High School 2 College

September 28, 2011

Last Minute Advice Before the SATs

If you think that there’s nothing more you can do to get ready for the SATs, read this!

If you haven’t already done so, go out and buy tootsie rolls, change the batteries in your calculator, look up a few vocabulary words to bring with you to the test, and remind yourself of the father’s name in To Kill a Mockingbird.  (If you haven’t read To Kill A Mockingbird, at least review one or two of your favorite works of literature.)

Now you are nearly ready for the SATs.

Here are a few more things you can do:

1. The night before the test, get a good night’s sleep.  Don’t try to go to bed too early or you’ll be up half the night staring at the ceiling.  Just get a good amount of sleep after a restful evening.  NO STUDYING TODAY!  Not even for the SATs.

2.  Saturday morning, dress up a little.  When you’re wearing comfy, floppy clothes, your brain takes a rest, too.  When you dress up a little (whatever that means to you), you sit a little straighter and concentrate better.  Insider tip: several studies suggest that kids do worse on standardized tests if they see or wear the color red because they associate red with failure.  So, keep away from red.

3.  Have breakfast.  Even if you don’t usually have breakfast, have breakfast the morning of the SATs.  Make sure it’s mostly protein, not mostly carbohydrates like a bagel or muffin.  Carbs give you a quick burst but leave you feeling sleepy when they wear off.  You’re in it for the long haul!

4.  Get to the test site a bit early.  I’d recommend arriving between 7:30 and 7:45, especially if it’s not your own high school.  Get there early so you can settle in calmly.

5.  Choose your seat.  If they let you pick your seat, choose one away from distractors like the door or windows.  Some kids do better if they’re not near friends; others do better if they sit near friends.  Sit where you can concentrate.  You can socialize afterwards.

6.  Leave your cell phone home! If they catch you using it, even to check the time, they’ll take your SAT away from you and send you home.  It’s been done in Lakeland before.

7.  Bring the following:

  • photo ID — driver’s license or permit or school photo ID.
  • admit ticket — print out another from collegeboard.com if you lost it.
  • vocab words — you need something to start your brain moving before they say “Clear your desk.”
  • pencils – bring at least three or four #2 pencils with clean erasers.
  • calculator — change the batteries this week and make sure it works.  Yes, a graphing calculator is fine.
  • watch — many schools don’t have working wall clocks.  Even if the room you’re in has a working clock, it may be behind you or hard to see.  Don’t rely on the proctor to keep track of how much time you have left.  If you don’t want to wear a watch, put it on the desk in front of you.  Remember, you can’t use your phone to tell the time.
  • snacks — the most important thing you can bring! Bring lots of little chewy things (like tootsie rolls) that you can pop in your mouth easily.  Also bring a more substantial snack for the 10-minute break in the middle.  A power bar or granola bar works nicely.
  • drink — tea helps you concentrate.  The caffeine helps quite a bit, too.   Bring iced tea with sugar, not diet.  If you hate iced tea, bring soda with caffeine and sugar.  Gatorade has too much sodium, which ironically can make you more thirsty later.

Word of warning:  During the long break, if you need the restroom, go there BEFORE you eat your granola bar or drink your iced tea.  If a long line takes a while, they will start without you.  (This did happen to a few kids I know!)

The SAT is a stamina test.  The most important thing you can do is get some rest the day or two before.  Know that no matter how smart the other kids in the room may be, if you’ve been working with me, you’re as prepared as anyone there and you’ll do just fine.  Don’t forget to let me know your scores when they come back!

Wendy Segal


September 9, 2011

College Application Trend: Think Outside the State

The trend seems to be continuing this year:  Kids are applying to state schools in droves.

Kids aren’t even trying for private colleges in some cases.  They and their parents presume private colleges and universities will be just too expensive. (Read this article from a couple of years ago about SUNY schools.)

Don’t make that mistake.  Many – often most – students don’t pay full rate at private universities.  There are scholarships (need-based, meaning the school decided to help you pay, or merit-based, meaning they’ll give you money because your student is SUCH an attractive candidate that you make them look good).  There are loans. There are grants. There is work/study. There are organizations who are eager to give you advice about funding.

Many families pay less at a private school, despite the difference in stated tuition rates, than they would at a public school, especially in a state like New York where the state schools are fairly costly. But you won’t know for sure what the out of pocket cost would be if you don’t apply.

Another excellent choice for affordable education is someone else’s state school.  The University of Rhode Island, University of Delaware, University of Connecticut, Rutgers, George Mason — there are dozens and dozens of excellent schools, ranging from barely selective to world-class universities.

The bad news about applying to other states’ schools:  it can get expensive (here are the most expensive), but for many schools, it’s not much more than what you’d pay at a SUNY school.

The good news about applying to other states’ schools: they’re hungry for your money. Selective colleges that used to accept only limited numbers of out-of-state students are looking for qualified out-of-state students because they represent more tuition money for the school (see this Newsweek article with examples and figures).

BIG NEWS:  Apparently, there is a way to compare your likely out-of-pocket expenditure for colleges coming in October.  Read about Net Price Calculators here.  They’re bound to be confusing at first, but they should give you useful information.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions!

Wendy Segal

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