The Changing SAT and ACT Landscape

Here are the highlights of a recent HECA webinar on testing by Jed Applerouth, founder of Applerouth Tutoring Services
SAT changes: The SAT is morphing into an ACT.  It has been changing from an aptitude test to an achievement test.  In 2016, it will undergo a major shift.  It will:
  • Drop sentence completion
  • Add more difficult math
  • Eliminate calculator use for one math section
  • Include grammar questions in the context of paragraphs
  • Add science tables, charts and graphs to verbal and math sections
  • Include evidence-based essays
  • Eliminate questions that are not aligned with the Common Core standards
  • Allow more time per question.
The math will include new topics including trigonometry, radians, equations of a circle, and congruence theorems.  There will be less geometry and there will be more algebra, requiring a deeper understanding of equations. 
Students will have twice as much time for the new essay.  “[The] essay should not explain whether you agree with [the author’s] claims, but rather explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade his audience.”
The current SAT allows more time per question than the ACT.  The new SAT will allow even more time, which will be a plus for students with slower processing speeds.
ACT changes:  The ACT changes are subtler and include:
  • Essay changes – Students will be asked to analyze a complex issue, after being provided several perspectives.
  • Extra scores/reporting – There will be four new college readiness indicators: a STEM score of math and science; an English Language Arts score of English, Reading and Writing; a Progress Towards Career Readiness score; and a Text Complexity Progress indicator.
  • Digital assessments – Computer-based tests will be introduced in some districts and states in 2015 and will be introduced more widely in 2016.
  • Reading changes – Students will be asked to compare and contrast two reading passages (as has been done in the SAT).
  • Optional constructed response subject test. – Optional 30-minute subject tests in reading, math and science, that assess whether students can justify, explain and use evidence to support claims, will be added.
Timeline: The timeline of SAT and ACT changes are as follows:
  • December 2014 – Practice PSAT released
  • March 2015 – Practice SATs released with College Board book to follow
  • Spring/Fall 2015 – Digital ACT and ACT changes
  • October 2015 – New PSAT for Class of 2017 and 2018
  • January 2016 – Final old SAT
  • March 2016 – New SAT released and first digital SAT.
The Class of 2017 (rising Sophomores) will be able to take either the old SAT or the new SAT or both.
Are you looking forward to these changes?   

Unique Approaches to Higher Education

Are you looking for a unique approach to Higher Education? Here are three unique approaches presented at the June Higher Education Consultants Association Conference.

At St. John’s College, in Annapolis and Santa Fe, there are no majors. St. John’s College is a great books college. Students read and explore a common body of works with their classmates and teachers.

Champlain College students are career-minded. The school describes its curriculum as upside down. Students start taking classes in their major as freshmen and begin working at internships early.

Bard College at Simon’s Rock is a very small college for intellectually curious tenth and eleventh graders.  These students are academically and socially ready for college before they graduate from high school.

Is one of these colleges right for you?  What other unique approaches appeal to you?

What will I do when I graduate college?

If you are wondering whether you will get a job in your field when you graduate college, or get into the graduate school of your dreams, ask colleges for data on recent graduating classes. Lynn O’Shaughnessy, speaking at the Higher Education Consultants Association Conference, recommends that when you receive post-graduation data from colleges, you should also ask what percent of the graduating class the data was based on. Often, the reports are based on self-reporting by only 5% of the college’s graduating class.

A few colleges provide a clear and complete post-graduation picture. Lynn O’Shaughnessy cited reporting by St Olaf College and Bucknell University as a best practice. St. Olaf College gathered data on 92% of their 2011 graduates and prepared this 64-page report and Bucknell University gathered data on 97% of their 2011 graduates and prepared this 58-page report.
What kind of information does your college, or the colleges you are considering, provide about their graduates? 

Twelve College Transfer Tips

If you are a college student with plans to transfer, here are twelve tips from the Higher Education Consultants Association Conference session on understanding the transfer process.

Do:

  1.  Stay for at least a year at a college, before transferring.
  2. Save the syllabus, not just the course description, from each class you take. This will improve the chance that the college you are transferring to will accept your credits.
  3. Get involved at your current school and develop a relationship with your professors.
  4. Establish a relationship with the transfer advisor. 
  5. Work with your academic advisor to evaluate your level of performance relative to your current college and the college you want to transfer to.
  6. Get a sense about transfer student life, by talking with other students who transferred to the colleges you are considering.
  7. Become familiar with the requirements (e.g., minimum and maximum number of credits, as well as test requirements) for transfer student applicants at the colleges you are considering. They vary considerably from college to college. Make sure that you meet more than the minimum standards, because entrance may be selective. 
  8. Check out http://www.njtransfer.org/, if you are transferring from a NJ community college.

Know that: 
  1. Some colleges may reserve a certain number of seats for students transferring from other particular colleges.
  2. Some schools don’t have merit aid for transfer students.
  3. Less money, less housing and fewer seats are generally available for a mid-year transfer, than for a fall transfer.

Don’t:

  1. Write, “I’m transferring because my current college stinks,” in your application essay about why you want to transfer to College X.
What are your transfer experiences? What do you wish someone told you about transferring? What tips would you add to this list?

College Trends and Hot Topics – Part 3

The admissions personnel on the Higher Education Consultants Association college admissions panel answered the following questions on current trends and hot topics.
How do you know a student wrote the college essay? 
  • The prose style of a 17-year old is different than a 40-year old. 
  • Essays written by committee loose their force. 
  • The main essay and supplement essays are consistent.  If they are in doubt, they compare the essays to the SAT writing sample.

What gender issues are colleges facing?

  • Liberal arts colleges are becoming increasingly female.  Some liberal arts colleges are looking to keep the percent of men at greater than 40%.
  • There are too few women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

How should high school students spend their summer?

  • Do something constructive.
  • Test some idea, like “what is it like to work?” or “what is field x like?”

What is the role of the interview in the admissions decision?

  • The Muhlenberg College representative indicated that 75% of students are interviewed by their admissions staff on campus or off-site.  Their interview is both evaluative and informational.  The college wants to get at intangibles like what is the student hoping for and whether the student is kind and civil.
  • The Dartmouth College representative said that alumni conduct the interviews and score the prospective students on a 1 – 5 rating score.  41% of the students interviewed received a score of 4 or 5.  Dartmouth is interested in learning why the students want to attend their college.
  • At Rutgers University, students from the Pharmacy School and the Mason Gross School have interviews.

How are you using social media?

  • Rutgers University does not read the student’s Facebook page.
  • After students were accepted to Dartmouth College, they could participate in a Class of 2016 page.  High school students could video chat with current Dartmouth College students.

What’s happening with Spring admits?

  • Brandeis University has been accepting students who applied for the Fall term as Spring admits for seven or eight years.  This allows then to fill the space made available because students are studying abroad.  The students who are Spring admits have their own orientation, make a good transition to Brandeis University, and turn out well.
Do any of these answers surprise you?  Are there other questions that you wish they discussed?

College Trends and Hot Topics – Part 2

The panel of admissions personnel at the Higher Education Consultants Association Conference discussed “What intangible factors make a student stand out?”

Chris Hooker-Haring, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Muhlenberg College, valued energy, sustained commitment, intellectual curiosity, and authenticity.

Lou Hirsch, Director of Admissions at the University of Delaware, indicated that he didn’t expect applicants to be Olympic Gold Medalists.  He wanted to know who the student is and how did he get that way.  He wants to learn how the student’s activities shaped them.  When the letters of recommendation and student’s essays mesh, he found it compelling.

Mark Spencer, Director of Admissions  at Brandeis University, said that admissions officers sometimes have a bias.  If the admissions officer feels connected to the student because of their story, that student had an advantage.

Brian Estrada, Director of Admissions at Dartmouth College, talked about valuing students who are open to learning from others, as well as students who others can learn from.  Dartmouth College considers moral development and peer recommendations.

Courtney McAnuff, Vice President of Enrollment Management at Rutgers University, said the Rutgers admissions office does not see race, gender or high school when evaluating applications.  Rutgers University is concerned about how students work with diverse situations and want to have a well-rounded class. 

What intangible factors do you think make a student stand out?

College Trends and Hot Topics – Part 1

I attended the Higher Education Consultants Association Conference this week.  Here’s what’s happening in college admissions, according to key admissions personnel who participated in a panel entitled “College Trends and Hot Topics: Admissions 2012.”

Courtney McAnuff, Vice President of Enrollment Management for Rutgers University indicated that he was looking at a proposal to merge UMDNJ with Rutgers, which now seems likely. He was also looking into the merger of Rowan and Rutgers Camden. The size of the Rutgers freshmen class will be reduced for the next three years, because retention is up.

Brian Estrada, Director of Admissions at Dartmouth College said, with the April nomination of their college president to lead the World Bank, Dartmouth is looking for a new college president. This year Dartmouth had 23,000 applicants and accepted 2200 of them. 1104 students will be attending, and Dartmouth may accept 5 more students from the wait list.

Mark Spencer, Director of Admissions at Brandeis University said parents are becoming more concerned about college costs. This year a lower percent of students stayed on the wait list and a lower percent of students are accepting a spot off of the wait list.

Lou Hirsch, Director of Admissions at the University of Delaware indicated that his school had the same situation with the wait list as Brandeis. Parents seemed more concerned with college cost and “have gotten over if their child doesn’t get into their first choice school.”

Chris Hooker-Haring, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Muhlenberg College told the independent counselors that Muhlenberg had over 5000 applicants this year. They admitted about 50% of their incoming class through Early Decision. It took longer to get to their target class size this spring and there were more conversations with parents about money and value.

In a future blog post, I will cover the panel’s input on college essays, gender imbalance at college, how high school students should spend the summer, college interviews, college use of social media, and spring admits.