Should I cancel my SAT score?

Good luck to all of the students taking the SAT today! To commemorate, I would like to answer the most common question I am asked on test day: should I cancel my SAT score?

The answer is easy: probably not.

You should definitely not cancel your score immediately after the test. Though you do have the option to request a score cancelation form from your proctor, never do this unless the reason you want to cancel your scores is that you threw up on the test. Otherwise, wait to see how you feel tomorrow. You have until the following Wednesday at midnight to request that your scores be canceled, so you should wait until the pressure of the test is off before trying to make this important decision. The exact procedure to follow is outlined on the College Board website.

So now it's Sunday or Monday and the initial stress after the test has passed and you still want to know if you should cancel your score. The answer is unsurprisingly still: probably not.

You likely did better on the test than you think. We tend to be an awful judge of our own success, and you may end up pleasantly surprised with your score. And even if you did do poorly, who cares? Universities now expect that students will take the SAT 2 or 3 times. One bad score on your record will probably not hurt you, especially since most colleges are happy to consider only your highest composite score. And if you canceled your scores, you would have to take the SAT again anyway, so there's no real incentive to even do so. You may as well take a chance and see what you got.

Plus, starting for the class of 2010, students can report only their highest score to colleges without needing to submit all of their other scores. The admissions officers will not even know about this bad test.

But now lets say you have read all this and you still want to cancel your scores. Sometimes cancelation is appropriate. Go through the following checklist and, if all the conditions apply, you may be a good candidate for score cancelation:

  • You are not a student of 2010 or beyond (i.e. you are a senior and will graduate before 2010).
  • You have some objective reason for knowing that your score suffered in some way (e.g. your calculator died in the middle of the math, you realized too late that you mis-bubbled an entire section, or you had some emergency during the test that prevented you from completing one or more sections). "I just don't think I did good" is not a valid reason.
  • You have contacted the colleges you are most interested in and confirmed that they consider all of your scores in their admissions decisions (e.g. they do not consider just your highest score and instead average all of your scores).

Only if all three of these situations apply should you consider canceling your score. Otherwise, wait it out and keep your fingers crossed.

Want to know if you're a good candidate for score cancelation? Leave a comment below.

Have a question or comment? 19 people do.

6 Laws your Letters of Recommendation must follow

Securing quality letters of recommendation is one of the most daunting tasks a college applicant must face. By understanding what exactly admissions officers use the letters of recommendation for, students are better able to tailor these powerful tools to boost their odds of acceptance.

There are six main laws your letters of recommendation must follow, and I explore all six in the newest Accepted to College article. You will learn not only how to pick a good recommender, but also how to guide that recommender toward writing the best letter possible.

Click here to read the full article.

Have a question or comment? Leave me one.

College Affordability Websites Offering Free Hewlett-Packard Laptops

hp laptopFifteen websites designed for college students and students-to-be are using the month of October to give away fifteen free Hewlett-Packard laptops. The prize packages vary slightly at each site, but in general, each are giving away about $1700 worth of stuff. The competition rules also vary from site to site.

Each college finance website is running their competition during a different period this month, so be sure to check out each one in order to increase your odds of winning. The first competition is already over, but that still leaves 14 free laptops to try for. The hosting sites and their competition periods are as follows:

Good luck!

Have a question or comment? 2 people do.

Carnival of College Admissions: 6th Edition

Welcome to the 6th Edition of the Carnival of College Admissions! We had guest hosts for the past two editions, so if you missed them, you can find the 4th Edition at Great College Advice, and the 5th Edition at Step Into College.

Thirteen submissions came in for this issue, and I have selected the top ten to feature. Read on to the Carnival of College Admissions: Read more

Have a question or comment? 11 people do.

Carnival of College Admissions: 3rd Edition

Welcome to the third Carnival of College Admissions. Eleven articles were submitted this time, and all of them provide some great advice.

This will be my last week hosting the Carnival of College Admissions for a short while because I have two guest hosts lined up for the next couple of weeks. Make sure to give them both plenty of articles to feature by clicking the links above to submit a post of your own for next week's edition. Or if you would like to host an edition yourself, be sure to e-mail me and let me know that you're interested.

Read on for all of the excellent articles from the 3rd Edition of The Carnival of College Admissions: Read more

Have a question or comment? 4 people do.

Top 12 Tips to Perfect your College Application Resume – Part 1

With most colleges now requiring a resume as part of the college application package, students will benefit greatly from learning how to craft a proper resume. And while many of the generic tips floating around the web can be useful, there are certain things a college application resume must include to be a winner. Because of the number of tips and the length of my commentary, I will be splitting these tips into two posts. Look for the continuation to come soon.

Why do colleges require a resume?

Sometimes the format of a typical college application does not allow the candidate to highlight his or her strong points. A resume is basically a brief, at-a-glance brag sheet that you can use to draw attention to all of the accomplishments you feel are important to define who you are, but that didn't quite make it into your personal statement.

How should the resume be structured?

Professional resumes will generally lead with work experience and discuss an individual's professional career. Colleges are not interested in you as a worker so much as they are interested in you as a scholar. As such, many of the typical rules for resume structure do not apply to college applicants. In general, following this format will work for you:

  • Heading:Make sure to include a heading on the top that states your name and any other important identifying information. Many colleges will identify you with your social security number, so putting this information in the heading is helpful. A university may also assign you a special applicant number that can be used in lieu of your social security number.
  • Overview: Take approximately 3 short sentences to write a mini biography about yourself. If you speak more than one language, mention it. If you're the science fair champion four years running, mention it. If you have the highest GPA at your school, mention it. Highlight your strongest features. Imagine yourself as a news reporter that needs to capture the readers' attention in only a few lines. Make the admissions officer want to read more about you. Naturally, anything you include in the overview should also appear in one of the later sections.
  • Education: After the heading, lead with educational information. The name of your high school and its address will go here. Follow that with your GPA and, if you know it, your class rank. Class rank can either be stated by percentile (such as "top 5%") or by actual numerical rank (14 of 326). Any sort of academic distinction may be placed here as well, such as if you earned an International Baccalaureate full diploma or a special state distinction. Do not list your academic awards here, however, as those will come later.
  • Activities: Any clubs, programs, community service organizations, sports, or other activities you were a part of during high school should go here. You should try to limit the list to only about 8 entries, so if you have more than that, choose only your most important 8. If you have less than 4, try to think of some organized event you participated in to include. Remember, it does not have to necessarily be a school-sponsored program; activities through your church, community center, or of your own personal drive (bands, etc.) may be included. Each activity should have a short, one sentence description using strong, active verbs. For example, rather than just saying "Band", say, "Marching Band First Trumpet 3 years, performing in 57 school games and in two regional competitions."
  • Special Projects: Something that you did once or twice but that could not necessarily be considered an 'activity' may go here. Participation in a science fair, history day project, one-time volunteer effort, or other special events may be included. This category is not vital, so if you cannot think of any special project you participated in, you may omit this section. You should limit your list to 3 entries and provide a bit more detail about each than you would have in the Activities section (about 2-3 short sentences). If you have held a steady job during high school, feel free to add your position here with a few descriptive sentences. You should also change this section's title to something like "Experiences".
  • Awards: Don't limit yourself here. This section can be a simple laundry list (though you should explain any awards that do not have an obvious title) or may include more detailed descriptions depending on the amount of awards you have received. Feel free to overlap in this section with other sections (for example, you may mention the science fair in Special Projects, and then also mention that you got first place here), but avoid listing too many awards for the same event. Mentioning your placement in each of the three years you went to History Day is fine, but outlining each of your 67 Speech and Debate victories is too much. Remember that many accomplishments may fit in this category even if you never received a trophy, medal, or certificate.

You don't have to limit yourself to just these sections. If you have a special, extraordinary experience that warrants its own section, feel free to include it. Look around on the Internet for other student resumes and see the kinds of things they include for some ideas for what you might want on your own resume.

How long can the resume be?

Don't listen to the old rule that a resume cannot be longer than a single page. Feel free to go up to 2 pages if you need the room.  Keep in mind that a resume is more like an outline than an essay; it should not be dense with information, but rather be an easy-to-follow bulleted list. If you simply have too many activities and awards to keep yourself limited to one page, do not cut information out. Instead, expand onto a second page without worry (unless, of course, the application guidelines tell you to use only one page).

Should I include stuff from before high school?

Generally no unless the activity continued into high school (such as playing in the middle school band and in the high school band). Colleges are generally not interested in your pre-high school experiences.

This concludes part 1 of the college application resume tips list. Check back for part 2 with even more tips!

Have a question or comment? 16 people do.

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