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FAQs

1. Advanced Placement (AP)

Q: What is Advanced Placement (AP)?

A.College level courses at high schools. The test is scored from 1 to 5 with 2 parts: multiple choice and free response. It takes about 2 to 4 hours, depending on the test.

Q: When should I take them?

A: The tests are in May. Usually you can start taking AP classes in high school from sophomore year, but you can take them even as a freshman if you study!

Q: Why should I take them?

A: You can earn a lot of college credit with these tests. It looks good on your college transcripts. Show off your ability on different subjects.

Q: What score on the AP Test do I need to receive college credit?

A: Each college has their own policy about AP test credit. Generally though you will need a 4 or 5.

Q: Do colleges require AP tests for admission?

A: No, but taking an AP class and an AP test shows colleges that you are serious about your education and willing to push yourself to your limit.

Q: Can I take more than one AP test a year?

A: Yes. Take as many AP tests per year that you think you are prepared to take.

Q: What are good APs to take?

A: AP Biology, AP US History, AP Calculus AB, AP English & Literature or Language.

Fun Facts:

You don’t have to take the class in high school to take the AP. We can prepare you for the AP test. The most popular AP test taken is AP US History with 346,641 students in 2008.

You can earn AP Scholar Awards that will look good on your college applications!

The 1988 film Stand and Deliver illustrated the real-life story of the power of one teacher, Jaime Escalante, and a challenging AP Calculus curriculum to motivate Latino students at Garfield High in East LA to excel.

*It isn’t easy, but studying hard, practicing, and getting help if necessary will get you a 5!

2. SAT Reasoning Test (SAT)

Q: What is the SAT REASONING TEST (SAT)?

A.Consist of 3 parts: Critical Reading, Writing, and Math. Each 800 points for a total of 2400. It takes around 3 to 4 hours

Q: Are there penalties for wrong answers?

A: Yes. You get – point off for every incorrect answer

Q: Why should I take it?

A: If you want to go to college, you need it. All colleges look at your score.

Q: When do I take it?

A: The SAT is offered every month during the school year. You should begin preparing the summer before your junior year and take it when you feel comfortable in your junior or early senior year.

Q: Can I take it more than once?

A: Yes. Some colleges even look at the composite highest score. You can take it at the very latest December of your senior year!

Q: Should I take it more than once?

A: Not if you don’t have to. Most people usually take the SAT 2 times, but you should not take the SAT more than 3 times. This is especially true if you only want to bump up your score just a few points

Fun Facts: There have been claims that writers who write about personal experiences are less likely to get higher scores. In March 2004 Dr. Les Perelman found that 90% of essays that contained more than 400 words got the highest score of 12.

*It isn’t easy, but studying hard, practicing, and getting help if necessary will get you above a 2000!

3. Preliminary SAT (PSAT)

Q: What is the Preliminary SAT (PSAT)?

A: AKA National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). 3 parts: Critical Reading, Writing, and Math. Each 80 points for a total of 240. It takes around 2 hours.

Q: Why should I take it?

A: It is good practice for the SAT and qualifies you for the National Merit Scholarship.

Q: How do I sign up for the PSAT?

A: You can sign up through the counseling office with your school.

Q: When should I take it?

A: Once as practice as a sophomore. For the scholarship as a junior, in September

Q: How does the scholarship process work?

A: If you get above the 99th percentile you become a Semifinalist.You will then have to fill out an application to become a Finalist. Over half of the Finalists get scholarships.

*It isn’t easy, but studying hard, practicing, and getting help if necessary will get you above a 2000!

4. SAT Subject Tests (SAT II)

Q: What are the SAT Subject Tests? (SAT II)

A: SAT Subject Tests are tests on specific subjects, such as English, history, mathematics, science, and various foreign languages.

NOTE: Coming into effect for admissions of fall 2012: The UC system does not require SAT IIs any longer, but some private schools still do.

Q: How long are the SAT IIs and how many can I take?

A: The SAT Subject Tests are each one hour long. You may take up to 3 tests at one time. You choose the order in which to take the tests.

Q: How do I sign up for the SAT IIs?

A: You need to sign up for the SAT Subject Tests on your own. You can do this through the College Board website: www.collegeboard.com

Q: What is the difference between the SAT and SAT Subject tests?

A: The SAT tests your abilities and the SAT Subject Tests test the knowledge that you have acquired in a particular area.

Q: Which SAT IIs should I take?

A: You can take Biology, Physics, and History as soon when you finish taking class. Foreign language tests should be taken at the end of the year when you complete your highest level in the language.

Q: What is the difference between Math 1 and Math 2?

A: The Math 2 Subject Test tests students at a higher level of math. Some colleges will not even accept Math 1 scores.

Q: How do I know which SAT Subject tests to take?

A: Choose your SAT IIs based on your future major. For example, if you want to major in engineering/science, take the Math IIC.

5. American College Testing (ACT)

Q: What is the American College Testing (ACT)?

A: A college entrance exam. 4 parts: English, Math, Reading, and Science with an optional writing test. It takes around 3 to 4 hours

Q: How do I sign up for the ACT?

A: You can register for the ACT on their web-site www.act.org

Q: Why should I take it?

A: Some students do better on the ACT than the SAT. It isn’t necessary if you do well on the SAT, unless the college you want to go to recommends it

Q: What are the differences between the SAT and the ACT?

A: ACT includes science questions. The Writing Section on the ACT is optional. There are penalties for wrong answers on the SAT.

Q: When should I take it?

A: Like the SAT, if you decide to take it, start preparing the summer before your junior year. Take the pre-ACT, PLAN, in 10th grade. It is offered 6 times a year.

Fun Facts:

The SAT takes off points for wrong answers. But the ACT is scored based on the number of correct answers with no penalty for guessing. Guess away!

6. International Baccalaureate (IB)

Q: What is an International Baccalaureate (IB)?

A: 2 year educational program that provides internationally accepted qualification for entry into higher education and is recognized by many universities worldwide

Q: Should I take IB?

A: Honestly, the choice is up to you. IB is useful in that you will have international recognition of your work, not just US recognition. The IB program is demanding, but it prepares you well for college. If you cannot handle the workload or you are lazy, don’t even try.

Q: When are the tests?

A: The tests are near the end of the school year, in May. Depending on the test, it can range from two to four days

7. College Prep

Q: What classes should a student take to be eligible for college?

A: MINIMUM of: 4 years English, 3 years Math, 2 years Social Studies, 2 years Science with Labs, 2 years Foreign Language, 1 year of art or music

Q: When should you start preparing for college?

A: Ideally no later than the end of Eighth Grade. That is when you will be asked to select classes for the Freshman year in high school

Q: Is there a difference between being eligible for a high school diploma and being eligible to apply for college?

A: Yes. For example, a foreign language class should be taken for college admission, but not necessarily for high school graduation. Make sure you know what classes you have to take to get into college

Q: Should I take Honors and AP classes?

A: Colleges want to see that you challenged yourself and taken advantage of educational opportunities. If a school offers AP classes and you are able to handle the work load, you should take them!

Q: Is it better to get an “A” in a regular class than a “B” in an Honors/AP class?

A: Colleges want to see that you challenged yourself. Generally it would be better to attempt the Honors/AP class. However, you do need to keep in mind the your academic abilities. A grade of “C” or “D” in any class is not favorable.

Q: If the highest grade is worth 4 points, how can I have a GPA above 4.0?

A: Honors or AP classes are awarded a “bonus” point in the GPA calculation. So an A is worth 5 points, a B is worth 4 points and so on.

Q: What GPA is required for admission to a college?

A: For a particular school, you should check the college’s profile of their most recent acceptance rankings. In general, you should have at least a 3.0 and above.

Q: Do the grades from Freshman year count?

A: Private college: YES. UC and CalState: NO. You should not slack off Freshman year though, because it could make or break your admission.

Q: How important is my GPA in the college admissions process?

A: IMPORTANT! This is because a transcript symbolizes a your long-term efforts. Get help early if you are struggling in any classes!

Q: What is a “recalculated” GPA?

A:Not every class that is required for high school graduation is necessary for college admission. Colleges will often ignore non-college preparatory classes such as Health or PE in favor of academic classes.

Q: Will I always score higher when I repeat a test?

A: 1/3 of students actually score lower when they repeat the test. If you do want to retake, make sure you keep taking classes and practicing!

According to the U.S. News & World Report rankings of America’s Best Colleges for 2010:

  1. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
  2. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
  3. Yale University (New Haven, CT)
  4. Cal Tech (Pasadena, CA)
  5. MIT (Cambridge, MA)
  6. Stanford (Stanford, CA)
  7. UPenn (Philadelphia, PA)
  8. Columbia University (New York, NY)
  9. University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
  10. Duke University (Durham, NC)
  11. Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH)
  12. Northwestern University (Evanston, IL)
  13. Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, MO)
  14. Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD)
  15. Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
  16. Brown University (Providence, RI)
  17. Emory University (Atlanta, GA)
  18. Rice University (Houston, TX)
  19. Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)
  20. University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, IN)
  21. UC Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
  22. Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)
  23. Georgetown University (Washington, DC)
  24. UCLA (Los Angeles, CA)
  25. University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA)

Q: Not going out of state?

A: That’s okay. There are tons of great public and private universities in California! Cal States, UCs (Berkeley and LA are both of the Top 100 in the nation), USC, and Stanford

Q: How many 4-year colleges are there in the United States?

A: There are over 3,000 colleges in the United States. Choose wisely!

Q: When should I have a final list of colleges that I am going to apply to?

A: You should spend the summer between Junior and Senior years finalizing the list of colleges you want to apply to. It should be ready in time when you start applying.

Q: What is a public college?

A: A public college is funded by tax dollars from a state. Tuition is usually discounted for legal residents of the state. Public colleges usually give preference to students from their own state.

Q: What is a private college?

A: A private college is a college that is funded through private means. They do not have to give preference to students from any particular region.

Q: What is meant by “Ivy League”?

A:The Ivy League was originally created as an athletic conference consisting of eight private institutions of higher education located in the northeastern United States.

Q: What should I look for on a campus visit?

A: Visit while classes are in session. Observe how the teachers and students interact.Visit important places on campus. Check out the library, dorm and dining hall. Try to talk with students you meet on campus.

Q: What is The Common Application?

A: The Common Application is an application form which can be used to apply to over 300 colleges which are members.

Q: How do you access The Common Application?

A: Go to: www.commonapp.org

Q: What is a Supplement?

A: A Supplement an additional form which is specific to their school, aside from the Common Application. Some supplements are easy to complete with just a few blanks. Others request extra essays.

Q: What is Early Decision?

A: Early Decision (ED) is when you apply to one college early. Early decision is “binding” which means that if you are accepted, you will have to go to that school. Students can only apply to one school as Early Decision.

Q: What is Early Action?

A: Early Action (EA) is similar to Early Decision except it is “non-binding.” That means that you do not have to go to the college if accepted. You can apply Early Action to more than one school, but it is not good to do so

Q: How do you send your transcript to a college?

A: Transcripts are obtained from the Counseling Office at a student’s high school. Most Counseling Offices require that you officially request that a transcript be sent to a college.

Q: How do I report my SAT or ACT grades to a college?

A: You can request SAT and ACT scores be sent through the test company’s website.

Q: How important is my essay?

A: Very important! Your essay can reveal your personality behind the grades and test scores. Ask us if you need help!

Q: How do I choose an essay topic?

A: Pick one event or person or situation in your life, not many. Focus on that and show how it shaped you as a person.

Q: When is the deadline for submitting applications?

A: They are all different. Be sure to check! Early Action/Decision deadlines: in November. Regular deadline: from December to February.

Q: What is “Rolling Admission”?

A: Rolling Admissions is basically a first-come, first-admitted policy. Students are accepted until the freshman class is full.

Q: What is a “legacy” student?

A: A student who has a parent or sibling who graduated from that same university. Some colleges give special consideration to these “legacy” students

Q: Can you appeal a rejection?

A: For certain colleges, yes. You should only consider appealing if you have new information to offer the admissions office.

Q: What is a “Spring Admit”?

A: This means that you will begin school in January. Spring Admit is still a guaranteed spot at the college.

Q: How much does college cost?

A:It depends on the college. Community College: less than $1,000 per year. CSU: $20,000 per year. UC: $25,000 per year. Private college: $45,000+ per year.

Q: What is “in state” tuition?

A: Because public colleges are supported with public tax dollars, students who are legal residents of the state pay less to attend.

Q: What is “out of state” tuition?

A: Students who are not legal residents of a state are required to pay higher tuition. This is typically $8,000 to $10,000 more per year.

Q: Do private colleges have in-state and out-of-state tuition rates?

A: No.

8. Financial Aid / FAFSA

Q: What is need-based Financial Aid?

A: Need-based Financial Aid is when the family has a “need” for assistance to pay for college. This assistance can come in the form of grants, scholarships, and loans.

Q: When does I file my FAFSA?

A: California residents must file their FAFSA by March 2 to be eligible for Cal Grant consideration.

Q: What is the website for the FAFSA application?

A: The website is www.FAFSA.ed.gov.

Q: What information is needed to file a FAFSA?

A: PIN (Personal Identification Number), your parents’ completed tax return, other financial information such as savings and checking account information.

Q: How much does it cost to file a FAFSA?

A: There is no cost for filing a FAFSA.

Q: When do students receive their Financial Aid offer from a college?

A: Financial Aid offers usually arrive a day or two after a student receives their admission acceptance.

9. Loans / Grants / Scholarships

Q: What is the difference between a loan and a grant?

A: Grants are free money that never needs to be repaid. Some grants are one-time only, some grants are renewable. Loans need to be repaid, usually with interest.

Q: What is a Cal Grant?

A: Cal Grants are need-based grants available to legal California residents who are attending college in California.

Q: How do I apply for a Cal Grant?

A: Complete FAFSA and put a CA college in the Number One spot on the list of colleges on the form

Q: Where can a student find out what merit scholarships are offered by a school?

A: Students need to contact a college directly to find out what merit-based scholarships they offer and how to apply for them.

Q: Can parents and students to take out loans to finance their education?

A: Yes.

Q: Where can I find out about scholarships?

A: You can contact counselors in high school or the Financial Aid office of your college. www.fastweb.com is also a good resource.

10. Foreign Language / TOEFL

Q: If a I was born in the US but spoke a language other than English at home, is it important note this on a college application?

A: Yes. It can influence the way an admission committee views a your SAT reading and writing scores.

Q: What is the TOEFL?

A: TOEFL stands for Test Of English as a Foreign Language. It is a computerized test which measures a your ability to read, write, speak and understand English.

Q: Who needs to take the TOEFL?

A: Foreign language students should take the TOEFL early in their Senior year in high school.

Q: How do I sign up for the TOEFL?

A: You can register for the TOEFL

Q: How are TOEFL test scores reported to college?

A: When you register for the TOEFL you can indicate on the registration form which colleges they would like their scores be sent to. Score reports may also be sent at a later time, for an additional fee.

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