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College: Things To Think About

College SAT, Essays, and Preparation Common Application
College Essay
Rigor and Relevance
College Visits
Popular Majors

Common Application

The Common Application is a not-for-profit organization that serves students and member institutions by providing an admission application – online and in print – that students may submit to any of its 392 members. Once completed online or in print, copies of the Application for Undergraduate Admission can be sent to any number of participating colleges. The same is true of the School Report, Midyear Report, Final Report and Teacher Evaluation forms. This allows you to spend less time on the busywork of applying for admission, and more time on what's really important: college research, visits, essay writing, and senior year coursework.

Widely used, millions of Common Applications are printed and accepted by members each year. In fact, last year almost 1.4 million applications were submitted via the Common App Online process.

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College Essays

How important is the essay?
Short answer: VERY!

2009 College Board’s College Admission and Enrollment Statistics found that while grades, high school record and admission tests are the top factors in the college admission decision, a majority of colleges and universities consider the essay to be important or very important in determining which academically qualified students they would choose.

You need to take time and make sure you are doing the best on the essay you can. Here are a few tips but they are not meant as the ‘whole solution’ in any way.

When you pick the theme, do one that has real meaning to you.

Once you start writing, make sure that you follow the basics with writing. In other words:
  • Into paragraph that presents your subject
  • Body that supports your subject
  • End paragraph that summarizes what you wrote

  • In the body of your essay, be careful to stay true to your subject, i.e. stay focused and on track. Always try to end on a positive note so to leave the reader up rather than down.

    Some other things to remember:
  • Make sure you proofread. Even better, have someone else proofread and suggest corrections.
  • Always speak in the first person
  • Write it, then leave it for a day than come back and read it aloud. How does it flow. Did it make sense.
  • Very important…. Ask someone else to read your essay and give their feedback.

  • Things to avoid:
  • Follow directions: If the essay is supposed to be 500 words, don’t write 750!
  • Don’t try to show off by listing all your accomplishments. They are important but can be listed somewhere else more appropriate.

  • Again, there are many other things you need to do or review and Project-College really wants to help!

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    Rigor and Relevance

    The term 'Rigor' refers to the level of challenge that a particular class offers the student. The greater the academic challenge that a class presents, the greater its rigor. For example, honors chemistry is more rigorous than academic chemistry. And AP chemistry is more rigorous yet.

    The term 'Relevance' refers to how your course work relates to future studies and careers. If you are considering a career in engineering, classes in math and science would be relevant to post-secondary studies in that area. Additionally, classes such as CAD classes and internship opportunities at a local engineering firm would add relevance to your schedule.

    As a general rule, the more rigor and relevance you can add to your schedule, the better prepared you will be for your college studies. However, there are certain classes that help colleges ascertain whether you have mastered the academic skills that will most likely lead to success in post-secondary settings. Specifically, colleges generally look for advanced course work in the areas of:

  • Math (pre-calculus and above)
  • World languages (two or more years of Spanish, French, Latin, Chinese, etc.)
  • Writing and composition (AP Language)
  • Science (physics, chemistry, or advanced biology)

  • Depending also upon your intended major, additional coursework or extracurricular activities will also aid to your overall 'Rigor and relevance' quotient.

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    College Visits

    College visits can really be some of the most important tools for selecting the right college and assuring a good fit.

    Yes they can be expensive! In today's economy, college visits can even be a prohibitive expense. This can be especially true if a student is applying to a large number of colleges, which is now becoming more common.

    So if they are expensive, why make a college visit?
    The main reason is still the simple fact that you can't get as good a feel for a school if you're not experiencing the campus. College websites do offer you a lot, but they don't tell you nearly as much as a quick view of the bulletin boards in the student center in terms of what the students are doing and thinking about. Seeing and talking to students is also important. That's how you know how you fit.

    Another good reason is that visits allow you to sit in on classes, giving you a real sense of the academics in your chosen discipline. If you want to be a pre-law major, check out the schools connections to law schools and activities to support that direction on campus. If you're into business, what are the freshman business classes like? If a theater major, what are the plays like… go and see! This can also be a tremendous help for nervous parents, as well as students!

    Another valuable reason to make a college visit, even if the school is local, is maybe the biggest. It makes schools think you're interested. Any school is more interested in a student who takes the initiative to visit, and yes, they notice. It's an easy way to tell a school you like them, and that matters much more than most people think.

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    Popular Majors

    What are some of the more popular majors?

    In 2009, the following were reported by US colleges and universities as the Top 10 Most Popular Majors, based on enrollment:

    1. Business Administration and Management
    2. Psychology
    3. Elementary Education and Teaching
    4. Nursing—registered nurse training (RN, ASN, BSN, MSN)
    5. Biology/Biological Sciences
    6. Education
    7. English Language and Literature
    8. Political Science and Government
    9. Economics
    10. Marketing/Marketing Management

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    • The SAT tests to see how well you think and ACT tests to see what you've learned
    • Intuitive learners (think in terms of the big-picture, themes, and concepts) tend to do well on SATs and sensory learners (detail-focused, fact-oriented, and highly sequential) tend to do better on ACTs.
    • SAT takes 3 hours and 45 minutes; ACT takes 3 hours and 25 minutes (including the optional half-hour writing test )
    • SAT contains 10 sections= 3 Critical Readings, 3 Math, 3 Language and Writing section (including essay) and 1 experimental section which is not scored. ACT contains 4 sections (plus the Writing test) of English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing
    • Subjects: SAT tests for Critical Reading, Math, and Writing; ACT tests for English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing
    • Essay: SAT requires the writing; ACT makes writing optional (although it is required for most highly competitive schools)
    • SAT is 1/3 Math, 1/3 Reading and 1/3 Language Arts & Writing; ACT is ¼ English, ¼ Math, ¼ Reading, and ¼ Science
    • SAT are between 600-2400; ACT, a composite score of 1 to 36. Both SAT and ACT score the essay from 0 to 12
    • Penalties for wrong answers: SAT takes off ¼ point for each wrong answer; ACT does not penalize for wrong answers