Visiting Boston University

Located in Boston Massachusetts, just a few subway stops from the historic North End, and across the river from MIT, Boston University is well positioned for an involved urban experience. Boston University is a large, private, teaching and research university. Admission to BU is highly sought after by students from all over the nation, and application is simple with the common app, so their admission rate hovers around 20%.


Academics:

Boston University does its best to have a flexible approach to academics. Students who apply undecided into one of BU’s ten schools will have two years to declare a major. BU focuses on hands on learning, with 40% of their student body studying abroad at some point and many more students taking part in internships and completing research during their time at BU. BU has a program which they describe as “our take on the liberal arts” in which students can pick from over 1000 classes to build what the university sees as six life skills. Outside of those classes and classes for their major, students are free to fill their electives however they choose.

BU does a decent job of getting students to graduation with 80-85% of students completing their degree in four years. BU has a 10:1 student to faculty ration and their average class size is about 27 students.

Campus Life:

Like most city colleges, BU lacks the charm of the traditional green quad and wide open spaces. It is a fairly compact campus that often appears to be just part of the neighborhood around it. This would appeal to students who want to live in a major city and still be on a college campus. The campus has a mix of historic and modern buildings which makes for an interesting campus feel. Students are required to live on campus for only their freshman year and many take the opportunity to move into the surrounding neighborhoods with friends once their first year is over.  There is a decent amount of Greek Life on campus with 20% of students taking part in Fraternities and Sororities, but students say there are plenty of social opportunities outside of the Greek system.

Admission:

Applying to BU is fairly simple because BU uses the common app. While there are later deadlines for regular admission, admissions counselors at BU stress that students should have their applications done by December 1st for merit scholarship consideration. BU is test optional for at least one more year, so if you feel that your test scores do not reflect you, you can apply without them. In addition, BU will superscore any tests that you do submit. The best piece of advice given by the admissions officers is this “be specific when answering the essay question ‘why BU’”. Take your time on that supplemental essay. Don’t give a generic answer, don’t apply just for the relative prestige BU can offer. Have a good and specific reason why you want to be at BU in the fall.

Let us know if we can help you with that essay or with any part of your college application process- good luck!

Michal Strawn

Why Do Unreasonable Expectations Seem Reasonable?

Grades in school are often not indicative of how a student will do on the ACT or SAT.

This is unfortunate but true. A lot of tutoring starts with something along the lines of “I just don’t understand! Her grades in school are so good. She has a 4.2 and is multiple advanced courses; we just don’t understand why her ACT isn’t at least a 28.” There are a few issues with this mindset. The biggest issue is that the ACT isn’t a test over what the student has learned in school: it’s a test of critical thinking.

School grades, for the most part, are a reflection of how well a student can memorize things and understand concepts. The ACT tests how students can apply those concepts in new situations. This is something that is rarely practiced in school. In addition, there are almost unlimited opportunities for grade improvement at school. Teachers offer test corrections, extra credit, and close to unlimited time to finish work. Teachers want students who show up and work hard to succeed and to have good grades. The pressure on teachers not to fail students is immense. This leads to grade inflation. For all these reasons, a good GPA often does not translate to good ACT scores even though it seems like, reasonably, it would.

Getting tutoring or working hard does not guarantee large improvements.

Because of the school system just described, students and parents alike are conditioned to believe that if a student simply works hard and seeks the appropriate help their scores will reach the level they would like. This is, unfortunately, not the case. Tutoring and hard work will help a student learn how to think through the questions on the test; critical thinking can indeed be improved. However, most students will eventually hit their natural limit. It would be cruel to put the expectation on any high school runner that they could turn into a 21st century Jesse Owens through just hard work in high school.

 In the same way that physical limitations will always exist for athletes, mental limitations exist for students. The ACT and SAT are both designed to find these natural limitations, whether they be high, low, or, like most, in the middle. The good news is that this will generally not prevent a student from continuing their education after high school. On the contrary, the United States has a very wide range of colleges, universities, and trade schools that cater to students at all levels, and using standardized tests to discover a student’s abilities and limitations allows students to attend a school where they can be successful!

Set reasonable expectations.

Because of points 1 and 2 students and parents alike need to set reasonable expectations. It is wonderful when expectations are surpassed, but there is nothing quite so heartbreaking as when a student improves through hard work and the result is disappointment on the side of the student and/or parent. To set reasonable expectations, let’s talk about percentiles on the ACT.

The ACT is designed on a curve. The 50th percentile is a score that tends to hovers between 19 and 20 nationally. This will not change. No matter how much students across the nation study, the test will be adjusted so that 50% of students fall below the 20 mark and 50% rise above it. When a student gets a 20 they are often disappointed, they think that is a terrible score. Parents, peers, and teachers often agree. None of them realize that this is actually just about the national average!

Now, let’s talk about goal scores. Those who start at 20 often set their hearts on 25, 28, or 30. In this situation, a 25 on the ACT would be in the 78th percentile or a 28 percentile point increase over a 20. A 28 would be in the 88th percentile or a 38 percentile point increase. A 30 would be in the 93rd percentile and a 43 percentile point increase. What this means is that a student would have to, between one test and the next, leap frog over 43% of his or her peers (most of whom are also studying) in order to move from a 20 to a 30. This would be not a leap of knowledge but of critical thinking. This is not a reasonable goal. Such goals put undue pressure on the student and in ninety-nine percent of cases lead to dashed hopes no matter how much hard work is done. A reasonable goal will depend on what score the student starts at and what their natural abilities are, and no matter what the score is, there will be colleges that are open to them. A good tutor will be able to help you set those reasonable goals, work toward achieving them, and reach your potential.

If you have questions or comments about the ACT or SAT, how to prepare for the tests, or what reasonable goals might look like please get in touch! Helping students reach their potential is our number one goal.


Statistics source: https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/MultipleChoiceStemComposite.pdf

Ohio Wesleyan University

Ohio Wesleyan University 12-14-2021 Next on our college tour of Ohio is Ohio Wesleyan University. Located in the heart of Delaware, OWU has small town charm and, with Columbus right down the road, big city accessibility. Ohio has a lot of small, seemingly generic liberal arts universities, but, if you pay attention, each one has a slightly different flavor that can make it stand out from the crowd and be a good fit for some students.

Academics
Ohio Wesleyan University has a few things that give it its unique flavor. Academically, the standout feature is the OWU Connection which encourages students to think big, go global, and get real. Through this program, which is available to all students, students can get research funded, study abroad, and locate internships in their desired areas of study. The OWU connection works to take learning out of the classroom and actively engage students, which leads to success. OWU is also known for their business/management major as well as their biology program.

Campus Life
Beyond academics, OWUs campus life has a strong Greek life presence and Greek or interest specific housing. Many smaller universities are not able to offer Greek houses or interest specific housing to students, making OWU stand out from the crowd. OWU also has a strong showing of student athletes.

Applying
Students who want to make OWU their home for four years do need to put in some work. While the acceptance rate is 68 percent, students are expected to submit letters of recommendation along with their transcript and essay. Students with at least a B average in high school have the best chance at admission. OWU offers early admission. OWU is test optional, but of those who submit test scores, fifty percent are between 23 and 29.

Early Action? Early Decision? Early Confusion?


Early decision and early action deadlines are creeping up on students right about now at the beginning of November. While some students may have decided to apply early some time ago, many of their friends may be left in a panic as they watch the deadlines go by thinking “what does this mean?”. “Should I apply early?” Many students experience FOMO (fear of missing out) as they realize a bit belatedly that many of their peers are wrapping up applications just as others are only getting started. What is early action? What is early decision? Who are they right for? Below are the basics that students need to know in order to make informed decisions about early applications.

Early Action:

Early action is a pretty good bet for most students. Applying early action means that students apply sooner (generally early fall of senior year) and then they get their decision early. Students can apply early action at as many of their colleges as have an early action program. Early action applications come with no commitment and are a good way to get the applications out of the way sooner so that students can focus on and enjoy senior year. Early action also allows for students to have more time to make their decision once they get acceptances and it takes the burden off students’ shoulders much sooner.

Early Decision:

Early decision applications are a much bigger deal than early action. Not many schools offer early decision; those that do tend to be highly selective institutions. Many students, therefore, may not even have the option of applying early decision. The key thing to remember is that early decision applications are legally binding. Students are required to attend the school and withdraw applications from all other schools if accepted into their early decision school. This means that students who apply early decision are committing to attending before they see what financial aid the school will offer them. Students should not apply early decision unless they are sure that the school is the right fit and they are committed to paying the full price for the school. At most schools, applying early decision does increase your chances of being admitted and, similar to early action, gets the work and the decision out of the way much sooner which is attractive to most students.

In Conclusion:

If you’re in your senior year and you haven’t yet submitted any applications, it’s okay! You still have time for those regular decision applications, so don’t rush to apply early if it means submitting subpar work. Generally, schools accept regular decision applications until the beginning of January, but make sure you check with your schools to find out their specific deadlines. Try to have your applications in as soon as you can; don’t wait until the last moment. The sooner you get accepted the sooner your school can put together your financial aid package. Most schools have a limited amount of aid to give out, so you don’t want to be last in line. If you need any help with your applications or essays reach out to us and let us assist!

Free Local Activities for Summer Break

I was recently in a library here in central Ohio working with a student. As the student completed some practice problems I was watching the other folks coming and going from the library and saw a dad with his daughter come in to check out some books. The girl was maybe in 7th or 8th grade and I was excited to see her in the library- more kids should be reading over summer break! However, then I saw what the dad was checking out: every test prep book in the building.

Now, I’m the first to admit that the summer is a great time to get ready for the ACT and SAT tests, but students (especially students that young) should also have time to be themselves, explore their interests, relax, and do things they wouldn’t have time for during the school year. They need to recharge their batteries! That doesn’t mean they can’t learn- but the learning doesn’t have to be as structured as multiple hours of test prep every day! Many parents enrich summers by paying for lots of camps and activities, but parents whose budgets don’t allow for that may find enrichment more difficult. Here is a list of summer activities in the Columbus area where are free (or mostly free) to enrich your students’ summers.

Science:

1.                 Park of Roses
2.                 Franklin Park conservatory (Free the first Sunday of each month)
3.                 Educational Programs through Columbus Metro Parks

Social Studies:

1.               Find as many historical markers as possible
2.               Visit the Shrum mound
3.               Visit historical cemeteries
4.               Tour the Ohio Statehouse/ Ohio Supreme court (you may have to pay for parking)
5.               Attend Cultural Events (Asian Festival, Greek festival etc)

Art/Literature:

1.               Columbus Museum of Art (free on Sundays)
2.               Grandview Art Hop
3.               High Street Art Hop
4.               Tour the Thurber House (free on weekdays)
5.               Shakespeare in the Park (at Schiller park)

General:

1.              Check out programs at local libraries and community centers
2.              Ask an adult friend if you can shadow them for a day

Outside Columbus day trips:

1.               Great Seal state park (find the great seal)
2.               Hocking Hills nature hike
3.               Air Force Museum (Dayton)
4.               Great Serpent Mound (you pay for parking)

What free activities are you doing with your kids this summer? Let us know and we’ll add it to the list!

 

 

Summer Slide

As the school year winds down, students look forward to several months of sleeping in, few responsibilities, and plenty of fun. However, from an academic standpoint, the summer is the most dangerous part of the year. It is widely known that summer slide impacts many students; they end up returning to school in the fall having lost valuable information and skills over the summer.  Much of the beginning of the school year is often spent simply getting students back to where they were a few months prior. The key to avoiding summer slide is to keep students thinking over the summer. While a full course schedule isn’t necessary (and would probably result in a student rebellion), doing a little something each day to engage the mind can be very helpful. Students can engage their mind in any number of ways.

1. Summer reading

Summer reading gets a bad reputation from the lists of (often boring) books that teachers hand out to combat summer slide. However, any reading whatsoever is helpful. Go to the library- have the student ask the librarian for help finding books that the student will enjoy! Students are much more likely to read if it is a story or topic that they find interesting.

  1. Prep for tests

Students often don’t have the time during the school year to prep for standardized tests. If you have a high schooler, encourage them to spend just an hour or two each week working through a prep book or meeting with a tutor. The structure of having a meeting each week can help a lot as far as keeping students on track.

  1. Summer camps

If your student has an interest in a particular topic, explore the summer opportunities around that subject. Is there a camp being offered? Job opportunity? Shadowing day? Summer is a great time to work with students to help them better understand what career they want to pursue- don’t waste that time!

  1. Travel, museums, and other educational opportunities

If you can, use the summer to help students expand their horizons by doing the things you don’t have time for during the busy school year. Take a vacation to a historic city, have them learn about nature through a camping trip, or go to that museum just down the street. All of this will help keep their minds engaged!

 

Finally, keep in mind that your kids are kids! They had a long year at school. The older they are the more extra curriculars, jobs, and commitments they had.  The school year is often go-go-go. Don’t forget to give your students unstructured time to be kids over the summer. Let them relax, have fun, and enjoy their time off.

Taking the Online Version of the ACT—Pros and Cons

For the past few years, the state of Ohio has paid for all juniors to take one standardized test for free in the spring. Generally, schools in Ohio (with a few exceptions) have chosen the ACT as it is the student-preferred test in Ohio.  Over the past few years, an increasing number of schools have been offering this test only through an online portal.  With this trend increasing every year, it is a good idea to understand the pros and cons for online tests.

Pros:

The first advantage to the online test is that there is a timer on the screen. Since time management is such an issue for many students who take the ACT this is very nice.  However, timing is manageable by any student with a watch, so this is not a huge advantage. Similarly, there is a built-in calculator if a student doesn’t have one of his or her own. However, if the student is unfamiliar with the layout of this calculator, it can be as much a hindrance as a help.

A second advantage can be that many students might prefer working through a test on a screen if that is the format with which they are most familiar from school. Many schools now use tablets instead of paper versions of textbooks. For students who go to a school like this, an online version of the ACT may be more familiar.

The third and biggest pro for the online test is the speed with which test results come back. With online grading, it is just a matter of a few days before students can access their results. However, even with paper tests, ten to fifteen days is the most the majority of the students wait. I don’t think that is a big enough difference to justify switching to online tests.

 

Cons:

The cons are far more numerous. The biggest con that I see is the inability to write on the test. Many of the strategies that students find the most helpful involve interacting with the test instead of just looking at it. On the science and reading especially, circling, underlining, and writing on the test are enormously helpful. When schools decide to do online tests, they are taking away this resource from the students. When students are exhausted from this test, being able to write on the test so that they don’t have to remember everything can give their brains a bit of a break! While the online test does have some resources to cross out answers and highlight text, this is not going to be as quick or as natural as a paper test and does have limitations. In addition, students can expect a learning curve on the first part of the test until they are comfortable with the tools in the online portal. The best way to address this is to become familiar with the online portal prior to the test. We’ve included a link below that contains more information form the ACT.

Another big strategy that helps students maximize their scores is being able to do the easy questions first or skip questions and go back to them later. While the ACT online does all it can to make this easy, it still is tougher than with a paper test, which means that many students won’t focus on getting all the easy points first. Instead, they’ll do the questions in the order they are presented, often resulting in wasted time. Students may need to be reminded that the best strategy is to skip to the easy questions to start out with. They should practice doing this so that it feels more natural on the test.

The screen itself can also cause issues. Many students associate screens with entertainment. When students study with screens in front of them they are often flipping between what they should be doing and Instagram, Youtube, Reddit, music, and other distractions. While this certainly won’t be possible on the ACT, students have come to associate screens with distractions. Because of this, many students have concentration issues when they are looking at screens.

In addition, technical issues may be an issue for select students. Paper and pencil are fairly impervious to technical issues. In a school where every student is issued a computer, there is going to be a good handful of students who may not have their computer fully charged on test day. There can also be issues with internet connection, power supply, software etc. While some of these issues can be easily resolved, others can’t. Keep in mind that an easily solved issue is still going to cause stress for the student—something that should be avoided at all costs. Students who are bringing their own computer to the  test should do all they can the day before to make sure it is in good working order- an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Another issue with screens is that many school issued computers are chrome books or other similar computers that have tiny screens. This can lead to issues with being able to see all the information at once (on the reading and science) and just overall makes it more difficult to interact with the test. If possible, request to take the test on a laptop brought from home or in a computer lab. The worst that can happen is that they say no!

Finally, as any optometrist will tell you, staring at a screen for three and half hours can cause physical issues. While students may say that “they’re used to it,” they probably don’t often stare at screen for that long. Even if they don’t realize it, they likely look up and around quite often to rest their eyes. On the ACT, all these mini-breaks can really add up to time lost.

In short, if your school is considering an online test you should, if possible, request a paper test. If you absolutely can’t get a paper test, prepare for the difficulties of online testing by using this resource given by the ACT

https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/Preparing-for-Online.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0e78F_CW6MhyIFX3835GZf1XWQ1QBt7brJTTc7L4aSeJVMeCVagIJfiP0

 

This will allow you, at the very least, to become comfortable with the program prior to test day!

Best of luck!

Michal Strawn

The Grade/Test Score Gap

One of the most common comments I hear from parents during the tutoring process is that their students get good grades. Parents are confused as to why ACT or SAT scores aren’t on par with their student’s grades.  I also often hear the reverse from students who talk about friends and classmates who “seem dumb” or “have horrible grades” and yet do very well on standardized tests. The reason behind this is that most standardized tests are testing things that aren’t reflected in grades or directly taught in school. This makes sense though, since if the tests and the grades reflected the same things then colleges wouldn’t require SAT or ACT scores and would just look at student grades!

The issue for colleges is that different schools and even different teachers within schools have different grading criteria. Everyone knows that some teachers are an “easy A” while other teachers really make students work for good grades. How, then, are colleges supposed to compare two different students who have been in different schools with different teachers?

This is where the tests come in. Take the ACT for example. The first two sections of this test are fairly content based. They test how much students have been paying attention in English and math classes. Consequently, a student who does poorly in these subjects can improve their subject level understanding through hard work and thus improve their score (given that they have enough time). Students who have achieved good grades through cramming or other non-long-term learning solutions (like making sure they have easy teachers) may struggle with the content.
Despite being content exams, many people don’t realize that these exams are also testing other skills that are not explicitly taught in school. The math, for example combines many forms of math that students have learned over time forcing them to employ critical thinking skills to solve problems in new ways. Many teachers only test one math concept at a time so this is a struggle for many students. The English asks students not just to proofread for grammar and punctuation but also for understandability and clarity of message- another thing that students don’t often practice in school.

The second two portions of ACT test are not so much content based. They test quick reading comprehension and scientific comprehension. Many students read well enough to get by in school but have to put a lot of effort into all assignments. These students work very hard and long hours to ensure that reading is completed and understood. The standardized tests set a time limit, though, so that students who have good grades through hard work don’t have the time to complete the tests. Naturally good readers- students who have for the past ten years been ignoring classes to read a novel under their desks- excel.

The science has similar issues. When students in school don’t understand scientific information, they ask the teacher who explains it to them.  This doesn’t allow them to develop the skills they need to digest scientific data as required by the ACT. On the test, students are presented with information and concepts they’ve never seen before and, instead of having someone explain it, they need to figure it out by themselves- and quickly! Students who do well in science classes may still not have the skills needed to succeed.

In short- getting good grades does not mean that students have developed the quick critical thinking skills that colleges want and that these exams test for. Students need to take classes that will challenge them to develop critical thinking skills. They need to learn to read and understand complex questions quickly- not the simple to-the-point questions that are often asked in schools. Mostly, they need to read every day from an early age so that their reading comprehension skills are advanced enough for them to quickly understand each passage and every question.  These are the skills that will lead to high test scores.

AP or IB?

With scheduling season coming up now is a great time to consider taking higher level classes. I have taught both IB and AP courses, attended several training for IB and AP, and been an AP grader. I hope, therefore, I am able provide a solid summary of the differences between the two programs.  Since I no longer teach high school and have no vested interest encouraging students to do one program or another, I am also free to be completely honest in my assessments.

  1. Which is less expensive and easier to implement for schools and students?  AP
  • The fees to set up an IB school can often be prohibitively expensive. This is why we don’t see a whole lot of smaller schools or private schools going the IB route – they can’t achieve the economies of scale that make it worth the investment.  IB works best financially in a large school district where one high school can be designated the “IB Magnet” school, drawing students interested in the program from throughout the district.
  • AP does not require any school wide investment; individual courses can be easily implemented rather than an entire program.  The IB requires full, school-wide implementation of the program, so a school cannot implement just one IB course at a time.  Moreover, there is an extremely rigorous school approval process before the IB program can even be allowed at the school.  This does help ensure a higher level of program quality, but it can be a major paperwork hurdle for a school administration.
  • As far as student fees to take the exams, AP is a bit less expensive.  If you take multiple IB exams, the costs are comparable, but if you are doing just one or two IB exams, the mandatory student fee can add quite a bit to the costs.
  • Finally, AP will allow individual students to take an AP exam without having taken the AP course.  IB doesn’t allow this, so self-study is not an option.
  1. What kind of student prefers each program?  It depends on the student.

Do AP if you like:

  • Multiple Choice Tests : AP Tests typically have multiple choice questions as roughly half of the overall AP assessment, and free response the other half.
  • More structured in-class essay writing: The rubrics for AP essay grading are more straight-forward and less open to interpretation than the more holistic rubrics for IB.
  • If you are able to quickly memorize information: You need to know a broader array of facts for the AP assessments.
  • You don’t care for big papers and projects: Most AP teachers will model their in-class assessments on the AP exams, which are generally combinations of multiple choice and free response.  It is unlikely that you will have as many large research papers or presentations in AP since these types of projects do not prepare you for the AP exams.
  • You learn well with lecture: It is more likely that your AP teacher will use lecture to cover the vast amount of material that’s needed for the AP exam.  There are plenty of AP teachers who don’t do this, but in my experience, lecture often comes with the territory in AP.

Do  IB if you like:

  • Writing: You will have tons of writing to do for IB.  The Extended Essay, Internal Assessments, and in-class essays, just to name a few.  There are relatively few multiple choice questions in IB.  If you are looking to improve your writing skills, you will definitely do so in the IB program.
  • Going in-depth: On many of the IB assessments, particularly those in the humanities, you will find that you are required to achieve mastery of deep areas of knowledge rather than going through a broader survey.
  • You like working in groups: There are more opportunities for group activities in the IB assessments and in-class activities.  Although an AP teacher may encourage group work, it is hard to not do group work as a part of IB.
  • You enjoy projects and presentations: In IB you will have all sorts of portfolio projects and unique internal assessments.  If you are good at demonstrating your knowledge in ways other than multiple choice tests, then IB may be right for you.
  • You don’t procrastinate: If you put off doing your internal assessments and extended essay, you will be in a ton of trouble.  If you have the discipline to get things done over a period of time, you will find IB tough but manageable.
  • You are interested in the intersection of different types of knowledge: AP is much more compartmentalized, i.e. the AP U.S. History course won’t discuss anything from the AP Physics Course.  In IB, particularly if you are doing the Theory of Knowledge course, you will look quite a bit at how we claim to know what we know, and what that means in different areas of scholarship.
  1. Which is more widely accepted by colleges?  AP for the most part.
  • If you are like most American Students and plan on going to college in the U.S., AP will make it easier to get college credit.  Although more and more colleges are becoming familiar with IB, many schools are behind the times and are more willing to award credit to AP students.  In addition, you may need to do the Higher Level IB course (a more rigorous 2 year option) in order to earn college credit.  With AP, and most colleges will give you credit after just a one year course.  The only way to be certain about this is to ask the colleges to which you want to apply what their policies are.
  • If you are thinking about going abroad for college, IB might make it easier.  IB was originally formed to make it possible for students who had to move around Europe a good bit to be able to transfer between schools without trouble.  Since so few American students are thinking about going to Europe, Canada or elsewhere for college, this usually isn’t a selling point.  (In my opinion, Americans should consider doing this.)  If, however, you are open to international schools, IB can be a plus.
  1. Which prepares you more for college coursework?  For the most part, IB does.
  • Freshman-level introductory courses are often survey classes that involve multiple choice tests, some essay work, and quite a bit of lecture.  AP will prepare students very well for these types of classes.  For upper level courses and independent studies that involve quite a bit of research and writing, IB is far superior in helping students learn the process.
  1. Which will likely have better teachers?  IB may have better teachers for the following three reasons:
  • Better training.  Having attended both IB and AP training, I found that the IB training to be more comprehensive.  We received more materials, had better discussion, and had smaller workshops.
  • They choose to do it.  Since IB is typically done as a “school within a school”, the teachers who teach IB courses typically want to be there.  This is not always the case, of course, but I think it is more likely than would be the case with AP teachers.
  • They choose what to cover.  IB allows teachers the flexibility to go in-depth into areas about which they are knowledgeable and passionate.  AP mandates covering everything more superficially.  This difference will be far more pronounced in the humanities courses than in math/science, but even in the IB math/science courses there is more opportunity for outstanding educators to do what they would really like to do.
  1. Do colleges prefer IB over AP, or vice versa, when it comes to applying?  
  • The consensus I have found is “no”.  Colleges want to see applicants who are doing the toughest courses offered at their high schools.  Both IB and AP constitute “tough” courses, so do whichever one you prefer and don’t worry about how it will look to college admissions officers.
  1. Are there any other options if I don’t want to do IB or AP? 
  • Yes!  Try to take college classes while you are in high school!  Talk to your guidance counselor about the logistics of this, but many states will allow you to take classes at State Universities at no cost while you are a high school student.

I look forward to your comments on this piece.  If you found it helpful, please share it with your friends and colleagues.  Thank you.

How should I study?

The two most important things are to:

  1. Be Active, Not Passive
  2. Make Your Studying Like the Assessment

When you study, it is essential that you study actively – you must not sit there and expect that by putting in an hour of studying you will magically know more material.  Constantly ask yourself questions and monitor your understanding.  Here are some examples of Active vs. Passive Studying:

ACTIVE STUDYING PASSIVE STUDYING
Asking yourself questions about your notes and rewording what you have previously written. Just “looking over” your notes
Putting what the teacher says into your own words when you are listening to lecture. Simply hearing what the teacher is saying in lecture.
Annotating, summarizing, and analyzing while you read a text. Moving your eyes over the pages while thinking about something else.
Creating and studying flashcards based on your review guide. Skimming over the terms on your review guide without thinking about them.
Targeting your focus on your weak areas. Studying everything with equal focus.

The big idea is that much like the world of work, simply showing up and hanging out for eight hours does not mean you actually accomplished anything that day.  It’s the same with studying.  More time does not necessarily equal more knowledge.  If you only perceive the material but do not think about it, you will not fully understand it and you will have wasted your time.

When I was in college calculus, I had a solutions manual that accompanied my textbook.  For my first exam, I studied in a passive way – I simply read over the solutions to problems without actually solving them myself.  I did terribly on my exam.  For my next test, I committed myself to the hard work of doing the problems without peeking at the tempting solutions manual.  The results were much better.

Since most assessments will test your in-depth memory and understanding of the material, active studying will only help you in your preparation for the test.  You must take this a step further by ensuring that your studying replicates the type of thought process that will be necessary when you demonstrate your knowledge.  Be flexible in how you prepare – get out of your comfort zone when necessary.

Let me give you a personal example.  A couple of summers ago, I was asked to give a talk at an educational conference.  My natural inclination to prepare myself was to sit in front of my computer and read over my remarks in my head.  However, since I had never done a talk like this before, I decided to hire a professional speech coach to help me do my best.

My speech coach gave me some awesome advice:  make your practice like your presentation.  Instead of brainstorming on the computer, brainstorm vocally since that is how you would deliver it.  Instead of reading over the notes on the screen, actively present them in a room.  Rather than assuming  timing and delivery would be fine, practice in front of others to take care of any potential issues.

If you are going to have an oral presentation as your assessment, practice as you will be assessed.  If you are going to have a multiple choice test, do multiple choice practice.  If you will have an essay, do essay prewriting practice.  If your preparation does not match the way you will be tested, you are wasting your time.

I hope you found this discussion helpful.  If so, I would invite you to share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart