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By Grace T., LSAT Test Preparation Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC
The LSAT requires not only mastery of the exam’s content, but also the ability to anticipate and address those little details that can make or break your test day experience. Here are tips that will prepare you for both!
Top 5 Substantive LSAT Tips
1. Mark an answer for every question! Unlike the SAT, the LSAT has no guessing penalty.
2. Do not be afraid to postpone your test until you are completely ready. While every test taker is different, most people do not feel adequately prepared with fewer than 2.5 to 3 months of preparation.
3. Know your weaknesses and skip questions strategically. Do not let the test dictate the order in which you answer questions. Be aware of which types of logic games and reading comprehension passages you are most comfortable, and quickly scan through all four in each of those sections before simply starting with that which is given first. As for logical reasoning, keep in mind that the questions generally progress from easiest to most difficult, but also be mindful of your personal strong suits. Don’t just complete a parallel flaw question if it is at the beginning of a section, but is something that you know you routinely struggle with – you will save yourself time and stress by taking control of the test.
4. Spend time making deductions after making logic game sketches. While you may feel pressed for time and that you are better off diving into the questions, in the long run you will save a lot of time by gaining an understanding the system on which the puzzle is based. You may even find that a question or two are freebees for having made such deductions.
5. Do not fear logic games! If you have taken a diagnostic test and had no intuitive idea of how to approach them, you are not doomed! Most students find this section to be the most challenging at first, but also the easiest to improve upon, largely because it has the fewest question types. Once you gain familiarity with logic games, you will see that the same kinds of puzzles repeat themselves, just cloaked in different language.
And 5 Quick Tips
1. Choose your test site carefully! There are resources online that detail factors such as desk space, noise level, competency of proctors, lighting, etc.
2. Buy and practice with a watch with a rotating bezel! Since you are not allowed to bring digital watches to the test, this is your best bet for easily keeping track of how much time has elapsed during each section.
3. Do not drink too much coffee before the test starts. There is no break for over two hours after you enter the testing room, and they are strict about not letting you leave once you have entered the room but prior to the commencement of testing.
4. Don’t get thrown by test takers around you sketching out logic games while you’re in the midst of reading comprehension or logical reasoning; different tests intentionally order their sections differently.
5. Do not markedly alter your appearance (at least from the shoulders up) between when the passport-style picture that you must affix to your LSAT admission ticket is taken and test day! This is actually one of many LSAC’s official policies. No altering your facial hair, no new facial tattoos, no dying your hair…you get the idea.
Grace graduated from Dartmouth College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude. She is an expert in the areas of LSAT (scored in 97th percentile) and SAT prep, and is eager to pass along her test prep tips gleaned from many years of standardized testing!
Have you taken or are you getting ready for the LSAT? Which tip is your favorite?
Post your tips/comments below.
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By Alexa M., SAT Math Tutoring Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC
This question comes up regularly, and the short answer is: it doesn’t matter. Take whichever test you feel you can do well on. Really. Even MIT does not require that you take the Math 2, though they do insist you take one of the two math tests. Unless you claim on your application that you intend to be a math, physics, or other math-intensive major, your choice of test is unlikely to make a significant difference to your application.
The College Board’s official statement on the matter is: “If you have taken trigonometry or elementary functions (precalculus) or both, received grades of B or better in these courses, and are comfortable knowing when and how to use a scientific or graphing calculator, you should select the Level 2 test. If you are sufficiently prepared to take Level 2, but elect to take Level 1 in hopes of receiving a higher score, you may not do as well as you expect. You may want to consider taking the test that covers the topics you learned most recently, since the material will be fresh in your mind.”
It is useful to be aware of the fact that scores on the two tests are not comparable. Because the Math 2 is taken primarily by those who would describe themselves as “math people”, the overall scores tend to be higher. A 700 on the Math 2 will put you at around the 50th percentile. Fortunately, colleges know this, but it can be a bit of a shock when you receive your scores (especially if you are a self-described “math person”)!
What are the differences between the two tests?
• The Math 1 directly covers plane geometry, which the Math 2 doesn’t cover at all.
• The Math 2 emphasizes a number of major topics that aren’t covered on the Math 1:
o Properties of complex numbers, not just their arithmetic
o Parametric equations
o Polar Coordinates
o Coordinate geometry in three dimensions
o A great deal more trigonometry (graphs of trigonometric functions, radians, Laws of Sines and Cosines, trigonometric equations)
o Standard deviation
If you’ve covered the topics on the Math 2, you may want to sign up for the more advanced test. You can change your mind (and your tutoring!) up to two weeks before the test, so there is no harm in starting to prepare for the Math 2 and then deciding you are not ready for it.
Below is a more detailed chart of the differences between the two tests:
Alexa graduated from Reed College and earned a Master’s degree in math from the University of Pennsylvania. She has tutored students at every age and level from 10 to adult and from basic math through AP calculus, multivariate calculus and beyond.
Are you gearing up for the Math Level 1 or Level 2 Test?
Full Word-for-Word Transcription
It’s 24 hours until the SAT. This is what to do.
Alexis Avila Founder of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts, gives you Four Tips for The Night Before and 4 Tips for the Morning of SAT Saturday.
1. Pack the stuff that you’ll need for tomorrow
(admission ticket, photo ID, calculator with fresh batteries, two-three sharpened number two pencils with erasers, snacks and water, sweatshirt)
2. Know how to get to the testing site.
3. Eat well and relax tonight. Watch a movie or read. Study vocab only-flashcards or online vocab on quizlet.com
4. Rest and get to bed early
1. Wake up early
2. Grab a breakfast. Nothing too greasy. Waffles, muffins, bagels, cereal (not Lucky Charms ☺)
3. Do a couple of easy math problems to wake up the brain or memorize ten vocab words
4. Leave for the test site early
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Tip 4 is rest and get to bed early. Don’t go to bed late. I want you to get
to bed at a reasonable time, maybe even a little earlier than you usually
do. So you can kind of get your body relaxed and fall asleep, and get ample
rest. You are going to need it for tomorrow morning.
Now four tips for Saturday. I want you to wake up early. You are not going
to be too stressed because you’ve already packed your backpack, right? So
you are not going to be scrounging around looking for stuff.
Tip 2, grab a good breakfast. A good breakfast means nothing with too much
fat, nothing with too much sugar because you’re just going to crash and
burn. I want you to grab some waffles, muffins, bagels, some cereal. Don’t
get Lucky Charms. Don’t get eggs and bacon. Save that for after as a
Tip 3 is do a couple of easy math problems to wake up the brain, keep you
sharp. Or you can memorize ten vocabulary words just to kind of get your
brain moving in the morning.
And then Tip number 4, I want you to leave for the test site early. You
don’t want to get there late again. The really late ones will end up in the
worst room, the cold room probably. So just get there early and when I say
early, 15 minutes early.
Everything is going to go well. I wish you good luck and I will talk to you
Are you ready for the SAT? What other questions or comments do you have about last minute preparation?
By Meagan Phelan, Writing Tutoring Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC
The college experience is rich in choices. You could be a double major or pursue two minors. After class, you could go to soccer practice, drama club, debate team, or band. You might study abroad one semester—or maybe even two. You could also have a boyfriend or girlfriend on campus, begin mentoring younger students, or spend a lot of time with older ones, just hanging out.
What do all of these different activities hold in common?
They’ll command your attention—and a lot of it.
In fact, it could be pretty easy to graduate just having enjoyed the college experience—and even having excelled at it—without looking beyond, to the next chapter, to contemplate the application of college to your life.
Contemplating what college will mean for you in your mid-twenties, thirties, and beyond might be an idea that seems fairly hazy right now (after all, many of you reading this blog are just doing the hard work to get into college—a major feat in itself). So I’ve thought of five questions you could ask yourself throughout the course of your college career—from day one ‘til your last—to help make this thought process relevant now.
Here we go:
1) What industries are booming now, and which ones are saturated?
Forbes Magazine is a great source for information like this. A quick look at the fastest growing industries may reveal some, like manufacturing or cattle ranching, for example, that you’ve never considered. But these businesses—like most—require communicators, leaders, technicians, and people of all kinds to think outside the box and keep them connected and stable. You wouldn’t need a background in manufacturing or cattle ranching to make a significant contribution. You would need a strong set of skills in one of the abovementioned fields and awareness that these industries are hungry.
It’s equally important to know which industries aren’t as open to job applicants. If you’re planning to pursue one, contemplate what skills to develop to set yourself apart.
2) What are three different types of jobs people who pursued my major have done, or are doing?
Get to know some of those people. Ask if you might email or call them from time to time to understand how what they learned in college is helping them in their current role. Ask them what gaps they had in their learning. Maybe you could take one of the classes they wished they’d taken.
3) What is my elevator pitch?
Can you explain your interests and strengths—and even how you want to apply them to your tentative career goals—in the time it’d take you to ride the elevator a few floors?
You’ll often need to present a similar pitch in job interviews, but more importantly, stating your intentions for your career aloud forces you to clarify them in your own mind. Thoughts that floated around comfortably in your head may come across as phony once spoken.
Sometimes the results of this exercise are surprising, particularly if you let people who know you well weigh in on what you say.
4) Where is the nearest business that’d let me shadow for a day?
Even if you don’t yet know what line of work you’d like to pursue, just getting out of the classroom and into a working environment offers important lessons, including the roles communication skills and thinking ahead play in successfully managing people. You might also learn about new cross-industry technologies that businesses are using—and hope their employees will walk in the door knowing.
Check out a previous post, here, for more details on the values of shadowing: The Importance of Internships & Work Experiences While in High School
5) What are my friends thinking of doing after college?
Though this question could make your friends a little uneasy, it’s ok to ask it. For starters, you’re all most likely in the same boat, especially in the first year or two—without a clear cut vision of just what you’ll do with your college degree. Secondly, hearing your friends think through the process of how they will apply what they will learn may give you some ideas.
Lots of people talk about questions to ask before you get to college—and these are important questions to consider. You want to find a good fit for your four-year journey.
But I propose staying just as inquisitive during your collegiate experience. Doing a little each week so you get comfortable with the hard parts.
Evaluating your efforts regularly as you make your way to graduation will mean you’re not nervous when you get there. You’ll be able to celebrate both the closing of that chapter, and the beginning of the next.
Meagan Phelan holds an M.A. in Science Writing from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and a B.A. in Biology from Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa. She has freelanced as a science writer and is a Fulbright Scholar. She currently works as a Senior Writer and Editor at AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe risk modeling firm based in Boston.
What other questions should you ask yourself while at college? Any other tips you’d like to share?
“I hired a tutor for my son for SSAT testing for nine weeks. My son took the test and received 54 percentile in verbal, 55 in reading and 64 in math. I was disappointed in the tutoring services. I found Alexis at Prepped and Polished on the Internet and decided to give him a call. It was the best decision I made. After only FOUR sessions my son took the test again and scored 74 percentile in verbal, 75 in reading and a whopping 86 percentile in math. Alexis is very knowledgeable in the SSAT testing. My son found it easy to learn from him. Don’t hesitate and make the call to Prepped and Polished. It was the best decision I made and I’m sure it will be the best decision you’ll make too. He is worth every penny.”
Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts lists the five most important changes to the SSAT test.
1. The SSAT created a new Elementary Level Test for 3rd and 4th graders.
2. The SSAT Lower Level test is now called the SSAT Middle Level Test.
3. Teachers will write the SSAT questions.
4. There is now an experimental section.
5. The SSAT Writing prompts have changed.
For more information about the SSAT changes, visit the SSAT Official Website
Are you taking the SSAT? What questions do you have about the SSAT changes?
On this episode of Prepped & Polished Radio, I interview teen-fiction writer and USA Today best-selling author Rebecca Donovan. Rebecca talks about her journey as a successful author of the popular “Breathing” series and gives us tips on how we can tap into our creative writing potential.
Rebecca has a degree in Psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She has been a writer most of her life and recently published her first book, Reason to Breathe in 2011. She lives in Massachusetts.
Joining our show today, is Rebecca Donovan. Rebecca is a USA Today
bestselling author, her debut novel entitled, “Reason to Breathe.” Her
“Breathing” series has resonated with readers, especially teens, around the
world and continues to grow in popularity. Rebecca has a degree in
Psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. After graduating from
college, Rebecca worked with teens in social services for over three years.
She made a career change and worked within the event industry for 12 years,
particularly, wedding planning. She’s been a writer most of her life, and
recently published her first book, “Reason to Breathe,” in 2011.
We’re delighted to have Rebecca on our show. She’s going to share with us
her experiences becoming a professional teenage fiction writer and give us
a few tips about how kids and adults can tap into their creative writing
potential and perhaps, one day become successful writers themselves. Before
we start, I want to make sure our listeners have our contact info. Our
email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to submit a
question at any time, you can use that email address. Often, our listeners
will have questions as they’re listening or afterwards. We always
appreciate hearing from our listeners, so you can email us at any time at
email@example.com. Rebecca, are you there on the line?
Rebecca: Yes, I am. How are you, Alexis?
Alexis: Great. Thank you so much for joining us. How are you today?
Rebecca: Better, thanks. I have a little bit of sore throat. If my voice
cracks, don’t bother listening to that.
Alexis: We won’t hold it against you at all. When I was trying to schedule
this interview with you, you were in the West Coast. I believe you were in
Los Angeles. I know you were recently finishing your third book. What
brought you to L.A.? What were you doing out there?
Rebecca: I like to call her my writing partner, now that I’m published with
professional publishing houses, I have my own editing team. Before that,
when I was an indie writer, she acted as my editor in all sense of
grammatic and sentence structure and content. She’s still a writing partner
for me. She lives out in the Ventura County area, which is north of L.A.
The third book, “Out of Breath,” takes place in that area as well, Santa
Barbara. There was great inspiration, and it was great to be able to work
one-on-one with her versus over the Internet or through email. It was just
a nice writing experience sitting right there on the ocean and having that
to look at every day.
Alexis: I could imagine that is inspiration. Could you tell us a little
bit, Rebecca, about your book series, the “Breathing” series and a little
bit about your journey so far as a successful author?
Rebecca: The series is based on a girl who has a hard home life. She has a
difficult past. She’s coming to terms with all of that and displaying her
life and her story enfold with repercussions of having to heal, having to
make choices that are difficult for anyone that’s in that kind of
situation. It resonates with so many people because of the realistic way
I’ve chosen to portray it. I didn’t hold back in the abuse that she goes
through and the trauma that she has to endure. I’ve received countless
emails from so many people, so many survivors of child abuse who have
thanked me for telling her story, giving her a voice and showing the world
that this does exist. It’s been an amazing journey because it’s happened by
word-of-mouth. It’s happened because my readers are so passionate and so
excited about this. As soon as they’re done reading it, they have to tell
the next person, or they can’t wait to share it with someone else or to
have someone else emotionally go through it with them. It’s been surreal,
and I’ve enjoyed every step of the process.
Alexis: That makes a lot of sense. When I was researching, looking at your
blog and all the social media, you’re out there. I could see all those
letters in response to these characters that they’re reading.
Rebecca: They truly connect with them like they’re real people, and that’s
Alexis: Can you tell us a little bit . . . I don’t want you giving away
spoilers or anything . . . who’s Emma and Evan, these main characters I
keep hearing about in your books? Why do you think teens relate to these
Rebecca: Emma is the main character. It’s first person through her
perspective. She starts in the first book. She’s 16. She’s a junior in high
school. She lives with her aunt and uncle. Her aunt is not welcoming of her
invading her life and her home and is abusive towards Emma. Emma has to
hide this from everyone with the risk of losing her two younger siblings to
the foster care system or being removed from the home. She doesn’t want
that life for them because their parents truly do love them. So she’s
basically sacrificing herself in the hopes of getting through high school,
getting off to college, and just being done with them.
Evan is a love interest, in truth. He’s a transfer. He doesn’t know
anything about her, doesn’t know anything about her personality, her style
of life. He’s intrigued by her. The rest of the school [inaudible 06:58]
someone that works in the shadows, doesn’t participate. She excels in
everything, but she doesn’t give a sizeable contribution so that she’s
recognized by any of her peers socially. Evan is intrigued by her. He wants
to know more about her. I think that because I surround them by the essence
of what high school is, the football games, the parties, the day-to-day
gossip that keeps them grounded in this real world of what high school is.
The characters themselves are not the normal teenagers.
Obviously, the average teenager doesn’t have to endure the type of abuse
that Emma has to go through. There are teenagers that do, but that’s not
the average high school experience. Evan travels, he goes from school to
school, and he has had to age beyond his years because he’s always thrust
into these adult situations. That’s one of the reasons he recognizes Emma
as being different. There’s something about her, and any other teenage boy
would have dismissed her as stuck up, or she’s just not interested. He sees
more of her than she’s letting the rest of her peers see. I let them be
different than what the average high school experience is. I think that’s
what draws readers to them, because they’re just so intense. I guess that’s
the best way to put it.
Alexis: Absolutely. You have to go for the jugular to make it resonate with
people. Rebecca, let’s find out a little bit about you. Did you read and
write a lot growing up?
Rebecca: I’ve always read. It’s funny, because YA was never my particular
genre of reading. When I wrote for it, it was kind of ironic. I was more of
a horror-fiction, crime novel, realistic crimes actually. That was my take
on the world of my readership. I’m a huge Stephen King fan, so that was
what I read growing up. Writing, I was in journal. I was always very
imaginative. Even as a child, the stories that I would create in my head or
whether I was able to write them down for assignments and such, I was
always writing. I never took the chance to write a novel until a couple
years ago, but I’ve always considered myself a writer. I’ve always been
very expressive, very imaginative.
Alexis: I think that answers the question what you were like as a teen. You
were submerged in books.
Rebecca: Right. I have a bit of Emma-ism, I suppose, in the early part of
my teen years. I was quiet and not really social. I was in advanced
placement classes in my first couple years in high school. Then, it tends
to be the opposite that the more social I became, the less my grades were
as stellar. I was still up in advanced placement English, bio, math
classes, and such. I loved school, and I totally immersed myself in it. I
was the editor of my high school paper. I did some photography for it. I
was able to draw from my experiences, and that’s where my comfort zone was
when I created Emma, but giving her a completely different world. It was me
growing up. I was a little bit awkward at first, and then I grew into
myself, as probably most teens do.
Alexis: Absolutely. We work with students here at Prepped and Polished, and
I’m always thinking about them. Do you have to be someone who was always a
writer to become a writer, or can you learn it?
Rebecca: I think it’s part of you. You write because it’s who you are. It’s
a need that you have, a story in your head that keeps going on and on. The
only way you can get it out, you get it on your paper. If you’re acting it
out, it’s some sort of art form. It’s a form of expression, I consider it
art. I consider it an art, whether writing, painting or acting, it’s a way
of expressing what’s already inside of you. It’s your essence. Your talent
that can be molded. That can be taken either through creative writing
classes, groups, teachers, and educators. Taking something that’s already
there and helping you shape it, so that the world can be a part of it.
That’s how you can become a writer.
Alexis: I really understand, and I love that analogy with the art form. You
don’t hear enough of that, that writing is an art form where you have to
feel it from within, and you, also, have to own your craft and work on it.
Rebecca: Exactly. You just don’t write something, put it out there and the
world takes it and says, “This is brilliant.” It would be amazing to
happen, but there are more rejections than there are acceptances. That
doesn’t mean that you should give up. You write it because that’s what you
need to do. Whether the world accepts it, you can’t control that. That’s
outside. That’s subjective. What you put on paper, how you create it, the
effort, the time, the love you put into it is what you have control over.
Alexis: Right. Do you have any tips for students who love to write and want
to make a career out of it?
Rebecca: The career part, I can’t say it’s going to exactly pay your bills.
It could be something that, in time, as your talent grows, if it’s
something the world is ready for, there are so many ways of exposing your
writing through independent publishing, through Amazon, Barnes and Noble,
and Apple. You don’t have to put any money forward for it. You just have to
have your polished manuscript. With that being said, write, get critiqued
by everybody, especially if you have English teachers or peers that you
respect. Get opinions, help create it and make it better. I did it some
more, because there’s never enough editing. Have it professionally edited.
You can create a story, let the world read, and see what happens. Once you
put it out there, it can either go right to the top, or it’s just going to
be out there. You just have to have that confidence and just keep
Alexis: I think that transcends to a lot of careers.
Rebecca: It does.
Alexis: Rebecca, what do you do in your off time when you don’t write?
Rebecca: I’m a huge music fan, so I go to concerts a lot. I will travel to
concerts. I went to Austin this year, to Austin City Limits. I think I’m
going to Coachella next year. I usually go to, at least, two or three
concerts a month. I’m a huge music fan. It’s also another art for me. I’m
such a huge fan of lyrics and just listen to the music and what is being
said, the poetry behind the words. I’m in awe of the musicians. As much as
I’m a writer myself, it’s just a completely different realm, so I love it.
Alexis: Are we going to be hearing Rebecca Donovan, the singer, after your
Rebecca: No, you do not want me to sing. I promise you that. I would like
to get to know that world a little bit more. One of the projects that I’m
working on in the future, and I’m still at the very, very beginning stages
of it, is bringing awareness to child abuse. Part of that is, perhaps,
creating my own foundation to do so. I would love to bring some musicians
on board and have benefit concerts. That will be my two worlds and doing
that to bring awareness and do what I love and have that be a part of
raising that awareness and raising the money for it.
Alexis: Absolutely. I noticed on your website, you have a link to the Child
Help USA and National Domestic Violence Hotline. These two organizations
are, obviously, important to you.
Rebecca: Yes. Writing such a serious topic of child abuse, it was just a
responsibility I felt I needed to share with anyone that’s in that
situation. If they’re able to connect with the story because it’s something
that they’re going through, or know someone that is going through it, and
they’re going to explore my site, I want them to know that these
organizations exist. There’s help, that they’re not alone in any of this.
There’s someone out there that can guide them. They’re nationally
recognized organizations, and I just wanted to make sure that they had the
information there if they’re involved in the story, the Emma story.
Alexis: Awesome. When will your third installment of the “Breathing Series”
come out? I know you have two that came out. The first one is “Reason to
Breathe.” The second installment is “Barely Breathing.”
Rebecca: “Out of Breath” will be out in June. I just got signed by Amazon
publishing. They will be re-releasing both “Reason to Breathe” and “Barely
Breathing” in the spring and launching the new “Out of Breath,” which no
one will have read before then, in June. It’s just a new process where they
take what I’ve written, and they just go through their edits. There’s never
enough editing, so they’re going to go through their editing process with
those two books that have already released and resubmit them. Because it’s
publishing, I’ll be in print form more than I am now. Right now, most of my
sales and distribution has been through e-books. That’s insane considering
I’m bestseller, but it’s all been electronic. Knowing that the print
version hasn’t even been released yet, I can only imagine that it’s going
to get that much better and have that much broader release into the world.
I’ll soon have been signed with other international publishers in different
countries, in the UK, Russia, Hungary, and Brazil. It’s going to be
worldwide pretty soon. Pretty exciting.
Alexis: Since 2011, you’ve put out three books. I just can’t imagine how
many books you’re going to have put out in about five years.
Rebecca: I’m a slow writer in comparison to my fellow authors. Some are
putting two or three books out a year. I intend to put out one a year, so
that’s a little slow in the perspective of the writing world. Before I’ve
had to divide my time with a full-time job in writing. This year, I’m
grateful having to just concentrate on being an author and writing. So
2013, I’m hoping to put a couple books out and continue on that avenue of
creating more for my audience.
Alexis: That is incredible. We are all supporting you and we’re big fans.
Thank you very much, Rebecca.
Rebecca: Thank you.
Alexis: Thanks for coming on today.
Rebecca: It was my pleasure.
Alexis: This wraps up our show today with Rebecca Donovan of the successful
“Breathing Series.” Please visit rebeccadonovan.com to learn more about
Rebecca’s writing and books. I also highly recommend checking out Rebecca’s
blog, which can be found on her site. Join her Facebook fan page to get
updates on her work. You can purchase all of Rebecca’s books by going on
her website or on Amazon. Thank you for joining us on the Prepped and
Polished Radio Show.
Have you read “Barely Breathing” or “Reason to Breathe”? What is your favorite book of the series?
It’s December, and if you’re a high school senior, you might be beginning to breathe a sigh of relief. This is the time of year when the college application process is winding down. All the work you’ve done—taking AP courses, studying for the SATs, visiting campuses, applying for financial aid, writing personal statements—is done. Now all you have to do is wait for that acceptance letter, right?
Well, not exactly…
There is something missing from the list above—a subtler effort that could easily be overlooked after the essays are written and scores are in. I’m talking about mental preparation. After all, high school—the place you’ve spent the last few years—is very different from college. Taking some time to anticipate that transition and develop a good attitude will put you heads above the rest as you embark on your college journey.
Consider this, for example: in high school, your parents, teachers and even guidance counselor may have checked in on you to see how your work was going. It probably just seemed like a natural part of the high school process. It also meant that any problems you might have had in a particular class couldn’t grow too big; they were spotted first—and you were helped to overcome them and navigate to success. You may have received affirmation regularly, too, as part of this process.
In college, you’ll be living on your own. In this setting, you’ll be expected to look after yourself—and your work. Your professors may have 20 students per class, or 200. Though it is their responsibility to teach and even inspire you, they cannot look after you individually, nor ensure you pass. They may not also be able to give you the feedback you are used to receiving unless you seek them out (at office hours, for example).
In college then, it is very much up to you to chart your course, and the efforts you make—choices about how much to study, when to seek help, and how creative to get with your projects and assignments—will determine your success. This is both a liberating and exciting prospect, and one that will test your responsibility. To understand its real-life implications better, you might touch base with friends currently in college and ask how they are approaching their day-to-day workload.
Here’s another thought to consider as you prepare for the transition to college: you may have to study more than you did in high school to get the same grades. A lot of young people think about college as an exciting new experience ripe with opportunities for socializing and meeting friends; this is absolutely true, but be prepared for the fact that you could have less free time than you did in high school. So don’t get discouraged if you don’t have time to take part in every mixer or event on the quad. There will be plenty more; trust me.
Speaking of free time, just as you’ll have less supervision in your academic life, you’ll also have less of it in your time outside of class. Nobody will be stopping you from joining 8 clubs, opting not to proofread your paper, forgoing office hours (or class), or making Wednesday night the first night of your weekend. Much of this is true even if you live at home while attending college. I suggest trying to develop some routines—and keeping some basic ideas in mind. As simple as these may sound, they’re key to helping you stay healthy and productive.
1) Eat three times a day.
Let’s face it: the “freshman 15” happens. You’re going to be surrounded by a lot of food at college (at my school, the food was ranked 3rd best in the nation!)
Alternatively, you may feel pressure to look a certain way—tempted to skip a meal or two. Here’s the truth: you cannot think, let alone study, if you do not eat. And thinking and studying is what college is all about! Plus, if you hit three squares, your metabolism will be firing on all cylinders! So make time for meals. (Eating at the college cafeteria is also a great time to meet people.)
2) Join clubs. But don’t overbook yourself.
One of the most exciting aspects of college is the different array of activities available. (My freshman year, apart from cross country and track, I did dance, wrote for the school newspaper, joined the Skeptical Chemists, and participated in a service fraternity. It was a blast; I felt like I was getting to know so many of my strengths, but in the end, with school and sports, it was a lot. I backed down to two extracurricular activities and dug into those with a passion. I still met loads of people and felt a satisfying balance between academics and outside activities).
3) Find your professors’ offices.
Put their office hour schedule in your phone, and check in now and then. And definitely check in if you’re feeling foggy about your work. Professors aren’t just teachers; they are life-long friends and advisors. I still correspond with many of mine today. That time at office hours was a great place to get to know them.
4) Prepare to be a roommate.
It may be trying at times; you could have a roommate who doesn’t share much in common with you (including a sleep schedule)—or dorm members who think your room is the best place to hang into the wee hours of the night.
Few experiences challenge your people skills and personal development more than living with a roommate. Think about how you’ve handled compromise in past (you’ll likely have to do it again with the person sharing your room). Prepare to do it in this situation, and don’t be discouraged when the need to compromise arises; it’s part of the college experience. (And you’ll certainly encounter people with whom you have differences later in life, including possibly your spouse!)
5) Find a quiet study place.
This may or may NOT be your dorm room.
6) If you feel peer pressure, you won’t be alone.
This is common on college campuses. And as cliché as it sounds, if something feels really wrong to you, don’t do it. Opportunities will abound for you to get out there, explore, and find your niche.
Amid it all, keep this in mind, college is perhaps most exhilarating in the sense that every day you’re there, you are shaping your future; every class you choose and club you attend is building your knowledge and your network. Because you are in the driver’s seat, you need to step back and think “big picture” now and then. It’s your job to ask yourself if your approach is leading you in a direction, towards a career, where you want to go. And while there’s a lot riding on the way you spend your time, I wholeheartedly believe you can have a great time—socialize, go out, take part in Greek life—and still be on top of your academics.
As you gear up for college then, recognize that it will feel very different because it is very different. Make the conscious decision now to keep your head on your shoulders and to be mindful of how your choices could shape not just your week, but your life. In the end, I guarantee it’ll lower your stress level during your first year, and mean you have had a really rich experience by the time you collect your degree.
How did you get yourself mentally ready for college? Any other tips you’d like to share?
Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts shows you on his whiteboard one crucial mistake you do not want to make on the SSAT Math section.
After you do your math steps, make sure you go back to the question and answer exactly what the question is asking.
So just remember, you could be a really good math student, but not do well
on the SSAT math if you keep making careless mistakes. Avoid careless
mistakes and you’ll do well on the SSAT math section.
I’ll talk to you soon. Good luck.
How do you avoid making careless mistakes on the SSAT Math Section? Have you fallen trap to this type of question before?