AP Exams and the Coronavirus: 10 Things You Need to Know

AP Exams and the Coronavirus: 10 Things You Need to Know

AP Exams will NOT be canceled this year due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Instead, they will be shortened to 45 minutes (from 3+ hrs), converted to all free-response questions (from both multiple-choice and free-response), and administered at home and online.

Additionally, the AP Exams will be OPEN BOOK

The College Board is the maker of the AP. Their decision is in contrast to its counterpart, the IB, which has canceled their exam. The decision also differs from the College Board and ACT’s decision to cancel/postpone several testing dates for the SAT and ACT.

The College Board states that their decision is based on a survey of 18,000 students, 91% of whom indicated they still wish to take the test.

We can only assume that the College Board also weighed the potential negative impacts on college credit (if canceling) and the increased burden on students during college application season (if postponing to the Fall or later).

Read on below for more info and tips to help students navigate through these changes.

Last updated: April 3rd, 2020 at 7 PM ET


10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1) Test Length - The AP exam will now be 45 minutes

Most AP Exams are between 2 and 3 hrs. Some clock in at 3 hrs and 15 minutes (e.g. AP Calculus, AP Chemistry, AP English Language, AP History).

How can a 45-minute test, which is typically shorter than a regular high school midterm, properly predict mastery of a college-level course? In an interview with the Washington Post, College Board psychometricians claim that a 45-minute test that covers only 75% of the coursework will still “show sufficient mastery for college credit”.

This might be true, but it really depends on how successfully the College Board is able to develop their test questions and adapt to an online format.

2) Question Format - The AP exam will now be 100% free-response.

AP exams typically have both a multiple-choice and free-response section. These sections are usually equally weighted.

However, the format varies slightly for certain tests:

  • The AP History exams (i.e. AP US History, AP European History, AP World History) also have a short answer component, which comprises 20% of the score
  • The AP language exams usually have a spoken component (25% of the score)
  • AP Computer Science Principles (not AP Computer Science A) requires submission of code and written responses by a certain deadline

The bad news - free-response questions are typically harder than multiple-choice questions. If you were relying on the multiple-choice portion to boost your grades, then you’re out of luck.

The good news - Most students struggle more with free-response questions, so everybody will be in the same boat.

The transition to 100% free-response will have an even more pronounced impact on those AP exams that typically weigh this section less. For example, the free-response section is only 33% of the total score for AP Microeconomics, AP Macroeconomics, and AP Psychology.

Conversely, the transition will have slightly less impact for those AP exams that more heavily weight the free-response (e.g. AP English Literature and AP English Language free-response sections are weighted at 55%)

There are some AP exams which shouldn’t be impacted at all (e.g. AP Drawing and AP Studio art require portfolio submissions).

What will these free-response questions (FRQs) look like? There will be 1 to 2 FRQs per AP Exam, with time allocated for both answering the question and uploading the answers. For example:

AP English Literature:

    • 1 question
    • This question presents students with a passage of prose fiction of approximately 500–700 words, and assesses students’ ability to respond with a thesis, select and use evidence, explain the evidence and how it supports a line of reasoning, use appropriate grammar and punctuation
    • 45 minutes to read and respond + 5 minutes to upload their response
    • Covers Units 1 - 7 (excludes Units 8 - 9)

AP Calculus BC:

    • 2 questions ("multi-focus" free-response questions)
    • These questions will "assess student knowledge and skills developed in 2 or more of the eligible units and topics" and "will consist of similar components to traditional AP Calculus exam questions, with minor modifications to enable students to choose to submit either typed or handwritten responses."
    • 25 minutes to answer Question 1 + 5 minutes to upload response (60% weighting)
    • 15 minutes to answer Question 2 + 5 minutes to upload response (40% weighting)
    • Covers topics in Units 1–8 + 5 topics in Unit 10 (10.2, 10.5, 10.7, 10.8, and 10.11) 

Please click here to learn course-specific exam information for each AP Exam.

3) Location - The AP Exam will now be administered online.

The College Board is “investing in the development of a new at-home testing option.” This is obviously a huge change to the test. If your school re-opens, the exam will still be online, but might be administered at school.

Students will be able to take the test on a desktop, tablet, or phone. Students will also be able to submit pictures of their written work.

Unless you absolutely have no other choice, you should avoid taking the test on your phone. We can’t see how taking the test on a small phone would not put you at a disadvantage.

What if you don’t have access to the appropriate technology? This is a legitimate concern for our low-income and rural students. If this applies to you, please submit this form ASAP - https://collegeboard.tfaforms.net/74

4) Open Book - The AP Exams will now be Open Book/"Open Note".

Trevor Packer, Senior Vice President of Advanced Placement and Instruction at the College Board, revealed in a 3/27 tweet that "these exams will be open book/”open note.” and exam questions will be focused on "skills and thematic understandings" vs "thematic recall".

This is surely an attempt to reduce the impact of cheating. Free-response questions are difficult enough. Let's hope that making them open book as well won't increase the difficulty.

Also, there's the question of social inequity - what about those students who don't have access to reliable internet or other books? 

5) Content - This year's AP Exam will only include topics and skills that most AP teachers and students will have covered by early March.

The College Board provides detailed guidance to AP teachers about the specific topics that will be covered on the AP Exam. This upcoming test will cover only ~75% of this material.

The specific “units” tested can be found on this page in the table titled “Course-Specific Exam Information”.

For example, AP Physics 1 will cover the topics in Units 1 - 7 only, which includes:

  • Kinematics
  • Dynamics
  • Circular Motion and Gravitation
  • Energy
  • Momentum
  • Simple Harmonic Motion
  • Torque and Rotational Momentum

AP Physics 1 will NOT cover the topics in Units 8 - 10:

  • Electric Charge and Electric Force
  • DC Circuits
  • Mechanical Waves and Sound

You can find the specific topics and units for each AP exam here.

If you’re like most students, covering less information is better. However, because each AP teacher decides the order in which they teach the course topics, there’s a chance you haven’t yet covered the material.

6) Testing Dates - There will now be 2 testing dates.

The College Board will provide 2 testing dates for each exam:

  • Exams will be given from May 11 through May 22 - These are earlier dates that will allow students to take the exams sooner “while material is fresh”
  • Make-up test dates will be available for each subject from June 1 through June 5 - these later dates will allow students more time to prepare

If you’ve been diligently studying and already feel comfortable with the material, especially the free-response questions, then you might want to consider the earlier testing date.

However, most students would probably benefit from the 2nd later testing date to not only provide additional study time, but also to give the College Board some time to work out the kinks of transitioning online.

Dates for each AP exam can be found here - AP Exams Schedule 2020

Make-up dates can be found here - AP Exams Schedule 2020 Makeup Dates

7) Cheating - “Test security is a concern.”

Here’s what College Board says about how they will combat cheating:

“The exam questions are designed and administered in ways that prevent cheating; we use a range of digital security tools and techniques, including plagiarism detection software, to protect the integrity of the exams.

Scoring at-home work for an AP Exam is not new to the AP Program. For years the AP Program has received and scored at-home student work as part of the exams for the AP Computer Science Principles and AP Capstone courses.”

While the College Board is researching and implementing several tools, they do acknowledge that testing security is a concern. And rightly so. The legitimacy of the exam and whether colleges can trust the scores is largely a function of how well the College Board is able to mitigate cheating.

The good news is that a shorter test, a move to free-response open book, and additional tools, will all inhibit cheating. Furthermore, the vast majority of students are honest.

However, cheating is going to happen. Especially considering that these are high stakes tests.

If you're thinking about cheating, don’t do it. The ethical implications and the risk of getting caught isn’t worth it. The College Board is purposefully not publicizing all of their tactics to make it more difficult to game the system. 

The College Board might have experience with administering at-home work, but scaling it out to all of their exams and to all of their students while also updating the format of the test questions under a compressed timeline will not be an easy task.

Learn more about the College Board's take on AP Exam Security

9) Canceling - Students can cancel at no charge

Students who have registered for an exam can cancel at no charge for a full refund.

It seems like most students are going to move forward with the new exam. However, if you're considering canceling, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with all aspects of the new test before making your decision.

9) Free Resources - The College Board will be releasing some free resources.

To help students prepare for the upcoming changes, the College Board is releasing 2 kinds of free resources.

Free AP Review Videos

AP teachers from across the country will be releasing live and recorded classes. You can access the course schedule here

You can also find all videos on the “Advanced Placement” YouTube Channel

Please note that the majority of these videos will be focused on the 75% of the course that will be tested on the exam.

However, they will also cover some supplementary lessons related to the final 25% of the course. Skip these videos if you’re focused purely on preparing for the upcoming test.

Additional Free Response Practice

Free-response questions that were previously only available for in-classroom use by teachers will now be unlocked so students can access more practice questions.

Log into your AP Classroom to access these questions.

10) College/Admissions Impact - Many colleges will honor AP scores.

The College Board states that “colleges support this solution and are committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they have worked to earn”.

They reason that colleges historically have accepted shortened exams for credit when students have experienced emergencies.

COVID-19 would certainly constitute an emergency, but it’s unclear exactly which colleges will or will not accept these scores for credit.

Some schools have already officially confirmed that their current policies for AP credit will remain in effect (e.g. Vanderbilt University). Other schools are still deciding what to do and were taken by surprise when the College Board made their announcement.

If you believe that even 1 school on your college list will accept your scores, you’re better off taking the test vs canceling it.

College credit is one thing, but what about the impact of AP scores on improving chances of college admissions? 

If the College Board is able to convert to a shorter online format without a hitch (e.g. acceptable limits on cheating, seamless online experience, accurate scoring and curving), then college admissions teams should evaluate your AP scores with the same weighting as before the Coronavirus.

If there are significant issues with the test, though, admissions offices will treat your AP scores within this context. At the very worst, they will not consider your scores at all.


TIPS & NEXT STEPS

As students prepare for the new exam, consider these tips:

  • Focus all of your practice on free-response questions. Make good use of any free-response questions you can get your hands on and make sure to check the additional free-response questions that will be unlocked in your AP Classroom.
  • Confirm which topics/units will be covered for your test. If your teacher taught things out of order and you haven’t learned certain topics yet, then get caught up on these topics ASAP. If you fall into this category, your AP teacher will most likely have already come up with a plan to get you up to speed.
  • We would probably recommend the later "makeup" testing date for most students. However, if you know that you won’t be able to commit to extended studying on a regular basis, you might be better off signing up for the 1st testing date despite the risk of being the guinea pigs.
  • If you’re not a senior, one extreme option is to consider putting off the test until next May (2021). While it might be tempting to simply deal with things next year, we probably wouldn’t recommend this option. Each year gets progressively more challenging with busier schedules, and next year will be even more challenging as you catch up on lost time due to COVID-19.
  • Ideally, you would combine a deep understanding of the material with tailored prep based on test format. Given the uncertainties of the test format, you’ll want to focus on understanding the material to the best of your abilities. This is probably a painfully obvious statement, but we’re going to make it anyway. The good news is that you can focus your studying on only the 75% of the course that will be tested. Put more focus on topics that are foundational or more heavily weighted.
  • Don’t despair. Free-response questions are generally more difficult but everybody is in the same boat, which should be reassuring. You’ve been preparing all year long and the test is not going to be THAT different. There’s only so much that the College Board can change in such a short amount of time.
  • Expect some hiccups. We're rooting for the College Board to get this right, but we would not be surprised if students run into unexpected challenges.

Also, check out this post - Coronavirus Updates for SAT and ACT Test-Takers - if you plan on taking these tests this year.

Lastly, if you have any additional questions or if you’d like a tutor to help you prepare, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.


Greg & Kevin

Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


How I Got Into Princeton - Maya (Story #16)

How I Got Into Princeton - Story #16

Maya's Story

"I wanted mostly to do my best. My parents instilled in me this desire to give 110%. If I wasn’t trying my best, I was being apathetic and wasting their hard work, my opportunities, and my abilities."

Meet Maya, a member of Princeton's class of 2020.

In high school, Maya completed A.P. English as a freshman so she could take regular college courses, served as Varsity track captain, and participated frequently in community service efforts.

"I really love learning, and my passion for classroom material led me to participate and seek out other opportunities," Maya states. "I also do well under pressure."

However, Maya's achievements were not without challenge, as she describes in this post. She attributes her success to her core values, especially her passion for service, and her capacity to work towards goals even when up against daunting odds.

Please read below to learn more about Maya and the personal qualities, values, and support system that have allowed her to succeed.

We recommend reading from beginning to end but feel free to skip around. Our favorite section is the "What Makes You You" section, where Jasmine describes her unique qualities and how they contributed to her personal and academic success.

About this Series

In our "How I got Into" series, we share the stories of successful applicants to Princeton and other great colleges.

Our profiles go beyond a simple list of academic and extracurricular achievements. We also delve into the “how” and the qualities that successful applicants exhibit.

We provide a rare look into what drives these students, how they've overcome their challenges, how they've been shaped by significant events in their lives, how they deal with the pressure to succeed, and much more.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

SECTION 1 - FAMILY
SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING
SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES
SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS
SECTION 5 - THE COLLEGE APPLICATION
SECTION 6 - DAY IN THE LIFE
SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU
SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Disclaimer

Here's what we're NOT doing with this series:

  • We are NOT prescribing an over-engineered approach to college admissions
  • We are NOT presenting a blueprint for how you should get into college
  • We are NOT suggesting that you must gain admissions to a selective school to be successful (you most certainly do not)

Here's what we ARE doing:

  • We are presenting data and sharing stories
  • We are providing context that you usually don't see to highlight that we are more than just our grades and GPA
  • Our ultimate goal is to uncover the values and personal qualities that drive successful applicants

Whether you are considering selective colleges or not, it is our unwavering belief that our values and personal qualities (and luck) are the major contributors to success.


SECTION 1 - FAMILY

Geography

Birthplace: NYC, NY
Where did you grow up? MI

Siblings

# of older siblings:  0
# of younger siblings: 1
Sibling Education Levels:  High School Senior
Where did your siblings go to college?  N/A

Parents

Parent's Marital Status: Married
With whom do you make your permanent home? Both
Parent 1 Current/Former Occupation: Professor
Parent 1 Highest Level of Education: PhD
Parent 2 Current/Former Occupation: Professor
Parent 2 Highest Level of Education: PhD

Parent Beliefs

How would you characterize your parents' parenting style(s)?

Their rule was that I worked hard and did my best. I had to give 110% in whatever I did. Laziness wasn’t an option, but I wasn’t pushed to do a particular activity and they didn’t mind if I didn’t achieve academic perfection. It was about the effort.

On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the most important), how important to your parents was:

Academics 4
Extracurriculars 3
Service 4
Family 5
Friends 3
Physical Health/ Fitness 3
Mental Health 5

Did your parents have specific philosophies regarding any of the areas above?

Family is the most important thing in the world. Academics come before extracurricular activities, a social life, etc. I was encouraged to pursue my love of athletics, but doing well in school was a prerequisite.


SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING

Middle School

Middle School: Chippewa Middle School
Type of School: Public

High School

High School: Okemos High School
High School City, State: Okemos, MI
Type of School: Public
Class Size: 400

SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES

Jobs

Did you work in high school?  Yes
What kind of job/s did you have? I taught Taekwondo
Average hours/week worked? 2-3
Why did you work? I worked to pay for my taekwondo classes

Extracurriculars/Passions & Interests

What were your major passions/ interests in high school?

I loved social studies, English, track, and service. I cared a lot about promoting an appreciation of equality and diversity at my school.

How much time did you spend on these things?

I spent the most time on homework, 2-3 hours a day on track, and 1-20 hours a week on service.

When did these passions/interests first come about?

Politics and literature have always been a part of my family’s meal-time conversations.

How were these passions/interests developed over time?

My family is very political, so we’re always encouraged to learn, debate, and stand up for what we believe is right.

What level of achievement did you reach?

I was a varsity track captain, and I achieved my goals of finishing high school English freshman year so I could attend the local university classes.

Tell us a little bit about how you achieved these achievements?

I worked really hard. I was lucky to have the opportunity to do so and to devote time to these pursuits.

What kind of support did you have?

I had the support of my family emotionally, academically, and financially. We had enough money where I didn’t have to work outside of my taekwondo job, and I have a whole family network devoted to education. My success is possible because of my parents’ hard work and good fortune, even down to little details, such as the fact that we had a car to drive me to college classes.

What kind of sacrifices/challenges did you overcome to achieve these extracurricular results?

I overcame challenging material in class, institutions that did not push students to challenge themselves and resisted my trying to do so, and the physical challenges of injuries. I was lucky never to have to overcome any greater challenges than these.

Service

What were your major service-related activities?

I was in the National Honors Society, student government, and a community service organization called ACTION, in addition to a group in my high school that promotes conversations around diversity.

How much time did you spend?

It depended on the time of year. Sometimes up to 20 hours, sometimes as little as one.

Why did you choose this activity?

I think it’s important to help the community. It’s just self-evidently the right thing to do.

Summers

What did you do in the summers during high school?

Summer after 9th grade, I followed my parents as they taught their study abroad classes in Israel. This was both convenient and by design for my family to be together and my brother and me to learn about our heritage and my mother’s academic passion. 

Summer after 10th grade, I took my parents’ Michigan State University study abroad classes in Israel. I did this because I would be with them anyway and I wanted to learn more about the history and culture of the country and challenge myself academically.

After 11th grade, I studied abroad with MSU again, this time in Turkey. The classes were on gender & power and state & society. I wanted to pursue my passion for learning about politics and gender in a new country and, at the time, another Middle Eastern democracy.


SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS

Grades/GPA/Awards

Class Ranking: N/A
GPA - Weighted: N/A
GPA - Unweighted 3.97

SAT/ACT

How many times did you take the SAT? 1
How many times did you take the ACT? 2
What were your SAT and/or ACT scores? ACT - 34
Did you take a class or receive private tutoring? No
How many hours did you study in total? 5
When did you start preparing for the test? I considered the math classes I was taking to be preparation.
When did you take the test? 11th grade

Do you know which test to take? Check out our recommendations here - Should I Take the SAT or the ACT?

Not sure WHEN to take the test? We created 9 Sample Testing Schedules to help get you started

SAT Subject Tests & AP/IBs

Which SAT Subject tests did you take? 

US History and Literature. I scored 700 and 780, respectively.

Which AP/IBs did you take?

AP Literature: 5
AP World History: 5
AP US History: 5
AP Government: 5
AP Calc AB: 5
AP Calc BC: 5
AP Spanish: 5
AP Biology: 4

What were your major academic achievements in high school?

I was the first person in my high school to finish English classes before freshman year. Freshman year, I took AP English, and, from that point, I dual-enrolled at Michigan State University in various courses (namely psychology, politics, and literature). I also consider how hard I worked to do well in math a big achievement because it didn’t come naturally to me at all.

What do you attribute your academic success to?

It’s a combination of luck and hard work. I mean, since I was little, I had the luck of parents with jobs that allowed them to read to me, which probably contributed to my skill in English. I also read a lot as a kid and that helped. I love literature so that helped me to improve my writing and analytical skills over time. My parents helped me find opportunities to push myself because the high school curriculum wasn’t going to challenge me the way I wanted to be challenged. It was hard to make it happen because it had never been done at my high school. I’m so lucky that they had the chutzpah and knowledge to navigate and challenge the system to pave the way for me.  

What kind of support did you have?

My parents paved the way for me to do something that had never been done in the humanities (a few kids had taken a math course at MSU, but never so young). Without their navigating the system for me, I wouldn’t have even known these were possibilities that existed.

Did you ever receive private tutoring?

No.

What kind of sacrifices/challenges did you overcome to achieve these academic results?

I remember there being some resistance from school to me going to MSU but I don’t remember how much. I guess in retrospect, I could have seen being in college so young as a challenge, but I felt like I was mature and I didn’t mind. Being 13 in a class with 22-year-olds was tough sometimes, however. I wasn’t ready for the content in my first MSU class (in terms of graphic content).

Any specific approaches/tips & tricks to studying that were particularly helpful for you?

I study in big chunks of time. I’d come home from track practice at 6 pm and study all evening. If I had an MSU class I’d come home at 11 and do the same thing. I find rewriting notes and restructuring the order in which the information is presented is very helpful.


SECTION 5 - THE COLLEGE APPLICATION

Applications & Acceptances

Did you apply as an international or domestic student? Domestic
Did you apply regular or early? Early
How many schools did you apply to? 2
Were you a legacy applicant at any of these schools? Yes. Princeton (both parents)
Were you recruited for athletics, arts, music, etc...? No
Did you declare a major? Did this end up being your actual major? I indicated I was interested in Psychology on my application. It is not my major.

Which schools did you apply to (that you remember)?

Princeton University and University of Michigan.

Which schools did you get into?

Princeton University and the University of Michigan.

Letters of Recommendations

Who did you ask for letters of recommendation?

My college professors and one or two high school teachers.

Why did you ask these specific people?

They knew what I was capable of in the classroom, and how passionate and hard-working I was (more importantly).

Common App Essay

What did you write about in your common app essay?

My family! I wrote about how my family was proud of our varied heritage; the women especially taught me to be proud of who I am and to stand up for myself.

Why Princeton

Why did you choose Princeton?

It was the school I wanted to go to since I was 4. It was #1. I didn’t want it because of the prestige of being #1—I wanted it because I figured it had to be a really good school, and if I aimed for #1, I was sure to fall somewhere good. My parents having gone there probably gave it a warm feel, but I don’t think really influenced my wanting to go there specifically beyond knowing it existed.

Gap Year

Did you take a gap year?

No.

Curious about what happens after you submit your college application? Check out our in-depth guide - How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process


SECTION 6 - DAY IN THE LIFE

Typical Day

What was a typical weekday like in your junior year of high school?

School from 8 am - 4:30 pm; Track or XC practice from 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm; MSU class once a week (7pm - 10:30 pm), homework the rest of the night.

On average, how many hours of HW and studying did you do every night?

4.5 hours - 8 hours

What time did you usually go to sleep?

It depended on the day. Midnight, on average.

What was a typical weekend like in high school?

Homework all day every day, unless I had a cross-country or track tournament. I had taekwondo Saturday mornings. Usually we’d take a walk in nature as a family or see a movie, then eat meals together. 


SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU

Drive/Motivation

What drove you to succeed in high school? Where did this drive come from?

I wanted mostly to do my best. My parents instilled in me this desire to give 110%. If I wasn’t trying my best, I was being apathetic and wasting their hard work, my opportunities, and my abilities. I also wanted to go to Princeton because that goal seemed like doing my best.

Pressure/Stress/Expectations

What kind of expectations did your parents have for you?

They expected me to give 110% and work hard. This was never tied to a result, although they always half-joked that my “best” was also an A. But if I didn’t get an A, and I did my best, then they were proud of me.

What kind of pressure did you feel to succeed? Where did this pressure come from?

I felt pressure to work hard. And, I felt like my best would result in almost all As, being on the varsity team, etc., because I had seen it produce that result in the past, and because I had so many resources available to me. I was also really bored if I did not do my best and learn. I really love learning, so it was never a question of not trying in class. I was genuinely really interested in a lot of the topics, but unsatisfied by the way they were taught or how little in-depth analysis we got to do in my high school classes. In class, my passion for the material led me to participate and seek out other opportunities.

How did you deal with this pressure?

I liked having that pressure. I do well under pressure.

Balance

How did you balance everything going on in high school?

I honestly have no idea.

Any strategies, tips, tools, types of support that helped you?

I liked the structure of my routine. I set aside big chunks of time to focus on one thing.

Significant Events

Any major events growing up that helped shape your high school self?

Yes. I had a very hard time in elementary and early middle school, and I feel that really shaped my desire to make others feel included and stand up when I see something wrong. I think my current academic interest in human rights work stems from my desire never to be a bystander to harm.

Other Challenges/Struggles

Any other struggles/challenges (that we didn't discuss so far) that you faced in high school? While growing up?

I did have a really tough time socially until high school. Once, as a result of another kid, I got a concussion that put me in bed for 4 months (I was 11). I used the bedridden time to write a 400-page book. I was lucky that my struggles gave me opportunities to focus more on academics, rather than preventing me from doing so.

Culture/Identity

How do you identify yourself? White (Jewish)
Which languages does your family speak at home? English with Hebrew/Dutch sprinkled around
How many languages are you proficient in? English. I know basic Spanish.
Do you identify with multiple cultures? Yes.

How has your culture or identity influenced you during your middle school or high school years?

It has given me an unshakable sense of self and of pride in where I come from. I think it has given me an appreciation for diversity and for the struggle of the immigrant experience. I think it has motivated me to work harder every step of the way. My parents and grandparents went through so much more than me and have given me every opportunity, so it’s a waste of their love not to try my best in everything I do.

Character/Personal Qualities

What values were most important to you in high school?

Love, family, God, honesty, standing up for what’s right, passionate curiosity.

What was your #1 core value?

They are all interconnected so I won’t choose one.

How did you demonstrate those values in high school?

I think I demonstrated them in service, but more importantly, the way I treated the people around me. I like to think that as a leader, as a friend, and as a student, I made others feel welcome—and I spoke up when I didn’t see that happening.

What do you consider your most important personal qualities?

I am loving, honest, curious, and I am not afraid of things—I have never let nervousness stop me from going after something I wanted, or not said what I thought was right because I feared the consequences or the situation.

How would you characterize your personality growing up?

I was always really happy, enthusiastic, friendly, and creative. I always loved reading, being in nature, and staying active. I loved winning physical competitions and climbing trees. Not much has changed.

Uniqueness

Was there anything special or different about your family when you were growing up that helped shape who you were in high school?

My family is exceptionally loving. I think this baseline of a happy home with two parents who are madly in love, and an affectionate little brother, is unusual. And I think it gave me a baseline to weather storms that came my way. Everything is easier when you can count on that safe home.

What do you think makes you unique?

Everyone is unique! So I don’t really know how to answer that. I think I have a great combination of loyalty, curiosity, adventurousness, and empathy.

Influences/Mentors/Support

Did you have any major influences growing up? If so, who/what were your they?

My family (parents, brother, grandparents), books (The Book Thief, Harry Potter, Series of Unfortunate Events, some political books), and heroes (Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King).

If you had a question or needed some advice, who would you go to?

My parents.


SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Important Lessons

Most important lessons that you learned or were taught while growing up?

I learned pretty early on that most of the time most people won’t stand up and speak when something morally wrong is happening and somebody is getting hurt. If you see something wrong happening, you can never count on someone else to be the one to stand up and stop it. You have to be that person, every single time.

Advice

Any advice you would give to your high school self?

High school me, you did good, kid. Help your parents more often around the house. Don’t worry that you feel lonely sometimes—it’s better to be lonely than surrounded by people who don’t contribute to your life in a positive way.

When you get to university, set a goal to go to the #1 law school in the country. You need goals to stay focused, even if they change over time, because otherwise you get so curious about so many different things you scatter all over the place.

Also, don’t waste time dating people you know aren’t great guys!


NEXT STEPS

Check out our first profile and learn about Destiny's journey.

Like what you read? Subscribe to our mailing list, and we’ll let you know when we release similar articles and other in-depth guides. Please also share using the buttons on the side.

At PrepMaven, our mission is not only to help your child increase their test scores and get into a great college but also to put them on the right track for long-term personal and professional success.


Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg & Kevin

Greg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


Coronavirus Updates for SAT and ACT Test Takers

Coronavirus Updates for SAT and ACT Test-Takers

Coronavirus Updates for SAT and ACT Test-Takers

The global spread of COVID-19 has deeply impacted the education world. Most students are now partaking in remote learning as schools close across the country.

What's more, the coronavirus pandemic has also impacted standardized testing schedules.

If you're planning on taking the SAT or ACT soon, you're likely wondering whether or not you'll be able to even sit for the exam!

In this post, we provide ongoing coronavirus updates for SAT and ACT test-takers. We will keep this article regularly updated so that you can be confident you're getting the latest information.

Here's what we cover in this post:

Last updated: April 6, 2020 at 3:00 PM EST

Coronavirus Updates for SAT Test-Takers

The College Board, the organization that produces and administers the SAT, has officially canceled its March and May administrations of the SAT and all SAT Subject Tests.

This means that students registered for the following SAT exams and/or Subject Tests will not be able to test on these days:

Canceled SAT Testing Dates 
March 14, 2020
May 2, 2020

If you were scheduled to take a makeup SAT exam for the March 14th administration (scheduled for March 28th), you will no longer be able to do so. All makeup exams for the March test have been canceled.

The College Board has also postponed the March 25th SAT School Day administration and will update schools, students, and partners as soon as it has made a decision about a reschedule date.

As of now, the College Board is still planning on administering its June 6th SAT (including SAT subject tests), pending further coronavirus updates, but this is by no means set in stone. The College Board states that it's "working with test centers" and will decide whether they "can safely hold that administration as soon as it’s feasible, given the evolving public health situation."

Here's what the remaining anticipated SAT testing dates for 2020 look like:

Anticipated SAT Testing Dates 2020 
June 6, 2020
August 29, 2020 (TBD)
October 3, 2020 (TBD)
November 7, 2020 (TBD)
December 5, 2020 (TBD)

It is possible that the CollegeBoard will cancel summer and fall administrations of the SAT, especially if schools do not reopen in the fall. Here's what it says on its website about this:

If, unfortunately, schools cannot reopen this fall, we’re pursuing innovative ways to ensure all students can still take the SAT this fall. We’ll provide updates about those plans if they become necessary.

Refunds and Makeup Exams for the SAT

You can expect a refund of all registration fees if any of these situations apply to you as an SAT test-taker:

  • Your test center for the March 14th SAT was closed
  • You were scheduled to take the March 28th makeup SAT exam
  • You were registered for the May 2nd SAT and/or SAT Subject Tests
  • You haven't or will not receive your March scores for any reason

Refunds should be issued within the next few weeks (end of March - early April).

Will there be a makeup SAT for the May 2nd test? As of now, we can't be sure. All the College Board has said in respect to makeup exams is that it's working hard to provide additional testing opportunities as soon as possible:

We’ll add U.S. and international test administrations in response to canceled administrations. We’ll be flexible in making the SAT available in school and out of school as soon as the public health situation allows.

International Students

If you are an international student taking the SAT, your May 2nd exam is still canceled. The next available international SAT testing date is August 29, 2020 (pending further coronavirus updates). International students can only take SAT subject tests on the June 6th testing date.

There might be a chance that international students will be able to take the SAT on an additional testing date. The College Board is "also exploring the possibility of adding an international SAT administration later this school year."

Testing Accommodations

The College Board has not yet specified instructions for students set to receive testing accommodations for the March and/or May SAT exams. We recommend students with approved accommodations contact the College Board directly (see contact details below) for further information.

College Admissions

What about the college application process?

If you were planning on taking the March 14th SAT and submitting these scores to colleges, you should reach out to the admissions offices of the schools you've applied to for additional information. Schools all around the world are aware of these issues and will likely have a plan in place for affected students.

Keep in mind that most deadlines for traditional undergraduate applications have passed, so most students who took the SAT in the fall and/or winter of 2019 and submitted these scores to colleges will not be impacted.

Additional Resources

All of these cancelations don't have to derail your SAT prep! Students still have access to a variety of free resources online through the College Board and Khan Academy.

Families and students are welcome to reach out to the College Board for more information, too (although call wait times may be long!). Here are all the relevant contact details:

Email: [email protected]
Phone (domestic): 866-756-7346*
Phone (international): +1-212-713-7789*

*Phone support hours are 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday.


Coronavirus Updates for ACT Test-Takers

The ACT has canceled its April 4, 2020 administration of the ACT exam. The April 4th exam will now be rescheduled for June 13, 2020 across all U.S. testing centers.

If you were registered to take the ACT on April 4th, you'll receive an email with specific instructions for a free rescheduling for the June 13th exam (or another national test date if you can't make the June 13th exam for any reason).

Here are the next anticipated ACT national test dates for 2020:

Next Anticipated ACT Testing Dates 
June 13, 2020
July 18, 2020
September 12, 2020*
October 24, 2020*
December 12, 2020*

*Registration for these exams is not yet open.

Note: you will not be automatically registered for the June 13th exam if you were set to test on April 4th. You'll still have to register for this test following the instructions sent via email.

Refunds

If you don't wish to reschedule your ACT exam, you'll receive a full refund of registration fees for the April 4th exam. The ACT does not specify on its website when students can expect to receive this refund.

International Students

Students scheduled for the April 4, 2020 ACT exam at an international testing center will have their exam rescheduled for June 13, 2020. International ACT test-takers can also register for the July 18, 2020 ACT exam at international testing centers.

Special Testing and Non-Saturday Exams

If you receive ACT testing accommodations or were registered to test on a non-Saturday, you'll still be able to have Special and/or Non-Saturday Testing for the June exam. This also applies to international students taking the ACT.

We recommend that students with Special Testing approval contact an ACT representative to ensure they receive these accommodations for the June exam if needed.

College Admissions

The ACT recognizes that some college applicants might now miss test score submission deadlines for the schools on their list. Here's what it says specifically about this on its website:

ACT is committed to making every effort to help students impacted by this test date change, particularly seniors facing college application deadlines for this fall. More information will be released as it becomes available in the days ahead. 

For now, we recommend that high school seniors contact the admissions departments of their schools of choice to see what their guidelines are for score submission.

Keep in mind that most deadlines for traditional undergraduate applications have passed, so most students who took the ACT in the fall and/or winter of 2019 and submitted these scores to colleges will not be impacted.

Contact Information

If you'd like to talk directly to an ACT representative about rescheduling, etc., reach out by phone, email, or live chat.

ACT Customer Care

Phone: 319-337-1270, available Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM CT 

ACT Testing Accommodations

Phone: 319-337-1332, available Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM CT

*Email and live chat are available via ACT.org.


Our Recommendations

We understand that this time can be challenging in multiple respects, especially for students and families well along the path of college admissions.

Here's what we recommend SAT and ACT test-takers keep in mind in the coming weeks and months:

1. Anticipate the possibility of additional rescheduled or canceled ACT and SAT testing dates

Given the scale and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, our guess is that things likely won't go back to "normal" until this fall or winter 2020.

At the very least, in the middle of all of this uncertainty, it's wise to mentally prepare yourself for additional rescheduled or canceled testing dates, for both the SAT and the ACT. The College Board itself hints that fall SAT testing dates could be canceled or rescheduled, depending on how this pandemic evolves.

Remember that you can still maintain your test prep during this time, even with these hiccups in testing schedules. What's more, this can be a valuable time for high school juniors to take a deep dive into writing and preparing their college application essays. Get a head start now!

2. If your test was canceled, sign up ASAP for the next testing date

Why is it important to act fast in this regard? Testing "seats" are limited at all testing centers, so it's vital to sign up as soon as possible for the next testing date to ensure you'll have a spot. If you have the resources, sign up for an additional backup date to ensure another seat.

This applies to both the SAT and the ACT.

3. Sign up ASAP even if you're planning on a testing date later in the year

Even if your testing dates weren't impacted but you're planning on a testing date in the fall or the winter, you'll want to sign up ASAP.

Testing center seats are limited and there is a good chance there will still be "spillover" from the earlier testing dates that were canceled.

The ACT usually opens up registrations every July for testing dates through the next testing year (September - July). You should be able to sign up for email or text alerts here, but you'll also want to check the website in mid-July yourself as well.

For the SAT, you can check here for SAT registration deadlines. You will be able to register if there is a "Register" button next to your desired date.

4. Keep on studying

It might feel impossible to pick up your SAT or ACT prep books right now, especially in the middle of so much uncertainty. However, effective prep for standardized tests involves consistent practice and review of content and strategies.

Furthermore, some colleges will consider going test-optional for this upcoming application season. Even if they don't, we're confident that college admissions officers will consider your scores in the context of COVID-19.

These developments should relieve some of the stress around testing. For some students, they'll take these announcements as a reason to place less emphasis on the test or even stop studying altogether.

However, we urge students to continue studying consistently and diligently. In a situation that will tempt many students to slow things down, maximizing your test scores will set you apart even more so.

It's okay to take a brief break from your prep right now, but when possible, return to your studies to ensure you don't lose the traction you've gained.


Other Relevant Information

Families and students may also wish to regularly check with the World Health Organization and CDC for general updates about the pandemic's spread in the U.S.

We'll include other relevant details here as more coronavirus updates arise. For now, rest assured that we at PrepMaven are committed to all of our students' success, regardless of what happens next. This means that all of our current clients and tutors will be moving their work online to ensure the safety of all involved.

We are also here to provide academic tutoring support to students who are participating in remote learning through their home institutions.

Please feel free to drop us a line if you have additional questions!


Greg & Kevin

Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


Coronavirus Updates for SSAT Test Takers

Coronavirus Updates for SSAT Test-Takers

Coronavirus Updates for SSAT Test-Takers

The recent coronavirus pandemic has launched a ripple effect in the world of standardized testing, from closed test centers to canceled testing administrations.

If your student is preparing to take the SSAT, you likely have questions about what comes next!

In addition to our usual test prep support, we're here to provide ongoing coronavirus updates for SSAT test-takers. We will keep this post regularly updated to ensure that all of our students and families are in the know.

Here's what we cover in this post:

Last update: March 31, 2020, 7 PM EST

Which SSAT Test Dates Are Canceled?

The Enrollment Management Association (EMA), the organization that produces and administers the SSAT, has officially canceled all SSAT Flex and Benchmark administrations from March 14, 2020 through (at least) May 31, 2020

It has also canceled the April 25/26, 2020 SSAT Standard administration.

As local, state, and federal guidelines related to the pandemic change, the EMA may extend this suspension of Flex, Benchmark, and Standard administrations. It might also end up canceling additional future Standard SSAT administrations.

So, what's the difference between Flex, Benchmark, and Standard SSAT test administrations? We've outlined the distinctions in the table below:

Flex Test Benchmark Test Standard Test
  • Administered on any non-Standard SSAT test date
  • Available to individuals or groups (Middle or Upper)
  • Taken through member schools or educational consultants
  • Requires advance registration with member school or educational consultant
  • Administered on any non-Standard SSAT test date by member schools
  • Used to assess currently enrolled students
  • Elementary, Middle, and Upper SSATs
  • Administered 8 times per academic year on designated Saturdays
  • Requires advance registration at SSAT.org
  • Available to private school applicants (Elementary, Middle, or Upper)

Students signed up for the standard SSAT exam on June 13, 2020 may still be able to test on this date, but this is by no means set in stone. Once again, the EMA may extend its suspension of SSAT testing (Flex, Benchmark, and Standard) depending on how the pandemic evolves.

For this reason, we strongly encourage parents to check this post regularly in the coming weeks, as well as the EMA Alerts page, for further coronavirus updates with respect to the Standard SSAT testing timeline.

Here are the next scheduled Standard SSAT testing dates for 2020 (so far, still scheduled):

Standard SSAT Testing Dates 2020 
April 25, 2020
June 13, 2020
September 12, 2020
October 17, 2020
November 14, 2020
December 12, 2020

Note: As of now, registration for fall SSAT exams (September - onwards) opens on August 1, 2020.


What About SSAT Test Centers?

All SSAT testing centers in the United States and Canada are closed and nonoperational. This means that they won't be able to administer any SSAT exams from March 14th through at least May 31st.

Yet a few international SSAT test centers are currently still operating. These are located in "unaffected areas" for the time being.

If you are an international SSAT test-taker, we recommend contacting the test center in question to confirm its operationality.


What About Application Deadlines?

Students who took the SSAT in the fall or winter of 2019 for a fall 2020 enrollment don't have to worry about these SSAT cancellations, as they won't have any bearing on admissions deadlines.

What's more, the EMA hasn't yet canceled any fall or winter 2020 test dates. So, students planning to take the SSAT this coming fall or winter for a Fall 2021 enrollment likely won't have to worry about cancellations impacting admissions deadlines.

However, students who intend to take the SSAT this spring (i.e., April 2020) during later or off-cycle admissions for Fall 2020 enrollment may not be able to test in time to make their application deadlines.

The EMA is aware of this and addresses this question on its Alerts page.

However, the EMA is ultimately not responsible for application deadlines--your schools of choice are. For this reason, we urge concerned families to contact relevant admissions departments directly to see what options are available.

Private schools are likely to be monitoring the situation very closely, so rest assured that they will be able to advise families accordingly! They will also likely have information about campus closures, if applicable, and admission decision timelines.


Rescheduling Your SSAT

If for any reason your student is not able to sit for the next available SSAT administration date (as of now, June 13, 2020), there are still options! The EMA states that it is "happy to accommodate those who want to change their test date and location."

Parents can make changes to their student's test dates using their online account. You can also email [email protected] to inquire about a test change.

SSAT test changes between now and July 31, 2020 are completely free.


Coronavirus Updates: Other Relevant Information

We'll keep this section of this post regularly updated.

For now, keep in mind that your student may be turned away from a testing center if they have a simple cold. If they display cold or flu-like symptoms during an SSAT administration, they will likely be sent home immediately.

Furthermore, all SSAT test administrators will follow disinfecting/cleaning protocol issued by the CDC at testing centers. They won't be allowed to proctor an SSAT if they themselves show cold or flu-like symptoms, or have been exposed to contagions.

General coronavirus updates are available via the World Health Organization's website.

EMA Contact Information

The Enrollment Management Association
862 Route 518
Skillman, New Jersey, 08558 USA

Telephone:
Member Hotline: 609-683-5558
Students and Families: 609-683-4440

Email:
Members: [email protected]
Students / Families: [email protected]
Test Centers: [email protected]

At PrepMaven, we're here to keep you informed and prepared for all steps of the standardized testing journey. If you have any additional questions, please don't hesitate to drop us a line.


Greg & Kevin

Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


12 Strategies to Prepare Students for Remote Learning

12 Strategies to Prepare Students for Remote Learning

As COVID-19 spreads, more schools will be closing and transitioning to remote learning (a.k.a. distance learning, virtual learning, cyber learning, flexible learning).

This will bring an unprecedented level of uncertainty and present a number of challenges for our teachers, students, parents, and school administration.

In this post, we provide some initial thoughts, 12 tips to help students manage the transition to remote instruction, and discuss how the coronavirus will impact college admissions chances.

We have extensive experience with remote learning. One of our co-founders has been working exclusively from home since 2010. From an instructional standpoint, we have over 10 years of experience tutoring students remotely. Furthermore, several of our part-time and full-time tutors work exclusively online.

Here's what we cover in this guide:


Some Initial Thoughts

1) The transition to remote instruction will initially be rough for many students. As teachers and students become more familiar with online tools, we believe that instructional quality will be sufficient in the short-term, if only because we MUST make it work. However, it will take time and for many, additional training, before teachers will be able to fully leverage the capabilities of their online tools. 

Under normal circumstances, a transition to distance learning would take months, if not years, to properly roll out and might include:

  • Hiring consultants experienced with online instruction
  • Identifying the tools to be used
  • Training teachers
  • Collaborating with instructional designers to re-work existing curriculum
  • Making sure all students have access to the technology and tools
  • Training students

Instead, for many school districts, this process will now be happening in a matter of days.

This is an enormous task and much of the burden falls disproportionately onto the shoulders of our teachers.

Teachers are scrambling to familiarize themselves with state guidelines, identify the tools that will be most useful for their subjects and grade levels, redesign their curriculum to be delivered online, and meet any other requirements mandated by their school administration.

Even colleges like Princeton University, who have access to instructional designers and more resources than the typical secondary school district, will struggle to get their professors up to speed in such a compressed time period.

Understandably, the transition to remote instruction might not be the smoothest in the beginning, especially for younger students, those with learning differences, and those who don’t have reliable access to internet and technology. Some students and teachers will thrive under this new model. Many others will struggle.

We expect that the end result will produce serviceable results in the short-term, which we consider a huge win, and will be the result of the herculean efforts of individual teachers.

2) Schools that are closing first will be the guinea pigs but will provide a template for others to get up to speed more quickly. 

In order for public school districts to have remote instruction days count towards official school days, they must first receive approval from the appropriate state and governmental agencies.

In New Jersey and many other states, this approval process requires school districts to submit written plans that outline specific steps the district will take to support students during an emergency health-related closure.

These contingency plans require school districts to address:

  1. Access to instruction for all learners (e.g. those who don’t have access to wifi and computers)
  2. Provisions for special education
  3. Students who are eligible for free or reduced breakfast/lunch

We’re seeing that most schools are doing a good job of keeping parents in the loop through website announcements, social media, and direct emails. Guidance might seem vague or confusing at first but should clear up over time.

Private schools and smaller school districts will be more nimble, while larger school districts (e.g. Chicago Public Schools, NYC Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District) will understandably take a little bit longer to organize.

We are fortunate from a timing perspective that Spring Break has started or will start relatively soon for many schools. Those schools that have earlier Spring Breaks will have more time to flush out the details and specifics. For others, Spring Break will be a time for evaluation and process improvement.

3) Most schools have initially closed for a couple of weeks and plan to re-evaluate later, but be prepared for remote instruction to continue through the rest of the academic year. 

Many schools are taking a wait-and-see approach, closing for several weeks, and then re-evaluating:

  • Princeton Public Schools will be closed until 3/27
  • Hillsborough Township Public Schools will be closed until 3/27
  • Monroe Township School District will be closed from 3/18 until further notice
  • West Windsor-Plainsboro School District will be closed until 3/27
  • South Brunswick Schools will be closed through 3/20
  • Tenafly Public Schools will be closed through 3/27
  • Randolph Township Schools will be closed through 3/26
  • Chicago Public Schools will be closed from 3/17 through 3/30
  • Los Angeles Unified School District will be closed through 3/27
  • Boston Public Schools will be closed from 3/17 through 4/27
  • The Pennington School will be closed from 3/24 through 4/13
  • Princeton Day School will be closed through 4/17
  • Hun School of Princeton will be closed through 4/14
  • The Lawrenceville School will be extending Spring Break by one week to give their faculty time to adapt courses for remote learning and campus will be closed “until further notice”

Perhaps things might get better as we learn more about the coronavirus or as the weather starts to get warmer, but we should be prepared for the possibility that school will be closed until the rest of the academic year.

We can look to universities as a potential predictor. For example, Princeton University has evacuated its campus and will transition to virtual learning for the rest of the semester. We expect other colleges to follow suit.


What Remote Learning Might Look Like

The quality of remote instruction can vary significantly.

SCENARIO A - Professional

Let’s look at how some universities have successfully created their online Master's programs.

These universities might hire a 3rd party company that specializes in creating online courses.

These 3rd party companies will provide the video equipment needed to create high-quality live and recorded sessions, work with faculty to redesign their curriculum to leverage the new online platform, and create interactive and personalized classroom experiences using their platform and proprietary technologies.

These types of online learning experiences work extremely well.

They’re designed from the ground up and leverage the insights of consultants whose only job is to make the online experience as engaging and effective as possible.

SCENARIO B - Advanced

In this scenario, the teacher might not have all the fancy video production hardware (e.g. expensive digital SLR camera, microphones, professional lighting) or access to expensive consultants, but they will have many hours of hands-on experience providing online tutoring through widely available technologies.

They might use Zoom and other online applications to provide a live/online classroom experience with online whiteboards, private and public chat, breakout rooms, etc… They’ll have Wacom or similar tablets with styluses that allow them to clearly annotate the screen.

Because these instructors have worked with so many students online, they understand the strengths and limitations of each of the tools they use. They know what works well and doesn’t work well for different grade levels and subjects.

Just as importantly, these instructors have intelligently re-worked their curriculum so that it translates well to online delivery.

SCENARIO C - Intermediate

This scenario includes instructors who have less experience with online teaching tools. These teachers might be technologically savvy and already use iPads/Chromebooks in their classroom or communicate with parents through their school's Learning Management System.

However, they might be unfamiliar with online teaching methods and tools. They will either receive training from their school or will take it upon themselves to get up to speed.

It will take a while for these instructors to truly understand the nuances of the tools they’re working with and how to adapt their existing curriculum. Some instructors will struggle while others will do quite well.

SCENARIO D - Basic

The "Basic" scenario is one where there is no online component whatsoever.

In this scenario, teachers will prepare a bunch of handouts and assignments.

They will provide your student with physical copies before the break with the expectation that the student will bring all completed assignments back to school after the break.

What Will Remote Instruction Look Like At My School?

Due to the rapid rollout of remote instruction, limited training/familiarity with online tools, and adherence to state requirements for offline access, the remote instruction that your student will experience will most likely span Scenarios C and D, with a lucky few who will have teachers who are more advanced (Scenario B).

You student’s experience will most likely be a combination of:

  1. Offline (e.g. work packets) and Online (e.g. Learning Management Systems, Zoom, email)
  2. Asynchronous (Work on your own time) and Synchronous (Live)

Your teacher will most likely schedule regular “Office Hours” and be available for support throughout the day.

Teachers will have a decent amount of flexibility in how they design their curriculum, so your own experience will largely be determined by your teacher and will vary from subject to subject.

Schools with more resources, more time to prepare, or prior familiarity with online platforms will probably have more online and live sessions.

Schools with fewer resources, that have a larger percentage of low-income students, or that have yet to be approved for remote days to count as instructional days, will likely have more offline assignments and work packets.

We expect that much of the work assigned to students across the board will be asynchronous, which means that students will be responsible for completing their assignments on their own time.

Younger students in elementary and middle school will probably have more offline work. We expect that teachers will design these assignments to be done with as little help from parents as possible, but how successful that works is to be seen.


Some of Our Concerns

1) Many students are not prepared for self-learning

Many elementary, middle, and high school students lack the discipline, time management, and organizational skills to work on their own. These issues will be more pronounced in younger students.

The physical classroom environment provided this necessary structure. This has been replaced with take-home assignments and a flexible schedule.

Furthermore, many students will have even more time on their hands due to the cancellation of athletics, school plays, concerts, and other extracurricular activities, which exacerbates the situation.

2) Some students will thrive but many will fall behind

Independent students who find that traditional classes move at too slow a pace might thrive in this new environment.

Everyone else, though, will likely fall behind, even those students who are self-disciplined and organized.

Teachers will need some time to figure out the best way to use new tools and transition their curriculum into an online format. Until then, the quality, breadth, and depth of material covered will take a hit.

Elementary school students will fall further behind, as many teachers understandably will be designing lesson plans under the guidance of NOT covering any new content. Instead, they will be creating assignments to reinforce and enhance previously learned content.

3) Equitable access will pose challenges

Remote instruction is great if done well. But what do you do if you can’t access the internet?

Many schools will have to grapple with providing equitable access to all learners (e.g. students who don’t have wifi or technology) and ensuring that their diverse learning/special education student needs are being met.

In addition to the herculean task of transitioning physical lessons to remote lessons, teachers will have to figure out how to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.

For special education students, teachers should easily be able to modify their lesson plans and hold conference calls between stakeholders to ensure IEP compliance.

On the technology front, it’s encouraging to learn that many schools are loaning out Chromebooks and that some companies are temporarily offering free internet access.

However, what happens when school districts with large populations of low-income students (e.g. Chicago Public Schools, Boston Public Schools, New York City Public Schools, Los Angeles Public Schools) make the transition to remote instruction?

These schools simply won’t have the resources to provide every student with an iPad or Chromebook.

What about libraries? They have computers. Even if they’re still open, they won’t have the necessary capacity.

Some schools are getting creative. For example, Los Angeles Unified School District is teaming up with public television stations to broadcast educational content.

But even then, it won’t be enough. Which is why many teachers will have to create remote instruction curricula relying primarily on offline materials (Scenario D) and using online only to supplement. This is a solution, but these lessons will be less engaging and less effective and further highlights social inequities.


12 Tips to Help with the Transition to Remote Learning

There are two major aspects to effectively learning from home:

  • Technological - effectively leverage technology
  • Behavioral - managing your time effectively

Please read below for 12 strategies your student should consider implementing to make the most out of learning from home.

1) Understand That This Isn’t a Vacation

When working from home, it’s way too easy to wake up a little later, take a longer lunch break, put things off, take breaks that progressively get longer and longer, etc...

This time period is also not an excuse to binge-watch Netflix/Hulu/Disney+/Youtube/Pick Your Poison.

The first thing you need to do is realize that you’re NOT on vacation. Otherwise, things are gonna catch up to you real fast.

2) Establish a Routine and Stick to It

Amidst all of this uncertainty, you need to create your own certainty.

Your school day was very structured. That’s now gone, so you’ll have to create that structure yourself.

Create a daily schedule. For example:

Time Activity
7:00 am Wake up
8:00 am Check email + Plan my day
8:30 am Math
9:30 am English
10:30 am Chemistry
11:30 am History
12:30 pm Lunch
1:30 pm Break (e.g. video chat with friends)
2:30 pm Exercise, Meditate, Go outside for fresh air
3:30 pm Learn something new
4:30 pm Homework + Check Email
6:30 pm Relax before dinner

Plan on sticking to your schedule but feel free to adjust as necessary depending on your household and other obligations.

To create accountability, share this with your parents or even your friends.

3) Create a Daily Checklist

One of the best ways to increase productivity is to create a checklist. Also, It’s pretty satisfying to cross things off lists.

Every morning, spend 30 minutes creating a daily To-Do list identifying the major activities you plan on completing in order for you to consider that day to be a productive and successful day.

For example:

My To-Do List
ACADEMIC
  - Math: Finish worksheet
  - English: Draft outline for essay
  - History: Read chapter 3 and 4
  - Spanish: Complete lesson on Por vs Para, memorize 10 new vocab words
  - SAT Prep: Complete a practice reading section in Practice Test 7
  - Check emails (x2)
EXTRACURRICULAR
  - Complete Python lesson on Partial Functions
HEALTH
  - Take a 30 minute walk outside
  - Complete 50 pushups
  - Complete 10 pullups
  - Meditate for 10 minutes using my Headspace app

PRO TIP: Be specific! It also helps to mentally commit to getting your checklist done by a certain time.

4) Incorporate Pomodoros to Improve Your Efficiency

“Pomodoro” means tomato in Italian. 

But it’s also a technique to help with focus and time management.

Each Pomodoro consists of 25 minutes of uninterrupted studying/working followed by a 5-minute break. There is no cell phone usage allowed during the 25-minute study sessions.

How to incorporate the Pomodoro technique:

  1. Choose a task to be accomplished.
  2. Set your timer for 25 minutes (this is one Pomodoro)
  3. Work on the task until time is up
  4. Make a checkmark in a notebook for each Pomodoro completed 
  5. Take a 5-minute break
  6. For every 4 Pomodoros completed, take a longer 15-minute break
  7. Try to complete as many Pomodoros per day as possible!

If you are able to consistently incorporate Pomodoros into your daily routine, you’ll find that you can be insanely productive.

5) Check Your Email AT LEAST Twice a Day

Whether your school is using Google Classroom, Schoology, Blackboard, Canvas or another Learning Management System, your teacher will primarily be communicating with you through email.

We know that high school students aren’t the greatest at checking emails, but it’s your responsibility to check your email MULTIPLE times per day.

Incorporate these check-ins into your daily schedule and To-Do lists if necessary.

6) If You Feel Like You’re Getting Behind, Reach Out Sooner Rather Than Later

If you feel like you’re falling behind in your assignments, or if you’re really struggling with understanding concepts, please do not hesitate to reach out to your teachers for support and advice.

Many teachers will have office hours and will be available throughout the day via school-approved messaging platforms.

Additionally, consider putting together virtual study groups with others in your class.

If you feel like additional help is necessary, please reach out to PrepMaven/Princeton Tutoring or other education companies to learn about private tutoring options.

7) Be Flexible

There’s a lot of uncertainty on many fronts.

Schools are making unprecedented changes in uncharted territory with little notice.

Realize that things will change. Maybe even on a daily basis. Grading policies might change. Assignments might change. Recommended tools might change.

Just roll with it.

If a lesson or assignment doesn’t make sense or is taking way longer than usual, don’t dwell on it. Move on to something else and reach out to your teacher for clarification. Chances are other students are having the same issues.

This is an opportunity to learn the important character trait of being flexible.

8) Use Social Media to Stay in Touch With Friends

Human beings are social creatures. Schedule regular times to meet up with your friends through video chat or other tools.

9) Limit Social Media

At the same time, you’ll want to limit your social media usage to avoid losing yourself into the bottomless pit of scrolling through news feeds.

Remember to be careful about what you put out there. 

10) Take Care of Yourself Physically

Eat as healthy as you can, go outside and get some fresh air, make sure to exercise, etc…

Stay safe and maintain social distancing to the extent possible.

Even if you feel that the coronavirus is of little concern to your own health, you don’t want to pass it along to more vulnerable populations (e.g. elderly, immune-compromised).

11) Take Care of Yourself Emotionally

Social distancing and physical isolation can take a toll. Worrying about the health and safety of loved ones can take a toll. And dwelling on how all of this might negatively impact college admissions can take a toll.

Try your best to keep a positive attitude. Consider meditating using an app like Headspace.

If you’re feeling especially anxious, reach out to your friends, parents, or guidance counselors for support. Realize that you’re not alone in how you feel and many students will probably feel similarly.

12) Don’t Have Access To the Internet or Equipment?

Some internet providers are providing temporary free access. Check your school website or do a Google search.

Your school might have extra Chromebooks, laptops, or iPads that they can loan to you. Reach out directly to your school contacts to check. Or perhaps you might have friends or family members that have hardware they can lend you.


How Will COVID-19 Impact Student’s Chances of College Admissions?

High school students might be worried about getting behind in their coursework, how grades will be impacted (will schools keep traditional grading, move to Pass/D/Fail, get rid of grades altogether?), whether finals might be canceled, how their athletic season will end, and dealing with SAT and ACT test center closures.

These are certainly viable concerns. However, students should understand that many others across the country are also being similarly impacted.

Rest assured that student grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities will all be considered by college admissions officers within the context of these very special circumstances.

Here’s the silver lining. Significant challenges present a HUGE opportunity for those impacted - that’s YOU.

At the end of the day, the college essay/personal statement is all about expressing personal growth and values. This is best shown through challenges, beliefs, interests, or identity.

While I would highly recommend against using COVID-19 as a future essay topic because everybody else will be doing it, this is an opportunity for you to step up.

Most students will squander this opportunity, but you have the chance to do something differently. Tackle this new challenge, try something new, and do something creative that sets you apart.


Conclusion & Next Steps

School districts, parents, and students across the country are grappling with enormous disruption and venturing into new territory, which for the time being will yield less than stellar student results. But we’ll get there eventually.

Unfortunately, much of the burden and pressure will fall on the shoulders of our teachers. Let’s try to be supportive and understanding of our educators.

Because of all the uncertainty, there will be lower expectations of our students. Many students will take advantage and opt to just get by. 

However, this is an unprecedented opportunity for students to learn at their own pace, become more independent, and to push themselves beyond what they’re comfortable with. 

At the same time, it’s incredibly important that we’re making sure students are taking care of themselves, both physically and emotionally.

At the end of the day, I believe our students will prove to be more resilient than we expected.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or if we can help in any way.


Greg & Kevin

Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


4 Social Media Tips for College Applicants

4 Essential Social Media Tips for College Applicants

4 Essential Social Media Tips for College Applicants

Are you on Tik-Tok or Instagram? Facebook or Snapchat?

Most students will respond to these questions with a resounding "yes."

In 2020, social media platforms continue to be all the rage, especially amongst young people. In 2019, 90% of American adults aged 18-29 used at least one social media site.

These days, sharing our activities and opinions online is simply an everyday part of life.

However, it can be easy to forget that the content you put out into the world can potentially be viewed by anyone — including college admissions officers!

It's also easy to overlook the fact that some social media posts can compromise parts of your college application, including that stellar essay that you've crafted.

We encourage all college applicants to keep these social media tips in mind as they go about preparing their applications.


Social Media Posts and College Admissions

Can a college rescind an admissions offer because of questionable social media content?

Yes!

Over the past few years, there have been several instances of students having their acceptance at various colleges rescinded due to content they posted online.

With the benefit of hindsight, the mistakes those students made might seem obvious. Some of them posted racist jokes. Another lied on her college application and then posted details on social media that exposed these lies.

However, in the moment, it may not always be clear to students that they’re doing something wrong. Some students may not think that the things they say privately with friends can make their way to a faraway admissions office. The thing is--they actually can.

What College Admissions Officers Look For

Yet do college admissions officers scrutinize Instagram profiles of applicants?

The answer is a bit hazy.

In fact, a decreasing number of colleges say that they look at applicants’ social media platforms and activity. A 2018 Kaplan Test Prep survey, for example, found that roughly 25% of college admissions officers review social media profiles, down from 40% in 2015.

However, that still leaves plenty of people who could potentially stumble across a questionable post you wrote, even if it was posted years ago!

After all, college admissions officers aren't just on the hunt for good test scores and standout essays, as we've discussed in the past.

They're also looking for signs of strong character, qualities a school may feel will set a student up for success at their institution and beyond. Social media feeds are a great way to get a sense of those extra little qualities that help officers understand a person, like what they do in their spare time, or what kind of interests they have. 

It can be helpful to think of social media content as a supplementary essay (or two) to a college application. This is how some colleges might actually view this content.

For example, Marilyn Hesser, executive director of admissions at the University of Richmond in Virginia, told Josh Moody of US News and World Report that if something in a college application is unclear, admissions staff will look to social media for clarity on a matter.

This can sound rather intimidating, especially if you are very active on social media.

That's why we've compiled 4 essential social media tips for keeping your platforms spotless as you navigate college admissions.

1. Check out schools’ social media policies for current students

Unsure how to approach social media?

You could review the social media policy for current students that your dream university adheres to.

Marilyn Hesser told US News that the University of Richmond considers its code of conduct for enrolled students when weighing social media posts. The University of Richmond expelled a student who had lied on her application about being homeschooled, after her private school noticed her social media posts talking about enrolling at the university even though they had never been asked to send the university her transcripts.

"The (social media) review that happens at Richmond is similar to the review that would happen if a current student did the same thing," Hesser says.

In its social media guidelines, Brown University advises that students be confidential, authentic, and thoughtful when utilizing social media for personal use. "Remember that what you post on your personal page could haunt you professionally," the university cautions its students and staff.

2. Watch out for humor and slang

News flash: Things you find funny may not be viewed the same way outside your friend circle!

For example, perhaps you and your friends frequently insult each other as a friendly form of joking. However, if a parent walking by were to overhear you, they might think you’re genuinely bullying each other. 

That’s the way you should think of speech on social media. The number of ways someone outside your bubble could misinterpret an in-joke or slang-filled comment is endless.

When posting something, you should consider how your grandmother, or a friend’s grandmother, would react if she were to see it. Could it come off sounding rude or offensive? Then reconsider your language.

3. Remember that nothing is truly private

Right now, some of you may be thinking, No problem, I’ll keep my edgier humor and off-color comments limited to private accounts and closed chats with friends.

However, even within your friend circle, it’s not always safe to assume you’re not offending anyone.

Kyle Kashuv, the Parkland shooting survivor who had his acceptance to Harvard University rescinded, was chatting in a Google Doc among friends at school when someone screenshotted his offensive and racist language. Those screenshots eventually made their way to Harvard and media organizations. 

Even a close friend who laughs at your comments when you’re hanging out could be secretly upset or disturbed by something you wrote. And, these days, exposing a person’s comments to the world is as easy as taking a screenshot.

4. Make social media work for you

Amid all this talk of the pitfalls of social media, don’t forget that it can also be a net positive for your application.

Alan Katzman, CEO and founder of Social Assurity, which trains students on how to use social media to their advantage, told US News he advises students to use social media to emphasize skills and interests that might be of value to higher education institutions.

For example, LinkedIn can be used as a digital resume of sorts, displaying extracurricular activities, early work experience, internships, and more. Students who are artistically inclined can use Instagram as a way to present a digital portfolio of their work, which can be essential for college admissions officers.

Don't forget Facebook! This platform is a great way to highlight relevant community service experiences, or even trips abroad. The trick is, naturally, choosing what you want to emphasize on these platforms, which can require a fair bit of self-awareness and social savvy. 


Social Media Tips: Next Steps

We love helping our students identify the components of a successful college application. Part of this process involves learning how college admissions officers actually read your application, which we discuss in this post.

It also can be valuable to hear from students who've made it into top colleges, like Princeton University. We encourage all prospective college applicants to spend time reading our How I Got Into Princeton series to learn more about the character traits, experiences, and aspirations that earned these students that coveted acceptance.

And, of course, if you have any questions whatsoever, feel free to contact us!


Greg & Kevin

Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


How I Got Into Princeton - Emma (Story #15)

How I Got Into Princeton - Story #15

Emma's Story

Emma McMahon"I genuinely like learning because I was raised to value intelligence and hard work. I also thrive in competitive learning environments."

Meet Emma, a member of Princeton's class of 2020.

In high school, Emma furthered her passions for art and field hockey, volunteered for Relay For Life, and became an Illinois State Scholar and National Merit Semifinalist. She also traveled widely before and during high school.

"Most of my pressure to succeed came from myself," says Emma. "I enjoyed seeing my efforts pay off, regardless of whether it pleased my parents and teachers."

Emma additionally attributes her success to her time management skills, commitment to mental well-being, and academic independence.

Please read below to learn more about Emma and the personal qualities, values, and support system that have allowed her to succeed.

We recommend reading from beginning to end but feel free to skip around. Our favorite section is the "What Makes You You" section, where Emma discusses the impact of family and travel.

About this Series

In our "How I got Into" series, we share the stories of successful applicants to Princeton and other great colleges.

Our profiles go beyond a simple list of academic and extracurricular achievements. We also delve into the “how” and the qualities that successful applicants exhibit.

We provide a rare look into what drives these students, how they've overcome their challenges, how they've been shaped by significant events in their lives, how they deal with the pressure to succeed, and much more.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

SECTION 1 - FAMILY
SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING
SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES
SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS
SECTION 5 - THE COLLEGE APPLICATION
SECTION 6 - DAY IN THE LIFE
SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU
SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Disclaimer

Here's what we're NOT doing with this series:

  • We are NOT prescribing an over-engineered approach to college admissions
  • We are NOT presenting a blueprint for how you should get into college
  • We are NOT suggesting that you must gain admissions to a selective school to be successful (you most certainly do not)

Here's what we ARE doing:

  • We are presenting data and sharing stories
  • We are providing context that you usually don't see to highlight that we are more than just our grades and GPA
  • Our ultimate goal is to uncover the values and personal qualities that drive successful applicants

Whether you are considering selective colleges or not, it is our unwavering belief that our values and personal qualities (and luck) are the major contributors to success.


SECTION 1 - FAMILY

Geography

Birthplace: Evanston, IL
Where did you grow up? Lincolnshire, IL

Siblings

# of older siblings:  1
# of younger siblings: 0
Sibling Education Levels:  Undergraduate
Where did your siblings go to college?  University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

Parents

Parent's Marital Status: Widowed
With whom do you make your permanent home? Parent 1
Parent 1 Current/Former Occupation: Hospice Social Worker
Parent 1 Highest Level of Education: Masters
Parent 2 Current/Former Occupation: Business Systems Analyst
Parent 2 Highest Level of Education: Bachelor’s Degree

Parent Beliefs

How would you characterize your parents' parenting style(s)?

Strict

On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the most important), how important to your parents was:

Academics 4
Extracurriculars 3
Service 4
Family 5
Friends 4
Physical Health/ Fitness 3
Mental Health 4

Did your parents have specific philosophies regarding any of the areas above?

My parents cared mostly that I worked hard and was happy and thoughtful. They encouraged me to succeed academically but they didn’t pressure me or get involved in my academics.


SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING

Middle School

Middle School: Woodlawn Middle School
Type of School: Public

High School

High School: Adlai E. Stevenson High School
High School City, State: Lincolnshire, IL
Type of School: Public
Class Size: 1200

SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES

Jobs

Did you work in high school?  Yes
What kind of job/s did you have? Tutor
Average hours/week worked? 10
Why did you work? To save money and for my resume

Extracurriculars/Passions & Interests

What were your major passions/ interests in high school?

Art, Field Hockey

How much time did you spend on these things?

10 hours/week on art, 20 hours/week on field hockey

When did these passions/interests first come about?

I started doing art when I was very young. I started field hockey the summer before high school.

How were these passions/interests developed over time?

My dad was an artist so he encouraged this hobby and gave me supplies when I was young.

What level of achievement did you reach?

I took AP Art. I had my artwork featured in my school's literary magazine and school art shows. This gave me experience in showcasing my work, with which I have continued to have success in college. I also created a large art portfolio that I submitted as a supplement to my Princeton application.

I was captain of the JV field hockey team.

Tell us a little bit about how you achieved these achievements?

I put in a lot of time and demonstrated strong leadership skills. By choosing activities I genuinely enjoyed, my passion showed through to others. Because of my passion for field hockey, I consistently dedicated my time and energy to each practice and game. This dedication was expressed through my enthusiasm and leadership, and I was voted by my peers to be captain of the field hockey team. Likewise, the enjoyment I got from art pushed me to create a large breadth of artwork from which I could assemble a portfolio of pieces that showcased my skills and personality.

What kind of support did you have?

My parents bought me equipment/supplies and drove me to practices, games, and other events before I got my license.

What kind of sacrifices/challenges did you overcome to achieve these extracurricular results?

It was challenging to balance sports and art with work, homework, and many responsibilities at home.

Service

What were your major service-related activities?

Relay For Life and National Honor Society

How much time did you spend?

5 hours/week on service

Why did you choose this activity?

I have had close family members affected by cancer so it was a personal cause to me. It was a rewarding way to spend my time because I could see my efforts pay off in a tangible way (i.e., through fundraising and event planning).

Summers

What did you do in the summers during high school?

I traveled to Morocco and played field hockey in the summer league after 9th grade. After 10th grade, I was involved with Save-A-Pet as a volunteer, participated in Field Hockey League and a STEM Careers Summer School course, and worked as a tutor. During the summer after 11th grade, I had a Northwestern University Applied Physics Internship and a tutoring job.


SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS

Grades/GPA/Awards

Class Ranking: n/a
GPA - Weighted: 4.0
GPA - Unweighted 4.79

SAT/ACT

How many times did you take the SAT? 1
How many times did you take the ACT? 2
What were your SAT and/or ACT scores? 2330, 36
Did you take a class or receive private tutoring? No
How many hours did you study in total? 5
When did you start preparing for the test? End of sophomore year
When did you take the test? Summer after sophomore year

Do you know which test to take? Check out our recommendations here - Should I Take the SAT or the ACT?

Not sure WHEN to take the test? We created 9 Sample Testing Schedules to help get you started

SAT Subject Tests & AP/IBs

Which SAT Subject tests did you take? 

Physics: 800, Math II: 760

Which AP/IBs did you take?

Euro 5, Physics 5, Physics C Mechanics 5, Physics C E&M 5, Calculus BC 5, US History 5, Macroeconomics 5, Spanish Language and Culture 5, Junior English 5, Biology 3, Chemistry 3, Themes 5, Statistics 5, US Government 5, Microeconomics 4, Art 5

What were your major academic achievements in high school?

Illinois State Scholar, National Merit Semifinalist, Presidential Scholar Candidate

What do you attribute your academic success to?

I attribute it to having a lot of practice in test-taking from an early age. Reading was also helpful with respect to developing academic success and focus.

What kind of support did you have?

My school had peer tutors available and teachers had office hours before class for assistance.

Did you ever receive private tutoring?

No.

What kind of sacrifices/challenges did you overcome to achieve these academic results?

In my junior and senior years, I struggled with stress and lack of sleep. I overcame this by lessening the pressure I put on myself and seeking help from academic resources.

Any specific approaches/tips & tricks to studying that were particularly helpful for you?

I found that having a busy schedule improved my time management. I also did all my studying at a reasonable hour and slept early.


SECTION 5 - THE COLLEGE APPLICATION

Applications & Acceptances

Did you apply as an international or domestic student? Domestic
Did you apply regular or early? Early
How many schools did you apply to? ~16
Were you a legacy applicant at any of these schools? No
Were you recruited for athletics, arts, music, etc...? No
Did you declare a major? Did this end up being your actual major? Yes / No

Which schools did you apply to (that you remember)?

Princeton, Duke, Northwestern, Cornell, University of Virginia, University of North Carolina, Harvard, UPenn, MIT, University of Pennsylvania (Engineering School), Columbia, Yale, Stanford, Berkeley.

Which schools did you get into?

Princeton, MIT, University of Maryland, Stern College for Women, Queens College, and City College

Letters of Recommendations

Who did you ask for letters of recommendation?

Math teacher, Physics teacher, English teacher

Why did you ask these specific people?

They knew me the best and I got along well with them. I only asked my English teacher because MIT asked for a breadth of subjects.

Common App Essay

What did you write about in your common app essay?

I wrote about hot sauce and connected it to my personality/experiences.

Why Princeton

Why did you choose Princeton?

I have family in the area, and Princeton is known for its financial aid program, sciences, and liberal arts.

Gap Year

Did you take a gap year?

No.

Curious about what happens after you submit your college application? Check out our in-depth guide - How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process


SECTION 6 - DAY IN THE LIFE

Typical Day

What was a typical weekday like in your junior year of high school?

I went to school, attended field hockey practice, ate dinner, worked on homework until 8, watched TV with my family, finished my homework, then went to bed.

On average, how many hours of HW and studying did you do every night?

3 hours max.

What time did you usually go to sleep?

10-11pm

What was a typical weekend like in high school?

I worked for three hours Saturday mornings, did most of my homework in the afternoon, and spent time with family/friends. Sundays: I helped with chores, finished homework, did art, and relaxed.


SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU

Drive/Motivation

What drove you to succeed in high school? Where did this drive come from?

I was very motivated to go to an elite college because I knew it would provide me with the best financial aid and I didn’t want my parents to struggle to pay for my education. I also genuinely liked learning because I was raised to value intelligence and hard work. I also thrived in competitive learning environments.

Pressure/Stress/Expectations

What kind of expectations did your parents have for you?

They expected me to work hard and also to have fun and spend time with family and friends. They expected me to have a good balance.

What kind of pressure did you feel to succeed? Where did this pressure come from?

Most of my pressure to succeed came from myself. My parents didn't pressure me but they gave me positive feedback when I succeeded academically and they encouraged me to be intellectual. I internalized this positive reinforcement and found that I enjoyed seeing my efforts pay off, regardless of whether it pleased my parents and teachers. I think because a lot of my identity revolved around my academic success, I felt pressure to maintain these standards and not let myself down.

How did you deal with this pressure?

I tried to not be too hard on myself and not get let down when I failed, so the pressure was never harmful.

Balance

How did you balance everything going on in high school?

Time management and organization.

Any strategies, tips, tools, types of support that helped you?

Keep an organized calendar/to do list. Seek help from tutors and teachers. Schedule time to relax and decompress. I would sleep by midnight even if my homework wasn’t completed so I could be well-rested at school.

Significant Events

Any major events growing up that helped shape your high school self?

I had opportunities to travel with my uncle to many continents by the time I left high school. Through having the opportunity to travel to places like India, Morocco, and Europe before reaching high school, I entered high school with a broad worldview and a greater appreciation for subjects like world history and European history. I also learned a lot about myself and that I wanted to pursue a future career that involves travel and working abroad. These were very formative and educational experiences.

Other Challenges/Struggles

Any other struggles/challenges (that we didn't discuss so far) that you faced in high school? While growing up?

No

Culture/Identity

How do you identify yourself? White
Which languages does your family speak at home? English
How many languages are you proficient in? 2: English and Spanish
Do you identify with multiple cultures? Yes, Irish and American

How has your culture or identity influenced you during your middle school or high school years?

It has shaped my values, religion, outlook, etc.

Character/Personal Qualities

What values were most important to you in high school?

Independence, family, integrity, organization.

What was your #1 core value?

Independence.

How did you demonstrate those values in high school?

By taking control of my own activities and academics, not depending on my parents for help with managing my life.

What do you consider your most important personal qualities?

I am thoughtful, independent, resilient, and caring.

How would you characterize your personality growing up?

I was reserved, studious, focused, kind, mature, and creative.

Uniqueness

Was there anything special or different about your family when you were growing up that helped shape who you were in high school?

My dad was physically disabled and my mom worked full-time so I was forced to be very independent from a young age. I think this independence translated into my being very academically independent. My parents were also quite old fashioned. I never had video games and I didn’t get a cell phone until high school. I think this made me more well-read, social, and active than I would have been otherwise.

What do you think makes you unique?

My maturity and life experiences.

Influences/Mentors/Support

Did you have any major influences growing up? If so, who/what were your they?

My parents were very influential. We ate dinner together every night and discussed academics/books/world events.

If you had a question or needed some advice, who would you go to?

My parents or my older sister.


SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Important Lessons

Most important lessons that you learned or were taught while growing up?

I was taught to be independent, responsible, and generous.

Advice

Any advice you would give to your high school self?

Take some more time to think about what you genuinely enjoy, not just what you’re good at. Pursue your hobbies earlier so they have more time to develop. Figure out how you can turn these interests into a course of study/career.


NEXT STEPS

Check out our first profile and learn about Destiny's journey.

Like what you read? Subscribe to our mailing list, and we’ll let you know when we release similar articles and other in-depth guides. Please also share using the buttons on the side.

At PrepMaven, our mission is not only to help your child increase their test scores and get into a great college but also to put them on the right track for long-term personal and professional success.


Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg & Kevin

Greg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


Kindness and Success

How Kindness and Success Go Hand in Hand

How Kindness and Success Go Hand in Hand

Do we teach our kids to value achievement at the expense of kindness?

That’s what a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly by organizational psychologist Adam Grant and writer Allison Sweet Grant asks.

It caught our eye because, as both parents and educators, we, too, seek to cultivate kindness in the young people around us.

In this post, we explore the relationship between kindness and success.

We also offer insights into what compassion has to do with the college admissions process!


The Decline of Empathy

The Grants cite studies suggesting that kindness and the ability to empathize with others is in decline among college students.

They also cite figures suggesting that, while most parents say they want to raise caring children, most children say that their parents value achievement and happiness over compassion for others.

The authors also mention anecdotal examples of parents who refrain from intervening when their children are selfish in their play. Why? Fear of raising children who don’t know how to stick up for themselves.

Kids, the Grants claim,

“see their peers being celebrated primarily for the grades they get and the goals they score, not for the generosity they show. They see adults marking their achievements without paying as much attention to their character. Parents are supposed to leave a legacy for the next generation, but we are at risk of failing to pass down the key virtue of kindness.”


Kindness and Academic Success

This may sound a bit grim.

But the great news is that this is one of those rare cases where parents can have their cake and eat it too.

As the Atlantic Monthly article claims, kindness and success might just go hand in hand! The authors cite an encouraging amount of evidence suggesting that children who help others end up achieving more than children who don’t.

Here are some amazing facts about the power of empathy in this respect:

  • Boys rated as "helpful" by their kindergarten teacher earn more money 30 years later
  • Middle-school students who help, cooperate, and share with their peers get better grades and standardized-test scores
  • The eighth graders with the greatest academic achievement were rated "most helpful" by their third-grade classmates
  • Middle schoolers who believe their parents value being helpful, respectful, and kind over excelling academically, attending a good college, and having a successful career perform better in school

What might be behind these impressive statistics? For one thing, concern for others often leads to supportive relationships, which can be beneficial in any environment, academic or otherwise. 

Empathy can also minimize depression, which can hinder professional and social performance. Students who care about others might additionally feel a sense of a "higher purpose."

Indeed, empathetic students “tend to see their education as preparation for contributing to society—an outlook that inspires them to persist even when studying is dull.” 


How This Relates to College Admissions

In our perspective, another big reason we believe kindness dovetails with success is that we’ve spent a great deal of time researching what it is college admissions offices look for in the students they admit. As a result, we can say with absolute confidence that kindness is exactly the kind of character trait that colleges want.

In fact, in 2016, the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a report containing recommendations for the college admissions process. In this report, a coalition of admissions counselors from top schools--including Princeton University--encourage applicants to "focus on meaningful ethical and intellectual engagement."

In other words, they urge students to prioritize community engagement, service, and responsibility for the future in preparing for college (and the application process as a whole).

Mission statements colleges post on their websites confirm this, as words like “service” and “community” and “collaboration” come up frequently. Dartmouth College, for example, states that “Dartmouth fosters lasting bonds…which…instill a sense of responsibility for each other and for the broader world.”  

Princeton University notes that

“The University’s defining characteristics and aspirations include…a human scale that nurtures a strong sense of community, invites high levels of engagement, and fosters personal communication.”

The concept of service — a university’s obligation to serve its students, and students’ obligation to serve the surrounding community and the world at large — are incredibly important to schools.

In a survey conducted by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, 290 institutions were asked, “What steps has your institution taken to make its involvement in community service activity more effective?” The top response was to place greater emphasis on community service in their missions.

Colleges also emphasize the importance of character, another concept we discuss at greater length in other posts.

Character is an indication of leadership potential and is demonstrated through your academic and extracurricular activities. And, remember: A large component of character involves helping others.


Next Steps

So, how should parents put all this into action?

The Grants write in their article that they’ve started asking their children fewer questions like “How did the test go?” or “Did your team win?”. Instead, they strive to ask more questions about what their children did that day to help other people.

They’re also making an effort to share some of their own experiences with helping (including moments when they failed) and encouraging friendships not with the class braggart but rather with classmates who are kind and helpful.

We also encourage students to look into service opportunities at their school.

Is there a volunteer organization at school you can join? If not, think about founding one yourself!

Not only will this look good to colleges, but it will also make you feel good. In psychology, this phenomenon is called “helper’s high,” and neurological studies have found that being generous activates reward centers in our brains.

As the Grants conclude, “teaching children to care about others might be the best way to prepare them for a successful and fulfilling life.”

We couldn’t agree more.


Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg & Kevin

Greg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


College Rejection_How to Cope

College Rejection? Here's What to Do

College Rejection? Here's What to Do

Rejection is an inevitable, and painful, part of life.

College application season, in particular, brings numerous opportunities for rejection.

For some students, getting turned down by their dream college(s) will be the most consequential form of rejection they’ve had to face. This rejection can be especially difficult to navigate for students who have applied Early Decision or Early Action.

What's more, many universities are getting more and more selective as application numbers increase, meaning that college admissions, on a whole, is getting more unpredictable.

We wish every single student could be spared the pain of rejection letters, deferrals, and wait-list notices, especially if these come from colleges at the top of their lists.

Yet, since rejection isn’t something we can avoid, our best option is to learn how to cope with it. Developing this kind of emotional resiliency is something that anyone can benefit from — not just during college application season, but throughout the rest of their life.

To that end, here are some strategies we recommend for navigating college rejections (including what to do about your college list).

1) Acknowledge the pain.

Scientific research, including a University of Michigan study, has found that rejection activates the same part of the brain that physical pain does.

In other words, we humans actually experience rejection and physical pain the same way. And, just as some people feel physical pain more strongly than others, it’s likely that some people feel emotional and psychological pain more deeply as well.

This can be tough to acknowledge. After all, it means that that rejection pain is very much real. As such, there’s no real way to avoid feeling it when that rejection letter arrives from your dream school. However, thinking of rejection pain as similar to physical pain helps us understand it. Understanding this pain gets us closer to processing it.

This is important to note, as many students choose to acknowledge rejection pain by, well, panicking! It's not uncommon for families to feel the need to revise college lists, common application essays, and more following a wait list notice, defferal, or rejection.

Before this panic sets in, and before you make any decisions like these, take some breaths. Acknowledge the pain, respect the work that you've done, and allow yourself the emotional space to process the impact of that letter.

2) Don't lose sight of academics and activities.

If you've applied Early Decision or Early Action and received anything other than a resounding "yes" from your college(s) of choice, it may be tempting to lie in bed binge-watching Netflix and forgoing assignments and extracurricular engagements.

However, colleges do care about how students finish out their senior years, especially from an academic perspective. As challenging as it may be, it's vital to stay focused on your classes and activities to keep your application strong.

Now is actually a great time to channel that rejection pain into a new activity or pursuit, such as an independent study, volunteering activity, or elective. Colleges love students who take initiative and demonstrate that they are not daunted by setbacks or perceived failures.

If you're achieving anything less than your desired grade in certain classes, now is also a fantastic time to discuss with your teachers about certain ways to bolster flagging marks.

3) Make sure your college list is balanced and appropriate.

Many students inevitably return to their college lists after an early deferral, wait list notification, or rejection. They may be tempted to add or subtract certain schools from this list. Yet we encourage all of our students to evaluate their lists mindfully before making any significant changes.

We encourage our students to consider their college lists from two perspectives:

  • Quantitative
  • Qualitative

Viewing schools from a quantitative perspective means considering the following:

  • Average standardized test scores of accepted applicants
  • Average grade point average of accepted applicants
  • Any other numerical consideration (i.e., class rank, AP test scores, academic rigor, etc.)

Assessing schools with a qualitative perspective means ensuring the following components align with a student's interests:

  • Resources and opportunities for the student's desired career path / major
  • Location and size
  • Career preparation
  • Study abroad opportunities
  • Undergraduate research opportunities
  • Curriculum (including rigor)
  • Faculty 

We also encourage students to have a balanced mix of the tiers of schools on their list. This often means a healthy proportion of the following three types of colleges:

  • Reach (ambitious schools given the student's background)
  • Likely (probable acceptance given the student's background)
  • Safety (definite acceptance -- "backup" schools)

It is important to emphasize that just because you don't get into one "reach" school doesn't mean you won't get into another. However, this doesn't mean that your college list should include all "reach" schools!

We also recommend that students to consult their guidance counselors about college lists following any wait list, deferral, or rejection. These professionals will help students take the right steps for continuing the application process.

4) Understand what colleges are looking for in applicants.

Here are just a few statistics about the reality of the selectivity of U.S. college admissions processes. This data concerns 2018 fall entering classes:

U.S. College / University  Acceptance Rate for 2018 fall entering class 
Stanford 4%
Julliard School 6%
University of Chicago 7%
United States Naval Academy 9%
Pitzer College 13%
Barnard College 14%
Colorado College 15%
Tulane University 17%
New York University 20%
Lehigh University 22%

Source: US News

How can we explain these numbers? Well, to a certain degree, we actually can't.

We've written about how admissions officers read college applications in a past post, which we strongly encourage all of our families and students to check out.

It's also worth noting what college admissions officers actually look for in college applications. We discuss this in depth in this post here, but we want to emphasize that test scores, transcripts, and essays are only parts of an application.

Every college has what we like to call "institutional priorities" that they keep in mind when reviewing applications. These are impossible to predict or identify, and they are largely what's behind those deferral, wait list, and rejection letters.

If there's anything to learn from a college rejection, it's this: there's no guaranteed formula for admission.

A Word About Gap Years and Transferring

Some students decide to take a gap year following unfavorable outcomes in the college admissions process, assuming they can use this extra time to reapply to the schools on their lists.

We strongly caution students against this, as gap years are designed to further student growth, rather than to be used as a second application season. What's more, re-applying to select schools doesn't necessarily guarantee admission.

Students do have the "last resort" option of transferring to a secondary institution down the road following one or two years of undergraduate work elsewhere. While this may not feel as favorable to some students, it is a possibility; in fact, many elite institutions--including Ivy Leagues--accept transfer students.


Next Steps

Receiving a college rejection, deferral, or wait list notice can be devastating, especially for Early Decision/Action applicants.

Yet we want to emphasize that rejections and deferrals do not mean that you've done anything wrong or that your college application is in any way sub-par. True, you may not be able to pinpoint exactly why a college rejected you, but rejections don't merit a comprehensive re-evaluation of your college application.

They do provide an opportunity to inspect college lists to ensure they align with a student's qualitative and quantitative aspirations. A balanced list of reach, safety, and likely schools is the first step towards finding that institution that is right for you.

Best of luck!


Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg & Kevin

Greg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


SAT Goal Setting: The Ultimate Guide

SAT Goal Setting: The Ultimate Guide

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.

- Michaelangelo

You’ve started thinking about the SAT or you’ve taken a practice test and just got your scores back.

Now what?

What do these numbers mean? Is your SAT score good or bad? What is a realistic SAT score increase?

We answer many of these questions in this comprehensive post. With these answers, you'll have everything you need to set the right goals for your SAT test prep journey.

Whether you're self-studying for the SAT or working with experts, this post is for you!

We'll answer 5 important questions in this SAT goal setting guide:

  1. How does your SAT score compare to others'?
  2. What are realistic target SAT scores?
  3. How should you think about reaching your target score?
  4. How many hours of studying will it take to achieve your target SAT scores?
  5. How does your score compare to the average SAT scores of your target colleges?

Want a copy of this guide to review later? Click here to download our free ebook!


1) How Does Your SAT Score Compare to Others'?

Your SAT score doesn’t really mean anything by itself.

In order to give meaning to your score--and develop an SAT study plan--you have to consider your scores in context. This means thinking about how your score compares to:

  • SAT scores of other students in the country
  • SAT scores of your target colleges (we’ll cover this later)

How does YOUR score compare to OTHERS' in the country?

To answer this question, we have to look at the percentile rank of your score.

What’s a percentile?

  • If you score is in the 75th percentile, that means 75% of SAT scores are at or below your score
  • The higher your percentile rank, the better

Below are some percentile ranks based on the actual SAT scores of students in the graduating high school class of 2017:

Total SAT Score Percentile
1480 99th percentile
1320 90th percentile
1190 74th percentile
1050 49th percentile
910 24th percentile
800 9th percentile

(Source: The College Board)

The average SAT scores of the Class of 2017 high school graduates:

  • Total Score: 1060
  • Critical Reading/Writing: 533
  • Math: 527

As you begin setting your SAT goals, ask yourself: how does your score compare to the average score?


2) What Are Realistic Target SAT Scores?

Your SAT goal scores should depend on two things:

  1. Where your SAT scores currently are - If you’re already a high scorer, your expected score increase will be lower
  2. How much prep you’ve already done - If you’ve already done a ton of prep, your incremental improvement will be lower

Below is a general GUIDELINE for target SAT score improvements based on your current SAT section scores:

Current Section Score Target Score Improvements
200 - 400 +100
400 - 440 +90
450 - 490 +80
500 - 540 +70
550 - 590 +60
600 - 640 +50
650 - 690 +40
700 - 740 +30
750 - 790 +10

DETERMINE YOUR TARGET SAT SCORE:

To calculate your SAT goal score, fill in the table below:

  1. Enter the scores from an official or practice test into the 1st Column (“My Current Score”)
  2. Use the table above to identify the appropriate “Target Score Improvement” based on your section score. Input those numbers into the table below.
  3. Calculate “MY TARGET SAT SCORE” by adding the previous 3 columns
    • For example: If “My Current Score” is 550 for Math, then “Target Score Improvement” would be +60, and “MY TARGET SAT SCORE” would be 550 + 60 + 20 = 630
My Current Score Target Score Improvement Stretch Goal MY TARGET SAT SCORE*
Math  +  + 20
CR/WR  +  + 20

*NOTE: If you’ve already completed a lot of prep, you realistically may only be able to achieve a fraction of these target SAT scores (but keep these targets anyway)

Click here to download our guide and tables so you can keep track of your scores!


3) Reaching Your SAT Goal Score

Let’s say you want to increase your SAT math score by 90 points.

How should you think about reaching this SAT goal score?

One way to make your score increase more tangible is to think about how many additional questions you need to answer correctly.

  • Each math question is worth about 10 points
  • Each reading/writing question is worth about 6 points
  • If you want to increase your math score by 90 points, you will need to answer 90 / 10 = 9 additional questions correctly

This thinking aligns well with our key strategy of carefully reviewing missed questions

  • If we apply this strategy properly, the next time we see a similar math question again, for example, we’ll answer it correctly, and gain 10 points (or more if it’s a frequently tested topic)

Use the table below to calculate the additional # of Qs you’ll need to answer correctly:

  1. Enter your current/diagnostic score in Column 1
  2. Enter “My Target SAT Score” in Column 2 (from the previous page)
  3. Calculate “Targeted Score Increase” in Column 3 by subtracting Column 1 from Column 2
  4. Calculate Column 5 by dividing Column 3 by Column 4
(1) My Current Score (2) My Target SAT Score (3) Targeted Score Increase (4) Each Question is Worth (5) How Many More Qs to Answer Right
Math 10 pts
CR/WR 6 pts

Example:

  • If my current Reading/Writing score is 500 (Column 1), then “My  Target SAT Score” will be 590 (Column 2, pulled from previous section). Thus my “Targeted Score Increase” will be 590 - 500 = 90 points (Column 3).
  • To calculate how many additional questions I must answer correctly to achieve this score (Column 5), I divide 90 by 6 to get 15 question.

Click here to download our guide and tables so you can keep track of your scores!

Not sure WHEN to take the test? We created 9 Sample Testing Schedules to help get you started


4) Achieving Your SAT Goal Scores

The #1 way to achieve your target SAT scores is to … STUDY MORE and STUDY EFFECTIVELY.

But you already knew this.

If you’re signed up for one of our SAT classes or private tutoring sessions, you will learn the best strategies and review important concepts, but you have to spend time outside of class by doing homework and practice tests.

How to Study Effectively?

  • Many students don’t study efficiently or effectively… This means a lot of wasted time and little to no improvement
  • It’s important to learn how to study,  when to study, and to utilize tools to make the most out of your time - this results in larger improvements over a shorter amount of time

How to Study More?

  • The more effectively you study, the higher your score. It’s that simple!
  • We know that your time is limited, but you must prioritize your SAT prep if you’re an 11th or 12th grader
  • Compared to your grades and extracurriculars, the SAT has a disproportionate impact on college admissions when considering time spent on each activity
  • It’ll be a little painful, but it’ll be worth it

HOW MUCH TIME SHOULD YOU SPEND STUDYING?

This is the million-dollar question. Below is a general guideline:

 

Target # Hours of Studying: 40 hrs

  • Score Improvements*:
    • Expect reasonable score improvements
  • 40 hrs translates to:
    • 5 hrs per week over 8 weeks
      • ~1 hr per day (5 days/wk)
    • 10 hrs per week over 4 weeks
      • ~2 hrs per day (5 days/wk)
  • FYI - our courses are designed with 40 hours of homework
Ideal # Hours of Studying: 80 hrs

  • Spread these hours out over a longer period of time.
    • E.g. 80 hours over 4 months
  • Score Improvements*:
    • Expect to hit the higher end of your target scores
Superstar # Hours of Studying: 120+ hrs

  • These hours should be spread out across 6 to 12 months or even longer
  • Score Improvements*:
    • Expect to exceed your target scores
Bare Minimum # Hours of Studying: 20 hrs

  • At a bare minimum, commit to at least 20 hours of studying
  • Score Improvements*:
    • Expect to see moderate improvement
  • 20 hrs translates to:
    • 2.5 hrs per week for 8 week course
      • ~30 min per day (5 days/wk)
    • 5 hrs per week for 4 week course
      • ~1 hr per day (5 days/wk)

*Take these estimated score improvements with a grain of salt. Every student is different and score increases will vary across the board, especially if you’ve already done a lot of prep beforehand.


5) Your SAT Score vs. Average Scores of Target Colleges

While it’s great to know SAT percentile comparisons to those of other students in the country, what really matters is how your SAT score compares to the scores of the student body at your target colleges.

To have a decent shot at your target college, aim to score in the higher range of the “middle 50 percent SAT Scores” of that college.

What is the “Middle 50 Percent SAT Score”?

  • The Middle 50 Percent SAT score is a score between the 25th percentile and the 75th percentile of SAT scores for that college
  • To find these scores, just Google your target college + “admissions statistics”
  • Your should aim for the 75th percentile (or higher!)

Example Middle 50 Percent SAT Scores (Class of 2021):

College/ University 25th Percentile 75th Percentile
Princeton University 1380 1540
UNC Chapel Hill 1270 1450
Rutgers (Arts & Science) 1250 1430
Michigan State University 1120 1290
UC Riverside 1090 1310

FILL OUT THE TABLE BELOW WITH YOUR OWN TARGET COLLEGES:

College/ University 25th Percentile 75th Percentile
Target College/University
Target College/University
Target College/University
Target College/University
Target College/University

How do the target scores you identified earlier compare to the SAT Middle 50 of your target colleges?

If Your Target Scores Fall WITHIN the SAT Middle 50 of Target Schools:

  • Great! Your SAT goal scores are well aligned.
  • Now all you have to do is put in the work to achieve those targets. How? You can self-study, sign up for an SAT Class, get private tutoring, or a combination of all of the above!

If Your Target Scores Fall BELOW the SAT Middle 50 of Target Schools:

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Adjust your list of target schools:
    • Keep the schools on the list, but re-classify them as “Reach” schools
      • While your chances are significantly reduced if your SAT scores are outside the middle 50, the SAT is not the ONLY admissions criteria
      • You still have a chance at these schools, especially if your other academics are very strong and you have exceptional extracurriculars
    • Add some colleges that are more aligned with your target scores
  3. Study more… up to a limit:
    • The more you study, the higher your score
      • This is true as long as you’re studying effectively
      • How to study effectively? Don’t worry, we’ll teach you how
    • However, there are diminishing returns
      • Once you reach this level, stop and re-evaluate - you shouldn’t be spending all your time doing SAT prep
    • Some of our students blast through their targets. You might be one of them.

If Your Target Scores Fall ABOVE the SAT Middle 50 of Target Schools:

  • Congrats! If not already on your list, consider adding some more selective schools that align with your target SAT scores.

As you can see, understanding the SAT Middle 50 of your Target Colleges can help you adjust your college list and your study plan.

The SAT Middle 50 also tells you when you can STOP studying:

  • If you’ve taken the test and you’re scoring in the 75th percentile or above of your target colleges, you can stop studying and focus on other things
  • However, feel free to continue studying and trying to improve your score if you truly have extra free time and everything else is in good shape

Next Steps

Now that you know all about SAT goal setting, it's time to create an SAT study plan. Read our post on doing so here!

Like what you read? Subscribe to our mailing list, and we’ll let you know when we release similar articles and other in-depth guides. Please also share using the buttons on the side.

If you are considering SAT classes or private tutoring, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

We offer free consultations to help you decide the best course of action (whether with us or with somebody else!) based on your specific circumstances.

We’ve helped thousands of students improve their grades and test scores.

At PrepMaven, our mission is not only to help your child increase their test scores and get into a great college but also to put them on the right track for long-term personal and professional success.


Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg Wong and Kevin Wong

Greg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.