College Application Secrets Insider Tips Ivy Admissions

Harvard Hampers Admissions at All Top Colleges

highschoolOn May 27, 2010, The Huffington Post published Michele’s article on Harvard’s role in the college admissions frenzy. Their elimination of an early admission program two years ago sent a ripple effect through the entire admissions system. Read the article here to learn more, and make sure to pass it along to friends and family!

Colleges Insider Tips SAT Standardized Testing Uncategorized

Practicing for SAT Subject Tests

sat subject testing practicingSeveral students recently have wanted to cancel their test scores on either the SAT or SAT Subject Tests. Remember, if you sit for a test and you do NOT want your test scored (maybe you took it for practice, which is a great idea if you have the time!), do NOT leave the test center without asking the proctor for a “request to cancel” form or you will NOT be allowed to cancel!

Please note that you can’t cancel one test only – ALL tests you took that day will be cancelled. So, for example, if you took the SAT Subject Test in Bio, Math II and Literature and felt you bombed one test, you probably should NOT cancel the test as ALL scores will be lost. The moral of the story is SAT Subject Tests should never be a surprise. They are very content-based. If you’re not doing well on the official practice test, don’t take the test. Most top colleges require two or three tests.

The best preparation is to take practice tests from The Official Study Guide for all SAT Subject Tests from the College Board and see how you’re doing. This guide contains full-length tests and answers for all twenty tests and an audio CD for all six languages with listening tests.

We also want to remind you of a few things when taking standardized tests.  And, this is from our own experience with students over the years!!

  • Bring an extra calculator, not just extra batteries.  That way if your calculator dies, you aren’t sunk.
  • Bring #2 pencils, NOT mechanical pencils as your test will NOT be scored if the lead is too faint!
  • Bring tissues.  Yes, bloody noses have happened during testing and one of our students had no recourse other than to leave the testing room.
  • Do NOT drink a lot of liquid before testing.  Yes, you will get bathroom breaks, but the stories of suffering and distraction due to having to go to the bathroom are plentiful.  And, there will be long lines during the short breaks.  You get the picture.

Students taking the SAT now are lucky as the College Board changed their policy on score choice.  Note: Any student who has taken an SAT prior to the policy launch (March 2009) or who registers for the SAT after launch will be able to take advantage of this new policy. The students who have taken tests prior to the launch can use the score-reporting feature retroactively. Additionally, this new score-reporting feature will be optional to students. If a student chooses not to select their scores, all of their scores will be sent.

What this MIGHT mean is that students can take the SAT I as many times as they like and select which test scores they want to show colleges.  For more information head over to:

What has happened, however, is that a few schools are saying they won’t adhere to the new policy and will demand kids show ALL scores (to give you an idea, a partial list of these schools are Stanford, Dartmouth, Cornell
and USC).  We guide our students, therefore, to prep before taking the SAT once late in their sophomore year either at a test center or at home to get a benchmark and then January and March their junior year for their official scores.

sat subject test practiceSAT SUBJECT TEST TUTORING

Need help navigating the SAT Subject Tests? Sign up now for a session with our tutors, Amy and Steve Dulan! They empower students to “break the SAT code” by leveraging your existing knowledge.

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Do Extras Matter?

This week we talk about extracurricular activities. You may
remember our newsletter from a few weeks ago about finding your
niche. Let this guide your extracurricular activities as well.
Schools won’t care if you are a member of 10 different clubs.
They will be far more impressed if you are the leader of one or
two activities that have a meaningful impact and are focused on
your intended area of study. Future political scientist? Show
your interest by being a leader in student government and Model
UN, and volunteer for a local political campaign. Aspiring
writer? Work your way to being editor of your school newspaper or
publication, participate in prestigious writing contests, and
start a blog showcasing your work. If you are in the middle range
for a school, these things will go a LONG way to helping you get

Do Extras Matter?

Extracurricular activities DO matter—but only when academics are
strong. On the 1-9 scale,  if you’re only a 1-4, that means that
your academics are low enough that extracurriculars won’t make up
for them. On the other hand, if you’re an academic 8-9, college
admissions officers won’t care as much about extras since your
academics are so strong. It’s for the middle range of students
that extracurriculars and leadership really matter. Just remember,
academics are always 75% or more of the decision; once you’re in
the range, THEN extras come into play. To say it another way,
incredible extras won’t make up for mediocre performance.
So, whether you are a rare coin collector, founder of your
school’s history club, tuba player, or editor of the newspaper,
your activities alone won’t get you into a top college. It is
better, however, for you to be a leader in a few activities and
distinguish yourself with a high level of participation in a
particular area rather than be a member of tons of clubs with no
discernable passion for one area. Show a genuine commitment
rather than just signing up at random for a lot of things. In
general, an activity such as debate would be better than simply
attending a year book staff meeting once every few months.


Showcase your interests by getting more involved! Spend a summer
taking a college-level course, working in a hospital research
center, or producing your own movies. We have the only
comprehensive guide of summer programs for high school students.

College Application Secrets Insider Tips

More Early Decision Details

Most college early deadlines are coming up in a few days:
November 1, although a few are still November 15—you have to
check. Don’t worry though—as long as you postmark your
application by November 1, it will not be late.

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Legacy Status

We are often asked about the power of legacy status for an applicant. “If my mom went to College X does it increase my odds of being admitted to College X?” The answer may surprise you – not necessarily. Yes, your parent having gone to the college to which you are applying might carry weight, but check with each school. Some colleges only count legacy for their early decision applicants. Some schools such as California Institute of Technology, Texas A&M, and Cooper Union never give legacies an advantage. Pick up the phone and call the admissions office at College X and ask the question if you can’t find details in their materials.