Universitas Blog

Your SAT Results and You

Sunday, June 29, 2014

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With the recent release of the results of last June 7th's SAT administration, I got this text from a client.

"Sir," he excitedly began, "I got a 2040 in my SAT!"

Wonderful, I thought to myself.  He had been hoping to break 2000 on his SATs and he did.  He had worked hard and deserved to get the reward of a good score.  His total score rose almost 150 points from the last time he took the test.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that his achievement, as happy as he and I were about it, is probably not going to change his college prospects all that significantly.  Don't get me wrong, a better score is better than a good one any day of the week but I sincerely doubt that his admission prospects to his favorite colleges changed all that much.  

What most students (and parents) don't understand is that an SAT score--by itself--will not get a student into a college or university.  A higher SAT score--by itself--will not get a student into a more competitive college than he or she would have otherwise been admitted to.  I think this misconception is rooted in the admission practices of colleges here in the Philippines.  At Philippine colleges, college entrance test results (UPCAT, ACET, etc.) weigh heavily in the admission decision.  Therefore, it's sometimes difficult for people here to understand how the SAT can be viewed as anything but absolutely crucial.

The SAT is important but it only acts to support your academic achievement over your years in high school (i.e. you grades).  US colleges weight your grades much more heavily than your test scores.  If you think about it, it makes sense.  Your grades are a (in my opinion, incomplete) reflection of the work you did in four years of high school.  The SAT is a reflection of the work you did in four hours on a Saturday morning.  Which do you think is a better reflection of what you can really do academically?

Put another way, if you have a B average in high school but did fantastically well on your SAT--let's say you scored a perfect 2400--don't start packing your bags for Harvard or Stanford quite yet.  Impressive as your SAT scores are, you will still be judged primarily on your B average.   Admission officers may even raise a red flag over this rather large disparity between your grades and your score.  If you are so brilliant as to get a perfect score on the SAT, why don't your grades reflect that?  Were you lazy or disinterested in class?  Or was the school incredibly grade stingy?  One or the other, the answer will usually come out in the profile your school will provide or in the recommendations your teachers will write.  Closer to home, I know someone who did very well in his SATs (2250) but was still turned down by a couple of top flight US universities.  I think it was primarily because of a less than absolutely stellar GPA (3.61).  

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Students sometimes take the SAT over and over in an attempt to get maybe another hundred points or so and maybe they can get into the next tier of competitive universities.  For the reasons I just gave, I think these folks are just wasting their time and money.  However, if you took and the test and feel you've underperformed relative to your abilities then by all means, take the test again.  What I mean is let's say you have a very high GPA but you had a bad hair day on SAT Saturday and you did not do well at all.  In this case, I'd say go ahead and take the test again.  But be aware there's a point where the gains you might make in taking yet another time will begin to diminish and sometimes even regress.  I would normally not recommend you take the SAT more than twice maybe three times.  More than three times and it's a waste of time and money.

I think people get fixated on the SAT because it's in a way very sexy.  It's a number. You can get yourself to believe that a high enough number will unlock doors for you.   People also think it's the only thing they can do to compensate for any holes they perceive in their grades.  High scores will deodorize less than great grades.  Not so!

Don't overprepare for the SAT.  By all means, know what the test is about and be familiar with the questions.  Have a feel for how you will pace yourself over the course of this long exam (almost four hours).  Hire a tutor, take a class, or simply buy a review book.  I know of students who prepare hours and hours every Saturday of the summer before their senior year.  Wow, what an absolute waste of time.  I wish the student had spent his time more productively like watching movies with his friends, going outside and playing basketball, or reading a good book.  

Or maybe even start writing the first drafts of their college application essay.  Now there's something....

Why Go to Harvard When You Can Opt for an Asian Ivy League

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

http://www.forbes.com/sites/zheyanni/2014/06/11/why-go-to-harvard-when-you-can-opt-for-an-asian-ivy-league/

I saw this article posted on Facebook page and I had to say something.  I think the title misses the point of why we should think about going to college abroad.

The article looks at some prestigious Asian universities:  National University of Singapore, University of Hong Kong, Peking University, University of Tokyo, Seoul National University and Tsinghua University and asks why go far away when we have these guys here?  Not sure you can call these guys the Ivy League of Asia because they don't play sports against one another (remember that the Ivy League is an athletic, not an academic league).  I do agree with the premise of the article:  we have some top notch universities in this part of the world and we certainly don't have to fly across the planet to get (and pay for) a great education.  

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The title though seems to imply that the Ivy League is the raison d'etre for going to college in America.  If you've read articles in my blog, you already know what I think of the Ivy League...and it doesn't bear repeating here.  The purpose of going to college (not just abroad but locally as well) is to have a potentially life-changing and transformative personal, academic and yes, spiritual, experience.  It's important when searching for a university to attend that we go beyond the name and reputation and ask "what can this college or university do FOR ME?"  How will this college help me grow as a person, as a student, and prepare me for life (not just a job) after graduation?  I've said over and over that you need to find a FIT.  Find the university that is right for you and your style of learning, name and reputation be damned.

 It's not a matter of simply saying "Oh we have top rank universities in Asia, you don't need to go to the States."  The academic and social experience of going to a college in Asia is totally different from the experience in the US and Canada and certainly different from what you would get here in the Philippines.  

One experience is not inherently better than the other, they're just different.

 If in the course of searching for your fit, you find that your place is in these Asian university heavyweights then by all means, you should go.  If your fit is here in the Philippines, then that's wonderful.  And if your fit is in the Ivy League, you should go there as well.

If the Forbes article above opens your eyes to possibilities in Asia that you may not have considered, that's great.  Just keep your eyes open and look for that fit.


John Sy, President and Senior Counselor
Universitas College Counseling
203A CM Recto Street
San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

johnsy@universitasph.com
+63 (917) 833-3825


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John Sy, President and Senior Counselor
Universitas College Counseling
203A CM Recto Street
San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

johnsy@universitasph.com

+63 (917) 833-3825

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