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Panel of Experts

Karl Schellscheidt

SAT Prep Expert

  • BSE, Princeton University '90
  • M.A., Secondary Education Seton Hall University '93
  • J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School '00

Fred Hargadon

Dean of Admission

  • Swarthmore College
    (1964-1969)
  • Stanford University
    (1969-1984)
  • Princeton University
    (1988-2003)

Don Betterton

Financial Aid Expert

  • Director of Financial Aid, Princeton University (1973-2006)
  • Certified College Planner
  • Principal, Betterton College Planning

Seamus Malin

Admission Expert

  • Harvard University
    Dir. of Financial Aid
    (1966-1977)
    Asst. Dean of Admission
    (1977-1987)
    International Office Director
    (1987-2002)

Easy Courses vs. Hard Courses

college admissions expert advice from eprep.comA question that seems to circulate among high school Juniors at this time of year as they make course selections for the Senior Year sounds something like this: “Is it better for me to take a course in which I know I can get an ‘A’ or should I take a harder course and risk getting a lower grade?” And the answer is: “Take the harder course and do as well as you can–why not shoot for the ‘A’?!”

There are two perspectives to consider here. One revolves around the college admission process and what colleges want to see from you academically. Generally speaking, the harder it is to get into a college the greater is the likelihood that its admission officers will be checking to see if you are continuing to stretch yourself academically. Because they are choosing from among thousands of well-qualified candidates, they can afford to use the strength of an academic program as a competitive credential or “filter” in deciding whom to admit.

Here’s another way to think about it. If highly selective colleges know that they are setting the competitive “bar” at a certain level in their own classrooms, they will be looking at your record to find evidence that you can meet that “bar.” What confidence do you give them in your ability to do so when you have chosen to compete at a comfortably lower level in high school?

That doesn’t mean you should register for every high level course you can get in order to compete for admission. Rather, you need to know your capacity to tackle challenges and make a conscious effort to move to the next logical level of rigor for you in each academic discipline. Don’t over-reach your capacity! The key, then, will be to focus on colleges that will value you for your experience in those courses.

The second and often overlooked perspective on selecting courses has to do with your ability to prepare yourself for the next level of rigor in college. Wherever you go to college, you are likely to find academic expectations that exceed any you encountered in high school. If you have continued to step up academically through each year of high school, the step into the college classroom will be one for which you are prepared. On the other hand, if the academic challenge you give yourself in your Senior Year of high school is not that different from the one you experienced as a Junior, then the step up to college will be much more awkward if not painful.

The bottom line with regard to course selections–and your eventual college selections–is this: Do what makes sense for you. Take stock of where you are on your learning path, set your college sites reasonably and build a strong foundation through your coursework in high school that will propel you into a successful experience in college.

For more advice from Peter Van Buskirk on college planning, visit TheAdmissionGame.com.

All Nighters May Lower Your GPA

Michelle Hartwell

eprep test prep videoThe Associated Press reported today that a survey conducted at St. Lawrence University in New York shows that students who don’t subject themselves to sleep depriving all-night study sessions may end up with better overall GPA’s. (more…)

Do High School AP Classes Help with College Admissions?

Michelle Hartwell

college admissions expert advice from eprep.comTaking high school AP courses can help you stand out in the eyes of College Admissions departments and can help you prepare for the type of course work you will encounter in college. So should you jump in and apply for AP classes? Well, yes — but only if (more…)

The Parent – Child College Contract

college admissions expert advice from eprep.comPerformance based contracts are nothing new in the field of business, but with the explosive cost of college tuition, such contracts increasingly popular between parents and their children. Let me explain through a personal story.

A few years ago, I received a panicked phone call from my father. It seems my little brother, who had just finished the fall semester of his freshman year at the University of Richmond, had received a couple “D’s” on his report card. My father was threatening to pull him out of Richmond – for which my father was paying nearly $35,000 per year – and to make him attend the local community college. My father’s logic made sense. Why should he pay so much for college if his son (my brother) was not applying himself? (more…)

College and Financial Aid: Junior Year High School Checklist

eprep financial aid video

As a junior in high school (or parent of a junior), what should you do to begin analyzing how to pay for college? What college financial aid process should you follow if you’re just now getting started? Earlier in our talks with Don Betteron, director of financial aid at Princeton University for thirty (30) years, ePrep focused on what parents of younger children can do to prepare for college tuition. Today’s prepcast discusses what high school juniors can do to determine their estimated family contribution and seek help from their college financial aid office. Typically, most junior and senior students are so focused on college applications and SAT test that they fail to consider their ability to pay for the colleges on their wish list. Join us as Don talks about now to use an online financial aid estimator at finaid.org and what to do with the information.

For those looking for more in our series on Financial Aid, we encourage you to review our previous ePrep financial aid posts:

The 16 Things You Should Know (or Do) Junior Year in High School
The 15 Questions You Should Ask About a College’s Financial Aid Program
The Price Tag: You Can Always Say “No”
Paying for College: Pre-High School Savings and Financial Aid

(more…)

Exposure to Possibilities is Half the Battle

college admissions expert advice from eprep.comThe old saying “knowledge is power” is never more true than in the game of college planning. SAT scores, GPA’s, and school activities play a major role in opening the gates of college, but they matter little if a student doesn’t know the incredible places that their abilities can take them. Access to powerful knowledge – be it the scores of free SAT prep resources, teachers who stand ready to point in the right direction, or financial aid and scholarship programs – continues to be a gating issue for lower income and inner city students in much of the U.S.

Today I stumbled upon this inspiring story of Don “D.W.” Cartier (more…)

SAT Vocabulary Lists – Web 2.0 Style

Eric Barnes

eprep test prep video

“One forgets words as one forgets names. One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die.” – Evelyn Waugh

Wordsource | Quizlet | Dictionary Tooltip Review

By now you’ve likely heard about “Web 2.0″, which means a lot of things but generally relates to the new wave of websites that look and feel more like desktop applications. Another Web 2.0 hallmark is the rise of social networks and user generated content (a fancy way of saying that end-users – meaning YOU – play an active role in creating the content that drives the site). High school kids are more likely to encounter new vocabulary online instead of reading the newspaper or a magazine. Today we profile a collection of websites and tools that make the building of your vocabulary less painful, if not even mildly fun. (more…)

Some Advice on Writing: Tip #1

eprep test prep video SOME ADVICE ON WRITING:

There is nothing further from the truth than to tell someone there are shortcuts to good writing. There is no magic formula to writing well (or better than you can now) other than to write and write often; good writing comes from working at it all the time. And you will find that the more you work at writing, the more it will give back to you. While I can think of no writer who would ever say that writing is “easy,” I can think of several students of mine who would say that the difficulty writing posed for them was worth it when they realized how much they’d improved in the expression of their ideas. Writing is hard work, but it is (more…)

Advanced Placement (AP) Numbers on the Rise

Seamus Malin

eprep test prep video I came across this article today and thought it might be of interest to some ePrep visitors. According to a report authored by Elizabeth Redden in today’s edition of insidehighered.com, the College Board release statistics on Tuesday that demonstrate the substantial and continued growth in both the number of AP exams administered annually and the number of students scoring 3 or higher on the 5-point scale. The report also discusses two new studies that link, among other things, participation in AP courses to success in college.

What Were They Thinking?

Karl Schellscheidt

college admissions expert advice from eprep.com It seems that two teenagers from Fresno, California, seriously messed up their changes of being admitted by their colleges of choice. The article written by Andy Boogaard of The Fresno Bee describes how one of the teens impersonated the other at a recent administration of the SAT. The article also details how they got busted.

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