the tour, imagine yourself spending four years on campus. In many ways, touring a college is like looking for a new home. Choosing a school that matches your personality will go a long way to encouraging your academic success.

If your family cannot afford to visit colleges that are far away, don’t worry. That’s why college websites exist. Also, if you have questions, call the admissions department. They will be happy to answer all of your questions.

If You’re a Junior

If you’re a junior, this is your last high school summer break. Before classes are back in session, you need to finalize your college list. Doing this may require an additional college visit or two. Why not more? Well, the summer break before senior year is one of your final chances to set yourself apart as a future applicant. Here are some examples:

  • Taking the ACT or SAT for the second time
  • Performing an internship (Or working at a job where you learn a vital skill)
  • Completing a volunteer project

There’s already a lot to do this summer, so I don’t want to overload you. One or two final college tours is more than enough.

On the Tours

As an up-and-coming senior, the purpose of your college tours should focus on answering vital questions you have about the school’s academic programs and how they can prepare you for your future. It’s alright if you don’t have a major picked out (remember that plenty of college students change their majors, too) but make sure the college has strong programs in two or more of your primary academic interests.

After a Tour

Before wrapping up, let’s discuss what to do at the end of a college tour. If you received permission to sit in on summer classes, that should be #1 on your list. After that, here are some ideas that will help you better get to know your potential home for the next four years:

  • Eat in the cafeteria with your family
  • Explore the library and lecture halls
  • Read the student newspaper
  • Take to some current students

In short, become an active observer.

Final Thoughts

Even with the internet and email, college tours are still an essential stepping stone between you and receiving a letter of acceptance from your dream school. Also, they are the rare occasion when colleges try to impress potential students (and not the other way around). So this summer, invest a little of your vacation time into planning for the future.

See you on campus!

Is There a Silver Bullet to College Admissions?

When the monster hunter needed to defeat the werewolf, he bought a box of silver bullets for his revolver. You see, silver bullets were the only thing that could kill the werewolf. All the silver bullets in the box looked the same, and the monster hunter was confident that shooting any one of them would save his town from the werewolf menace.

It’s easy to think that there are ‘silver bullets’ for other aspects of our life. “This pill is a silver bullet for weight loss!” “This DVD is a silver bullet for helping your toddler learn!” The list goes on and on. Unfortunately, all this silver bullet advertising can lead you to believe that there is a one-size-fits-all silver bullet that all students can use to get into their dream college.

Silver bullets in college admissions don’t exist…at least for most people. Families with millions of dollars can write a fat check to a college to accept their child. Other colleges clamor to attract children of celebrities and politicians. Colleges around the country seek out the next generation of sports stars. Those are guaranteed-to-work silver bullets.

But if you’re reading this article, I doubt you’re a sports star, or your family has a famous name/piles of spare cash ready to be used as a legal bribe.

So instead of prescribing silver bullets, let’s look at how you can dramatically increase your chances of acceptance to your dream college by reframing your application. And as a bonus, none of the points in this article have anything to do with your grades or extracurricular activities.

Diversity Matters

Since 1973, colleges and universities have been barred from setting racial quotas when they admit a new batch of students. Even without quotas, many universities actively recruit students who are part of minority groups. In recent years, this practice has extended to students of all races who are from more impoverished families. Of course, these students must meet the same academic qualifications as other students to gain acceptance.

So why do colleges and universities spend millions of dollars every year when they don’t have to. Simple: diversity improves a college’s brand. This was the case when I went to Vanderbilt University in the mid-2000s. Though a fantastic school, Vanderbilt was still trying to figure out how to shake off a legacy of segregation and continued racial tension. Besides a top-notch recruiting department, they sponsored summer programs for students from minority backgrounds.

Being part of a minority group or coming from a family without a lot of money can have many drawbacks, but when it comes time to apply to college, it’s an advantage. Again, it’s no silver bullet, especially in the last few years as more and more high school seniors apply to the best schools. However, if you come from one of these groups, make sure the college admissions counselor reading your application knows it.

Preserving Through Hardship

So let’s say you’re like me – white and from an upper-middle class family. What options do you have? Well, I hate to ask such a personal question, but did anything awful happen to you in the last four years? Preserving through extreme hardship (breakup of the family, serious illness, death of a parent/sibling, etc.) can work to your advantage in multiple ways.

The first way is obvious: sympathy points. College admission counselors are human, after all, and they will connect to the story of a teenager going through hard times. The second part of the puzzle is much more important. If you kept up your grades during this difficult time (it’s okay if there was a small downward blip), that fact alone shows you can preserve through anything school or life can throw at you. Universities and colleges WANT students like that. Those are the students that not only excel in the classroom but also become leaders and leave their mark on both the school but the wider world.

So if you have that story to tell, tell it in your personal essay.

Above All, What Makes You Unique?

Again, let’s say you’re like me – white, from an upper-middle-class family, and thankful that nothing horrible has happened to you or a family member in the last few years. Is there anything left that remotely comes close to resembling a silver bullet?

Fortunately, the answer is yes. Imagine your average college admission counselors. It’s February, meaning that she has a HUGE stack of applications to read. They’re all the same: good grades, good extracurriculars, etc. They start to blur together…until she sees something that makes her do a double take.

What can cause such a reaction?

Answer: Coming across an applicant who set herself apart from the pack

Who is this applicant?

Answer: Someone who relentlessly pursues a personal passion in their spare time

Think about it: there are things you love to do that have little to no relation to your academics or extracurriculars. Maybe you’re in a band, like to paint, or write short stories. For most people, these and other activities are just hobbies. Wouldn’t it be nice to take these passions to the next level? Even if you never book a show, sell a painting, or see your name in print, putting your creativity and passion out into the wider world shows a level of commitment, passion, and responsibility that most college applicants, even brilliant ones, sorely lack.

This kind of story, if told just the right way in your personal essay, will make any college admissions counselor do a double take.

Final Thoughts

Silver bullets in the college admissions world do exist, but most of us can’t get our hands on them. Instead of searching for silver bullets, emphasize what makes you unique when writing your personal essay. That way, college admissions counselors will get to know the real you, and just as important, what you can bring to their school.

 

Does your high SAT / ACT score guarantee that you will be admitted to college?

The average SAT score for high school seniors admitted to college is approximately 1060/1600. The ACT score for the same group is around 20/36. However, averages can be misleading. For selective colleges that accept less than 25% of applicants, the test scores of their freshmen class are 30-35% higher than the national averages. However, we have found only four colleges with an average SAT score above 1500 and fewer than ten colleges with an average ACT score of 34 or higher. If your total SAT / ACT score is only 10-15% higher than the national average, you are likely a part of the top 25% of test takers. Yet this score may not be enough to make you a competitive applicant in the eyes of the top 25% of colleges and universities.

There is a definite correlation between standardized test scores and college admission success. You need to understand where your test scores place you against other applicants at a specific college. You should work on your SAT / ACT scores to maximize your chances of getting into the best possible college. That is why both the College Board and ACT offer tests designed for 8th-grade students: students can familiarize themselves with the testing process and improve their score over time.

Do high SAT / ACT scores guarantee that your dream college will accept you? Well, not really. College admissions officers are not robots focused solely on number, and this works to your advantage. They look for well-rounded candidates, not only great test takers.

High SAT / ACT scores equal a better chance of admission. If your scores are not quite where you would like them to be, you can still improve your admissions chances with the other parts of your application. Colleges begin by reviewing your high school transcript. Also, many colleges value AP courses and often prefer candidates with high AP scores. Your personal qualities play a role, too. For example, candidates who demonstrate a strong work ethic are more likely to graduate college; this is a trait that colleges want in every applicant they accept. Your extracurricular activities, passions, and interests can also make up for relatively lower test scores if you can tell a compelling story of who you are and how you can contribute to a college’s community.

At myKlovr, we compare your standardized test scores to your list of potential colleges, as well as help you identify specific areas, academic and non-academic, that you should focus on to become a more desirable college candidate. Finally, myKlovr helps you develop your personal story and gives you the tools to tell it distinctively and engagingly in your college application essays.

We believe that the earlier you begin thinking about your path to college, the more successful you will be when you apply. As a freshman or sophomore, you may think it is too soon to worry about college. But if you procrastinate, you may be surprised to learn that you are not ready to apply when you are a senior. Start with myKlovr today, and discover how to become the best college applicant you can be.

How Important Are My SAT/ACT Scores?

You sit in an auditorium packed to the gills with thousands of high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors from all around the nation. On the vast stage is a single podium, behind it a massive projector screen displaying the myKlovr logo and a single sentence in ten-foot high letters – the title of this article.

I walk on the stage wearing a myKlovr t-shirt and jeans, causing the audience to erupt in rapturous applause. I am, after all, myKlovr’s academic guru. I stand behind the podium and begin to speak:

“SAT and ACT scores are very important. That is all. Now please leave – Apple has reserved this space for their next product launch announcement.”

Without another word, I walk offstage, leaving the audience in stunned, frustrated silence.

I wake up from my dream and sigh. Becoming the Steve Jobs of the education world will have to wait for another day. However, my answer was pretty much on the money: SAT/ACT scores are a crucial component of college admissions success.

In this article, we’ll examine some reasons why your SAT/ACT scores are important no matter where you hope to attend college.

So How Important Are We Talking About?

You’re not just a number in the eyes of college admissions counselors. You’re a collection of numbers and letters. 😉

Yep, for a large percentage of applicants, ten seconds is all it takes for a college admissions counselor to make up her mind, even if she continues reading your application for a few additional minutes. This usually happens to applicants whose grades are in the C-F range, and their standardized tests are lower than the college’s Middle 50% scores for accepted students. This way, many applications go into the ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ pile as fast as if they were rolling off an assembly line.

In other words, good SAT/ACT scores prevent you from receiving an automatic rejection. This situation is stark a contrast to past decades when a good score was all that it took to gain acceptance to a top college or university. Not any more – at America’s top colleges, most applicants have respectable scores and top grades. Today, a high score keeps your foot in the door, making sure that the admissions counselor takes the time to read your essays and recommendation letters.

Not every college admissions counselor has the ‘automatic rejection’ mindset. If a college can afford a large admissions staff, for example, they may read everything in your application before making a decision. But admissions counselors are only human. When no one’s looking, and an admissions counselor has a large stack next to her (not to mention that it’s 6:00 PM and she promised her little girl she’d try to be home early once this week), what do you think might happen?

What if They’re Optional?

Submit them anyway. Everything helps. 🙂

What if My Dream College Doesn’t Require Them?

Yes, many colleges (and not just community colleges) no longer require standardized test scores to apply. Personally, I think that’s a step in the right direction. However, good scores are still important for two facets of the college experience:

  • Course placement
  • Scholarships

Good scores may let you skip introductory-level courses (saving you money) and help you earn scholarships (saving you even more money). You don’t even have to apply for some of these scholarships; you gain some automatically if you live in a state with a lottery scholarship or attend a college with a guaranteed merit scholarship.

So if you like saving money, aim for a high SAT/ACT score.

Final Thoughts

There’s no way around it: good SAT/ACT scores may not earn you an automatic acceptance to your dream college, but they are still rank just under your grades in order of importance. And no matter what, make sure that every part of your application is as polished as it can be.

And since summer break is fast approaching, start researching college tours. The more the merrier!

SAT or ACT? Which One Should I Take?

As a teenager, people are always telling you what to do. Clean your room. Mow the lawn. Don’t drive too fast. Don’t get into trouble. Take a standardized test to get into college.

But at least you get a choice of which test to take. Yay…?

All right: I know that having a choice of which test to take doesn’t come as much comfort. Both the SAT and ACT are difficult tests that require dozens of hours of study time to achieve a respectable score goal.

One thing that shouldn’t take up a lot of your time is deciding which test to take.

In this article, we’ll explore some fundamental questions: what are the differences between these two tests, which one should you take, and do you need to take both? By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll have a plan to determine which test works best for you.

So what’s the difference?

You ever hear the phrase “like apples and oranges?” Well, the differences between the SAT and ACT boil down to “like apples and apples.” Just like the Galas and Honeycrisps in the produce section of your local grocery store, very little separates these two tests other than a few small cosmetic differences:

  • The ACT has a Science Test, which is just a camouflaged, more difficult version of the ACT Reading Test.
  • The SAT and ACT Math Tests have slightly different background knowledge requirements.
  • The SAT has some grid-in questions on its Math Test.

There are a few more differences, but again, it’s not worth your time to know all of them.

Let’s get to the more important question:

Which one should I take?

In short, it all depends on your preference.  

That’s right: just like your apple choices at the grocery store, your personal preference plays an important role. Just about every high school student naturally performs better on one test over the other. That means before you do a single second of test prep, you need to discover which test best matches your natural abilities.

Here’s how you select your test: take a practice SAT and ACT. Choose two Saturdays a week apart and take a different practice test on each one. Simulate test-day conditions by using a quiet place in your home or a local library.

Whichever score is stronger (Compare your practice test scores to the latest percentile rankings for the SAT and ACT), that’s the test you will study for and eventually take.

End of story.

Do I Need to Take Both?

Should you take a practice test of both to determine which one better matches your natural skills? Yes. Do you need to study for both tests and report scores from both to your dream college when you apply? No. That would be a tremendous waste of the time and energy, both of which you need to polish other parts of your application and continue to perform well in your classes.

Before you protest, let me say that I get it: leaving the SAT or ACT score section blank on your application may make you feel like your application is incomplete. However, remember that when a college says they’ll take the SAT or ACT, that’s exactly what they mean. Having that one small blank space will not upset them one bit.

What if my school makes me take the SAT or ACT?

Some public schools require students to take the ACT or SAT in their junior year, usually during the school day. This is what it was like in the district where I taught for four years. If this should describe your situation, let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

Pros

  • It’s (likely) free.
  • It’s good practice.
  • Your school may offer a (again, likely free) test prep program leading up to test day.

Cons

  • You may not have enough time to prepare.
  • The test may not be the one at which you’re naturally more capable.
  • A low score may discourage you.

Consider a school-sponsored standardized test as a gift rather than a burden. In my experience working with students like you, the three pros significantly outweigh the three cons (and any others you may think up after finishing this article).

Final Thoughts

The standardized test-industrial complex wants you to believe that colleges view the SAT and ACT differently, or that there are significant differences between the tests. Insidious untruths, I say! Invest some time and energy in selecting a test. Then, and only then, create and follow through on a study plan.

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