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Wednesday
Apr092014

Elite SoCal Branch Scholarships – Apply Now!

The Elite Southern California Branch Scholars Award is an achievement-based scholarship awarded to graduating high school seniors each year. Students are recognized for their academic achievement, their capacity to lead and serve, and their commitment to overcoming challenges and reaching their goals.

Each Elite Branch Scholar will be awarded a scholarship in the amount of $1000.

The Elite Student of the Year will be awarded a scholarship in the amount of $2000.

Scholarship applications are due May 1. 

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS:

Applicants must be current high school (or home-schooled) seniors who have attended classes or are currently attending classes at one of the following branches of Elite Educaitonal Institute: Anaheim Hills, Arcadia, Cerritos, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Irvine-Newport Beach, Irvine-Northwood, Los Angeles, Northridge, Rowland Heights, San Diego-Carmel Valley, San Diego-Rancho Bernardo, Torrance, Valencia.

Applicants must also be available to receive their awards at the annual Elite Teacher Convocation in Long Beach on Saturday, June 7.

To submit your application, you may:

  1. Email the completed application and all supplemental materials to your Branch Director with ELITE SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION in the subject line.
  2. Submit the completed paper copy to your local branch.
  3. Mail the application and the attachments, with sufficient postage, to your local branch.

 

DOWNLOAD SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION »

Thursday
Mar202014

Summer Session Registration is Open!


The perfect time to prepare for the SAT is summer, when students are free from the obligations of homework, clubs, and teams. Elite has a variety of programs, schedules, and locations to give you the flexibilty to select the program that best meets your needs. Summer classes start in June – contact your local branch today to schedule a free diagnostic test and consultation and find out which program is right for you!*

Summer Session programs include:

SAT Boot Camp
Elite's well-known and highly-regarded SAT Boot Camp is a rigorous program designed for high school students who want to commit a significant portion of their summer to raising their SAT scores. Students take a 3.5 hour practice test every Monday and attend class and test review Tuesday through Friday.* Classes focus on key test content – Critical Reading, Grammar, Vocabulary, Writing, and Math skills – everything necessary to perform your best on the SAT. 

SAT Essentials
Our SAT Essentials weekday and weekend programs feature our proven curriculum, while offering a more streamlined approach to SAT prep and a less intensive schedule.

PSAT Boot Camp / PSAT Essentials
The Elite PSAT Program is designed for students in 9th and 10th grade who want to get a head start on preparing for the PSAT and SAT. PSAT Boot Camp offers a set of three interlocking classes (Critical Reading, Writing and a Math class previewing Algebra II) taught at a pace better suited to younger students.

AP/Honors Preview
Elite's AP Preview courses are designed to prepare students for the challenging coursework they will face in the upcoming school year by helping them get a head start during the summer months.

ReadiPrep™ English and Math
Aimed at students in grades 5-9, ReadiPrep™ English focuses on developing students’ critical reading and thinking skills through an interconnected course of study involving reading comprehension, vocabulary and grammar studies, persuasive writing, and test skill development. ReadiPrep™ Math provides students with a preview of the math coursework they can expect to study during the school year.  With this head start in English and Math, students will have strong foundation to build upon as they enter their fall semesters.

*Classes and schedules vary by branch. Check your branch's summer session schedule for details.

Thursday
Mar132014

UC Admission Decisions Release Dates


High school seniors, the wait is almost over!

The University of California campuses will release admission decisions generally between March 14 and March 27, and a few UC campuses have started sending out freshman admission decisions on a rolling basis already. Below is a list of admissions decision release dates, by campus:  

UC Berkeley March 27
UC Davis March 14
UC Irvine March 17-21
UCLA March 21 (early evening)
UC Merced March 6 (Rolling)
UC Riverside January 14 (Rolling)
UC San Diego March 15
UC Santa Barbara March 17
UC Santa Cruz March 15
 

There are three possible admission decision outcomes:

  • You are admitted – Congratulations! Be sure to submit your Statement of Intent to Register and enrollment deposit by May 1st! 
  • You have been denied admission – Boo! But don't sweat it. This is the reason for applying to several colleges, and if you planned wisely, you are bound to be admitted to one or more of these colleges. 
  •  You have been offered a spot on the waitlist – What, more waiting?!?!  

Waitlists

According to the University of California, all UC campuses, except Merced, will use waitlists for their freshman pools.

Almost all of the UC campuses have more qualified students than they have space for. So the campuses need to make some difficult decisions when selecting the freshmen class. Being offered a spot on the waitlist means that you may be admitted if an applicant who has been admitted to the campus decides not to attend (by not submitting the Statement of Intent to Register) and a space opens up. 

 What you need to know:

  • You might receive waitlist offers from more than one campus. 
  • Once offered a spot on a waitlist, you must opt in by April 15 deadline. Instructions for doing so will be included with the waitlist notification. (Some of the campuses will require you to submit a statement discussing your interest in attending that campus.)
  • You may accept the offer to be put on more than one waitlist. 
  • The UC campuses will notify students about their waitlist status no later than June 1.
  • Even if you accept a waitlist offer at a UC campus, you should submit an SIR to one of the campuses to which you have been admitted to in order to ensure you have a college to attend in the fall. If you later accept an offer of admission from a UC campus where you have been waitlisted, you must submit an additional SIR and enrollment deposit to the second campus (and you will forfeit your deposit at the first campus).

Appeals

If you are denied to a campus, but feel you have grounds for an appeal the decision to deny your application, you may submit an appeal. 

  • Please keep in mind that the purpose of the appeal process is to address compelling new information or correct a possible oversight in the initial review. 
  • The freshman appeal deadline is April 15 for most campuses (March 28 for Santa Cruz).

Good luck!

Thursday
Mar062014

Here's What the New SAT Will Look Like


Nearly a year after the College Board’s announcement that the SAT would be undergoing a significant redesign, College Board President David Coleman recently revealed more information about what we can expect to see on the new SAT®. Here are the major changes:

The first new SAT will be administered in spring 2016.
The redesigned exam will be divided into three sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, and the Essay. The Essay section is optional, though many selective colleges are likely to make it an admissions requirement.
The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section will abandon sentence completions and “rare” vocabulary definitions, instead asking students to interpret the meaning of words based on the context of the passage in which they appear. Students will study source documents from a broad range of disciplines, and on some questions, will be asked to select the quotation from the text that supports the answer they have chosen. Every exam will include a passage from one of the nation’s “founding documents,” (e.g., the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution) or from one of the important discussions of such texts (e.g. Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream speech”).
The Math section will require students to analyze data, charts, and graphs in order to solve problems grounded in real-world contexts. It will cover three major areas: linear equations; complex equations or functions; and ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning.
The Essay section will appear at the end of the test rather than the beginning. In it, students will read a passage and explain how the author builds an argument, supporting their claims with evidence from the passage. The essay prompt will be shared in advance and remain consistent; only the passage itself will change from test to test. Students will have 50 minutes to complete the essay.
The SAT will be scored on a 1600-point scale: 800 points for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and 800 points for the Math section. Essay scores will be reported separately.
Points will no longer be deducted for incorrect answers.
The SAT will be offered in print and, at selected locations, on computer.

You can find more details about the new version of the test at the College Board website. The College Board is planning to release more information about the new test, including example questions and text passages, on April 16, 2014. We’re keeping an eye on all developments and will share new information with you as it becomes available.


So, what does this mean for me?

If you’re a student or the parent of a student, you’re probably wondering how all this will affect you and how Elite is preparing for the upcoming changes.

If you are in the class of 2014, 2015, or 2016, you’ll take the current version of the SAT, and the new changes to the SAT will not affect you. If you will be graduating from high school in 2017, you will have the opportunity to take either the current version, the redesigned version, or both.

No matter when you’ll be taking the SAT, here’s the good news...

We’ve got you covered.

Over the past 27 years, Elite has acquired a wealth of expert knowledge and experience in creating the most effective curriculum to prepare college-bound students to succeed on the SAT.

We successfully met the challenge of developing a system of lessons and practice tests to reflect the changes in the SAT in 1994 and more recently in 2005. We’re confident that we will be able once again to swiftly adapt our curriculum and teaching methods to reflect the new changes to the SAT.

One of major goals of the College Board, as stated on its website, is to create a redesigned SAT that focuses on the “knowledge and skills that current research shows are most essential for college and career readiness and success.”

At Elite, we’re excited about these new changes and applaud the College Board's efforts to create a more transparent, accessible, and relevant exam. Elite's curriculum has never been about picking up tips and tricks or simply beating the test. For years, we've taken an “evidence-based reasoning” approach to reading comprehension and persuasive writing, and have taught core math knowledge and reasoning skills rather than having students simply memorize formulas to be used on the test and then forgotten.

Elite’s focus is on developing fundamental academic skills that prepare students not only for college entrance exams, but for life.

Rest assured that our trained teachers and counselors will be ready to guide students through every step of their journey with the most up-to-date information available and to offer courses specifically tailored to the exams that best fit their plans.

If you have questions or comments about the new changes to the SAT, please do not hesitate to contact your local Elite branch.

Wednesday
Mar052014

How to Brainstorm an Awesome SAT Essay Outline in Five Minutes

 

I believe your first five minutes of the timed 25-minute SAT essay are the most important. Why? Because the thesis and example you outline in those five minutes can make or break your essay.

I remember once telling my AP Lang teacher that I felt my essay was disorganized. She told me it was because my thoughts were disorganized. “Fuzzy thoughts lead to fuzzy writing.” She was right. After teaching writing for almost ten years, this is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned:

Clear thinking leads to clear writing.

Here’s a tip: if you can get your thoughts clear before you even begin your essay, the essay will practically write itself. So how do you get your thoughts clear in the first few minutes of the SAT essay? Try this:

1. Underline the abstract phrases in the prompt

Why do this? Because these phrases are the ones you’ll need to make concrete in the essay.

You: Wait, what do mean “make concrete”?

Me: I mean bring to life with details, images and examples.

You: Can you give me an example?

Me: Yup. Take this prompt, for example:

Do people need adversity to discover who they are?

Me: Underline the abstract phrases you’ll need to make concrete in the essay.

You: Sorry, not following you. Can you help me out?

Me: For sure. Underline “adversity” and “discover who they are.”

So if you believe the answer to this prompt is “yes, we do need adversity…” your essay will need to be about someone who encountered adversity that ultimately helped that persondiscover who he or she was. (Note that you could argue that people don’t need adversity to discover who they are, but it’s easier to prove that they do.)

Okay, I think I got it. Now what?

2. Brainstorm your example before you write your thesis

You: Wait, what? Aren’t I supposed to come up with my thesis first?

Me: Either one works. But try thinking of your example first, especially if you’ve never tried it.

You: Okay, how many examples do I need?

Me: One is fine for now. Just make sure your example applies to all the underlined parts of the prompt. Here are two examples I just came up with:

Example #1 (personal) of someone who overcame adversity to discover who she was

Who was it? My former student, Kristen

What was the adversity? She had an alcoholic father who was barely around when she was growing up, and he hired babysitters to take care of her instead. This led to her basically raising her younger brother on her own as they moved around the country to over ten different cities.

How did the adversity help her discover who she was? She became extremely creative and resourceful when it came to feeding, entertaining and even disciplining her brother. Moving to ten different cities also made her extremely adaptable.

Check it out: that’s practically an outline for an essay. Granted, it took me four minutes to come up with that. But that’s why it takes five minutes to brainstorm the essay. Because it takes four minutes to come up with the example and one minute to write it down. Here’s another:

Example #2 (from history): someone who overcame adversity to discover who he was

Who was it? Lance Armstrong

What was the adversity? Cancer

How did the adversity help him discover who he was? He overcame cancer to win the Tour de France nine times.

You: Wait a second. That’s actually a bad example.

Me: Really? Why?

You: A few reasons: 1.) It was actually seven times. 2.) It’s been proven that Lance Armstrong was doping and he ended up having all his Tour de France titles taken away. 3.) You didn’t answer the third question… You didn’t actually show how it helped him discover who he was.

Me: You’re right. And the SAT reader will forgive you if you mess up #1. And maybe even #2. But if you don’t actually respond to the whole prompt--in this case if you don’t demonstrate how the adversity faced helped your example discover who he was--you haven’t really fully answered the prompt.

Notice that it’s possible, though, to come up with your example first and then your thesis. Because once you have a clear example, the thesis should be pretty clear. So for example if the prompt is:

Do people need adversity to discover who they are?

Your thesis can be as simple as:

While not all people need adversity to learn who they are, in some cases adversity can be useful in leading people to discover important truths about themselves, as it did with my friend Kristen.  

And, since I’ve answered all the abstract parts of the prompt, my essay should be pretty straightforward.

Now it’s your turn. Use the prompt above to answer this prompt: Do people need adversity to discover who they are? Answer these three questions:

1. Who was it?

2. What conventional wisdom did the person challenge?

3. Did the person know a lot or almost nothing about the thing s/he was challenging?

Now that you have your example, write a thesis that responds directly to the prompt in bold above. Make sure you answer the question clearly and directly.

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, college essay specialist, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com. The views expressed in this blog post are Ethan's and don't necessarily reflect those of Elite Educational Institute.

Wednesday
Mar052014

How I Learned to Overcome Procrastination (mostly)

Confession: I used to be the worst procrastinator. So bad in fact that I turned in my own college application late. #truestory

In college I still put things off, pulling all-nighters during finals week and for most of my major papers. It wasn’t until after college that I learned how to get things done more consistently.

How did I do it?

One day I read something that really hit me:

The next time you think, “I’ll do it later,” do it now instead. Repeat this 20 times.

I don’t remember where I read it, but I do remember feeling tired of not getting things done.

So I tried it.

And it actually worked.

It took about three weeks to really notice a change in my behavior, but I think that doing 20 things in a row right away helped kick-start the change.

I’m still not perfect.

Even though my default mode has shifted from “I’ll do it later” to “I’ll do it now,” I still sometimes procrastinate. When that happens, I tend to have a conversation with myself that sounds something like:

Motivated self: I can’t believe I haven’t done [whatever it is]. I’m ridiculous.

Procrastinating self: Don’t worry, you’ll get to it.

Motivated self: Maybe, but I feel lazy and like it’s weighing on me. I want to get it done.

Here’s something else that helps:
When I’m still having trouble finishing something, I think of this thing that a wise friend once told me. This wise friend had broken her procrastination habit and was, like me, a perfectionist. She told me this: “Sometimes I have to stop obsessing about getting an A and just get a B+.”

I was like, “Ooh. That’s good.”

So that's my advice to you, especially if you’re a perfectionist:

Stop obsessing about it and get a B+.

Is your perfectionism leading to procrastination? If so, stop obsessing and just do it. #nike

Here’s proof that this is an ongoing process for me:
Want to know the last time I procrastinated? Yup, this article.

Then this morning in the shower I had a little conversation with myself and heard my friend’s words, “Get a B+.”

So that's what I did. I got out of the shower and got it done.

It may not be perfect.

But it's done.

 

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, college essay specialist, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com. The views expressed in this blog post are Ethan's and don't necessarily reflect those of Elite Educational Institute.

Monday
Mar032014

5 Things to Probably Never Do on the SAT Essay

Qualifier: rules are made to be broken, and those below are no exception. Having said that, here are some habits I’d recommend steering clear from on your SAT essay.


 

1. Probably never use the generic “you.”

Example: “You never know what kind of problems you might get into if you aren’t careful.”

Why this sentence isn’t great: It’s informal, and pretty general.

What to do instead: use “one” in place of “you.” As in, “One never knows what kind of problems one might get into if not careful.” Or, better yet, rewrite the sentence so you to avoid referring to an ambiguous, hypothetical person.

2. Probably never begin an essay with the words “Throughout history…”

Example: “Throughout history, many people have had many different beliefs.”

Why this sentence isn’t great: Again, it’s too general. There isn’t time enough to discuss all recorded history in 25 minutes. So don’t try.

What to do instead: Limit the scope of your argument. Start small, specific. (I’m not going to rewrite the sentence above, as it’d be better to delete it and re-think how to set up the thesis.)

 

 

3. Probably avoid generalizations and extreme language.

Example: “Horrible things happen to high school students all the time and they remember those things forever.”

Why this sentence isn’t great: Generalizations like this tend to be either impossible to prove or just plain wrong.

What you can do instead: Qualify your statement, which means to “limit,” “modify” or, as I like to say, “dial it back.”

Rewritten Example: “Certain negative high school experiences are likely to leave a lasting impression.” (Notice how “all” becomes “certain,” I’ve added “likely” and “forever” becomes “lasting impression.”)

A few more words on “qualifying” (because it’s really super important):

We tend to think of “qualifying” as “being eligible” for something. It sometimes mean that, but not here. In this case, I mean taking extreme words and limiting or restricting them. Examples:

Extreme word → Qualified version

“all” → “some” or “certain”
“everyone” → “many people” or better yet, “some people”
“always” → “often,” “in some cases,” “sometimes”
“never” → “rarely” or “seldom”

A few more examples: “My brother is always throwing things at people.” (or) “All men are evil.”

Why these sentences aren’t great: Because these statements aren’t true. And they’re impossible to prove. Read them again and imagine them literally.

Then imagine the evidence you’d need to prove them.

What you can do instead: Qualify ‘em! Dial ‘em back! “My little brother sometimes likes to throw things at people.” (or) “Some argue that all humans have the capacity to do evil.”

*Fun fact: Notice anything about the title of this blog post? #takingmyownadvice

4. Probably never use a hypothetical example.

Example: “When someone says something bad about you it’s like they’re judging you without knowing you.”

What’s not great about this sentence: A few things:

  1. The generic “you.”
  2. It’s general.
  3. It’s a hypothetical example. In other words, it’s not citing something specific that actually happened, so it doesn’t really count as evidence.

What you can do instead: Write about something specific that actually happened. “Last week, when my friend Jac told me that the way I was dressed was “way too preppy,” I felt as if I were being judged.” See how specific?

 

 

5. Probably never cite facts without proving them.

Example: “The world is getting more peaceful every day.”

What’s not great about this sentence: Is that true? Can you prove it? How?

What you can do instead: Again, get more specific.

Rewritten example: “Using statistical analysis, psychologist Steven Pinker has argued that the gradual decrease of military conflict, genocide, homicide, torture, and other acts of violence over the last few centuries has led to the present era being the most peaceful time in human history.”

Here’s one more:

Unfounded claim:  “You have to see and hear something to learn about it.”

Rewritten:  “Last year in my AP Psych class we read an article that discussed a study in which some participants received information both visually and aurally while others received the same information only visually or aurally. It turned out that those who received both kinds of information were 20% more likely to retain that information a year later.”

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, college essay specialist, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com. The views expressed in this blog post are Ethan's and don't necessarily reflect those of Elite Educational Institute.

Monday
Mar032014

Summer Prep in Corona, CA

This summer, Elite of Anaheim Hills will be offering a special satellite program at La Sierra University in Corona, CA! To sign up, contact Elite of Anaheim Hills to schedule a free diagnostic test and consultation. 

 

Wednesday
Feb262014

How Choosing Your Classes Ahead of Time Can Help You Get into the Right College 

 

Let’s say you want to go to Stanford. And let’s say all goes well and you get in. At some point you'll have to decide which classes to take. So why wait? Why not pick classes before you even apply? Here are three reasons why it might actually help:

1. Mapping out your classes now is a great way to find out if the school is a good fit. If the school doesn’t have the classes or programs you want, better to find out now. And if it doesn’t, find a school that does. There are hundreds of other great colleges to choose from.

2. Knowing which classes you'll take can lead to a better "why us" statement. How? Demonstrating to the admissions officers that you’ve really thought through your academic plan at their school will help them envision you at the school.

3. You have the power to shape your future. And I’m not saying this in the abstract self-help sense of “If you can dream it you can do it.” I’m talking about the difference between fantasizing and envisioning. And there’s a big difference, as Douglas LaBier points out:

A fantasy is more like a wish or ungrounded notion of something you hope for or idealize acquiring. Creating a vision, however, is a more specific and developed formulation. You experience it as a process, steps along the way that you move through, in order to turn it into reality.

Do you have the right goal?

Ask yourself: am I thinking of getting into college as trying to “get something” for myself? Am I trying to satisfy my own ego? According to LaBier, “such goals are, in fact, less likely to generate positive outcome, whether in personal life or at work. The most creative, positive accomplishments and achievements result from learning to "forget yourself," in the sense of putting your energies into something larger than just your own ego-gratification.”

So try re-thinking the goal of getting into college. Think of the classes you’ll take as a means to a greater end. What greater end? You tell me. What great work will you do in the world?

See, I believe that going to a great college, taking great classes, and finding a great career, are not ends in themselves, but ways of meeting our fundamental needs. And one of those needs, if you agree with Tony Robbins, is making a contribution to the world.

Or, as my friend Greg would say:

Ask not, “How can I get?” but “What can I give?”

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, college essay specialist, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com. The views expressed in this blog post are Ethan's and don't necessarily reflect those of Elite Educational Institute.

Tuesday
Feb252014

5 Reasons Why It Doesn't Matter What You Major In


Stressed about picking your major? Or feeling pressure to pick a major that’s “practical” or tied to a particular career? Here are five reasons why your major may not matter all that much:

1. Employers aren’t interested in what you think they’re interested in

Think your future boss is primarily interested in your major? Nope. Want proof?

A.) A 2013 study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 93% of the employers surveyed believed that critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills were more important than a candidate’s undergraduate major.

B.) Author Zac Bissonette points out that “There is a disconnect between students’ perceptions of what employers want and what employers actually want. He cites an article in the Canadian HR Reporter, which claimed that, according to a survey by Toronto’s George Brown College, generation Y (aged 18 to 35) tended to believe employers are looking for experience, when in fact most employers found communication skills to be the most important skill for a candidate to possess. “So if your goal is to develop written and verbal communication skills,” writes Bissonette, “a finance major may not be the best bet.”

Future stock brokers? Perhaps.

2. Medical Schools and Law Schools don’t really care about your major either

Forbes recently reported that, “according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), medical schools accepted 43 percent of the biological sciences majors, 47 percent of physical sciences majors, 51 percent of humanities majors, and 45 percent of social sciences majors who applied in 2010. “Admission committee members know that medical students can develop the essential skills of acquiring, synthesizing, applying and communicating information through a wide variety of academic disciplines,” the AAMC states.

According to the Forbes article:

The American Bar Association agrees: “The ABA does not recommend any undergraduate majors or group of courses to prepare for a legal education. Students are admitted to law school from almost every academic discipline.” A study by a Chicago State University professor bears this out: the top ten majors with the highest acceptance rates for law school include philosophy, anthropology, history and English.


3. Majors don’t necessarily lead to careers

According to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, only 27 percent of college grads work in a job related to their major.

And let’s face it, not everyone was meant to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. There are other options. That may be obvious on the surface, but if you’re getting pressure from your mom or dad to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer and you don’t deep down want to be one of those things, it may not feel like there are more than those three options. So I just wanted to remind you: there are more than three options. And, if you think about it, most people are not doctors, lawyers and engineers.


A very fine career. But not the ONLY career.

4. Your job may not exist yet

Here’s a list of ten jobs that didn’t exist ten years ago. The list includes app developer, sustainability expert, social media manager, and (one of my jobs) educational consultant. Who knows what new careers will exist in ten years? Maybe yours.


5. Your major won’t always define your pay

Here’s the one you didn’t expect. But check it out: a recent study by Payscale Inc. shows that “the subject you major in can have little to do with your long-term earning power.”  


So when should you worry about your major (when does it matter)?

When your major does matter, says Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career is “when it comes to your happiness and fulfillment in college.”

Here’s my advice: major in something that will allow you to study the things you love or think you might love. One added benefit of studying what you love is that it could help build self-esteem, since some evidence suggests that your self-esteem is not a measure of your general self-worth, but of how well you perform in the areas you care about. So why not get better at the stuff you care about? Who knows to what kind of work your passions might lead.

You may be wondering if I've got any more tips for making the most of your college experience.

I do. Click here for some great advice.

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, college essay specialist, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com. The views expressed in this blog post are Ethan's and don't necessarily reflect those of Elite Educational Institute.

Thursday
Feb202014

Top 5 Reasons to Go to College

 

1. College is better than becoming an MMA fighter.

Because fighting people is hard. And it hurts.

2. Learn to pick up chicks.

#animalhusbandryftw #creepywebsitename

3. It’s a pretty good way to spend $200,000.

I said PRETTY good.

4. Because some cool people named “Ken” went to college.

 

 

Didn’t know about that last one, did you? Yup. Ph.D in #shoryuken

5. You don't have a choice.

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, college essay specialist, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com. The views expressed in this blog post are Ethan's and don't necessarily reflect those of Elite Educational Institute.

Thursday
Feb202014

How to Choose Your Major, or How College is Like the Cheesecake Factory

 

Ever seen the menu at the Cheesecake Factory? It's crazy, something like 50 pages long with over 200 items. And if you're like me it takes forever to decide what to order: you think the Cajun Pasta sounds good until you see The Incredible Grilled Eggplant Sandwich (actual name). Then you see the Chicken Lettuce Wrap Tacos and you think “Those sound good,” until you realize it’s Sunday and you can get your Belgian Waffle Elvis style. By the time the server arrives you find yourself saying, "Can we get another minute?" and by the time the server comes back with the bread you try to buy another 30 seconds by saying to your friends, "You guys order; I'll go last," but even after you've ordered the Chicken Madeira you're still not quite sure that you shouldn’t have gone with the Luau Salad.

 

This sucker's spiral-bound and weighs about 5 lbs.

Well guess what?

Choosing your college major can feel a lot like that.

Depaul has a huge list of majors and minors to choose from, for example, while the list at Rutgers is just as long. UCLA has so many to choose from (around 125) that it actually has a website for “Majors not offered at UCLA” (emphasis mine).

Psychologist Barry Schwartz, in his book The Paradox of Choice, points out that while having a few options can make us happier, having too many can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing.

 

Uhhhhhhhhhhhh...

So what do you do?

Schwartz has some good advice, which I’ve adapted here for the high school senior picking a major:

  1. Decide what’s most important to you. Sound impossible? It’s not, actually. Take a look at this exercise for finding your values. Once you have a list of 3-5, then:  

  2. Evaluate the importance of each value. Rank your top values, if possible. Also, ask yourself why you want to go to college. Are you looking to gain practical skills that will help you in a specific career? Or do you just want to learn about a lot of different things? If the latter, your major may not matter as much, and you might want to consider a school or major that offers a lot of flexibility in its curriculum, like the open curriculum at Brown.

  3. Consider your options. How?

    1. Order the book Do What You Are. Do the personality test at the beginning and read about the careers that correspond to your personality. This isn't the only way to figure out what you want to do, but it's the best and most efficient way of helping students I've ever found.

    2. Work with a career consultant. Contact your local Elite branch for recommendations.

    3. What about an online major or career quiz? Well, you can, except I’ve taken a bunch of them and have never really found a fully comprehensive one. But they can be fun! If you really want to take one, I like the one at www.gladeo.com.

  4. Ask yourself if your major choice will bring you closer to your top value(s). If your top value, for example, is “independence,” will the major(s) you’ve chosen be likely to facilitate that?

  5. Keep exploring. How?

    1. Find out which classes are required for each major. UC Santa Cruz, for example, has a clickable page that gives this info. So pick a school you like and see what your freshman year would look like. (Click here for more on why picking your college classes before you even write your college application is a good idea.)

    2. Job shadow someone in a career you find interesting. This is actually easier than you think. Ask your parents, guidance counselor, and favorite teachers if they know anyone in the field you’re interested in. Ask them for that person’s email. Email that person and say, “I’m interested in potentially doing what you do for a living, but I’d love to find out more about what it’s really like. Could I perhaps chat with you on the phone for 15 minutes or, if possible, job shadow you one day? I’d really appreciate any guidance you could offer.” Simple as that. Be polite and kind. The worst that can happen is the first person you ask says “no.” If so, don’t take it personally, just find someone else to ask.

Hey, Ethan! Can you guarantee that once I do this I’ll find my dream career?

Nope. But once you’ve done all this, chances are you’ll be a little closer.

Finally, something that'll really mess with your head:

After you graduate college, the Cheesecake Factory thing will happen again. And it may sound something like this...

WORLD: So you’ve just graduated college. What would you like to do with your life?

YOU: Um. What are my options? Can I see the menu?

WORLD: Sorry, there is no menu.

YOU: What?

WORLD: That’s right. Your options are now limitless. (Pause.) Good luck with that.
 

*   *   *   *   *

RELATED LINKS:

Click here for Five Common Myths About Majors.

Here’s Barry Schwartz’s TED talk on the paradox of choice.

Because I like to offer other perspectives, here’s a counter-argument to the paradox of choice theory.

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, college essay specialist, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com. The views expressed in this blog post are Ethan's and don't necessarily reflect those of Elite Educational Institute.

Wednesday
Feb192014

I’m a Junior and it’s February. What should I be doing right now?

 

Here are five things you can be doing to set yourself up for a beauty of a college application:

1. Getting the best grades in the toughest classes your school offers.

You probably know that your GPA is really important to colleges, but you may not know that colleges pay attention to how much you challenged yourself. I’m not saying you should definitely take six AP classes every year, but I am saying that colleges receive info detailing how many AP classes are offered at your school and how many of those you took. So think twice before dropping AP Psych.

Note: I’m often asked, “Should I take an AP class and get a B or take a regular or honors class and get an A?” My stock answer: “If you want to go to Stanford, take the AP class and get an A.” #nopressure

2. Signing up for test prep.

According to the 2012 NACAC State of College Admissions report, 89% of colleges require SAT/ACT scores, and 59% attribute considerable importance to them. You can choose to apply to test optional schools, but if you’re applying to a wide range of schools, I recommend taking your SAT or ACT once Junior year and once Senior year.

 

I happen to know a great test prep place...

 

3. Rocking out on your extracurriculars.

What does “rocking out” look like? Take a look at these two examples and tell me which student is rocking and which one ain’t:

A. Culinary Arts (August 2013-September 2013)

• Prepared food for students at school

• Learned how to cook healthy meals

B. Editor-in-Chief of School Newspaper (August 2013-May 2014)

• Chief adviser and manager of production, financial backing, written quality, and school-wide distribution of The Voice

• Teach a class of over 45 students how to use InDesign (newspaper program)

• Teach a group of Managing Editors how to lead incoming students in article writing, and programming skills

• Fundraise (selling pizza, t-shirts) on campus to sustain school newspaper

• Contact numerous advertising agencies to help sustain the paper

Note: Ask yourself: does my current resume demonstrate leadership? Initiative? Vision? I’m not saying you have to be president or editor-in-chief of everything, but there are always ways to demonstrate leadership qualities even if you can’t be president.

 

 

4. Applying to at least three summer programs.

Show colleges you didn’t spend your whole summer playing video games. Here is a list of great summer programs. Here is another. Since many have February and March deadlines, now is the time to apply. A summer job is also a good idea. Bonus points if that summer job relates to or helps you figure out what you want to study in college.

5. Creating your college list.

This includes visiting campuses. But where do you start? How do you find out about schools? And how many should you apply to? For more, check out How to Create an Great College List.

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, college essay specialist, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com.

Saturday
Feb152014

How Senioritis Can Earn You a “Fear of God” Letter


Think you’re safe if you’re already accepted into a college? Guess again.

If you’re slacking off your senior year and your grades are slipping, it could be that the college you thought you’d call “home” in the fall could withdraw your offer. Sometimes this comes in the form of a “fear of God” letter, like this one from T.C.U. that was quoted on the NY Times Choice blog:

Dear Joe:

We recently received your final high school transcript. While your overall academic background continues to demonstrate the potential for success, we are concerned with your performance during the senior year, particularly in calculus. University studies are rigorous and we need to know that you are prepared to meet T.C.U.’s academic challenges. With this in mind, I ask that you submit to me, as soon as possible but no later than July 31, 2012, a written statement detailing the reasons surrounding your senior year performance.

Joe, please understand that your admission to T.C.U. is in jeopardy. If I do not hear from you by the above date, I will assume you are no longer interested in T.C.U. and will begin the process of rescinding your admission.

Please realize that your personal and academic successes are very important to us. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Raymond A. Brown
Dean

Don’t start celebrating before you cross the finish line like this guy:

Does it sound like I’m trying to scare you? I am. Why? Because I really want you to make it to college. Oh, and one more thing.

It almost happened to me.

True story: my senior year of high school I was way more interested in doing Drama and Debate than Pre-Calculus, so when 5th period rolled around I would ask Ms. Turino if I could miss class “just for today” and I’d promise to make up the work. Ms. Turino was pretty lenient and there must have been more than a few “just for todays” because when I got my progress report in March I didn't have a C in her class, or a D. No. I had an F… actually, 0.69 on a 4.0 scale.

I almost cried. My dreams of spending weekends strolling through rooms at the Art Institute, devouring deep dish pizza at Giordanno’s, and studying with some of the best Theater artists in the world were suddenly gone. Poof.

My reaction.

So things got real, fast.

"What can I do?" I asked her, my voice probably cracking.

"Nothing. It’s too late.”

“Seriously?”

“Sorry. You haven’t been here.”

I left class that day a little broken. And then I got to work.

First, I begged Ms. Turino to let me make up my assignments, to let me prove to her I wasn’t a slacker. Eventually, she agreed to let me make up some of the work. [In retrospect, this was incredibly kind of her and though I thanked her then, I'd like to thank her here, again.] I completed extra credit assignments, studied harder than ever before and got A’s on the rest of my tests.

I escaped Pre-Cal my senior year with a C. I still feared, up until the last moment, that I’d get the “fear of God” letter for Northwestern. Fortunately, I didn’t. But looking back at how much I gained there, it would have been an absolutely devastating letter.

What am I saying to you? Avoid the devastating letter.

If you're reading this in the spring of your senior year and you're in danger of failing (or getting anything other than As and Bs), here are a few tips:

How to Avoid Getting the “Fear of God” Letter Your Senior Year

  1. Check in with your teachers or guidance counselor ASAP to find out what your current grades are.

  2. If you don’t like what you hear, ask your teacher(s) what you can do to bring your grade(s) up.

  3. Create a to-do list that actually works.

  4. Try a one-week social media fast.

  5. Close this webpage and get to work.

How Parents and Teachers Can Help Motivate a Student with Senioritis

  1. Copy and paste the “fear of God” letter above into a blank MSWord doc.

  2. Google image search the college where your student has been accepted and put a logo from the college into the header of the doc.

  3. Change the name “Joe” to your son/daughter/student’s name.

  4. Print it out and tape it on a door, laptop, or somewhere they’re bound to see it.

  5. Hide and wait.

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, college essay specialist, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com.

Saturday
Feb152014

Boost Your Scores this Spring!

This spring, get the academic edge you need with Elite's flexible and highly effective test prep and GPA management programs:


SAT Subject Test Prep
Elite provides comprehensive preparation for many of the SAT Subject Tests consisting of weekly practice test sessions and review classes with instructors who not only are knowledgeable about their subjects but also understand how to help students prepare effectively for the SAT Subject Tests. Click here to learn more about SAT Subject Tests.

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Advanced Placement (AP) Courses offer students an opportunity to earn college credit and strengthen their college applications. Elite’s instructors are second to none. In fact, many are AP high school teachers or college instructors who are experts in their fields.

AP Prep courses include: BIOLOGY E/M • CALCULUS • CHEMISTRY • COMPUTER SCIENCE • ENGLISH LANGUAGE • ENGLISH LITERATURE • EUROPEAN HISTORY • MATHEMATICS • PHYSICS • U.S. HISTORY • WORLD HISTORY*

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The Elite PSAT Program is designed for students in 9th and 10th grade who want to get a head start on preparing for the PSAT and SAT. PSAT Boot Camp offers a set of three interlocking classes (Critical Reading, Writing and a Math class previewing Algebra II) taught at a pace more suited to younger students.

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SAT Prep
Elite’s SAT Reasoning Test Prep Program consists of a weekly practice test and three lecture classes covering Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. In the lecture classes, students  review the practice test with experienced instructors and continue their learning through a series of lessons containing exercises designed to develop their reading, math, grammar, and writing skills.

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ACT Prep
The ACT is a nationally recognized college admissions exam that most colleges use to compare applicants. It consists of English, Math, Reading, and Science sections as well as an optional 30-minute Writing test. Elite offers rigorous 4-week and 6-week ACT preparation courses designed to cover all tested subjects and teach specific test-taking strategies unique to the ACT.

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ReadiPrep™ English
Aimed at students in grades 5-9, ReadiPrep™ English focuses on developing studies’ critical reading and thinking skills through an interconnected course of study involving reading comprehension, vocabulary and grammar studies, persuasive writing, and test skill development.

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ReadiPrep Math helps students master the concepts and problem solving techniques in the Pre-Algebra to Algebra II sequence. Students then apply these math principles to carefully constructed word problems and exercises developed to reinforce conceptual understanding and sharpen problem-solving skills. 

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For class schedules and registration info, contact your local Elite branch today! »

Thursday
Feb132014

Five Common Myths About College Majors

 

Myth #1: Applying "undecided" will hurt my college chances

Untrue. Many admissions reps will tell you–and Princeton even affirms it on its website–that applying as “undecided” won’t affect your chances. And there’s reason to believe them. Bucknell University reports on its website that about a quarter of its accepted students enter as "undecided," while the same is true for about one third of students at the U of Oregon. And what’s UCLA's most popular major for incoming freshmen? Yup. Undecided. (My friend works in the admissions office there; she told me.)

 

Myth #2: Once I've picked a major I have to stick with it.

Nope. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, almost 80% of students change their majors at least once. (I changed mine twice.) So, chances are, you’ll change your major too.

 

Myth #3: My major is my career.

Not necessarily.

  • Anecdotal evidence: During a workshop I led I once asked a room full of about 100 adults, "How many of you changed your major in college?" Almost all raised their hands. "And how many of you are currently working in a career that's directly related to what you majored in?" One hand stayed up.

  • Hard numbers: according to a recent report, only 27 percent of college grads work in a job that matches their major. 

 

 

Myth #4: If I get a humanities or liberal arts degree I’ll be “unemployed and unemployable” because I won’t have any marketable skills.

Nope. One recent study suggests, in fact, that over the long haul humanities and social science majors out-earn those who went through professional and pre-professional programs. One reason, suggests Danielle Moss Lee, president and CEO of the Harlem Education Activities Fund, is that many graduates in more practical fields may find their skills are outdated within 5-10 years, while liberal arts students have the chance to invest in skills like writing that will be useful to them throughout their careers. If you’re interested, there are two good arguments for a liberal arts degree here and here

 

Myth #5: At some point I’ll have to decide what I want to be when I grow up.

As Mary Schmich said in that awesome Fatboy Slim song: "Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives; some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't."

 

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, college essay specialist, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com.

Saturday
Jan252014

College Interviews: How to Prepare (Part 2 of 2)

The single best way to prepare for an interview with a college is to:  

1. Write the three essay supplements below, even if the school hasn’t requested them

  • "Why us" statement

  • "What do you want to study and why" essay

  • Short extracurricular essay (150-250 words)

Why should you write these essays no matter what? Because writing them is essentially a chance to think-through your answers to three questions you're likely to be asked:

  • Why our school?

  • What do you want to study and why?

  • What interests you besides academics?

Plus, it'll lead to interesting questions for the interviewer (more on that in a moment).

A few quick tips:

  • Make sure that your "Why us" statement avoids these pitfalls.

  • Your short extracurricular essay should incorporate these six techniques.

  • Have at least one unexpected answer to the "What do you want to study and why" essay (and click here for a really solid example essay.)

Once you're written (or re-written) your supplements...

2. Develop your “message box”

What’s a message box? A message box (you can look this up) is basically a PR-term for the 3-4 points you definitely want to hit no matter what the interviewer's question is.

So let’s say, for example, you worked in your dad’s restaurant since the 8th grade, learning the ins and outs of a business while helping to support your family. Notice how that could apply to any of the following questions:

  • What have you been involved in that you feel pleased about?

  • What’s the largest challenge you’ve faced and how did you resolve it?

  • What makes you unique?

How do you develop a message box?

a. Ask your family or friends: what’s the most impressive thing about me?

b. Take a blank piece of paper and spend 20 minutes filling the page with everything you’d want a college rep to know about you. Fill it with adjectives. Doodles. Memories. Basically everything that makes you, well you.

 Then pick 3-4 of those things. That’s your message box.

3. Come up with three really solid, specific questions for the interviewer.

Why? Because it’s the single best way to communicate your intelligence, IMHO.

You don't have to raise your hand. It'll probably just be you and the interviewer. And that would weird them out.

Think about it, when I'm interviewing a student and I ask, "Do you have any questions for me?" and the student says, "Not really," how do you think that sounds? In short, it's not positive. I'm not saying it reflects negatively, I'm just saying it doesn't add anything to the student's application that I can write down.

What kind of questions should you ask?

A. Ask a question that shows you’ve done your research

How? Ask great school-specific questions:

  • Can you help me understand some of the specific differences between studying in the International Political Economy program at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service vs. majoring in political economy through the Georgetown College department of economics?

B. Ask a question that shows you're serious about your area of interest

How? Ask an advanced-level question in your field of interest/expertise:

  • Do the school's theatrical productions tend to focus more on interpreting existing works or creating new ones? How about in-class work?

Tip: it’s okay if the interviewer doesn't know the answer to your question. It may lead to an interesting conversation, in this case for example, on the difference between "interpretation" vs. "creation," something you happened to write a paper on last semester.

C. Ask a question that makes a personal connection

How? Ask questions only the interviewer could answer: What did you love most about studying at CMU? (or) What would you do differently if you could do college over again?

Remember that you're talking to a real person--not just a college rep--and that person has hopes and dreams, regrets and wishes just like you.

This post began with a life lesson, so I’ll end with one:

Be brave and dare to make a real connection.

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, college essay specialist, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com.

Friday
Jan242014

College Interviews: How much do they really matter? (Part 1 of 2)

It’s January, which means it's time for college interviews. But how much do they count and for what?

The short answer is this: it depends on the school. No one but the college decision-makers at each school knows, and each school weights the elements of the application differently.

But there is some evidence suggesting that the interview may not be as important as we think, or important for the reasons we think.

Lots of schools. Lots of opinions about interviews.

What do you mean the interview may not be that important?
According to the NACAC 2012 State of College Admissions Report, only 6.2% of colleges attributed “considerable importance” to the interview. And 25% of colleges attributed either “moderate” or “limited” importance in the overall admissions decision, while 42% attributed “no importance” to the interview (presumably many of those schools don’t hold interviews at all).

At a panel I attended at the 2011 NACAC Conference, a Princeton rep was asked by an audience member how important the interview was and she responded that, in essence, they didn't matter that much. In a 2011 Daily Beast article, John Birney, senior associate director of admissions at Johns Hopkins was quoted as saying that “[Interviews] are not a significant factor in the vast majority of cases."

Keep in mind that each of these examples is from one person who works for one school, and each should be taken each with a grain of salt. But based on recent conversations I’ve had with admissions reps at national conferences and my own research, my sense is that the interview is not in general a "make-or-break" factor. (See exceptions below.) 

So what’s the point of the interview?
1. To demonstrate interest in the school. Some schools track how much active interest you’ve shown: Did you visit? Did you interview? Are you applying early? Together, these factors can have some sway over the admissions decision, although how much (notice I'm saying this a lot) varies from school to school. So the fact that you did the interview--regardless of how you think it went--counts for something.

2. To give additional information. Do you feel your essays didn’t really show you in your best light? Or have you done impressive things since applying that weren’t in your original application? You can share these things in your interview. (Personal note: this happened to me. In between applying and interviewing for Northwestern my senior year of high school I won a couple pretty big drama awards and got a chance to talk about them with my interviewer. She was excited about what I shared, said she thought I’d really love the NU Theater program, and actually convinced me during my interview to write to NU to change my major on my application. I did, and I got in.)


Worked for me.

When might the interview matter?
The second part of the John Birney quote above goes, "But for a kid who is on the bubble, where the decision could go either way, a fantastic interview with an alumnus could make the difference.” (Translation: there might be some cases, perhaps few and far between, when the interview matters a lot.)

What if I refuse an interview?
That’s another time that an interview (or rather lack of an interview) could matter. If you’re offered an interview and refuse, it could look bad, or at least raise questions about you. So if you do get offered one, I’d say accept it.

Is it bad not to interview at all?
Depends on how important it is to the school.

How can I tell how important it is to the school?
You can take a hint from the school’s website. Swarthmore, for example, points out that while the deadline for an on-campus interview was December 6, don't worry because “if you are not able to interview, it will not impact your admissions decision in any way.” (My translation: relax), while Yale’s website says, “An interview is not a required part of the application process, but we encourage you to meet and talk with a Yale alumnus/a or student interviewer when possible.” (Translation: make it happen)

So what are you saying, Ethan: should I interview or not?
Armed with the knowledge that your interview will matter something in between “not at all” and “a lot,” yes, you should still interview.

How do I request an interview?
In some cases, the college will contact you. But if you want to make sure you get one, Google “Request alumni interview for [school name here]” and you’re likely to turn up something like this page for Sarah Lawrence, which directs you to an Alumni Interview Request form.

Okay, so I’m going to interview. What do I do next?
Step 1: Don’t freak out.

Step 2: Read Part 2 of this post tomorrow to learn how to prepare.

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, college essay specialist, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com.

Thursday
Jan232014

How Much Do College Admission Interviews Matter?

There's an old story about a holy man who used to carry a piece of paper in each pocket. The paper in one pocket read, "You are the dust of the earth" and the paper  in the other pocket read, "You are the reason The Maker created the Earth." 

I tell this story to my students the week before the SAT to put things into perspective.

“The SAT is a really important opportunity,” I tell them. “Or, it's not that important at all.” Some students laugh at this point, some look confused. Then I might say something like, “Sure, your SAT score may have something to do with which college you’ll get into, but most of you in this room are going to go to some great college and go on to lead long and fulfilling lives and when at the end of those lives you are on your deathbed taking stock of all you’ve been and done, I hope (dear God I hope) and expect that the issue foremost in your mind will not be your SAT score. If it is, then society, your parents and I have failed you. There is much more to life than the SAT.”

It's a lesson for life.

The lesson also applies to the college admissions interview, which is on my mind this week because I’m getting emails from students that say things like, “I have an interview with Yale in three days and idk what to do! Help!!!”

First of all:


In tomorrow's Part One of this two-part post I'll offer some evidence suggesting the interview may not be as important as you think, or important for the reasons you think.

In Part Two I'll outline a three-step approach for how to prep for the interview because either the interview is important or it doesn't matter how important it is because you've got an interview in like three days and you need help, like stat!

Full disclosure: I’m an alumni interviewer for Northwestern, so my information (and biases) come from this perspective. Being an alumni interviewer means I know a little bit about how interviews go, but since I’ve never worked in the Northwestern admissions office, I don’t how much weight NU accords to the interview. And no, I can’t (and won’t) get you into Northwestern. (Insert non-threatening smiley face emoticon.)

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, college essay specialist, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com.

Wednesday
Jan152014

Five FAFSA Myths – Busted

What’s the FAFSA? It’s the online form you fill out to get financial aid from the government. To most of you reading this blog, that means this: FREE MONEY.

But you can’t get it if you don’t apply.

So before we get to the myths, heed this advice: File your FAFSA early.

When? Like, now. January.

Why? Some schools give money on a first-come, first-served basis. And when the money is gone then it’s, well, gone.

Here are some of the myths that keep students from applying, courtesy of this rad video from the good folks at FAFSA:

MYTH #1: My parents make too much money.
ACTUALLY: There’s no income cut-off for federal student aid. So apply no matter what!

MYTH #2: My parents have to file their taxes before I submit my FAFSA.
ACTUALLY: You can put in estimated info based on last year’s tax return, then update it later, once mom and dad have done their taxes.

MYTH #3: Filling out the FAFSA is too hard and complicated.
ACTUALLY: It takes about 30 minutes. Plus, FAFSA provides step-by-step instructions, live chat, and phone help.

MYTH #4: My grades aren’t good enough for me to get aid.
ACTUALLY: FAFSA funds aren’t directly tied to how you’ve performed in school.

MYTH #5: My ethnicity or age makes me ineligible for aid.
ACTUALLY: FAFSA funds aren’t dependent on ethnicity or age.

Ready to fill out the FAFSA? Go here: www.fafsa.gov

Want more details? Watch this simple three-minute video on How to Fill Out the FAFSA.

And click here for a whole bunch of short videos on everything from How to Determine Your Dependency to What Happens After You Fill Out Your FAFSA.

And click here for 10 Tips for Filling Out the FAFSA.

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