Is Early Decision a Good Decision for You?

Summer is wrapping up and back-to-school supplies are beginning to crowd store shelves. If you’re a senior stocking up for your last year of high school, though, you’ve got bigger decisions to make than simply which backpack will best withstand the weight of all your textbooks this year. College applications are right around the corner, and if you’ve been toying with applying early decision it’s time to start getting serious.

What Is Early Decision?

Early decision is an application option for students who are ready to commit to attending a specific school. Available at approximately 450 colleges and universities around the country, early decision is a binding agreement – if accepted, the student agrees to attend that school.

What does Early Decision Show the Admissions Department?

It is very simple – Early decision shows interest and commitment. One of the most important buzzwords for college admissions at the moment is what we call “demonstrated interest.” After your GPA, SAT/ACT Scores, college essays, and course rigor, demonstrated interest may be the deciding factor in acceptance or rejection. Basically, demonstrated interest relates to how many “touches” you have with a particular college such as visits, emails to the department, phone calls, follows on social media, and even down to website clicks. You are trying to make the college believe that you are truly interested in attending, and not just applying as a safety or because your friends applied. They want students to attend their school after acceptance. This metric (percentage of students that end up attending who are accepted) is called yield rate and is part of the US News and World Report Rankings system. In sum, applying early decision is one of the best ways to demonstrate the maximum interest in the college since the agreement is binding.

Further Advantages of Early Decision

If you’ve already done your research and are completely confident that a particular school is your number one choice, early decision offers a number of advantages besides demonstrating interest. First, it provides an accelerated schedule for getting through the time-consuming, emotionally-draining experience of applying to college. Early decision applications are usually due much earlier than other applications, generally as soon as November, and you’ll subsequently find out whether you were accepted to your dream school well before those applying on a conventional timeline.

This sped-up timeline results in another perk of early decision. Since you’ll generally be notified about whether or not you were admitted to your top choice while the regular application season is still on-going, if the answer is “yes,” you can dispense with both the cost and stress of completing any additional applications.

Finally, early decision applicants tend to enjoy a higher acceptance rate compared to their traditional timeline counterparts. Many colleges appreciate being able to start locking in qualified students early on and will take advantage of the fact that, unlike traditional applicants, early decision students won’t decline admission in favor of a different school. Statistics from 2015 suggest that Brown accepted roughly 20% of their early decision applicants and only about 7% of their total applicants, while Cornell accepted nearly 40% of their early decision applicants and only about 16% of their total applicants.

Disadvantages of Early Decision

The biggest downside of early decision is the inherent commitment it implies. Virtually the only acceptable reason for turning down an admissions offer from an early decision school is if the financial aid package makes it impossible to attend. Other downsides to early decision include losing the chance to compare financial aid offers from multiple schools and the impact earlier deadlines may have on your opportunities to improve either your GPA or test scores before applying. It is rare (but not impossible) to receive a scholarship offer applying early decision.

Who Should Seriously Consider Early Decision?

Early decision ultimately represents a great option for those who have already weighed their college options and have a clear first choice that is unlikely to change and who also have solid academics and scores that are also unlikely to improve given an additional semester’s worth of grades and test scores.

Unfortunately, students whose GPA/ACT/SAT scores do not meet the stated criteria for a school (meaning you are below the 25th percentile of incoming freshman) should NOT apply early decision, as you will probably be rejected considering the vast number of more qualified applicants coming down the pipeline of the college admissions process. In that instance you will be better served by making use of more traditional application options.

Your final year of high school is filled with difficult decisions. If you already know which college or university will make you the happiest, getting to work on an early decision application is one way to start simplifying the choices you’ll need to make down the road and reducing the stress of an inherently hectic season of life.

Need help with making this difficult decision? We help students every year carefully manage the application process. To find out more about the wide array of services we provide, give us a call at (516)728-1561.

ACT vs SAT

ACT vs. SAT: Six Differences Between the Two Tests

The ACT and SAT are both recognized in the US as standardized tests for college admission. The exam measures the proficiency of high school students in several critical areas. These are Mathematics, Science, English, and Reading Comprehension. They might also include an essay writing section; however, it will not have any merit on your final score.

The scoring system used only considers the number of correct answers and does not penalize you for wrong answers. When applying for universities and colleges in the country, you can choose to take any of the two tests since schools recognize test scores from both tests. At this point, you are probably wondering how the two differ.

Below are six key differences between the ACT and SAT to help you decide which exam to take.

  • 1. The Science Section
  • One notable difference between the two tests is that the SAT has no separate Science Section. However, science questions do appear throughout the test. Your ability to understand scientific data and passages may be tested in the Math, Writing, and Reading sections. As for the ACT, the Science section makes up one-fourth of your overall ACT results. Therefore, if you’re knowledgeable in science, you may opt to take the ACT to increase your score.

  • 2. No Calculators Allowed – Math Subsection
  • The ACT allows you to use a calculator when answering all the Math questions. However, the SAT has a Math subsection that doesn’t allow the use of calculators. It consists of 20 questions and has a time limit of 25 minutes. If you’re not confident about solving Math questions sans calculator, you can choose to take the ACT. It is important to note, however, that all Math questions from the ACT and SAT can technically be solved without a calculator.

  • 3. Given Math Formulas
  • You should also know that the SAT gives some useful diagrams and formulas related to Geometry. This will be useful if you have a tendency to forget formulas necessary for solving the questions. These Math formulas can help increase your chances of getting a higher score.

  • 4. Fill-in Math Questions
  • You might also want to consider the fact that the SAT includes math questions that require you to fill in your own answer. There are 13 grid-in questions in the SAT Math section, which is about 22 percent of the Math section. If you prefer having multiple choices all the way, you can opt to take the ACT instead.

  • 5. Chronological and Evidence-Based Reading Comprehension
  • The SAT Reading section uses a chronological order when it comes to arranging the questions. The questions thus flow smoothly and would be easier to follow. However, do take note that most questions require you to cite specific paragraphs or lines you encountered in the passage.

  • 6. Essay Topic
  • Although the essay part is optional in both the SAT and ACT, the topic will usually be different for the two tests. For the ACT, the writing section will require you to read a short passage regarding a certain issue. You must analyze the various perspectives given on the issue and state your opinions accordingly. For the SAT, you are also given a short passage to analyze, but you cannot freely give your own opinion. The SAT requires you to have excellent reading comprehension skills for you to be able to examine what the author intended.

As aforementioned, the results from either test will be accepted by most admission boards. It would be a good idea to take both, but not everyone can afford to do so. If you find yourself in such a situation, the best thing to do would be the weigh which test is better suited for you.

STUDENT OF THE MONTH

Curvebreakers’ Student of the Month series features students who go above and beyond to achieve outstanding results. They take full advantage of everything Curvebreakers has to offer by improving their scores, being accepted to top schools, or receiving exceptional scholarships. We recognize them to inspire all Curvebreakers students to reach for their dreams! Our Student of the Month for March 2018 is Chloe R., who received a perfect score on the ACT. Wow! Chloe is truly a shining example of how much hard work can pay off.

CURVEBREAKERS TEST PREP: What were your thoughts on the ACT before you took it the first time?

Chloe is a Junior at Garden City High School

CHLOE: I was a little nervous and unsure of what the ACT was. I had previously thought I’d only take the SAT. However, I’d heard people say they prefer the ACT so I decided to take a practice one.

CTP: What was your score the first time you took the ACT?
C: 34.

CTP: When you signed up for tutoring, what did you think the sessions were going to be like?
C: I figured they’d be boring but helpful.

CTP: How did you like your tutor?
C: My tutor was Brittany, and I loved her. She made math (which is not my favorite subject) as interesting as it could be. The tutoring sessions didn’t feel like work, they felt like learning in a fun way. She was also very positive and encouraging.

CTP: How did you prepare for the official ACT?
C: I prepared for the test by taking a bunch of practice ACTs at home, and then
reviewing them with my tutor.

CTP: How did your feelings change from when you took your actual ACT compared to when you first started?
C: I was a bit more confident walking into the test, knowing that I had studied hard. I had learned where my weaknesses were and Brittany taught me techniques to combat them.

CTP: What was the best thing you did to prepare for the exam? What was most effective for you and what would you recommend to your fellow students if you could give them one piece of advice?
C: The best thing I did to prepare for the exam was getting a tutor. For me it was good to have someone who is a professional, and who could teach me the nuances of the material. I would recommend that everyone work with someone besides themselves, like a tutor, older sibling, or parent, who can explain the different tricks of the trade and shortcuts to help save time and effort.

CTP: What was your final score on the ACT?
C: 36.

CTP: What was the best part about tutoring with Curvebreakers?
C: Walking into Curvebreakers, everyone remembers who you are. It wasn’t like walking into an office. Everyone there knows one another, and they’re all friends. It was nice to have that supportive atmosphere when studying.

Why Taking Practice Tests Will Increase Your Score

Taking one SAT seems boring enough, right? So why would you want to take one, two, or even eight more? Well, as it turns out, there are plenty of reasons you should. Whether you’re gearing up to take the SAT or the ACT, you’re probably wondering what the best way to prepare is. Rather than trying to tackle a ton of studying right off the bat, you should learn what areas you struggle with more than others. I don’t just mean being bad at math; these tests are much more specific than that. I mean figuring out which question types confuse you, why they confuse you, and how to master them. A practice test truly is the best place to start if you’re in need of a major (or even a minor) score improvement. Here’s why

 

1. Find out where you stand

This is the most obvious reason. How do you even know you need to improve if you don’t know where you stand? Taking a practice test can tell you just how far you need to go. It’s best to get started early — while an increase of a point or two may be possible in just a couple of months, any major improvements will take time (and more than one practice test).

 

2. Learn your strengths and weaknesses

There are two types of practice tests – the kind you take on your own at home and those given by a library or local business to mirror the conditions of the real test. Both are great practice, but taking a practice test administered by someone else will most likely give you more accurate results. It’s important to make sure that any practice test you take is authentic (the company didn’t create it themselves) and that you will have full access to your results (the more detailed they are the better). While taking the test itself can give you a great idea of what test day will be like, the results are what you’re really there for. A good score report will break your results down by section and by question. This will help you to pinpoint the exact questions you struggled with, at which point you can refer back to the test and figure out what it was about that question that tripped you up. Some SAT and ACT questions are meant to confuse you! For example, knowing that the wording of a question was why you got it wrong (and not your lack of knowledge on the subject) can help reassure you and narrow your focus when it comes time to study.

 

3. Save $$$

This brings me to the most important question we all ask ourselves when deciding to do almost anything — will this save me money? When it comes to practice tests, the answer is YES! There are thousands of SAT/ACT prep programs out there meant to waste your money and your time. Knowing the exact areas in which your student struggles can help keep you out of those expensive prep courses that only give a general overview of the information. Working with a tutor who knows the test and can address your student’s individual needs can produce better results, faster. By taking a practice test first, you’ll spend far less time and money developing the right test prep plan.

 

4. Monitor your progress

This is one of the biggest reasons that taking practice tests actually helps you improve your score. Once you’ve zeroed in on your biggest weaknesses and begun to work on them, you’ll be able to see if your work is really paying off. If you’re not seeing any improvement, then you’ll know right away that it’s time to try a different strategy. Imagine studying for the SAT for months only to get your results back and realize you perfected the areas you already had a handle on and neglected the ones that really needed work. You can also take at-home practice tests as frequently as you need to so that when exam day comes, you’re comfortable with the formatting and timing of the test.

 

5. Know what to expect on exam day

While the SAT and ACT do test your knowledge, they are actually designed to assess your test taking abilities. So even if you have a firm grasp on all of the subject, if you’ve never seen what the test looks like, you’re not going to do as well as someone who has prepared by taking practice tests. I hate to beat a dead horse, but familiarity with the question types, timing, and format is absolutely key to succeed on standardized tests. Unfortunately, the tests don’t account for individual students and their preferred learning styles — they’re called “standardized” for a reason. Some of the smartest kids can be the worst test takers (by no fault of their own!) and knowing what to expect on the official exam can be the most invaluable part of their prep. With every practice test you take, not only will your confidence increase but your score will too.

 

By: Emily Sahli, Staff Writer, Curvebreakers

5 Ways Your Study Space Impacts You

This is a guest post by Nicholas Randall of StudentSharp

Choosing the right study space might seem hard. Or perhaps you’ve become accustomed to one, but don’t know the pros and cons of it. It can be difficult to decide between libraries, parks, your home, or other areas to study. In this post, we’ll show you five ways your study space impacts you to help you become happier and more productive.

 

1: Smells
Scents can spark our memories, make us more friendly, and even improve productivity. This is because olfactory bulbs directly interact with parts of the brain that process learning and emotion. Beverley Hawkins, owner of West Coast Institute of Aromatherapy, recommends several scents in particular. Lemon has calming and concentrating properties, lavender soothes nerves and can be used to treat depression, and rosemary fights headaches and mental fatigue. To make portable scents you can take with you to your study space, you can buy essential oils and put a dab of oil on a cotton ball to whiff when you need to perk up.

 

2: Nature
Feeling connected to nature, at least in part, is another factor in your study space worth checking out. One study showed that students performed better in classrooms with windows versus those without. Another study showed that contact with green space for just 20 minutes significantly reduces stress. This may influence you to try a park for a study space, or a spacious lawn. Depending on the vegetation and weather, you may get the added benefit of fresh smells and plentiful natural lighting while you study, too. To bring a bit of nature into your home, you can grow succulents — they’re beautiful and

easy to care for.

Are you as hyped for nature as this frog?

 

3: Distractions

Technology and TV can be productivity-wrecking when overused or too present in your study environment. You probably want to avoid a place with TV’s, especially those with sound on, because they’re just too distracting. A study (referenced here) found that people exposed to visual soap operas spent more time completing memorization assignments than people exposed to radio only or no stimulus. Sometimes, TV is just more interesting or engaging than whatever you’re studying and you feel compelled to look up. That’s why having the TV on while studying at home is one of the worst study habits you can do. Also, one study found that students that checked Facebook at least once during a fifteen minute study period were less productive than those who didn’t. If you compulsively check your phone for notifications and updates, consider leaving it at home while you study.

 

That’s pretty much how it works

 

4: Organization

If you feel that a cluttered workspace is making you less productive, you’re right. Princeton researchers found that an increase in the volume of objects around you decreases your focus because each object competes for your attention. This principle also holds true digitally — a cluttered desktop and full inbox are more distracting as well. I read this book and found it very useful for decluttering and organizing my workspace and my life. Give it a read and see what you can implement! If your room is especially messy, like mine is at the moment, try cleaning it up or choosing a different study space.

 

5: Social Aspect

Study groups with clear objectives and good organization can be a huge boon to learning and productivity. One reason for this is study groups promote active discussion about the topic which requires creative thought, reformulation, and mastery of the knowledge. The question “Why?” may come up, and research shows that when answering “Why?” a student better understands the material. Another reason is that students hear different explanations of the topics than what was given in class. This may make it easier for them to understand or cover it in a way that gives new insight into what’s being discussed. Also, there may be more motivation to study socially as it’s more exciting than going it alone. It may be helpful to establish some guidelines to stay on topic.

You can do it too!

 

Having read this, you should have some ideas of what aspects of a study space make you efficient. Did you like the article? Writing it, I felt compelled to clean up my room and take a walk outside to get some benefits of nature. I felt refreshed after doing so. If you liked this article, you also will probably like StudentSharp’s Ultimate SAT Prep Guide. Good luck studying!