Archive for the ‘Advice & Tips’ Category

College Admissions: College Visits are Crucial!

Be Sure to Make College Visits a Priority!

With Spring Break time here, it’s crucial that you make it a point to visit the colleges you’re considering attending. This is going to be the place you spend the next four years of your life, your home away from home. So it’s important that you love the place, and that you’re comfortable there.

Nothing truly gives you a feel for a college like visiting the campus, so be certain to call up admissions offices to arrange your visit and inquire about campus tours. And be sure to take full advantage of them! Explore the campus and ask your tour guide questions; after all, he or she is most likely a student attending the school who was in your shoes a few years back. We would even suggest that you bring a notebook to jot things down and to keep track of what you liked or didn’t like about a particular college. How is the campus and the surrounding community? What is the typical class size? Are there study abroad programs available? Most of all, could you see yourself going here? Finding the answers to all of your questions will ultimately help you decide on the college that’s your best fit.

Choosing your college is a monumental decision, and taking these extra steps will help to ensure that you select the school that’s right for you.


Vocab Videos Advice: SAT Subject Tests (AKA SAT IIs)

We at Vocab Videos encourage you to begin thinking  about SAT subject tests (AKA SAT IIs).  SAT II subjects include Literature, Math (Levels 1 & 2), US and World History, the Sciences, and an assortment of Foreign Languages. Many colleges will require or recommend that students take at least one or two SAT IIs, and some might even ask that you take a particular subject, so be certain to check out the admissions requirements for EACH college to which you’re applying.

Test dates are typically the same as those for the SAT, and at one-hour per test (no matter what subject), students can take up to three SAT IIs on any given date. Subject tests are being offered alongside the SAT on May 1st and June 5th, so if you haven’t already be sure to:

  1. Begin your research on which of your colleges require SAT subject tests.
  2. Start thinking about what subject tests you feel comfortable taking on.
  3. Devise your SAT II battle-plan!

For some guidance on your colleges’ SAT II reqs, use the College Board’s “Find a College” feature. Search colleges by name, click on the “Admissions” tab, and check out what is said about SAT IIs under “Admission Policies and Factors.”

And because vocabulary will ALWAYS help you, don’t forget to get started with Vocab Videos–SAT and SAT II vocabulary the fun & effective way!


College Admissions: Beware of Senioritis!

Senioritis? SNAP OUT OF IT!

A lot of high school seniors get under the impression that the importance of senior year starts to dwindle upon receiving admission into college. But, seniors, we warn you: avoid coming down with a case of senioritis! Sure, we see how it could happen. You’ve nearly finished the college admissions game and you’re exhausted. You’ve likely been working your tail off throughout your high school career to keep up your GPA and get into the college of your dreams; you’ve spent time preparing for your college entrance exams and taken your SATs and ACTs; you’ve written all your college essays and likely submitted countless applications. Now, you’re ready to cruise through your remaining time in high school, to really enjoy it. We get it.

But, to stop caring about your grades won’t serve to benefit you in any way. When you have more than likely worked hard for good grades throughout high school, why would you start goofing off now? Not only do you risk tarnishing your academic record, you could potentially compromise your college acceptance. Now, we’re not saying a minor dip in your grades will have your college calling to rescind your acceptance, but a significant enough decline in the grades on your final transcript could certainly be a red flag for your future college.

The truth is, colleges do reserve the right to revoke admissions offers to applicants who fail to maintain their academic performance. Sure, it’s not a typical scenario, but you could see how in today’s extremely competitive college admissions landscape a serious case of senioritis could put you at a greater risk of losing your spot. With more students applying to college than ever and record-setting applicant pools, admissions officers may view you as slightly more disposable. After all, most colleges have a long waitlist of well-qualified applicants who would be more than willing to accept the admissions offer someone else has lost.

So, while we’re not trying to scare you, we are telling you a serious case of senioritis is just not worth it! Stay focused throughout your senior year and committed to doing well. And, not to worry–we have a feeling that when you get to college, you’ll realize they’ll be plenty of time for school and fun!


SAT Preparation: Helpful Reminders for the Upcoming SAT & ACT

The March SAT (3/13/10) and April ACT (4/10/10) are fast-approaching, and the Vocab Videos team wanted to offer you a few reminders for the home stretch:

  • Remember to Register! If you haven’t already, be sure to register for your upcoming test! Sign up for the SAT by following the instructions at If you’ve missed the February 10th registration deadline, there’s still time; late registration for the March SAT is available through 2/18/10 (mail) and 2/24/10 (phone/online). Sign up here for the ACT. The registration deadline is 3/5/10 and while we don’t recommend you wait, the late registration deadline is 3/19/10.
  • Stay on top of your game: Just because the end is near (for some of you) doesn’t mean it’s time to slow down or give up–stay on top of your test-prep game! These last few weeks are important and there’s still room for improvement. Continue to put in your best effort with your tutors, brush up on your vocabulary*, and stay committed to doing your best.
  • Keep taking practice tests: Taking SAT practice tests could very well be your best form of review for the real SAT. The more familiar you are with the SAT, the more comfortable you’ll be come the actual test date. Knowing what to expect in terms of content, question type, and your time management ability, will greatly improve your test-time mentality. Check out this free SAT practice test available through the College Board.

Taking the upcoming SAT or ACT? There's still time! Continue to stay committed to your SAT prep.


*Don’t forget: learning SAT vocabulary words is one sure way to improve your SAT reading score up to 150 points! With vocabulary, you either know it or you don’t, and on the SAT vocabulary knowledge is a must. Learn it the fun & effective way with Vocab Videos, and be sure to check out the new Vocab Videos trailer!


College Admissions: Tips for the College Interview

Like we’ve said before, SAT preparation is far from the only aspect of the college admissions process. There’s your personal statement or college essay, your activities resume, your GPA and the classes in which you’re enrolled, and the potential college interview.

If the opportunity presents itself for you to have an interview with a representative from a college that you’ve applied to or an alum from that college, we encourage you to take it. If you’re not offered a college interview, be sure to call up the school to see if it’s possible to request one. While the college essay gives you a chance to be more than a set of numbers and allows you to tell your story, the college interview puts a face to your application—literally!

We’re sure most of these next few items are understood, but here are a few reminders for interview (college or otherwise) etiquette:

  1. Appropriate dress is essential.


    What not to do on a college interview...

  2. Be courteous and respectful.
  3. No gum chewing.
  4. Avoid the “Umms” and “Likes”

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Obvious items aside, the most important piece of advice that we can give to you is to be yourself. This is your chance to show an admissions officer who you are, to tell them about your interests, goals, and hopes for your academic future and beyond.  But as wonderful as you may be, some preparation should go into getting ready for your college interview.

We would recommend that you have some general answers ready to go for some possible questions that college interviewers may be asking you. A few might include:

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself? (*Yes, it’s a broad question, so be sure to highlight something special.)
  • Why have you selected this particular college? (*If you’re seeking admission to a college, you should 100% be able to answer this!)
  • In what academic areas are you interested?
  • In what extracurricular activities have you been involved? (*Talk about the one that’s proven most meaningful for you.)
  • What sets you apart as an individual and applicant?
  • What books or articles have you read in the last year that have meaning to you? (*Even if it wasn’t in the last year, be able to talk about something you’ve read that has impacted you.)
  • Where do you see yourself 20 years from now?

We’re not saying to write out long answers to the above questions so that you’re ready to recite them verbatim. Instead,  simply have some talking points prepared for these kinds of general questions. And here’s the good news: THERE’S NO “RIGHT” OR “WRONG” ANSWERS! These aren’t trick questions; for the most part, they’re about you! It’s not so much a matter of whether you will get stumped or not, it’s a matter of whether you remember to highlight the things you wish to get across about yourself.

But guess what—your college interviewer is also helping you to determine whether this college is the right place for you, so you should certainly take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions. There is a lot of information to be gained on both sides during a college interview. In a way, you are interviewing the college as much as they are interviewing you. The following are a few suggestions for possible questions you may want answered by a college representative:

  • What is the average class size and are there seminars and honors classes available?
  • When do you select a major?
  • How many courses are required and is there much room for self-selection of coursework?
  • How is faculty available to students beyond the classroom?
  • Is there a writing center?
  • How diverse is the student body?
  • Is it a “suitcase” school where the majority of students go home on the weekend rather than dorm?
  • Are there study abroad programs available? What countries may I visit?
  • What internship opportunities are available for my field of study?

Of course, these are only our suggestions. Choosing what college to attend is a BIG decision. We’d encourage you to ask any questions you would like answered about your potential future school.

Finally, one more piece of advice: Be sure to remember your interviewer’s name! Because after the interview, we suggest that you write a thank-you note. But don’t overdo it—it doesn’t need to be an overly sweet, lengthy letter. Keep it brief and sincere; it can’t hurt.

So though the importance of an interview will vary from college to college, we say, take advantage of the chance to put a face to your application when you can. It’s your opportunity to shine, and to ask meaningful questions about your potential college.


SAT Preparation: 5 Commandments for the Final Stretch

You have spent your entire high school careers studying, taking tests and writing essays all in the hope of getting into that dream school.   And yet there are still SATs to take and scores to improve.  Before you throw up your hands in frustration, break down and cry into your pillow, or decide that being a 6th year senior is actually a cool idea, here are 5 essential things you can do to increase your chances of nailing a top score this fall. 


  1. Keep Studying – Hope alone will not raise your SAT score any more than it will win you the lottery.*  Students who take practice tests, study vocabulary, and refine techniques are much more likely to see higher scores than those who are simply hoping to sit next to the smart kid and cheat.
  2. Don’t Stress – Adding pressure to an SAT only hurts your problem solving abilities.  Taking a test in the fall is no more stressful than one in the spring, and to be honest, you are now a little older and little wiser (hopefully).  Many of my students have hit their top scores in October, November and December precisely because they went in stress-free.  If they got more points great.  If not, well, they had already submitted their scores and no one would ever know about this last attempt.**
  3. dont_stop_believing_stop_sign1– Many students think they have little chance of scoring higher on a 2nd or 3rd SAT attempt.  True some students don’t improve, but even just the confidence that comes with experience can have an impact.  You are taking the test again for a reason, so if you don’t believe in yourself what’s the point?
  4. Don’t Cheat – As the pressure builds, students sometimes feel the urge to find any advantage they can – even if it’s dishonest.  DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CHEAT ON THE SAT.  It’s just not worth it.  You have spent years building an academic profile and thinking that a few stolen answers will be the difference between acceptance and rejection is ridiculous.  Colleges see your scores in a range anyway and if you get caught you aren’t getting in anywhere.  You don’t want to live in your parents’ basement for the next few years. 
  5. Get a Grip on Reality – Taking the SAT may seem overwhelming at times, but it’s just a bunch of English and math questions with some bubbling thrown in.  True, bubbling can be hard and the reading passages may not be your idea of a good time, but it’s just a test.  Colleges look at the whole picture, and you should too. 

* If you have already won the lottery you are definitely luckier than the rest of us so I hope your test bursts into flames to balance out the universe. 

** Score Choice for the SAT functions differently for particular colleges so always check on for details.  In some cases there is an ethical way to avoid sending a final score even to schools who want all scores.


SAT Preparation: Have a Plan!


Preparing for a standardized test like the SAT or ACT? Have a plan!

If you’re just beginning to embark on the test preparation journey, it’s safe to say that you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. The test prep process is one that can be stressful. After all, standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, whether we like it or not, are extremely important—they help determine where one is accepted into college. And, it’s no secret that where one goes to college can certainly influence his or her future. Below are a few tips for staying on top of your SAT test preparation.  It is students, themselves, who are largely in control of creating a plan for test-prep success…and sticking to it.

  • Make a Schedule:  Set goals for yourself. Assign a certain amount of time each day to working on test prep, whether you’re taking the SAT or ACT (or any standardized test, for that matter).  Make a plan with your tutor outlining what you hope to accomplish, or resolve to study from your review book for thirty minutes a night. A commitment and a little review per day can go a long way.
  • Study Vocabulary: If you’ve got plenty of time before you take the SAT and/or ACT, and are wondering what you can do to start preparing for your college entrance exams, the answer is STUDY YOUR SAT VOCABULARY!  Vocabulary is an essential part of test prep success, and a manageable way to get a head a head start in your SAT preparation. Essentially, you can start learning it at any age. Study a little vocab a day; knowing you SAT vocabulary will mean higher scores on your verbal sections.
  • Take Practice Tests: This is often, far and away, the best form of review. Take as many SAT and ACT practice exams as you can! Come to know what to expect when it comes to the format, question types, and your time management skills. The more comfortable you are with the test, the more comfortable you will be on the big day.
  • Read: There are lots of wonderful reasons for reading, but if you didn’t know, it can be extremely useful when you’re preparing for your college entrance exams. Pick up the newspaper or go take out a book from the library. Have a dictionary on hand to look up any words you come across that you don’t know (we can’t emphasize enough how crucial SAT vocabulary is!). You’ll be reading about subjects you’re not necessarily familiar with on the SAT and ACT, so get some practice. Make sure that you’re able to grasp the reading passages’ key content.
  • Prepare Essay Examples: It’s a good idea to use past SAT essay prompts to practice writing the essay.  But there is a step you should take before sitting down to practice writing your SAT essay: Prepare your examples! Come up with a handful of essay examples and stories that you can work into nearly any SAT essay topic. Having some well-rehearsed examples to apply to your SAT essay will save you precious time on the test and likely help earn you a higher score.

What good is a SAT study plan if you’re not going to stick to it?  Make sure you stick to your test-prep study schedule! Study some vocabulary every day; do a practice SAT or ACT section a few times a week; be sure to show some commitment. This is important; it will undoubtedly pay off when you’re mailbox is filled with college acceptance letters!


SAT Preparation: Staying Focused during the Holidays

It’s easy to get distracted during the holiday season, but doing what you can to stay focused will make your return to the realities of school and SAT preparation that much easier. Enjoy your time off, but make the most of it. Here are a few suggestions for staying on top of your SAT prep game during the upcoming winter break:

  • Get Your Rest: This may not have been what you thought our first recommendation would be, but catching up on some probably much-needed rest is essential to a healthy body and brain! Get some of the sleep that you missed out on when you were up late studying for that last test or writing that final paper your teachers tried to squeeze in before break.  Once well-rested, you’ll be re-focused, revitalized, and ready to set your mind to the task at hand.
  • Do Manageable Tasks: We know Christmas break likely isn’t the time you’ll want to spend hours reviewing your SAT manual or writing college essays, but there are ways to use your time wisely without overdoing it. Read the newspaper to learn new words and grasp the general idea behind stories. Watch Vocab Videos to learn crucial SAT vocabulary. Take 25 minutes to do a practice SAT math section. They’re simple, painless tasks you can do to stay on top of your SAT game.   
  • Finishing Touches on College Applications: With most college application deadlines right around the corner, you’re probably looking forward to getting applications off to colleges and out of your hands. But make sure that you’re sending off your best quality work. Don’t skip out on the finishing touches. Make any necessary adjustments to polish up your college essay, go over your activities resume to make sure you’ve mentioned all of your community involvement, and review applications one last time to make sure you’ve included everything.

Please ENJOY YOUR BREAK, but stay motivated with relatively simple (but important!) tasks to keep on top of the college admissions process.


SAT Test Preparation: How to Make Educated Guesses on College Entrance Exams

So, on multiple choice tests, the right answer is always there. The obvious problem is you may not always know what that correct answer is.  But in some cases, it’s worth taking an educated guess, especially when you can limit your answer choices. Below are a few things you should know that will help you make educated guesses on the SAT and ACT.


  • On the SAT, there are penalties for wrong answers, so avoid random guessing (that is, guessing when you’re completely clueless as to what the correct answer is).
  • Educated guessing, however, is a good option. You only lose ¼ of a point of raw score for wrong answers, but you earn one full point for each right answer. So on the SAT, it’s statistically advantageous to make an educated guess if you can eliminate 1 or 2 (preferably) answers.
  • If you’re investing time on a question, it’s worth taking a risk and making an educated guess. Don’t waste time working on a problem and then not make your best guess.


  • On the ACT, there are no penalties for guessing/wrong answers, so never leave answers blank!
  • Each answer choice (A, B, C, D etc.) shows up about 20-25% of the time as the correct answer; it’s best to be consistent and designate one letter as your guessing answer.
  • As a strategy for picking your optimal guessing answer (because each answer choice does show up roughly 20-25% of the time), look at your scantron’s bubbled-in answers and choose the letter that appears the least.

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Of course, you never want guessing to be your first option. It’s always best to go into a test like the SAT and ACT as prepared as possible, equipped with strategies to help you solve problems and answer as many questions correctly as possible. But there are always those instances where we encounter tough questions that we just can’t figure out, and wasting time trying to work through them usually isn’t worth it. So in some cases, it’s certainly worth taking your best educated guess.

*For a laugh and how NOT to guess, check out this link:

If you enjoyed these suggestions, and for help being prepared with all the vocabulary you’ll need-so you don’t have to guess-CHECK OUT VOCAB VIDEOS!


College Admissions: Completing Your College Resume (Well)

Like the college essay, the college resume is important because it allows admissions officers to get a more complete picture of you, the applicant. It’s not just your name, the school you attend, or your SAT scores—it’s a glance into what you’ve been doing over your last four years in high school. Be sure to highlight those extracurricular activities that hold a special meaning for you, the athletic involvement that you’ve committed your time to, and/or the community service that is significant to you. If you’re involved in a lot of activities inside and outside of school, this is your time to shine. If you’re not, that’s okay too—you can still make your resume work for you. Elaborate on those activities to which you have committed your time and been dedicated. Below are a few suggested categories of activities to include in your resume. For each category, you should be sure to name and describe the nature of the activity, list your grades of participation, and provide the time commitment involved (in terms of hours/week and weeks/year). You should also mention any honors won or positions held.

  • Extracurricular Activities: Include all of those extracurriculars you’ve given your time to throughout high school—after school clubs, student government, marching band. Don’t forget to mention that year you were elected class president.
  • Athletics:  Be sure to point out all of the athletics you’ve been involved in inside and outside of school—whether it’s your school’s intramural basketball team or your town’s swim team. Even if you’re not going to school on an athletic scholarship, any degree of participation is worth mentioning.
  • Community Involvement: So, maybe you’re not an athlete or overly involved in extracurriculars, but you love volunteering your time for a good cause. Mention any involvement in community service activities, whether it’s volunteering at a local hospital or giving your time to your church.
  • Work Experience: Include any jobs that you’ve had during high school on weekends or over the summer. Whether it’s a regular babysitting commitment or lifeguarding, it’s a time commitment you’ll surely want to make known.
  • Honors & Awards: Be sure to list honors, awards, and recognition you’ve received during high school (for success in academics, athletics, etc.).   

Take the time to make your college activity resume and your application stand out. Include any and all applicable categories, so admissions officers can get a better sense of who you are and what’s important you.